Saturday, September 13, 2008

tt4t_054 Web 2.0 and Deeper Meaning

It’s Saturday, September 13th, 2008 and welcome to episode 54 of TechTalk4Teachers I’m Tom Grissom. Last week I mentioned the Web 2.0 application called Wordle as my Technology Pick of the Week. Many times we teachers get excited to find new tools that offer something a little different for the classroom.

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Wordle is one of those applications that is really neat on the surface but teachers need to go beyond the novelty and cool factor to address instructional objectives in the curriculum. Since this is an election year I thought it would be interesting to see how Wordle interpreted word clouds for the recent convention speeches of Presidential candidates Barak Obama and John McCain.


I am sure some enterprising social studies teachers have already tried this out but I found the results intriguing. Teachers are often criticized for asking low-level recall questions of students. Having students either create their own word cloud from the Presidential candidate speeches or having students make their own interpretations of the actual Wordle word cloud results could offer a wonderful lesson in using higher order thinking skills. This would require the introduction of Wordle and a few examples to setup this learning activity but this use of Wordle will actively engage students studying the US Presidential election.

A similar activity could be designed for any subject area. Getting students to think and dig a little deeper into the meaning of a subject area is a goal of every teacher. Using Web 2.0 applications can help us with this goal but only if appropriate learning activities are designed on the front end to be used in conjunction with the tools that addresses the needs of the curricula.

I have posted pictures of the results of the Wordle word cloud translation in the TechTalk4Teachers blog of the acceptance speeches from the Republican and Democratic conventions recently held in the U.S. See if you can guess which Wordle picture is from Barak Obama’s speech and which picture is from John McCain’s speech. I think you will be surprised by the results.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week

For my Technology Pick of the Week this week I would like to challenge users of digital photo editors with a computer application that simulates the creative process for making collages from a group of pictures. Computers are becoming more and more powerful and while they have easily handled straight forward mathematical calculations since their invention the algorithms are getting more and more sophisticated and are now heavily treading on the creative processes of humans. So much so that it is getting difficult to determine computer generated creativity from human generated creativity.

The Microsoft Research Lab has been very busy this past year churning out several impressive applications. From the Worldwide telescope project earlier this year to the recent Photosynth and Sphere projects Microsoft Labs have been busy applying technologies in new and innovative ways.

Worldwide Telescope


Microsoft Sphere Multi-touch Display

This week I would like to introduce you to an application that provides a method to automatically create a photo collage from a group of pictures. This application has a free 30 day trial version for download but does have a cost of $19.95 if you would like to purchase it. The name of the application is AutoCollage and a link is provided in the show notes.


Many times I have found the need to make a collage from several photographs for use on a website. While I can create collages using Photoshop, the process can be time intensive and tedious, enter AutoCollage. I have an example posted in the TechTalk4Teachers blog of an AutoCollage image using this application from several photographs I took this spring of flowers. Creating this collage is literally as easy as selecting the photos and clicking on the Create AutoCollage button. Pretty impressive and as easy as clicking a button.

There are many Web 2.0 applications that are beginning to make creative decisions to produce a final product without human intervention. Services such as Animoto that will automatically make a movie for you complete with a sound track and custom transitions. There are also many other examples where computers are increasingly making the creative process easier for humans.


The question is can we still call this creativity if the machine is making the decisions for us? This is an interesting question as 21st Century learning standards are placing an emphasis on creativity. I do worry that our students are becoming the victims of a lot of techno-flash with little substance. Cutting through the hype to get to the substance is increasingly a challenge. So the next time you begin that multimedia project be sure to ask yourself what the instructional objectives are first. Is it to produce a cool multimedia extravaganza with all kinds of bells and whistles worthy of MTV, or is there actually some content and deeper meaning behind the designed activities? Teachers should always favor the latter even though students often favor the former.

That wraps it up for episode 54 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. To leave a comment or suggestion please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

1 comment:

Mr. Byrne said...

Great question regarding creativity and digital production. I think that the way in which creativity is defined and considered is changing. I do find creativity in the digital projects that my students complete. However, the creativity lies in a student's selection of images and audio rather than in the finished presentation.
Great topics as always.
Best regards,
Richard Byrne