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April 28, 2005

Instructional Design

Hi All,
As my role changes at GalaxyGoo from intern to instructional designer Kristin sugguested a definition of instructional design be posted for the benefit of the general audience. So here it is, instructional design is the systematic development of instructional specifications using learning and instructional theory to ensure the quality of instruction. It is the entire process of analysis of learning needs and goals and the development of a delivery system to meet those needs. It includes development of instructional materials and activities; and tryout and evaluation of all instruction and learner activities (McNeil).

For the cell project I will continue to evaluate and analyze the learning tool and activites for the best possible interaction between user and interface.

I look forward to reading any feedback as the process evolves,

New Version of The Cell Learning Tool

A new version of The Cell learning tool is now online. With this version, we've added the plant cell and improved the user interface.

The Cell project is the focus of Frances' internship with GalaxyGoo as well as her Masters' thesis. As part of her Masters' degree in instructional design, she was required to take a class in Flash. We decided to optimize her learning, and developed a prototype for the project as part of her class assignments. So, at this point, the project represents what a beginning Flash student can accomplish (with a little help and pasting in some code).

The project continues. Our working relationship will change as Frances and I work as a team. She'll focus on instructional design and I'll focus on Flash development.

The Cell: A Learning Tool

April 27, 2005

Bye-bye blackboard...from Einstein and others

At Oxford, they have a blackboard that Einstein used while giving a lecture.

In early 2005, blackboards were given to British celebrities to "chalk". The results are shown in this exhibit, Bye bye blackboard ..... A very cool concept, in my opinion.

Funding the Trip to Oxford

We're looking for ways to help cover the expenses of traveling to Oxford for the conference this summer. I'm hoping that we can raise much more than needed for the trip, so that funds can also be raised for the GalaxyGoo general budget.

One option is to enter the blogathon again, or to hold our own similar event. We can also issue a general request for donations. I could also do some on-site consulting or public speaking in the London and Oxford area, if there is interest. I seem to recall reading somewhere that people can donate their travel miles to non-profit organizations. I'll have to research that, and post an update.

April 22, 2005

GalaxyGoo Goes To Oxford

Got word today that my application to attend the 2005 GRC on Visualization In Science & Education has been approved.

Whoohoo! Yep, I'm excited!

So, it looks like I'll be in the UK in early July. The conference takes place at Queens College, Oxford.

Recycle your Cell Phone and Support GalaxyGoo

Now you can recycle your cell phone, and help support GalaxyGoo at the same time!

In addition to raising awareness and promoting recycling, participating non-profit organizations and schools will also be raising funds for their important work. On average, each charity gets $1 per phone collected!
~from the recycle my cell phone website

The value of the phone, or PDA, is also tax deductible. Nice!

April 19, 2005

Why am I worried? I should be excited!

I'm trying to be positive, and think of all the things that could be possible when Macromedia is absorbed by Adobe. But I can't shake this nervous feeling in my gut. Why? I think it may have to do with the fact that I am data-centric and information-centric.

Over the years, I have come to see the beauty of well separated content and presentation. This doesn't mean that they are irrelevant to each other, it just means that when the presentation is stripped away, the information should still be useful. Over the years, I've also had encounters with that particular species of designers that doesn't understand this at all. And doesn't value it, at all. And they've always been PS users. So, much like folks burned by Flash Pop-up ads, I am very nervous of anything to do with PS imposing it's own "work flow" on my Flash, CSS, and HTML.

To illustrate my point, how many coders (HTML AS, whatever) have felt like they were beating their head against a wall explaining why text is text and not a graphic? I once actually had to talk a designer into NOT formatting text in Photoshop before importing it into Flash.

My optimistic self is starting to spark a little. What if Adobe really pays attention? What if they conduct studies to see how we all work? What if they find a way to make it easier for us all to work together? Case in point, they could add a feature to Photoshop that makes the text a guide layer, so that the Flash expert could see what the designer intended and make it more usable.

Now I wonder what I can do to make this all go in a positive direction. I issue a challenge: Macromedia and Adobe, tell me how I can help make this the best it can be!

Flashbelt's Student Feedback Zone

Dave Schroeder, director of Flashbelt, asked me to write a little blurb about the conference and to help out with his publicity. I was going to write a polite note back, saying that I usually don't make posts of that nature. But then, out of curiosity, I went to the website.

That's where I noticed something they call "The Student Zone". Ever more curious, I took a closer look.

Wow! This student zone looks like something that all creative conferences should have. Students can informally show their work to professionals in the field, get feedback, and make contacts that could further their career once they graduate.

This reminds me of an informal poster session, an integral part of any research conference, and something I'd like to see more of at Flash conferences. They usually have both professional and student sections.

Major kudos for the student zone...and next time, invite me to come speak ;-)

What is Flash, and Why Does Adobe Want It?

The Macromedia-Adobe deal made the front page of the Chronicle today. The Chronicle is the main local paper in San Francisco. In general, the article was encouraging to me. Especially that they mentioned delivering "digital content to the booming cell phone industry", early on in the article.

However, they really didn't seem to get what Flash is, let alone the other Macromedia products that we work with. The article actually said that the Flash Player is "used to view images and video". That's it! Sure does make Flash out to be a glorified slide projector and nothing else.

Since Flash is about to swim in a new pond, with all new fishes, perhaps it's time to revisit what Flash is...again.

I'll start, and I invite you to add your thoughts as well.

I use flash to develop educational software; to visualize science and math; to interactively visualize data; to communicate complex concepts to a wide audience. I design with it. I program with it. I play with it...

April 13, 2005

FlashForward Presentation Notes

Here are the slides from my presentation at last week's FlashForward conference, in San Francisco.

This project ("All About Ratios") is still in development, but here is a sneak peak at it. Granted, it's not very pretty, yet. But it works fairly well, so far. Still testing.

April 11, 2005

Is the Blogathon Back?

Is the blogathon back, after a two year hiatus? Well...it's an annual event, and they didn't hold it last year...so that's a two year hiatus ;-)

Anyway, it looks like there's some activity over on the blogathon domain. The old site is gone and there's a neat graphic of a clock and a message that says "coming soon!"

If you're interested in participating in a GalaxyGoo effort, let me know. Last time we won the best visual arts project category.

To avoid any confusion about when we'll be creating our experiments, I'll spell it out right now. We author them ahead of time, and post them real-time...although authoring them real-time could be interesting.

FlashForward Wrap-Up

Even though Flash in the Can was the stellar Flash conference this year, I still had a great time at Flash Forward.

Lunch was a lot of fun! Jared Tarbell took a lot of photos all through the conference. I hope he'll post them online.

My presentation went well, I think. The room was full--a good audience. I had a great time. The only downside was that the display screen was absolutely tiny, as if it were an afterthought to put one in the room, and it was hard to see any of my slides. Aside from that, it went great. And I spoke with a number of people after the session. I'll be posting my notes soon.

I would have taken pictures, but I was so busy talking to people...lots of people! I'm still processing it all.

A lot of people are doing great things with Flash and education. Unfortunately, most of it is password protected. I wonder what could be done to nurture a more open forum for these developers. There was some buzz about pressuring the conference organizers to add an educational application track.

The folks from Making Things were there. What a great group of people! I spent a fair amount of time picking their brains. By the way, is there anyone in the Bay Area who would like to get together and talk about using Flash with Teleo?

On Saturday, with the conference and work completely out of my mind...enjoying the ocean breeze and warm sunshine in the park with my family, I hear someone call my name. I turn around, and there's Ketan Anjaria (from kidbombay.com), waving "hello" from a bench across the field. Very small world :-)

April 02, 2005

Its April, 2005... Do you know where your brain is?

How could I have missed it? Brain Awareness Week (BAW) came and went. If you were asleep at the switch like I was, you can catch up on the nationwide BAW events that took place on the Society for Neuroscience (SFN) page or at the Dana Farber Foundation. Rob Jackson of Tufts will be posting a 2005 summary of events on the Boston Area Neuroscience Group (BANG) website very soon.

Brain Awareness Week is described as:

"During the week-long educational blitz, Society members sponsor a variety of educational activities for the general public including lectures, lab tours, classroom visits, and exhibits across North America to demonstrate the importance of basic neuroscience research to the health and well-being of the American public. "

-Steven Erat

Massachusetts Passes Bill to Strengthen Stem Cell Research

The Boston metropolitan area of eastern Massachusetts has perhaps the highest concentration of biomedical and life sciences research institutions in the world. State restrictions on embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning have been overturned this week with a bill that was overwhelmingly passed in both the Massachusetts Senate and then the House of Representatives. Had the margin of approval been less, Governor Mitt Romney would have been able to veto the bill which he regards and distorts as a "radical cloning bill". Previously, investigators wishing to conduct such research had to obtain permission from their local district attorney. This bill removes that barrier to scientific research while simultaneously maintaining or even strengthening regulations that ban reproductive cloning.

Harvard's President Lawrence Summers writes in this article that this bill gives scientists the tools they need to help make Massachusetts "a global center in the life sciences revolution". Harvard's Stem Cell Institute (more) was formed last year to conduct the ground breaking stem cell research with private funds since the current federal government's anachronistic policies continue to ban funding of research done with new stem cell lines, limiting scientists to continue to use the aged cultures from the 60 existing embryonic stem cell lines. I can tell you from my own experience maintaining neuronal cell cultures, cell lines that have been maintained for long durations and divided over and over become observably aged and are often retired.

Michael Sandel, professor of political philosophy at Harvard, examines the ethical questions that fuel the controversy surrounding stem cell research in this article from the Boston Globe, where he considers the two primary debates to be a "right to life" objection and a "brave new world" objection.

Despite the Governor's challenge to the stem cell bill, he claims to be trying to increase Biotechnology jobs in Massachusetts, and has even fought to add Science to the MCAS test which determines if high school students may graduate or not. Some sources speculate that the Governor's mixed messages and weak position on stem cell research indicate that he may have ambitions for the next presidential race.

-Steven Erat