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Protected: Final Project Update: Schenker Graphs and Voice to IPA

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Protected: Composition Syllabus for Digital Literacies Block Presentation

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On Course Proposals

We talked a little bit in class about formal course proposals, and (as we said) some of you might want to have your final projects take that form (NOT required–just a suggestion).  Wherever you teach, there will be a specific template and set of required elements for a course proposal, but in class most of you said that you’d never seen any such thing, and would be curious to know what it might be like.

So, a few examples.

First is a very old example, and maybe I should be embarrassed even to post it–but it is something I mentioned in class, so I thought you might want to see it.  As I said, one of the best classes I ever took at the Graduate Center was with the late Professor Martin Stevens.  His brilliant idea (I don’t know of any other graduate class that did it) was to make the production of a course proposal the final project for his graduate seminar.  So this example is really more fleshed-out than a “real” course proposal would be, because it had to serve as a seminar paper, not just a brief to go to a curriculum committee.  But it does exemplify the kind of thinking and preparation that (ideally) will go into a new course.  Professor Steven’s main criticism was that I did not successfully justify why this should be specifically a Chaucer course–or how it would fit into any curriculum.  I think he had a good point.  It’s a common problem in course proposals, especially for young teachers, that people propose what they want to teach, not necessarily what anyone else wants to learn–or at least that they don’t explain well enough why anyone else would want to learn it.  So I’ll cop to that.

Again, as I said, this is much longer than a course proposal would really be–but the basic sections (Background, Aims and Approach; Practical Issues, Pedagogy and Methodology; Course Schedule; and Annotated Bibliography) are probably, by whatever names, going to need to be included in any course proposal.  When this was written (1992) nobody talked much about learning objectives, at least in higher ed, but those always need to be there these days.  Some other things left out of here that are often included are explanations of the use of technology (much less of an issue in 1992!) and a more explicit list of assessments and assignments.  But for what it’s worth, here it is (scanned from an old paper, so it’s a 21-MB pdf):

The Canterbury (Folk)Tales

So that was completely hypothetical–I never really taught this course–or even proposed it to any real curriculum committee or college department–it was just a class exercise.

In a quick google,  I found online City College’s template for course proposals.  I’ve never taught at CCNY myself, but this looks pretty standard, so I’ll include it as an example–another hypothetical, but more current.

CCNY Course Proposal Form

And then we can go to the real world–here’s an example of the Course Proposal form for the CUNY School of Professional Studies, completely filled out for a course I proposed and am now teaching (actually, this is a slightly early version–there have been some small changes since the course actually started to run–but it will work as an example).

Alternate Worlds Proposal

Maybe some of you have examples you’d be willing to post, too? Or at least blank templates or forms?  Writing a course proposal is a fairly specialized skill, and it doesn’t get taught much in graduate school–so lots of times junior faculty have to sort of stumble through it–maybe with the help of a senior mentor in the department, or maybe just with the criticism (not always supportive or constructive) of the committee that will be ruling on the proposal.


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Project Update: Multimedia Competition Site

In April I ran some tests-of-concept for my Multimedia Competition Site during three different graphics-oriented contests: Catalog Production using big PDF files from two dozen countries; Web E-Commerce Production from a similar group of schools;  Video Production and Digital Photography from 18 New York City high schools. I’ve also brainstormed the idea with teachers, administrators and student competition organziers in various fields, som beyond graphics.

I kludged together the elements of my Multimedia Competition Site from a combination of HTML pages, Excel files and email. Judges got a password-protected site with PDFs or links, Judges’  Instructions and a spreadsheet formatted for the contest’s’ rubrics. They clicked and judged and entered their raw data (for as many as nine rubrics per item) and then emailed their results. Each Judge was isolated during judging. In some cases, I shared the previous judges’ results with new judges.


Previously we schlepped CDs, memory sticks and FTP batches around town, often with a satchels full of the hard copies of the work. We’d have to coordinate face-to-face meetings to handle the material. International submitters were at a disadvantage since they had to ship the physical work weeks ahead of time.


Even with my kludge, this year’s judging was remarkably faster and easier. A tougher-than-usual schedule was easily accommodated. The pool of judges has deepened: regular judges are now suggesting colleagues in and out of town who would now be happy to help — now that we’re more digital. The results seem remarkable consisten judge-to-judge, which was true of previous years’ paper-based competitions. Even when judges had no other results, they seemed to reach very similar ratings.


I’m evaluating two different PHP “YouTube clones” to see which is more extensible for my needs. Both have the security I need, and both allow sharing and rating videos, JPGs and GIFs. I need to add PDFs, PPTs, MP3s and DOCs. I also need to auto-create thumbnails of the new formats.

Most canned apps use a simple five-point rating routine. I need to configure n ratings per item so I’ll have to tweak the code. I’m also concerned about the complexity of uploading. It seems none of the teachers I work with can follow instructions.


I’ll be happy if I can get a system that manages gigabytes of diverse entries and streamlines the judging process., a simple administrative win. But if I can make the contest live so that every judge sees all the other results as they’re posted, if judges can comment on work while it’s still coming in, if teachers and students can be integrated into the process, I’ll really have something transformative. Just in New York City, we have over a dozen competitions that could use this system, in whole or in part:


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Digital Literacies Block

As indicated by Laurel, she, Caroline and I are collaborating on a set of related courses that encourage digital literacy and personal reflection in the context of a variety of subject matter. I’m heading up the programing for artist class which focuses on self-portraiture through the medium of coding. I’ve laid out the basics of the course below and how I think the first few weeks would look:

Introduction to Programing for Artists

Course Description:
The applications enabled through the practice of computer science permeate our existence. These structures have transformed and diversified  human communication, interaction and expression. While computer science is conventionally restricted as a specialized practice, the increasing prevalence of programmatic structures  has necessitated the expansion of a more general study of the field.  Like writing, filmmaking, and many other forms of human expression, computer science can be applied to a multitude of applications and is capable of conveying complex world views.

Primarily, this course considers the  question: how can programming be used as a tool for self-expression? In particular, we will approach programing in the vein of art making. In exploration of the aforementioned question, students will be instructed in the application of a variety of programing languages for both web desktop and hardware applications. We will investigate methods of data analysis, interactivity, and visualization, all the while maintaining a personal introspective focus through each sub-discipline. There is no prerequisite knowledge of programing or software development required for this course. Furthermore, there is no requirement for prior art education. We begin with the basic assumption that all individuals have personal stories to tell and emotions and ideas to express. Through the course of this class, programming will serve as the primary medium for conveying these aspects of ourselves.


  1. Develop an understanding of the basics structures and principles of programming
  2. Re-examine the relationship between conventional attitudes towards computer science and methods of producing art
  3. Experiment with forms of web development
  4. Explore innovative forms of data modeling
  5. Practice creating art and beauty with code

Technical Skills to be addressed:

  1. Processing
  2. Physical Computing/Arduino
  3. openFrameworks/ C++
  4. javascript / html

Course Texts:
Programming Interactivity: A Designer’s guide to Processing, Arduino and openFrameworks by Joshua Nobel
Turtles Termites and Traffic Jams: Mitchell Resinck
A Giacometti Portrait by James Lord

Week 0: (before semester begins)
All students are responsible for acquiring and reading A Giacometti Portrait by James Lord. We will discuss the book on the first day of the semester.

Week 1: The Essentials
Required Reading: Programming Interactivity chapter 2

Lesson: Examine the building blocks of programing through C++ syntax and the Xcode IDE
The variable

  1. simple types: strings, integers, booleans
  2. lists/ arrays
  3. Operators

Control Statements

  1. if/then statements
  2. for loops
  3. while loops
  4. case statements


  1. Function syntax
  2. Parameters
  3. Returns

Challenge: Write a program that asks a question and responds to the answer
Spend 30 minutes writing a function that requires at least one parameter, performs at least one operation and returns a value.

Discussion: The nature of code.
What are the limitations of these foundational elements of code? What are the advantages? How do the choices that programmers make differ from the choices Giacometti made in Portrait? What do these choices say about the nature of programing languages?

Week 2: Generating visuals with code
Required Reading: Programming Interactivity chapter 3
Turtles, Termites and Traffic Jams, chapter 1
Lesson: Drawing Methods in Processing
The Processing IDE

  1. Installing the IDE
  2. Processing syntax
  3. Writing functions
  4. Running and Debugging applications

Basics of Drawing in Processing

  1. the Setup() and Draw() methods
  2. lines(), circles() ellipses() and background() methods
  3. Bezier techniques in processing

Capturing User input

  1. mouse Input
  2. keyboard Input

Challenge: Spend 45 minutes creating your interpretation of a paint program in processing. After the 45 minutes is up, swap with another student in the class. Each student will spend 20 minutes using someone else’s program to generate a self-portrait sketch. These sketches can be in any manner of interpretation and are not required to be “photo-realistic”. The more non-conventional your mindset, the more interesting the results!

Discussion: As a group we will review all of the self-portraits created by the class. We will discuss the similarities and differences between them and talk about individual approaches, successes and challenges. Throughout this critique, we will discuss the divergence of our programs between non-digital methods of image generation and how the processing IDE impacted our choices both as programmers and users.

Week 3: Visualizing Information
Required Reading: Getting Started with Processing and Data Visualization by Jer Thorp:
Turtles, Termites and Traffic Jams chapter 2

Lesson: Visualizing web data in processing
The value of visualization

  1. Proliferation of Data
  2. Case study: Web Seer
  3. Case study: Project Cascade

Data Visualization

  1. Parsing Data
  2. Generating a Spectrum
  3. Generating a Bar Graph
  4. Generating a Text Cloud

Challenge: A portrait from data: create a visualization that interprets an individuals data. Students will be provided with a 1 of 3 anonymized data-sets associated with publicly well-known individuals. Using processing, students must generate a visual representation of some aspect of the data they are given. Students will have 1 hour to complete this task.

Discussion: As a group we will compare each unique visualization for each respective data-set and discuss what elements of the information are privileged by the respective representations and which are diminished. The identities of the individuals from which the data was drawn will be revealed and we will consider how accurately or inaccurately the visualizations correspond to our perceptions of these individuals. Then reflecting on the methods for gaining access to online information, students will discuss strategies and considerations they would take into account if required to parse and visualize their own data, and how this data may represent them.

Week 4: Coding for the Web Basics
Required Reading: W3Schools HTML Basics:
and CSS Basics:
Turtles, Termites and Traffic Jams chapter 3

Lesson: Scripting and Styling HTML

  1. Tag syntax
  2. BasicTags
  3. Metatags
  4. HTML5 tags


  1. CSS syntax
  2. Linking external style sheets
  3. Styling Backgrounds
  4. Styling Images and Divs
  5. Styling lists
  6. Styling text

Challenge: Create and style a personal home page without the use of text. Each student will be provided with a basic un-styled html page containing an assortment of html elements and pre-selected images. Over the period of 45 minutes, students must modify and style their page so that it reflects them as an individual. Students are limited to the use of HTML and CSS and cannot insert their own text or images into the page.

Discussion: As a class, we will review each student’s personal page and discuss the rationale behind the choices that were made in their design. We will contrast the pages created in class with existing forms of personal representation online such as personal profile pages and talk about the differences and similarities in the designs of each. We will conclude with a discussion of the wider implications of personal representation through the format of a web-page

Week 6: Coding Dynamic Web pages
Required Reading:
Lesson: Javascript
Javascript Essentials

  1. Javascript syntax
  2. Incorporation into HTML
  3. Forms

Drawing with Javascript

  1. Introduction to the Canvas tag
  2. Javascript Drawing API

Javascript Alternatives

  1. jQuery
  2. processing.js

Posted in Project Concepts.

Ongoing video-based PD

My interest in developing collaborative observations and using video-based professional development to support teachers and promote best practices in teaching and learning at my school is gradually solidifying.  We will focus on using Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching as a foundation in developing best practices in Fall 2011.  The project will be based on the three principles of video-based professional development presented by Rosella Santagata (2009): (a) attending to content-specific understanding, (b) scaffolding analysis of student thinking, and (c) modeling a discourse of inquiry and reflection on the teaching and learning process.

The three teachers with whom I have been working with will continue to participate in this on-going project.  We are currently researching professional development methods that can support us in developing a coherent process. Additionally, the team is trying to limit the usage of Google groups for reflections and discussions. We will continue to use Flip Cameras to document classroom interactions and collaboratively explore WordPress as a tool to document and post files.

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