Monday, November 21, 2011

Thankful for ThunderPuppets

The troupe performed live yesterday and it was a victory.
The bookstore setting was warm and meaningful for all of us.

Logistics - Diana (DiDi), Pecolia, Robert, Joseph
Fabrication - Maria, Tita, Niani, Stu, kasey
Animators - Tita, Niani, Diana, Stu, kasey
Engineering - kasey, Stu
Soundtrack - kasey
Video - Didi

Notes so far:
Maria - people need scripts & she volunteers Didi to do more since she has a degree in theatre.

kasey - soundtrack was largely non-functional, clipping, too short cables, hard to hear the poem, needed scripts, better movies, more preparation for animators, sandbags, 'holsters', bear hat.

Next steps
- calendar for the year w practices, rehearsals & gigs
- follow-up get together from 11/20/11 performance
- script preparation
- tree fabrication
- improve website, update
- cut video, share
- improve sound track delivery & components

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cal Educamp trip Notes

Cal EduCamp Aug 5 @ Haas School of Business was promoted as an "unconference", that is, an event generated by participants.
Twitter: #caleducamp

It lived up to the billing and more. Sponsored by UC Berkeley's instructional technology groups it featured a webinar by Howard Rheingold, workshops for learning social media tools, presentations and interactive sessions. About 75 people attended.

The best aspect of the conference was its laboratory atmosphere at once inclusive and challenging in a friendly way. Many people shared works in progress through the main live channels or back channels of twitter, wiki and blog posts.

There was lively interest in varied topics: using game platforms as learning environments, cloudware integration, persona development through comics. I was excited to see distance learning course management represented by two poles: 1) Google sites (Sage Adams, distance educator) (2 Echo from NewTech, a drupal platform for public HS that uses facebook's API as well as integrating other cloudware into a true network, that is it fosters co-construction in problem based learning.

Almost all the educators included mindmapping sw in their toolkits for collaborative learning.Mindmeister, Bubbl-Us & MindNode were all mentioned favorably.

Twitter feeds to follow:

Other intriguing software:
Write or Die (write 500 words in 10 min or else)

Jeff Brain from SFSU CEL/ITEC lead several great sessions:
- 1-2-3 SuperHeroes (visual storytelling)
- BricknMortar to Distance where he described development of the K-12 technology competency course and techniques to make a hybrid course rich and functional
(group teams by time zone, use embedded video, integrated assessment)

What's a general purpose toolkit for hybrid, problem-based teaching and learning?
-Webinar: Elluminate or Adobe Visual Communicator
- MindMap: LucidChart, Mindmeister, Bubbl-Us
- Sound editing: Audacity
- video: iMovie
- collaborative content generation: google docs, UTube, vimeo, voicethread

Common theme: don't expect it to be immediate, ease of use takes work.

My take-away: this is all great fun, very exciting but mostly not accessible. Although design for multiple pathways of access (Rheingold and others) is attended to. Many people are still waiting for the technology to just "do it" automatically, probably because its complicated and technology does have a way of catching up - oh wait, that's us!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

User Experience meets Learning Theory

UX of Learning, T. Tate on A List Apart, 7262011.
another IA's take on learning theory and designing the learner's user experience for maximal effect. Stimulating article but there's a pretty hefty reliance on Bloom's Taxonomy treated in a linear fashion. It seems clear that human learning happens in more of a network of interlinked experiences that maybe mirrors the form our nervous systems take (curly, bushy, differentiated). So Bloom's Rose has more appeal to me.

Setting up learning sequences may benefit the instructional designer more than the learner, at least this is a question. Is the specific sequential organization of material helpful to the learner -bottom up - or is it a top down convenience.
[the steps were all presented so why didn't the student learn it?]
Presenting wholeness and providing access...thinking out loud here...might lead to student or learner taking initiative to grapple with and generate knowledge on their own terms.
After reading Ron Eglash' "African Fractals" I am cautious about taking a recursive approach that leads to demanding that students know how to study something before the skills are available to them. So what would H. Gardner ("Five Minds for the Future") have to say on this: some level of a 'disciplined ' mind must be available to make self-driven learning meaningful. How is this to be decided? school board? class room teacher? act of congress?

"A further element that establishes a climate for self-initiated experiential learning is emphatic understanding. When the teacher has the ability to understand the student’s reactions from the inside and has a sensitive awareness of the way the process of education and learning seems to the student, then again the likelihood of significant learning is increased." I think the word that's meant is "empathic".

Begs the question if self-initiated or self-directed learning is the goal then isn't the primacy of the teacher's empathy for the student's process displaced to the responsiveness of the system? But ... in practice the relationship btw student and teacher turns out to be key - so a system of technology alone can't do it.
Bard College prison initiative appears to be so successful precisely because of emphasizing teacher-student relationships.

From teaching (in a facilitative manner, I aspire) is how I came back around to trying to build learning systems that support relationships whether in "real" time/space or virtual, sometimes called "hybrid". [SFSU Instructional Technologies program uses this, ref B. Beatty ]
Looking for a better way of expressing the idea of close linking btw virtual and "real" I've seen other IA's talking about transchannel or crosschannel UX. Not sure if finding the right words will help with the fundamental problems of generating it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Systems & Resources

Priority / Date





Life Support




1 –end of rains


Installation of mainline and auxiliary lines (See site map) to support collections, catchment pond and workspaces.

Needed: 240 linear feet of mainline, pvc or copper. 12-15 valves. *Ask Berkeley Indoor Garden & Plant It Earth.*

Pond liner 2x6x8, 10 -15 rocks*, 5 bags of concrete mix.

We have 3 pumps.

Line:Multi-level team, 3-5 people. More plumbing experience the better. 8hrs

Pond: 3-5 people, carpentry & plumbing. 4 hrs


Soil Cycling

Vermiculture(2), compost (2) & mulch(1) beds (See schematics).


o       1x2x18” pine/redwood slats – 64

o       4x4x12’ redwood posts – 4

o       woodscrews


2 teams, 2 people each, carpentry & strong helper.

6 hrs



Tree planters (10),

East wall 100’ (ledge reinforcement),

vegetable beds (8)

fence planters (vines) (4)


o       2x10”x12’ redwood planks – 30

o       concrete bolts – 50

o       4x4x12 redwood posts - 16

2 teams: cutters & assemblers

4 each, 8 hours. Mixed carpentry levels, physically strong.












o       2x4x8 pine – 8

o       1.5”x 12” x 12’ pine shelving -  10

o       4-6 bags of gravel

o       curtain rod (over door)

o       heavy pvc sheeting (clear)

1 team 4 people, light carpentry.

4 hours


Ornamentals & Trees

Plant trees and shrubs in beds

Mulch, as much as we can get

160 feet of rip-wrap, topsoil- sandy loam, 2 pickup truck fulls

Tree team: 4 people, 4-6 hrs.



Biome Exploration Wall

Configure Irrigation, organize and plant ornamentals.

Needed: soil, mulch as above.

3 teams, 3 each, mixed strength,


Culinary Program Planting

Organize and plant seeds, seedlings

Needed: Seeds, sets, soil, mulch and fertilizer.

2 -4 teams including program participants + horticultural helpers. 4 – 8 hrs


Human Uses






Basin on pedestal by greenhouse.

Recycled, install graywater line.

1 plumber, 1 helper. 3 hrs.


Quiet Spaces


We have them, Place them as desired.

Teams include youth, senior, activity leaders & participants.


Outdoor Meeting


We have them place them as desired.

Teams include youth, senior, activity leaders & participants.


Mobile Stage



6 modules on casters (24)

o       2x6x12 pine – 24

o       2x4x12 pine - 18


2 teams: cutters & assemblers

4 people each, 8 hrs.


Outdoor Program Integration

Sports & other activity

Unidentified, but important needs

Teams include members of all programs.


SYLCentral Y Gardens Establishment Plan

Asberry Spring 2010

1 / 1

Field Notes: Need for case notes form

Thinking about confidentiality and ease of recording.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Assets Manager

This tool works to satisfy the need to keep up with sketches, profiles and other entities as I create them before they are integrated into systems or polished.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Y Gardens: Logistics

This form is for scheduling.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

BART Accessibility Maps

Information scientist, Josh Miehle has been leading a collaboration between Smith-Kettlewell Eye Institute and Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco to develop feature maps for BART stations and environs. This has tremendous potential to improve autonomy and safety for blind travelers.
 The tactile station maps are designed to be navigable with a Smart Pen, a low-cost ($150) audible, hand-held tool. Mapped features are categorized into three layers (Street, Concourse, Platform) within a highly selective taxonomy.  Map readers would peruse maps during route planning to memorize station layouts in advance rather than consult them in real time during travel. To facilitate communication with sighted or low-vision map readers and those who don't read braille each feature is displayed in high-contrast colors, embossed, braille and with single character acronyms. Because of this 'Rosetta Stone' characteristic of the map elements and the necessity that layouts be committed to memory the taxonomy has been deliberately  restricted to no more than 8 -12 per layer.

Sample map book, 03-05-11
Tactile cartographer, Greeta Ahart (LFTB), accessibility architect BJ Epstein and project manager Greg Kehnart (LFTB) have been working with Dr. Miehle to produce base maps, design team workflow and organize volunteers to collect feature sets by station. This team has produced tactile map book samples and a first generation tactile map of the Oakland Coliseum BART station. All other BART stations were surveyed on March 5, 2011 by a volunteer team of approximately thirty Occupational & Mobility experts, architects and cartographers.
Tactile maps will be produced from the data sets in the coming weeks. 
Interim results of this mapping project were presented Friday March 11, 2011 at the CTEBVI- California Educators Transcribers for the Blind and Visually Impaired, In the conference Dr Miehle spoke about his hope that this effort can provide a useful model for transportation systems around the world.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Y Gardens: Curiosity Club

The youth from de Marillac Middle School at St Boniface Church on Golden Gate Ave come to work in the garden weekly as an elective in their after school program. Each group of 8 - 10 boys and girls signs up for a quarter at a time. They can and often do repeat.
This quarter finished on Tuesday 3/8. We innovated in several ways during this session:
  • all gardeners were offered inexpensive journals
  • we made maps
  • we built a pond
  • we considered accessibility
  • we planted into sheet mulched berms on the asphalt 
Other activities included propagation from seed and slips, small team and full group projects.
I was surprised by how ardently everyone took to journalling, to map-making; how seriously the challenges of access were considered. Especially unexpected: that when after all the team work this Q during the last session I had organized 1 task per participant -
  1. move straw from "Growing Cuisine" to pond entrance in "redwood understory" area
  2. assemble a donated hose caddy 
  3. transplant container flowers to berms
  4. plant out marigolds
  5. fill water cans
  6. work compost into soil
  7. fill planters with fresh soil
  8. cultivate fallow planters
- they were eager for the hardest tasks and they chose to team up and to move between teams as they finished. The most complicated assembly project kept them going beyond the class time. Just as they had solved the puzzle it was time to go so they asked to take it with them to finish and bring it back later.
Their enthusiasm is contagious, also working with KinderGardeners in the morning stimulates my  work with the older youth in the afternoon.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Accessibility in the Demonstration Garden

Context: Working outside with 8, 12-13 yr olds in the SYL Central Y Gardens

Influenced by H Gardner, Five Minds for the Future [2006] discussion of development of the ethical mind.

Intro: After pointing out the windchimes in each corner of the garden and explaining their purpose as orientation devices. Who has someone in their family or among their friends who is blind?

Responses: 3 knew someone well who was blind.

Exercise: Ok everyone get a partner and we'll meet in the center of the yard. Each pair gets a blindfold. One of you will wear the blindfold the other will be the guide. Remember that the person who isn't sighted is the leader and will take the arm of the guide. The guide's job is to steer clear of danger but help their partner explore the garden. Try to visit all the stations in the garden. You will take turns.

Results: The guide nearly always took the lead, during feedback both parties complained that the partner didn't listen. Some of this is developmental age-appropriate. Also the barometer was dropping because of coming storm.

Conclusion: So you can see that navigating and enjoying our garden without sight will be challenging. Until we see each other again be thinking about what we might do to make our garden safer and more fun for blind people.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Autism Social Connection meets thunderpuppets

Beginning in April  the thunderpuppets players will work with ASC to explore social learning and collaborative narrative building. 10 year olds.

BART feature survey for vision impaired

Here is the start of a new and fascinating thread: with Lighthouse for the Blind I'll work to assess BART stations features for their accessible mapping of transportation systems.

QR encoded gardening

The last few weeks of gardening have shown me new sources of inspiration including initiation of gardening classes for 3 & 4 yr olds "KinderGardening" and the book club asynchronous reading different donated books and discussing online. Tonight I ran across the missing link to bring the garden collection online and allow read-aloud of labels literally hardlinking through QR code "Quick Response" 2d reader and generator.
Now for a taxonomy and a method for notifying the blind user that a label or bulletin board exists so they can allow their phone to access it.
I can tie a GIS to physical place this way.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Videozoography, Garden Basic Training, ThunderPuppets

Max takes a bath.

During winter of 2009-2010 when we moved the entire rooftop garden from 220 Golden Gate to asphalt yard at 387 Golden Gate the garden's guardian, Max, the Anna's Hummingbird, sat on the highest point, the largest pine tree, to watch. When I walked the site to make sure it was clear, Max's pine tree was moved so he sat on a high pole making a sound I've never heard a bird make that I could only describe as sobbing. How could I tell him his tree was only a few hundred feet away? [ I'd purposely located it as close as possible NE corner of the new site].

Not long after I was working with the old plants in the new garden and he flew right up to the air in front of my face, hung there for a moment and then went to forage among the coyote bush and day lillies. Another afternoon I took refuge from the rain under the partially finished greenhouse and was recording video, primarily for the sound, when Max showed up. Its a poor record of a beautiful moment.

I also posted first garden training video on watering:
that I hope will solve an ongoing social problem.

And a short documentary about the formation of the ThunderPuppets:
which at least gives other participants a chance to talk about their experience.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fieldnote: Y-Gardens Anniversary


Today was culmination of a year+ work on the new garden site. After receipt of a DCYF grant for sustainable garden development[see attached] there were some funds to amplify recent in-kind donations [straw, plants, soil].  So for the past week we've worked intensively on a few specific projects.
  • A pond in the SE corner at the end of the Biome Wall
  • reorganization of other spaces so there is vegetable gardening for culinary program, cultivation, reflection and demonstration areas
  • handwashing station with reclamation

Next steps include finding effective paths for representing the work online for asynchronous participation and enhanced social learning.

A place to expose questions like -

" Describe these garden systems.
  • water
  • human & other animals
  • soil
  • climate
Illustrate the ways they interact with each other with diagrams.
Point to examples of each system in our garden."

ThunderPuppets Fieldnotes: Y-Gardens Anniversary

The ThunderPuppets Players produced a workshop to help celebrate the founding of Central Y's Garden Theatre @ 387 Golden Gate. The theme was: Envisioning the Future and we hoped to include members of the Senior Center, the T'ai Chi class, youth from de Marillac school who've been part of the Garden Club elective. Besides our company, sans Maria who was ill at home with Tita, only the de Marillac youth were able to attend. Y staff were busy elsewhere except for Andrea who stopped in for a moment on her way to an important Board recruitment event. While Martha & Rhionnda encouraged people to participate others seemed inconvenienced by our presence, bursting in to the darkened room during the performances and speaking loudly about not being able to use the space or being unclear about the schedule. Sadly the Garden Club came later than expected and so missed the performance entirely. Meanwhile we had had to strike the theater because we only had it reserved til 3.
 A few logistical challenges but a positive puppet day as always when we work, however I will hope to bring the workshop to places who actively want and support it.
So what did we accomplish and what were the missed opportunities?
In addition to his powerful positive energy and a yummy lunch Stu contributed another gig bag and a useful design for multi-puppet rigging [ sea grass ].Together we talked through additional rigging options like in the diagram. I particularly appreciated dialog between Niani & Stu regarding music [cultivating improv as well as reading] and the difference between "know" and "no".

We  ran the puppet play "El Mar lo Sabe / The Ocean Knows" against the chorale reading of las Enigmas; still quite rough and we need more puppets. I want to develop the surreal imagery in Neruda's poem more to emphasize his poetics and also the dream time/space we are making.
We talked about the use of small movements for large effects and how to cultivate that skill during warm-up. Also how to use the warmup to build concentration and manage focus.

I love the underwater feel but want to create more subtle changes, smooth the audio and make sure we have a strong finish. [ submarine, periscope ] Finale make the whole room feel like we're underwater with big coral banks that rise up, more projections on side screen and soundtrack that encourages people to sing [we all live in a yellow submarine].
Now to mix down today's video and keep on moving.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

ThunderPuppets Workshop Notes 01.08.11

Location: Coleman Advocates
Participants: Stu, Niani, Maria, Anika, Kasey, Pecollia

This was first company workshop of 2011. Niani outlined structure on whiteboard (without prompt). She was especially detailed about warmup section.
Setup took 70 min instead of 45. Storytelling lasted 45 min. We ran dress of "The Ocean Knows/el Mar lo Sabe" and discussed structure of upcoming public workshop Jan 11 to commemorate Central Y Gardens founding. We were more deliberate about visual documentation but it continues to be a weak point. Current goal: everyone does it. This will require specific training offline to make everyone comfortable.