Nov 26, 2007

Link to post: How to use FireFox to use internet resources off-line

If you use digital media with students with special needs and you have limited Internet access, you are not alone. Kay, the author of the "Teaching Students with Multiple Special Needs", on a recent post, shares a way to use FireFox to use internet resources online. You can check out my recent TechPsych post on the topic, or access Kay's original post here.

Nov 20, 2007

More touch-screen videos...

Here is an interesting video about TouchTable's $59,000.00 system:

ESRI's ArcGIS running on a TouchTable:

The application supports collaboration. People can interact with one another around a single table, with others at remote tables, and people using laptops and mobile devices out in the field.

Link: ESRI's GIS for K12 Schools

Nov 19, 2007

Interactive information visualization: Digg labs website

I thought I'd share a view examples of information visualization as it relates to on-line news. Stories are grouped in various configurations over time. Click on the images below to see each example in real-time:

Click on the image to link to Newsmap.

" Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator. Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Newsmap's objective takes that goal a step further and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe."


Click an image to see digg visualizations in action!
"Diggers fall from above and stack up on active stories." If you click on a story, you'll get a pop-up that provides more details about the story, including information over time.

Digger swarm around different categories of stories and make them grow. You can look at popular stories, newly submitted stories, or all activity. Click on a circle, and you'll get more information, and the option to keep or "kill" the story.

"Bigspy: Active stories appear at the top when people digg them. Bigger stories have more diggs..." If you click on a story, you'll link to more information about it from the digg website.

"Stories arrange themselves as users digg them. Larger stories have more diggs." If you click on a story, you'll link to more information about it from the digg wesbsite.

Check back for more examples- and leave a comment if you have others to share.

Related Link:

Article from's Idea Lab, by Rich Gordon, about information visualization and journalist-programmers. "Idea Lab is a group blog by innovators who are reinventing community news for the digital age..."

Nov 17, 2007

About: Programming for interactive multimedia applications- WPF, Silverlight, EduSim, NeuroVR..

Part I Musings: Learning about application development and programming at mid-life:

I thought I'd write on a more personal level this time.

I'm a school psychologist, so in 2003, my motivation for taking computers at mid-life stemmed from my desire to create engaging interactive multimedia games for learning, games that could be played on hand-held devices as well as on the interactive whiteboards that I noticed were inching into my schools.

It was difficult for me to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B.

I shouldn't have been shocked to learn that most introductory programming classes provide instruction, as well as endless lab assignments, that are geared for people who want to make business forms and manipulate business-related data, build e-commerce websites, or create relational databases for... banks!

I now can make a mortgage calculator forms that adjust for various scenarios and provide cute error messages, in beginning Visual Basic.Net, C#, and Java. I can create a database that will let users look up part numbers for all sorts of widgets, in all sorts of combinations, and ensure that client data can be easily accessed in a nice looking form.

Why should I learn all of the old stuff when there are so many new avenues to explore?

Over the past few years, I've been fortunate to take a variety of classes that were not readily available just 8-10 years ago:

Computer/Internet Multimedia. Computer Music Technology. Game Design/Development. AI for Games. Ubiquitous Computing. Web Development Tools. Virtual Reality for Education and Training. These courses have motivated me to learn more about programming. The traditional programming courses had the opposite effect.

Keeping up

I recently attended a day-long code camp at Central Piedmont Community College to learn more about Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and Silverlight. WPF and Silverlight provide the foundation for applications that can run on Microsoft's Surface. WPF and Silverlight provide designers and developers with more efficient ways of developing visualization and interactive multimedia applications.

The architecture behind WPF and Silverlight seems to align more with the way people think and envision, which in my opinion, gives hope for those of us who have toyed with the idea of programming, but were frightened off the first time they opened up a traditional programming textbook.

Part III Visualization and Interactive Multimedia

For more information about WPF, Silverlight, design, etc, read Sam Batterman's (a Microsoft Evangalist) recent blog post: Some thoughts about WPF and Data Visualization

Here are some pictures and text that I lifted from Sam's blog that will give you a picture of what I'm talking about:

"Here's an application that one of our partners built in a few weeks - all WPF and actually, not complicated code...getting that heart rendered was probably less than 100 lines of code. This app is used in a hospital for documenting heart surgery procedures. You can draw and annotate the 3D surface, rotate the heart, etc."


Can you imagine how kids would love to manipulate something like this in a science class?! This would be great on an interactive whiteboard or display.

This focuses on user experience, much more so than applications in the past. For more information about designing for user experience, take a look at the link to Bill Buxton's book, "Sketching User Experiences."


Bill Buxton's webiste, "Multi-touch systems that I have known and loved" is a good resource for those of you who'd like to get a better picture of multi-touch systems and interaction.

(I'll write more about WPF and Silverlight after I get my laptop repaired and have a chance to experiment some more.)

Croquet and EduSim

Right now, I've been experimenting with
Croquet, which uses Squeak, and EduSim, which is powered by Croquet, to put together some learning activities for students.The best part is that Croquet is open-source, and all of the EduSim applications are free.

Here are some pictures that link to short video clips from the Greenbush EduSim website:

Neuro VR

Another application that I'm working with is NeuroVR.

NeuroVR is a free virtual environment that was designed for use in clinical settings. If you don't have access to virtual-reality hardware, you can still use NeuroVR on a desktop or large-screen display. Available 3D environments include an office, a supermarket, a park, a classroom, a poolside setting, and a home.

Andrea Gaggioli, Ph.D., is the Chief Technical Officer of the this project. He's also behind the Positive Technology blog, which is a great resource. Andrea is a
researcher working at the intersections of psychology, neuroscience, and emerging technologies.

NeuroVR allows the clinician (or educator) to easily insert pictures, objects, and videoclips into each virtual world. Doors open and close, and you can move items around in the environment. For example, fruit set on a table can be moved over to a counter.

In my opinion, NeuroVR has potential not only in the area of rehabilitation and therapy, but in special education as well, particularly for students who have multiple special needs, including severe autism. A variety of "how-to" videos are posted on DaevornLi's YouTube channel.

Here are some videos clips to give you a better picture of the application:

Nov 13, 2007

Question about games and learning....

Someone recently asked me this question:

"If you look at Sim type games, for example Roller Coaster Tycoon, these are without question games that are filled with lessons and real-world applicable knowledge. Do you think kids go into a game like this knowing they're learning useful skills?"

Read my response on the TechPsych blog.

Any comments?

Nov 12, 2007

Cross Posted on TechPsych: Classroom 2.0 - Social Networking and Resources for Educators

Classroom 2.0 is a good resource for educators who would like to keep up with the fast pace of technology. If you work with digital natives, you know how difficult it can be to keep one step ahead of the game! Classroom 2.0 provides forums, Wikkis, and resources on a variety of topics and the content is maintained by members of the network, which at the last count was at 3998.

From the Classroom 2.0 website

"The social network for educators using collaborative technologies!"

"Welcome to, the social networking site for those interested in Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in education. We especially hope that those who are "beginners" will find this a supportive community and a comfortable place to start being part of the digital dialog. Feel free to explore!"

Nov 11, 2007

Cross Post: Children of the Code

I came across the Children of the Code website today and thought I'd share it- if you are familiar with Children of the Code project, please leave a comment, since I haven't yet explored the entire site.

Childrenof is an on-line multi-media resource that is part of a public/social education project to that aims to spread information and education about "The Code and the Challenge of Learning to Read it"

The project has four main components:
  1. A three hour Public Television, DVD and Web documentary series;
  2. A ten-hour college, university, and professional development DVD series;
  3. A series of teacher and parent presentations and seminars;
  4. A cross-indexed website/database containing audio, video and transcripts with the world's leading experts in fields related to reading.
The website includes over 100 interviews of people from a wide range of disciplines who are committed to promotion of health, education, and well-being of children, youth, and in turn, communities and society.

Here is the project's abstract:

"Abstract: Our children's cognitive and emotional development, self-esteem, academic, and later social and economic success, all depend on how well they learn - on the health of their learning. Whether we are involved in parenting, teaching, cognitive science, psychology, pedagogy, curriculum design, instructional design, direct instruction, constructivism, assessment, multiple intelligences, learning styles, learning differences, learning disabilities, learning theory, learning communities, organizational learning, preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, home school, unschooling, college, university... we all share the responsibility of stewarding the health of our children's learning."

I'd recommend starting with the on-line video tour of the project:

The following is a quote from an interview with David Boulton, the director of the Children of the Code project:

"The mission of the Children of the Code project is to catalyze and resource a transformation in how our society thinks about the "code" of our written language and the "challenges involved in learning to read it.". I think we're living in the "Stone Age of Literacy." Our lack of understanding of what is involved and what is at stake in acquiring literacy is wreaking havoc on the lives of our population, including children"

"..the first think I hope i that it (the project) changes the mental lens through which parents and teachers see struggling learners. I want them to see someone who is struggling as somebody who is struggling with an artificially confusing technology (written language) and somebody who is in significant emotional and cognitive danger.

"What I hope is that people realize that if children and adults struggle too long with the process of acquiring literacy, it can seriously affect how they develop and grow and learn. Struggling to read causes many, many people to grow up feeling ashamed of their mind.."

Links to the list of some of the interviews of "name" researchers and educators are posted on the TechPsych blog, or you can visit the site's interview list.

Nov 4, 2007

Virtual Field Trips and Interactive Web Quests

I'm compiling a new list of interactive multimedia resources suitable for virtual field trips and web quests. Here are a few I've recently found:

The Virtual Human Project: University of Michigan

The Virtual Human Project has been around for quite some time. What's new? A variety of browsers have been developed that allow for viewing high-resolution images. Take a look at this video demonstration:

Virtual Dissections, Labs, and Field Trips

The Cell Visualization Project

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Museum Web Activities (Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Web Adventure

CSI: The Experience's Educational Outreach: Multimedia Games, Experiments and Simulated Environments

I recently came across the website when I was searching for interactive learning games suitable for use on interactive whiteboards or large touch-screen displays.

For those of you who follow my blog, you'll know that I periodically look for engaging visual and multimedia activities that have potential for use in classrooms where Universal Design for Learning is practiced. Visual and multimedia forms of knowledge representation can help to reach a wide range of people, including those who have reading difficulties, language-based learning disabilities, auditory attention and memory deficits, or have autism spectrum disorders (Asperger syndrome, autism, etc.).

If you are an educator who is interested in using games in your classroom, the resources from are a good start, since background information is provided for each game.

Direct links to the games and information pages are listed below.

Info from the website:

" has a unique way of introducing the Nobel Prize that goes beyond the mere presentation of facts. These introductions, aptly called 'educational', are made in the form of games, experiments, and simulated environments ready to be explored and discovered. The productions are aimed at the young, particularly the 14-18 age groups, who may know about the Nobel Prizes and the Nobel Laureates, but often lack a deeper understanding about the Nobel Prize-awarded works."

"These educational productions do not require previous knowledge. A central thought or issue is explored during 10-20 minutes of activity, using a specific Nobel Prize-awarded work as a springboard for the whole exercise."

"The productions offer an excellent way of using the Internet for homework, or just plain, wholesome entertainment. The high level of interactivity and the sophisticated illustrations ensure an enriching time spent in front of the computer."

Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Heating Plastics Game
Background Information and Directions

What is Chirality?
Background Information and Directions

Conductive Polymers- Conductive Valley Game
Background Information and Directions

Nobel Prize in Medicine

The Blood Typing Game
Background Information and Directions

The Ear Pages
Background Information and Directions:

The Immune System Defender Game
Background Information and Directions

Nobel Prize in Physics

The Metal Chef Show Game:
Background Information and Directions

Laser Challenge Game:
Background Information and Directions

The Recycler Game: Learn about Transistors
Background Information and Directions

Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences

Trade Ruler Game
Background Information and Directions

Nobel Peace Prize

The Peace Dove Game:
Background Information and Directions

The Red Cross Movement: Prisoners of War Game
Background Information and Directions

Interactive Conflict Map
Background Information and Directions

Nobel Prize in Literature

Lord of the Flies Game
Background Information and Directions

Nov 3, 2007

My Mind is a Web Browser: Temple Grandin's description of visual thinking

Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures and Other Reports From My Life With Autism (Vintage Books) 1996, has a website where she's posted interesting accounts of the way she thinks and perceives the world. As a school psychologist, many of the students I've worked with are visual learners and seem to think and perceive the world in a similar manner. For people who are auditory-verbal thinkers and would like to learn more about visual thinking, the article is a good start.