Mikel Maron’s World Kit

Electric Night Sky (from Flatplanet via WorldKit)

I’ve mentioned Mikel Maron’s work several times before on the blog ( here and here and here but for whatever foolish reason, it wasn’t until I caught up with Cyprien Lomas’s blog just now and saw his reference to Mikel’s WorldKit, Easy Web Visualization Site with its examples, its blog and download, did I really take a good look around.

When he presented at Blogtalk, I was intrigued by his pulling mapping applications into blogging. But I have to admit, until today I was a little skeptical–my husband works for Orton Family Foundation and has long championed their Community Mapping Program and I had brought to my Irish Lit and Film Seminar last fall the two geographers mapping the Irish famine and my sister-in-law is an epidemiologist for the CDC often using GIS mapping to conduct her research on malaria and other diseases. In other words, I thought I knew a thing or two about mapping–and what I knew was it was complicated business, fussy, too, but incredibly helpful at showing patterns and connections in ways that text can’t possibly do.

What Mikel has done is bring mapping to those of us without the resources, the time, the wherewithall or the inclination to dive into it whole hog. He’s giving us the blog version, or what Noah Hendler is trying to do for digital stories/interviews with his application about to be launched “to democratize the archiving of stories”. Mikel is making mapping accessible. I’d like, for instance, to map the stories from my arts writing students when they create their knowledge trees at the beginning of the semester–they will have to write about “one moment with art”–we could map the locales of these experiences and just see what geography has to do with anything, what knowing how far apart or close together these experiences occurred reveals to us.

This is not one of those instances when I get carried away by the glitter of newness, when I rush headlong into the next possibility (as I know some think I am wont to do)–I’ve been thinking a lot about spatial relationships and how visual representations can enhance, extend, and illuminate our words. I’ve been reading Roy Ascott lately and Marcos Novak, whose essay “Liquid Architecture in Cyberspace” inMultimedia from Wagner to Virtual Reality hits a chord in saying, “The greater task will be not to impose science on poetry, but to restore poetry to science.” (p.254)
Perhaps such tools as Mikel’s are doing just this?


Gadgets in the Classroom

Via Paul Amsbary comes News Observor’s chat with Duke University’s Tracey Futhey about an-iPOD-for every-student program.

In my previous two postings and now over at Héctor’s Future of Communities class blog, Héctor and I have been discussing teachers and technology, and the reality of this new generation of tech-reared students reaching our undergraduate classrooms, and their relationship with technology and history and their own place in the world. Now along comes this interesting interview–

Futhey says, “How can we now take something that is a consumer application and see if it has significant value as an educational tool as well? It’s an experiment.” What I admire about this statement is the willingness NOT to have the answers, to experiment! Ha, imagine an entire university experimenting with iPODs in the classroom! And to understand that the kids are already using the tool and enthusiatic about it–what if we take these “gadgets” and see how they can be used creatively as part of the learning process–how can they be used for positive change and not just for their entertainment and/or commercial value?

I’m hopeful that the Duke University experiment will go well because Futhey understands that:

Technology is just another tool. It’s a very powerful tool, but it all really depends on how faculty view and consider the learning experience. It’s not the be-all, end-all. Technology is not going to take a mediocre teacher and make them a good teacher. Technology can help a good teacher to deliver the tools more effectively, sometimes more interactively and extend the reach to the students outside of the classroom. But it’s not the solution; it’s part of a package.

Indeed. Of course it gets me wondering just how they are helping the faculty incorporate these tools. Are there workshops? Is there mentoring? What’s the incentive? What’s the support system being put into place?