Thursday, January 27, 2011

Prezi: Prezident of Prezentations

Marc Pedone
- ITA Tech Instructor -

The goal of this choice session was to give the students an opportunity to learn about some new presentation tools available.

We started with comparing Prezi to Microsoft PowerPoint by making a presentation of our favorite celebrities, first in PowerPoint and then challenging ourselves to make the same presentation in Prezi. By doing this, we were able to evaluate the pros and cons of each program.

After the students got a handle on Prezi, they were introduced to Prezi Meeting. This feature allows multiple people to collaborate on one presentation at one time from different computers connected to the internet. As a group, they planned out what they would present and how they would do it. On a white board, they planned the best way to present the city of Madison to someone else.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Senioritis? Not With These ITA Seniors.

Almost half way through the class of 2011's last year at ITA, the seniors are showing no signs of lack of motivation, procrastination, drop in lab performance, or "coasting" through the afternoon. These symptoms more commonly known as senioritis fail to be observed at ITA with this year's excellent students. The students have already shared their proposals for their project at the Holiday Luncheon. For those of you who could not attend, here is a brief re-cap of what the seniors are doing.

Protein Tubar Video by Thor and Thuy Dan
Thor and Thuy Dan are working with Professor Dave Nelson from the department of biochemistry here on campus. They taped an instructional video of Professor Nelson using the Tubar Protein Modeling Kit for SMART teams at Madison West High School. SMART Teams stand for Students Modeling A Research Topic, an extra-curricular activity that introduces high school students to the field of biomolecular research. This video will be used for teachers in the program as a demo of how to use Tubar Kits.

Flash Animations by Eddie and Jeremy
Eddie and Jeremy are creating complex Flash Animations for Professor Sebastian Bednarek of the department of biochemistry. From the pictures on the side you can see their drawing progress thus far. Eddie is working on cell membrane trafficking (on the left) and Jeremy is working on clathrin mediated endocytosis (on the right).

Scientific Demos by Noah and Maya
Noah and Maya are taping scientific demos for the biochemistry course "Exploring the Biomolecular World" taught by Professors Dave Nelson and Michael Patrick. The two scientific demos that Noah and Maya will be filming is a short video on the hydrophobic effect and an experiemnt using Beta-Galactoside.

ITA Recap by Adrianne, Lakoye, and Jasmine
Adrianne, Lakoye, and Jasmine will be using iMovie to create short video presentations about past ITA projects. These projects will be displayed for recruitment and funding meetings to demonstrate the great work done at ITA.

Video Tape of the Crystallography Research Facility
Students will be working with one of the post graduate students working with Professor Katrina Forest. Professor Forest uses x-ray crystallography in her research to study the interactions between humans and microbes. our students' task will be to record a 45 minute video of the entire process.

Interviews of Campus Professors
Students will be venturing to different research laboratories on campus to interview professors about their work. The video's goal will be to inform undergraduate students about the various research on campus to help aid them in choosing which lab to join. The first professor the students will be interviewing is Douglas Weibel from the Department of Biochemistry.

Tutorial on Jmol by Leija and Ivan
Ivan and Leija will be using CamStudio to help record a tutorial of how to use Jmol, a protein modeling software program. They will be recording an expert in Jmol give an instructional lesson of how to use the program and then distribute this video to various science professors on campus.

Holiday Greeting Cards by Ashanti and Julie
Ashanti and Julie are using Adobe Photoshop to create custom-made greeting cards for the UW-Madison Children's Hospital. They will be printing out their designs and hand delivering them in the upcoming months.

ITA Digital Yearbook by Eileen and Kiran
Eileen and Kiran will be creating the second ITA digital yearbook. The yearbook will include fun facts about each ITA student and highlight the events from this past year. Currently, the two are in the process of taking the ITA student yearbook pictures and designing a new layout in Adobe InDesign.

Congratulations Seniors!!! Keep up the great work!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Moving PowerPoints

Cristina Lor
ITA Technology Instructor

In the 2010-2011 fall semester, ITA devoted four lab sessions to the Moving PowerPoint workshop which was created to not only show the students how they can use simple programs like PowerPoint to create complex animations like in Flash, but to give the students a chance to create and finish a Showcase project, for this year's Showcase Presentations at Thoreau and Orchard Ridge Elementary schools.

The first two sessions housed the same five students. The small classroom allowed each student to have more time with their instructor and create quality final products.

The final products were impressive, and all the students learned a bunch about how to plan out an animation with sound effects in a way that can keep the audience interested!

Unfortunately, these animations can't be posted on the web in a way that really shows off their full-impact, so no student work is posted here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Games from Scratch Session - Instructor Reflection

If you read Paul's posts about the first two sessions of our Custom Workshop on creating games from Scratch, you'll notice he points to a third, and final post...

Originally, I was going to do an update on the 3rd day of Games from Scratch. What I would rather do, considering the lateness of this post, is to update with a reflection on how the class went, and my recommendations and urging for others to help take this class into a more fruitful direction.

First off, as inferred in Paul's blog entries on this class, games are easy to create, good games are as difficult as any engineering project. Computer programming can be easy, anyone can take five minutes and print "Hello World" on the screen with a few simple commands. Making computer programs that are able to detect human behavior, constantly assess performance of the players and create an enjoyable environment is extremely difficult. Asking students to try to make good computer games using more advanced programming techniques in three classes, I found out, is borderline impossible. Not for lack of try from the students, as they were all incredibly engaged and passionate about their projects, but because of the time it takes to individually assess each student's performance levels in programming and design, and making a lesson plan that can work accordingly to their needs.

For those who are unfamiliar with Scratch, I urge you to take a look at this website and register. Take a look at a few of the games and the other programs make through Scratch. For those unfamiliar with basic game design, have a look at these interactive programs from Kongregate. Much of what you're seeing in these two instances were shown to the students as part of their curriculum. When we finally had the students modify, not design, their own games, the results were good...but to make them great, we will need to do the following.

1) More class sessions. I've taught this class before, and it has taken well over 12 sessions just to get students thinking about making board games. To get students to make a transition from thinking about games to making games, it will take more than three sessions.

2) Paper prototyping. Many of the best video games have been done previously using paper prototyping. This method of game design helps designers make cheap replicas of their virtual space without the cost, and gives them a vivid representation about what works and what does not work. This video may help provide insight into what I am talking about:

3) Promote the value of failure (reflection). I know that sounds strange, promoting failure amongst the students...but let me propose using a different word for failure that may make you feel better...reflection. You see, unlike standard testing practices in schools, when a student fails, they receive little opportunity to make up for their work, and therefore reflection is rendered unnecessary in the eyes of the student. Why reflect on what they could have done if they can do nothing to change it? Failure as a game designer provides insight into things that are not working, and if the designer is serious enough about their final project, they will change those mistakes because they want a better project. In many of the game design workshops that I have taught, one of the first things you have to do is promote constructive criticism, and teach that failure is not final, but is part of a continuing process to help make that project and that designer stronger.

I know this may sound like an unusual post. But I do take game design, this class, and the idea of collaborative learning quite seriously, and wanted to give you, the reader a honest insight into this process. Please, if you do have questions about game design, this class, or anything in my post, just send me an e-mail at or leave a comment below!