Thursday, January 24, 2013

Social Media: Work, Play, Share

By most accounts, and for better or for worse, social media is shaping the manner in which humans interact and affiliate. Humans have always engaged in social networking. But new digital media (web-based and mobile platforms, applications and sites) take social networking into an entirely new realm as tech savvy, media hungry content creators, conversationalists, curators, and consumers upload, download, post, and blog to their heart's desire. Popular social media sites allow our uploads to automatically cross-pollentate (feed into) other sites. That's a nice feature, making it possible to post an image, comment, and tags to multiple sites at the same time. Many sites allow uploading of content through both old technologies (computers) and new technologies (mobile applications, aka apps).

I've been messing around trying to integrate Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram so that I can upload content from my iPhone to multiple sites at the same time, without repeated posts of the same material going on any single site. My DIY strategy is trial and error, checking out the Help tools and FAQs in each site, Googling a question, and consulting a contact (viewing the online content of or direct messaging members of my Personal Learning Network (PLN) via my favorite just-in-time go-to places - Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, and/or Flickr).

Not all of these sites "play nice" together, and some of their sharing features are just confusing or don't work well. And there are interesting recent demographic trends occurring amongst users of various social media...worthy of further consideration.

Things that stood out today as I experimented on my compact-handheld-electronic-multimedia-communication-device (aka cellphone) with multi-site sharing features.

  1. Instagram. Instagram is a mobile app that has become increasingly popular amongst both tweens and artists. Instagram is a contraction of the words Instant+telegram. On my iPhone Instagram offers the option to simultaneously post content to Tumblr, Flickr, and Facebook. I only had to sign in to my other sites once to allow Instagram permission to post to them. Statigram is a web-based platform for viewing Instagram images from a computer rather than from a smart phone. (See my Statigram). Webstagram performs similarly, and I'm sure there are other  sites that similarly display Instagram collections by account holder. In Instagram (mobile) and Statigram or Webstagram (laptop) you can follow people, see who your followers are, and "like" images (like, in Instagram means clicking on the heart symbol). You cannot upload images from your laptop to Statigram. I noticed that Instagram crops pics to a square format (a tribute to the olden days of photography). That's not good when you don't want your images cropped. I posted this issue as problem on my Facebook page, and one of my FB contacts shared a fix (InstaSize) that retains the rectangular format of my iphone pics posted to Instagram. I tried InstaSize and went back to the regular Instagram square format. 
  2. Tumblr. Tumblr is an increasingly popular micro-blogging host. You can micro-blog in Timblr from a laptop or a cellphone (cellphone requires the Tumblr app).  Uploading an image from my iPhone to my Tumblr works well, and I had already set up Tumblr (on my laptop) to automatically post my Tumblr content to Twitter. In my web-based version of Twitter the "view photo" feature works for my shared Tumblr content. The Tweet also inserted a link back to my Tumblr where the image was originally posted. But in Tweetdeck (an app that works on both computers and smart phones), there is only a link back to Tumblr to see the content, no nifty "view photo" option.  For those who want to see content immediately, and not have to follow links to see a pic, this isn't cool.
  3. Flickr. Flickr is a web-based photo sharing site. I described Flickr in my previous post, so I won't dwell on it here other than to say that I can share content from my Flickr web site to both Facebook and Twitter, and the Flickr app for my iPhone also allows multi-site uploading of images and accompanying texts.
  4. Don't double share same content. This part gets tricky for newbies like me. Many social media sites allow cross posting to multiple sites at the same time. Instagram, Flickr, and Tumblr each will cross post to one another and to Twitter and Facebook if you tell them to. Sometimes I've cross posted a picture from my Tumblr account to Twitter without knowing, other times I've accidentally double posted a picture to a site. I've played around with my settings, specifically in my permissions for access in Flickr and Tumblr (to other sites), to see how my cross posts appear on my other sites. 
  5. Tag everything. Tags both make your content searchable, and they allow you or someone else to aggregate content within a social media site identified with a word or phrase. Twitter users have developed a sophisticated and robust hash-tagging system. Tumblr also has tags that work similarly (but without the hash mark). Without the tags or hashtags your posts are unsearchable. 
  6. Adult thumbs, adult standards. From an iPhone, it's almost impossible to correct typos in the comment box or subject area accompanying an upload. From my laptop, scrolling back and forth across the text is a breeze. That makes my mobile uploads subject to text errors, which I'm then compelled to fix, which means removing or deleting the content and starting over. Mobile is supposed to be fast and easy, but maybe built for 13 year olds who text all day, have small thumbs and don't care about spelling.
In closing, I should add that it has not gone unnoticed that 14 year old kids are already doing much of this, and K-12 teachers are, well, kindof behind. If there is a take-away from all of this, I would hope that the real message of this post is that everyone is creative; mobile media can be fun, exploratory, and educational; and that art educators have an important role to play in teaching, working with, playing with, and even learning from their already tech-savvy students.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Falling in Like with Flickr

I'm kindof liking Flickr these days. I've been using Flickr to back up, organize, and share my iPhone and digital camera photos, and to connect to other Flickr users. Flickr is a terrific online photo sharing site and community for artists. Flickr is free up to a point. After I accumulated too many pics, I bit the bullet and upgraded. I still consider myself a novice Flickr user, so perhaps this post will be beneficial to other Flickr newbies. (My Flickr sets)

Things I like about Flickr: (click on the images to see larger)

Sets. Your Flickr images appear in what Flickr calls a Photostream. Flickr sets allows you to organize your photos from your Photostream into sets. You can easily add, delete, and relabel images in your Flickr sets. Fashioning a Flickr set of your own images is  like putting an art exhibit together (aka online curating). 

Easy upload from iPhoto. iPhoto has a share feature that connects right to Flickr. You can send one image, multiple images, or an entire event with all of its images to your Flickr site. You can send images directly to specific Flickr sets or to your Photostream.

Mobile App. Flickr's mobile app is easy, free, popular with tech enthusiasts. You can upload and label multiple images at once from your smartphone. Everything you upload appears in your Flickr Photostream. 

Privacy settings, Labels (Tags). Flickr allows you to determine who can see your images. This is a great feature for a student group or project in which you want to limit public access to the images, or if you want share photos only with selected family/friends. You should both caption and "tag" your Flickr images as soon as you upload them. Tags (labels) are like "keywords" that you add as text content that always accompanies your image. 
Tags make your own Flickr images searchable at a later time, by you or by others. This comes in handy when looking for a pic you uploaded a year ago. In your own search for specific kinds of images uploaded by other Flickr users, searching by keywords (tags) is very convenient (if others have added tags to their Flickr images).

Photo-editing. Flickr now has a built-in photo editing feature (called Aviary) for cropping, adjusting, and/or applying various filters to your uploaded images.  The Flickr editor is located under the flickr Actions icon. Flickr's new mobile app and photo editing features allow Flickr to now compete with Instagram and Twitter.

Contacts. Flickr contacts - you can follow and be followed by anyone in Flickr. You can comment on or designate as favorites your contacts' images, and they on yours. This is a great way to keep current with your flickr contacts' new works, and a great way to build an audience for your work.  

Groups. I love the Flickr groups, people sharing images in just about any style, theme, or genre one can think of. You can join as many groups as you like. Some groups are moderated, and require permission to join and upload images. Others are completely open. Lots of peer-to-peer participatory possibilities for art educators and students here.

Flickr favorites. Favorites. You can mark just about anything created and shared by others in Flickr as a "favorite", and create a collection of your own consisting of your Flickr favorites. This is a nice way to collect images and ideas, and to share with others (students, peers, etc.) how people make images.

Student Participation. Flickr offers wonderful possibilities for students to create galleries, see one another's work, and comment on selected pieces (their own and the work of peers). You can create closed groups in Flickr for this purpose, and you can control commenting features. See the gallery of student work from High School Art Teacher Deborah Brock's photography class.  As mentioned above, you can adjust Flickr's privacy settings to limit who sees uploaded images.  This might be necessary if you are showing images created by students who are minors and your school requires limited access to their content.

In summary, there are plenty of online sites to share and archive (back up) images these days. If for no other reason, and without all the Flickr bells and whistles, Flickr remains a great site to store, organize, and share images. Its copyright policies are clear and the site is easy to use. I can make my material private if I so choose. And there are over 6 billion images in Flickr to inspire my own art, research, or teaching.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Playing with apps

Active learning, learning by doing, just-in-time, DIY...  These catchphrases fit the amped up digital world where global kids, aka millennials know more about new creative media than their teachers. Hey, kids have more free time on their hands, don't work for a living, pay mortgages, or maintain households, and mom and dad are footing the bills for all those the digital toys.

So how do busy adults and teachers catch up?  

In a word, PLAY. (act like kids)  Below are some images from apps I've played with on my iPhone.  These apps meet my criteria for utilization: ever present, easy to learn and use, free, fast, and gratifying. The captions underneath the images link to sites that describe features of these apps.


PS Express





I'll be posting and commenting about my mobile snaps and apps to a Flickr set, Tweeting my favorites with a couple hashtags (#iphoneography #apps), and sharing some of them on my other micro-blogging sites Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A not so ordinary day in the life of a public servant

A not so ordinary day, May 1, 2012

On May 1, 2012, I taught my last class at the University of Illinois, locked the door of my seminar room, and drove home. After 23 years there, I had recently been promoted to the rank of full professor. I was the first female faculty member in the then 50 year-old art education program at this university to have ever attained full rank.  As any female academic working in the ivory tower knows, this was no easy accomplishment. My work at UI was filled with amazing opportunities and recognitions for which I am very grateful. These include research, fellowships, and grants; publishing and presenting my research throughout the world; teaching and developing innovative new courses; working with smart talented undergraduate and graduate students; advising terrific student Masters Theses and Doctoral Dissertations; collaborating with highly respected scholars in other disciplines; organizing and hosting events; chairing the art education program and overseeing our now 45 year old Saturday morning laboratory art school (a community-arts program serving about 400 k-12 students each year); initiating and participating in exciting public engagement endeavors; and receiving a wonderful array of national and campus awards. 

I have always considered my work as an art educator to be a worthwhile and needed form of public service. In 2011 I examined the spate of attacks on the public service sector (and teachers in particular), but I remain steadfast in the conviction that teaching is a critically important profession. In my own professional work throughout my years at UI (and continuing to the present), have I creatively blended teaching, research, and public engagement. I have articulated some strategies that facilitated my public outreach efforts at UI. These strategies include positioning teachers as public intellectuals, adapting entrepreneurial strategies, utilizing digital and social media, and remain connected to my community of practice. (BTW, I tweeted a link to my "Entrepreneurial Strategies" essay after it was published, and Richard Florida retweeted it!). 

In my post-UI professional life, I am currently teaching for the University of Florida Online Masters in Art Education degree program. I also recently accepted a part-time art teaching position at a local high school. I continue to edit the research journal Visual Arts Research this year. And I remain active in the National Art Education Association (this year as co-president of the NAEA Women's Caucus).