Tweeting Archaeology

I don’t tweet.

However, like much else on the web, once the idea is out there, people have taken it and run with it. A round-up article from Wired discusses some of the interesting ways people have hacked the service, from a washing machine that tweets when its cycle is over, to house plants that tweet begging to be watered, to a fellow who can turn on his lights from his cell phone by tweeting his house.

An excavation/site/monument that tweeted if visited/disturbed after visiting hours? Hmm.

I also quite liked a related story where Vik Singh of Yahoo! created a mashup that searches tweets for breaking news:

TweetNews takes Yahoo’s news results and compares them to emerging topics on Twitter, in effect using what’s most popular on Twitter as an index for determining the importance of news stories.

In other words, TweetNews uses Twitter to rank stories that are so new they may not have enough inbound links for algorithm-based ranking systems to prioritize them.

The result is a search engine mashup that tracks breaking news stories ranked by Twitter search results, offering faster updates, better relevance and more in-depth coverage than either source by itself.

In a blog post explaining the ideas behind TweetNews, Singh outlines the frustration many felt when searching for news on the Mumbai attacks: “Twitter messages were providing incredible focus on the important subtopics that had yet to become popular in the traditional media… what I found most interesting… was that news articles did exist on these topics, but just weren’t valued highly enough yet.”

So, here’s the TweetNews on Archaeology; and for those who have trouble with dipthongs, the TweetNews on Archeology .  We have archaeological blog aggregators… should we be aggregating tweets too? Do you tweet? Why, and how can you extend it to something bigger/better?

The original post describing how the service works – and the source code!! – is here. Vingh concludes:

There’s something very interesting here … Twitter as a ranking signal for search freshness may prove to be very useful if constructed properly. Definitely deserves more exploration – hence this service, which took < 100 lines of code to represent all the search logic thanks to Yahoo! BOSS, Twitter’s API, and the BOSS Mashup Framework.

Results of my TweetNews search this morning:

  • At Nimrud, decay is accelerating for 3,000 years of history.
    2009/02/10 22:01:56
  • 1 Related Tweets
  • ChristineFarmer
    @NevadaSlim thanks :) No, I have a PhD in Ancient History and Archaeology.
  • LAist
    LAist couldn’t resist doing a little shopping at The House of Love and Luck on La Cienega just north of Largo at the Coronet. This gorgeous new vintage jewelry store opened six weeks ago. Walk inside to find a treasure trove of beautiful necklaces, rings, bracelets and more. Every item in the store …
    2009/02/10 19:15:00
  • The Wenatchee World
    OLYMPIA Gov. Chris Gregoire has unveiled her plan to streamline government programs, hoping to cut more expenses as the state faces an estimated $6 billion budget shortfall through 2011.
    2009/02/10 18:53:39
  • New Kerala
    London, Feb 10 : A historian has suggested a link between the Stonehenge and an ancient circle of standing stones known as Carahunge in Armenia, which predates the historic site in England.
    2009/02/11 04:59:46
  • The Deming Headlight
    Santa Fe New Mexico communities statewide are being asked to honor sacred places during Heritage Preservation Month, the annual nationwide celebration of historic preservation through community events and other activities held each May, the state Historic Preservation Division announced today.
    2009/02/11 07:14:40
  • New Kerala
    Dhaka, Feb 11 : A rare hand written letter by Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore has been found from a private collector in a Bangladesh village.
    2009/02/11 05:24:02
  • BBC News
    A rare ceramic face mask jug dating back to the 13th century has been uncovered at a building site in Rothesay.
    2009/02/11 12:27:01
  • San Francisco Chronicle
    Why Evolution Is True By Jerry A. Coyne (Viking; 304 pages; $27.95) Praise be the plucky Tiktaalik roseae, the “transitional form” that hauled itself out of the water 375 million years ago to bridge the span between fish and amphibians, whose descendants…
    2009/02/11 13:04:08
  • The Buffalo News
    The public will soon get its first chance to speak out on the proposed $325 million Canal Side project.
    2009/02/10 13:24:34
  • The Pulse-Journal
    A Deerfield Twp. mansion has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    2009/02/10 23:32:35
  • FOX 10 Phoenix
    ASU budget cuts force ASU to cap enrollment – Four Dozen Academic Programs to End
    2009/02/10 22:16:40
  • Straight Furrow
    AN AUSTRALIAN antiques dealer has been arrested in Egypt for allegedly trying to smuggle two 2300-year-old animal mummies and religious figurines out of the country.
    2009/02/11 07:57:53
  • Tiscali
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Archaeologists have found a mass grave in Mexico City with four dozen human skeletons laid out in neat lines that could reveal clues about the 16th century Spanish conquest that killed millions.
    2009/02/11 01:54:59
  • Rapid City Journal
    Ladies Salad Luncheon set for Tuesday RAPID CITY The Tuesday Ladies Salad Luncheon will be Feb. 10 at Trinity Lutheran Church, 402 Kansas City St. Special guests are the Rev. Kenneth Sortedahl, his wife and students of Peniel Christian School in Spring Valley, Wis. The event includes music at 11:45 a.m., lunch at noon and the program at 12:30 p.m.
    2009/02/11 07:58:13
  • Deseret Morning News
    Wanted: Volunteer docents for the Museum of Peoples and Cultures at Brigham Young University
    2009/02/11 07:31:08
  • PhotonicsOnline
    Future telescopes, with mirrors half the size of a football field, will need special components to deal with the light they collect. Astronomers are turning to photonic devices that guide and manipulate light inside specially-designed materials.
    2009/02/11 12:33:22
  • Otago Daily Times
    Consent applications for a wind farm in the heart of Southland, due to be filed this month, may not be lodged for at least another two months and maybe longer, as the company behind the project gets a swag of assessment reports reviewed.
    2009/02/10 16:42:53
  • Daily Local News
    Chocolate for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day?
    2009/02/11 11:30:57
  • KIRO 7 Seattle-Tacoma
    OLYMPIA, Wash. — In addition to shutting down 150 minor boards and commissions and closing 25 Department of Licensing offices, Gov. Chris Gregoire says the state could save money by merging some agencies.
    2009/02/10 19:01:48
  • MSNBC
    Egypt’s chief archaeologist has unveiled a completely preserved mummy inside a limestone sarcophagus sealed 2,600 years ago during pharaonic times.
    2009/02/11 15:11:15
  • Charlevoix Courier
    Years after having thought it had taken the steps necessary to lay claim on a ship it lost to rough seas in the 17th century, France formally asserted ownership last week in a Michigan U.S. District Court.
    2009/02/11 07:18:10
  • MSNBC
    Hairs that likely belonged to humans living 195,000 to 257,000 years ago in Africa have been identified in fossilized brown hyena dung, according to a new study that describes the first non-bony material in the early human fossil record.
    2009/02/10 18:41:25
  • The Daily World
    OLYMPIA The governors plan to streamline government programs would close Department of Licensing offices across the state, including one at South Bend, and eliminate dozens of state boards and commissions.
    2009/02/10 19:20:52
  • Casper Star-Tribune
    Natrona County Coroner Dr. James Thorpen will retire later this year, he said Tuesday.
    2009/02/11 10:51:22
  • The Bryan-College Station Eagle
    WASHINGTON — Chocolate for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day?Folks may be surprised to know how far back chocolate goes — perhaps 1,000 years in what is now the United States.Evidence of chocolate was been found in Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, …
    2009/02/11 02:40:23
  • Billings Gazette
    BUTTE – Butte-Silver Bow’s new historic preservation officer is leaving the position Friday.
    2009/02/11 08:38:51
  • The Village Voice
    Portraits in tenacity make for some of the strongest films in this year’s Documentary Fortnight film fest, again bundled within the supergroup of nonfiction attractions known as MOMA’s Doc Month. You might also group the filmmakers under the banner of the relentless, as they rustle up category-bl…
    2009/02/11 00:16:49
  • Horizon 2009 Report

    If you’re not familiar with the Horizon Reports from NMC, then you should take a moment to page through it. The Horizon Reports

    describe the continuing work of the New Media Consortium (NMC)’s Horizon Project, a long-running qualitative research project that seeks to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, research, or creative expression within learning-focused organizations.

    The report includes numerous links and examples of emerging projects that really push the boundaries.  Two items that caught my eye – my thinking being these would be immediately applicable to archaeology – were the sections on ‘mobiles’ and ‘geo-coded everything’. Some examples already in the pipeline:

    Mobile MaaP
    http://maap.columbia.edu/m/index.html
    Columbia University’s Mapping the African American Past (MAAP) website now includes a mobile version designed to be viewed using the iPhone or iPod Touch. The tool includes text and audio information about historically significant locations in New York City and is designed as a tool for mobile learning.

    One could imagine using this kind of application to pre-load all sorts of archaeological landscape information, historic sites, and so on – an augmented reality.

    TinyEye Music, Snap-Tell

    TinEye Music (http:// http://www.ideeinc.com/products/tineyemobile/) and Snap-Tell (http://snaptell.com/) use the camera to record a photograph of a CD, video, or book, then identify the artist or author and display that along with reviews of the piece and information on where to buy it

    When I was in the business of identifying Roman brick stamp types, I had a reverse-lookup dictionary on my lap and an equipoise lamp, trying to read the letters, trying to figure out what the **** I was looking at. These two apps could serve as models for us, to tie our catalogues of stamps, forms, fabrics and so on, to our phones. Snap! ‘Vernice Nera ware’… Snap! ‘CIL XV.1 861a’

    On the Geocoding front:

    Collage (http://tapulous.com/collage/), a photo application for the iPhone, lets the viewer upload geotagged photos, browse photos taken nearby, and see photos as they are taken all over the world. Mobile Fotos (http://xk72.com/mobilefotos/) is another iPhone application that automatically geotags photos taken on the device before uploading them to Flickr.

    Obvious usefulness when you have the right device! But if you don’t:

    The Photo Finder by ATP Electronics and the Nikon GP-1 are examples; they capture GPS data and synchronize it to a camera’s data card to geotag the photos automatically. Another approach is to use a specialized device like the GPS Trackstick (http://www.gpstrackstick.com) that can be carried in a pocket or glove box. It records the path it travels, and the data can be uploaded to create custom maps of walking or driving routes, hiking trails, or points of interest. Geotagging of media of all kinds is increasingly easy to do (or is automatic), and as a result, the amount and variety of geotagged information available online is growing by the day.

    And something I’d never heard of, but looks promising:

    Virtual geocaching — the practice of placing media (images, video, audio, text, or any kind of digital files) in an online “drop box” and tagging it with a specific geographic location — is emerging as a way to “annotate” real-world places for travelers or tourists; enhance scavenger hunts, alternate reality games, and other forms of urban outdoor recreation; and augment social events such as concerts and other performances. Drop.io Location (http://drop.io/dropiolocation) is one such service. Mobile users can detect the location of nearby drops and retrieve any files they have permission to access.

    Some other items:

    Geocoding with Google Spreadsheets (and Gadgets)
    http://otherfancystuff.blogspot.com/2008/11/geocoding-with-google-spreadsheets-and.html
    (Pamela Fox, …And Other Fancy Stuff, 27 November 2008.) This blog post includes step- by-step instructions for embedding a gadget, created by the author, that plots addresses from a Google spreadsheet on a map, providing latitude and longitude data that can be used in other mashups.

    The Mapas Project
    http://whp.uoregon.edu/mapas/AGN/Guelaxe/fullview.shtml
    The fledgling Mapas Project at the University of Oregon is dedicated to the study of Colonial Mexican pictorial manuscripts. Geolocation is being used to link real-world locations to those represented on the maps.

    This next one I’ve written about before, but it’s worth keeping your eye on as it develops:

    Mediascape
    http://www.mscapers.com/
    Mediascape is a tool for creating interactive stories that unfold as the viewer moves through physical space and time. By tapping into the GPS on a viewer’s mobile device and incorporating multimedia as well as interactive controls, every mediascape offers a unique experience for each viewer.

    I find it very interesting that so many of these emerging approaches focus on merging historical data with geographical data. Public History and Public Archaeology: the next big things!

    Next Exit History
    http://nextexithistory.org/
    Next Exit History is a project by the University of West Florida and the University of South Florida designed to provide geotagged information (podcasts and other media) to assist tourists in finding and learning about historical sites in Florida that are near major interstate highways but often overlooked by visitors.

    How Your Location-Aware iPhone will Change Your Life
    http://lifehacker.com/395171/how-your-location+aware-iphone-will-change-your-life
    (Adam Pash, Lifehacker, 5 June 2008.) The iPhone’s location-aware features enhance a host of applications from social networking tools to geotagging photos taken by the phone to nearby restaurant recommendations.

    Delicious: Geo-Everything
    http://delicious.com/tag/hz09+geolocation
    (Tagged by Horizon Advisory Board and friends, 2008.) Follow this link to find resources tagged for this topic and this edition of the Horizon Report, including the ones listed here. To add to this list, simply tag resources with “hz09” and “geolocation” when you save them to Delicious.

    And to close, I’ll admit a degree of ignorance about the semantic side of weblife, but that section should also be of interest –

    Tools for making connections between concepts or people are also entering the market. Calais (http://www.opencalais.com) is a toolkit of applications to make it easier to integrate semantic functionality in blogs, websites, and other web content; for instance, Calais’ Tagaroo is a plugin for WordPress that suggests tags and Flickr images related to a post as the author composes it. Zemanta (http://www.zemanta.com) is a similar tool, also for bloggers. SemanticProxy, another Calais tool, automatically generates semantic metadata tags for a given website that are readable by semantic-aware applications, without the content creator’s needing to do it by hand. Calais includes an open API, so developers can create custom semantic-aware applications.

    WorldMapper

    WorldMapper (http://www.worldmapper.org/) produces maps that change visually based on the data they represent; a world map showing total population enlarges more populous countries (China, India) and shrinks those that have a smaller fraction of the world’s population.

    Cultural Heritage

    The Fundación Marcelino Botín in Santander, Spain is seeking to create a research portal to cultural heritage information about the Cantabria region, using semantic-aware applications to draw connections and combine data from a wide variety of sources, including bibliographies, prehistoric excavations, industrial heritage, and others.

    SemantiFind
    http://www.semantifind.com
    SemantiFind is a web browser plug in that works with Google’s search bar. When a user types a word into the search bar, a drop down menu prompts the user to select the exact sense of the word that is desired, in order to improve the relevance of the results that Google displays. The results are based on user labels on the pages being searched.

    Delicious: Semantic-Aware Applications
    http://delicious.com/tag/hz09+semanticweb
    (Tagged by Horizon Advisory Board and friends, 2008.) Follow this link to find resources tagged for this topic and this edition of the Horizon Report, including the ones listed here. To add to this list, simply tag resources with “hz09” and “semanticweb” when you save them to Delicious.

    The entire report is fascinating; hope this snapshot of its contents shoots you off in new directions!

    Google Maps & Cultural Heritage

    From Cameron Chapman at Mashable comes a list of the 100+ best tools and mashups; below are the ones I’ve selected that may be of interest to readers of this blog:

    Cassini – An overlay of 18th century maps over Google Maps that lets you adjust the transparency of either layer.  (I’ve got copies of the IGM maps of Central Italy from the early 20th century that were used by Ward-Perkins and the rest of the BSR team during the South Etruria survey – I’d love to get those done similar to this application, but I expect I’d run afoul of one or several intellectual property issues…)

    BibleMap.org – An interactive map of locations from the Bible.

    World Heritage Google Map – A Google Map of UNESCO World Heritage Sites worldwide that includes photos.

    PlaceOpedia – A map of Wikipedia articles linked to their locations.

    World’s Creepiest Places – Just as the name implies, this map shows information about the world’ creepiest places.

    The Kremer Collection – Use a Google Maps interface to browse a large collection of paintings.

    zkimmer – An online publication viewer for newspapers and magazines that uses the Google Maps UI.

    Google Maps Recent Edits – A constantly updating map that shows the most recent edits to Google Maps.

    We Tell Stories – A map of the stories of six different authors that lets you follow the trail of their stories around the world

    Map Builder – A quick and easy Google Maps mashup builder.

    MapMyPage – A simple tool to put Google Maps on your website.

    Map My Life – An easy to use mashup that will map your life and show a timeline using an XML file you provide.

    The Google Maps Image Cutter – A free application for cutting any image into tiles for use with the Google Maps interface.

    Automatic Tile Cutter – Another app for cutting any image into tiles to use with Google Maps.

    GMapCreator – A tool to make creating thematic Google Maps easier.

    Geo Twitter – GeoCode your tweets and plot them on an embeddable map.

    Mapmsg.com – An app that lets you put a message (smoke signals, crop circles, etc.) into a map and then email it to anyone.

    Dual Maps – Free mapping tools to combine different Google Maps views as well as Microsoft Virtual Earth maps.

    maps-for-free.com – Get relief layers for Google Maps free for creating your own mashups.

    HeatMapAPI – Use this API to create your own heat maps to overlay Google Maps.

    PdMarker – An app to help you easily customize Google Maps marker behavior

    The original list lives here

    Game based learning and Latin Literacy

    Recent items I’ve seen concerning game-based learning of language, and the use of ‘fake dead people’ to populate archaeological VR, reminded me of a project I conceived back in 2005 and had hoped to find money to do. So with the unhelpful help of the XP file search thing, I eventually dredged up the original brainstorm, but not the proposal itself. I did float the idea at a Classical Association of Canada conference session that year – but attendance was rather thin in the session on digital media and learning  (… and there’s probably a lesson in that …)

    Thinking it might be useful for someone else, here it is below:

    CSI – Cicero’s Sullen Ides, or, Get the Tusculum Villa Ready!
    A game-based learning experiment for Latin literacy

    Game playing – cognitive benefits
    -examples of language games
    -examples of literacy games
    -so why not mash the two together?

    -interactive fiction
    -how can learning be assessed in interactive fiction
    -through scoring based on completion of in game tasks
    -different levels of scoring: basic, for very limited tasks
    advanced, for uncovering ‘hidden’ tasks
    -benefit also: cost, computing resources, also creates a learning environment similar where performing the skill is similar (literacy is text based).

    Scenario:

    Written completely in Latin, ‘Cicero’s Sullen Ides, or, Get the Tusculum Villa Ready!’ is a text adventure taking place in Cicero’s villa outside of Rome. Settings include every room in the house, as well as locations on the grounds.

    The player plays as Terentia, the wife of Cicero. As the game opens, Terentia is in her room in the Villa. The game opens with a description of the room. Out in the hallway, on a table, is a letter from Cicero advising Terentia to get the villa ready as he will be arriving soon from Rome – time is slipping away! Terentia does not know that Cicero is coming. In fact, she is woken by a slave who informs her that a quantity of money has gone missing from the villa strong box, and the same slave neglects to inform her of the letter. She does remember some turns later, and informs her mistress…

    The Aims of the Game:

    The game then involves two challenges – solving the mystery of the missing money, and getting the house ready for Cicero. The player will have to have an understanding of the daily routines of a Roman villa in order to successfully complete the second task, as well as a grasp of the Latin language. Since most people today do not need to know how to write Latin – and the structures of latin are mostly too complicated for a simple text adventure to parse – the game will be structured to accept simple imperative constructions – read the letter, go north, tell the servant to clean the room. The level of Latin of the descriptions will be aimed at the student entering a second year Latin course, or finishing off a first year course. Indeed, the game could be used as part of the summative evaluation of the course, where the scoring indicates the level of literacy the player has achieved (sub-plots can be explored by the player, requiring higher literacy skills to solve, and accordingly, higher scores when puzzles are solved or ‘rooms’ are unlocked).

    Implementing the Game:

    The ADRIFT game generator (v4.0, Wild 2005) can display graphics files associated with different rooms and events. Careful selection of imagery then to support the text will help the player to decipher the text or give hints as to what the player should do next. Similarly, sound files may be added to the game, either as background in particular ‘rooms’ (running water by a fountain in the garden) or as auditory clues for particular events (a chiming bell indicating that a meal has been laid out in the Tablinum, heard from elsewhere in the Villa. A player understanding the significance of the bell would process immediately to the tablinum…) Non-player characters will be roaming the house, doing tasks, and the player will be able to interact with them to a degree, directing slaves to do particular tasks, or interrogating them to discover what happened to the money. Terentia will have to interact with the non-player characters correctly in order to proceed.

    Concerning the language capabilities of the game generator software, a simple text file can be created that swaps the english in-game commands for their Latin synonyms. Students should be advised before playing the game of the correct mood, tense, and voice to use when playing; alternatively, they could be left to figure that out on their own and the score adjusted accordingly once they’ve issued their first successful commands in the game. Scores may be adjusted too to reflect how many ‘hints’ the player needed before successfully completing a task. Finally, the game generator can scale the total score within the game against a maximum. That allows the game creator to decide that ‘all easy tasks will be worth 5, all medium tasks will be worth 20, and all hard tasks will be worth 50 points’ and then the game will rescale the total points during game play to, say, 100 points, allowing the final score to actually represent a score out of 100. This allows the game creator to create appropriate game tasks without having to worry about the ultimate weightings and point calculations.

    Finishing the Game

    The game could end with Cicero’s return to the Villa, which could be triggered by Terentia completing a particular task, or it could be triggered by a certain number of turns expiring. At that point, Cicero might interrogate Terentia about the missing money, asking very simple questions to which the student would have to compose (equally) simple responses. These might be in the order of – where are my slippers? –who took the money? –has the bath been heated? That is, he could ask a series of questions that relate to all of the various tasks that Terentia may or may not have completed, or objects she may or may not have collected. Because these would be simple responses (and because the creator knows what kinds of possible answers there might be and can accordingly let the program know what to expect), scoring would be simple in this part of the game. A certain number of ‘correct’ answers, and Cicero could pronounce himself well pleased, and the player would win the game. A certain number of incorrect answers, and Cicero could become very petulant and sullen, making Terentia go back and complete the missing tasks and then return to him (at which point, the correct answers would be worth half as much).

    Game play and learning

    In this fashion – through play and immersion in an imaginary world that relies on the student’s knowledge of Roman civilization and the Latin language – the game would reinforce the student’s grasp of the language, and through game play the student would be able to display an understanding of the language divorced from the usual ‘sight translation exam’.

    [… you can see that I ran out of oompf in that last session, though now I have a much greater grasp of the relevant literacy, case studies, etc. If I was to do this over again, I’d move that section first and flesh it out greatly, as classicists sometimes need greater prodding than others – though, in fairness, this isn’t always the case.]

    Sketchup + Augmented Reality

    This is AWESOME:

    Digital Urban posted that video just the other day, and as they say, the potential is fantastic. More from them:

    All you need to make ARplug-in [for sketchup] work is a personal computer, a webcam and a printed code attached to the software.

    For optimal functionality, a Dual-core PC with a standard graphic card for 3D videogames are recommended, see AR-media for full details and download.

    A free demo version is available with the full version coming in at 99 euros.

    Gaming archaeology

    I received a message the other day from a rather frustrated 3d-worlds-for-communications designer, who had been taking CAD meshes of archaeological sites and making them ‘real’ using the Unreal engine. He’d been presenting this work to heritage & archaeology folks, and found that nobody was interested in acutally having 3d reconstructions that could be immersive (ie, via an avatar). I wasn’t at that particular conference, but I can well imagine that kind of response. Nobody ever likes changing direction; there are sunk costs, reputations, all sorts of reasons why things continue on in the direction that they’re going.

    With archaeology’s natural affinity for exploring and understanding the social impact of built spaces & constructed landscapes, with its tools for exploring the visual symbols and markers of cultures, it seems to me that archaeology would naturally adopt digital immersive worlds as a new tool. I guess that’s not happening though (although I hope to be proved wrong!).

    In other, related news…

    In this week’s Escapist, there’s a great article about the intersection between video games and research, especially that which is going on at UCL. In the article, there’s also a discussion of movements in games towards non-linear stories, something of which historians should also take note.

    Finally, there is another entrant into the burgeoning field of augmented reality, of playing video games in real world places, called Locomatrix. This last has clear application for archaeologists, for them to make what they do accessible & valuable to the public. Locomatrix is based in the UK. I’d love to see somebody make a game featuring a county sites & monuments record with their GPS-based play. They will be having a contest soon:

    We will shortly announce a university challenge with a prize of £2,000 for the best game created by a university department. We will also be sponsoring an investigation into outdoor games specifically for girls.

    2 000 quid is an awful lot of coin… c’mon UK archaeologists, let’s see what you can do!

    Angel versus Moodle

    I’ve just obtained a ‘sandbox’ account with Angel Learning. Angel is another course management suite, and I was interested to see how it compares with Moodle. The following is a stream-of-consciousness exploration of the platform…

    It certainly is a very different kettle of fish. I started exploring the ‘eportfolio’ section. For an online student, keeping a portfolio of the different resources you’ve come across, the different bits of writing that you’ve done, and so on, can be quite cumbersome. As a prof, I think I would really like to see what materials my students are using. This eportfolio might address both issues – the student can ‘publish’ a selection of materials from the portfolio to display. So the portfolio feature certainly seems promising. The eportfolio allows the student to upload ‘artifacts’, be they files or links to websites.  The screen-shot below shows the creation of a rubric under a page called ‘Achievements’. Presumably this means that I as a prof could set up a rubric for a literature review assignment, and then the students can add materials to their portfolio to indicate that they have ‘achieved’ the goals of the assignment (formative assessment, I guess!).

    Ah. Just found the relevant help file:

    ANGEL ePortfolio 2.1 allows students and instructors the ability to create an evolving picture of educational as well as personal growth and development. It allows individuals to link progress to institutional, course, and personal achievements, and includes the concept of “certified” artifacts – artifacts imported from ANGEL Courses that include grades and instructor comments. ANGEL ePortfolio’s blogging capabilities allow students and instructors to maintain an ongoing record of educational and co-curricular activities. Finally, sharing elements of an ePortfolio can be accomplished by creating “Publications” – custom web pages consisting of various artifacts from a student’s ePortfolio – and emailing or granting other ePortfolio users permission to see specific aspects of one’s work.

    So on first impressions, the eportfolio allow seems to be an extremely valuable tool for an online instructor. Moodle allows that sort of thing, too, but I’ve not personally had much success with my students in that regard. Of course, that may well say more about the instructor than the platform.

    The layout is simpler than in Moodle, but there seems to be much less customization available. The screenshot below shows the ‘art history’ template, and the opening screen that you see when you’re not in the e-portfolio.

    This next screen shot gives an idea of the various options available to you as an instructor to create your course. Everything is tabbed, once you select a particular option. I set about creating a test, and found it to be fairly similar to setting one up in Moodle, but the layout was much more user-friendly.

    The various kinds of questions you might wish to create are made available to you in a pop-up window:

    Some kinds can be automatically graded, others require manual intervention.

    As time allows, I’m going to try to migrate some courses I built in Moodle, to the Angel Sandbox, and we’ll see how easy/frustrating that process might be…

    Some reviews of Angel, and Angel v. Moodle v. other CMS…
    FindArticles – Technology review: ANGEL(TM) courseware by Angel Learning
    Community College Enterprise, The, Spring 2005, by Harris, Mark

    Moodle Versus Angel on the Moodle discussion forum

    A wiki page comparing various course/learning management systems

    And something from Edutools.

    Neogeography, Gaming and Second Life

    Archaeologists, take note of work coming out of CASA at UCL in the UK:

    [two issues are addressed:] firstly that spatial data is still inherently difficult to share and visualise for the non-GIS trained academic or professional and secondly that a geographic data social network has the potential to dramatically open up data sources for both the public and professional geographer. With our applications of GMap Creator, and MapTube to name but two, we detail ways to intelligently visualise and share spatial data. This paper concludes with detailing usage and outreach as well as an insight into how such tools are already providing a significant impact to the outreach of geographic information.”

    Now, this is work that has obvious archaeological implications.

    On another note, the same group is implementing ABM in Second Life. I particularly like the screen-grab of an escaped agent wandering off into the Metaverse. There’s something profoundly disturbing about that…

    http://gisagents.blogspot.com/2008/08/news-new-working-paper-and-abm-in.html

    http://gisagents.blogspot.com/2008/09/update-agents-in-second-life.html

    Hampson Museum: Digital Curation, Digital Reconstruction

    One of the critiques of traditional archaeological VR is that the decision making process underlying the images is often not transparent.  A notable exception is the Hampson Museum in Wilson, Arkansas. Indeed, they are soliciting comments on their reconstruction:

    In this section of the Virtual Hampson Museum you will find a series of images that have been created using the latest computer visualization techniques. The goal of the images is to give you a better sense of what the site might have looked like some 500 years ago. We can never be certain how the village appeared but we have pulled together information from archaeological investigation, traditional sources and historical records. Top down view of the 3D Upper Nodena Village

    Please be sure and explore the 3D Visualization FAQ section for more information on how the details of the visualizations were determined.

    We hope that these images increase your interest and curiosity about this location and the people of Nodena – who may have been the ancestors of the modern Quapaw. Our ideal goal would be to create an image, that if given to a Nodena Villager would have them say “yes — that is what it looked like.” Of course this goal is impossible but it is an ideal that we keep in mind. Nodena was the home for many people and we hope that these images can begin to provide a sense of the richness and complexity of their lives and engage your interest to learn more about the creators of the amazing objects in the Virtual Hampson Museum.

    Please note: These images are the result of a first phase in the work and will be expanded and improved during the next phase from June 2008 to July 2009. We will be adding considerably more “detail” to the images in this process. We invite your suggestions and comments on the current versions.

    This is fantastic work. I’ve been trying to develop a completely on-line intro-to-archaeology course, and the Hampson Museum site is definately going to feature!! What’s more, using point-data generated from laser-scanning, 3d models of artefacts are also available for study and download from the site (in a variety of formats).  This neatly solves one problem for my online students, of how do you make online teaching hands-on?

    More on this site later when I get down to business exploring it…  (thanks Fred!)

    (one thing I’d really like to see in archaeological VR in general: people. dogs. garbage. In my neighbourhood here in Canada, your house just isn’t complete unless you have an abandoned car in the front driveway. I’d like to see the ancient equivalents in these models. This is where game-rendered VR, whether in Second Life or using the Unreal Engine or whatever other system, could really improve the experience of these ancient reconstituted spaces. Over on the Roma Reborn project website, they write: “When, as is generally the case, evidence is completely lacking, the following features have been omitted from the model: interiors of buildings; furniture; statues….. It goes without saying that the human beings, animals, movable objects, etc. present in the city at the time modeled have also been omitted owing to a complete lack of evidence.” No evidence of people eh? What’s the point of archaeology then… That’s why game-rendered VR will, in the long run, trump static VR: the ability to inject life back into these reconstructions. If there is anything at all to the notion that built space has a material effect on the way life is lived within those spaces, then even modern interactions (avatars) within those spaces will generate patterns of interaction that are relevant to understanding ancient life.)

    Ah the Rural Canadian Internet…

    …doesn’t actually exist. At least, not for me. I’ve had to move from my little strip-mall office, and its cable broadband internet. No problem, thought I: I’ll just put a wee office upstairs in the family cider mill, save some monthly cash.

    Turns out, the three wireless internet towers within a mile of my new location cannot be reached from my location, because of trees. What sort of radio waves can’t penetrate a bit of foliage, I ask you. I’ve tried Bell mobility’s wireless access card – a ‘speedy’ 200 kb/s does not let you get into Second Life; it barely lets you check your bank account or check your email (and it cost me over $60 for one day’s test drive!). It certainly doesn’t let you do anything remotely ‘web 2.0’-ish. Why’s that? ‘Cause nobody designs sites anymore that are light. Everything must have bells, whistles, tweeters and woofers.

    Satellite seems to be my only option, if it’ll work. Otherwise, it’s dial-up for me. That’d pretty much kill my digital life; it’d certainly make the things I do, chronicled on this blog, pretty near impossible.

    Ah, fine print on Second Life’s page: no satellite internet. Swell.