Muckle Ado – the blog

Screenshot of's home page on May 19, 2012Robbie Burns knew about having a lot to do - which is what the Boat Song is all about. To have “muckle ado” is to have “much to do” and this makes it a fitting title for a blog. Muckle Ado starts with writings from 2005 when I started blogging for school assignments, carries through to my undergraduate graduation from Women’s Studies, shifts into writings about History for my Masters program, and in between, all around, and since are tech reviews, thoughts on family, life, the universe and everything.

Virtual Museum Canada

cover image from Mennonite Memories of Pelee Island online exhibit
When the Essex-Kent Mennonite Historical Association received a grant to create a virtual museum exhibit about the history of Mennonites on Pelee Island, Ontario, from 1925-1950, they hired me because I offered a combination of technical expertise and a background in Pelee Island’s social history.

Volunteers collected photos from families near and far, and two local teens recorded interviews with community members as they browsed the photos.

My job was organizing and editing the masses of visual, textual, and audio data and using software from the Virtual Museum of Canada at the Canadian Heritage Information Network to create the exhibit. I worked with am currently working with a team of subject experts to review the exhibit content and the site is scheduled to launch sometime in late April 2012 and the site is now live!

Visit Mennonite Memories of Pelee Island, Ontario, 1925-1950.

ProfHacker OpenSearch Plugin

Firefox search options in a drop down menu

Photo credit: Brian Croxall

I’ve been a regular reader of ProfHacker since its launch (i.e. before it moved to the Chronicle of Higher Education Blogs). The tips and tutorials are helpful – and usually timely. I found the site so useful that I was constantly sharing links with colleagues, but I’d accumulated so many bookmarks that sometimes finding the right article was a challenge. What I really needed was an easy way to search the site.

I took this as an opportunity to create a Firefox search plugin using OpenSearch. Then, when I needed to find something on ProfHacker, I could use the browser search bar (using Ctrl+k / Cmd+k) to choose ProfHacker from the list of available search engines.

Once ProfHacker moved over to the Chronicle of Higher Ed, the site specific search plugin broke, but the tool was great while it lasted.

Hacking Wearables

In 2010, I went to the Great Lakes THATCamp and was able to attend a “Hacking Wearables” workshop with Bethany Nowviskie and Bill Turkel and I made a bracelet. It’s hand-sewn out of felt, with various crisscrossing bits of fabric and French knots. A circuit sewn with conductive thread connects the battery with a small LED:


a felt bracelet with a circuit sewn with conductive thread which lights a small LED bulb

University of Windsor Feminist Research Group

a mosaic of the 2009 FRG conference. There are people presenting at lecterns, sitting on the grass, chatting, singing and playing guitar

2009 FRG Conference at the University of Windsor

I’ve been a member of the University of Windsor Feminist Research Group(FRG) since 2005. The group’s founding focus was an annual conference, organized by and for graduate students. The first year I submitted my submission was…slightly unusual…so I was invited to present “Ladies’ Tea: the Board Game” even though I was still an undergraduate student.

FRG program 2005 - Inter-Actions: Exploring diverse feminist perspectives

The conference program from FRG's 2005 conference

After attending that year, I got involved with the organizing committee, helping on the technical side with websites and program design, as well as with outreach, promotion, and organizing the social events for the conference after-hours. I also continued to present papers each year.

After 10 years of annual conferences, FRG has shifted towards other forms of feminist research. Even though I’ve finished grad school and I’m not currently teaching, I’ve stayed involved with the group for the connections and support that a group like this provides.

Maryan Amalow, ED for Part-time Students at the University of Windsor in the student centre at the University of Windsor

Maryan Amalow, ED for Part-time Students at the University of Windsor

For International Women’s Day 2012, I coordinated an FRG photobooth in the student centre to photograph students and submit them to the Feminist Photo Blog Project, challenging the “This is What A Feminist Looks Like” stereotype and in April 2012, I’ll be coordinating a face-to-face + Google Hangout book club with author Margaret Dilloway for FRG members to discuss her book, How to Be an American Housewife.

Google Blooms

Remember Bloom’s Taxonomy? It’s that handy tool that helps you create measurable learning outcomes. What if there was an easy way to match your learning goals to tools that support your students’ learning at each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy? And what if those tools were free?

Enter Google Blooms, assembled by Kathy Schrock. Kathy’s created a clickable image map that matches 51 of Google’s tech tools/toys to each level of the revised Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. I thought I’d tried most of Google’s free tools, but there are some on here I’d never heard of. I’m looking forward to playing with the new ones and hopefully integrating some of them into future classes.

Visit Kathy’s original image to mouseover each tool name to visit and try out each tool.

Kathy Schrock's Google Blooms

Google Blooms, assembled by Kathy Schrock

Mapping with the kid

On Friday nights while my middle kid practices with his soccer team, my youngest and I go to the nearby coffee shop and work on code. He’s 10 years old. Our first project was a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure program in Python, then we moved to a random generator (again in Python), and last night he mapped some of the places he’s been, using Google Spreadsheets and Fusion Tables. The original plan was to map all the places he’s been, but he decided to cap it at 15 since we had just under two hours. I wanted to finish the night with something completed.

Here’s the map he made:


Blue is for pools

Red is for libraries

Purple is for schools

Orange is for stores

Green is for restaurants

I’m inspired by my daughter, who’s taking her last year of high school computer science. The school she’s at offers three years of courses. In year one they do Turing (and Flash), the next is Python, and in the last they do Java. She’s planning on going on to study either Computer Science or Engineering at university in another year. She also loves the humanities so I’m excited to see what combination she puts together with double majors or minors.

I’m eager for my kids to grow up as creators, not just consumers of technology. The two younger kids both have old computers that run Ubuntu (one has no internet, one has restricted internet) so their use of the machines might be different because of that. They first started out making their own levels in kGoldrunner, but they’ve moved on to spreadsheets of stats for the characters in the role-playing games they create as well as using the word processor in Open Office to write stories for their games. Learning to program seemed the next step, but one they weren’t making on their own. Friday night at the coffee shop seemed like a good way to clear away distractions, learn something new, spend time with mom, and wait for big brother to finish practice. It’s also great for the youngest to learn something before his older brother. Youngest kids often get stuck tagging along and doing everything last. An added bonus here is altering that pattern.

We made the above map in about an hour. We started in Google Spreadsheets, which he’d never used before (limited Internet), though he’d used OpenOffice Calc so understood how a spreadsheet works. He made the list of fifteen places he’d like to map. Then we used map search plus everything search to track down the street addresses and postal codes of all the places on the list. We got to talk about good web practices because the first few addresses we found were images of text instead of text — frustrating! He quickly learned we wanted addresses as selectable text so that there’d be no need to retype long strings of text.

Once all the addresses were found (we took turns after awhile because this was tedious) we added a data type for each: pool, library, school, restaurant, or coffeeshop and had a look at our choices for map icons. He decided which marker he wanted for each data type and we added that to the spreadsheet.

Next we imported the spreadsheet into Google Fusion Tables, set the map to grab location using the street address in the Address column and visualized as a map. Then we modified the map style to use the marker specified in the Icon column and cool! a map was born! He knows that he can go back to his map and add more data, re-purpose it, or use it as an example for a new one.

Once it was done, we shifted to a conversation about places he’d like to go. He navigated Google Street Maps to travel to Spain, Venice (to see canals), Paris (to see the Eiffel Tower), Iqaluit, Japan, Korea, and Rome. We walked down the streets in every place that had street view (we’re both bad at controlling the little person) and looked at the relationships between cities and large bodies of water.

I really do love these Friday night nerd sessions and I know that I’m making it normal to use computers for more than surfing. He’s learning that he can visualize his data, turn his stories into games, and make whatever he can imagine.