March 2012 Archives

TLT Symposium Presentation on Blockers

| | Comments (0)

What Genre is your Instructional Story?

| | Comments (0)

At the last All-ID meeting, we had a good discussion of crafting your presentation (and instructional content) as a story, but some of asked "What kind of story?"

A TED talk by Nancy Duarte discusses how many successful speakers vary with talking about "what is" and "what could be" (start with now, end with the future). It turns out that I do structure many talks that way, especially when it's about technology. But is that the end (as it were) of the story?

I guess the question I am asking is how to add legitimate spice to your story. One thought is to make it a quest (to understand....) maybe with a touch of mystery. This is a common strategy for many science documentaries. In fact the one I saw last night asked about how the Minoan civilization of ancient Crete ended. Was it a volcano? Not enough ash? But maybe it was a...tsunami triggered by the volcano (because they found evidence for one and many Minoans lived on the shore). In archaeology, it's difficult to be sure, but the mystery is the fun of it.

Another tack is the metaphor - which is popular with many science writers. This assumes that you can think of a good one. Similarly, you can think of ways to tell the story from an unexpected point of view. Sam Richards is an expert at getting his students to think about what it's like to experience the world from a point a view different from their own.

I would also like to advocate that sometimes it's the sitcom or melodrama that's the right genre. Maybe it's my slightly warped view, but I confess that some of my favorite instructors had some good stories to pass on. I heard a professor give a dramatic reading of a Bronze Age tablet from a large city state to a smaller one advising them to not be alarmed by the army on their doorstep. Their advice was "to consider our presence to be a friendly one." Buffer states are a very ancient concept.

My last question is though - should all instructional content be considered a story? I can craft a story about linguistic theory, and how it was discovered, but can I use that story to teach you to perform a linguistic analysis? Or do I need to leave the story (and lecture) behind? This is where it's important to think about what works as a narrative (content) and what is more of a skill to be taught.

How to Accessify the NCAA Brackets? Hint: Forget ALT Tags

| | Comments (0)

I just found a great resource on accessifying technical (STEM) diagrams, from WGBH NCAM, but there's one diagram they did not cover - the NCAA Basketball Bracket diagram.

Obviously, any kind of ALT diagram will be very very long and really, really complicated, so following a general tip from NCAM, I am not going to attempt it. Instead, I am going to discuss a text based alternative that might help more than just the visually impaired.

The bracket in its traditional form looks like spider web branching from the center, but really the important information you probably need is:

  • Rounds and teams in that round
  • Winners and losers
  • Time, location of rounds (TV channels would be nice also)

Believe it or not, most of this can be accomplished by a series of lists/tables with headings. If you have dynamic pages, you can even tweak the presentation of the lists, but for this example I'll do the East Bracket plus first round.

I'll add that this is not the only possible solution. I'll also add that you are free to add color/size changes/bold via CSS, but you need to ensure that all information (e.g. the winner) is presented in text and not just via CSS formatting!

First Round

First Round NCAA Matches
Teams (Seed) Date/Time Winner Advances to
Mississippi Valley State (16) vs. Western Kentucky (16) Played Western Kentucky (WKY) South
Bringham Young University (14) vs. Iona (14) Played Bringham Young (BYU) West
Lamar (16) vs. Vermont (16) Played Vermont (VER) Midwest
California (12) vs. South Florida (12) Played South Florida (USF) Midwest

Second Round East Bracket (Main Tournament)

Key: [W] = Winner

Played in Pittsburgh (A)

  • [W] Syracuse (1), vs.
    UNC-Asheville (16)
  • [W] Kansas State (8), vs.
    Southern Mississippi (9)


  • [W] Vanderbilt (5), vs.
    Harvard (12)
  • [W] Wisconsin (4), vs.
    Montana (9)


  • Cincinnati (6), vs.
    Texas (11), March 16 at 12:15
  • Florida State (3), vs.
    St. Bonaventure (14), March 15 at 2:45

Pittsburgh (B)

  • [W] Gonzanga (7), vs.
    West Virginia (10)
  • [W] Ohio State (2), vs.
    Loyola (MD) (15)

Third Round (Boston)

  • Syracuse (1) vs. Kansas State (8), March 17 at 12:15
  • Vanderbilt (5) vs. Wisconsin (4), March 17 at 6:10
  • Winner of Cincinnati/Texas vs. Winner of Florida State/St. Bonaventure,Time TBA
  • Gonzonaga (7) vs. Ohio State (2), March 17 at 2:45

Sweet 16 (Boston)

  • Winner of Syracuse/Kansas State vs. Winner of Vanderbilt/Wisconsin
  • TBA (see Nashville schedule for teams) vs. Gonzonga/Ohio State

Elite Eight (Boston) - Determines East Bracket winner

  • TBA (see above for teams)

Final Four (New Orleans)

  • Midwest vs. East
  • South vs. West

MathML 2012 Update

| | Comments (0)

I had heard rumors (partly via Jerry Maddox) that you could actually post the same flavor of MathML on Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari, and it would actually WORK.

I was able to do just that today. You can see the HTML5+MathML page as proof. More details are on the updated MathML Tutorial page.

Of course you can also check out this detailed MathML test page from Josephus "Joe Java" Javawaski. Safari is still a little behind the curve there.