Presenting my Interactive Exhibit- Virtual Tour of Historic England

Yesterday I completed my last graduate course. I took Interactive Exhibit Design because I wanted to engage with a practical class, where I could take what I find exciting about history and attempt to convey that excitement to others. Last year I lived and worked in one of my faviourite cities- – London, England. I love studying British history. I love teaching. My exhibit combines all three of my passions.

It may be because I am nostalgic or having withdrawal, but my exhibit takes the viewer on a virtual tour of four historic sites in England. I chose Ely Cathedral because it’s one of my faviourite places, and I also selected Canterbury Cathedral, the Tower of London, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. The aim of my exhibit was to allow someone the opportunity to tour these places. It could be for educational purposes, or simply to satisfy their own curiosity.

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I also love maps. (Honestly this is staying up as part of my office decor now). The interface, as you can see above, is clean and simple. I think it’s relatively user friendly, but if I was to do this again I may have simple instructions on the screen so users can seamlessly take their virtual tour. In reality, one would be hard pressed to see all these sites in a single day by car or even by train, which makes this map another useful tool for education/museum exhibits. I used a mini metal train connected to the earth space on the MaKey MaKey to represent the mode of transportation between one location and the next.

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The videos I recorded were only about 30 seconds. I like to look at this exhibit as a prototype of something larger and more complex I could make as a teaching tool in a classroom, or at a historical site or museum. The possibility of extending the videos, making them more detailed, honing in on particular architectural features or historical spots, would make them much more interesting! I would also add audio! Audio guides at these sites, and historic sites around the world are moving towards the use of an audio guide to tell the viewer the significant facts about what they are looking at. This just adds another layer of intrigue to the tour.

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I did find, due to the availability of sites in Google Earth Pro, I was limited to which sites I could include in my exhibit. The MaKey MaKey could only support four sites as well. If I was do do this again, or more realistically expand it, I would search for other avenues for the tours. Some historical sites make their own virtual tours, or tourists have posted tours they filmed, so there are other options. I have no idea if I could connect multiple MaKey MaKeys and have dozens of sites, but that would be more ideal as well!

I think what’s great about the skeleton of this exhibit is its versatility. It can be applied to any time and place. If a museum wanted an interface to provide virtual tours of WW1 battlefields, or a teacher wanted to share the historic monuments from ancient Greece, this concept can be used. If my (future) school has the financial means to purchase MaKey MaKey boards I would definitely make one of these for my students to learn from!

I really enjoyed this course. I think the projects produced are creative, and applicable when we are applying for jobs in the future. It has taught us a whole different set of technological and innovative skills that sitting at our desks researching can’t. I also enjoyed being able to hear what my peers had been working on, what tools they used to create their exhibits, and how fun and creative they were!

I hope you all enjoyed my exhibit! Thank you for sharing yours!

Cheryl

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Troubleshooting and Testing

Today I met with Bill and collected a MaKey MaKey in order to test my interactive map! But first I needed to update my patch so that I could click to start a video, pause it, and have it restart from the exact point it where it had paused from. I was having trouble figuring out this patch in class, so over the weekend Bill figured it out and emailed me!

He sent me this: This patch allows me to re start my video clips with the appropriate arrow key, and pause/resume it using the space bar. I then went back to my original patch and added this feature to each of the four videos.

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So it now looks like this:

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 9.19.44 PMI then attached the MaKey MaKey to my map to active the interactive portion! As previously stated, each of the four videos corresponds to a location on the map. the location on the map is represented with a tinfoil circle. The bit of tinfoil runs through the ceiling tile, and the the MaKey MaKey wires are attached to the excess tinfoil on the back of the map. The MaKey MaKey USB is attached to the switch board, and then plugged into the computer.

FullSizeRenderI realized as I began to play around with the connections, that there was no spot to represent the space bar in the map. (The space bar function now allows me to pause and play my videos!) So I added a bit of tinfoil to the upper right portion of the map, and connected it to the space bar function on the MaKey MaKey. I will have to explain during my presentation that this spot on the map allows the user to pause videos.

IMG_1985After the map was connected, I began to explore my interactive exhibit! I am pretty pleased with the results.

I have a problem with the first video I connected to the pause, restart feature. I discovered that the videos for Ely Cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral, and the Tower of London play when they are tapped on the map, and pause and restart when using the pause feature at the top right hand side of the map BUT only when the video of St. Paul’s Cathedral is at its end. After I explore the first four videos I slide the play button to the beginning of the play bar for St. Paul’s and it works fine as well. If the St. Paul’s video is at its beginning, it will play and pause along with the other three videos even though it hasn’t been selected, and I am not sure if this is happening because it was the first video I programmed.

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Tonight I was just using a paper clip as my conductor as I tested the map. It works fine, but doesn’t look great and may be slightly dangerous. A more useful conductor is in the works.

I am excited for class Wednesday to share my exhibit, and because we only have a few minutes to demonstrate and explain them I hope nothing goes terribly awry.

My paranoid self will check it tomorrow, and Wednesday too.

Making Interactive Maps

As promised, here is how I made the physical map for my interactive exhibit design project! I have chronicled the creation of my interactive map of England with photos!

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I printed a map of England at Staples. (I had spent far too much time searching for one). I needed a hard surface to pin it too as well, so I borrowed an extra ceiling tile from my Dad.

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The tile was a bit larger than I needed, so I measured how much to trim off. I also poked holes onto the map on my four sites, through onto the tile, so I knew where I would need to drill holes. (Below Dad is helping out and cutting the extra bit off).

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(Above: drilling holes!) Once the tile was trimmed, and the holes were drilled, I needed to make the same sized holes on the map itself. My Dad has a metal punch that I placed on the map and used a hammer to punch perfect circles on the map!

Next I got out the tinfoil and filled the holes in the ceiling tile with tin foil, careful to leave enough behind the tile in order to attach the clips of the MaKey MaKey. I then attached the map onto the ceiling tile with push pins. Now when you look at my finished product, each circular spot on the map is represented with a bit of tinfoil. The names of each location are still visible beside each location, like Ely to the left of the circle below. It looks great!

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I have been experimenting with what type of metal bit to make the connection with.

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But that is still in the works.

Next time: I am collecting the MaKey MaKey from Bill Monday to test out my patch and map connections!

Magic Behind the Map

After I figured out how to record tours using MovieMaker on Google Earth Pro I inserted these .mov files into a Max Patch. I recorded brief tours of Ely Cathedral, the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Canterbury Cathedral. These were not the sites I had originally planned to use, but the more I explored England using Google Earth Pro, the more I discovered the large majority of historical sites in 3D real view were not available. This was disappointing, but I was able to locate other interesting sites that I could use for my project.

I inserted the .mov files using imovie command, which allows my clips to play in the patcher. Using a play bar I was able to click a start command to play the video clip. At this point each individual movie played using a start command. Next I had to connect each video clip to the arrow keys on my keyboard. The four arrow keys connect to the MaKey MaKey.

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The image above displays the programming on Max. Each key is connected to a video clip.

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Above is a copy of the Max patch I have been working on for my project. You can see that each key is connected to a video. Next: I am going to connect the MaKey MaKey to my physical map! Each of these locations on that map is represented with a small bit of tinfoil. Underneath the map, the MaKey MaKey wires are connected to these bits of tinfoil. When someone places a piece on each location, the appropriate video will come up and play so they can take a visual tour of that location!

Right now I have it programmed so that when using this exhibit, an individual can make the video play and they can pause it to get a better look at certain features on the tour. I am trying to figure out how to resume the video from that spot, rather than it restarting from the beginning. (Time to email Bill!!)

I want to make some changes to the map itself, in accordance to the locations I am now using. Luckily I am going home this weekend, and will have access to a lot more arts and craft supplies than I have here in London.

So far I am pretty pleased with how the exhibit is turning out. There have been more bumps along the way than I anticipated, but I am convinced the final product will still be cool!

Technology never seems to be on my side

I discovered that despite all my efforts, Google Tour Builder will not connect to MaKey MaKey. MaKey MaKey works best if its connections are aligned with the arrow keys on the keyboard, as well as the space bar and enter keys. Google Tour Builder is not equipped to follow any commands using these keys. Last class Bill and I tried looking for online guides, and accessibility options to see if we could somehow reprogram how Google Tour Functions, so it would have the functions I need to connect it successfully. This was not a possibility, or at least nothing that could be done with my insufficient programming skills.

So the problem: I needed to find a way to somehow make my idea viable. This project seems to be all about problem solving, and technology never working the way we hoped it would.

The solution: I installed Google Earth Pro,which has a similar program to Google Tour Builder. Google Earth Pro allows the user to type in a location, and save it to ‘My Sightseeing List.’ From this list the user can actually record their own tour of the site.

I found instructions on how to record individual videos of all four of my locations. In case anyone is looking to do this in the future the steps are listed below! (Note it does take patients configuring the view points- and unfortunately it will not allow you to record from site to site, just once you have arrived at a site.)

  1. Decide if you want to record a movie in real-time (based on your mouse and keyboard movements) or record a movie based on an existing tour.
  2. If you decide you want to record a tour first, follow these steps to draw a path and save it before recording your movie. Save your ‘Places’ by going to File > Save > Save My Places and then play through the entire tour at least once before proceeding.
  3. From the Tools menu, select Movie Maker. The Movie Maker dialog box appears.
  4. From the ‘Supported Compression Formats’ selector, choose the desired compression format for your movie. If you want to have a movie format other than WMV (Windows Media Video) or .mov (QuickTime), check the ‘Advanced’ checkbox and choose the format. If you choose another movie format, only standard AVI compression is available. Note that AVI formats are not compressed and therefore will result in large files.
  5. Select ‘High Quality’ or ‘Standard Quality’ as the movie quality.
  6. Choose the Frames Per Second (FPS) you desire for your movie. The highest FPS setting, ’60’, offers the smoothest movie viewing experience, but at the cost of a large file size. For instance, if you want to record a 800 x 600 movie at 60 FPS, you will not achieve the best results. In this case, choose a lower setting in order to produce a smaller file. The lower the FPS setting, the more jerky the movie will be. You’ll want to find the best compromise between frame transition and file size. Typically, a setting of 30 works fairly well for movies that you want to provide over the Internet.
  7. Choose the resolution for your movie. You’ll want to choose a resolution that is appropriate for your final movie display. For example, you might have a computer screen projector that only supports a 800 x 600 format. You can specify the following resolutions, which indicate the width and height of the movie in pixels:
    Note – Recording time in high quality movies occurs very slowly, since each frame is fully processed before the next one is viewed.
    • 320 x 240
    • 640 x 480
    • 800 x 600
    • 720 x 480 (NTSC) – This setting works well with large screen displays.
    • 720 x 576 (PAL)
    • 1280×720 (HD)
    • 1920×1080 (HD)
  8. Specify a name for your movie. Click on the Browse button and navigate to a location on your computer where you want to save the movie file when you are finished recording. Type in a name for the file in the file dialog box and click the OK button. Alternatively, you can select an existing movie file in the same format as the one you are about to create, and that file will be overwritten with the contents of your new recording.
    1. Click the Record Tour button. The button is available only after you enter a valid filename for your movie. When the movie begins recording, the Movie Maker dialog box appears below so you can visualize the recording of the movie.
    2. Either double-click your tour in your Places panel to play it, or use your keyboard and mouse to navigate the globe. All of your movements will be recorded.
  9. When you’ve finished recording your movie, click the stop recording button.

Now I have four tours to add to my exhibit!

Next: I am going to make a program in Max which allows the individual clips to be played in correspondence with the location on my map. (Which I will post pictures of in future blogs.) When a metal piece is placed onto a location on the map, the corresponding video will in turn play on the screen for the tourist to see, so they feel like they are “actually visiting” these places!

I would have liked to post a preview on my blog here, but unfortunately I am unable to upload movies! (Oh technology).

Onto Max programming (which hopefully will be kinder to me than this part has been).

Prototype: Cathedral Tour

The first step of my project is beginning to come to life! As I had mentioned in my last post, I had been playing around with Tour Builder using Google Earth. I met will Bill last week, and he mentioned that because MakeyMakey only allows four connections I would have to scale down my idea a bit. Now I can view the product as a prototype – using four sites on the tour to demonstrate how it works.

In class today I selected four sites: Canterbury Cathedral, Peterborough Cathedral, Ely Cathedral, and York Minster Cathedral. I worked on one of the computers in the lab to avoid Google Earth crashing on me in the middle of my project. With the sites selected, I located them on the map, selected the view that I wanted the tourist to see, along with images, a short description, and applicable websites. The images are important to give a variety of views for each site because some of the locations are yet to be available on street view.

Here is a link to the Virtual Tour! 

http://tourbuilder.withgoogle.com/builder#play/ahJzfmd3ZWItdG91cmJ1aWxkZXJyEQsSBFRvdXIYgICAguag-gsM 

Nest Steps

This weekend I plan to search for a map of the United Kingdom, preferably one that that  is slightly enlarged. Something like this:

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Alternatively, I am also considering drawing one myself. The map will act as the face board of the interactive exhibit. Each Cathedral will correspond with one of the four connections on MaKeyMaKey. In order to move to the next location on the tour, the tourist would place a mini mental Cathedral on the spot on the physical map where the Cathedral is located. I would cut small holes in the map, and have tinfoil underneath, connected to the MaKeyMaKey.

I imagine the mini Cathedrals to resemble monopoly pieces. I will probably end up making these myself using tinfoil. This way when the tinfoil/metal Cathedral touches the spot on the map, the connection will alert the Tour.

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I am not quite sure how to connect the MaKeyMaKey to the Virtual Tour though. I will need to speak with Bill either next class or before to see how I can make this happen.

I am excited about this! I am really interested in British history, and find the best way to appreciate a place is to see it and experience it first hand (but this is the next best thing!) I can imagine taking this type of exhibit and implementing it in the classroom, and switching out Cathedrals for other historically relevant locations depending on the topic.

Hopefully I can gather all these materials this weekend!

Virtually Exploring England

I have been giving this Digital Exhibit Design idea a lot of thought, and I wanted to create something related to travel and tourism. My idea is to use Tour Builder, which is based on Google Earth. Tour Builder would allow me to create my own tour, where I could zoom in on specific locations on Google Earth, and integrate relevant text, photos, and videos.

1My idea is to map significant Cathedrals and Castles in the United Kingdom. Each location on the map will provide the user with more information, including the history of the site, a short video clip, and relevant photos.

2Google Earth (when it isn’t crashing) allows the user to zoom to street view and select a vantage point of each location. When the user selects that location, they will see the most recent image of the Cathedral or Castle. I think this would also be a good learning tool, because as the user explores each location they are learning at least once significant fact about its history. It helps to spatially put the locations into perspective. There are some locations which have a virtual tour, and I would like to see if I could incorporate this into the location as well, so that viewers could select the tour and feel as if they have traveled to England to see these locations.

3I want to integrate the use of Makey Makey and Makedo to create some sort of joy stick/controller to allow the user to navigate their way through the United Kingdom (maybe by moving north, south, east or west to the next location they wish to see).

I was also thinking of incorporating a physical map of the United Kingdom as well. As the user navigates through the Google Earth map they have to match coordinates of a location to a location on the physical map. A game piece, or mini cathedral, could be fastened to the map via magnets, and once connected the information regarding that specific place is brought up on the screen or a video plays etc.

These are all ideas at the moment, I’ll have to see what is available to see if I can make this idea reality.

Basic Interactive Mechanics

Last week in Digital Exhibit Design we were able to physically build interfaces using the Makedo creations kit to connect to our computers via a MaKey Makey. The entire premise of this course is to allow us to experiment with a variety of tools, and this was a simplified version using a cardboard design of our invention, which we connected to a small electronic interface with wires. (Note: you have to ensure that the connection is made though conductive materials, or you will not see any results).

Tamar and I worked together to create a cardboard keyboard with the Makedo tools, and were able to connect it to the MaKey Makey interface. The MaKey MaKey interface contains the arrow keys, and space bar-similar to that of a computer keyboard. Each cardboard key was wrapped in tinfoil, and then collected to the wires which were connected to the MaKey MaKey.

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In the above image, Tamar is using our creation. We opened a previous existing MaKey MaKey program to test it. As Tamar presses down on on our keyboard keys, the screen depicts their connection to the computers keyboard via the MaKey Makey. The website is a fantastic resource for simple ways of familiarizing oneself with the technology.IMG_1750Tamar and I had time to also add to our keyboard. We found a guitar MaKey Makey program, and created strings which when pressed plucked the guitar string on the screen, and when held down strummed the guitar string on the screen.  These were two simplistic ways of using the interface. (Unfortunately wordpress does not allow for video uploads, but we did record a video of our final product).

For reference:

– Makedo creations can be found at: https://mymakedo.com/creative-play

– MaKey MaKey resources can be found at: http://scratch.mit.edu/

Tomorrow we are combining our Makey Makey interface with the Max program introduced to us on the first class to create our own program as opposed to using a pre-existing one.

Stay tuned.

Blueprints

This term I chose to take a course called Interactive Exhibit Design because it would allow me to combine the application of new technological skills with creative ways of expressing information. This is something we focused a lot in during Teachers College; how can we utilize technology to bring in a wider audience in an interesting and informative way.

We learned about SmartBoard technology. I know how to make interactive lessons using a SmartBoard on Notebook, use clickers to have class quizzes, have students use iMovie with digital photographs and short audio video clips for class projects BUT I want to think of a way to bring various aspects of the Ontario curriculum together in an interactive way.

Schools in Ontario are currently focusing on integrated differentiated lessons, which basically means a combination of subject matter taught with various skill levels in mind to ensure children who need to be challenged are, the the children who need a little extra help receive it.

So, at the drawing board, my initial thoughts were to be able to build some kind of exhibit where the children would be able to use their hand but also watch and learn via a screen. For example, in Grade 4 we learn about the provinces of Canada, capitals, the great lakes, resources, climate, transportation, natural resources etc. A map of Canada could be physically put together, like a puzzle, and the children could tap on the screen on various icons to learn more specific things like a scavenger hunt.

Or in Grade 4 Medieval Times, and in Grade 5 they also learn about ancient civilizations, including the Mayans, Greece, and Egypt. I would like to also maybe come up with a few resourceful, fun, and interactive ways to incorporate these topics.

I’m still brainstorming though.

My next post will hopefully have a concrete idea!

The Adventure will continue…

Well last week was our final digital research methods class, but I do have digital exhibit design to look forward to next term!

Bill had two of the PhD students demonstrate how they have used the skills we have been working on in class, and applied them to their personal research.

First was Steve, who showed us a search engine he built. He was able to create a code to identify specific terms in vast amounts of documents on Early Canadiana Online. He explained how useful, and effective this method of searching could be, especially since he would have spent hours sifting through the documents searching for something specific.

Next Alex talked about his work. He was looking at combining stats on extra ammunitions, and was able to track the flow of extra weapons after the Second World War. He used codes to filter the vast amounts of data and find patterns he may not have been able to before. For example, he could combine five sources all produced months apart into one readable document, essentially creating a source that was not accessible before. Next Alex showed us Google Refine, which “is a powerful tool for working with messy data: cleaning it; transforming it from one format into another; extending it with web services; and linking it to databases.” It looked a bit complicated, but the possible results and formats to display those results were really interesting!

I enjoyed seeing how previous students have taken what we’ve learned and practically applied it to their research. I enjoyed digital research methods; I found the course challenging but in a productive way. I know that it will take a lot of trial and error, patience and questioning to refine the skills we’ve learned. I thought the blog with all the information on our lessons was very helpful when completing tasks individually, and when following along in class. I think coding is complicated, a skill that you need to put the time into to be successful and efficient.

This class showed me that we could take well-known sources and find new ways to use them, or discover new sources, or relationships between sources that may have been impossible before. We have the ability to reinterpret previously known information, and manipulate data outside its original context (keeping in mind the possible implications of this). These are incredibly useful skills when researching and writing history.

“History is not the past, it is our interpretation of the past in the present.” – Bill

Thank you Bill!

(I also appreciated all Bill’s life lessons this term…this class was like a mechanical bull, I think we all managed to stay on until the end.)