lunes, 25 de abril de 2011

“Ring out the bells that still will ring, forget your perfect offering,
there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in."

Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

I had a marvellously disastrous workshop.

As everybody who has played with them knows, there are three main things that can go wrong with a wiiboard in windows:

1. The Microsoft .net 3.5 (or higher) isn't installed.
2. Bluetooth connection issues. (using non microsoft bluetooth driver software is the way of pain, and sometimes windows 7 can time out a connection apparently, though I haven't experienced it
3. The wiimote or the projected image isn't positioned adequately. (receives direct sunlight which gives false infrared signals to the wiimote, or the wiimote isn't tracking correctly because it is too high/low/near/far.)

Number 3 is what got me.

To avoid the weight, I hadn't brought my tripods for my projector and wiimote, so I couldn’t get things to ideal positions instantly. Figured I could play "tetris" with objects in the room, or find something if needed to get everything balanced out and I knew there would be time to pick up a tripod that would be cheaper than going overweight. (… or there would have been except for the three hour delay of my flight.) So, above all I have to claim responsibility for the problems... My bad.

I set up the room at 8:30 in the morning and was set for the 10:30 session, but to accommodate another speaker, I changed rooms at literally the last minute.
Coming to the new room with the participants, it dawned on me that the furniture was different... and with my new pieces to play with, I couldn't set it up without obscuring peoples view or risking having to reset it for being to close to a window.

While I set up... pulling all the stuff I had crammed into a bag rapidly… it occurred to me that my notes and paper visuals I use to explain before the board is set up hadn't made the trip upstairs with me. The upside of this was that I now had both hands free to move stuff around.

I set it up with a chair on top of a table to position the wiimote with sufficient height. Unfortunately I was a bit short of height, and couldn’t get the whole image in the wiimote camera while remaining close enough to scan well. There was one position I could move the improvised stack of furniture, but that would block the view of a third of the participants. No choice: I set up the visual obstruction.

Turning to recalibrate the board, the chair fell off the table.
I was now the Tommy Cooper of learning technologies.

There still was one last possibility: rear projection, using this frame for holding folding chairs. The participants unloaded the chairs helped me to duct tape an ikea shower curtain to the frame and Heike found the mirror image on the projector.
The room literally sprung into action. And we had an Interactive whiteboard. It worked.

And just then… the time was up.

I was a bit frustrated not to be able to show what it could do, not to be able to have them fly around google earth with the second wiimote, using it as a video game controller, and using the accelerometer. I also would have liked to look at free software that allowed you to use the board more collaboratively.

The bitter taste was removed from my mouth by the participants: they enjoyed the workshop, and several people told me to keep the problems in next time.

Rather than being frightened off experimenting with it, they saw how problems could arise and how you could deal with them. It stopped being about what a iwb could do, and about what a bunch of people could do with a few toys and a sense of humour in dealing with problems. People who would run at the word “Bluetooth stack” came out with the idea that they could do this, too.

Alchemists, the precursors of scientists spent centuries looking for a formula to turn lead into gold. They should have asked the participants of my workshop, who transformed a potential disaster into a shared learning experience, one that was suddenly worth something.