Apple’s deceptive marketing misses the point of their own message

I love all my Apple products…most of the time. I mean what’s the alternative? Exactly. So when Apple turned thirty they put out this beautiful video, 1.24.14, shot entirely on an iPhone with the message that 30 years ago Apple promised to put technology in the hands of the people and that 30 years later it really has done just that. Generally I would agree, although I wouldn’t give Apple sole credit for this. I mean, 30 years is a long time and a lot of advancements in technology and economics have made computers, smart phones, and other devices ubiquitous. Apple has played a big role, no doubt, but…I digress. Have a look at the video at this point and take in the fact that these images all came off of the same phone you probably have in your pocket right now.

Beautiful, no? Yeah it’s amazing. But my background is in film making so I’ve basically been turned into a technical analyst every time I sit down to enjoy a piece of cinema. So I started to think about all these shots and how they would have been created and it didn’t take long to realize that although the technology may technically be in my hands, it takes far more than just a phone to create video like this. It wasn’t until I watched the making-of video that I realized how much more it took. HOLY CRAP. Seriously! Watch this…

Yeah. In my hands…oh wait…except for that command centre, the hundreds of professional production people, the tens of thousands of dollars in supplementary production equipment and hundreds of thousands of dollars it must have cost to produce. But otherwise…right in my hands.

I don’t know about you, but I’d have preferred a video that was ACTUALLY shot with only the iPhone. Heck, maybe even a customer sourced montage of footage. So here’s the challenge. With technology you ACTUALLY have in your hands, what can you produce? How amazing can you make a video look using only the phone’s footage and say, iMovie or another simple editor? I’m hoping to try something like this soon if I can get a few hours of time to work on it. I think Apple really missed the point of it’s own commercial here and it’s kind of a shame. Oh well.

Interesting Online Designs

I often feel that Instructional Design puts unnecessary shackles on how we present materials. Although I’ve been working with proven template for online modules of instruction for some time I can’t shake the feeling that it’s too strict in it’s form even though it provides the correct function. So to relieve my guilt about being “that” instructional designer I’ve been looking at different online designs from inside and outside the post-secondary world hoping to discover some transferable templates. I’ve discovered a far more exciting (yet far less scalable, maintainable, and duplicate-able) world of lessons. Here’s three of my favorites.

Learn an Hour of Code

The Learn an Hour of Code initiative utilizes videos, notes, and interactive games to deliver you an hour of engaging and sound design.

The course material is delivered through videos which explain the concepts and tools in a logical sequence starting with some motivation from coding gurus like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg. But soon we are greeted by a high-school student who will take us through the instructional material.

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If video isn’t your thing or if you just want to slow it down and really think about what’s being said, there’s a tab at the top of the player which lets you see the scenes with transcribed text.

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Once you’ve watched a video you’re given the opportunity to apply the knowledge in increasingly complex games that have you coding using non-threatening drag-and-drop tools from Blockly. You can always look “under the hood” to see the text based code you’re creating.

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As you code your way through the exercises you’re given immediate feedback to assess your understanding and you can return to the video or notes at anytime if you need to review a concept.

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What I really liked about this course was the small chunks of learning, sequenced from the simple to the complex, but also the way everything was just in time. Just-in-time training, I think, has become ubiquitous in our online activities. Pop-up boxes, and roll-overs have become the expectation of the user in how we navigate through the technology which keeps it transparent and allows me to focus my cognitive energy on learning the tasks at hand.


  1. Just-in-time efficiency
  2. High production value
  3. Great sequencing and chunking

Dino 101

Dino 101 is a MOOC from the University of Alberta that is just completing it’s maiden voyage this December. I’ll admit now that I have spent very little time in the MOOC and that like the majority of the registrants I will not likely complete the course, but its a MOOC, soooo….

That said, the time I did spend with my 5 year old son learning about dinosaurs from some of the best Canadian minds in the field was a real pleasure. Again, the main delivery mode for the content was video. And, like in the Learn to Code example the production quality was impressive, which made watching far more enjoyable than a lecture captured class. Locations for the videos utilized green screen and chroma key technology, on location in dig sights, and locations in around the University of Alberta’s dinosaur collections and museums.

Like with the Learn to Code project, the Dino 101 course offers the transcribed scripts for these video lectures as well for those who want to slow down or just prefer learning by reading the text.

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Through-out the videos there interactive opportunities to test your knowledge and learn more. Again the quality of production here is excellent. Although I’m not quite sure what program was used to create these interactions (camtasia?) they added a lot and helped to break up the content nicely. There were some puzzle type games and a few other interactions which never did load properly for me so I can’t comment of their design other than to say that they didn’t load.

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Sequencing and chunking was also well thought out in this course. As this is a University level course there is a lot of content to get through, but the videos are well thought out with no one video over about 12 min. and on average more like around 6-8 min. with usually around 3-5 in each module.

Quizzes and a collaborative wiki for notes round out a great experience. Again, the production value tends to win you over right from the start, but the design and thoughtfulness for objectives and assessments,  sequencing and chunking are obvious and fulfill all the requirements my template ask for, but in an engaging and less “stuffy” kinda way.


  1. High production value
  2. Great sequencing and chunking
  3. Variety of technologies and tools

Method of Action

This third one I can’t say too much about yet as it has yet to be launched, but I’m anxious to get inside and have a look around. I still dabble in video production (an obsession from a previous career) and have recently started getting deeper into exploring the world of Colour Grading. As a result of dipping my toe into the waters of the colourist, I received an email with a link to Method of Action and an upcoming course on Design. The interesting thing here is it seems it was designed for those with a Programmers analytic and logical mind. Currently available are three “games” that allow you to learn a bit about Kern Type, Shape Type, and Color properties and harmonies. Unlike the other two examples, this game intends to teach you about color theory simply by doing it. Now, as I say, the course itself is not up yet, so I can’t comment on what other supporting materials go along with this game, but it’s pretty cool. Try it out.Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 3.03.18 PMScreen Shot 2013-12-16 at 3.03.44 PM


  1. Abstract ways of knowing
  2. Not really sure yet….

Online Animation Apps

There have been a number of free or not so free animation apps online over the last few years. They seem to come and go fairly quickly and with varying degrees of ownership and usability. I’ve used a few over the past while to illustrate some otherwise dry material and I thought I’d share a few results.

First, there’s GoAnimate which has a pretty decent amount of characters and locations to use and use a “text to talk” feature to make the characters speak.. The issue with this one is that unless you want to pay monthly all you can do is embed or link to the videos you’ve created.

It’s in the syllabus, Homey

Second, I’ve recently found which on the surface seems slightly less robust, but in actuality allows for some very interesting options. because you can upload your own objects, backgrounds and audio files it really expands what you can do. Also the automated animated entry and exits for characters and objects makes it easy and quick to give your video some pizzaz! I also like that I have the option to send my video to my own YouTube account for free. This way if wideo disappears I still have access to my product.


3D Video for the Masses

So with a background in Film & Video Production one thing that has always fascinated me has been the world of 3D images. Maintaining the third dimension when creating visual representations of objects seems like a logical and worthy pursuit. After all, seeing the true relational depth of objects gives us a much better understanding of that objects true nature. From View-Masters, to movies, to Virtual Reality promises I’ve always been a sucker for the third dimension. The problem, until recently, has always been the headache factor. I remember seeing an original print of the Creature from the Black Lagoon at an art house film theatre in Edmonton where 20 minutes into the killer B action the glasses came off and I watched most of the remainder of the film in double vision, red and cyan.

But today’s technology of polarized fields seems to be giving new life to a retro concept. Movies like Avatar put 3D back on the map and have electronics companies pushing 3D capabilities into their products. Toshiba, Sony, LG, Samsung and Panasonic all added 3D capabilities to their higher end televisions and laptops this year and expect the demand to increase. YouTube developers have added 3D support to their web-player allowing you to upload 3D content and have the player change the viewing format from stereoscopic to red/cyan to a head spitting “crossed eyes” option and a host of other formats. Fuji has delivered the FinePix Real 3D W1 to consumers which produces not only 3D still images, but videos as well. The camera outputs a multitude of formats and brings 3D to the masses in a big way.


Another consumer level 3D product is the Minoru 3D Web-cam which allows you to not only record 3D videos, but takes video streaming into the 3rd dimension as well. VoIP services like Skype and Live Messenger support these camera and allow you to share 3D video images to your audience. At a cool price of around $60 these things are a pretty cool way to get started in the world of 3D.

Recently I’ve been hearing more about 3D video in education. Recently at NMC Kellie Welborn from Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis, presented a massive product comparison of 3D video streaming services that they had been testing. See more here. Recently I was asked about 3D video technology as part of my role as an Instructional Designer here at the Centre for Continuing and Distance Education, University of Saskatchewan.

So this is where the conversation begins. What possible innovation could affordable 3D video add to your institutions technology tool box. We’re seeing medicine pick up on it as part of online labs, but what other uses can you think of for this technology. As an aside there seems to be very little in the way of literature on this topic so if anyone knows of an article written on the pedagogical implications of 3D video please post a link in the comments. What do we think?