Using NowComment to Analyze Images

I have always loved political cartoons. As a paperboy the first thing I would do was to open up the editorial page of the Louisville Courier-Journal and read Hugh Haynie’s cartoons. I discovered on my own that Haynie would hide his wife’s name in every cartoon. What a Mad Magazine exploit! That was my first exercise in close reading and I have really dug and dug into political cartoons ever since. They were the most effective mashups of text and image pre-internet. I think they still are.

Now we have a tool that helps us to dig even deeper into them–NowComment. They are not the first to bring annotation to images. One of Flickr’s finest tools early on was the ability to add notes to photos. After Yahoo bought them, this feature disappeared. I never knew it was this annotation feature that spurred my use of Flickr until it was gone. (BTW, this feature has recently returned to Flickr. Thanks to Kevin Hodgson for noting this and super thanks to Alan Levine for pointing me to his post about it and the cool Flickr tool, Mbed .)

Now image annotation is back in a format that is even more useful especially to teachers who want students to “close read” images. Below is an embedded NowComment image with a powerful cartoon by Jack Ohman of the Sacramento Bee. What makes this so useful to teachers is that it allows for others to not only add comments on the image, but also permits threaded discussion of the comments as well. Inside of NowComment further references like documents and web links can be appended for deeper reading. If you use tools that open up the discussion into other digital spaces (Hackpad,GoogleDocs come to mind) then you have the makings of a truly permeable learning space.

That space will look very busy at first. You have to explore a bit. There are lots of features that you don’t have to use until you need them so don’t get put off by the apparent complexity. It is not hard to use. I am happy to create an ad hoc screencast for anyone who wants a bit of a crawl through this particular image. You have to join NowComment to be able to comment. It is free. Frankly, that astonishes me. And…they are just about to add video annotation to the mix. Can’t wait, but for all the other kinds of annotation (text, image) you don’t have to. Play in this sandbox with me. Just click on the link in the upper right hand corner that says “View this document on NowComment”. It’ll be fun. Be a pirate and pillage away. I know I would.

Daniel’s Touch

Daniel Bassill is one cool mapmaking daddio.  Here is his latest outlining all the groups he has touched in July.  The sheer breadth of this breathtaking.  Remember this is groups, not individuals.


I considered this as a whole, then I tried to break it into parts, a close reading of the map.  I found it difficult.  It occurred to me that I might simplify the territory a bit by reading each node then removing it to the side.  That worked.  Slowly I cut each node from the map and got a feel from it this way that I wasn’t getting from just looking.  It was very meditative to appreciate Daniel’s touches this way.  In the end I changed the canvas for the image to purple. That didn’t quite say what I wanted to say so I switched to black.  That was it. I wanted to capture the absence of his touch, the negative space of his touch.



While few of us may have greater reach than Daniel, the rest of us online are connected much the same way. We cast a very similar negative connective space that  is proof of John Donne’s oft quoted sermon,

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Of course, I would not recognize or wish to live in such a blacked out world.  That ol’ mortality awaits us all. I am just so glad that Daniel touches and fills all those spaces …and more.  I especially like the “and more” part of that sentence.

Aside:  there are always naysayers.

KQED Teach

KQED Teach

Free online courses for educators who want the necessary media skills to lead a 21st Century classroom.


KQED has been committed to helping teachers and learners for as long as I can remember. Early on it was providing public TV resources and lesson plans. Now, as they have evolved, they give us communities and networks of connected learners.  This is their latest effort.  And it is a hand-in-glove fit to the DIY online community, CLMOOC, as they wend their way through their four week field walk.

I especially like the “courses” they offer.  Here is one I like a lot, Video Storytelling Essentials.  Why? Because it divides the ‘lessons’ into how to tell stories with video (five modules) and how to teach others to tell those stories (one module).  That is the correct order of things.  If you want to teach then you need to make–a lot.

The community part of the site is nascent, but there is still activity–a very good sign.  Check out Rachel (sorry, I don’t know last name) and her use of WeVideo to make a six-word video story.  Got me inspired:  wake, take, make, reflect, listen, go.  Going to try to have something by the evening before the Twitter chat for #CLMOOC