Incorporating Words Into Images


Most would agree that “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Perhaps strangely, allow me to make the case that sometimes there is also value in distilling those thousand words into a scant few. This little post is a bit of practical sharing meant to point to two things: a cute little iOS application, and a few quick examples of its practical use. Oh, and really, I wouldn’t be doing it here if it wasn’t worth at least a handful of words as well.

informal academic writing experiences

Once upon a time, I enjoyed doing the occasional “check out this fancy new tool” post, particularly for the local folks with whom I work. Looking back, it seems that most of those posts were logged within my first year of writing here. Though today it has become far easier to point to shiny tools using the quick and dirty practicality of Twitter, this one seemed fun enough to bring back into this space.

We all have our own modes of sharing, and while I’m as proud of an original podcast or video as anyone, it seems I have a preference for words in print. I share a pretty respectable percentage of the things I create in one way or another. And as likely most of us do, we tend to share those things in which we see value, and also those that we anticipate others might find valuable as well. In thinking about it, for whatever reason, I tend to be more confident in sharing carefully-selected words. I guess I enjoy lining up words that altogether either communicate or sell an idea I am grappling with, or believe in a great deal.

THREATENED: Caribbean Corals

If you’ve been here before, you might also know that I dig photography as well. I think this goes hand in hand with being a biology teacher. Both images above were originally snapped on student field studies in the midst of the natural world we were learning about at the time. Adding a fascination with images into a love of words naturally equals an interest in all sorts of creative typography.

So what?

What does this nifty little $2 app get us? The people who might get mileage out of this one will likely see the value instantly. From a purely practical standpoint as an educator, if you only create one graphic that helps to communicate an idea, then the $2 is worth the outlay. WordFoto is not Photoshop. It is not Illustrator. It only does one thing, and it does so rather simply. If you can get your image of choice into an iOS device, you can manipulate it with ease. And though I’d like a little more control over contrast, etc., once you have a .jpg inside of a web-connected device, the sky is the limit in terms of sharing. What idea would you like to convey?

How many dots are on your map?

Inspired by a question Will Richardson asked SJSD administrators this past September: "How many dots are on your 'map'?" (click to embiggen)

Several folks I admire have led sessions where participants were invited to mashup powerful ideas and images. Both Punya Mishra and Dean Shareski often try to push educators to begin to think in multiple media simultaneously. In my opinion, these exercises are always valuable. Because this type of thinking is so different for many, it pushes us almost instantly into a more playful mindset. That sort of mindset can squeeze creativity out of those who think they haven’t had a creative thought in some time. That reality equals valuable time spent for all educators.


When playing around with WordFoto for the first time today over morning coffee, I was instantly reminded of these exercises. In trolling through a few images on my phone, I created the images displayed in this post, as well as those within this Flickr set. Technically, WordFoto reminds me a bit of another nifty $2 iOS app called Percolator. This app helps to create abstracted versions of images much like this one of a reef shark on our honeymoon. Here is the same image from WordFoto using only the work “SHARK.” The important difference in this app is that it actually uses words to accomplish the abstraction. And that, to me, is a potentially significant leap. From here, we can quickly and easily incorporate words and ideas into the very fabric of images. Sure, posting contrasting text over a powerful image will always be a cool thing. And yet, this app allows something novel and interesting. Like several other techniques, if done well, it can even be used to synthesize something beyond the mere images or words themselves.

In memorial

Appropriately for the day, the first image that stuck out to me while trolling through images on my phone was this one, taken at Arlington Cemetery while at ISTE 2009. The version below (particularly when seen at full resolution) helps to convey the sentiment on my mind this morning while comfortably sipping coffee and playing with fancy toys…

Unknown Soldier

To sum things up, pictures are worth thousands of words. Sometimes, however, it might be valuable to distill a few of those words to the surface to make a point. We aren’t all graphic artists who can make Adobe’s Creative Suite sing. However, I also see value in quickly providing a scaffold for the rest of us to engage in the kind of visual thinking provided by simple, inexpensive apps. Perhaps this is one that could be a valuable gateway drug that gets more of us into the game. Care to play along?


Searching For a Royal Spring

Disclosure number one

What kind of an idiot would dissect ten George Brett rookie cards and paste them onto the outside of his baseball-themed “Valentine’s Day” box at school? I suppose it depends on whether or not that idiot was a primary grades student or not. A kid that would do such a thing is either really into the Royals, or really a bit twisted. I’ll let you decide that, but I’m glad the hobby of collecting baseball cards never really entered the “business” realm for me like it did for so many of my friends. If it had, I’d really curse the day I made George Brett and Frank White into Valentine’s wallpaper. Sad.

George Brett Rookie

Fitting in

By now you might be thinking, “what’s this… another athletics-related post?” Though that might stand out as unique in this blog about learning, teaching, and the role of technology in education, it is perhaps less odd considering the “nashworld” title above. What might really throw you for curve would be the fact that this post (and most certainly the following one) will center on a little trip I’ll be making to Kauffman Stadium for a little behind-the-scenes experience called “Blog Your Way to The K.”

I’m a lucky guy. Period. Honestly, after getting the call that I’d been selected as a member of the first group of eight for the event, I began to wonder how I was even picked. After all, this is certainly not a sports blog. My Twitter feed is also rarely used to banter about sports-related things. In fact, I learned a while back that tweeting play by play details of the Missouri State Wrestling Championships tends to irk edu-followers. Shortly thereafter I created a spinoff “ANGRYREDBIRDS” account for such things. I briefly wondered if I should do something similar for Blog 2 The K. In the end, I decided not to go that route. In fact, I began this blog with the same, “let’s see what happens if I push this button,” mentality that encouraged me to attempt an application for Blog 2 The K in the first place.

I came to this space in 2008 as proof-of-concept that blogging about one’s passions in life could be a transformative learning endeavor. I was betting that, if implemented well, recent changes in social media could add value in today’s schools. Social tools like these are what you make of them, but I believe deeply in the power of amplifying the voices of our youth. For me, personally, over the past three years this blog has truly become a hub for my personal learning. I’d really love to be able to post here more frequently. Doing so does good things to my brain. Nashworld has become a bit of a portfolio of the thoughts I synthesize, a collection of ideas in which I believe, a summary of the projects I’ve been a part of, my overarching reflections on learning in general, and ultimately my attempts to share it all. Embedded within these threads are a good many of the things I am passionate about.

Royals memorabilia

Disclosure number two

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that a significant part of my application for Blog 2 The K, included the fact that I have truly fallen away from baseball in large part since “the strike.” Yesterday, I paid a rare visit to the attic. I drug out a massive plastic bin and rummaged through the contents to take the photo posted above. A few things are pretty obvious from that assembly (other than the fact that I still cling to one last Brett rookie card). Like many near my age in the KC metro region, I looked up to George. I’m sure I always will. Among the countless other games of my childhood, I was there late in the season in 1980 to see his batting average peek back above the .400 mark, I was there to see his last home game as a player, and more. Perhaps it’s the story that I missed. Perhaps, even more than timeless statistics, what baseball fans are after is story.

I played baseball as a kid from age six until high school. Looking back the past few days, perhaps more than baseball itself, I came to deeply admire the public character of guys like George Brett, Frank White, and others. Though we’ll likely never get stories like that again, I was at one point excited anew about the youth resurgence in the early to mid ’90’s. Sadly, we lost those guys in a a fire sale. At one point in the past decade, I tried to get back on the bus once again for a year or so, only to be disappointed again. I certainly don’t need wins…  but I need story. And for me, it’s become clear to me that those stories must include some pretty deep character.


Fast forward to this morning, and I have to say that I am really fired up about tonight’s experience. I am ready to soak it all in from the first minute to the last. I am ready to let this current passion attempt a reconnect with an old one… one that still wears red stitches on white leather. I’m excited that the Royals organization is getting into the game game of social media. There is a ton of individual passion there to harness. Who knows, if the world can have an Arab Spring thanks to social media, maybe…  just maybe we can have a Royals Spring. Maybe this Spring will launch the lasting stories I’ve missed all these years.


Follow up

I decided to do most of my follow-up from that night via imagery. Check out this set of photos on my Flickr account…