Category Archives: Tools for Learning

Coding and tech comics & coloring books

First posted at

We are coming up quickly on the winter break, with families gathered and children out of school. With that in mind, it might be fun to have some some (slightly eccentric?) options for family activities and young folk distractions. Even better if these are options that promote learning, or just understanding more about what the old folks do with their days, eh? Here are a few highlights from my collections of (mostly free) comics, coloring books, and games around the world of geekery, coding, and tech. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find something that tickles your own funny bone!

A FORTRAN Coloring Book

Coloring Books

The first coding coloring book I could find dates from 1978 — Roger Kaufman’s FORTRAN Coloring Book, actually published by MIT Press and used as a textbook, back in the day. I was tickled pink when I found it, in part because I remember by Dad coding in FORTRAN when I was a young thing. (Yes, I have a copy on paper in my office. Honest!) It is robustly humorous for actual coders, and probably not as much fun for kids today. It is, however, available in the fabulous Internet Archive (but you might have to wait your turn to get access, since it is still under copyright).

Another rather amusing tongue-in-cheek (optionally NSFW) geek coloring book comes from the infamous Oatmeal. Check out 404 Not Found (and 404 Not Found NSFW). Not free.

With coloring books about coding going back so many decades, I thought there must be more, and oh my, there are.

ABC++ [PDF] (free)

The Coder’s Coloring Book [PDF] (free)

Kevin’s Python Coding Coloring Book (usually around $7)

Lady Ada’s E is For Electronics Coloring Book [PDF] (free as PDF, or you can buy a copy for $9.95)
(You might want to see also Lady Ada’s R is for Robots, which is not free.)

Programmer’s coloring book (About) [PDF] (free)

The SELinux Coloring Book (Github) [PDF] (free)

Soldering is Easy (free, but no PDF, only individual page downloads)

The Imitation Game, by Jim Ottaviani

Comics, Graphic Novels, Zines, Etc.

– About Coding & Tech-

These include comix for kids and comix for pros, but even those for kids are so well done I get a giggle out of them.

BubbleSort Zines. (Includes zines like “Hip Hip Array!” as well as t-shirts and jewelry such as “BYTE ME!”) (not free)

Code Cartoons (such as A Cartoon Guide to Flux and more) (free)

Google Chrome comic by Scott McCloud (free)

Grokking Algorithms: An illustrated guide for programmers and other curious people (~$17 onAmazon)

Hello, Ruby (for ages 5 and up) (not free, but free stuff available for downloading at the site)

How DNS Works (start here) (free)

Linux comics, a small zine. Others from the same author include “Let’s Learn tcpdump,” “Spying on your programs with trace,” and “Networking! ACK!” (free)

What Makes a Clock Tick (free)

Why’s Poignant Guide to Ruby (free)

– About Geekery Other Than Coding –

We are very lucky here to have Jim Ottaviani on campus as a hard core science geek who loves and loves to make comics. I could hardly talk about comics and coding without mentioning his collaboration with Leland Purvis, The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded! But there are more comics and graphic novels about coders, geeks, and the work and culture they love. This is just a few selected titles, not at all comprehensive (try searching cyberpunk graphic novels to see what I mean). [NOTE: These are mostly NOT free, but for sale at bookstores both analog and virtual.]

Alice in Quantumland: An Allegory of Quantum Physics

William Gibson’s Neuromancer

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer (Pantheon Graphic Novels)

Tom Clohosy Cole’s Space Race

(And if this isn’t enough to keep people busy, you can always make your own, one way or another.)


Teach Feast: Engaged Learning Through Internships, Badges, e-Portfolios, & Storytelling

Teach Feast 2015: integrative tools for engagement at Michigan

I was invited as a last minute fill-in to be part of a panel at the annual Teach Feast festival of learning technologies at the University of Michigan. It was a great learning experience for me, and I hope also for the participants. I learned more about how engaged learning can be a continuum, incorporating relatively small or subtle changes to traditional instruction or going whole hog and literally uprooting a student from their culture and context and positioning them in a new space for a different type of learning experience. Engagement can originate with either student or teacher (or both); it can be collaborative and/or competitive and/or creative. The one part that seemed foundational to all the strategies was reflection, turning your gaze both inward and outward.

My part was on digital storytelling. I’m a big fan of digital storytelling, in case you didn’t know. I like to test new online storytelling tools, and see how they work to support different kinds of stories. My current fascination with comics is based out of my larger enthusiasm for storytelling. I argue that storytelling is part of every academic discipline. It’s obvious that the humanities dissolve if you remove stories. What is history without story? But when it comes to the sciences, people are more likely to have trouble seeing the story as part of the academic process. Of course, case studies in health care, sure, those are stories. And psychology and psychiatry, they don’t work without stories. Social work, yeah, of course. But physics? And engineering? Maybe if you aren’t in the field you have trouble seeing the story, but if you really think about every research paper, every structured abstract is a frame for a story. Every piece of science has a backstory, a motivation, a reason someone wanted to know THIS. Even mathematics. Even when camouflaged, the stories of science are implied. What changes isn’t the presence of the story, but how we tell them, and the tools we use to carry them.

The advantages of digital storytelling are similar to those of printed stories: portable, inclusive, persistent, and reaching a broader audience. One of the great lessons from education is that communication is never one-size-fits-all. The more ways you present important content, the more people will be able to understand it and engage with it. The greater the variety of media you use to tell a story, the more people will hear it. I’m happy to help people find and tell stories, especially science stories. There are a lot of different types of tools and resources in the slides. If I have time, I’ll spend a little more time on specific ones here some other time. If there is something in particular from the slides that you’d like me to talk about, say so in the comments, and I’ll make it a priority.

Infographic of the Week: HHS Infographics Collection!

HHS Infographics on Flickr
Flickr: Group: HHS Infographics:

I just discovered a Flickr group that collects infographics from the US Department of Health and Human Services. WOW. Talk about a great resource! There are many infographics in the collection, and also marketing images for specific health challenges or initiatives.

HHS Infographics on Flickr

This isn’t all they have, though! You can many of these in sets or albums from the HHSgov Flickr Stream.

Flickr: HHS: Sets: Health Care Infographics:

Flickr: HHS: Sets: HHS Infographics:

Now, it is completely wonderful to have a one stop shop to go hunt health infographics from a reliable source and of known high quality. Extremely useful! But this is even better than that. Because these are in a Flickr Group, there are many other things you can do.

If you have a Flickr account, you can request to join to track the images that appear in the group, or you can use the RSS feed from the group in your feed reader.

You could set up a computer display in a public area, and start the “slideshow” view from the group as a way to engage the public around quality health information.

Because these are licensed as “United States government work,” you can download these, re-use them, post them yourself, put them on your website, edit and modify them. As they say:

Anyone may, without restriction under U.S. copyright laws:
* reproduce the work in print or digital form;
* create derivative works;
* perform the work publicly;
* display the work;
* distribute copies or digitally transfer the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.


However, because these are in Flickr, the absolute easiest way to share them is to just embed them on your webpage or site, or share the link wherever you wish. Here’s an example.

Recently, I’ve been seeing many conversations on social media, on Twitter, Facebook, and in blogs, about issues with patients access to their electronic health record and problems with the accuracy of the information in their record. Right now, this is again a timely issue. The HHS has a series of four short infographics on exactly this topic. I can choose one or any or all and, with a Flickr account, grab the embed code to put them in this blogpost without having to download or upload or rename or identify or worry about the accessibility of the code. Here’s what it looks like.

Know Your HIPAA Rights #1Know Your HIPAA Rights #2
Know Your HIPAA Rights #3Know Your HIPAA Rights #4

If someone clicks on any of the four images above, it will take them to the original image, in a larger size. The source is right there, and I didn’t have to do the work. So very helpful. I love this resource. So glad I found them!

Learn about Making, 2: Videos

Reblogged from Health Design By Us

We #makehealth Fest- August 16th!

Here’s more on learning about making, today with videos! I started writing this post talking about how to find videos about making and #makehealth to learn more about them, and then Andrew Maynard was inspired to make a RiskBites-style video for us!!! Can you tell I’m excited? I refrained from more than three exclamation points. So, please, watch our video first (it’s short), but the rest of the post is about videos by other people about making.


Maker, the Movie (Screenshot)
Maker, the Movie:

Last week I talked about the summer camp and the online course. If you dug into those you would have probably found their videos! There are a lot more, however, and there is even a MOVIE about the maker movement, and we are going to show it over the lunch hour at our event. It is going to be great!

Below you will find a sampling of videos illustrating some of the range of what’s available on the topic of making. Included are both general making and health making, finding good Youtube Channels, persons, “topics”, and project examples. In each category, I’ll try to highlight at least one and then give links to more in each category.


Maker learning events NOW

First a few videos from the groups highlighted last week.

The Google Science Fair just had a Google Hangout with last year’s winner, Eric Chen. Eric’s project was: “Computer-aided Discovery of Novel Influenza Endonuclease Inhibitors to Combat Flu Pandemic.”

Come Hangout On Air with the 2013 Grand Prize Winner of Google Science Fair!

The MOOC course on Tinkering? They not only had a brief video to introduce the idea of the class, with more videos and tutorials in the class, but then had Hangouts during the source, all of which are archived online.

Fundamentals of Tinkering (Screenshot)
Fundamentals of Tinkering

Tinkering Studio (Channel):
Tinkering Fundamentals: Week One Hangout
Tinkering Fundamentals Integrating Making Activities into Your STEM Classroom

Make Magazine (Screenshot)MakerFaire Videos (Screenshot)

The Maker Camp people also have their own video channel, with interviews and archived Hangouts. Not only do they have the Maker Camp videos, but also the Maker Faire videos, AND individual projects from Make Magazine. I was surprised to find that they ALSO have some video from these various maker sources included in the channel for their sister publication CraftZine.

CraftZine (Screenshot)

Maker Camp: Blasting Off with Buzz Aldrin and NASA


Adam Savage's TESTED (Screenshot)Household Hacker (Screenshot)

Adam Savage: Tested:
Google Science Fair:
Household Hacker:
Maker Magazine:
Maker Faire:
Tinkering Studio:


Hacking Health (Screenshot)NIH 3D Print Exchange (Screenshot)

Some of these channels are people talking about things they’ve learned how to do. Other are from organizations, even ones like NIH or the NHS (UK). Some of them are kind of conservative, while others are edgy, or even risky. (For example, I was a little floored when I saw a video on how to remove magnetized sensors from under your skin.) One of my favorites is the new service from NIH for people sharing tips and tricks with 3D printing. Some of these people have gotten so good at what they are doing they have become consultants and are selling their services for training, so you might see advertisements. Despite that, these are just a small selection of the various types of people and organizations sharing information about tools and techniques for improving your own health (beyond diet and exercise).

21 Convention:
Bulletproof Executive:
FAB Research:
Hack Cancer:
Hack Health Day 2012:
Maarten den Braber:
Manuel Corpas:
NIH 3D Print Exchange:
NHS: Open Data Platform Hack:
Official Simpleology:
Personal Genomes Org:
Personal Genomics Institute:
Quantified Self & Biohacking Finland:
Quantified Self Labs:
Seth Bordenstein:
Yohanan Winogradsky:


Ellen Jorgensen: Biohacking — you can do it, too:

You probably already know that you can subscribe on Youtube to follow the videos of a particular user, but did you know that you can also subscribe to follow specific topics? Here are just a few I’ve selected to highlight topics related to making health, as well as tools and techniques often used by people interested in taking charge of their own health.

Topic: 23andMe:
Topic: Activity Tracker:
Topic: Biohacking:
Topic: Digital Health:
Topic: e-Patient:
Topic: Gut flora:
Topic: Human Microbiome:
Topic: Life logging:
Topic: Microbiome:
Topic: Patients Like Me:
Topic: Personal genomics:
Topic: Personalized medicine:
Topic: Quantified Self:
Topic: Shared decision making:
Topic: Synthetic Biology:
Topic: Wearable Computer:
Topic: Wearable Technology:


Beautifully Disgusting E Coli

Here are just a few randomly selected examples of individual videos on projects. If you come up with an idea for something you want to try, maybe someone else has already done it, and you don’t have to completely make it from scratch! The search box may be your friend, you never know until you look.

Adam Savage’s One Day Builds: Custom Multi-Tool Belt Holster:
Bulletproof Executive: Podcast #140 – Hacking Memory and Focus with Mattias Ribbing – Bulletproof Executive Radio:
HouseholdHacker: Beautifully Disgusting E Coli:
Outfitting the Kitchen – Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project – 7/8/2014:
Personal Cooling Unit:
Pollution Shirt Senses Foul Air:
Weekend Projects – Non-Contact Voltage Detector:
Weekend Projects – “Raspberry Eye” Remote Servo Cam:

About Make & Takes for Health (#makehealth)

#UMSIMakerfest !!!

As people start to think about getting involved with the Make Health Fest, we are hearing a lot of three questions in particular.

1) What is a maker fest or maker faire?
2) If I want to have a booth, I’m supposed to have a Make & Take? What does that mean?
3) I’m a geek / tinker / hacker from way back, and I’d like to be involved, but I’m not sure if what I do connects with health enough to qualify. What do you mean, “relates to health”?

Last week we addressed #1 in a post by me and another by Joyce; this post is for question #2 on Make&Takes; and hopefully tomorrow will have a post for question #3, connecting making to health.

Part of the confusion with the phrase “Make and Take” might be that the phrase means one thing to folk in the maker community and something else to the world at large. After all, this is summer, and there are potlucks and backyard picnics galore! I picked up a magazine called “Make & Take” that was all about recipes for cooking for potlucks and picnics. You make the food, and then you take it to the party! Or the other “Make & Take” is planning for road trips with the kids — make games or guides or handouts to take for entertaining the kids in the family car while you drive somewhere on vacation, or for teachers or homeschooling. This is a little different.

What makes a maker event so very different from the usual science fair or health fair or vendor exhibit is the actual MAKING. Booths and demos and speakers all are not just saying, “I can do something cool,” or “I have information to share with you,” but rather, “Can I show you how to do this cool thing? Come here and try it yourself!” I always wish I had a month at each Maker Faire instead of an afternoon! I want to learn how to do everything!

The idea of “Make and Take” is to, (1), have something at the booth that people do with their own hands, beyond showing them how, and (2) have something they can take away with them. Ideally, the part they take away is something they actually made, but to be honest, that’s an ideal that is rarely achieved. Usually, people in the booths do a demo and give away a sample; or they give a handout on how to do what they showed you. Often, they’ll let you practice making something at the event, but you may or may not be able to take it with you. Here are some examples of “Make and Take” activities from other fairs and fests, and then I’ll share some examples of health-themed make and take ideas. Feel free to adopt one for our fest if you want, but even better, come up with your own idea!


Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2013Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2014Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2014

Level one is to have something people can take away. That’s pretty easy, and most everyone can come up with examples: pins, buttons, stickers, labels, bookmarks, patterns, resource lists, stories, web links, open source code repositories, free apps to download later, free samples, how to and DIY guide sheets, … Remember! At the “take” level of “make & take” you really need to combine it with a live demo at the very least.


Most of the examples I have are of “Make” or “Do” types of activities. That is the real focus in maker events. These are examples from maker events that were not focused on health, so think of them more as inspiration rather than direct models for what you might do.

Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2013Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2013Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2014

Learning models and toys, games to play that teach concepts or build skills, art and design both to create new things and also relieve stress.

#UMSIMakerfest !!!Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2014Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2013

Skills building, stress relief, practical applications, comfort, building or designing your own tools.

#UMSIMakerfest !!!Maker Faire Detroit 2013Detroit Maker Faire 2013

Starting with LEGOs might seem frivolous, but it isn’t. Recently a high school student built a Braille printer out of LEGOs! Let kids start with various materials that appeal to them, and who knows what they’ll come up with! Let them test out using new tech and imaging uses for it. For the laser light show, the kids interacted with the system to make the show do what they wanted. Real hands on experience builds both skills and interest.

Detroit Maker Faire 2013Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2014Lego blue heart

Sometimes it just isn’t practical to let folk take what they made with them, or the set up is complicated, messy, requires fancy equipment (like the weaving loom above), you don’t have very many (like the electronic musical instruments in the middle picture), or is costly (supplying every kid who walks in with all the LEGOs they want? Yeah, sure).

Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2013Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2013Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2013

Skills building. Say that three times. Training kits, tutorials, hands-on, basic skills.


#UMSIMakerfest !!!Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2013Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2014
Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2013Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2014Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2013

The “Make and Takes” where you actually get to make something and take it with you? That is totally the coolest, if you can manage it. Maybe you make part of it ahead of time (decorating cookies, anyone?). Or connect something people make (paper airplane) with something they do (turbo charged take-off!) and then let folk take the paper airplane with them. Or print off a paper model pattern and walk them through making one. Or do a demo of sustainable gardening, and let them have a taste of a salad with the same type of plants, or give them seeds to take home. You get the idea.


Those were all examples of “Make and Takes” from Maker Faires usually more generally focused on science and technology. We were brainstorming ideas for “Make and Takes” more along the idea of health, and realized many of the same ideas work. Sustainable gardening connects with a lot of public health issues — diet, nutrition, food deserts, green living, etc. We took our ideas and clustered them into ideas that are clearly and explicitly medical in nature as well as things made with easy-to-find ingredients from around normal homes and schools. Then someone had the great idea of a Fix-It Booth for folk who want to tweak or repair their own medical devices at home (crutches, hearing aids, jar grippers, etc.). We don’t know which of these will happen, if any, because we’re still gathering volunteers, speakers, presenters, and so forth. But if you want inspiration for ideas for a booth, here are some that might give you ideas.

* Bee-safe wasp catcher
* DIY lip gloss
* DIY lotion
* Duct Tape for Health
* First Aid Kit Supplies
* Fruit fly catcher
* Home Cleansers & the Microbiome
* Kitchen herb garden
* Mechanical Paper Hand
* MEDIKit (Medical Education Design and Invention Kit)
* Melon Brain
* Miura Battery Fold
* Neck Pillow
* Origami DNA
* Origami Microcrope
* Radish Rose
* Seed bombs
* Soap-making
* Stethoscope
* Superglue Uses for Health
* Vegetable flowers
* Wine bottle garden
* Wrist brace/splint

Want more ideas? Here are some of the sources that inspired us.

Cari Young: Library Makerspace ideas on Pinterest:

Franklin Institute: Science DIY:


Little Devices: 7 DIY Medical Technologies You Can Build At Home:


Naked Scientists: Kitchen Science:

Pakistan Science Club:

Wiki How:

University of Michigan Trends & Technology Team, February 2014

I’ve been part of the UM Trends & Tech Team for several years, and have always found it to be one of my most rewarding campus groups. We had a meeting earlier today, and I participated via Google Hangout. People often ask me where I find the cool things I share with others. Well, it isn’t something anyone can do alone. I follow lots of news services, blogs, and similar online resources, but I also depend on great people and communities, like this one.

For today’s meeting, the notes were exceptionally clear, and I was able to catch almost all of the resources mentioned. We had a few main topics, and our usual round-the-table sharing session (which is the best part, in my view). The two topics were badges and project management. While these aren’t explicitly medical or library focused, both are topics of importance to the work we do. Screenshots and links are in the slideshow above. Brief overview descriptions below.


The idea of “Badges” is one of the recent innovations in education, and a subset of “gamification,” as mentioned in the new Horizon Report. You’ll understand the idea of Badges if you think of scouting, and the way kids train to win badges in specific skillsets. Here’s the official definition.

“A badge is a symbol or indicator of an accomplishment, skill, quality or interest. From the Boy and Girl Scouts, to PADI diving instruction, to the more recently popular geo-location game, Foursquare, badges have been successfully used to set goals, motivate behaviors, represent achievements and communicate success in many contexts. A “digital badge” is an online record of achievements, tracking the recipient’s communities of interaction that issued the badge and the work completed to get it. Digital badges can support connected learning environments by motivating learning and signaling achievement both within particular communities as well as across communities and institutions. (Source: Erin Knight White Paper)” From: MozillaWiki:

Here are some of the badges resources our team has found and is discussing. This highly selected set includes examples of how folk are using them, tools to support badge projects, and more.

AADL Summer Game
Open Badges
Purdue Passport


Most of us have some sort of project we’re trying to manage, either at work or at home, even if it only means keeping our own lives a bit more organized. There was a subgroup of the team that has been looking at different project management tools, testing them out, and coming back sharing thoughts on what they like or don’t like. Here is a small group of the tools and add-ons mentioned in today’s meeting.

Asana + Box
Asana + M-Box
Evernote – Kustomnote
Evernote – Taskclone
Evernote app center
Evernote Food


My favorite part of the meetings is always when we go around the table. People share projects they are working on, tools they are using, challenges they are struggling to overcome, tips, tricks, tools, news, updates, and more. Sometimes everyone has already heard about something, sometimes no one has except the person talking about it. Some of the tips were about hardware (Chromecast & Google Cast, DASH, Kitkat, Mophie). Many are always about mobile apps, which our group seems to love. There are usually a few coding tools (Fluid, Codepen). Of course, the best part is hearing what people are doing with all of these (especially the CIO using Ideascale and LSA’s brilliant social media campaign #powerof5), but if I added that in for everything, this post would be way too long. You’ll just have to explore the links on your own, or come to the meetings, eh?

Day One
Google Cast
Ideascale for UM
Paper (53)
Paper (Facebook)
UM Staff Stories
Touch Room
TV Tag (GetGlue)

Science Games on Twitter — Hashtags of the Week (HOTW): (Week of January 27, 2014)

Games? On Twitter? Oh, my, yes. And the games, while quite entertaining, also foster serious purposes, from engagement in educational outcomes and flipping the classroom to efforts to reimagine the name of peer-review and professional publication. Here are a few examples (#GreenGlam, #SixWordPeerReview, and #PrincessBrideScience), showing beauty, humor, fun, wit, and some rather insightful thoughts.


I was struck by the creativity of the #GreenGlam project from the Jahren Lab at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. From what I’ve been able to piece together, it seems that #GreenGlam started life as a “gamification” of a learning exercise for the students there. Luckily for the rest of us, it didn’t stop there, but garnered views, pictures, tweets, and engagement from a broader community. I can easily imagine using this concept to assign med students to locate Creative Common pathology images to share meeting specific guidelines, for example. Or images to support health literacy or public health outreach. Best infographic on [X] topics. What do you imagine? Here are some lovely selections from the students in Hawai’i to counterbalance the extreme cold we have here this week.


While the complaints and humor about the idea of peer review remain fairly typical of similar hashtags in other years, I was impressed with how the conversations around #SixWordPeerReview eventually turned to discussions of how to improve the peer review process in general. Here are some of the humorous tweets as well as some of the more thoughtful ones.


Alright, this is an indulgence. I’ve always enjoyed the film Princess Bride, but it never entered my mind to adapt it to a conversation around … science? And science education? And scientific methods? I’m still shaking my head with incredulity and delight at some of the clever puns and offerings from the #PrincessBrideScience stream.

NOTE: The tweet immediately above is in reference to this week’s new scandal:

First posted at THL Blog: