I love the idea of digital generators of stuff especially with a whiff of randomness and whimsy.
Previously on this blog…
This was a time when I recrafted a thing Martin Weller had found for a randomizing tech generator that spit out funny, but maybe idea prompting edtech metaphors. You can’t be more proud when someone takes your bit of code and runs with it, on their own domain, e.g. http://metaphor.edtechie.net/
The usual approach for generators like this is coming up with a word pattern, like noun-verb-adjective- noun and then having an array of possible words/phrases that would go in for each. You then pull one at random and spit them out. It works, but a viewer may easily see the same pattern.
In the code I prototyped for Martin’s generator, there are two sets of words to choose from, one is the metaphor list:
let metaphor = ['baking a cake', 'a houseplant', 'running a marathon', 'raising a puppy', 'quantum physics', 'visiting an unknown country','the history of porcelain manufacture','the development of New York graffiti styles','the Corn Laws','the Loch Ness monster myth','the CB radio craze of the 70s','the Gargoyles of the Notre Dame','an all you can eat “Around the world” buffet','the growth of interest in vinyl records','a comfortable old coat','knitting','Homers The Iliad','gardening','the ecosystem of a small island','your favourite film','the structure of a typical horror film', 'chasing a cat', 'finding a big stick', 'a local castle', 'real hockey'];
and the other is the list of technologies
let tech = ['learning analytics', 'VLE', 'blockchain', 'OER', 'MOOCs', 'personalised learning','Artificial Intelligence','open textbooks','automated assessment','MCQs','digital natives','connectivism','blogging','plagiarism detection sites','lecture capture','Flipped Learning','Facebook','academics use of Twitter','open access publishing','mobile learning','learning styles','LMS','e-portfolios','Wikipedia','student-generated content'];
Now a brute force generator might build sentences by just picking a random technology and [pairing it with a metaphor so you might just get
Gardening as a metaphor for OER. The CB radio craze of the 70s as a metaphor for learning styles. Raising a puppy as a metaphor for open access publishing.
Instead, this generator has another option of different ways the two words can be thrown together, so you get one of three random phrasings like:
Use [random metaphor] as a metaphor for [random technology]. How is [random metaphor] an analogy for [random technology]? What does [random metaphor] tell us about [random technology]?
This is much more rich. And you can expand the bank of metaphors as well as making new phrases up that puts the words together.
I thought of this a few brain cycles ago with a really silly generator I made for my own amusement years ago, Make a MOOC. It generates ridiculously randomized names for MOOCs:
This one is done in PHP, but the method somewhat similar- there are banks of four kinds of words:
- Subject and pronoun: in this case “Curative Powers of” but might also be “An inquiry into”, “Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About”, or “Deconstructing The Spaces Between”, etc.
- Adjective: in this case “Utopian” but could also be “Postmodern”, “Newtonian”, or “Opportunistic”
- Topic: in this case “Briefs” but could also be “Mathematical Thinking”, “Pencil Shaving”, or “Design Thinking”
- After the Colon: a ridiculous tagline, in this case “The Science and Beyond” but could also be “An Odyssey Of Discovery”, “It Takes a Village”, or “Liberated Polytheistic Mythology”. (Some of these are from actual courses).
So my generator is the simple type- it just strings them all together. It does have a clever bit that it takes the first letter of all words before the title, mashes them together with a 2 digit version of the year, for a hashtag (#cpoub21″) above.
Because it’s PHP and it can write data, I have a link that records an entry for each one created (each page load/reload). It gets ridiculous, and I have reset the file a few times, but I see now there are 6000+ ones since June 2019. I may have done a lot of them, but not all of them.
This one has even more layers of randomness rolled in. I am just going to leave it for the curious to explore.
Does the world need this? I don’t care, this was yet another chance to play out an idea, and create something that someone else might be able to do something with.
Or just have some fun generating silliness.