Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Bridge to That Future: GARCO Sewing Works

How exciting to see the social entrepreneurship recognition earned by the Whole Works in Rifle in October 2015:

Reading it, I was reminded of the organization that created the bridge to this future, GarCO Sewing Works (GSW).

The Impetus
In 2011 CMC’s Customized Training and Workforce Dean Beth Shaw went to the county board of commissioners to present an idea—the creation of an industrial sewing training project that could equip people on public support with industrial sewing and process experience. In addition, this forward-looking presentation had the goal of post-training employment. The impetus and opportunity were based on the fact that industrial sewing groups in Denver and Grand Junction had a three-year wait-list, and that small lot sewing projects were not readily accepted by the industrial sewing factories.

The Philosophy
Usual thinking in a welfare to work program is to provide skills development and work habits. More than that, GARCO Sewing Work’s vision took into consideration that social girding to help people exit public assistance was to stabilize the personal side of their lives so they could have work lives. This included the wisdom that a whole person model “honoring their personal histories and “moving them out of the bondage they are in” are essential.  Hence, the model considered child care, needs, transportation needs, housing, and for some, and the flexibility to take care of personal appointments such as court hearings.

Seed Money and Development Milestones
Initially, the CMC project, GarCO Sewing Works (GSW), requested $26,000 from the commissioners to purchase industrial sewing machines, or the equivalent of the cost of two people moving off assistance rolls. The commission countered that if the GSW was still operational after one years, the machines would be theirs to keep. At the end of one year, GSW was not only operational, but seven individuals were off assistance.

Three years later, the thirty trainees who have moved off assistance translates into a savings of $450,000. 

A Credit to Partnerships
Though Beth will tell you that “Sewing is the vehicle, not the end game” to transferrable skills such as process and project management, here’s how that happens within GSW’s operations and how that developed with the support of many partnerships.

From the outset, the responsiveness of the county commissioners and Human Services were critical. Beth attributes their familiarity with Gateway Director, Jill Ziemann’s track record and CMC’s affiliation as contributors to county confidence levels for the initial proposal.

But before GWS had even opened it’s doors, Beth spotted a news article about CORE’s project to make Aspen free of plastic shopping bags. CORE had hit a rough spot because the most competitive bids for bags were from China. Her call and offer to make bags in Rifle, Colorado resulted in GSW’s first order, even though they were not yet open, for 4500 reusable bags.

Shortly thereafter, CORE had five pallets of automotive upholstery fabric delivered to GWS’s site. The pallets were too large to fit though the door and it was raining. So Beth, Jill, and two students carried the materials off the street themselves. And they were off to the races.

Shortly thereafter, artist Mary Noone offered eight rolls of canvas printed with her original design, and these materials helped filled another order for a city about to move away from plastic grocery bags.

Soon after, Beth discovered that the hospital had blue wrap that was also going to the landfill. As a follow-up Greg Jeung, a Valley View Green Team member, started deliveries.

The City of Aspen has been large as a repeat customer: Each year Aspen orders about 2000 bags to give citizens and visitors. They now have a “Take a bag, wash a bag, and leave a bag, “ receptacles around the city. And we are prototyping two sizes of windshield frost guards for citizen vehicles made from old (Big Agnes) sleeping bag pads for vehicles that are parked outside during the winter. (How did this come about? The city has an ordinance that you cannot idle a vehicle for more than 5 minutes, an emissions reduction effort.)

The Bridge to Whole Works
From early press on, GSW consistently expressed the need for a for-profit operation to employ successful trainees. So in 2013, they started monthly meetings with four interested investors, discussing a potential partnership. And though The Whole Works received invitations to locate elsewhere, the Rifle location was important for two reasons: 1) the location of GSW’s facility, and the opportunity to economically train both workers to new developments in the field.

While Dean Beth Shaw retires from her service at CMC at the end of 2015, the GSW will continue to serve citizens of Garfield County. As recently as last week, GSW trainees were assisting the Whole Works prepping a large order that required more workers at short notice.

GSW is an admirable example of Educational Entrepreneurship for Social Good. How forward looking that it included and accomplished the development of the next social benefit corporation, the Whole Works with its emphasis on “ethical and sustainable” jobs and products so workers can get off public assistance (

Applause. And sincere wishes for the continuation of these life- and community-changing enterprises.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Using Glass and Gamification to Help Autistic Children with Interactions

This pediatric specialist explains Google Glass apps used to help children in interacting with others through gamified applications. Overlaying game graphics on top of video image of another's face serves as a prompt to respond to the moment.

Note: This video is licensed under Creative Commons with No Derivatives allowed.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Barbie AI: "Has Anyone in Your Family Married a Clown, Barbie?"

For some strange reason, I was under an earlier impression that Barbie was available with a 3D printer. I sent this tidbit to my comedic friend who said she wanted one so she could print a new boyfriend. When I did a search for such an announcement today, though, nothing came up. Was this my own imagined conversation?

In contrast, I just read the Sunday NY Times article about the work on the forthcoming  artificial intelligence (AI) featured Barbie, which manufacturers hope to release to the market for this year’s holiday sales:

The sophisticated development follows the path of other intelligent response systems by capturing interactions with the product with humans, then storing and analyzing the responses into a database, along with potential responses to the questions or remarks.

If you’ve ever called a real-time help desk, you are also likely to have benefitted from this type of a knowledge database as the help-desk person looked up your question.

This same protocol can be used for smart tutors/assistants in learning applications.
And it makes sense for the goals of a customer helpdesk or learning support.

But back to talking with toys, their companionship, and the potential to shape behavior. Toys have been the training ground for generations, in addition to providing diversions.

And yes, many of us had imaginary dialogue with our toys, creating both sides of it, and unless an adult was in earshot, the conversations went on without record. And then there were the pull –the-string-talkers—ok for a limited while. Of the later toys, one of my favorites was a teddy bear that had a mic, and could repeat whatever you said to good old teddy. My son and daughter each had one—our son would laugh into one, and then face the one bear to the other so they could have one extended ha fest.

Though drawing from her database in a timely fashion, Barbie AI’s programmed responses are drawing on former conversations and ring of the invasion of privacy. To other degrees, a person has to ask whether it’s a good idea to have Barbie harvesting your child’s private thoughts, worries, or genius.

I think of a wunderkind I know, and think of her questions:

“Barbie, I think I want to marry a clown when I grow up. Followed by, “Has anyone in your family married a clown?”

"Barbie, my toy birds are singing to the dead. What songs are they singing?"

I am amused to think how Barbie might respond. And I weigh in by thinking this child’s thoughts are priceless, and, as yet, unincorporated.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

OER, Fair Use, and Fair Practice Part III: Flickr Commons and "No Known Copyright Restrictions"

This post explores the difference between using an image under Flickr Commons Commons under fair use vs. commercial purposes.

As I shared in the first post on this topic, I explored Flickr Commons in search of a photo to use for a canvas I was creating for the Jazz-on-Film-with Friends, a memento of a private gathering at my home. 

And here is what I learned from that part of the journey. In the creation of the canvas, I was focused on the use of a Billie Holiday photo I'd found at Flickr Commons under the terms of fair use. And it did answer the following four conditions under fair use:

1) Purpose: The piece was for my personal, non-commercial, non-educational use.
2) Nature: the use of the image from the film did not embody the central intent of the film, and it was used to create something different from the original.
3) Amount: the image on the screen was only one frame of a nearly two-hour long film.
4) Effect: This personal memento would not affect film distribution.

Yet I was struck by the used of the phrase at the Commons, "no known copyright restrictions":

In reading the fine print, I learned that in the case of these wonderful photos by photographer Gottlieb, he donated his work of something like 1600 photographs of the golden age of jazz. He denoted that as of 2010, these works would go into the public domain, with the exception of those which had already been published by other source.

So here is what it meant for the photo I'd just placed on the canvas above. It had been published by Downbeat magazine, so I wanted to do something commercial with it, I most likely needed their written permissions because the image constitutes a whole work by Mr. Gottlieb.

Upon returning to the Gottlieb collection, I did find this image of Billy Holliday, one not published by anyone else, and since it was 2015, it was truly in the public domain.

Image Source: Library of Congress. Gottlieb Collection. ”Portrait Billie Holiday at Carnegie Hall Between 1946 and 1948.”:

Once again, here are some resources: (A very helpful Creative Commons 4.0 Fair Use Checklist can be found at the Columbia Site.)

Next: What do the various levels of Creative Commons Licensing mean?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

OER, Fair Use, and Fair Practice Part II: Defining Copyright and Creative Commons

In an earlier post, I shared the story of trying to add a photo to a canvas I wanted printed and the refusal of a big box store to do so, even though I was printing the piece for personal, not commercial purposes. Some background to this discussion involves defining copyright, and then moving to other key terms such as Creative Commons licensing and then back again to Fair Use. The two below are licensed presentations by Common Craft a creator of some great explanatory videos:



While copyright and trademark were established to protect the right to make one’s living by products created, Creative Commons gives creators such as academics the rights to share their products with others, while retaining credit for their contributions.

Stay tuned for more posts on Copyright, Creative Commons, and Fair Use issues and practices.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

OER, Fair Use, and Fair Practice Part I: A Personal Saga

My own saga of Fair Practice, Fair Use, and Open Ed Resources has been years in the making.

As a faculty member, I have spent years articulating the ethic of giving credit to others’ contributions, teaching about common knowledge and citation.  I was thrilled when Creative Commons came along. Then stepping into various non-academic sectors which include art and mashups, I was submerged, caught, whatever you want to call it.

I’ll begin with a personal saga.  For the past four summers, I’ve invited friends over to watch jazz documentaries outside in our yard. One day as I was feeling sentimental, I thought I might make a canvas memento for our house. So I took this photo to Walmart and got this response:

They could not print it for two reasons: I was using a screen shot from the film and the use of the image was not its intended purpose and then there was the QR. I shared that the screen shot was one frame and this was for my personal use only, and that I created the QR myself (It opens to the YouTube Channel where I’ve bookmarked documentaries available on YouTube.) No dice. I would have to bring back a statement that assured the technician that I could use that one frame in a photo.

So home I went to learn more about Fair Use, which provides the guidelines for when copyrighted materials can be used by others without permission from the original creator of the work.

In the meantime, I looked up the conditions of Fair Use to confirm the conditions for my personal fair use as defined by there criteria: “purpose, nature, amount, and effect.”

1) Purpose: The piece was for my personal, non-commercial, non-educational use.
2) Nature: the use of the image from the film did not embody the central intent of the film, and it was used to create something different from the original.
3) Amount: the image on the screen was only one frame of a nearly two-hour long film.
4) Effect: This personal memento would not affect film distribution.

But I was not about to go back and re-enter the world of a narrowly-trained employee,, sympathetic as I was to her state of employment.

So I delved further and started looking for a copyright-free jazz image in the public domain.

Enter now, my introduction to Flickr Commons, and the addition of the Billy Holiday shot and the QR to this photo of the screen in my back yard, which I then  sent to an online vendor who printed it onto canvas.

Look for a future post about the conditions in Flickr Commons.

Sources: (A very helpful Creative Commons 4.0 Fair Use Checklist can be found at the Columbia Site.)