Science On a Sphere® comes with a large collection of datasts that are grouped by category. Sites typically find that the most convenient way to present the datasets is by creating presentation playlists. A presentation playlist is an ordered list of datasets that are generally related to one another in some way.
It is often helpful to think of an SOS playlist as a music playlist in iTunes. Playlists can be saved and repeatedly used. Different playlists can be made for different presentations or shows. Also, docents can have their own playlists. All playlist file names have to end with the extension .sos and are stored in either /home/sos/sosrc or /home/sosdemo/sosrc depending on the user.
Educators at NOAA along with input from SOS sites have put together the Docent Best Practices for SOS based on years of experience with SOS. All SOS presenters are encouraged to read it. Feedback is welcome!
If you are just getting started and want to use presentations created by others or if you’re looking to mix up your usual presentation, Live Programs are a great place to look. Live programs are SOS presentations that have been created by users of SOS, including scientists, educators, museum staff and student interns. They are carefully crafted presentations that use SOS datasets to tell a story and teach audiences about a specific topic such as ocean currents or extreme weather events. Included in each Live Program is an SOS presentation playlist (i.e. a collection of datasets) and a script with notes for presenters and sometimes supplementary educational materials (i.e. clicker questions and classroom lesson plans). A description of each Live Program can be found on the SOS Data Catalog Live Programs page along with a copy of the script for presenters.
The Live Program presentation playlists can be easily accessed through the iPad SOS Remote App. As indicated in the following screenshots, simply go to the Data Catalog tab and select the Live Programs button at the top of the page. Then, select a Major Category and a Live Program to show the datasets in that Live Program. Many of the Live Programs also have Presenter Notes associated with them. To view these on the iPad, simply go to the Presentation tab, make sure the Catalog button at the top of the page is selected, and then press the Presenter Notes button, also located at the top of the page.
If you’ve created a SOS presentation that you would like to share with other SOS users as a Live Program through the SOS Data Catalog, please email [email protected].
The Visual Playlist Editor (VPLE) is an incredibly powerful tool for SOS users. It can be used to create both datasets and presentation playlists. In addition to creating presentation playlists and adding presenter notes, the VPLE also allows you to modify the datasets in your presentation playlists by extending them or overriding preset attributes. This is something that you are not able to do with either of the Playlist Builders. The downside of the VPLE is that it must be run on the SOS computer. You can get to it from the VPLE icon on the SOS computer desktop.
The Playlist Builder in the SOS Remote App is a convenient way to create a presentation playlist. It allows you to add datasets to a playlist and add presenter notes, but you’re not able to modify the datasets in the presentation. A benefit of using the Playlist Builder in the SOS Remote App is that it’s easy to load datasets on the sphere while you’re building your playlist, giving you a good preview of what you’re including in your presentation. If a site has multiple iPads connected to the SOS computer, it’s possible for one person to be creating a presentation playlist with the Playlist Builder while another gives a presentation at the same time. You can read more about the Playlist Builder and how to use it in the Playlist Builder section of the Remote App Manual.
There is also a simplified Playlist Builder available on the SOS website in the Data Catalog that allows you to put datasets into a playlist. The benefit of this Playlist Builder is that it can be used on any computer that has an internet connection. Because it is a simplified version, however, you cannot add presenter notes and you cannot modify the datasets.
You can add datasets to your playlist directly from the Dataset Catalog on the website. Each dataset “card” will display a button above its cover image labelled “Add to Playlist”.
Clicking the “Add to Playlist” button will display a message telling you that the dataset was added to your playlist. You can add as many datasets as you like, and you can add the same dataset multiple times.
You can work on only one playlist at a time in your browser. Playlists are stored in your browser’s “local storage”, so you can safely close your browser and when you come back to the playlist builder later, your playlist will still be there. You cannot, however, work on multiple playlists at a time in the browser. If you clear the datasets from your playlist to start a new one, the first one will be gone.
At the top of the Dataset Catalog, you’ll find a “View My Playlist” button that will take you to your playlist. Each dataset in your playlist has a set of four buttons you can use to manipulate it. The up and down arrows allow you to change its order. The red button with the minus sign inside of a circle will remove the dataset from your playlist. The first button — the one with two overlapping squares — duplicates that dataset, in case you want more than one copy of a dataset in your playlist.
Some datasets have multiple “variations”. A dataset variation is an alternate version of the dataset with some small changes to the dataset. Blue Marble, for example, has a variation called “Blue Marble (with audio)” that adds an audio track to the basic Blue Marble dataset. The Hurricane Season - 2005 dataset has five variations, each of which focuses on one of the major hurricanes from that season, sometimes with audio, sometimes without.
When you add a dataset that has variations to your playlist, you’ll be provided with a dropdown menu beneath the dataset’s title that allows you to choose which variation you’d like to use in your playlist.
You can use multiple variations of the same dataset in a playlist by duplicating that dataset and selecting a different variation for each row in the playlist.
Once you’re happy with your presentation playlist, you can download it using the “Download” button at the top right of the playlist builder interface.
The default name for the playlist will be custom_playlist.sos, or you can provide your own file name in the “Playlist Name” field to the left of the “Download” button. You can also just rename the file once you’ve downloaded it. The name must have no spaces and no special characters. You can download the file to any location you want on your computer.
In order to use the presentation playlist that you downloaded, it will need to be put in the sosrc directory in the home folder of the SOS computer. You can get it on the SOS computer with a thumbdrive, or by emailing it to yourself, or by using cloud storage, or however you prefer. The important part is that it ends up in /home/sos/sosrc or /home/sosdemo/sosrc.
If you prefer to do things by hand and don’t want to use one of the three options above, a presentation playlist can always be written by hand in a simple text editor. To do this, you must know the location of all the datasets that you want to use and be familiar with all the playlist attributes. You can also choose to use one of the three options above and then modify the resulting presentation playlist by hand. This is only recommended if you are comfortable with the playlist format and datasets.
The basic format of a playlist is a file that points to all of the playlist.sos files for the datasets that you want to show. The Datasets Manual has more details about about playlist files.
Each “include” is used to point to a different dataset. This example playlist includes the Indian Ocean Tsunami, the X-Ray Sun and the GFDL Temperature Change Model. All of the information about the labels, color bars and timing is saved in each of the separate playlist.sos files. The nice thing about this format is that everyone’s playlists will be using the same versions of the data. However, if you do want to modify some of the options for a dataset, within only your personal playlist, you can do that by either using the VPLE or by modifying the file by hand. The modifications you make apply only in your presentation playlist and don’t impact other’s. List any changes you want below each include.
Presenter Notes may be added to any presentation playlist file. Presenter notes are accessed from the iPad’s SOS Remote app’s Presentation tab, and can be edited either from the app’s Playlist Builder tab, the VPLE, or manually using a text editor. If editing a playlist file manually, each line that is to be a presenter note should begin with #>. Presenter note lines should go at the very bottom of the presentation playlist.
To provide some assistance for presenters, Presenter Notes can be assessed through a simple button press on the iPad in the presentation tab, as described in the Presentation section of the Remote App Manual. Presenter Notes are associated with presentation playlists rather than individual datasets. There are several ways to add Presenter Notes to your playlist:
The SOS Remote App allows presenters to load datasets, orient the sphere, and control the datasets from an iPad. This is the main way presenters will be interacting with SOS. The SOS Remote App offers many features for enhancing a live presentation. These include annotation, zooming, layering, and splitting. The annotation and [zooming][remote-app-zooming] tools can be accessed through the Presentation icon. The [layering interface][remote-app-layering] can be accessed through the numbered circle next to loaded dataset. To become familiar with the app, check out the SOS Remote Manual.
The simplest presentation mode is Autorun. In the Autorun mode, the system displays each dataset for a default three minutes. This is a good option when a docent is not available to lead a presentation. If this format is used, it’s nice to have supporting audio or text so that the audience knows what they are looking at. There are audio tracks available with a limited number of datasets. Many sites give live presentations with the sphere throughout the day, and in between presentations leave the sphere on Autorun. Autorun can be turned on in the Settings tab of the SOS Remote App or in the SOS Stream GUI.