All posts by dougpete

The content of this blog is generated by whatever strikes my fancy at any given point. It might be computers, weather, political, or something else in nature. I experiment and comment a lot on things so don't take anything here too seriously; I might change my mind a day later but what you read is my thought and opinion at the time I wrote it! My personal website is at: http://www.dougpeterson.ca Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dougpete I'm bookmarking things at: http://www.diigo.com/user/dougpete My latest shares are at: http://www.rebelmouse.com/dougpete/

A Block Graphic Calculator


Calculators have come a long way since the first ones that could add, subtract, multiply, and divide.  Now, for a modest cost, it’s possible to purchase a graphing calculator.  Or, with your computer, you can put a free one in your browser.  i.e. Desmos Graphing Calculator

But there’s another interesting option.

Many classrooms are introducing students to programming using any one of a variety of block programming languages.  It seems to me that a natural progression would be a block graphing calculator.  And, there is one at the Blockly site.

Choose from a toolbox that includes:

Math

Variables

and Logic

If your students are familiar with a block programming language, the technique is similar.  Just drag the components out to the workplace, lock them together, add any necessary parameters, and you’re done.

Results are immediately displayed in the graphing window.  Move your cursor over any part of your graph to display the x and y co-ordinates.

The interface is clear and easy to navigate.  I think this is a definite keeper.  It’s positioned as a nice transition between block programming and a full-blown graphic calculator with all of its distracting bells and whistles.

OTR Links 07/24/2014


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sounds


Just this past week, I had a chat with friends about the good ol’ days of getting connected.

We talked about 300 baud modems and upgrading to 14.4 and the need to turn off the speaker when you’re connecting late at night.  The sound of modems synchronizing could wake up the entire house.  That – if you did get connected.  Otherwise, it was the busy signal.

Of course, we didn’t focus on the busy signal – we focused on the handshake noise, being the nerdy types we are.

The futurist / insightfulness in us noted that today’s youth would never hear that sound.  Or a teletype machine.  Or a rotary phone.

It seemed to me that this sort of nostalgia is just the type of thing that someone would create a web resource for.  Just so that longtimers like me could relive our youth and be thankful for what we do today!

And there is one!

It’s the Museum of Endangered Sounds!

Crank up your speakers and enjoy.  We’ve come a long way, baby.

OTR Links 07/23/2014


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

What’s Old is New Again


I keep an eye on links to my blog posts.  Sadly, most of the time, it’s just to get rid of garbage links and stupid spammer comments.  But, periodically, it turns into gold.

That happened this morning.

An incoming link from the post “YEP, ABOUT FIVE SECONDS” led me to a recent post from Philip Cummings.  He had made reference to a post that I had written “YOU HAVE ABOUT FIVE SECONDS…” in which I talked about my procedure for determining whether or not I would follow back someone who had followed me.  In his post, Philip lays out his criteria for following back.  It’s an interesting read.

But…it wasn’t that that inspired this post.  At the bottom, he indicated that this particular post was a “Pomodoro Post“.  I’d never heard the term before so decided to check it out.  

It brought me full circle to a discussion from years and years ago.

At the time, I had a superintendent who had done considerable research about time management and passed it along to us to help us become more effective.  Now, he was at the top of the academic food chain and so could close his door during the workday to work on projects on his own terms.  I couldn’t/didn’t.  

My door was always open (when I was in the office) and there were always people dropping in.  Looking for help, wanting to share an idea, teacher who was at someone else’s workshop and wanted a break, needing access to some of my technology, or the director who would come down three floors to grab a cup of coffee since my drip machine did a better job than the machine in the cafeteria.  Time management seemed to be beyond my control – at least at work.

My superintendent was an advocate of what Philip describes in his post.  Instead of the formal 25 minutes, he described productivity in terms of chunking pieces of time while on task.  It was an effective way to take control when working at home in the evenings, I used the techniques when delivering workshops, and we also used the principles when we helped move teachers to 75 minute class periods.

Quite frankly, it was more or less an informal timing discipline.

In his post, Philip talks about using a time tracker to keep him on task.  In this case, he uses Tomatoes to get the job done.  

Reading the research and playing around with the timer brought back a deja vu moment for me.  Thanks, Philip.

It was interesting to see the principle applied to blogging.  For you bloggers who happen to be reading this, do you need a time management tool or technique to become more productive?  What do you think?  Will Tomatoes do it for you?

OTR Links 07/22/2014


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Where in the World?


I love geography guessing / discovery applications.  My latest fascination is GeoGuessr.  

It’s humbling.  It reaffirms how little I know!

Like many in this genre, you’re given a map image and your job is to identify the location.  What could be easier?

Well, I never said I was good…

Although sometimes I do have a clue!

“The World” is a big place and makes for really tough puzzles.  When you scroll down, there are some localized puzzles to solve.  I had a great deal of fun with the “Famous Places” section.

OTR Links 07/21/2014


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

About Programming Languages


The closing keynote speaker at the CSTA Conference was Michael Kölling who shared with us some of his thoughts about where CS Education was headed. "What’s Next for CS Education: Thoughts on Topics, Tools, and All the Rest". You should know Michael from Greenfoot and BlueJ.  His talk was very engaging and one of his visions has really stuck with me.

I wish that his presentation was online because it wouldn’t do justice if I tried to recreate a chart that he drew about programming languages. 

Basically, on an X-Y grid he mapped out our current selection of programming languages.  He distinguished between “block” languages like Scratch and “text” languages like Java.  One of the differences, of course, is in the environment.  In his presentation, he argued that we need a new language that fits somewhere in between and demonstrated what it might look like in an ongoing project.

My first reaction was – great – something new that I would have to learn.  But I stuck through with his argument and could see where he was headed. 

If you’ve ever debugged and looked for that elusive semi-colon, you might jump right on board.

On the other hand, if you’ve looked up and down for the proper graphical structure, you might jump on board as well.

Stepping back, it is important to consider the student.  For a long time now, we’ve seen success in making a student’s first programming language graphical in nature.  It’s more of a “work on the algorithm” than “learn the language” approach.  Ultimately, the assumption is that not all block programmers will become great text coding professionals.  The goal is to teach an appreciation for problem solving by computer.  And yet, there will be those who want to study everything.

You can’t help but think about the gap.  The interested student will ultimately reach the end of the line for programming in a block language and will need to dive into the deep end full of semi-colons.  There really is no transition.

Could a new language, filled with the best of both worlds, be the answer?

OTR Links 07/20/2014


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.