Another #BIT14 Visualization


After Saturday’s post about Tweetbeam, I received a note from a former student of mine, @JeffClark who invited me to try his Twitter visualization program.

So I did!

Jeff’s done a bunch of visualizations at his Neoformix site.  He calls his Twitter search visualization Spot.

I fed it the hashtag #bit14 and sat back to watch.  I do enjoy a good visualization and I wasn’t disappointed here.

In fact, he visualizes the data a number of different ways.  Your visualization is selected by the icons on the top of the screen.

 

Banner View

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Timeline View

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User View

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Word View

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Source View

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Group View

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I’ve captured the above images real sized and let WordPress resize them for your browser.  Use your local browser to view the original image if you’re interested in seeing it.

Complete descriptions about the views are contained on the page Introducing Spot on the Neoformix site.

I’m glad that Jeff dropped by to remind me of his work.  Visit the Neoformix site if you’re interested in more details about this project or any of the others that have been created.

In the meantime, I hope that you enjoy another way to visualize the buzz leading to the #BIT14 conference.

The Web Behind The Web


This is just cool.

In the beginning, browsing the web just is magic.  You go to a webpage and you get stuff.

As you become a sophisticated user and reader of technology, you know that there’s far more to it than that.  As you become even more sophisticated, you might even start to ask “How did they do that?”  Or, “What technologies are happening on their side?”

Often, you can scroll to the bottom of the page and you’ll get a hint “Proudly hosted by ….”  or “This page made by ….”

There usually is more than that.  And, what of a website that doesn’t self-identify?

For the truly curious or for a little/lot of education of the web behind the web, turn to Wappalyzer.

Wappalyzer is an extension that reveals just what’s behind your favourite website. 

So, now you can know.

Install the extension and keep your eyes on the URL window.

For example, this blog is hosted at WordPress.  What besides WordPress is running?

Quite a bit, it seems!

Ignore the Shareaholic (green) icon on the left of the string of icons.  Everything else was discovered running on the server.

Mouse over an icon to reveal the details or click in the area to get details about them all!

Now you indeed know!

I’ve been using this hosting service for quite a while and I certainly didn’t.

 

A Visual Way to Follow Hashtags


As the summer starts to come to an end, Ontario Educators are thinking about back to school and, hopefully, the excitement that will happen the first of November at the Bring IT Together Conference.  November 5-7 in Niagara Falls – plan now to be there!

The discussions and pre-conference buzz has been spreading via the hashtag #BIT14.  Please join in and follow the hashtag.

Follow the hashtag…that’s a technique that every Twitter user needs to know.

And there are so many ways to do it.  If you click the link I just created above, you’ll get text display in chronological order.  It’s a terrific way to stay up with the latest, as they flow in.

Recently, I found another way to follow a hashtag and it’s my current addiction.  Screensaver-ish, it’s just fascinating.  You set it once and then sit back as it pulls in Twitter messages containing the hashtag of interest and a visual to go along with it.

The utility is Tweetbeam.  And, the #BIT14 hashtag display can be found here.

The feed is currently fueled by our social media expert, @mcguirp so I waited until a Twitter message from him popped up to grab the screen.  He’s doing such a great job creating and maintaining the buzz.  It just seemed to be the right thing to do.

So, on your to-do list today.

  1. Check out and contribute to the discussion about the conference – #bit14
  2. Check out Tweetbeam and see if you don’t get engaged with following this or any other hashtag of interest!

Popcorn Tour of Essex County


I’ve heard many reasons why students aren’t allowed to create movies in class …

  • installing the video creation software takes up too much room on the image;
  • we don’t have licenses for all students;
  • movie making is reserved for this course;
  • our computers don’t have enough hard drive space;
  • we’ve got to constantly apply updates for bug fixes;
  • <fill in your own>

It results in frustration from the need to put together digital resources and to present them as a movie.

If that’s the case, or you want to get an easy to use, fully functional cloud based creation tool, you need to check out Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker.

It’s got most of the functionality that you need to create your content – layers, timeline, transitions, scrubber bar, preview in the environment, the ability to import created content from a wide variety of sources …

To kick the wheels, I decided to make a video promoting Essex County.  Well, sort of…

I figured the four cornerstones would be Windsor, Amherstburg, Leamington, and Belle River.  (Sorry, Stoney Point)

As I looked at the sources available (Popcorn calls them Events), a couple immediately caught my eye…  Google Maps and a Flickr search.

So, I created a separate layer for each municipality’s map using Google Maps.  Double clicking in the window presented lets you zoom in and move around to get things positioned just the way you want them to be.  Images are randomly generated from a search of Flickr for the community.  Of course, you can upload your own but I thought this was an interesting concept and it worked so quickly.

Once a layer has been created, objects can be moved or stretched on the timeline.  As you would expect, the layers themselves can be ordered after the fact.  I had complete freedom to mix and match.  I started with an idea and it kept evolving as I experimented.  There was nothing in Popcorm Maker to slow me down.

Of course, you need a title and a good kiosk program just runs a continuous loop.  Literally, within five minutes, I had created my first movie!

Creating and logging in with a Mozilla Persona unlocks additional features like bringing in YouTube movies for remixing or the ability to permanently save your efforts in the cloud.  This really did generate some wow at my keyboard.

After playing around with Popcorn Maker for a while, I could easily see how it addresses the issues above. 

If your students have a browser and internet access, that’s all that’s needed to start to create productions from their efforts.  This is the real deal.

Where Do I Start; Where Do I Go Next?


Do an internet search for “Programming Languages” and it can be so intimidating.

Even for someone who has been programming since Mr. Cook’s class in Grade 11.

Can you imagine how it must feel for someone who just fell off the turnip truck and decided that they wanted to learn to program?  We’ve got your front ends; your back ends; your desktops; your mobiles; your databases; …

Where do you start?  What if you have some skills and are looking for next step?

Bento tries to help out by putting together a pretty big collection of places to look.

I started looking at the recommendations and found myself nodding in agreement.

I liked the progression and the colour coding for front end, mobile, etc.

But as I scrolled down, I started to gulp.

It’s a big world out there!  I thought I had mastered this after learning Fortran and COBOL.

How wrong can you be?!

Python with Ease


For many, Python is the programming language of choice for use in the classroom.  Why?

There have been many ways to get at Python and make it successful.  As mentioned previously, and it will come up with any computer science teacher, there’s nothing like a silly missing semi-colon to drive the introductory programming student crazy.  In many cases, people will introduce Scratch or Alice as an introductory language since building with blocks overcomes this situation.  The programming concepts are great for those getting started.

But, not well enough to base an entire secondary school program around them.

After playing with trinket.io, I think this may be a good logical next step.  It’s designed to present a Python programming environment right in your browser.  There’s no need to put in a call to technicians for installation and updates to the latest version…you’ve got it all here.

To get a sense of the trinket environment, check out their “Hour of Python“.

Everyone is familiar with programming turtles in your language of choice.  Why not do it here?

The concept in the tutorial is not one of exhaustive typing; you’re presented with the contructs and can modify and run right your efforts from the webpage.  The examples are simple enough to introduce the Python essentials and lend themselves to a bit of exploration to see what you can do.

Give it a shot and see if it doesn’t present the type of environment that you want for your class?

If so, the next step is to put it into your class environment.  You’re covered there as well.

Voting Without Machines


As it would happen, I ended up in a discussion of my Computer Science course at the university.  One of the topics was about classroom placement practice and how frustrated one of the students were.  Their associate wanted to try those clicking devices in their class but they “weren’t a computer expert” so they asked the student to figure it out and show them.

This results in a panic email to me and so we went back and forth to eventually get things installed and configured on the student’s laptop.  She demoed and tried it the next day with mixed results.  The ultimate solution was to have the students put their heads down on their desk and raise their hand to “vote”.  Tallying was done with a manual count and results displayed on the chalkboard.  It was hardly an elegant solution but it did work.

In today’s world of BYOD, the situation is different.  Students can vote using a number of online solutions.  But, what if not everyone has a device?  Is there an intermediate solution?  It turns out there is – it’s an application called Plickers.

All that you require is a teacher with a device with the software installed – like an iOS or Android device – and the students have a printed card.  When it comes time to “vote”, students hold up their card and the device reads and records the results.

Well, I just had to try that out here in the lab.

I downloaded the application to my phone and then went to the Plickers site to get a card.  If you want, you can purchase cards from them or print yourself a set of cards downloaded in PDF format from their website.

Then, I need my class.  That’s a little difficult since I have a staff of one and he has difficulty holding the card since he doesn’t have an opposable thumb.  And, he only understands one question “Do you want to go for a walk?”.  If the truth be told, he didn’t really need the card.  A tail wag suffices!

But, we survived.  Results were 100% each time he was queried.

Actually, the complete steps from the Pickers website are:

How to Use Plickers

  1. Download the Plickers app for your Android or iOS device
  2. Print or order Plickers cards to use with your students
  3. Create a class on Plickers.com
  4. Add a question on your mobile app
  5. Scan student responses
  6. Review data
  7. Repeat!

It’s an interesting concept.  Is anyone using Pickers?