Category Archives: Computers

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.

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?

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.

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?

Hunting for Code


At the CSTA Conference, Alfred Thompson sent this Twitter message.

Later, he blogged about his thoughts……My Big Learning at CSTA 2014 Day 1–Not From A Session

Based on his first quote, I headed over to the Code Hunt site and started poking around.  It’s very intriguing.  If you follow the link and end up at the CSTA contest, you’ll find that it’s closed.  If that’s the case, click on “Change Zone” and navigate away.

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You have your choice to play in Java or C#. 

The game boils down to this…you’re given a section of code and output table. 

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“All” you have to do is look at the code that you’re given and modify it so that the expected result is the same as your result (based upon modifying the code).

It was great fun.  You log in with a Microsoft or Yahoo! ID so that your attempts are captured.  It’s addictive.  I dropped by their booth, talked with the Microsoft folks and got a first hand demo.  In addition to the puzzles that they present (and there are lots of them), teachers can create their own for their class.

How’d I do?  Well, quite frankly, I wasn’t eligible since the instructions indicated that you had to be from one of the 50 states so that put a bit of a damper on my enthusiasm at the moment.  There were a lot of really sharp people at the conference so I wouldn’t have stood a chance anyway had I been eligible.

Regardless, if you’re a Computer Science teacher or a programmer in a bit of a challenge for yourself or friends, make sure you check it out.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Sure, it’s summer, but at great time for reading and blogging…check out these from Ontario Edubloggers.


Can You Change Someone Else’s Belief?

Jennifer Aston tries to answer this question as a result of her summer reading.

It’s a good question and one that I suspect some administrators expect from a successful coach.  Of course, if it was completely possible and successful, all educators would have the same beliefs.  Are we not richer by our diversity of ideas?  Would a better question not be “Why would we want to change someone else’s belief?” or “Could we not build on the strength of our current belief?”

Understanding what can and can not be done, it seems to me, is one of the powerful strengths of a coach.


Everything I Know And Do On Social Media I Learned From My Students

It was the title that had me hooked to read this post from Royan Lee.

I suspect that the title was written with a bit of tongue in cheek but the points that he argues most certainly are refined by interaction with students.

It is an enjoyable read and does make you think.


If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, How Many Lessons is That?

I can’t remember which racetrack it was but with two minutes to post time, marching music would play over the in house audio.  As an observer of human nature, I was amused with how the music would inspire people to get up and get in line to place wagers if they hadn’t already.

We experience music all over the place.  We experience sounds all over the place.  At the CSTA Conference, I was walking into the hotel – now you have to know that we were in the heart of St. Charles with wonderful Chicago traffic and noises somewhere.  And yet, this robin was sitting in a tree just singing her heart out.  Both my wife and I stopped in our tracks – it was in the middle of a driveway and so some traffic stopped as well – and we just listened to her.  There’s something so wonderful about hearing nature singing in that setting.

That’s the point of Rob Ridley’s post.

The question is – why not?  It can be so relaxing and non-distractive.

Of course, our recording would have been interrupted by the jerk who honked his horn and gestured for us to get moving from the middle of the driveway.  We did but the robin had left by the time we got safely to the side of the road.


Canadian Canoe Museum Paddle Found!

This post isn’t from my usual list of Ontario Educators but it just flowed so nicely from Rob’s post that I felt compelled to do it.

If you’re going out recording, keep your eye out for paddles!


The Void

Robert Hunking asks the questions that many of us bloggers do all the time.

Regardless, I hope that he can answer in the affirmative.  It’s sad when you see reflective or commentary blogs go away.


I really do hope that you can take the time to support the above bloggers with a quick link to their blog post.  I’m sure that they’ll appreciate it.  Check out the complete list of Ontario Edubloggers here.  And, if you’ve started a blog this summer for whatever reason, add the link in the form so that we can all enjoy it.

The TechCorps


One of the really bizarre things is that, while the use of technology is omnipresent (and growing), the number of students taking Computer Science courses is actually decreasing.  As a Computer Science educator, that really concerns me.

Ultimately, it will mean that the end user has a smaller and smaller impact on the direction technology takes.  You experience it now.  Install a new piece of software or upgrade some and you’re presented with terms and conditions and privacy invasions written by someone else.  Your choice?  Take it or leave it.  Wouldn’t it be better if we actually knew the implications completely and, in some cases, write our own application rather than conceding rights to someone else?

I know it’s probably unrealistic but I don’t think that we can overlook the need for education so that students know about these things and have the skills and knowledge to make intelligent decisions about their use.

At the Computer Science Teachers Association Conference, one of the sessions that I proctored was “CS Education for Early Learners (Techie Club)” and I had the honour of meeting Aung Nay and Lisa Chambers from Tech Corps.

Tech Corps is a non-profit whose goal is to hack away at the problem of getting young students involved in Computer Science through Techie Camps and Techie Clubs.  It’s a marriage between students and community volunteers to provide the opportunity and insights into Computer Science.  Both Aung and Lisa spoke with a passion for their project.  It’s limited in location right now but it’s worth check out their goals and what they offer.  http://hadron.techcorps.org/  

This is an initiative that needs to grow.  It’s good for kids; it’s good for the community; it’s good for Computer Science.

Some statements from their website…

What We Know

  • Computing careers consistently rank among the top 10 fastest growing occupations in the US. The US Dept of Labor estimates that by 2020 there will be more than 1.4 million computing-related job openings. At current rates, however, we can only fill about 30% of those jobs with US computing bachelor’s grads.
  • As the role and significance of technology has grown, the teaching of computer science in K-12 has faded. Since 2005, the number of US high schools offering rigorous computer science courses has fallen from 40% to 27%.
  • Today’s students are the most tech-savvy generation ever, yet many have no interest in technology-related degrees or careers. 96% of teens reported “liking” or “loving” technology but just 18% indicate an interest in pursuing a technology career.
  • Girls, African-American and Hispanic students are avid users of technology, but they are significantly underrepresented in its creation. In 2008, women held 57% of all professional occupations in the US workforce but only 25% of all professional IT-related jobs.

These things should concern us all.

Three To Try


“Summer’s here and the time is right for’…

…trying out new software.

Whether you’re taking an AQ courrse or just looking for new software or ideas for the fall, you owe it to yourself to take a look at these three great Ontario developed resources.  All have been used here and I can see absolutely great uses for them.

Cube for Teachers

Cube for K-12 Teachers is a repository for teachers that went live in Beta the first of October.  While the opening screen indicates that the resource will ultimately be available to all Canadian teachers, at present registration is limited to Ontario teachers.”

Originally reviewed on this blog here.

Nkwiry

“Brian Aspinall’s latest production is called nkwiry.  nkwiry is a very classroom friendly social bookmark curating service.  There are many similar services on the web but they do require some involved account creation and then a bit of work (read explaining grown up sevices to students and the frustration therein) to get started before you can enjoy some success.”

Originally reviewed on this blog here.

Scrawlar

“From the fertile mind of Brian Aspinall, comes a collaborative word processor option for those that don’t need the high-end, high-powered options.  He’s called it Scrawlar.  Think of it as a word processor with just the right number of tools.”

Originally reviewed on this blog here

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This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It’s summer time but the blogging doesn’t stop!  Here’s some of the things that caught my reading eye this week.


Storify: CaneLearn summit for K-12 Online & Blended Learning

This past week was the CANeLearn Summit in Toronto.  While I couldn’t be there, the next best thing is to keep an eye on those who were fortunate enough to go and share their learning.

Fortunately, Alanna King got to go and she created a Storify of the thoughts and sharing coming from the event.


Using Social Media as a Teaching Tool

I like how Kristen Wideen has shared her philosophy of using Social Media.  More than that, there’s a great message in the title of this post.  Social Media is not a pedagogy; as she notes, it’s a Teaching Tool.

It’s good teaching that makes all the difference in the world.  Social Media easily extends the reach beyond the classroom.  Read on to find out at least one benefit of being connected.

A few weeks ago we were working on writing a persuasive letter.  I wanted to make this an authentic task so as a class, we brainstormed a list of things that we could persuade our principal to buy or let us do.  My students agreed that they wanted to persuade our principal into buying us a bird feeder to put outside our observation window.  My students came up with the idea to post the letters on their blogs and then tweet them directly to our principal on Twitter.  Students tweeted their letters and got responses from not only the principal.  We received a bird feeder and birdseed on behalf of our Director of Education, a bird house that one of our students made and a humming bird feeder from my mom.

The classroom teacher will tell you that the bird feeder is chump change in the big scheme of things.  Read past the bird feeder to see the process followed and how social media facilitated the process.  That’s where the huge value lies.


Learning Something New

Angie Harrison describes nicely the process of inquiry to lead into this post.

Then, she turns the tables.  She wants to take on some personal learning – crocheting – using the same principles as in her classroom.  Where do you turn to learn in the 21st Century?  How do you learn?  Check out how she’s approaching things this summer.


Is Fear Good or Bad? “21st Century Learning” and #edtech Can’t Make Up Its Mind

Royan Lee takes on the concept of fear and addresses a couple of things that we seem to take as given…

He’s promised not to talk this way anymore.  In the post, he explains why…

I hope to follow up this discussion with Royan at the BringITTogether Conference.  By that time, he’ll be a few months into a new gig and will the opportunity to deal with this first hand.


I Dream Of Desks

So, Aviva Dunsiger got a chance to visit her new classroom for the fall and now she’s dreaming of desks.  The things that makes teachers old before their time!

In all my teaching career, I think the only time I fretted about desks was the one class of Grade 9 Mathematics that I taught.  I had 35 students packed into my room set for 24.  In the computer science classroom, sitting in one spot consistently just doesn’t happen after the first couple of days, and only then for attendance and learning names.

What I like about the picture that Aviva shared in the post is that she appears to have pretty close to a blank slate.  Once she gets through dreaming or nightmaring about things, she could make it anything that she wants.  More importantly, she can make it whatever works for her and her students.

I hope there’s a followup post coming so that we know how this story ends.


What a wonderful collection of sharing this week.  Thanks, Alanna, Kristen, Angie, Royan, and Aviva.  You’re really demonstrating how to keep the bar set high!

Check out these blog posts and more at the Ontario Edublogger Livebinder.

You Have About Five Seconds…


…to impress me.

I like to learn things.  Daily.

There’s a world of people connected, particularly on Twitter, to learn with.  It’s just a matter of connecting with them.  Unlike the thought in some corners, I don’t spend my entire day online.

But I like to use the time that I do spend online productively.  I value those who take the time to learn and share; share and learn.  I like the interactions.  I like the fact that Twitter will suggest people that I might want to learn with.  I also like the fact that I get notifications when someone new follows me.  For me, that’s all raw data just waiting to be analyzed.  That’s where the five seconds come in.

Now, I have been on interview teams and I’ve been interviewed for jobs many times myself.  I know the importance of making a first impression.  Why wouldn’t it apply here?

Here’s how I gauge that first impression in this media.

When I find a “person of potential interest”, I’ll nip over to their home page and check them out.

This is what I look for when I’m there…

  • Do they have a profile picture that would lead me to believe that they’re serious about this;
  • Have they posted anything recently?;
  • Is what they’re posting/sharing recently consistent with what I want to learn?;
  • Is what they’re posting/sharing recently totally inconsistent with what I want to learn but now I’m intrigued?;
  • Do they have an up-to-date blog?;
  • Are they an Ontario Educator?;
  • Do they look spammy?;

A quick Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, No passes the test.  They’re worthy of following.

Where do they go?  Once I found the joys of a multi-column Twitter browser, I was convinced.  Not everyone needs to go into the big mixing pot of followers.  I can make my life a whole lot easier by creating lists.

I recognize that this is hardly scientific.  But I don’t have the time for an hour-long formal interview!

Notice that I don’t care if they have hundreds and hundreds of posts.  Everyone has to start somewhere.

How do YOU determine whether or not to follow someone?