Category Archives: Computers

I’m 5 Again


One of the things that I used to tell my computer science students was that every program that they create was actually a story. 

You tell the story to the computer and the computer retells parts (or all) of the story back to the user.  I suppose in the kindest of ways, it was a way from deterring from programming as an academic affair from the very beginning.

As we witness programming languages evolve, it’s increasingly appropriate.  Instead of writing programs like tax calculators, we now introduce programming by a more formal approach to story telling.  We manipulate screen objects, set backgrounds, add interactions, etc.  Programming languages like Hopscotch, Alice, Daisy the Dinosaur, Scratch, and Tynker make story telling the heart of programming.  The logic is to introduce students to programming concepts in a fun, easy to manipulate environment.  From there, the level of sophistication, and choice of languages develops a culture of programming. 

With classrooms across the world moving to tablet based programming, it’s so good to see introductory programming languages embracing that environment.  Frequent readers to this blog know that I’ve tried (played) with many of them.  The combination of a familiar environment and a well crafted developmental environment is a formula for success.

This morning, into the mix, comes ScratchJr.

With ScratchJr, young children (ages 5-7) can program their own interactive stories and games. – ScratchJr website

If you’ve used the Scratch Programming language on a PC, the iPad implementation is a breeze.  Download it, load it, give permission for it to use your microphone, and you’re ready to program.

Hit the ? to get an introduction to ScratchJr, learn about the environment, visit a few examples and you’re off to the races!  If you’re a Scratch programmer, you’re so familiar with dragging, modifying, locking, embedding objects to get the job done.  The same concepts apply here.  There was such a flat learning curve for me.  It’s like programming in Scratch – only easier! 

Normally, there would be concerns about a program being “late for the party” but I suspect that won’t be a problem in the case of ScratchJr.  There’s a huge collection of folks who have been using Scratch for years that I’m sure will become big advocates of the program.  I can just imagine copies flying out of the app store.

Scratch has developed such a large online community of users.  The same will happen with ScratchJr.  There will be all kinds of ideas and support available once this happens.  At present, you can follow the discussion on Twitter here.

You can download ScratchJr here.

Digital Citizenship Resources


Common Sense Media serves as a huge repository of resources that addresses many of the curricular needs. 

Like any repository, teachers should use their professional judgement with respect to the resources to ensure that they meets the needs of their curriculum and their classroom.  All of the things like bias, age-appropriateness, etc. need to go into the determination as to the appropriateness of the resource.

One are that many want to address but can find challenges in finding quality resources is the area of digital citizenship.  Can you define what it means in your classroom; never mind a single definition that fits all grades! 

To help the cause, their entire digital citizenship curriculum has been made available as iBooks and freely downloadable through the iTunes store.

If you’re looking for resources of this type, take the time to download and use your judgement as to the appropriateness for your students.

The resources are available for download here.

Verification


For me, it really started in earnest with a slow Bronco chase down a California freeway which was captured live and broadcast to the world.  Since then, there’s such a proliferation of media sources, all trying to be first and exclusive with reporting.  It was a natural spillover to the Internet where people share everything (and anything).  It’s the anything that should be of concern.

For use in workshops about searching and authentication, I had compiled this list of “Sites that should make you go Hmmm“.  It’s interesting to direct students to any of the sites and ask them to do research.  (My favourite is the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus)  It’s all in the sake of online literacy and recognizing that just because it’s on the Internet or Google-able doesn’t necessarily make it true.  Insert a call for digital literacy and a good teacher-librarian here.

Now, we can’t send all media people back to Grade 5 but they can up the ante.  They need to check out the Verification Handbook.

But, I would suggest that this resource is good for everyone. 

It’s uniquely available – it’s 14 bucks through Lulu.  But the authors have also made it freely available under a Creative Commons license from their site.

You can read it online, download it in PDF for a number of different formats.

Check it out – after a read, there should be fewer and fewer reasons for getting caught looking for an octopus in a tree.

Pexels Images


You can’t have enough sources for Creative Commons or free images/pictures.  To the list, I’d like to suggest that you add Pexels.

Their claim is that they host “Free high quality photos you can use everywhere”. All without attribution to the creator.  This is a refreshing approach.  After poking around, there are some very good images to use.  I did my usual search for “house”.

All photos on Pexels are under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means you can copy, modify, distribute and perform the photos. The pictures are free for personal and even for commercial use. All without asking for permission or setting a link to the source. So attribution is not required. All in all the photos are completely free to be used for any legal purpose.

For student purposes, I still think that the first choice should be pictures, images, drawings, screen captures, … that they’ve created themselves but there are times when that’s just not possible.

There isn’t a huge collection – they claim to add 30 every week.  But, the ones that are there are really well done and I would suggest well worth the time to bookmark and search when you don’t have an image of your own to use.

A Tecumseh Trip


Last weekend, we returned from up north and a class reunion.  We’ve made this trip so many times and it doesn’t make any difference what route we take; it always seems to take the same length of time.  Usually, it’s a race to get home but this Sunday was different.  The dog was boarded and we couldn’t pick him up from the Hound Dog Hilton until Monday so there was no real rush.

As we entered Kent County, we saw the familiar signage for the Tecumseh Parkway.  It didn’t take long to say forget the 401; let’s run the Parkway and see the sights.  We’ve stopped at the Tecumseh Monument and the Fairfield Museum in the past but it was a quick stop en route to our destination.

The Parkway follows the Thames River which is absolutely not a straight river.  Throughout the drive, there were “pull offs” where you could stop and read information about the history that happened at/near the spot.  It was fascinating.

When I got home, I decided to do some research and found the wonderful site linked above. 

But there was another incredible resource.  I think that we’ve all seen the use of Google Maps on websites to document locations.  But, I’ll bet that you’ve never seen anything this detailed and inclusive.

Notice all the pin drops.  What a monumental task!

I could kick myself for not having this preloaded on my phone to help with our drive.  This really is a great example of history meeting modern technology.

I’m also thinking that his is a perfect exemplar in the classroom.  Certainly, it’s a great resource for the War of 1812.  But I know that many people use Google maps to document their community or to show historical events. 

Why not use this as a model and an inspiration for inclusion and detail?

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It’s too cold to go outside these past couple of days so people are taking time to blog!  We’re beneficiaries of their thoughts and opinions!


There is a space…

Sheila Stewart is pondering about his quote:

Going back in my mind to university days and psychology courses, I’m not sure that the statement could be taken literally.  But I think that there’s a great deal to think about – particularly in this digital age.  I smiled and thought of my recent post “You have about five seconds…”  In the digital world, I do find myself making decisions quicker – at one point, they might have been tempered by a long walk, but not necessarily now.  Maybe I should up that to six seconds.


Art Busking for Cancer!

Colleen Rose, a frequent blogger on her own Northern Art Teacher blog had an increased presence on Facebook recently.  She’s painting at the Thunder Bay Health Science’s Centre, collecting donations as she goes along, and her painting will be auctioned off at the end – all in the name of fundraising.  Awesome.


How To Create QR Codes To Use In Your Classroom

A few years ago, at EdCampQuinte, I led a session where we discussed the use of QR Codes.  The concept was very new at the time but there were a number of reasons, we decided, that made it worth the time and effort.  Now, they’re everywhere – enter a contest by scanning a code here, see the complete details of a new car by scanning there…  it takes away the necessity of waiting to get online and typing in a URL.  Just scan it and go.

In Belleville, we all agreed that the most painful thing in the world is to watch a primary or junior student type an address on the keyboard and get it right, the first time, and without mistake.  It’s even worse on iOS for young fingers since you have to go to special characters to just get the “/” key.  (not so on Android…)

So, speed and accuracy, are two great reasons.  And the fact that you can place QR Code anywhere makes for instant access as long as you have a QR Code reader.

Kristen Wideen explains how she creates and uses QR Codes in her classroom.

This post is definitely worth a read and share with colleagues interested in codes.  Now, there are so many utilities to help you create QR Codes.  There’s no excuse for not doing it.  Rather than a website, I have an extension in my browser – QRUTILS.com to do the trick for me.  Before and after EdCampQuinte, I had created a Scoop.it resource where I’ve tucked away things that I’ve found helpful.  I’ve added Kristen’s blog post to the resources.


Principals

I can remember when principals where members of Teachers federations and there was no question that they were true teachers in the profession.  I was so fortunate, having had three principals at my school and then a couple of supervising principals later on, to have worked with some of the best educators that I know.  Either that or they left me alone to avoid talking about computers.

But, I have seen principals take on different personas when they sit in the chair in the big office.  Some take the budget and spend to get the best resources into the school; some become the ultimate manager of the building; some become single-focused with EQAO within the building; some balance priorities; well, you get the point.  That they’re so diverse should be expected – after all they’re human too.

There were some interesting blog posts surrounding principals this week.

When Principals Meddle

Andrew Campbell takes on the diversity of skills and approaches among principals and questions the professional decision making that teachers are allowed to make.

Can’t We All Just “Get Along?”
Does “Getting Along” Mean That We Have To Agree?

Aviva Dunsiger jumped into the conversation with a couple of her own posts, including a comment from her vice-principal.  She seems to think that there might be some sort of middle ground where everyone “gets along”.

All three blog posts are interesting to read and think about.  I would suggest that anyone who will be taking on a position of added responsibility read and think – what kind of administrator do I want to be, keeping in mind the old adage about pleasing all the people some of the time…and really put a focus on what it’s going to take for true student achievement.


And then, there’s principals learning…

Technology – SAMR for Administrators The Edutopia series
Technology SAMR Model for Administrators – Part 2: Community Interaction The Edutopia Series

Paul McGuire is digging in to how the SAMR model could apply to administrators.

Before moving to any particular tool, Work makes a great point – time is a precious commodity for any school staff and we need to really examine if there are other ways to convey information beyond the traditional (yawn) staff meeting.


Becoming a Google Educator Vice-Principal…

Kelly Power is spending her energies becoming “Googley”, but in an administrative kind of way…

KellyThat’s a lot of Google.


I hope that you get a chance to read all of the above.  Some great resources and thinking from Ontario Educators.  You can check out my entire list here and please, please, if you’ve started your own blog, take a couple of minutes and complete the form so that your blog can be added to the list.

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.

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.