Category Archives: Read/Write Web

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.

Social Media Personality


Yesterday, I read this article from The Next Web “What type of sharer are you? Understanding your social media personality“.  It was pretty deep; I never have really thought that deeply about it.  Personally, I always thought that I was using social media to grow professionally by writing, reading and sharing, and learning from the wisdom of others.

Perhaps it was getting involved with computers so early in life but I’ve always had the healthy understanding that I can never stay on top of things.  It brings a smile when I read the profiles of others who self-classify themselves as “experts”.  They’re far more dedicated and educated than me. 

I have a reading/learning routine and all that I need to do is spend a bit of time working at it daily.  In the article, they make reference to a University of Winchester study that identifies 12 social personality types.  (Along with an interesting infographic)  I can see pieces of myself in most of the profiles!

I did read the article through a few times to really digest it.  I did find it fascinating and could see the descriptors fitting many of the folks that I interact with online.

The article includes a link to a survey that lets you respond to a number of scenarios and then summarizes your social personality.

It was fun.  I took it and totally agreed with the results.  I took it again, got different results and totally agreed with the new results.  As I wondered why, I took a step back from the survey and realized that I wasn’t consistent across the platforms that I use regularly.  I use Twitter differently than I use Facebook which is different from how I use Google +.  Is it sophisticated in the types of audience or can I just not get my act together?

I know the answer that I’d like to think best describes things.  Regardless, it is interesting and I found the original article and survey pretty insightful.  Give it a read and a try.  The results will get you thinking.

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?

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.

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.

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.

Unexpected Blogging Benefits


One of the categories in my Zite reading list is “Blogging”.

The stories that get gathered typically talk about how to make money blogging but every now and again, there is an article that helps with my own reflection for doing what I’m doing here.  I need to be very clear here – I don’t make money doing “Off the Record”, it’s just a hobby that lets me write to share whatever thoughts that I might have at any particular time.

I’m probably not consistent.  If you were to do a fact check, I may contradict myself and do a complete 180 from a post that I had written previously.  I like to think of that as refining my learning and thoughts.

Given all this, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that I’d spend some time reading this post – “5 Unexpected Benefits That Happen Naturally When You Blog Frequently“.

Photo Credit: Annie Mole via Compfight cc

From the article, I’ve distilled the 5 benefits and commented on each.

Your creativity will go into overdrive.

I never really thought about this.  I guess that it is true.  Without creativity, one could only imagine that you’d be blogging about the same thing over and over.  So, creative it is.

You will become a master of time management.

There’s no question about this.  A typical post can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours, depending upon its complexity.  I’ve mentioned it many times, I find that I’m often thinking about a blog post while walking the dog.  He’s very patient and really enjoys it when it takes a long time to put things together.  It means for longer walks for him; but when we get home, it allows me to just sit down and write!

You will become more relevant, noticed and trusted on your social media sites.

I do agree with the concept of being noticed.  One of the things that eventually came to me was a willingness to go with the flow.  I was frustrated at one point that a blog post didn’t generate replies on the blog itself.  It was only by stepping back and seeing that folks were commenting on Twitter, Facebook, Google +, retweeting, sharing, +1ing.  By actually following references to the blog on Twitter, I could see that people were sharing it with others.  “Notice” can mean more than what you think.

You will inadvertently start a business, which you probably didn’t intend to do.

This hasn’t happened yet.  Any ideas about how to make Doug rich?  <grin>

You will help your SEO, even if you don’t understand how SEO works.

This wasn’t something that I thought about but it does make a great deal of sense.  There was a time, in the beginning, when I couldn’t find my blog at all when doing a Google search.  Now, it’s easy.  What’s ultimately cool (or stupid when you think about it) is to do research about a topic and get a hit that points back to my blog because I’ve already written about it.

Bonus:

I think I’d like to add a bonus point

You will try different writing styles.

There are many blogs that I read that are so predictable in format and style.  They start the same, build the content in the same way, post after post, throw in a gratuitous piece of clipart and call it a post.  In fact, there’s at least one blog that I read that evaluates software on a daily basis.  It’s quite obvious that the author often doesn’t even run the software – just writes a post talking about how great it is.  One of the things that I do and can assure you that I do, is install and give any piece of software a fair shakedown before blogging about it.

I try different layouts, approaches to writing, and even try to use my own sense of humour when writing.  You’ll be the judge as to the effectiveness of the approach.  I just can’t imagine writing the same stuff, the same way, every day.  It comes as no surprise to me – when I install a piece of software, I’ll deliberately NOT install any templates that come with it if I can.  I like to figure out stuff by myself.

That was an interesting collection of thoughts about frequent blogging.  Could you see that happening for yourself?  Would the benefits be there for your students?  Think of blogs that you read regularly.  Does this apply there?

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Canadianize the Internet


So, yesterday was Canada Day.  It was a great day at the Ice Cream Festival at Toddy Jones Park and the events at Fort Malden.  Of course, there were the fireworks over the Detroit River to end the day.  The organizers always do it up nicely for our town.  Our Member of Parliament, Member of Provincial Parliament, and Mayor were all there for the opening ceremonies.  Free flags for everyone and lots of red and white everywhere.

So, quite frankly, with the whole day devoted to festivities, I didn’t have much time to do much learning.

Except for one thing….

There were lots of uncharacteristic shows of nationalisms in blog posts and news articles.  Of course, where the posts allowed for replies, there were some bashing messages but it was too nice a day to spend much time on it.

At the bottom of a Canada.com message, there was a link to this post – “It’s time to Canadian the Internet“.  It was a lead to a Google Chrome extension that will “fix” web pages so that they generate Canadian spelling for words.  Imagine an internet without “color” that now properly spells it “colour”!

It’s cute and kept me interested for a while.

So, a quick before and after shows how it works…

BEFORE

“But more than simple words and phrases, the Canadianize the internet extension will also replace the Yankee -or words with our more favourable -our endings. Their -er word endings will come back to our -re endings. Honor will become honour. Labor will become labour. And meters will once again be metres.”

AFTER

“But more than simple words and phrases, the Canadianize the internet extension will also replace the Yankee -or words with our more favourable -our endings. Their -er word endings will come back to our -re endings. Honour will become honour. Labour will become labour. And meters will once again be metres.”

All in good fun, right?

There’s actually a lesson there. 

We’ve all read about the dangers of connecting to open internet access in public places.  Here’s a perfect example of communications being intercepted and replaced without fanfare.  Spelling is just a small example but if that can be done here, what else is possible?

OK, this is getting too deep for a holiday post.  Signing off….

Don’t Let The Good Stuff Go Away


As the school year comes to the end, I thought that I would share the post below.  It’s abot one of my favourite blogging utilities – BlogBooker – and how it’s so useful as things wrap up.  It’s a great way to archive a year’s worth of blogging to share with students, parents, post to your classroom wiki – all in the name of backing up and making a record of this year’s work.  Plus, it can serve as inspiration for next year’s blogging efforts.  There’s nothing like a good example.

As it turns out, when I went looking for this post, I’ve mentioned BlogBooker many times.  You can see all the references here.

Here’s the “Post from the Past” that I’d like to bring forward today.  The original post is from June 26, 2013.


This is another “Post From The Past” that is very appropriate given that we’re approaching the end of the school year here in Ontario.  You and/or your students have been blogging all year.  Will you just abandon your efforts?  Or, will you make a copy of it to save, use as an example, email to parents, give to students to keep, or use for any other of a myriad of purposes?

BlogBooker is an awesome service.  It will take the entire contents of your blog (with a little work) and create a PDF file that you can tuck away or otherwise repurpose so that you don’t lose the effort that went into it’s creation.  Here from August 22, 2010 is my post “To do more with your blog“.

Hey, you might even want to turn it into “A Flipping Blog“!

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Yesterday, George Couros asked for a little input through a Twitter message.

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My first reaction what that this might be a step backward in the goal of integrating technology for students.  After all, if you have a blog, why would you want to revert to a newsletter format?  In its simplest format, it could be a paper document that’s sent home to parents.

But then, I started thinking.  There are a lot of reasons why it might be desirable to have a blog in newsletter format.  Some that immediately come to mind are:

  1. Not every parent has internet at home for any of a wide variety of reasons;
  2. The blog might be private with only student access for privacy concerns;
  3. Access to blogs might be blocked at school but the teacher blogs from home;
  4. The principal of the school wishes to have paper generated for whatever reason;
  5. The blog might be part of a project where a culminating document detailing everything is desired;
  6. The blog is reset for a new year or new unit or
  7. You just want a copy of your blog in another format …

Yes, upon further review, I can see where there may be reasons for a blog to be in a different format for a specific use.

I think that the other thing about a solution would be that it needs to be easily re-purposed by a teacher to the differing format.  Typically, blogs have considerable effort in their creation and who has the time for yet another creation?

I then thought about BlogBooker.  I had blogged about its use in the past here.  At that point, I was thinking about using it as a way to create a backup for a blog or a permanent record of thoughts.  I’ve actually used it to create a couple of backups of my entire blog.  It works very easily when I want a book of everything (including the graphics and pictures that I embed in posts) but would it do the trick on a more flexible basis?

The procedure is pretty easy.

  1. Export your blog content from your blog  (it’s in XML format but most people wouldn’t care or need to care about the format);
  2. Upload the content to Blogbooker;
  3. Wait a minute of two;
  4. Download your book in PDF format.

Conceivably that PDF could be filed away for posterity or printed if it absolutely had to be.

But, what about content of a shorter duration?  I never really paid close enough attention when I did the steps above to see if it was customizable.  So, I went through the process and actually paid attention this time.

Now, I use WordPress as my host and so went to my dashboard and the export tool.

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Well, I’ll be.  There are configuration options!  I can set a start and end date.  In terms of the content, I could choose just the posts or all content.  I’m thinking that just the posts would suit my needs best.  Click on the “Download Export File” button and it’s on my hard drive.  That was easy.  The only limitation that I could see was that the export was done month by month.  Probably not a big issue as the newsletter might well be a monthly one.

Now, it’s over to BlogBooker.

Step one is to let BlogBooker know what type of Blog this comes from.  It supports WordPress, Blogger, and LiveJournal.  That’s a good selection.  Then comes the WOW moment.  There are a huge collection of formatting options for the output.  The preferences are customizable for any purpose.  I elected NOT to use “Footnoted Links” because my blog entries have a great deal of links in them.  If the ultimate goal is to send it to a printer, then you’re not going to want each entry on a separate page, I hope.

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Give BlogBooker a few moments and voila!  There’s the nicely formatted book in PDF format that you can download or view right in your browser.  I really like the fact that I could customize further the start/finish dates of the publication and the images are intact.  I really like the concept and it was so simple to do.  Plus, the headers and footers put a nice finishing touch on the whole product.

It even includes pumpkin shirts!

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Thanks, George, for the question and the opportunity for me to revisit this very powerful application.  Thanks, also to Aviva and Peter for keeping the conversation going.