A puzzle to start your day


Here’s a little ditty to get your brain cells working this morning.

It’s called the Hour Maze.

The rules are pretty simple.  You have the numbers 1 through 12 that you have to put into the maze.  Select a number and then click on an empty cell.  In the early levels, you need to use each number twice.  Don’t worry; if you breeze through the early levels, it gets much, much more challenging later on.

The only catch when you’re putting the numbers in place is that they have to be surrounded by a number that would be next to it on a clock face.

Keep in mind that the number 1 is next to the number 12 at the top of the clock.

Isn’t logic fun?

OTR Links 12/08/2016


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

Now, more than ever


Unless you’ve been totally offline, you are undoubtedly aware of the rise of “news stories” where the truth value can range from truthful, kinda close to facts, to outright false content.

The recent US elections has completely elevated this phenomenon.

Some reporting on the fake news just makes me shudder.

This is a fascinating read to take a look inside the spread of such stories.

Now, the concept of media literacy isn’t something that’s new.  It’s something that good computer resource people, teacher-librarians, and others in the know have warned us about for years.

In the beginning, it was relatively simple to spot something false.  I’ve collected a number of resources over the years to illustrate the point.

We’ve used these quite bit with students to help build the skills to determine whether or not something that they read online is to be believed.  Most teachers work on this concept with students to help them sharpen and refine their BS detectors.  It’s easy to extrapolate the “Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus” campaign to our new reality and some of the things that we see today.  But writers have become more sophisticated and trickier in their approach.

It’s easy to speculate why – hoaxes and mistaken things have been around forever.  Who hasn’t heard of the War of the Worlds?  But we live in escalating times.  As we’ve seen, it could be to promote a political agenda, it could be misunderstanding the facts, or it could be that a news reporter has to meet a deadline and so whips something up.  There are probably more reasons but that doesn’t make any of them more palatable or justify their existence to any sane person.

Then, there’s the Facebook deal.  I can recall when services like Compuserve were your one stop location for everything.  I suspect that Facebook wants to be that same sort of thing.  Why have multiple stops for information when you can get it all in one spot?  It’s a great business plan.  But it has to be beyond reproach.

Now, I don’t turn to Facebook as my primary news provider.  (there goes my account)  But, stories can be intrusive and catch my attention.  In my hotel room this past weekend, I was sharing some things with my wife and my eye caught this.

The title and image had just about enough truthful ring to catch my attention.  As my eyes moved down, I saw the source of the story.  I’d never heard of that site before but my knowledge of the online world is so small compared to the big collection of everything.  Then, my BS detector clicked in.  I knew that if I clicked through, I’d get the whole story as written and my computer might get some other things.  So, I turned to my trusted news resources – CBC, CTV, MSNBC, CNN for a verification before trying the link.  Not even a hint of this story.

Needless to say, I didn’t click through.  But I wonder how many people did…

  • they could take Facebook’s approval that it was a legitimate story
  • they could be looking for exactly that sort of “dirt” story
  • they might be political junkies looking for anything political
  • take your best guess as to motive

In the classroom though, it’s a real concern.  What if some student runs into this sort of “research” and uses it as the basis for a paper?

Maybe this is good news – Facebook reportedly testing new tool to combat fake news

I think we all know and realise that media literacy and teaching students and others how to spot things that are less than truthful is an important part of being connected.  Talk to your teacher-librarian for hints and resources.

We need it now, more than ever.

OTR Links 12/07/2016


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

I still can’t draw!


But I try.

This experiment from Google turned me on to just doodling at bit.

Called Quick, Draw!, the application gives you something to draw.

You have 20 seconds to do your best.

As you draw, the application uses machine learning to try and guess what it is that you’re drawing.  Now, the skeptic will say “that’s pretty easy; it told you what to draw”.  If that was it, it wouldn’t be fun.

But it is fun; as you draw, the application “thinks” and when it recognizes something or some pattern, it will give you a hint as to what it thinks you’re drawing.  When the application has it figured out, you’ll get an “Oh, I know…” and shoots you the answer.

You guessed it!  It’s addictive.

When I first played around with this, I was on a laptop and used my trackpad to draw.  This generated some pretty bad trials which improved a bit when I used my mouse to do the drawing.  I’m sure that you know that my first attempts were pretty straight and not terribly well done.  I graduated to my Bamboo tablet and then to the iPad.  With a better device, I was able to do better drawings.  You’ll notice that I never said that I ended up with something good.

But I tried.

The application claims that it learns based upon what you draw and that it uses the same sort of technology that Google Translate does.  Over time, it claims that your drawings will make it smarter.  That’s the key to successful Machine Learning.

I just hope my attempts don’t dumb it down!

It’s fascinating to watch the learning as you draw.  There are definite Machine Learning “Ah hah!” moments when the application gets it.  One object that I had to draw was a crown which ended up looking more like a baseball glove.  But, it was drawing the points that gave it away to Quick Draw!

In the meantime, let your inner artist or your students’ inner artists put it to the test.  It could lead to some interesting discussions about how “smart” computers are and can be – very appropriate for a discussion during Computer Science Education Week.

OTR Links 12/06/2016


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

Where’s your grit?


I was in Baltimore over the weekend and was headed out of the airport when I saw it.  I grabbed my phone and tried to take a picture but the image was huge and I couldn’t do it justice.  I figured that there wouldn’t be a problem and that I could grab an image later online for the purpose of this post.  I could kick myself because I can’t find the image.

What it was was a promotion for UMBC, University of Maryland, Baltimore County.  The message behind the promotion was “Grit”.  In particular, what does grit look like at UMBC.  I took a look at this huge promotion and didn’t catch the whole thing but it was a series of statements describing what grit looked like at UMBC.  I was so impressed with the statements.  If I was in search for a university, I’d certainly consider it.

In doing my hunt for that image, I found that UMBC actually has a House of Grit.

If you click on the yellow button, you can work your way through a series of questions – where the answers help you determine whether you’d fit into their scenarios.

The whole approach blew me away.  I know that schools celebrate their current successes as they happen.

But, what about a bigger, more permanent signage that the visitor to your school sees when they walk into the building.  Think about your entrance way.  What do you see?

Wouldn’t it be powerful if the first thing the visitor sees are examples of grit and what it looks like at the school?