Goodbye Entertainment Pages

This is a very cool, useful utility that I hopes grows and matures just a bit more.  More about that later in the post.

It’s Saturday night and you’re wondering where to go.  Who’s playing in the local bar or in concert?  Well, you could look in the entertainment pages of the newspaper or go online and check one venue or another until you’ve got them all…

Or, you could use DeliRadio.

Just give your location and you’ll be presented with all of the entertainment that it can find within your driving distance.  Now, when I first ran the program, I was disappointed.  The default is 15 miles and all of the locations were from Detroit.  It’s not that a trip there is out of question – I know that there are venues right in the city.  So, I tried again and extended the reach to 125 miles and it did pick up London.

So, it appears that it’s not just United States based.  You’ve got to believe that there’s lots happening in Toronto.


The results returned give you the name of the act and their home.  The next column lets you know the venue and the date where they’ll be playing.  That’s all very handy.

Then, it does get better.  Select the act and then the play button.  By selecting the artist, you’ll get a list of all of the upcoming performances.  By pressing Play, you’ll be able to hear them to see if this is something that works for you.  That beats reading the entertainment pages for sure.

There’s a great deal of “internety” that’s going on here.  First, this is a spectacular use of geo-location technology.  And, of course, there’s just the serendipity of finding a new artist previously unknown.  It might become your new favourite.

Let’s move to education.  I can’t help but think that a similar approach would be great to discover place and locations for student field trips or speakers who wouldn’t mind coming and working with students in classrooms.  How many opportunities are lost because you just don’t know what’s available?


OTR Links 09/30/2013

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

What Computer Science Students Can Learn From Candy Crush Saga

I’ve got to take a break from Candy Crush Saga.  I’m banging my head against the wall on Level 79.  I need to do some new thinking in order to solve this level, I think.

I don’t play a whole lot of games on the iPad but this one caught my eye.  A friend of mine was bemoaning that she wouldn’t be able to play it nearly as much as school got back on track in September.  At the time, I hadn’t heard about it.  I asked my daughter who said that she refused to play because she has friends that are obsessed with it and she wanted to have a life.

I thought I would try it out anyway.  The first few levels were pretty easy.  I mentioned to my daughter that it reminded me a lot of Bejewelled Blitz.  “Maybe at the beginning, Dad, but it gets more difficult and there are new things introduced.”  Hmmm.  Does she really not play it?

It’s the type of game that takes a couple of minutes to play and so I’ll have it next to me in the living room and might try out a level or two during television commercials.  It is an addictive little game – free for the download – and there’s a real sense of satisfaction upon completion of a level.  I view the various levels as puzzles to be solve.  I also play these games with my programming mind switched on and I think there’s just a tonne of things in this game that would be great to discuss with computer science students.

  • The game really is about moving objects around the screen and checking to see if there are at least three in a row.  Four or five in a row or in a particular pattern generate more powerful candies.  It really is just a matrix and you’re checking adjacent cells;
  • Part of the joy of programming is that, when you’re doing something new, you can create your own rules.  There’s no laws in the physical world that says that combining three red candies gives you a red and white striped candy that has its own super actions;
  • Gravity rules – sometimes.  This is the point above extended.  When we hold a tablet, and open space appears, we expect things to drop from the top down.  For the most part, this happens but the rules of gravity get changed at some levels.  Fun to program and yet somehow compelling for the end user;
  • You’ve got to look ahead.  The most obvious next move may not necessarily be the best move.  Sometimes, it’s better to think beyond the next step;
  • If you enjoy programming, your future might not be locked into a cubicle writing business software.  Check out their invitation to join the kingdom.  Is that what you envisioned a job as a computer programmer?
  • Not all games are first person shoot-em-up types.  Not everyone is into that.
  • You can put a dollar figure on your Facebook value.  There comes a time in the game where you need to spend money to immediately proceed or to ask for help from your Facebook friends.  Are your connections worth the cost to buy outright?
  • A good game goes both ways.  Like so many good games for the tablet, Candy Crush Saga plays in both landscape and portrait mode.  What difference will that make in your coding?
  • You need to embrace gestures.  Many of your class programs may wait for input from the keyboard.  Or, perhaps you’re using a mouse for input actions.  Are you prepared to move to a tablet with its swipes and swooping actions?
  • There’s good money to be made from free software!  According to E! Online, Candy Crush Saga makes $850,000 per day.  That’s not bad for a day’s work.
  • Three D is not dead.  Despite the modern user interfaces that Apple and Microsoft promote, check out the candy in the diagram above.  The art of creating 3 dimensional graphics still works!
  • Make sure that you’re writing for all audiences – male, female, young, old – make it devilishly good to attract as many as possible;
  • Randomness is good but also be prepared to look ahead and handle a “no move scenario” as gracefully as you can;
  • Be super particular about your graphics.  Make sure that every pixel is in place for best effects;
  • Never rest on your laurels.  Look to swat bugs as they appear and continue to make your product better.

Computer science, writing software, and supporting it is a true art.  Once students get past the mechanics of the language and make it sit up and dance, they become true programmers.  You can learn a great deal from excellent software.

OTR Links 09/29/2013

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

Fix the Right Thing

On Thursday, Gary Stager shared this post:

LA officials may delay school iPad rollout after students hack them in a week

That brought a smile to my face.  As long as there have been students and computers and IT Departments, there has been this sense of good cop / bad cop.

The good cop spends lots of money and time trying to lock down devices and it’s the role of the bad cop to work their way around the locks to be able to have full access to the computer to do what it was originally intended – be a personal computing device.  The good cop is deeply offended when this happens and will spare no money, time or effort in tracking down the offender and might even invoke new laws to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.


The good cop recognizes the attempts of the bad cop to keep their fingers out of sensitive areas of the computers so that they’re reliably available whenever the teacher wants.  The good cop feels this challenge to be able to apply their abilities to making the world free and open.  The really good cops, once “caught” or voluntarily, will tell the bad cop where they missed the opportunity to do the job properly and explain that no matter what, they’ll never make them perfect for their purposes.

Whichever scenario (or perhaps one of your own), it’s hard to not acknowledge that this battle plays out every day.

In most classrooms.

In the ones where it doesn’t play out, by my experience, it’s because there’s an understanding that there are tasks to perform and the computer is the tool there to assist in the task.  The tasks are genuine and of interest to everyone.  The teacher is an active participant in the classroom, visiting each student as they work.  There really isn’t time or interest to be off task.  Should someone complete the task ahead of time, there’s a culture of working ahead to the next big thing or an opportunity to share expertise with classmates.  There’s a culture of respect for others – and the technology.

So, what can be done to fix things?

You could spend more money on security the computers – but that just increases the challenge and I would suggest will never be completely successful.  All you’re going to do is buy and own a bigger and better club.

Instead – fix the right thing.  You could spend the money on professional learning.  In education, that’s the answer to most things – improve the craft of teaching.  I believe that’s the case here.  But, it’s not the goofy “click here and this happens” type of learning.  It’s time spent working through and creating a project using the tools and making it directly applicable to the classroom.  It’s identifying the skills and abilities needed to engage all of the learners who will have varying computer skills.  The opportunities need to be ongoing and consistent.  You can’t expect that, by installing 100 applications onto an image, a two hour summer workshop will suffice.  Educators need to be connected to each other and those with success stories need to share them far and wide.

And, about those kids…don’t we trust them to get on the bus in the morning?  Don’t we trust them to deliver things from one class to the next?  Don’t we trust them with pens and pencils?  Heck, we even trust them working with machinery in manufacturing classes after proper training.  Why is such a departure in trust in order here?

Back to the original story.  Hopefully, the powers that be find some way to get those devices into the hands of students.  It’s only there that they realize their potential.  Warehousing them until they’re “secure” just doesn’t make sense.  Besides, despite the best attempts, there will always be a good cop (or bad cop) who can defeat it.  It’s only a matter of moments until the technique is shared via social media and everyone who wants to know will know.

Late today, the original story had this followup “Why L.A. Students Hacked Into iPads: District Is ‘Locking Us Out’”  In this case, the going rate for the hack is $2.

p.s. Gary Stager fans in Ontario should mark the calendar for the Western RCAC Symposium.  Gary will deliver the keynote address.

Related Articles