A return to ASCII art


Before there was real computer art, there was ASCII art.  If you’re old enough to remember, it was before printers could draw graphics, pixels, lines, etc.  They did a wonderful job of printing letters and numbers.  And, with artistic abilities you could actually create pictures.  Digital impressionism?

When I read about this feature in Facebook and Instagram, I just had to try it and it really did give me a flashback…

Take any image that you have posted publicly and saved as a .jpg file on the service.  Here’s my choice, this handsome fellow on his way to the beach.

Now, the key is to find the URL to the picture.

Here’s what I did.

In the Firefox browser, I clicked the right mouse button to get the context menu to get the location of the image.

The image ended in .jpg so that was great.  I opened a new tab and pasted the image location there.  The URL is really long and involved so just ignore it and have comfort knowing that your browser knows what it’s doing.

For a black and white image, go to the very end of the URL and add .txt and press enter on the keyboard.  Voila!  Check out how the characters create the image.  It’s nothing short of amazing.  Imagine doing that by design and by hand.

My image was actually really big but a few CTRL – keyboard presses later and it had shrunk to give the ASCII art.  I now have a ghost dog!

There is a second option.  Instead of adding .txt to the image, add .html for a full colour version.

Oddly enough, and I can be odd at times, I can already think of a couple of ways that I may use this technique in the future.

Go ahead and try it.

Thoughts?

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OTR Links 01/31/2016


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

Close only counts…


…in horseshoes.  I remember that from my youth.  It’s a silly expression that today’s youth will probably never appreciate because the horseshoe pit is mostly a memory reserved for old people.  When I was younger though, it was a staple in just about every campground that I can remember.

It was a phrase that I used a great deal teaching computer science as the talk would inevitably get around to being one of precision and having your computer program generate the best possible answer.  It was closely related to the talk about Garbage In, Garbage Out.  GIGO.  They were cute phrases that, at best, made me feel good as the teacher and, at worst, reinforced the age difference between teacher and student.

But precision is an important concept and something that should be checked and rechecked with every program written.  Just because the computer says the answer is this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s right.  Computer science teachers will immediately recognize the look of success that comes once syntax errors have been swatted and the computer actually gives an answer.  Making sure it’s the right answer is another thing…

Yesterday, I ran across this old problem that I’m sure that you’ve seen many times.  “‘Simple’ maths problem stumps Boltonians – can you solve it?

Give the article a read.

Then, head over to Quiz World and see their treatment of the same problem.  There are some great mathematics in the comments.

Depending upon your understanding of basic mathematics, you could get a number of different answers.  I liked the discussion on the original article including how you can get the wrong answer by using a computer.

I’m sure that you’ve seen the articles “10 Things You Didn’t Know Google Could Do”.  One of them is how it can act as a calculator when you enter an expression.  I just had to put it to the test.  How would Google fare?

All right!  Google knows its order of operations.

How about Bing?

You can’t fool the programmers at Microsoft.  Yahoo!?

Winner! Winner! Chicken dinner.  I’m starting to tire but let’s check DuckDuckGo

There’s not an incorrect answer in sight.  And, I’m tired of checking but I am impressed.  It looks like they’re all honouring order of operations and not just solving from left to right.  I did find a couple of seldom used search engines that didn’t do the calculations.  Interesting.

It was also interesting to note how the search engines displayed their results.  DuckDuckGo just gave the answer.  Yahoo! displayed the question and answer in an online calculator.  Google and Bing both provided the answer, a calculator, and put parentheses into place so that you could visualize the order of operations.  That’s a nice touch.

Is it a concession to the fact that everyone uses an algebraic calculator?

I seldom do.

It was Statistics at university and a quiet conversation with Dr. Gentleman who gave me a demonstration of the difference between an algebraic calculator and a reverse polish notation calculator.  I was sold with how many fewer keystrokes that an RPN calculator requires.  I went out and bought myself a Hewlett-Packard RPN calculator and never looked back.  That calculator has long since expired (well the battery anyway) but I have an app installed on any device that I own or there are many online like this one.

Since you’re pushing and popping numbers onto a stack, the concept of a parenthesis key isn’t necessary.  You just need to know your order of operations and away you go.  Today’s sophisticated calculator feature every bit of scientific functionality and graphing that any student could ever possibly need so that bit of mental fun isn’t always there!

Have we lost the need for parentheses?

Certainly not in the computer programming world where you absolutely want to know that the answer you get will be the right one.  And, in the mental problem solving world, if you don’t understand PEDMAS, you’re in for a world of hurt.  Mathematics, Computer Science and Science have made the tools for expressions at least interesting, if not challenging.  Do you know the differences between parentheses, brackets, and braces?  If not, here’s a refresher.

There’s a great deal of thought that goes into being precise but it’s worth it.  Hopefully, our students aren’t satisfied with just being close.

OTR Links 01/30/2016


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

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to another Friday and my week-ending post where I share some of the great efforts of Ontario Edubloggers I’ve read recently.  This week features another great collection of thinking starters for you.  Please read on…


Student-Teacher Bond

Here’s your feel good post to read this week, courtesy of Jamie Weir.

She was inspired by another’s blog post to do some thinking and renewed connections with her own students.

Do they teach stuff like this in teacher’s college?  I know that they sure didn’t when I was a student there.  It was all about learning how to teach the content that we would be using when we “got our jobs”.

Today’s thought – You can paint all you want but if you don’t have a canvas, it’s all wasted time and energy.


WOVEN – 21st Century Communication

Denise Nielsen introduces me to the concept of WOVEN.

It’s an interesting take on understanding contemporary communications.  The goal is to work towards the creation of an infographic.  I think that the result could be extremely interesting and serve as a model for more teachers.  As she says, “stay tuned”.


Seven Great Extensions for Google Chrome

I’m a sucker for blog posts like these.  I don’t have the time or the desire to explore and evaluate every extension/add-on that’s available.  So often, I take the coward’s way out.  I let others do the heavy lifting and I just benefit from their experience.

In this post, Mike FIlipetti shares some of his favourites for Google Chrome.  Now, Chrome isn’t my go-to browser – I prefer Mozilla’s Firefox but so often the extensions/add-ons are available on both platforms.

Sadly, it sounds like he hasn’t evaluated them all either!

Regardless, this is a nice collection and they’re worth experimenting with to see if they fit with your reading flow.  Unfortunately, the list contains Evernote’s Clearly, which according to the recent news and the host site is no longer supported.  That’s really too bad; it’s a very useful tool.


Why Edgorithm?

Education is full of words that have been contrived and, I’m convinced, used to make things difficult for the end user.  In a post on Brian Aspinall’s blog, Enzo Ciardelli explains the thinking behind the creation of the name and the logo.

It’s an introduction to the new resource a few Ontario educators have created to support elementary school coding, Edgorithm.

Their rationale?

If you’re interested in this area of computer science, check it out.  As always, you get more from the resource if you’re contributing back.


Student choice vs. “you are still the teacher”

Kristin Phillips gives us her take about student choice and student voice.

I think she gives a compelling explanation of where voice and choice can be important and yet someone needs to remain in charge in her closing paragraph where she takes the concept to a personal level.

It makes me think, however, about when and where student voice and choice should come into being and how we interpret this as teachers.  It reminds me of parenting.  I always gave my children a choice about the pajamas they wore.  I never gave them a choice about going to bed.

This is a very interesting and well argued post.  It’s definitely worth a read if you’ve read all the arguments for and against and still need another look at the topic.


Your Digital Footprint

I think we’ve all heard the arguments “What do you want to find when you’re Googled?  or Binged?”  “We want our kids and our students to be well Googled.  Or Binged”.

I think it’s a discussion and understanding that all educators need to have.  But you don’t always hear it from all educators, just the informed or paranoid ones.  You seldom hear it from a principal.  But Mark Renaud, a principal, blogs about it and includes references to stories about student acceptance to higher education and the institutes that “Google/Bing” their applicants.

It’s good fodder to have when you hear the argument, “Yah, in theory they could…”

The references are all American.  I’d love to see some Canadian sources addressing the same topic.


The Physical Environment and it’s impact on learning

In this post, Kristy Luker gives us a tour of the Hamilton-Wentworth’s Enrichment and Innovation Centre.  It’s an interesting collection of learning spaces.

It’s part of their gifted program.

Success for an environment like this depends upon someone championing the cause.  I think back to the Technology Learning Centres that my former employer had.  It was a great opportunity for students – in our case all Grade 7 and 8 students got the opportunity to experience learning outside the traditional classroom.  Sadly, when its champions left, the program went away.

I do like the concept of letting students experience alternative learning environments.  It needs to be available to all students.


If your head isn’t spinning with all kinds of ideas from reading these posts, you’re doing education wrong.  To continue on the thought that I started with this week – these folks are truly walking on their bridges as they build them.  Drop them a comment to show how much you appreciate their efforts.

OTR Links 01/29/2016


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

A fine line


Every morning, during my private reading time, if there’s something that I think might be of interest to others, I’ll share it to my Twitter account.  Then, as I’ve written before, a bunch of things happen to it so that I don’t lose it.

At the same time, at 5am, I have my daily blog post made available and a Twitter message is sent out to that effect.  Anyone who cares is invited to click and read it if they wish.  If they don’t, it’s just another in a long line of messages that goes flying by. 

Periodically, I get comments about my morning habits – I like to call it my private learning moments – that I set aside for myself before the dog realizes that the sun has risen and it’s time to explore the neighbourhood yet again. 

Yesterday morning was like any other morning.  Reading and learning and sharing with others.  Every now and again, someone who happens to be up at that hour will retweet the message because they like the concept or dislike it and share their reasons why.  I think it’s just the contemporary educational thing to do. 

As it happens, one of the messages was retweeted with a comment.  It was interesting that anyone could take issue with our Prime Minister so I stopped to view the account and what they were talking about.  In fact, they had shared the story and that was a good thing.  What wasn’t so good was the fact that there was another URL in the message.  It turns out that it was a link to an adult website.  Ooooh.  That’s not nice.

From there, I went to check out this account.  It wasn’t just me that was getting the special treatment.  Every message from the account was a retweet of a message that someone else had shared – there didn’t appear to be any reason other than they were all done within minutes of each other – and they all had that extra link added to the message.  The word “spamming” came to mind.  Then “phishing”, then “slimey”, then “scummy”, and then a few others that I won’t share.

You don’t have much recourse except to use the tools that Twitter provides so I muted the account, blocked the account, and then reported the account as one that’s posting spam.

As I write this post this morning, I checked and my account still has it blocked.  I took a peek and the account is still sending out messages.  There are all kinds (I can’t be bothered counting) that were all sent at the same time so I suspect that someone has written a script to do the deed for them.

I often wonder what people think about my posting habits.  While this particular account is trying to sell a service or advertising or whatever, they’re using the Twitter service.  Since the account hasn’t been deleted, I can only assume that its actions are deemed to be operating within the Twitter rules.  My account sells as well.  i like to think that I’m selling ideas and inspiration. 

When you have two takes on essentially the same thing, it begs the question, what’s the line between the two of them?  Maybe it’s my background, but I clearly (in my mind) can see the difference between the two.  Am I wrong though?  Maybe I’m just over thinking this.

Every now and again, you will see that an account has been suspended for violations of the rules.  For all our safety, you’ve got to agree that’s a good thing. 

It does beg the question though – just where is that line?  I guess I’m glad that I don’t have to draw it for the bigger community but with “block” and “mute”, I can do it for my little part of the world.