This one is for the news junkies


One of the things about living in or near a smaller city is that you don’t have too many options when it comes to local news.  In Windsor, for example, there’s only one daily newspaper, the Windsor Star.  That is the only game in town.  It’s not the only current events source though, there’s Windsorite, CTV News, CBC News, BlackburnNews. and then the local radio stations like CKLW.  There are also community located sources/blogs.  The content that’s provided is mainly local with the news sources picking up major news stories from their sister publications.  The value of a newspaper is that it will always contain many more stories and much more information than other news sources.

There’s really only one editorial voice and you have to rely on comments on the community for others.  You know how that can be!

So, people like me who thrive on reading will turn to the big three Toronto newspapers as other sources.

For the most part, that satisfies but there are times when you want more.  In that case, I have my favourites to check out – I’m a big Formula 1 fan and nobody covers it like the big British web sources.  Of course, you have to wade your way through the soccer stories to get there!

I’ve mentioned before that I’ll use Google Maps to get a look at the racetracks.  That’s neat.  I’ll also do an internet search for local-to-the-race newspapers.  It can be time consuming but it kills a bit of time while waiting for the race to start.  I find it fascinating to see how the event is perceived by their local news.

With PressReader, the process got a little easier.  It’s a service with a free and a commercial side to it that rivals the Newseum.  

So, yesterday was the Russian Grand Prix.  I hopped over to the Newseum and they didn’t have any Russian newspapers but the PressReader certainly did.  In fact, there’s a great collection from around the world.

Down I scroll to Russia and there were 169 results.

Scrolling across showed lots of front pages with most of them written in Russian.  I’d have to brush up on my language.  Fortunately for me, there were a couple of English language papers.  With 169 choices, it would be nice to filter further and, in fact I could, by type.

The three sports services would be great if you’re a soccer fan and spoke Russian!  So, it was back to my traditional sources to get the thoughts post race.

I know that, for some, Formula 1 racing is a niche sport so I wasn’t terribly surprised.

However, I could see many uses for this resource in the class from reading the front pages of foreign newspaper to reinforce the importance of a second language to seeing how various sources select and put content on their front page.

Give it a click and start exploring.

OTR Links 05/03/2016


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

Look up …


… waaaaay up.

I’m sorry if you don’t understand The Friendly Giant reference.  If you do, great!

OK, on to something more serious.

As we know, and students should know, there are all kinds of objects that are circulating the earth.  The International Space Station is probably the most famous and certainly has the most media attention.  It had huge interest for Canadians when Chris Hadfield was on board.

But there are considerably more objects that this one.

In fact,

So, where is the ISS right now?  I’m curious.  It’s early Sunday morning as I write this post.

Or, in 3D.

And that’s just the beginning of things at http://www.n2yo.com.

From a pick list, choose your object and see exactly where it is at the moment.  Warning – this is really addictive.  And, sure the maps are wonderful but I found the descriptor of the objects intriguing as well.  

The International Space Station (ISS) is a joint project of five space agencies: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (United States), the Russian Federal Space Agency (Russian Federation), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Japan), the Canadian Space Agency (Canada) and the European Space Agency (Europe). It is serviced primarily by the Soyuz, Progress spacecraft units and possible private missions in near future. Last Space Shuttle mission that serviced the Space Station ended in July 2011 (Atlantis, STS-135). The ISS is expected to remain in operation until at least 2020, and potentially to 2028.

A direct link to the International Space Station is here http://www.n2yo.com/space-station/.

OTR Links 05/02/2016


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

Whatever happened to …


… BASIC?

Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code.

For many (including myself), it wasn’t their first programming language.  Then, it became everyone’s first programming language.  Now, it’s often not the first language again.

For me, I cut my teeth on Fortran, moved to COBOL, then to LISP, then to C and learned how to program along that path in my own high school and university career.  One of the things that coders will recognize through these languages are the rules and laws for success in the language.  Make one mistake in these programs and your efforts just won’t compile, much less actually run.

It wasn’t until I was actually teaching that I was first exposed to BASIC.  Actually, it was WATCOM BASIC on the Unisys Icons that showed up in our classrooms.  These machines were certainly not portable (you’d have to bring the fileserver home with you…) so it meant some pretty early mornings and late nights at school learning the language.  The implementation was the worst of “drop and run”.  There was no professional learning on the use of the language.  I’ll be honest; with a background of programming languages that are so strict with their rules, I had huge problems in the beginning just trying to get my head around this new language.  There just weren’t so many rules.  How could it ever work?

With the end of the Icon, we ended up buying personal computers and tried to make them fit.  Commodore 8032 and later IBM Personal computers showed up.  They all came with versions of BASIC.  There was no graphic interface so an understanding of the operating system was crucial.  You had to work your way around the computer to save and load programs which meant that teacher and student needed to know it all.  For some, it’s obvious that they were unable to distinguish language from operating system!  I’ve said it before and it’s worth repeating … that was probably the last time that I truly understood how computers worked.

It was also the time when buying a home computer was possible.  I cut my teeth on a Radio Shack TRS-80 before moving into a stream of DOS/Windows computers.  Not satisfied with the BASIC that came with the computer, I ended up purchasing Borland’s Turbo Basic and Microsoft’s QuickBASIC.  This opened a new world because you could now compile and run your masterpieces as executable files instead of the interpretive environment of the BASIC at the time.  With the popularity of Bulletin Board Systems, some allowed for add-ons called Doors.  For a time, I ventured into the world of Shareware.  Does anyone remember Bay Street Bulls?  Card Guppies?

Time moves on and so did technology and pedagogy.  BASIC was dropped like a hot potato as education embraced Object Oriented Programming.  Down with BASIC; up with C++, Java, Python, Turing, and others.

But, BASIC wasn’t dead.  Microsoft returned with Visual Basic and it’s now a popular teaching option.  In some cases, it may be the first programming language for the new code learner.  In other cases, graphic languages like Scratch or Hopscotch may be the first language.

They all have their strengths and weaknesses and fans.  Are there really any “bad” languages?

And yet, there’s something nice about opening an environment and hammering out a quick little program to get the job done.  Spreadsheet programs/environments have inherited much of the functionality of programming languages.  And yet?

My current go to language for the quick task is Microsoft’s Small Basic.

There’s just something that’s enjoyable to be able to sit down and quickly code something that just works for the sake of working.  The result is something that makes programming purists shudder.  But let’s not forget that sometimes process trumps product.

So, my questions for you this Sunday morning.

  • Have you ever written a program in a dialect of BASIC?
  • If so, which one?
  • What was your personal first programming language?
  • One of the featured programs on the Small Basic website http://www.smallbasic.com/ is Tetris.  Is that even a relevant game for kids today?

As always, I’d appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts.

OTR Links 05/01/2016


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

Meaning of American Pie by Don McLean (w/lyrics)


Recently, a high school friend shared this YouTube video.  With my really slow internet connection, I don’t watch a lot of videos but I sure did for this one.

In our high school days, you could count on this song being played at least a few times a day.  It was often the last song of a disk jockey’s shift – my theory being that with a long song, they got to leave work early.  This was popular for that purpose as well as Stairway to Heaven.

In the beginning, it was just a great song to listen to and sing along.  

Then, as we got older, we realized that it was a song with a powerful message.

Now, with this video, it goes well over the top.  As you listen to the video, watch the imagery that the author has synced to the music.  Even years later, I made new connections with the lyrics.

This is definitely worth the time to bookmark.

I’ll bet that you play it more than once to make sure that you take it all in.  There’s so much there.