Scanner in Your Pocket

I remember my first scanner. 

It was huge and connected to my computer via an RS-232 connection.  My memory is probably not perfect but I seem to recall the lights in the room dimming when you pressed the scan button and the scanner first warmed up and then did the actual scanning.  It was fairly noisy and, of course, I had to try scanning at least once with the lid open to see how bright the light was and it was also neat to see the ribbon cable move back and forth with the scanning light.

For a computer consultant, this technology was a gateway to a whole bunch of other things.  We used it to teach about PDF file creation, integration with Adobe Photoshop Elements, include source documents in Hyperstudio, scan student work to email, ….

Time and technology changes. I remember a portable device that plugged into your computer via a USB connection.  In this case, the document moved, not the light.  Today, where space is a precious commodity, my scanner is also a printer and a photocopier and sits off to the right on my desktop.  The connection is still USB but the speed and quality of the output is pretty impressive.  It works really well if I have the document I wish to scan right here with me. 

But the modern scanning person wants more.  Is there an app for that?

Yep.  (If there wasn’t, this would be a pretty pointless blog post)

Check out Office Lens from Microsoft.

It comes as no surprise that there’s integration with Powerpoint, OneNote, and Word. 

Depending upon your source, you can toggle through Photos, Whiteboard, and Document modes to help get the most from the application. 

What’s unique about this is that the application is available for any phone device – Apple, Android, and Windows Phone.

It’s not the sort of application that you’re likely to use daily but it’s nice to know that you have that functionality in your pocket when you do need it.  Perhaps you’re going to a conference and want a better capture experience than just taking a photo of notes?  Or, you’re doing some brainstorming with a class on a whiteboard and want a permanent copy?  Or ?  Just think of all the times when you’re have to make a photo take the place of a professionally created document?  That’s when this application will be of its biggest value to you.

It seems to me that this is a definite keeper, particularly if you’re not an Evernote user.  Install it and just remember you have it when you need it.

It’s So Obvious …

… and yet it’s never been incorporated in your phone …

In my never ending search for the magic bullet that will make my digital life perfect, I look and look and look for the perfect answer, even when I don’t know what the question is.  I tend to shy away from looking in the Play Store because everything there is branded by the author as the latest and the greatest.  They probably are from their perspective but I learned early that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to download and check them all out to see if the claims are true.

Instead, my visits are usually limited to finding something very specific.  Since most of the software is free or moderately priced, there are times when I download and discard after a couple of uses.  I’ll bet you’re exactly the same way.

I always like to read reviews and reports from other people’s experiences.  I’ll let them do the heavy lifting and then decide whether or not it’s going to fit my needs.  In my own little world of paranoia, I’ll also let them determine if the application has unexpected results or privacy concerns.  It’s a little buffer for my own protection, I guess.  Perfect?  Hardly, but it’s just another layer.

It was with this mindset that I read this article this morning.  “5 free Android apps that do amazing things Apple’s iPhone can’t“.  Who doesn’t mind a little mudslinging first thing in the morning?

As I reviewed the applications and the claims about what they do, I’m in awe with the divergent thinking that the developers put into their works.  After all, why didn’t Google or Samsung think of this first?  In particular, I focused on the Clean Master application.  Hey, Valia wrote a review of it.  How cool is that?

I think that we all know that there’s cruft on all of our computers and devices and, if we could just get rid of it, performance would go through the roof.  Maybe this will do it.

But, it was one of the features that gave me a facepalm.  Why isn’t this part of every phone?

I think of all the times that I’m asked by someone to “borrow your phone for a sec so that I can Google something”.  You hope that they’re just using your browser but you know they’re just a tap away from your email, your photos, or your text messages.  So, you might keep one eye on them while they’re using it.

We know that we can lock our device with passcode or a swipe pattern and only a fool doesn’t.  But locking by potentially sensitive information or application isn’t a feature that I’ve ever seen built into a phone.  This was just so obvious.  I love the thinking.

It’s not that you’re going to find the key to the crown jewels on my phone but you’ll find family pictures, text and email messages with friends, or my latest dual authentication codes.  Wouldn’t it be nice to share a device knowing that those are protected?

I’ve said it before and will repeat it.  When smart people push technology to its limits and give us solutions that others didn’t even know was a problem, we all win!

Loyalty, Hopes, and Fan Boys

It’s tough to find anything but Apple news stories after the company announces new products or updates.  Every Fan Boy with a blog or access to an online publication is there to tell us how awesome and wonderful and how this is the biggest game changer ever.

I wasn’t disappointed this morning!

I have to smile because I’ve been bitten before.  iOS 8 was touted to be the greatest update ever.  So, I eventually did install the upgrade to get into the game and was so disappointed.  I tried a couple of the new keyboards but they didn’t compare to the swiping keyboard on my Android and they just seemed to suck up processing resources so they were gone.  In the meantime, just about every other application on my iPad gained issues.  Crashing is a regular way of life around here.  But, I still need my daily fix of Words with Friends to teach me humility so I persist.  I’ve reinstalled the iOS and done the standard sorts of things like restoring from backup, reinstalling apps, etc. but crashing and performance issues continue.  I guess it’s a small victory to read the support boards to find out that I’m not alone.  So, my big hope for iOS9 is that this gets fixed.

I did give in and read a couple of the stories about the biggest, latest, and greatest and hope that predictions of a better system come true.

One of the most interesting articles came from Tech Crunch.  It was titled “Everything Apple Is Trying To Kill With iOS 9“.  I was hoping that the answer was going to be performance issues, but instead, it was applications that have become a way of life from other developers.  Apple is releasing competing applications as part of its infrastructure.  Things like Google Now, Google Maps, Flipboard, Microsoft Surface….  There’s a good summary and I found the article very interesting.  It will be a real test of loyalty to the applications that you currently use.  Will you switch to the Apple version of things or will you maintain your current use?  Obviously, Apple is hoping that you’ll switch.  Provided, of course, you read the fine print.

I suspect that Apple has learned well from its initial release of Apple Maps and will have good working applications for this release.

Technology is a tough business.  You need to learn from others and up your game to surpass the competitors or at least play catch up.  From Cnet, “The iOS 9 features already available on Android“.

Why all of this frenzy?

If one thing we’ve learned about today’s connected world, you need to do your best to stay updated for security, performance and compatibility issues.

The best news is that this competition should make better applications for us all.  That, you can’t beat.


In the beginning, there were computers with keyboards.  If you spent some time, you recognized that the concept of a menu was just a genius act that made things so much easier.  Learn the ALT-<key> combinations and you could drop down menus and have access to so much more.  I’ll bet that most students in classrooms today have no idea.

Then, finances willing, you’d spring for one of those new-fangled mouse things, install a driver, calibrate the mouse reach for your screen size and away you go.  Now, I would hazard a guess that you have to buy various components to physically build your own computer to actually buy a computer that doesn’t automatically come with a mouse.  Then, of course, there’s the temptation to upgrade your mouse with extra buttons, scroll wheels, programmable things because you just want to be able to do so much more.

Somewhere in the mix, the laptops started incorporating a touchpad so that a mouse wasn’t needed.  Then, touchpads got so much more sophisticated and you could program them to do things for you, change the way you scroll, have multi-touch, etc.

Along the way, the concept of a tablet attached to your computer allowed for a bigger tracking surface and included a stylus so that you could replicate the pencil/paper drawing experience.  Then, these got better by saying, ditch the pen.  Just use your finger instead.  As you’ll see below, my mouse has been relegated to second citizen status in favour of my touchable tablet.

In the classroom, we’ve replicated the concept with large touch devices that students and teachers can use to manipulate the computer screen.

The whole touching timeline is so impressive.  (This is a keeper)

And, it works because the hand and fingers are amazing things.

The natural question would be – what more can we do with them to make our workflow and user experience even more productive?

The answer may lie in Project Soli.  Take the four minutes to watch the video below and imagine the possibilities.

Just like the original concept of the mouse, when it becomes reality, it will spring open a whole new world of possibilities.  And, it’s just an amplification of something that we’re born with!

This is a definite topic for discussion with students and a chance to ask the question to them.  What more could you do with your fingers if you only had the technology!

How far away are we from this?


Recently, I got an invitation from Shelley Sanchez Terrell inviting me to check out her Livecast at Edutech 2015 workshop.

Unfortunately, by the time I got around to watching the video, it had been removed.

But, left behind, was a collaborative document that I found really interesting.  I can remember doing this “under the table” during an educational talk by a superintendent to count the number of buzzwords used during the presentation.  The idea was to be the first to get a Bingo. 

Shelley used the concept to create a Bingo card for social media.  What a great idea for a mixer activity.  I’m alone as I write this post so decide to take the test myself.

I’ve got some work to do. 

You can check out the resources and make one of your own from here.

Even better, why not create a social media Bingo card of your own tailored to your group?

I think this would be a dynamite activity to have students create their own social media inventory and awareness.

Hands on Geometry

Geometry was always one of my favourite subject areas.  I guess I just like the whole concept of visualization and being able to manipulate shapes.

One of the universal tools for geometry exploration and construction is the Geoboard.  I used it quite a bit teaching Grade 9 mathematics.  It was a wonderful tool to even the playing field for students coming from Grade 8 and having varying levels of geometry understanding.  It was also a reminder that, since banning javelin throwing, it was one of the few times that we intentionally arm students with weapons.  You’ve just got to know that with 14 year olds, the first few days with the Geoboards and real elastic bands was interesting.

Time moves on and it’s a natural that this wonderful technique has been extended to the digital world.  Same stretching concepts, coloured and unbreakable bands, and a kinder, gentler, less painful implementation.  With school computers meshed with Bring Your Own Device programs, finding a universal solution is a desirable move.

The Math Learning Centre provides one that’s both web and app based.

There are lots of options available depending upon your needs and screen size.

Of course, measurement dealing with area and perimeter leap to mind.  But, don’t limit yourself to just that.  With a little imagination, this device lends itself to all kinds of ideas.  Check out these Pinterest resources from Diane Fangmeyer, The Remade Mama and Inesa A as starting points.  Of course, Pinterest is the perfect place to pin these ideas.

I remember one particularly neat idea we used with the Grade 9s.  Standing in downtown Windsor, one of them had taken a picture of the Detroit skyline and the students replicated it in class with a series of Geoboards.  (We had small ones so had to improvise).  We used a picture of the Renaissance Centre and the students painstakingly reproduced it on the Geoboards.  Of course, it had to be to scale.  Imagine the math.  It was a great activity.

Doing it today, the mechanics would be completely different.  We’d be doing it on computers or devices.

The Math Learning Centre makes its Geoboard available for free:

They’re well worth a look and evaluation for your classroom.

Resources for Creatives

In the big time-suck that is the internet it can take forever finding and then getting so sidetracked in the search for the perfect resource.

Of course, we know that the secret is to create a collection of bookmarks.  Then, organize them by subject area.  Then, when you need them, they’re all there.

For you.

Those that know me know that I’m a big fan of the Portal concept.  But, it’s got to be purposeful and functional and not just a mish-mash of stuff so that you can say that you have a portal.

It’s the purposeful part that really intrigued me when I read this article on Medium “How I Got 345k Page Views In Just 7 Days“.  The product is an interesting take.

I think we’ve all seen a portal designed for mathematics or science or social sciences, or …

How about a “Portal for Creatives”?  That’s what you’ll find when you click through to Makerbook.

It’s an intriguing and, I think, a very useful concept for this sort of thing.

Touted as “A hand-picked directory of the best free resources for creatives”, this isn’t your typical endless collection of links.  Each of the categories are a short collection of very useful resources for the creative technology user.  Each of the resources has a small review so that you’re not necessarily going to waste your time clicking through and being disappointed.

Access to these resources is very quick.  I really like both the concept and its implementation.

Considered it bookmarked here and I would encourage you to take a look at it for yourself.  Do you see it fitting into your workflow and productivity?

It’s a collection of the best of the best from the developer’s perspective and all of the resources are free.