Useful assistant


I don’t know that I ever was really excited about the assistants that are available for use. Of particular interest was the Google Assistant.

Who hasn’t heard the “OK Google” as someone activates it on a device.

And, who could forget the infamous Burger King commercial.

I wasn’t terribly excited when Chromebooks started having the ability to use the assistant in Version 77. But, I’m going to change my mind.

Now, I’m not sure that I’m going to use the voice ability. A lot of the time, whenever I talk, the dog interprets it as “Let’s go for a walk”. But there’s another way to activate the assistant. Just use the shortcut key Search+A and a window pops up over top of your screen where you can do an immediate search.

OK, now this is a simple example. I mean I could just look out the window or listen to the rain on the roof. But, there’s a bigger advantage for me.

Often, when working I’ll need to research something and will open a new tab. By the time that I get to that tab, I’ll have forgotten what I was going to look for. Don’t judge me – it happens to you too.

But, allowing the assistant to overlay my existing screen, I can seize the moment. Believe it or not, once this revelation hit me, I use it all the time.

Best. Timesaver. Ever.

I just went into the settings and turned off the vocal response.

It’s working great for me.

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Just the good stuff


I think that this is a terrific utility that should find its way into any classroom toolbelt where teachers are using video from various sources.

The application is Vibby.

The best parallel I can think of is the yellow highlighter that so many of us have used to highlight text in books as we read.

Vibby lets you do the same thing with video. Here’s a quick overview.

So, you no longer have to have students sit through an entire video if there’s only a small part of it that is appropriate. Use the Vibby utility to create a “vib” and use that instead.

It’s certainly more high tech that giving a starting and ending time and using the scrubber bar.

Another use that comes to mind involves a bit of video literacy, having students review a video and identify or highlight parts of the video for a specific purpose.

I think we’ve all sat through a video where you’re just about screaming “Just get to the point”…now you can actually do it!

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Probably TMI, but I wore long pants and a sweat shirt for the dog walk this morning. It was so cool out there at the beginning (10 degrees) but it sure helped to work up a sweat.

For a Friday morning, here’s a look around the province at great content provided by Ontario Edubloggers.


Your Students Should Nap (and so should you)

Congratulations to Andrew Campbell for being recognized as one of the Top Canadian Educational Blogs. It says so on the link behind the badge on his landing page.

So, what does a high quality blog feature in its quest for cutting edge comments about education.

Napping.

The scientific research is clear that napping is good for us. A study showed that 10-12 year olds that took a midday nap had greater happiness, self-control, and grit; fewer behavioral problems; and higher IQ than students who didn’t.

And maybe a better command of buzzwords?

It won’t be the first study that goes ignored but it does beg a few questions.

  • If schools are struggling to get 40 desks into a classroom, where will they find the same number of cots?
  • If the kids nap, I’d want to too. We had a couch in the Business Department work area that we could flip a coin for
  • Who’s going to supervise the kids lest you have a sleepwalker?
  • Can you imagine the bad breath after wakey wakey time? Rush to the washrooms to brush?
  • Are we getting paid for this?
  • Who is going to break the news to the Ministry and the Government that this is a good idea? Or, in terms of public policy, the right wing newspapers?
  • Who would be the experts in this field? Maybe a daycare worker from down the street?

There is no STEM

I wonder how Tim King feels about STEAM then?

That’s been a hot item in education for the past few years. Keynote speakers, government grants here and there have all promoted the importance of the concept. Yet, as Tim notes in the post, there is no co-ordinated effort to make it a “thing” across the province.

Because, he notes, if it was a “thing” there would be funding, a curriculum, and recognition by universities and colleges.

Sadly, it could be taken as a slam to people that are trying their best to make it something (and some are doing great things) but it’s yet to rise to the standard of a curricular thing. The concept most certainly has value but, unlike other curriculum areas, it remains like a pickup game of baseball in elementary schools and an option in secondary schools.

It’s a shame that this pointless acronym has thrown a blanket over the grossly neglected curriculums of technology and engineering, while giving even more attention to two of the Disney princesses of academia.  To be honest with you, I think technology and engineering would be just where it is now had this STEM focus never happened, which tells you something about how this ed-fad has gone down.


The Gift of Staying Connected – Thanks Andrew and Diana

This is a heart-warming story from Diana Maliszewski about connections with students who have since graduated.

There are so many takeaways to this story other than the wonderful remembrances that Diana shares. (We now know the secret to her yearbook)

It’s a reminder that connections are constantly being made and are remembered long after graduations. Can you go back to your hometown without taking a drive past your old school or university and have fond memories flow?

For non educators who view teaching as just an assembly line for students, they need to read and see the empathy and connections made here and how Diana chose to share them with us.

And for kids – it’s just not you having memories of your teacher – it works both ways.


Three lessons on Grit and Resilience

This is another very thoughtful post from Jennifer Casa-Todd although she actually provides us with four lessons. A couple of them are kind of close so we’ll cut her some slack.

The biggest head nod that I gave Jennifer’s post was actually in her first lesson:

 Success is more likely when you work in manageable chunks

As a programmer, I set out a plan to do this, then this, then this, then this, and then put it all together. I always visualize a project as the sum of its parts. I’m not sure that I could do a more big idea approach without considering the sub-components.

It was always the way that things went in my Computer Science classes. It was easier for students to solve a problem if they worked in chunks. It also allowed them to get partial marks even if they couldn’t solve the big problem. When you’re walking around the room and asked for assistance, it was also easier to see and understand than looking at pages and pages of spaghetti code.

If there’s one piece of advice that people would be wise to consider, it’s this one. The other three are pretty good too!


HOW TO START THE SCHOOL YEAR OFF RIGHT

You know, if you could bottle that and sell it to teachers, you’d be a millionaire. Fortunately, there are all kinds of bits of wisdom about this.

This post is Kyle Pearce’s attempt at advice specifically for the mathematics classroom. I really like his ideas and concepts.

There are a couple of points that appear as statements that I think deserve to be fleshed out in greater detail.

Change their beliefs about math

Unfortunately, I see an underlying assumption here. While there are many students that don’t like mathematics, how about the kid like me that loved doing it? What would my belief change to? More importantly, just how would someone go about this – and doing so without dissing previous teachers in the process?

I’ve always wondered about the “beliefs about math” and wonder if it differs in grades 3, 6, 9 in Ontario over the other grades because of the impending year of preparing for the test. I think that would make for a great research study.

Establish expectations by painting a picture of what math class will look like

I’m curious about this one too – will all classes look the same? Will they all be functionally the same? Do you address homework while painting this picture?


“The More Strategies, the Better?”

There were three things that stood out to me in Mark Chubb’s post. He does use mathematics and a specific example for his purpose in the post.

  1. Is there value in knowing more than one way to solve a problem? I’d guess that the experienced mathematics teacher would argue yes until they’re blue in the face
  2. Mark does make reference to strategies that are “early understanding” versus those that are “sophisticated”. How does a student appreciate this? Does “sophisticated” equate to being more difficult? I had a university professor who just exuded a love for mathematics and the only word that I could think of for what he did when solving a problem was “elegance”. How do you get students so learned that their solutions become elegant?
  3. I really like the fact that Mark includes this in his post.
    “Have discussions with other math educators about the math you teach”
    Do you do that or do you just assume that you’re the teacher and there’s no room to grow and learn?

This is a wonderful post for anyone to read and understand. I can’t help but think of the teacher who is teaching mathematics for the first time. How do you bring them along and witness the wisdom and insights of experiences teachers?


Taking Old Town Road to School

Search YouTube for “Old Town Road” and sit back to see the many versions – live, karaoke, parode, etc. of the song.

Here’s another idea that’s also a great lesson for the classroom.

Then, check out the tags from this post from the Association for Media Literacy.

21st Century Literacies, association for media literacy, audience, codes and conventions, lil nas x, media literacy education, neil andersen, old town road

The post gives a wonderful lesson about how to take an original work and remix it so that it’s yours and address so many things along the way!

Need the lyrics – click here.

This whole activity just sounds like a whack of fun.


Your call to action this Friday morning —

  1. Read and enjoy the original posts
  2. Follow these bloggers on Twitter
    1. @acampbell99
    2. @mechsymp
    3. @MzMollyTL
    4. @jcasatodd
    5. @MathletePearce
    6. @MarkChubb3
    7. @A_M_L_

This post originally appeared on

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original.

I wish I’d done this sooner


In my weekly post, “My Week Ending…“, I like to include a photo of something that I’ve taken from the previous week.

There was a time when I’d put my original camera around my neck and go looking for things to take pictures of. It worked really well if I was lucky enough to find something worth snapping. Now, with the camera in my Smartphone, I always have the ability to take pictures in my pocket. It’s funny how many more pictures that I feel inspired to take this way. And better ones too.

Anyway, last week I was rolling up the solar blanket to the pool and noticed a spider in this huge web over my shoulder. I watched for a minute until I realized what she/he was doing. The spider was traversing the web picking up the things that got caught during the night before. My mind flashed back to elementary school science where we learned how a spider doesn’t get stuck in its own web.

I was pleased with the picture as I got as close as I could to get a definition of the spider and the things caught in the web. As per my regular routine, I took 2 or 3 pictures of the same thing so that I could get the best picture lest I move the camera while taking the picture.

Anyway, that’s the background for this post!

When I write my Sunday post, my routine was to grab the camera on my desk and flip through what I had taken and find one to include. Then, I would email or DM it to myself so that I could put it into the post. Since it’s only a task that I do once or twice a week, the inefficiencies kind of bothered me but not enough to do anything about it.

However, in my readings lately on Windows 10, I’ve been reading about the Your Phone abilities. For the most part, the writers were excited about the concept of texting from your computer keyboard. I wasn’t as excited. Could there be more?

Out of boredom, I installed this on my phone and activated the utility on my computer. Unlike other synchronization things I’ve used, this really was seemless and easy. Almost too easy, it seemed. The menu revealed what was available.

And, sure enough, there were my spider pictures. (As well as the thunderstorm clouds coming in from Boblo Island)

To work on the post, there was none of this sending the picture to myself. I just grabbed it from the Your Phone app and bam, it was in my post.

I remember Arthur C. Clarke’s quote…

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

I had that moment!

I just wish that I’d done it sooner.

A Chromebook simulator


I could have used this when I got my Chromebook.

Now, a computer is a computer is a computer but there are little gotchas with various operating systems that take a bit of getting used to.

Like MacOS not liking the ALT key but uses the Windows/Super key instead for some tasks. Or the difference between a backspace key and a delete key. They’re easily learned once you set yourself on a path to actually learn them.

I suspect that my learning with a new Chromebook was the same as others.

  • what’s that magnifying glass doing on the CAPS LOCK key?
  • how do you CAPS LOCK anyway?
  • is there a files manager?
  • is there a Task Manager?
  • where did all the Function keys go and what do those new symbols mean?

And other things. Of course, they’re all easily found with a simple Google search but they’re all nicely laid out in this Chromebook Simulator.

Work your way though the menu on the left and see the results appear graphically in the main part of the screen. Although I’ve used this Chromebook for a couple of years now, there were still a few new things to learn. In this case, I learned a few more multiple-finger actions.

You might want to tuck this away as an introductory lesson for Chromebooks in your classroom.

Bonus tutorial – Pixel Phone Simulator

The toys are back in town


I’m a big fan of customization and I’ve always played around with Power Toys for Windows. Just to do stuff.

With Windows 10, the toys went away but there are a lot of other customizations that can be done right in Windows.

But now the Power Toys are making a return.

Granted, it’s a very early beta (Version 0.11.0) when I downloaded it but it was invigorating just to see what else can be done with Windows through the eyes of people that want more than just stock.

I grabbed it and the first toy is Fancy Zones. The concept is to make working with multiple windows more productive. Now, when I’m working normally, I have an external monitor to host a window but being able to have multiple windows on the main screen of my laptop is intriguing. Plus look at all the layouts that are available.

And, they’re all customizable. If nothing else, it was fun to play around with. Who says working on a computer can’t be fun? A detailed discussion of this toy can be found here.

Today’s wider screen monitors do have a lot of whitespace with our traditional applications that were designed for smaller screens. Why not put this extra space to work? And save a bunch of alt-tabbing in the process.

Your own Enigma machine


One of the ways to foster engagement in Computer Science is to come up with interesting topics that grab student attention. One of my favourite student activities was writing a program to encode and decode messages.

We used to watch a movie showing various techniques used over the years and then talked about how to develop an algorithm using simple rotation to encode messages. A becomes B, B becomes C, etc. and then various adjustments from there. It’s actually an easy topic because of the interest “Hey, I can send you an encrypted message and the teacher can’t read it” and simply because most kids had done the activity in class on paper lest the paper the message is written on get intercepted.

In the movie that I showed, it talked about the Enigma Machine and how it was used in the Second World War and how Alan Turing became involved in decoding the messages. The computing activity usually took longer than I anticipated, not because we were using all that sophisticated code, but just because it was so interesting and students would want to take the time and effort to really polish off their code. Win all the way around!

Now you can get into the Enigma Machine in great detail here. It’s a great visual representation of how encryption works with all kinds of adjustments plus a history of the machine and how it works.

Of course, the real machine was all mechanical but modern coding makes for a great visualization and the internet makes the resource available everywhere you’re connected.

Did I say code?

By clicking in the left margin, you can see the source code that makes it all happen.

Of course, that opens all kinds of other opportunities.

We’ve come a long way from the days of finding the VCR tape, booking the television, watching the movie all at once, and then taking notes!