Digital media

One of life’s little joys around here is in the afternoon when I get an email blast from Stephen Downes. He does a lot of heavy-duty reading and sharing so that I don’t have to. In addition to sharing a number of resources, he provides his own commentary on things.

Yesterday, he shared his thoughts about this article Digital Books wear out faster than Physical Books. I thought that it might be a bit of digital fluff until I read the articles and then Stephen’s take on it.

As luck would have it, I made reference to a Mathematics book on my bookshelf and included an image.

Yes, it’s hardcover and has real pages made for turning as I enjoy it.

For yucks, I wondered about getting a copy of it today. As it turns out, a simple search reveals that it’s available for purchase at Amazon, among other places. And, a free PDF version of it is available here.

So, paper and PDF are pretty good at standing the test of time.

As Stephen notes, we, as consumers, have endured changing media over the years. The first formal eBooks might be a challenge to read these days. Specifically, he did mention buying Beatles albums in a number of formats. I had to smile a bit since I do have a number of Beatles albums on LP down in the rec room and CD-ROM copies in a binder. I wanted them because the music is enduring and quite frankly, I enjoy it. Well, the music might be available but the format may not be usable. This, my latest computer, doesn’t have a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive. My car does but I fear that the next vehicle probably won’t. My wife’s Jeep certainly doesn’t. It’s turned our listening there back, way back, to over-the-air radio and commercials and a playlist that’s at the beck and call of someone else.

Earlier this summer, I had a need to look up a name in a database that I used to keep registrations for the Western RCAC Symposium. Back then, thanks to my superintendent who was a fanatic about it, we kept everything in a Filemaker Pro document. Of course, I didn’t have it installed on this computer but I think I have an original on CD-ROM but then how to open it?

I was ultimately able to open the document in a text editor and go trolling for what I was looking for. It really was like banging your head against a wall because it felt so good when it was over. This should always be a last chance option.

So, what’s a person supposed to do?

I had done all the good digital stuff and the file is backed up on an external drive. That doesn’t solve any problem but I do have a backup.

It got me thinking about PDF files. We used to turn our noses up and say “PDF is where good ideas go to die”. That was before the ability to edit PDF came along.

That really doesn’t solve every problem. Sure, you can probably turn just about anything into a PDF file but you lose the original functionality of the document.

So, what I originally thought had the potential to be something fluffy has me wondering what the real answer is. A smack to the head to anyone who suggests printing the documents. The more I think about it, the more important the original post becomes.

It would be a great discussion for a Computer Science classroom…

“I have this file on this CD-ROM that I need opened … $20 to the first person that can do it”


Blowing in the wind

Yesterday, I drove to Port Stanley to have lunch and a great discussion with my voicEd Radio boss, Stephen Hurley. It was cold but we really can’t complain because it’s been such a warm fall so far.

I don’t take the 401 unless I absolutely have to and I didn’t so I took my time to drive on Highway 3. There is just something so relaxing as watching Lake Erie as it’s never the same twice.

There was a great deal of wind which makes for interesting waves and effects on the beach.

After lunch, I retraced my steps but I had some extra time and so stopped at Port Glasgow just to see the Lake and relax for a bit. As I’m wont to do, I took some pictures.

Here are a couple of images.

So, here’s the deal.

One of those is a real picture taken by my Samsung Smartphone. The other is computer-generated by artificial intelligence.

I used the website DeepAI and specifically this URL I asked it to generate an image using this description “The wind is blowing strongly on Lake Erie with a sandy beach in the foreground”.

Which one is real and which one is computer generated?

This is a wonderful site to play around with to generate an image where you might not have an actual picture for.

Give it a shot; I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Learning to paint

On This Week in Ontario Edublogs, we featured one of Colleen Rose’s blogposts and she was listening to us during the show. Not only was she listening, she was also creating and blogging. You can see the results of what she was doing on her blog at this post.

I was humbled that she included me in the discussion and was super interested in the activity that she describes in the post. I don’t have an Etsy account but my daughter who was sitting on the couch so I gave her a $1 coin and she downloaded the picture that Colleen had made available. You can see the original on her website as the first thing you’ll see when you land there.

There is just so much detail. I expanded the picture and marvelled at what I saw. I can only imagine what the original painting looks like.

So, all we have to do is paint like Colleen. I’m guessing the preferred direction would be to bring it and then use crayons or paint to do your best.

Another alternative would be to do the job digitally which is what Colleen did. She used an old iPad as her tool; my iPad is even older than hers, I’m sure. I do have Gimp and a Wacom tablet on my desktop but the skill to make the magic just wasn’t there.

Maybe I’ll have better luck with my Chromebook. With a touchscreen, I can draw with my finger. I downloaded Krita (for free) and installed it since Procreate isn’t available on that platform.

I’ve always been intimidated by painting programs as they have so many features.

The functionality is like so many paint programs I’ve used in the past. Yes, intimidating but the key to use is to understand that you don’t have to use all the features.

It’s installed and I’m working with Colleen’s project. I’m having at least a bit of success but nothing share-worthy when I look at the original. But I’m going to continue to work at it. I hope to get proficient but this is going to take a while. I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination and I’m sure that mindset would be very helpful at this time.

My takeaway for you – download Colleen’s colouring piece and see what you can do with your favourite paint program. If you’re looking for one to start, Krita might be just what you’re looking for.

Standalone applications

I had to smile as I wrote the post about Microsoft Works in the “Whatever happened to …” post.

At the time, it was very powerful and just about everything that I needed in a productivity suite. And, despite it running on MS-DOS and a really slow processor and minimum memory, it was fast. Really fast.

I started to think of other DOS-based applications that were so powerful and added Doom and the Canadian Encyclopedia to the list.

What do they all have in common – yes, they were running on DOS but they were standalone applications.

These days, I have a much more powerful computer, far more RAM than I ever thought that I’d need. I’ve bought into the concept that everything can and should be done in the browser. So, no I wonder. My pinned tabs look like this.

That would be OneTab, Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard, Google Docs, Instagram and, of course, WordPress.

Not only are they convenient by sitting there just a click away, they’re all protected by extensions that I have here – notably uBlock Origin, Cookie AutoDelete, MalwareBytes, my password manager and a few others.

As I typically do, I’m starting to wonder if I would get better performance if I forego the browser and run these as applications. I already do so for Slack since this browser (Microsoft Edge) doesn’t like Slack. I’ve done my reading and even the most power computers with lots and lots of memory will end up choking a browser.

Periodically, I do use OneTab to collapse all the applications so that they have to reload and, in theory, starting fresher.

I know that dropping the web browser would open me up to a whole lot of alt-tabbing but if it results in better performance it may be worth the experiment.

I may just give it a shot.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

I always hated this particular week since it’s the middle of August. Educators know that it’s the beginning of the end. It’s time to whip out that summer to-do list that’s been on hold while relaxing in July.

Recently, Ontario lost an outstanding teacher-librarian. While I never was a teacher-librarian, we had one of the best when I started teaching. He would listen to my needs as I struggled to fill those gaps that you never know about at Teachers’ College. He always seemed to have a book or other resource to fill that. I was constantly amazed that he had it, not being a computer guy. I’ve come to appreciate over the year that teacher-librarians network and learn with people all over the province and they are smarter together than they are apart. They have no qualms about reaching out to a colleague when needed.

This past week, two regulars here wrote blog posts as tributes to Caroline Freibauer. Both are powerful posts but I had a sense that they could provide something more personal and reached out to each to provide an audio clip to extend the message from their blogs. There was no question and it was done almost immediately after my request. I used them on my voicEd Radio show and I know enough of my own emotional limitations to not lead but rather close the show with them. I’m honoured to featured them both here at the top of this post.

For Caroline… Thank you.

Elizabeth’s was the first post that I had read. As the current President of the Ontario Schools Teacher-Librarian Association, she used her post to inform us all of the passing.

The post contains so much information in the teacher-librarian context but, to tell the truth, it’s great advice for anywhere in the profession.

I lost it at the end of Elizabeth’s audio clip when you could hear that she was struggling to finish.

Elizabeth’s Audio Clip

Remembering Caroline

Then, I read Diana’s message. She talks about a panel discussion for something called “TLLP @ your LLC”. No buzzwords here; but buzz abbreviations but when your audience understands, …

Diana reflects on a number of achievements that involved Caroline. It was always good for the province. The impact from across the province is captured and shared in Twitter messages at the bottom of the post.

I lost it at:

One of the final gifts Caroline gave to us, posthumously, was the reason for us to reconnect in-person. COVID and circumstances had separated us, but Caroline got many of us back together again.

Thanks, Diana

Diana’s Audio Clip

Diana’s reflections –

Life Long Learning with Stephen Hurley

David’s latest effort was the penning of The Principal Chronicles. I’ve mentioned this effort before and I bought the digital version when it became available because I couldn’t wait for the print one. If you go to the bottom of the link above, you’ll find reference to where you can obtain your own copy.

During the voicEd Radio show, I just sat back and listened to David and Stephen talk about the learning that went into the latest spin from the book. With Stephen’s guidance (and editing), David is recording the stories and making them available as podcasts. All of the podcasts are available here.

David admits that he’s catching up on the technology creation side of things but appears to be doing nicely. He’s purchased some new gear and is doing a great job of recording those podcasts. I like the way that they’ve broken them down into easily listened to morsels.

On Anti-Racist Educating Provoking Bullying of White Kids

Bullying is an ugly thing. I can speak from this with experience. In elementary school, there was a guy who would wait for me at lunch just off the school property and we would physically go at it. It did have a happy ending though and we became close friends at secondary school for some reason. But I went for a while just dreading the bell.

After a bit of bullying history from Marie, she describes an activity that I can absolutely see happening. Someone goes to a workshop and they do the activity on a Friday with the intent to replicate it on Monday. The privilege walk is intended to separate students rather than bring them together. You’ve just got to believe that it would amplify any differences outside the classroom and that’s not a good thing.

What I found particularly depressing was Marie’s reporting of how marks for the exact same assignment differed because of the white-ness sounding of a child’s name. Think about that for a second. This is not new. It did take me back to a course I was taking at the Faculty of Education. We don’t seem to be getting better at it as a profession.

This is a powerful read and will hopefully help you adjust your practice a bit before school resumes next month.

Endurance Project: Democratizing Space

This is another of those “Damn, they never had that when I was in school”. I’m old enough to remember gathering around a small television to watch space travel events. That’s so antiquated to what’s going on here!

Marc, his school, and Fair Chance Learning along with IBM Space, SpaceX provide a simulation experience for students that is second to none. I found this to be a fascinating read. And, this is Grade 11 and 12 students.

Anyone who might be getting set to provide a conference message whether it be a session, day long workshop, or keynote address needs to take a look at this. Hearing about this real experience makes you think that it could be replicable for more classrooms and that’s always a good thing.

Twitter Through The Ages — Is It Time To Go Back To The Days Of Old?

I loved reading this post from Aviva. It brought back so many good memories.

She takes us back to a different time and a different type of Twitter. There was far fewer people involved and there seemed to be a great deal less noise at those times. My involvement predates Aviva and I bought the definitive book, Will Richardson’s Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasts book and we had Will speak at the Western RCAC Symposium plus do a full day workshop for us the following day. You can stop laughing now at the concept of buying a book for social media. Hey, it was in early times.

Once, I got the IT Department to unblock Twitter, it became my go-to for advice and daily learnings about education and technology. It remains that way today. I’ll joke to anyone that I’m very noisy between 5 and 6am. But, I’m all alone doing some self-directed reading and learning.

My inspiration from those days was Rodd Lucier who reminded us to be creators and not just consumers of information to make it the best of learning experiences. He was so wise. Thanks to his encouragement, I started this blog and keep hacking away at it.

Aviva takes us back a bit and celebrates the learning and the way that we used social media then and gives a present day example. It definitely has changed by today’s use and I’m not convinced that it’s for the better. I think that we need to remember that it’s an educational platform for us but a business platform for the Twitter company.

Sports Books for Middle School

Man, Kristy’s post takes me back.

In what we would call Middle School today, our library had a difficult time keeping sports books on the shelves. There were so many of us that wanted to read them and maybe a dozen that were actually available. (Doug’s memory may not be completely accurate.)

I do remember desperately wanting to read The Jim Thorpe Story. It was never on the shelves to borrow. It wasn’t at the town library either. I was fortunate enough to complain loudly enough that my parents bought me a copy for a Christmas present one year. I think I might have it around here somewhere still. Maybe finding this is a weekend project.

In Kristy’s post, she shares a list of books that you might helpful. There are affiliate links involved.

It was another great week of good reading for me. I hope that you can find the time to click through and read these blogs in their entirety.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter.

  • Elizabeth Lyons – @mrslyonslibrary
  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL
  • David Garlick – @garlickd23 
  • Marie Snyder – @MarieSnyder27
  • Fair Chance Learning@FCLEdu
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • Kristy – @2peasandadog

This Week in Ontario Edublogs on voicEd Radio