Whole lotta extensions going on


Not related to this topic but I love this song anyway…

The session “There’s an Extension for That” was given by these ladies at the Bring IT, Together Conference.

I’m a sucker for sessions like these.

I firmly believe that owning a browser is just a starting point. You make it “yours” by customising the look and functionality. It makes no difference whether you’re using Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Brave, Vivaldi, or any of the other alternatives. They all browse the web well.

I’m a long time Firefox user and have always thought that you could turn a good experience into a great experience by adding addons that extend the functionality of the browser. I have my favourite collections – devoted to privacy and what I need for functionality.

But, I’m not confident enough that I have the best of the best or that I have them all. I enjoy sessions where people identify what extensions they use and how it makes them productive. I’m not above stealing borrowing a good idea.

That led me to this session, run on Leslie’s laptop, to see what these two presenters felt were important to them. I remember thinking that surely, surely, all of these extensions were loaded on Leslie’s computer just for the sake of the presentation and not that they’re always there!

I like the presentation dynamic that they had. Leslie was seated and operating the computer while Nicole gave us the description of the extension and what they felt was the value for them. The presentation moved along very quickly and if you were taking notes, you might have missed something. Thankfully, they shared their presentation.

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1eRxe6lfDs6mKnKtxcHM3bYJTTJ_Jft98JuNG7QcqpYI/edit#slide=id.g35f391192_04

The presentation was done in Chrome but most of the extensions/addons are available for all browsers.

I would encourage you to walk your way through the presentations and see what they’ve identified as their “Best of the best” choices. We can always learn from others. http://bit.ly/BIT19Extensions

The nuclear option


Grinning, at least now.

I wasn’t a few days ago. With the update to Chrome OS 78, I was feeling pretty good about reliability again. Then, I started to read about new features. If they were as good as the Accessibility Option that I had previously blogged about, this could be good.

One new feature, in particular, excited me. It was a setting for “Dark Mode”.

I’m a real fan of dark screen (green screen too but that’s not the point). I find it easier on the eye and hope that it saves on battery life as others have claimed. So, I was ready to check it out. Simply go to the Chrome Flags menu and change a setting.

I’ve seen this warning a million times and a million times I’ve ignored it. I think you know where this is headed, right? I applied the Dark Mode setting and rebooted as suggested.

And everything looked good. I logged in and the browser reloaded. I went to Twitter and it was fine. But then, I had already set it natively to show a Dark Mode. Let’s try something with a White Background.

Aw, Snap!

We know what that means. The browser has crashed that tab. I reloaded to see it partially load and then crash again. It looks like the browser is attempting to load the original page, do some colour shifting, and then reload with the new colours.

I tried to go to the help page.

But I couldn’t. It’s a Google page and so has a nice white background and so crashes.

I did some searching on my phone and found a Reddit page Dark mode on ChromeOS 78 has broken my Chromebook. That post could have been written by me! That, and a couple of other similar pages, revealed the one and only solution. Do a Powerwash on your computer.

So, I tried to do that. Into Settings I went where I new the Powerwash option was. The problem?

It had a white background and wouldn’t load! So, no Powerwash here!

Supposedly, after a Powerwash, the next step is to go to the Terminal and enter a “rollback” command. I was getting desperate so just went to the rollback stage.

The message from Chrome OS sounded hopeful; I guess it either didn’t know that I couldn’t access the Powerwash button or didn’t care. So, I let it do its thing.

I expected to get a fresh Chromebook with no settings and a previous version of the Chrome Operating System.

What I did get kind of surprised me. I got the same Chrome OS version as what caused the problem but it did work. In fact, the customized settings that I had previously set were all gone and I was back to the defaults. Then, came in all the browser settings from my Google account. I did expect that although I probably could have gotten away without all the Android applications being reloaded. But, they came too.

The result? I have a nicely functioning Chromebook restored to Acer’s settings.

You’ve got to love the cloud.

Oh, and Happy Hallowe’en!

Automatic clicks


You’re looking at the blog of a happy camper.  There was an update today to Chrome OS that seems to have cured the crashing issue when it was put to sleep.  I can’t imagine how difficult it is to write an operating system for so many different processors.  Even this unit which has a MediaTek processor which I’d never heard of before I saw the unit at an Acer booth at the Bring IT, Together Conference.  There seems to be a permanent difference between browser and operating system settings as well.  As long as you know the rules, you can play, right?

Now that it’s reliable again, I’ve had time to play around with various settings.  One thing I learned with working with the Special Education department is that there are interesting settings to be found when you look at Accessibility.  Their motto, at times, was “Essential for Some, Good for All”.  I’ll admit that I’ve had a history of ignoring Accessibility settings because I had just made some assumptions that I probably shouldn’t.

With this release, I headed to the Settings and found a setting for “Automatic Clicks”.  When activated, it looks like this and it floats over top of things on the screen.

Screenshot 2019-10-23 at 10.51.39

The item on the far right moves this toolbar around the screen into the four corners so that you can position it to get it out of the way or to make it easily accessible.  All of the options are selected and activated just by hovering over top of them.  A little circle appears around the cursor indicating that something is about to happen.  What happens?

From left to right:

  • left mouse click
  • right mouse click
  • double click
  • click and drag
  • scroll
  • no action (turns everything off)

Then, you use your computer and the action you chose is the default action when you use it in your workspace.

I’ll admit; using this feature took a bit of learning.  I’ve never had to work in this environment before.  But, after a while, it did start to make sense.  I can see how it can be helpful for some computer users.

Does anyone have suggestions about how best to use this feature?  Or, any of the other Accessibility settings?

Bad week for updates


Yesterday, I shared my frustration with an upgrade on my Macintosh computer.  It was self-inflicted; I could have elected not to install it but I did anyway.  Sadly, I had another similar experience.

No, I don’t own two MacBook Pro computers.  This time it was with my Chromebook.  The update process is different.  For security, updates come through in the background and a restart will put the new version in place.

Now, a bit of a confession here.  I run the Chromebook on the Beta channel.  Why?  When I first got the computer, that was the only way that you could run Android applications on it.  I’ve just never changed to Stable.  I’m also not gutsy enough to move to the Canary channel.

A while back there was an issue where putting the Chromebook to sleep would cause either Chrome OS to crash or the laptop to decide to just turn itself off.  There were lots of people in a similar boat when I went looking to the help boards.  So, I just put up with things and eventually an update came that fixed it.  Life on that computer went along smoothly.

Until recently!

The symptoms have returned; this time with the worst possible description – intermittently!  Now, if I had really fast internet access, it probably wouldn’t be an issue but I keeps a few tabs permanently pinned for time saving purposes (My Blog, Email, Twitter, Flipboard, News 360) and they take a couple of minutes to reload upon things shutting down.  For the other tabs, I’m pretty good about using One Tab which tucks them away saving memory and room in the tab bar.

I was excited about Chrome OS 78 – there promises to be some pretty helpful features.

Right now, working my way through things is taking a while with the intermittent crashes.  You know the worst part?  I can actually force a crash by launching the option to report a problem.  How’s that for irony.

So, I’ll wait for a fix on this computer too!

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It’s nice to be able to write this blog post knowing that the voicEd show actually worked yesterday unlike last week.

As always, some great thinking from Ontario Edubloggers.

Read on to enjoy.


When your plan is no longer the plan

From Paul McGuire, a post that could well have been titled “The Essence of Teaching”.  In this post, Paul shares with us an incident that happened in his university class.

A student wanted to time to share an issue that he was passionate about with the class and asked for the opportunity to share his insights.

Paul could have said “Sorry, we don’t have time for that” but that wasn’t the right answer.  Issues of the day, lives of students, and in this case, the future for these educators was more relevant and important than any teacher delivered lesson could be.  We talk so often about honouring student voice; here’s a great example.

Sometimes when something is bubbling just under the surface, a teacher has to know it is time to throw the lesson out the window and just let the learning happen.


WHO HAS THE FINAL SAY ABOUT STUDENT MARKS?

Big learning for me this week happened on this post from Stacey Vandenberg on the TESLOntario blog.

The inspiration for the post was a discussion about student marks and whether the teacher or the administrator should have the last say on what mark is assigned.  The context was the PBLA assessment for newcomers to Canada learning English.  I’d never heard of PBLA so did a lot of reading to get caught up to speed.

There is no argument that the instructor is in the class for the duration and is able to assess the ongoing progress and abilities of the students.  The instructor should be in the best possible position to determine the final grade.  And yet, it’s the administrator whose signature vouches for the result.

As noted in the post, it would be a very rare situation when the teacher’s professional judgement should be overruled.  Not only is it educationally sound not to do so, I can’t imagine the lack of enthusiasm for going into work the next day knowing that your abilities have been challenged or overruled.

In this case, I find it interesting that a mark would be assigned.  It seems to me that this is one case where PASS/FAIL would be the best way to report the results.


Another Year and The Unlearning Continues

If I had to go back to high school and take the Humanities, I’d want to be in Rebecca Chambers’ class.  Musty old history books have no place here.  The approach and the topics covered are very progressive and currently relevant.

Just look at a typical week.

  • Mondays – Get Organized
  • Tuesdays – Content Day
  • Wednesdays – Community Outreach
  • Thursdays & Fridays – Passion Project Days

You’ll have to click through and read the details which she fleshes out very nicely.  Of interest to this geeky person is how the use of current technologies is weaved through things.


I DON’T USE TEXTBOOKS

Oh, Melanie Lefebvre, where were you when I was in post secondary school?

It wasn’t until third year that I realized that many of the recommended books and readings that I had accumulated were sitting on my bookshelf largely unused.  The tutorial books, yes.  But the textbooks, nope.

I then realized late in my educational career that the books were available at the library or the bookstore had a used textbook sale where you could buy at the fraction of the cost.

Things definitely could be different today.  So many resources are available online; it’s almost criminal to pay for a textbook.  Not only that, but how dated would that textbook be – factor in the research, writing, publishing, and delivery times.  Melanie is able to use resources that might have been updated yesterday with her approach.

She talks about being accountable for the money that students would pay for textbooks but I think the accountability goes much further in the use of current resources and having students knowing how to access them.

After all, when they graduate and work in the “real world”, there is no textbook available.


Building a Google Site and Relationships with Parents

My admiration and edu-worship for Jennifer Aston went up another notch after reading this post from her.

The post describes an approach that she takes for a Meet the Teacher night.  There are so many ways that this night can be attacked.  Her approach was to create a collection of Centres using Google Sites for the teachers to explore.

It seems to me that this goes beyond “Meet the Teacher”.

  • It shows an approach that could be described as “Meet the Classroom”
  • It shows a level of sophistication in computer use that lets parents know that it will be used in a meaningful way
  • A followup with parents to help inform her direction for communication
  • And, of course, the thing that all parents dread “Kids these days are doing so much more than what we did in our day”

Preserving the Cup

It’s Beth Lyons week around here!  Read the interview with her that I posted yesterday here.

In addition to completing the interview, Beth had time to write a blog post in her thoughtful manner – this time the topic was about self-care.  It’s particularly timely since today (Thursday as I write this) is Mental Health Awareness Day.

A regular school year is always hard for teachers.  With its ups and downs, as Beth notes, you can feel particularly stretched.  And, if you’re feeling that way in the first part of October, what’s it going to be like later in the year?

This fall, of course, is particularly stressful for teachers and education workers with the expiry of collective agreements and the posturing that’s taking place on a daily basis.

Teachers do need to take care of themselves and their colleagues.  After all, you’re together for 8 or more hours a day and should be able to see things and provide the best supports.


THE MEDICINE WHEEL VS MASLOW’S HIERACHY OF NEEDS

As I was monitoring my Twitter network yesterday, the name Liv Rondeau popped by.  This was a new educator for me so I added her to an Ontario Educator list and noticed that she had a blog and web presence so I took it all in.

This post really caught my interest.  I know that it’s over a year old but it was the first time that I had seen it so it was new to me!

The description of the Medicine Wheel and the doors was new to me and so I read it with deep interest.  Liv ties it to Maslow’s Needs which I certainly am well aware of.

Her explanations were well crafted and ultimately brought us into the classroom and servicing the needs of children.

At points, I felt like I was learning Maslow all over again; it was such a different context for me.

Take a poke around the website when you get there.  There is an interesting collection of resources and lesson plans for Grades 5 and 6 available.


Please take some time to click through and enjoy all of these posts at their original site.  Like all weeks, there’s some awesome learning to be had.

And, follow these educators on Twitter.

  • @mcguirp
  • @TESLontario
  • @MrsRChambers
  • @ProfvocateMel
  • @mme_aston
  • @mrslyonslibrary
  • @MissORondeau

This post originally appeared on:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

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

Virtual desks


I’ve been a longtime user of virtual desktops on my computers. It’s my way of trying to stay sort of organized and not get confused with what I’m doing. Or at least minimizing that confusion.

Up until now, virtual desktops weren’t available in Chrome OS but a recent release now makes it possible. Here’s how.

Enable it. It’s actually something that you need to make happen before the magic happens. It’s easy enough. By now, you should know that there are many things available in the chrome://flags screen when you type it in your address bar. Search for desks and enable them.

You’ll have to reboot your computer to make it active.

Show windows. I’m not quite sure what this key is actually called. You can use it to take screenshots and also to see all the windows that are open. It’s the key just above the 6 on your keyboard! Press it.

Create a new desk

In the top right, there’s a + New desk option that lets you add a new desk to your computer. A thumbnail of each desktop will appear centred on the screen. Above, you’ll see that I have three desks open.

Choose your desk

Once you have as many desks (up to 4) that you want, select the desk that you want to use and away you go. As you work, subsequent show windows actions will show you up to date thumbnails.

Alternatively, ALT+TAB will let you cycle through desks just like you would normally switch through windows. And, if you have content on one desk that you want on another, just drag and drop it where it’s needed.

Personally, I typically have three desks in operation. Two instances of Chrome – each isolated on a particular task, and an instance of Opera open. Periodically, I’ll open another desk to run another Android option if the urge comes.