Blogging, Computers, Education, Read/Write Web, Teaching

It Takes Some Work To Look This Good

Nope.  Not fashion tips from me, that’s for sure.

It’s not about the new theme that I’m trying out for the blog – not sure I like it yet but will continue to give it a try.

It’s about yesterday’s post.  It took forever to write.  Actually, that’s not completely correct.  It took forever to make it look the way that it did.

I often think back to the first webpages that I created.  We used the Text Editor in Windows to code the whole thing in HTML (HyperText Markup Language).  I still remember the comment from a music teacher who dropped by to ask me what I was doing.  When I showed/explained it to her, I still remember her comment “Why work with all that gobbly-gook?”  I thought it so bizarre coming from her with her world of dotted eighth notes and treble clefs and …  But, I let it drop; I knew this was a glimpse into the future and surely better tools would be coming.  And, of course they did.

In my time at OSAPAC, we licensed Dreamweaver and things were a great deal better.  Today, we live in a world where we can edit things online or with a tool should we choose to.  I’ve used a bunch – Bloglio, LiveWriter, Qumana, … , even composing in the WordPress editor itself.  My current favourite tool is Scribefire which is an addon to the web browser.  All of these are great tools but the elevator doesn’t necessarily go to the top floor.

In yesterday’s post, I had this wonderful list.

It seemingly took forever to create.

Each bullet point actually had up to three things in it.  One was a link to the Twitter account, the second was a link to the most recent blog post, and the third, optional link, was to an interview if there was one.  You’ll note that the blog post was bolded as well.

There were, from my perspective, a number of ways to do this.

First, there’s the scribe method.  You know – type the text, highlight it, add the link, add the bolding, and then move on to the next item.  Just the prospect of eyeballing that and doing it seemed to be daunting so I opted for a second option.

Copy / Paste.  After all, if we weren’t meant to do that, we wouldn’t have a mouse with a right mouse button.  Here’s what it looked like.

Talkin’ ‘Bout Our Origins as Bloggers

eBooks – product or service?

Hugs … And The Words That Followed Them!

When Empathy Isn’t Easy

Oral Presentation Descriptive Feedback

I Hate the Pyramid


Kids Learn Computer Code in Class to Help With Problem Solving @thecurrentcbc

Showing Understanding of Where things are Located #fsl

and that’s just the blog title.  So much for standards!

One thing that all web authoring tools is a link back to the good ol’ days of HTML!

The results aren’t for the faint of heart.

Because all of these wonderful authors had used different blogging platforms, there were various bits and pieces of the code that were brought over.  You can see references to a header <h 1> or <h 3>, details about the class used, and Jamie’s post even included the actual link to her post.  We know that HTML tags are opened and closed so you also see the corresponding </h 1> or </h 3>

In reality, I wanted it all formatted the same way with the resulting content looking like this.

<li><a href=””>@royanlee</a&gt; – <strong><a href=”; rel=”bookmark”>Talkin’ ‘Bout Our Origins as Bloggers  </a></strong><a href=”; rel=”bookmark”>- my<strong>  </strong></a><a href=””>interview with Royan</a></li>

So, in effect, I still wanted/needed HTML tags – but on MY terms, not theirs!

Fortunately, I had the HTML knowledge to edit out the formatting from the pasted content and then go back to the editor and add my own for consistency.  I had other options as well.  I could have used a browser that offered a “paste as plain text” or to toggle in and out of the editor where it just pastes plain text.  The geeky side of me just took delight in doing the text editing so that’s what was done.

There were a few other places where a knowledge of HTML came into play.  At the top of the post, you’ll note that I had included the Twitter message from Donna Fry.  Twitter provides the raw code for it; you just have to place it into the editor via HTML.  I also like to have a horizontal rule between each blog I reference and oddly enough, Scribefire doesn’t have a click to insert one but flipping into text allows for a <h r>.  When I’m done with a post, I always preview it to make sure that it looks good.  In particular, I’m looking for images that are the right size and fit within the margins.  How often have you seen a blog post with images that just sprawls outside the lines like it had a mind of its own?  That’s easily adjusted if you take it into the image editor or you know what “width=”783″ height=”455″” will do to your <  img src >.

While the tools that we have at our fingertips are better than they ever have been, there are still times when you have to lift the hood and do a little tweaking.

What does this mean for students?  Is there room for learning a little HTML to perfect their masterpieces?  There’s nothing to be afraid of and there’s a real sense of satisfaction knowing that you have the ultimate control over things.

There may come a day when it’s not necessary, but we’re not there just yet.

Computers, Firefox, learning, Read/Write Web, software

The Mozilla Manifesto

The first thing I do when I install a new web browser is set up the web apps that I use over and over again.  That includes Hootsuite, Gmail, Google +, Facebook, and the Scribefire blog editor.

For some reason, on this computer I also left the Mozilla start page.  It’s not a page that I pay a great deal of attention to; it’s just so handy for the shortcuts to configure things.

Recently, I had the browser loaded and was distracted from what I was going to do and noticed a section under the search box.

Am I bad for not paying attention before?  I’m sure that it’s been there since the recent campaign on Web Neutrality.

It was the #7 principle from Mozilla.  Very interesting; I like so much of what Mozilla does in terms of software development, what they’ve done for education, and I really like the recently updated Web Literacy Map.

So, having completely forgotten what I was about to do, I decided to check out their complete list of principles.  After all, this is #7, there’s got to be at least 6 others.

It turns out that there are 10 of them and you can visit them here.  The entire manifesto is fleshed out there.

Isn’t this what you want your web to be?

Computers, Education, Hour of Code, Teaching


Over the weekend, Aviva Dunsiger shared her most recent thoughts about coding in the classroom in a post “Continuing to Contemplate Coding“.  Like many of her posts, it has more questions than answers.  And, that’s always a good thing!

I started to write a reply to her post but then realized I was going to need more than that.  So, Aviva, this one’s for you.  I would encourage you to read Aviva’s original post.  She asks some very important questions and the post itself is a wonderful example of the musing of a reflective educator.

As I read her post, it brought back memories of my Computer Science teachable class at the university.  Bright young educators take the course because they’re going to change the world.  So many of them bring formal Bachelor and Master of Computer Science degrees and/or industry experience to the class with them.  They’ve seen the light and they’re going spread it everywhere they go.

On the first night, I always start with some off-computer activities to try and set the context of the course.  One of my favourites is to have 11 chairs at the front of the classroom and take 10 volunteers to hold a piece of paper with the number 1, 2, …10.  They seat themselves randomly and my instruction to the rest of the class is to give instructions so that the students at the front end up in numerical order.  There are only two rules – only one person of the 10 is allowed to stand up at any point and they can use the 11th chair for whatever purpose they want and everyone in the class has to be in agreement with the next instruction given.

It’s a fun and yet frustrating activity for them.  You can hear them discussing bubble sorts, insertion sorts, quick sorts, etc.  Put a computer in front of any of them and I’m sure they could have solved it in 30 seconds.  But it gets difficult when you have to visualize it in another context and, even worse, work with others!  Doesn’t that just describe learning something new?

As we debrief after the activity, we talk about various things as you can imagine but the point that really is driven home is that any concept needs to be applied properly and it’s difficult to just parachute into the middle of things.  Regardless, during the last night before their first practice teaching assignment, they have great plans to teach C when they get out there and graduate classes of programmers in two weeks  Uh huh.

The first night back after being out is always fun.  The first half of our session is devoted to blowing off steam, talking about teenagers, wondering why the love isn’t there, …  They get it.  We talk about curriculum development, progression and understanding of concepts, and get a new appreciation for the Ministry of Education Curriculum Documents that take forever to get written and vetted and yet are so valuable when you finally get your hands on them.

Aviva’s questions are really indicative of the frustration of the early adopter.  The Hour of Code initiative has spawned so many people wanting to do the contemporary “right thing”.  Personally, I absolutely agree that teaching coding at some level is needed and can have so many benefits in all subject areas.  If only there was a curriculum…or, better, a set of guidelines and understandings that would show what and how it looks like in the mathematics or language or science classroom.  You don’t have to look hard to find the CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards or the National curriculum in England: computing programmes of study.

We live in a world of the perpetual beta.  Online, most of us understand that so many things are developing in front of our eyes.  We’re living through these things and I would suggest that applying this logic towards the understanding of introducing coding into the classroom falls into the same category.  I fully acknowledge that we stand on the giants who have educationally gone before us and saw the benefits of coding and technology long before it became as high a profile as it is.  Pity the poor classroom teacher getting started.  There are so many resources.  Check any Hour of Code collection and there are excellent tools to use.  It’s just that a sense of direction and purpose hasn’t been explicitly stated.  We can learn so much from the experiences of others.  I keep this story around as a reminder “Teaching our children to code: a quiet revolution“.

There will be a time, I hope, that we in Ontario get our collective acts together and move forward in a purposeful direction.  Perhaps the first textbook company that produces coding activities aligned with the topic will take it over the top?  Or, at the least, an addendum to the current resource.

In the meantime, great teachers are working their way through things, gaining experience and expertise as they go.

I know Aviva said it, but I’ll bet she speaks for the masses when she’s asking for answers to these questions.

Computers, Education, Just Rambling, learning

Cheaper Than a Psychologist

As more people turn to social media to get their message out, emotions flow as well.

It can come through in the messages that you share as well.

I just finished my morning read through my Flipboard account and thought that the time might be right to have my Twitter messages that I just shared analysed.  The utility “Analyze Words” is here to do the heavy lifting for me.

It’s just a matter of visiting the site and enter your Twitter ID and let it do its thing.  Here’s my current analysis.

I’ve been playing around with this for a while and it’s interesting to see how the results change depending upon the time of day, what I’m reading and sharing, and how I interact with others.  I just counted and read/shared about 20 news stories to my timeline so, presumably, the analysis comes from that.  Normally, my arrogance score is much higher.  <grin>

Even more important than the “what” is the “how” and the page devoted to the Science behind the site is interesting reading.

Hopefully you’re still here and haven’t run out to test yourself just yet.  Like all testing data, the results are from a moment in time.  Repeated application should provide more reasoned results.  I can’t help but think that, if you have a classroom Twitter account, this would be a very interesting way to analyse class conversations and to improve the use of Twitter as a reporting / annotation tool.

In the meantime, enjoy analysing yourself and you just know that you’re going to check out your friends and colleagues….

It’s so much cheaper than a session on the couch.

application, Computers, Firefox, learning, Read/Write Web

Hello, there…

In the beginning, there was Skype.  It was great for face to face and audio conversations with others anywhere they could be connected.  Problems evolved over time; it wasn’t available on this platform or incompatible with that platform and every time I would use it, there was the inevitable update.

Then, there were the commercial products.  When I was on the OSAPAC Committee, we evaluated a few (having a whack of fun doing so) and eventually licensing Adobe Connect for the province.  This was really upping the ante since you had so many features that you’d find in formal meetings.  The problem with it was that it did require that you have access to someone who had a licensed version of the software if you wanted a conversation or meeting.  I kind of became the laughing stock of our committee when we moved to online meetings.  At the time, it required a great deal of bandwidth in order to work and send video.  With my incredibly slow internet here, the committee was robbed of my image…

For two years of planning the Bring IT, Together Conference with my co-chair Cyndie, we seemed to live on Google Hangouts.  There was so much planning and so many details that we seemed to be meeting at least once a day to go over details.  Hangouts were a great way of handling things.  There came a time with a browser update (I can’t remember which browser now) that the button needed to give permissions to use the camera and microphone were hidden under another menu bar in the browser.  It was bizarre and no matter where I clicked (or how hard I clicked – Doug has issues…), I couldn’t give the appropriate permission and so was effectively locked out of using Hangouts on that browser.  Fortunately, Google Chrome still worked and so I was good.  Recently, Google has broken Hangouts into its own separate application.  It feels a little kludgey at this point but still works nicely.

Then, with an update to Mozilla Firefox comes conversations right in the browser again!

It’s called Hello and it just works so smoothly as shown in this tutorial on the Mozilla website.

It’s a button that sits up there with your other extensions.  Click it to get started.

Then you need get a unique link to the person you’ll communicate with.  You can see that there are a couple of options for doing this in blue.

Send the invite and wait for them to join the conversation.

So, here in the labs, I’m talking to myself again.  I’m in the host window, lower right, and I’m talking to the wall behind me.

The whole process was very slick and easy.  No software to install and, according to Mozilla, it’s not restricted to Firefox – just any browser that supports WebRTC.

The list needs to be updated – it seems to work well with Vivaldi as well.

But not Internet Explorer…

IESo, why would you be interested in this over the other offerings?  The really nice part is that you don’t need to have a login on a particular service to access the conversation.  Just a working browser and an invitation to a conversation.

Join me for a video conversation using Firefox Hello:
You don’t have to download or install anything. Just copy and paste this URL into your browser:
https: //
If you want, you can also learn more about Firefox Hello at
Talk to you soon!

You’ll note that, in the screen capture above, Mozilla has it marked as Beta.  There are some features that others in this class that aren’t there.  Document sharing, back channelling, private conversations come to mind.

For what’s there now, it’s the easiest way to start a conversation without the hoops that other tools have.  This is one to watch.

And, I got some homework for myself.  I spent some time reading and trying to get my head around just what WebRTC is and its potential.  There’s lots on the horizon.

Computers, Education, Teaching

Another Gem From Sylvia

Sylvia Duckworth continues to be on fire with her #sketchnotes.  Maybe she’s trying to get a new classification – #sylvianotes!

This time, she takes on the “Personal qualitities not measured by tests”.

This is bound to be very popular with those who question the value of standardized testing and who are diving into just what we want an educational system to do.

Nicely done, my friend.  Kudos.

I have flipped this #sylvianote into my Flipboard collection “Sketchnotes by Sylvia Duckworth“.