Following News


Yesterday was a big news day.  There will be those who will read about the events in today’s morning paper.  But, if you’re connected, you could have followed the events live, as they happened.  And, if you were so inclined, you could have commented on them as well.  In this day and age, everyone can have a voice.

Discovery Channel Hostage Taking
Read about it:  Google News
Talk about it:  Twitter
Watch it:  YouTube
Blog it:  Women State

Apple New Products
Read about it:  CrunchGear
Talk about it:  Twitter
Watch it:  Apple
Blog it:  The Mobile Gadgeteer

Hurricane Earl
Read about it:  CBC News
Talk about it:  Twitter
Scientifically follow it:  National Hurricane Centre
Watch it:  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Blog it:  Roger Pielke Jr.’s Blog
See it:  Flickr

NASA GOES 13 satellite image showing the US east coast and Hurricane Earl on September 1, 2010 13:10 UTC.

Credit: NASA/GSFC/GOES/NOAA

For more information about GOES click here:
<a href="http://goes.gsfc.nasa.gov/" rel="nofollow">goes.gsfc.nasa.gov/</a>

<b><a href="http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/home/index.html" rel="nofollow">NASA Goddard Space Flight Center</a></b>  is home to the nation's largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

<b>Follow us on <a href="http://twitter.com/NASA_GoddardPix" rel="nofollow">Twitter</a></b>

<b>Join us on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Greenbelt-MD/NASA-Goddard/395013845897?ref=tsd" rel="nofollow">Facebook</a><b></b></b>Thanks – NASA Goddard Photo and VideoCC Attribution 

And yet, we still debate and discuss the use of these tools in education?  With these tools, we can easily engage and contribute to the discussion.  Taught appropriately, shouldn’t students be able to learn how to understand and digest all of this for themselves?

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Black and White


Ontario Blogger, Twitterer, Technological Studies teacher, Photographer, and generally good guy Peter Beens was doing a little crowd sourcing yesterday.  Peter is a pretty good photographer and was looking for some advice for which of his recent works he should enter into the Worldwide Photowalk competition.

To support his request, he had created a blog entry where he identified the top five that he was considering.  I checked it out and noticed that they were all terrific efforts and I could understand the challenge that he was having in picking just one.  Meanwhile, back in Twitter, people were submitting their advice and I chimed in as well.  In my mind, from the group of five, number 2 made the biggest impression on me.

Thanks to Peter’s Creative Commons licensing, here it appears.

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Thanks pbeens -  Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

A few of us had some comments guessing where Peter might have taken this picture and I did ask him what he did to enhance it.  His response:

image

I hope that he does submit this one.  From a good offering, this one really leapt out at me.

Photography can be such a creative playground for those who know what they’re doing.  In my eye, the ones that really jump out and grab me are well crafted black and white photos.  Simultaneously, you see less detail with the lack of colours and you see more detail in the contrast that black and white affords.

Check out this link which takes you to a collection of Eerie Seascapes.  Again, black and white lends itself to some incredible imagery.  It’s like being there witnessing the imagery all before a morning coffee.

Of course, it takes more than just black and white.  I have that setting on my camera and I take a lot of pictures myself.  My efforts are so amateurish by comparison.  There’s also the element of being in the right place at the right time, but even that doesn’t guarantee the great picture.  There’s the artist eye that understands the lighting, the angles, and the digital storytelling potential of the image that set people like Peter way ahead of hacks like me.

I hope that you take a moment to click through to Peter’s blog or his Flickr account and enjoy his pictures.  He’s got a great collection.

Mashing with Flickr


I don’t know if it was the success that I had with the Flickr widget that prompted me to play around with Flickr yesterday but I spent some time playing with the resources from PimPamPum.  They’ve created a couple of really interesting applications that let you dig around and enhance some of the content that you’ll find.

Bubblr
You can think of this as a free, online version of Comic Life with someone else’s photographs!  (Or your own if you’ve contributed the content).  A search routine allows you to search Flickr by a tag or a user and returns only Creative Commons images as a result of your search.  Scroll through the results to find an image that you want and select it to appear on the stage.  From there, you can drag and drop comment bubbles to mashup the image.

Sounds like fun and so I do a search for “Amherstburg” and there are some really wonderful images but I was struck by the closeup of the cannon which is located at the King’s Navy Yard.  I select it and add a caption and I’m good to go.  There’s a publish option available as well.

image

Phrasr
Now, this application gets interesting.  Here, you type a phrase and Phrasr searches Flickr for images that match the significant words in your phrase and generates a movie of the rebus that it creates.  Now, as I create this post, I’m waiting for the qualifying for the British Grand Prix.  Thusly inspired, I enter the phrase “Formula 1 in Great Britain”.  Phrasr does a nice job of pulling together some suggestions but I do have to make a couple of changes.

What is Formula 1 if not symbolized by Ferrari and the red cars?  Phrasr has me covered and I can change the image.  I’m not quite sure the Britain that it gives me is what I want.  Sorry to my British friends but I’m so traditional in my romantic view and need the Thames River and some famous building like, oh say, Big Ben.  Now we’re cooking!

image

The result is a movie with subtitles (my original phrase) that plays nicely on the screen or I can publish that as well to share the movie with others.  Here’s my effort.

This is absolutely too cool and a great deal of fun.

My mind is spinning with all kinds of classroom applications for the two products.  Flickr and Creative Commons licensing brings so much power and imagery to the classroom.  Imagine a combination of these two applications to explore parts of the world that go beyond the scope of a field trip! 

Even with your own images, you can easily quickly edit or show your efforts in a manner of documenting that can be done with other tools, to be sure, but no easily and student friendly with the wonderful interface presented here.

I would encourage you to check out both of the tools and be prepared for a great deal of enjoyment as you assemble things.  I’m even thinking  of those of you who are doing the 24/7 photo project.  Could you create a movie along with a storyline that incorporates your images?  You’ll have a ball trying!

Things I Don’t Use Anymore


I was cleaning out the backseat of my car and, under the stacks of things that a person who works from their car typically accumulates, I found – get this –  two roadmaps.  Not only were they maps to show me how to get there from here, they weren’t called road maps – these were Road Atlases.  Obviously, a step up in the hierarchy of road navigation assists, but it still made the bottom of the pile.

Thank you – szb78 –  Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works

Even cleaned up, I just couldn’t bring myself to recycle them.  There’s just something magical about a paper road map that makes you want to hang on to it.  But, I know that the only time I’ll touch it will be to tidy up.  But, it was the impetus for this list of things that have been replaced by a computer component

Things I Don’t Use (or seldom use) Anymore

  • Road Maps – instead I use “Nigel”, my trusty GPS;
  • Paper YellowPages – the familiar yellow book is replaced by http://www.canada411.ca or the yellowpages application on my iPod;
  • Computer Software Manuals – these are easily replaced by the F1 key on my computer;
  • Desktop Computer – sitting in one place without family and television for multi-tasking is so old school;
  • Scrabble – nobody sits still for a game anymore – move to Facebook’s game for time shifting and opponents from Paincourt and Waterloo;
  • Facebook Scrabble – while on the topic, this is rapidly being replaced by the Words with Friends iPod application;
  • Dummy Books – once the staple for learning things, the good folks on the internets provide shorter, to the point tutorials;
  • Media Continuum in order of decreasing value – DVD-ROM, CD-ROM, diskette, floppy disk – it’s more convenient online;
  • Telephone – anyone who needs to get a hold of me knows that there are better and less intrusive ways to get responses – more often than not, we need to be sharing a document anyway;
  • Radio – I like my music but not the static of AM/FM which are now replaced by web radio, XMRadio, or radio channels on the satellite.

The list goes on and on.  As I start to create this list, I realize that I could go on forever.  If you’re reading this blog, I’ll bet you’re in a similar situation.  So, I’ll stop and let you add to the list.  What has dropped from your regular use list?

Make Something and Then Share It


So, how did you celebrate Ada Lovelace Day?  Did you go out and write a computer program to celebrate?  Did you do something new and earth shattering?  Were you in pioneer mode?  Did you make a blog entry?  Did you post something to your webspace?  I had a do do do do moment last night.  I’m in a hotel in Mississauga and the cleaning person left her card on my desk.  Guess what her name was?

If you did, great!  If you didn’t, why not?

I was in a meeting all day, totally riveted to the topics and completely focussed on the task at hand. Mostly…

I also had been focussing on the importance of programmers like Lovelace and the contributions that such pioneers have made to the human condition which makes life so much easier for all of us.  Without these people, can you imagine where we would be today?  They took the risks; they shared their expertise; they tried (probably failed a lot) and then succeeded.

I also had thought about Ian Juke’s presentation that he had made at the National Staff Development Council conference earlier in the year.  One of the things that Jukes brings forth so eloquently is the ties to Moore’s Law and now technology innovation is increasing exponentially.  He also makes reference to the expansion of human knowledge and information.  Futurists are always talking about the time that it’s going to take to double human knowledge and information and they often make reference to the visual of the number of times that the Library of Congress could stack up to the moon and back.  Some days, it feels like my in-box.

I’ve often wondered in these visuals about the actual content of these visuals.  Is it really new knowledge and understanding or is it just the same old tripe repeated over and over again?  And then over and over again.

Or does it even matter?

I’d suggest that it doesn’t.  Except for the shock value in a presentation, who is going to read and/or catalogue that stuff anyway?  Did Ada Lovelace even consider the reach and impact of her efforts?  Probably not.  It was just the right thing to do.  We now all have this romantic notion of a computer pioneer that lives to this day.

So, how about each one of us?  Most of us are not in a position of cutting edge thinking with something new like Babbage’s machine.  What we are in a position, particularly in education, is to share the stories and techniques of what works and what doesn’t.  With the power of current technologies, we all can contribute to something better.  We can share lesson plans, ideas, newsletters, blog posts, wiki entries, … in a manner that’s unprecedented.  If you are doing something that you feel is unique and innovative, why now share and write about it; develop and distribute some materials in the best spirit of open education and learning?

There truly are limitless resources that other pioneers have tried and made work.  But, how many times have we created a new concept or melded an existing one into something that works better for us?  New ideas, big or small, that change the course in your sphere of influence make an impact and if they’re worthy of your use, are valuable to others.

So, why not create and share the concept.  The impact may not be immediately apparent but may become of real value to others.  You never know who you’re going to touch.

And, make sure that you’re using the tools to get the information out.  Blog about it, post it to your website, let the world know via Twitter, create a PDF of your class newsletter and make it available to others.  But, just create something, determine your comfortable level of copyright, and then share it.

Social Bookmarks:

Report Card Comments


Yesterday, I had a quick back and forth with @irasocol about innovation in education.  He had made a comment about parents wishing to have the same type of education that they had without all of this new Web 2.0 innovation stuff thrown in.  But, you know, we agreed that our education has been filled with moments where teachers have tried new to them ways to innovate in the classroom.  We’re still covering the material for the bean counters but the name of the game has always been opportunities for engagement to increased interest in the materials.

At the end of the term or semester, teachers do have to report back to parents for accountability purposes.  Have our report card comments changed to keep up with things?  Perhaps the following might help as we move from old school comments to those that reflect what is happening in classrooms.

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/bbaunach/ / CC BY 2.0

“Plays well with others” – H/She set up a private wiki for the study of immigration and used it with his/er group to collaborate on their final presentation.

“Uses unethical computer technique” – H/She discovered some gaping security holes in our school network and explained to the IT Department how to plug them.

“Cheats by using Google” – During our unit on Confederation, h/she found all of the answers to the questions by using Google on his/er mobile device. I’ve learned not to put simple memory recall questions on the test.

“Organizes thoughts effectively” – By using an online graphic organizer, h/she was able to collect input on the outline of his/er essay and this resulted in a more thorough discussion about Green Industries.

“Analyzes data” – During our study of pit bulls, h/she conducted an online poll to collect opinions of this animal from students around the globe.

“Composes original music” – Using an online music editor and resources from Creative Commons sources, h/she was able to create an original composition by remixing their efforts.

Are we ready to be this transparent with our innovations?

Social Bookmarks:

A New Way to Browse Bookmarks


If you’re a regular visitor to the “doug … off the record” blog, you may be interested in the websites that I book daily.  Exploring and finding excellent educational websites is one of my online passions and I try to find and bookmark the best of the best.  I am in awe of the coding practices of these programmers and there are just so many excellent resources.

How you browse what I bookmark is certainly up to you.  You might skim the list and see if there’s something there that is of interest.  If it’s of interest, you might click through and check it out life to determine if it fits your needs.  Or, you might go to my bookmarks at either http://delicious.com/dougpete or http://www.diigo.com/user/dougpete and look at them a page at a time.  There are lots of good techniques and you may have your own unique way of doing things.

Recently, Delicious has introduced another way to browse bookmarks which I think is exceptionally cool.

In the upper right corner of the screen where you’d normally find a link to “Save a new bookmark”, there’s a new Beta option which lets you “Browse these bookmarks”.  It is a very slick way to check them out.

What Delicious does is inject a navigation bar at the top of the screen and you, the visit, can browse not just the bookmarks, but the actual site itself!  So, no more clicking through, opening and closing windows, looking at what has been bookmarked absolutely live!

image

 

So, you’re headed right to the actual page.  It’s a very slick concept.  Below, I’ve captured a small movie of about 10 websites that I’ve bookmarked yesterday.  By clicking the navigation arrows, you simply work your way through the sites that have been bookmarked.  I really like the concept.

 

 

I would encourage you to check it out for yourself.