application, Computers, Education, learning, Read/Write Web, Teaching

Just Drumming–At Various Levels


The drummer in my first band used cardboard boxes.  He didn’t have a great deal of money to buy the good stuff but he did have a nice set of drum sticks.  By using cardboard boxes of varying sizes, he was able to put together a nice collection of drums for various sounds.  The others of us in the band had legitimate guitars and we would practice whenever we could.  The nice thing about the boxes was that you could also work on the band’s logo with magic markers.  If you made a mistake, just get another box.

But, we were doomed for failure – what with no jobs, boxes for drums, and going to school for Grade 4 at the time – we really didn’t stand a chance.

Kids today have it so much easier.  With their devices, they don’t have to learn to drum on boxes – they could use the HTML5Drum Machine.

Fire it up and you’ll see how electronics, programming, recording, downloading, music styles all converge into one neat little tool.

drum

It was fun to mess around with and take it for a musical spin.  Plug in a good set of headphones for a better enjoyable experience.

But it gets even better.  In the category of “How did they do that?”, I decided to poke around.  I had the drum machine loaded into Firefox so I right clicked to View Page Source.  Here’s where being able to understand HTML pays off.

The code that’s behind this is actually embedded in a frameset with the real code coming from jamtom.com.

source

My next stop was to head over to that site and, indeed, there was the drum machine. Checking out the page source there gives the story behind the story.  This isn’t for your typical Grade 4 student but it’s interesting reading the code behind genius that makes for such an interesting front end.  It’s certainly far removed from editing out header tags but there’s that secondary school student that will really dig in to just how it works.  Maybe they’ll be inspired to write one of their own?

If only we’d had this technology when we were in Grade 4.  We coulda been somebody.

Blogging, Education, learning, Ontario Edublogs, Teaching

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Earlier this week, I was participating in the #csforstudents tutorial (we were flipping a coin and keeping stats) and I got a notification that someone had send me a message.  It was from Donna Fry who had posted this to Twitter.

That generated a bit of discussion

I was going to jump in and share the link to my collection of Ontario Edubloggers but only had one eye on Donna’s conversations which she had tagged #eLearnONT.  (Sorry, Donna)  As I look through the collection that came through in the conversation, I don’t think you can go wrong following any of these blogs.  Here’s what they’ve each written recently along with a link to those I’ve interviewed on this blog.

What a wonderfully diverse and rich collection of posts!  No wonder they were identified.  If you haven’t read them, they’re all worth the click to inspire your thinking and learning.

And, Donna throws together a pretty mean blog herself….

I apologize if there were any additional Twitter messages that I missed.  I was otherwise engaged at the time and went through Donna’s timeline to see if I could capture them all.


Talkin’ ‘Bout Our Origins as Bloggers

Even before Donna’s post, I had tagged Royan Lee’s blog post as something that I wanted to highlight here.  In this post, he shares an interview with Joanne Babalis.

The conversation digs into their thoughts about their own blogs.  I love this stuff.  It’s like a blogging version of “Inside the Actor’s Studio”.


Save the Elementary TLs in TCDSB

I have always had trouble commenting on blogs written in Blogger.  After reading Diana Maliszewski’s post, I felt compelled to comment.  It turned out to be rather longish so I made sure that I made a copy of it in case it didn’t “take”.  It didn’t; I messaged Diana who checked that it wasn’t on her system even through I had tried posting with my Google account and my WordPress account.  It’s got to be one of the extensions that I use acting badly.  Anyway, I’m reproducing it here to tack on to Diana’s wonderfully passionate original post.

This is a well crafted post and letter, Diana.  Hopefully, it will be read in the spirit that you wrote it; not wanting to erode the educational experience for students and blaming it on funding.

I had to smile at your comment that I wasn’t a teacher-librarian.  You’re absolutely correct with that.  Going through elementary school, we didn’t have a teacher-librarian at all.  The library was just a book exchange room.  We didn’t know any difference.  It was just like the public library downtown that my mother took my brother and me to weekly to get our limit of two books.

At secondary school, I did have the benefit of a librarian.  She was wonderful at pointing us in the right direction.  

The tipping point for me was as a young teacher, having just a terrific teacher-librarian.  He did a terrific job.  We were always receiving memos of new resources and he would clip articles from the newspapers and put them in our mailboxes.  He constantly stirred the pot and was integral in bringing all forms of media to the classroom.  He was like the colleague teaching the same material which is important to a Computer Science teacher, the loneliest teacher in any school.  When I would have my students in the Resource Centre for research, he truly was a partner in the classroom.  He made my class so much relevant to students.

Later, as a teacher-consultant, I got to go from school to school and did a whack of workshops that always was attended by teacher-librarians.  They were always interested in what was new and would always be pushing for understanding the latest and greatest in the realm of technology.  What so impressed me was the global perspective of their school that they brought to the conversation.  They knew who was teaching what and how they could support their colleagues.  They were always the extra mind in classrooms and, usually, the first person to be consulted over curriculum issues.  I had a computer contact from every school and many of them were teacher-librarians.  I had the honour of presenting a couple of sessions at the OLA Superconference, always in partnership with one of these marvellous people.  The ones I worked with were just such natural partners.  They take content and push it past the academic into the relevance.

Decision makers need to visit libraries/resource centres/learning commons and really understand the dynamics of that most important area of the school.  I know that it’s tough for trustees to do so but they really need to do so to understand what will go missing if they make the cuts.


The elimination of us

I’ve got to file Rusul Alrubail’s post under the category “I had no idea”.  It was a tough post for me to read.

I always had the benefit of being a member of OSSTF.  Yes, there were dues but there was collegiality, professional learning, newsletters, insights, connections, and security.  I’m sure that there will be a great deal more as this unfolds.


Social Media Basics

Do you know someone who’s interested in finding out about Social Media and all the networks that are common conversations these days?  Or, perhaps they’ve noticed that television shows now show Twitter handles or Facebook pages or Instagram accounts for more detailed comment?

Send them over to this slideshow from Joan Vinall Cox.

She’s got you covered!


As I wrap up this post, I just marvel at the insights that are shared by Ontario Educators all the time.

Please take the time to read the excellent commentaries.  And, why not share the links with your connections so that others can enjoy as well?!

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, 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.

Hello!
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: //hello.firefox.com/XXXXXXXX
If you want, you can also learn more about Firefox Hello at https://www.firefox.com/hello/
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.

application, Computers, Education, learning

Approximating Pi


I think it’s irrational that Pi Day turned out to be on a Saturday this year.  Next week is Spring Break so students won’t really get to enjoy the day.

As I sit here reading and just loving the Pi stories, I’m flipping them away into a new Pi Flipboard.  (Here, if you care.)

It was actually pretty depressing reading some of the words used in the stories.  Things like “dork”  or “geek” reflect the attitude towards mathematics from certain sectors.  It’s politically correct to make fun on those whose passion is mathematics and even more politically correct to praise those who do amazing things in the Arts.  At the same time, I’m watching the Formula 1 qualifying from Melbourne and I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful blend of mathematics, engineering, and the arts that make for such a spectacle.

Is it because mathematics is so precise that people get this mindset?

I thought back to the couple of times that I taught mathematics…I was told that you could tell what elementary school the students came from based upon their understanding of mathematics.  It actually was kind of true.  I remember asking the class what Pi was.  The answers were all over the map, although all correct at some level.  “It’s an irrational number”, “It’s a math concept”, “3.14”, “22/7″, “It has something to do with circles” …  The students who gave the first couple of numbers were really able to elaborate on the concept.  The others just knew that 22/7 or 3.14 were numbers that were inserted into problems.  It was a good example of understanding versus rote memorization for me.

I was thinking about this and was reflecting upon my initial discovery of Pi.  I still remember Pi written in paper going around the classroom written on paper over the top of the chalkboards — 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816406286208998628034825342117067982148086513282306647

(I did have to look it up.  My memory only goes to 3.1415926535.)

But, I do remember my introduction to 22/7.  It was a classroom activity that had us engaged in groups.  We’d done the investigations with measurements to come to determine just what 3.141 might mean.  I still remember our teacher’s instructions.  “What would you think if I told you that you can approximate Pi with a fraction composed of numbers for the numerator and denominator somewhere between 1 and 30?”  When you place it into an equation to solve, often you can divide the denominator into the equation and easily solve things.

Our groups were given chart paper and we were asked to create a table with the headings “Numerator”, “Denominator”, and “Result”.  Our results were calculated by simplifying the fraction and our goal was to find the answer that best approximated Pi.  I’m sure the process kept us busy for quite a while!  But, we persevered.

It was a nice memory as I was dog walking this morning and I sat down and wrote a program in Python when we got home since my memory had actually generated the algorithm.  The logic went something like this:

set pi to 3.14

for numerator = 1 to 30

   for denominator = 1 to 30

      result := numerator / denominator

      if result is closer to pi

         set best_approx to result

         set best_numerator to numerator

         set best_ denominator to denominator

      end if

   end for

end for

print best_numerator, best_denominator, best_approx

There are lots of ways to learn about Pi and explore its significance.  Hopefully, simply memorizing one number or one fraction isn’t one of them.  There’s passion to be expressed in the learning of mathematics.  Witness how worked up the world gets over one number.  Wouldn’t it be nice if all mathematics was approached this way?

In the meantime, enjoy this video….