You Are What You Tweet


Your Twitter account contains an incredible amount of information just waiting to be harvested and organized.  The service Visual.ly is there to help the cause.  Since it was first announced, I was eager to see how it would do what it purported and now I (and you) can!

Visual.ly takes the data from your Twitter account and creates your own personal infographic.  Up for the challenge, I headed off to the site and completed the form to get mine.  Here I am!

Looking over this, it’s me all right.  There’s nothing there that’s not available freely by analyzing me on Twitter.  Well, maybe not the geeky grin but I do try to tweet good things rather than bad things.  I must admit that I read “likely”, “obsession”, and “circumstantial” really quickly and wondered how they knew…  But, upon closer inspection, I do like to read and share although not through a traditonal book.  If that only was an iPad…  It does look like I could do more work on being interesting and do it enthusiastically.

In addition to the single infographic, you can compare yourself (versus) against another user.  So, I elected to go head to head with my OSLA and GECDSB nemesis @zbpipe.  The results….

Looks like we’ve got Andy in common!  Apparently, Zoe is more social than I am – do my automated tweets count against me?  <grin>

Anyway, it’s an interesting little time waster.  Check it out.  I think I’ll add my personal one to my Digital Footprint page.  It is a nice summary.  What does your infographic tell the world about you?

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Super Transformation


During our visit to New York University as part of the CSIT Symposium, we had a chance to see some of the products that were written by the students, undergraduate and graduate, as part of the educational gaming group.  Many of the applications that we had demonstrated for us were less than fully polished and so weren’t available for the general population to access.

But, one of the students Alec Jacobson, has a website where he’s posting his compositions.  His games are available at this location.  The application that we had demonstrated for us called Super Transformation.  An introduction to the game can be previewed in this YouTube video.

According to the information that we were given, the program was written in XNA and appears on the web through Silverlight.  The game was written to address Grade 8 mathematics concept in New York.  But, the main concepts – rotation and reflection along with jumping make for an engaging activity that would be applicable to the appropriate mathematics classroom anywhere.

Personally, I found the game addicting and I’m sure that most 13 year olds would as well.  Rotation and reflection are important concepts but they’re presented in an interesting manner and some of the activities just don’t follow the rules of physics which make it even more interesting.

The goal of the game is simple.  You have a character and you need to apply transformations in such a way to allow the game’s player to exit the level through a door that looks just like him.  *All* that you have to do is drop one of these objects in the player’s path and the transformation is applied when the player touches it.

ReflectionRotation

Seems simple enough, right?  Give it a shot!  In addition to the mathematics activities covered, you’ll find yourself scheming and planning just how you’re going to solve the current level.

Access to Super Transformation is free and if this topic is in your curriculum, check it out, bookmark it, and plan to incorporate it into you lessons.  p.s. since it’s on the web, it’s a great homework assignment too!

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Really Smart People


Yesterday served as a testament to me that there are a lot of really smart people and I was so fortunate to be able to see them show off just what it is that they stand for.  At the end of the day, it really was a humbling experience.

In the morning, we started with a breakfast speaker.  Dean Kamen got our intellectual blood stirred by sharing stories about his efforts to bring science opportunities to the youth.  He started with a wonderful story of his attempt to bring science to the masses with the creation of a Science Centre but realized that he was missing so many students going this route.  This inspired him to found the USFirst series of robotic challenges.  It was amazing to sit in the audience and hear how this has taken off both in the US and internationally.  I really liked his understanding that youth had their heroes in sports and entertainment but nothing academically and he was about to change that through this program.  From its humble beginnings, it moved from 23 company support to championships held at Epcot Centre and GeorgiaDome.  The most impressive statistic was the $15M that students were able to garner in university scholarships last year.  Quote of the day here is attributed to President Bush when addressing students at the opening ceremonies – “It’s like the WWF only with smart people.”

Then, it was time for the entire conference to get on the bus and we had a nice scenic tour to New York University where the learning continued.  This time, it was another overview of the piloting CS Principles Course.

Paul Tymann provided a wonderful overview to his implementation of this course last year.  It was designed for those students who might not otherwise engage in Computer Science because of the fear of mathematics or perhaps they were just browsing to see if there was some interest in the discipline.  There were four big themes to the course: Nuts and Bolts, Algorithmic Thinking, Computing Systems, People and Computing.  That would indeed provide a nice introduction to Computer Science and also to societal implications.  Paul shared some of the things that worked:  Image manipulation, steganography, and “go buy a computer” and some things that didn’t:  generate a webpage, accessibility for all.  There was a great deal of interest from the audience looking to offer this course themselves when it’s finalized.  Resources are at http://csprinciples.org and links there to the College Board website.

Then we were in for a real treat.  A graduate student, a regular student, and a summer intern shared some of the gaming software that they had been working on at the university.  We saw how a Kinnect system monitors movement and got an idea about how that might be used in mathematics!  We got demonstrations of Factor Reactor, Super Transformation, and NoobsVersusLeets.  Development was done in XNA and Silverlight and the whole experience was quite fascinating.  Writing the game isn’t enough but also monitor its use was important for research.  To that end, we got to look behind the curtain to see, not only the data collected by the user, but how biometric devices like a pressure seat and skin cuffs measure student reaction when playing the games, collecting 8,000,000 data points in half an hour.  The big question was how do you leverage game playing with academic games?  We talked about solo play, competitive play, and collaborative play.  In the cool department was a demonstration of the Do It Yourself Touch Table.  It was fascinating to see what you could do with plexiglass, a couple of Kinnect sensors and the ability to think outside of the box.

Competitive Factor Reactor Game

Then, it was back on the bus to enjoy the New York traffic and head to the Lincoln Centre and the finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup.  Speaking of thinking outside of the box…

Those who were competing where set up in booths that were open for us to walk through and talk about the projects with the competitors.  The main language of conversation was certainly English but the culture was world-wide.  Students were developing software and prototypes in their quest for a better world.  For the most part, it was just heavy traffic and then an opportunity to chat with the students.  At one point, though, there was this crush of humanity headed my way… Eva Longoria was there to take in the exhibits and talk with the students.  With my phone held high, I got this fuzzy ponytail shot over the shoulder of a really rude professional photographer.

Then, it was show time!  In the Koch Theatre the students all showed up to see who the award winners would be.  I didn’t have the ability to take notes so you’ll just have to visit the Imagine Cup website for the full details.

The presentation was just as good as any awards show might well be.  Betsy and I sat way, way up in one of the top rings with just a few others.

There were some really interesting projects that caught my eye walking through the display area.  One was a helicopter like device developed by a Singapore team that, by remote control, could survey a disaster scene from on high.  It had two cameras and could be outfitted with a number of sensors (radiation, smoke, etc.) to send important information back to rescue teams.

There were two tablet applications that caught my eye in particular.  One actually did win an award in its class.  It was a system of moving PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) to a portable device for those students who need it to communicate.  I could see a huge demand for that.  The gentleman that was showing it off was from France and the product is tentatively named after a young lady who needs it for communication.

How about a traffic monitoring system complete with dry ice simulating fog?

Then, I spent almost half an hour talking to another group from India who had a sort of working prototype.  It was a tablet computer for the blind.  Instead of a clear glass screen like we normally think of when we think tablets, it had a braille interface with mechanical pins to interact with the user.  I was blown away with the concept – I wish that they had been closer to a final working product.  Talk about thinking outside the box, er, tablet.

As was noted, these students were all winners with their ideas and implementation.  One question that I asked at every table was how they intended to monetize their product.  Responses ranged from putting out a limited free version with the possibility of a purchased upgrade to donating all the work to Open Source.

The kids are all right.  If you ever have a chance to walk the hall in future Imagine Cups, you absolutely must do so.  Yesterday’s complete results are found here.

Alfred Thompson blogs his thoughts about the day here.

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Google, the world is watching…


…and waiting with great anticipation for Google Plus.

I was fortunate enough to get a Google Plus account courtesy of my friend Leslie Fisher on the weekend and started playing around with it.  The more I played with it, the more potential that I saw for education.  It addresses, I think, many of the issues that makes Facebook so unusable for most in education.  Many of the concerns revolve around security and privacy issues.  That’s not to put Facebook down – it was designed with another social networking purpose.  Google Plus seems to be built on a good foundation of privacy and networking and starts from a position of safety and then you decide what to open up after that.

I was curious and actually monitored this particular post with over 240 reads as I type this Monday evening.  I was amazed also at the folks that retweeted the news of the original posting.  Given the the nature of the post and after some checking, they all appear to be educators and that makes sense given the title of the post.  The geography speaks for itself.  Retweets identifying the blog post came from:

  • Greece
  • Latvia
  • Philadelphia, USA
  • Toronto, Canada
  • Potsdam, Germany
  • Waterloo, Canada
  • Montevideo, Buenos Aires
  • Peterborough, Canada
  • Windsor, Canada
  • Hrvatska
  • Stratford, Canada
  • Germany
  • Zug, Switzerland
  • York Region, Canada
  • Richmond Hill, Canada
  • The Rock, Canada
  • Victoria, Australia
  • Saskatchewan, Canada
  • Alberta, Canada
  • and many from parts unknown!

So, Google, what does this tells me?  It tells me that educators world-wide are looking for the possibilities of a new and safe social network for use in education.  If you’re reading the general Twitter stream and following conversations about Google Plus, there are great conversations.

I would suggest that many of the conversations are about “can you send me an invite?”  As you know, gaining access is a tad on the difficult side but great teachers want to check it out.  With apologies to my friends in Australia and Buenos Aires, summer vacation just started in the North Hemisphere.  The reality is that most teachers don’t kick back and do nothing for the next two months.  They’re involved in professional learning, taking upgrading or other qualification courses, and going into school to do school activities like setting up classroom walls and virtual classrooms on the network for the fall.  If you understand this, and you have a great product for education, this is absolutely the time to make it available for teachers to kick the tires, evaluate and give it test runs for possible adoption in the fall.

Teachers using Web 2.0 applications are well aware of the perpetual beta.  Google Plus is quite clear that the product isn’t finished yet but what I’m seeing is more than enough to give a great flavour of the network and what’s to come.  If Google is targeting something that might well be used in education, then now is the time to make accounts available for educators to preview.  Now is the time that people will take the time to dig deeper into new resources.

My original review and thoughts about Google Plus for Education was posted here.

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This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Ontario Edubloggers produce some of the best content on the web.  This week was no exception with some riveting posts by this awesome group.  I’ve tucked some away to share today.

From Consultants and SATs
Puppet Pals, plastecene, and photos were the inspiration to create some bug stories is Techieang’s class.  Read about the process on her regular blog

and then head over to her Posterous blog to see the results.

From K-12 Teachers
It’s impressive that, with end of the year activities, hot weather, EQAO, and report cards that K-12 teachers keep momentum in their blogs.  Heather Durnin‘s class’ collaborative project came a conclusion as they published their final project.  It’s such an interesting read and hopefully inspiration for others.

From Principals, VPs, and Administrators
Shannon Smith asks the question that so many schools are afraid to ask “How Stale is Your Digital Presence” in a recent entry that she entitled “The Millenials are Googling Us”.  I took her quiz and scored an 84 in the How Millennial Are You?  Interesting questions and I could have been higher had I some piercings and a tattoo but alas, not.

It is worth a read and a ponder.  How relevant is your school?  What can you do to reach out to be more inclusive.  I’m thinking as I read it – it would be interesting to pull in a group of students and teachers to go through and evaluate the school’s digital footprint for the last school year.  What were your highlights?  Where do you need improvement?  Does your digital presence even have an impact on the school population?  Hmmmm.  I think I’ve already roughed out a blog post here – thanks, Shannon.  Even our generation gives you a leg up on piercings but I need to see your tattoo sometime.

From Trustees and Higher Education
Alana Callan recently attended a conference for colleges in Sarnia recently focussed on Advanced Learning Concepts.  Michael Wesch was a keynote speaker – he seems to be making a sweep through Ontario recently as I heard him at the OSLA Conference.  In her posting, Alana shares her reflections about the conference.  Very interesting.  Interestingly, I was in Sarnia at the same time but never realized that there might have been a connection opportunity at the time.

She does make reference to some awesome works from Wesch including “The Machine is Us/ing Us”.  I remember using that video to introduce Will Richardson at the Western Regional Computer Advisory’s Symposium a few years ago.  The message from the video is just as important today as it was then.  The blog post is very comprehensive and includes a number of excellent links to terrific content.

Once again, there were terrific things shared by Ontario Edubloggers.  You can check them all out at the Livebinder or Scoop.it sites.  And, if you’re an Ontario Edublogger and want to be added to the list, please fill out the form at the Livebinder site.

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This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It was another great week of online learning for personal professional development from the fingers of Ontario Edubloggers.  Check out these highlights.

From Consultants and SATs

From the Bloggucation Blog, Aaron Puley gives us one of the best and in-depth approaches and rationales for the use of Voicethread in the classroom.  The blog addresses assessment and metacognition with some concrete examples. I really like the example for the English Language Learner classroom.

From K-12 Teachers

OK, I must admit that the title “Justin Bieber as Teacher” had me raise an eyebrow.  But, I stood the course and Diana Maliszewski weaves a nice story about teachable moments in research from a teacher-librarian point of view.  In all, a very interesting read.

From Principals, VPs, and Administrators

Moving from Grade 8 to Grade 9 is a big deal.  I think we all remember the excitement of getting out of Grade 8 and then a couple of months later the angst of walking into a secondary school ready to be swallowed up by the big population there.  In School 2 Go, Donna Fry challenges you to think about your school’s priorities.  It’s a good exercise to ground yourself in reality.

From Trustees and Higher Education

So, Joan Vinall-Cox has got herself a Galaxy Tab and she’s taking us through her personal learning and coping with her new device.  This week, she had a little Quibble with her calendar.  She’s not afraid to tell us about it and look for suggestions. I hope that she finds a solution.  I had to smile when I saw all of the editing done to keep her calendar events private!  Read back to her other posts about the decision to purchase this particular tablet.

What a great collection of reads.  There are more great offerings from Ontario Edubloggers that can be accessed at the LiveBinders site here.  Or, if you’re reading with a device that supports QR Codes, take a picture of this:

and navigate through the site.  As always, if you’re an Ontario Edublogger and want to be included, go to the LiveBinder site and add yourself and the URL to your blog.

Earn Your Stripe


All that you have to do is create yourself an account, provide a little content, and you’ve got your own Infostripe.

In its beta period, Infostripe lets you very easily create your own stripe of information to show off your digital footprint.  Registration is quick and easy and you’re ready to create your own personalized stripe.  If you’re active in the Social Realm, it may well take a while to work your way through the social networking services to identify where you have a significant presence.  If you’ve created some media, then you’ll want to add that as well.

It’s one of those times where I’m glad that I’ve chosen a consistent name thoughout everything that I do online!

The final step is to choose the colours that you want – I chose Android colours and my stripe is ready to go.

While this is a screen grab of what was generated, each of the social icons above are hot and lead to the actual source.  You can check it out live at:  http://infostripe.com/dougpete.

While you’re there, why not create your own?  At this point, you’re just creating your own page.  The ability to embed in a webpage, wiki, or blog would be a nice next step.  The authors have been very active on the project; you can follow their changelog at the site and certainly can follow them on Twitter and/or Facebook to see what’s next in the development.

For me, it’s one of the quickest way to navigate through a digital footprint that I’ve seen.

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