Exploring and Wasting Time

For me, it started yesterday by checking my Facebook timeline.  A high school friend had posted this article “What Color Is This Goddamn Dress?”  (Choice of words theirs…)

I looked at it – yellow and white, what’s the deal – and then moved on to do other reading.  I flipped on the morning news as I’m reading my Twitter timeline and this thing had gotten out of hand.  The story was everywhere and, in fact, trending on Twitter.  I walked the dog and came home and the talk was still going.  This is weird.  The current wisdom was that those that saw the colours gold and white were wrong and that, in fact, the colours where black and blue.  Yeah, right.  I know what I saw.

I went back to the original Facebook post and, son of a gun, the dress did look black and blue now.  How could this be?  Then, It occurred to me.  The first look was on my Macintosh computer and I’m now looking at it in Ubuntu.  Same browser – Firefox.  This truly was strange.  Then, I remembered that each computer can be configured with a colour profile.  On Ubuntu, it looks like this.

On the Mac, I had gone into the advanced calibration when I had originally set it up and had a “warmer” setting.

Could this be the difference?  I played around with a bunch of settings which made for some slight changes.  OK, maybe there’s something in this.  After all, I wasn’t looking at the original dress.  I was looking at a digital picture that had had who knows how many loads and saves.

Well, as you know, things had exploded with all kinds of theories, people looking at the image together, bad words being said to others!  I remembered back when I got my first pair of glasses.  The eye doctor had this test with the big E in black and showed it on a red background and then a green background and the question was “which looked sharper?”.  I hated to admit it but black on red always looks sharper to me.  It didn’t matter how much flipping with the equipment that he did.

But the media continues to explode with stories, theories, and scientific explanations.  “This Might Explain Why That Dress Looks Blue And Black, And White And Gold“.  Interesting scientific theory.  My original view was done in the dark and my second visit was next to a patio window with the blinds open.  So many variables.  I then tried it on my iPad and could see both colours depending upon what angle I was looking at the screen.

The posts keep on coming.  There were two where you could see the white/gold colour in one and black/blue in the other.  Enough is enough.  As my science consultant friend often said “There’s got to be a workshop in there somewhere.”  I saved both images to my hard drive and opened them in The Gimp.

Side by side, I can clearly see two different colours.

But, if you look closely at the bottom, I’ve had to resize the yellow/gold one to get them to be about the same size.  So, the originals weren’t necessarily the original image.  Even for this side by side, I’ve introduced some error into the picture.  And, besides, they are now both on the same computer with the same colour settings and yet appear different (at least to me…)  One of them has already been doctored to make the point.

The colour picker will get to the bottom of this.


I should have gone into forensics. 

So, I could do a little editing on my own.  How about green?

As I was doing this, I was thinking of a couple of lesson activities.

  • In the Comm Tech classroom, could you take the two images and adjust the settings so that they look the same?  Or, if you took one, could you make it into the other?
  • In a digital literacy class, it’s a perfect example of how you can see the same thing in two different ways?  It’s a solid reminder to question everything you see online!
  • In the science classroom, there’s probably a whack of scientific principles at work.  I’m just not a science teacher.

As I wrap up this post, I realize that I had left the search for #TheDress open in another tab.  There are hundreds of messages that have come in since I started this post.

The online world loves a good argument.  I’ve been online long enough to remember the classic nerd arguments.  “Who’s the better captain?  Kirk or Picard?”

(I’m solidly in the Kirk camp…)

Anyway, enough exploring and wasting time.  There’s better things to do.

A Different Time

The story that malware was installed on hard drives was everywhere this morning.  Here’s an example.  “Russian researchers expose breakthrough U.S. spying program”.  There’s no doubt that this is scary stuff, although the article indicates who and what were the targets of this software.  It still is something to be wary of.  Presumably, it’s in the “right hands” now but what happens if this technology is reverse engineered (and it will be) and falls into the “wrong hands”?  It does serve as a reminder to make sure that you are installing updates as they come along and run security scans on your computer regularly.  At present, it appears as though current technology wouldn’t catch this vulnerability but you just might catch something else hiding on your system.

This, and my masterpiece creation for calculating wind chill earlier this week reminds me that it wasn’t always this difficult.  Now that we’re connected so often and installing, sharing, and just visiting web resources, it’s easier to catch malware than it is to catch a cold, it seems.  As I was plunking around looking for the state of the BASIC programming language, I stumbled into this website, Vintage BASIC.  It is a reminder of the old days.

In the old days, one of the things that we were all so fascinated with was the ability to take this inanimate object and make it act like it was human.  The best way to do this was to have it play games.  If you long for those days, you’ll love the collection you’ll find here.

Now this is quality and classic.  None of this 3-D realism and surround sound that makes you feel like you’re right in the middle of the battlefield.  The program and your mind did the thinking and virtualizing!


And, you were safe doing it.

The programs were written in BASIC and you typed it into an editor and then ran it on your system.

In addition to developing keyboarding skills, you were learning a second language.

100 N=100
110 Q=100

If there was a statement that made your computer reformat your hard drive, you knew it immediately and just didn’t key it!  How’s that for the original malware checker?

Things were so much safer and black/white.

We didn’t have to be so paranoid but it wouldn’t enable things like Graham Culey’s “Targeted Attacks for Dummies”.

But we live in a completely different place and time.

When was the last time you scanned your computer for malware?

I’m OK and I’m Good with That

It’s a wild internet out there.  We’ve all heard about dodgy and unsafe websites and the problems that can happen when you visit the wrong one.  Both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have Google Safe Browsing technology built into them.  The list is constantly updated with reports of sites that would do malicious things to you.  There’s some exceptional reading about the topic and how it works in Firefox in the document “How does built-in Phishing and Malware Protection work?”  Google’s explanation about the same topic is also great reading “Making the web safer“.  Where does it come from?  Mouse over this interactive map.

But, as they say, even paranoids have enemies.

In addition to relying on this feature, I have the Web of Trust add-on running in my browsers.  It’s a simple traffic light approach that analyses the links on your current page and provides a visual that provides some advice should you elect to visit the link.  Even though a site might be technically “safe” according to the safe browsing rules, I like the categories of “trustworthiness” and “child safety” that are provided.

It’s somehow comforting to see a list of green lights letting you know how the site is rated and community rated before you visit it.  If a link goes to the same domain that you’re currently in, it’s not rated.

What do you do if you’re on a computing device that doesn’t allow you to install addons?  i.e. tablet, school/business computer that are locked down, someone else’s computer?

Before you click or tap on a link to that suspect site, you might want to check it out on Norton’s Safe Web site.  It’s an additional step, to be sure, but could save you some grief.  I decided to put it to the test with the worst purveyor of thoughts that I visit daily – dougpete.wordpress.com.

Don’t you feel better knowing that you’re visiting a site that’s OK?

I would have preferred “outstanding”, “insightful”, “brilliant”, “extraordinary”, but hey.

When these are your choices, I’ll take OK all day long.

Super Ontario Educators Edition

If your memory is long, you may recall that I ended up becoming addicted to the 2048 game.  I looked and I blogged about it last March.  Has it really been that long?

I even played a hack of the game and got a nasty comment from Andy Forgrave about it. 

The original is on my phone and it’s a great timewaster and one of the go-to things while waiting service here and there.  It’s a great deal quieter than Bejeweled Blitz.

The other night, I was doing some work with one eye on my Twitter stream when this Twitter message from Andy goes flying by.


You’ll notice that it already had two retweets by the time I got to capturing it.  Super Ontario Educators  Edition?  You’ve got to be intrigued by that.

It turns out that the site usvsth3m lets you modify their code to create your own game.  In this case, Andy has created his own version of 2048 by replacing the numbered tiles in the original game with Twitter images from some Ontario Educators.  That’s certainly an interesting twist.  As it turns out, now that the other eye is on the Twitter stream, lots of people are trying it out.  Apparently, I’m late to the game so I dig in.

It’s certainly interesting to see so many friends with their images in the game. 

I will admit that I grow tired of seeing the lovely Zoe’s image over and over and over again!  Peter’s not much better!


So, courtesy of Andy, I now have a new time waster on my hands. 

Supposedly, I’m in there somewhere.  I just haven’t found me yet. 

Maybe some day.

This might be the learning that helps me beat the original game.  Confluence of strategy and luck, don’t you know?

Thanks, Andy.  You can play his Super Ontario Educators Edition here.

Joining the Staffroom

A few days ago, I responded to a Twitter message from @ICTEvangelist

I have great respect for his writing and was intrigued so followed the link which led to a post here.  How could I not?  It had a hashtag.

Upon landing, it looked like staffrm.io was another blogging platform.  So, I replied to his message; I’ve learned so much from Mark, the least I could do is show a little bit of internet respect and reply to his blog post.  I did.  It turns out that you need an account on staffrm to do anything.  That’s OK.  What’s another account in today’s online world?  As with most services, there are rules.

That was interesting.  What I had initially classified as a blog was actually billing itself as a “professional learning community”.  I’m good with that.  I leave my reply, carefully formatted, and then took a look at it after the fact.  All of my hard work had been “butchered” and it appeared as one long text.  Sigh.  I send Mark back reply apologizing; I didn’t want him to think I didn’t know my way around a keyboard.  I got a message back in seconds indicating that it had been reformatted by the mighty @pepsmccrea.  You’ve got to have respect for anyone described as “mighty”.

Within moments, I had received an email from the mighty one.  The message helped confirm that this wasn’t just another blog and that it truly was a different type of community.  They don’t use the term “post”, instead preferring to call them “stories”.  And, the other interesting thing that was a change in mindset, was that most people were using Mark’s story as inspiration to create their own stories.  You can see them all here.  There are actually quite a few so plan to do some reading if you follow that link.

It was also clear that I wasn’t in my local neighbourhood anymore.  Peps indicated that he thought I was the first Canadian using the service.  Cool!  I went back and discovered that I beat @sylviaduckworth to a reply by minutes.

Anyway, when you’re in Rome, er, the UK, do as they do.  I thought that I would take my reply and add it as a story and tag it with #techandme.

It was here that it confirmed for me that this was no ordinary blog.  Ultimately, I did get my post, er, story to appear here.

But, it wasn’t without a bit of frustration. I seldom create a post online.  Usually, I use Scribefire or some other local editor and then upload things when I’m done.  That we’re doing it online here is OK, to be expected, and may suit their purpose in the long run.

More rules.  The basic template for a story appears below.  It was very much unlike a regular blog post where I’m in control about what and how I want things.  Here there are standards!  You MUST have an image at the top of your story.  You MUST have a title and a subtitle.

And you have to keep it under 500 words.  Uh oh.  There go my long, rambling rants, Noeline!

Formatting is done inline and an editing menu pops up when you double click some of your content.

In a way, I was reminded of OmmWriter where you’re writing in a very clean environment without menus or ribbons for distraction.

I muddled through and got it published.

You’ll probably recognize the picture from my photowalk at Niagara Falls.  It was the first thing that came to me – I wanted to have a bit of Canadiana to my first story.  The title made sense.  I made up something for the subtitle.  The need for that really caught me a bit off guard.

The process challenged my blogging mindset.  I’ll admit that it was frustrating at the time but, when done, I was glad that I did it.  I think it made me write and publish a better story.  I like things that challenge me.

Once done, my story is there along with a lot of other pieces of great writing.  It was very interesting to poke around and see what others were writing like this one – “Differentiation and Programming“.

After my initial post, I ended up with a few folks following me.  That’s always a boost to the ego.

Recently, I’ve been reading that some folks are becoming disenchanted with traditional social media in that it’s become too loud, too commercial, too offtrack, …  If you’re in that boat, or are just looking for an educator community, you might just want to check staffrm out.  I like the content that I’m reading.  I need to find somehow to aggregate it.

All the mighty best to the developers working on this project.

Mapping the Neighbourhood

I was really intrigued by this.

It was a copy of an activity that I used to do in my Hyperstudio workshops.  From the Plant Department, I had obtained floor plans for every school in the district.  Teachers that would come to the workshop would find their school in the big folder of maps (or the storey for their classroom) and then scan it as an image.  The image would then be taken back to their workstation and loaded onto a card in a Hyperstudio stack.

That was always a fun thing to look at and wonder about since very seldom do you get an aerial view of the school.  Often it took more than a moment to locate various classrooms.  Then, in Hyperstudio, we would use any of the area grabbing tools to overlay an invisible button on the classroom.  We’d then make the button active so that when you moused over the area, it would highlight and then, if you clicked on it, information would either pop up on the screen or we’d link to another card in the stack.  There, we would include pictures of the teacher, of the classroom, sounds you might here, and a description of what a visitor to the room would find.  It was a fun activity and there were so many computer skills that were necessary to be successful.

Many a teacher would take the idea back and use it as a project for students to map out the entire school.  It’s a wonderful activity to teach about spatial relationships and often research in-school field trips were necessary to take pictures, interview other teachers and students, and of course, the principals and vice-principals since they occupied space within the school too.

From this activity, it was an easy extension to a “My Community” activity and use internet maps to do parts of the local community.

Using, contemporary tools, the Toronto Library has mapped out the local communities within the city.  The focus of the information returned is on the resources from the local libraries.

I had to check out East York since I lived there for eight months while attending the Faculty of Education at UofT.

It was a fascinating time spent browsing and the pictures from the collections were so interesting.

You can check out the entire interactive map here.  Isn’t Toronto such a rich and interesting city?

Can you do it in your classroom?  Absolutely.  If you have Hyperstudio or any other similar editing program, you’re good to go.  Looking for a web-based solution – check out Thinglink.  It’s perfect for this activity.

What’s so valuable about this sort of activity isn’t necessarily the computer part.  If you start with it, you’ll see that it’s actually pretty easy in the technology department although there are a whack of skills needed to pull together the best presentation.  The value comes when students have to do the research, gather or create the images, generate the sounds, make the movies…

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

There certainly wasn’t a shortage of great blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers this week.  In fact, it was kind of difficult to narrow the list down to the few that I talk about here.  So, the list is a little longer than normal – although it could be even longer…

Here goes…

They’re Like Metronomes

I’ve heard students compared to a number of things before…this is the first time that I’ve heard them compared to metronomes.  David Fife makes an interesting observation that includes his father as musician and the speed and pace of student learning.


There was some research released this week talking about learning styles – David doesn’t address this – he talks about speed.  It’s a compelling analogy.

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

One of the ongoing arguments that you can be drawn into revolves around what office suite of software we should be “training” students to use.  It’s a debate that I would prefer to stay away from because I think the answer should be “all of them” and “none of them”.  Unless you’re addressing a need for an experiential learning placement or dealing with a Grade 12 student whose pathway is the world of work, it’s pretty much a futile experience.  The tools that we have today will have evolved so much by the time students leave education.  In fact, I’ve been using Lyx which focuses on WYSIWYM (What you see is what you mean) as opposed to WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get).  In other words, focus on the end product and don’t get involved with the formatting as you’re creating.

So, Kristi Kerry Bishop takes a really good look at education and asks an incredibly important question…

Educators often naturally teach the way they have been taught. I wonder what the teachers in 20 years will focus on for their students. How will it differ from the way we teach now?

I think an interesting activity would be to create a chart with three columns.


Focusing on what you could be doing instead would serve students better, and in preparation for their future, not your past.

And so it begins … our new inquiry.

I can’t think of a single post from Heidi Siwak that doesn’t make me stop and thing.  Her insights and plans are just gold and her thinking shared.

This time, she’s sharing some planning thoughts around “New Pedagogies for Deep Learning global inquiry”.  She mentions that it’s part of the West Cluster (Hamilton is a geographic puzzle to me…)  and the focus on these skills.

Selection_055This sounds like an extremely interesting approach and I look forward to reports on the progress as it rolls out.

Tech Death

Who hasn’t experienced Jan Robertson’s pain?


Having been on the upgrade path many times myself, I can sympathise.

What’s amazing is how much more productive you can be with new gear and how you can find uses for the old stuff.  I have an old Pentium computer just to my left that now holds up my DataShield and the power supply for this laptop.  As I look, I wonder if it might actually boot?

January 9th

I bookmarked this activity for no other reason than it’s a great example of taking something current in the news and turning it into a great teaching moment.  I think we all read the articles about cities banning tobogganing because of lawsuits.  It brought me smiles because of the silly things I’ve done in the past in the winter.  Demolition Derbies on sleds; licking bicycle bars to see if you’ll really be stuck there; …

This is a great activity that starts with….

1. Discuss with a friend some of your memories of tobogganing. Do you enjoy this activity? Why or why not? Do you think this is a dangerous activity?

and then starts digging!

Make sure you visit this blog post to see the rest of the lesson.

 New Tech for tracking assessments

My connection with Brian Aspinall has led me to meeting a number of other educators with the Lambton Kent District School Board.  They can be very insightful and James Hewett is one of them.  He’s a pretty regular blogger and I think this post was an interesting tangent after messing about with edmettle.

James shares some of the techniques that can be used for keeping track of assessments.

In the post, there are three recommendations to check out.


And, of course, if you know me, I’m excited that two of them are Canadian startups. I think this is very important so that there’s a chance that there’s a focus on Ontario Curriculum Expectations and a Canadian spell checker.

More to add to my to-do list.

This is My Story

And, of course, I can’t ignore Aviva Dunsiger’s contribution to Vicky Loras’ “What’s Your Story” meme.  When I wrote my own, Vicky and I went back and forth and I bet her that Aviva would have commented on mine by 5:06am.  (You do know I schedule my posts for 5am, right?)  Well, it turns out that it was 5:11 for her comment so I lost that bet.  But, I also told Vicky that it wouldn’t take much to get Aviva to share HER story.

She did in this post.  It could have been about many things but she chose to talk about her parking skills.


On Twitter, she’s had lots of advice like valet parking or those little markers you stick in the ground.  What’s next?  Public transit?

Thanks to all those who shared their thinking.  Please check out their blog posts and all of the Ontario Edubloggers.  There’s always great reading to be had.