Yes, You Can


I had a chance to do a quick workshop at Tim Horton’s the other day. 

I ran into someone I used to work with and she showed me one of the summer projects that she was working on.

It was essentially to collect data from students and bring it into a spreadsheet for the students to analyse.  That’s always a fun and very useful activity and can be used to address expectations from the mathematics (and other) curriculums.

The tool being used to collect the data was a Google Form and it worked nicely.  The plan was to collect the data from there, export it in Excel format and then use Excel to work with the data, reformat it, draw some charts, reach some conclusions, etc. 

I asked this question “I thought you were an Office 365 Board”.

I got this response “Yeah, but you can’t do forms with it”.

Me – “I’m pretty sure you can.  Let’s take a look at your Excel Online.”

Now, creating a form isn’t as explicit as it is in Sheets but it’s right there in the middle of the ribbon of a new spreadsheet.

The term is “Survey” and it’s a clickable button.

And, you’re off.

You have all the functionality that you probably could use in a form or data collection tool.  The response types include Text, Paragraph Text, Number, Date, Time, Yes/No, or your own Choice.

The button itself has the options for viewing, editing, deleting, and most importantly sharing when you’re done.

It’s equally as slick for creating, publishing, and sharing.  The results are immediately gathered into an Excel Online spreadsheet which then can be shared, manipulated, filtered, etc. as you will.

The end result for the students will be exactly the same.  But, by doing everything in one spot, it’s a bit less work for the teacher and you don’t need to have two different online accounts to pull it off.

Hands on Geometry


Geometry was always one of my favourite subject areas.  I guess I just like the whole concept of visualization and being able to manipulate shapes.

One of the universal tools for geometry exploration and construction is the Geoboard.  I used it quite a bit teaching Grade 9 mathematics.  It was a wonderful tool to even the playing field for students coming from Grade 8 and having varying levels of geometry understanding.  It was also a reminder that, since banning javelin throwing, it was one of the few times that we intentionally arm students with weapons.  You’ve just got to know that with 14 year olds, the first few days with the Geoboards and real elastic bands was interesting.

Time moves on and it’s a natural that this wonderful technique has been extended to the digital world.  Same stretching concepts, coloured and unbreakable bands, and a kinder, gentler, less painful implementation.  With school computers meshed with Bring Your Own Device programs, finding a universal solution is a desirable move.

The Math Learning Centre provides one that’s both web and app based.

There are lots of options available depending upon your needs and screen size.

Of course, measurement dealing with area and perimeter leap to mind.  But, don’t limit yourself to just that.  With a little imagination, this device lends itself to all kinds of ideas.  Check out these Pinterest resources from Diane Fangmeyer, The Remade Mama and Inesa A as starting points.  Of course, Pinterest is the perfect place to pin these ideas.

I remember one particularly neat idea we used with the Grade 9s.  Standing in downtown Windsor, one of them had taken a picture of the Detroit skyline and the students replicated it in class with a series of Geoboards.  (We had small ones so had to improvise).  We used a picture of the Renaissance Centre and the students painstakingly reproduced it on the Geoboards.  Of course, it had to be to scale.  Imagine the math.  It was a great activity.

Doing it today, the mechanics would be completely different.  We’d be doing it on computers or devices.

The Math Learning Centre makes its Geoboard available for free:

They’re well worth a look and evaluation for your classroom.

Resources for Creatives


In the big time-suck that is the internet it can take forever finding and then getting so sidetracked in the search for the perfect resource.

Of course, we know that the secret is to create a collection of bookmarks.  Then, organize them by subject area.  Then, when you need them, they’re all there.

For you.

Those that know me know that I’m a big fan of the Portal concept.  But, it’s got to be purposeful and functional and not just a mish-mash of stuff so that you can say that you have a portal.

It’s the purposeful part that really intrigued me when I read this article on Medium “How I Got 345k Page Views In Just 7 Days“.  The product is an interesting take.

I think we’ve all seen a portal designed for mathematics or science or social sciences, or …

How about a “Portal for Creatives”?  That’s what you’ll find when you click through to Makerbook.

It’s an intriguing and, I think, a very useful concept for this sort of thing.

Touted as “A hand-picked directory of the best free resources for creatives”, this isn’t your typical endless collection of links.  Each of the categories are a short collection of very useful resources for the creative technology user.  Each of the resources has a small review so that you’re not necessarily going to waste your time clicking through and being disappointed.

Access to these resources is very quick.  I really like both the concept and its implementation.

Considered it bookmarked here and I would encourage you to take a look at it for yourself.  Do you see it fitting into your workflow and productivity?

It’s a collection of the best of the best from the developer’s perspective and all of the resources are free.

A New Blog Editor


I’ve said for a long time now that the best blog editor on the market, bar none, is Microsoft’s Live Writer.

LiveWriter Home Menu

 

LiveWriter Insert Menu

It’s a real joy to create blog posts there but it’s got problems for my personal workflow.  It requires you to be running Windows.  I spend more time in Ubuntu or Mac OS so I’d have to specifically boot into Windows 7 to use it.  For me, it’s important to be able to write a post no matter what computer I’m using.  To that end, I either create the post in the WordPress editor itself or more likely, using the ScribeFire extension in a browser.  It’s there when I need it.

WordPress Editor

ScribeFire Editor

Both are great ways to compose, edit, and post blog entries.  The ability to save Drafts mean that I don’t have to create a post in a single sitting.  My proofreading team (hi Lisa and Sheila) would undoubtedly ask that I spend more time on that task but it is what it is.  At least I know that two people read my posts for content and meaning.

This morning, the field gets bigger.  I read this story.

Microsoft Announces New OneNote Partnership with WordPress

Right off the bat, I had to tip my hat to the commenters to the post.  You did make me smile.  But the ramifications of this are interesting.

OneNote already has a comprehensive set of composing and editing features.

OneNote Home Menu

OneNote Insert Menu

A great deal of energy has been spent convincing people to use OneNote instead of Evernote or Google Keep as your on-the-fly note taker.  Now, a plugin to WordPress ups the ante nicely.  Imagine using the same tool that you would use for notetaking anyway as a blogging editor.  Since Microsoft doesn’t have a public blogging tool that I’m aware of, the partnership with a biggy in the market seemed natural.  I’m assuming Blogger didn’t return their call?

Many school districts have adopted Office 365 as their productivity platform but have lamented the lack of a blogging tool which is so powerful in education.

Could this be their answer?

Just a Mystery


But, it’s a time saver so I don’t mind.  It’s just my own personal note of inquiry.

Recently, Google has added a new service to Google+.  It’s called Collections.  The first descriptor I read about it was that it was “Pinterest-like”.  I took a look at it and it was easy enough to access.  It just is another service added to Google+.

Then comes the million dollar question.  What would I use it for?

Well, what would I use Pinterest for?  It turns out that I use Pinterest as just another place to collect my blog posts.  It started out as just a demonstration in my presentations about how to use Pinterest.  Instead of collecting recipes and clothing ideas, I wanted to show that you could easily collect anything.  Depending upon the browser that I’m using at the moment, I either use the Pinterest Pin Button or Shareaholic to post my stuff there.  It takes just a couple of seconds and I had another way to collect blog content (and another backup).

So, I decided that I might use Google Collections as a way to collect my own blog posts.  I’m not short of ego so I set up a collection for the task.

Now, I already share my post posts to my Google+ friends.  It just gets added to my Google+ stream of consciousness.  It actually works very nicely – I just paste the URL to the post in a new message and Google reaches out to the blog to get the details and include an image to spruce it up a bit.  I changed my morning workflow just a bit.  I paste the URL in my main stream and then open my collection and paste it there.  That’s it.  Nothing else done on my end.

But, a couple of days in, look what happened.

Unknown to me until I thought I’d look at my collection and see how things were going, Google+ somehow made the connection that I was posting URLs to my blog both on my main feed and in the collection.  I guess the folks in the “Let’s make things easier at Google” department decided to streamline things for me.  It appears that it recognized what I was doing and made the post for me automatically.  Me, being somewhat oblivious to things, continued to post the URL in both places.

I did a “Whaaaaa?” and decided to test the theory for a few days.

Sure enough.  When I post something in the main stream, Google+ was adding the entry to my collection automatically for me.  Now, I might understand it if I was using Blogger for a platform but I use WordPress.

I’m at a loss to explain this and would appreciate any insights that anyone, anywhere have for this.  Artificial intelligence?  Learning how I work?  Did I touch a setting?  (I swear that I didn’t purposely.)  I really can see the advantage of a Collection taking a big stream of things and breaking it into little digestible pieces.  (See my Diigo account for a dog’s breakfast of things)

Right now, it’s just a mystery and I hate it when I can’t explain things. 

But Is It Art?


I know what Cubism is.

I don’t “get it” but that’s OK.  There’s a great deal of artistic expression that goes over my head.  I’m not hating here so Picasso fans relax.

Let’s step it up digitally by reading this.

Called Kubist, you can turn your traditional images/pictures into your own Cubism originals.

It’s all done through this web application.

Upload your own image and watch the magic happen.

So, what’s the fun of dog ownership if you can’t have a little fun.  Jaimie was up for the task.

Let’s Kube him!

At 50 points, he’s pretty abstract!

But at 1000 points, he’s stylin’.

For model #2, I turned to Jaimie’s cousin.  Instead of white, he’s a beautiful mixture of boxer brown and black.  Check out the difference between 1000 points and 100 points here.

As you can see from the adjustments on the right hand side, you have some control over how things will appear.  They’re a great deal of fun to adjust and see the results immediately.

Want to talk mathematics?  Flip between triangle style to cell style and back again.  Grab a vertex and resize elements.  Based on the number of points in the image, can you create a formula that will determine the number of distinct objects?  The original article is a pretty fascinating technical read in itself.  The source code for the project is available on github if students are so inclined.

After abusing the family pet, where else could you do this?  How about a cubism representation for your school logo?  Or a further appreciation for the original artists who created the original cubism art?

Set aside a bit of time to play with this.  If you have any ideas, please be sure to share them.

My Favourite Five


Like many people, I seem to live in a web browser these days.  So much information, so much to do.  I have nothing but admiration for the developers behind this genre of software.  They do an amazing job both in terms of functionality and in efforts to keep us safe online.

Oh, and productive too.

I would estimate that 90% of the time, I’m using the Firefox browser and the rest in Opera Next or Google Chrome.  They’re all such great pieces of software and yet they all are missing those certain somethings.  Fortunately, there are equally as terrific programmers creating addons/extensions to increase the functionality of the browser.  As I look at the collection that appear at the top of the screen, it can look like a holiday decoration!

Every time I install or reinstall a browser, there are certain go-to addons/extensions that I make sure are added.


Scribefire – This is my go-to blogging tool.  It has all of the blogging functionality that I’ve decided that I need.  Or, perhaps I’ve modified my needs to the functions that it provides.  Either way, for my current needs, it has it all.  I like that it easily schedules posts to go live at a particular time.  I also build for my “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” posts by storing content there and scheduling it for Friday.


Web of Trust – A good internet mantra is to “trust nobody” and the Web of Trust is one of my partners in making it happen.  With a simple red, yellow, or green icon next to links, coupled with some common sense, I try to avoid those dodgy websites.


AdBlock Plus – I started out using this like I think most people originally do.  It blocks the very annoying advertising that permeates the internet.  Some of the advertising can be more than just a bit annoying.  I’ve stuck with it because we have incredibly slow internet access here.  I’m constantly asked by my kids “how can you live like this?”  Removing the advertising is one way to speed things up.


Shareaholic – There was a time when I had different resources to share to Twitter, Facebook, Instapaper, Evernote, … It’s kind of interesting to sit back at times and think about where you share resources.  Shareaholic amalgamates them all into a single place.  Just right click on the resource to be saved/shared, choose your preferred destination, and you’re done.


LastPass – Their motto is “Simplify Your Life”.  Actually, it could be simpler.  Just use the same password for every service that you use.  That would also be one of the dumbest things to do.  Period.  LastPass not only does the heavy remembering for you – an account is remembered for any browser with this extension – but it will also generate complex passwords that get the nod of approval to those password security evaluation recommendations that you get when you create a password.


How’s that for a list?  I had to do some work to cut it back to just five and I feel badly that I’m looking at some other create addons at the top of the screen.

What are your favourites that make you and your browsing productivity experience so good?