Will This Sway You?

With apologies to that store, I decided to write once and post twice.

Yesterday, it was “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” on this blog.

I’ve always wanted a chance to try out Sway from Microsoft to see what I could do.  I’ve seen Sways (?) from others and they kind of look like a newish version of a Prezi.  So, I decided to take to Sway to see what I could do with yesterday’s post.

I found that it was easy enough to put together.  If you’ve ever put together a presentation using any other piece of software, you’re all set.  If you’ve ever worked with HyperStudio, you’re familiar with the concept of cards and ideas flowing from one to another.  If you’ve ever worked with a story telling application, you’re familiar with the concept of sequencing.  The nice thing about porting the post to Sway is that I did have the natural opportunity to chop up the document via the various blog posts that were part of my original blog posts.  Some had text; some had images; I used emphasis, accents, and bullets without problem.  They all had links which carried forward.

I played around with a number of the themes that are included.  There is a search for images if you’re interested along with a warning about respecting copyright.

I tried to pull things together and make it true to the original point.  It was almost like Sway had read my mind in terms of the organization of the screen.  Or, I’ve been working with software long enough that it just falls into place.  Or, just dumb luck?

The Sway provides an embed code so I can add it to this post.  As you can see from below, that didn’t work.  WordPress stripped it out the raw code.  There’s only a certain number of media that will work and Sway is  not on the list?  If you want to see it outside this post, the link is here.  The claim is that it will appear the same way regardless of the device you’re using to view it.

(This is what was left after the stripping…)

You can navigate using the buttons in the bottom right or by scrolling your mouse.  I elected to have the Sway go horizontally.  Actually, I was going to make another one with it going vertically which I think would make it look more like a blog post.  Sadly, when I tried to duplicate the original, I got an error message –


So, I’ll stick with the original.  It’s an interesting result.  I don’t know that it will be a replacement for a blogging tool but the result is kind of impressive.  If you’re looking for a combination presentation/storytelling interactive tool, give it a shot.

A quick tutorial to get you started appears here.

The resulting document is stored in the cloud which actually saved my bacon this time.  I was about half done and decided to take the dog for a walk.  I just left my computer open, figuring to get to it when we got back.  Well…I was doing the creation in Windows 10 and it decided that it needed to reboot itself.  Fortunately, I just went back to Sway when I returned and picked up where I’d left off.  There doesn’t appear to be a way to download the document so if you’re using this in a presentation, make sure you’ve got a good internet connection.  Ever the paranoid, I typically will have the document open and running before I set up so that I don’t have to rely on the internet.

Just remember that the content is important – the bells and whistles should be added for style and not be the driving reason to use the tool!

A Word Cloud Generator with an Angle

Word Clouds.  We’ve seen them, we’ve done them, many of us wear the t-shirt.  

It’s a quick and easy way to create a graphic based upon text.  Essentially, the size of the word is based upon the frequency of the text.  Many teachers use word clouds to  have students analyse their writing or to create a poster/graphic based upon key words.

But, suppose you worked a little mathematics into it!

Jason Davies has actually worked a lot of mathematics into his Word Cloud Generator.  Just start with this little protractor at the bottom of the screen.

Play around with the parameters, or just grab the arrowheads and rotate.  So, suppose I’d like a Word Cloud with every word at a 45 degree angle…

generates this…

…and that’s just getting started.  

I haven’t had so much fun tinkering around with a toy for a while.

What’s even more interesting is reading how the generator works.  The product is a great example of what can be done as parts are remixed from code on GitHub.

Give it a try.  I’ll bet you can’t stop with just one.

You can access the Word Cloud Generator here.

A First Look at HyperDuino

One of the things that I’m proud of during my stint on the OSAPAC Committee was the provincial licensing of the HyperStudio product.  Once in classrooms, it truly was transformative.  I have to smile when I see all the hubbub of the current Maker Movement in schools.  When HyperStudio was used properly, kids were “making” using the best available at the time.  That includes the software, scanners, digital cameras, and music/sound recording.  As you’re about to find out, it’s been updated to support this current interest in “making”.

I can recall making story books, creating programs with the scripting language, public service announcements, presentations incorporating content from virtually anything on your computer, and more.  I still have fond memories of all the HyperStudio workshops that were offered to teaching staff, being invited to schools to have students show off what they had made from scratch, and even a presentation that I did with a colleague titled “The Answer to Every Question is HyperStudio“.  When HyperStudio stopped working with the latest operating systems, educators went searching for other classroom solutions.

Sadly, many reached for the low hanging fruit and many projects didn’t include the richness and scope that a comprehensive HyperStudio project offers.  While it’s important to know how to manage the internet and all that it affords, it’s also important to realize that you can actually create something with your computer.

Earlier this year, my path crossed with Roger Wagner, the genius behind the original HyperStudio.  I blogged about it here “A Great Reunion“.  While we’d met in person, I had no idea that he was following the work that my colleagues and I had been doing with HyperStudio over the years so it was a great chance to get caught up.  We’ve maintained contact through email where it was that I found about his latest project “HyperDuino“.

One of the current day technologies that has worked its way into tech classrooms is the Arduino.  A list of Arduino products is available for preview here.

Connected to your computer, the Arduino can be programmed to do many things in the physical world.  Consequently, it’s a favourite in the programming/coding and “maker” community.  The traditional Arduino is programmed with open sourced software that’s downloadable here.  Some tutorials about the software can be reached from the Learning Page.  If you’re a coder, you’re good to go.

What if you’re not?  What if you’re looking for a more friendly, dare I say younger, interface?

That’s where Roger’s newest project HyperDuino comes in.  Check out this screen capture from the latest version of HyperStudio.

You’ll see that support for the Arduino is just another Button action.  Long time HyperStudio users will immediately recognize BlabberMouth.  You know how easy that was to work; the Arduino support is just as easy.  The heavy lifting is already done for you.  You’re ready to be creative.

Last week, Roger was kind enough to send me my own HyperDuino kit.  While I was waiting for Windows 10 to install on my PC, I was over at another area in the dougpete labs checking out the kit and doing my first experiment.

In another life, that nice white background would be the duvet that covers the bed but it makes for a nice background for a photo opportunity.  The kit comes with a Funduino board and the HyperDuino shield that you’ll see in front of my computer.  (posed for the photo…it was to the side as I was working with it.)  A more professional photo with the items labelled can be found on the HyperDuino website but it doesn’t include the personal note from Roger.

I was literally through the first experiment (controlling an LED with a photocell) in a matter of minutes.  The longest activity was actually carefully plugging the HyperDuino shield into the Funduino.  I live in fear of bending a pin.

This promises to be fun.

The key to the ease is having an up to date version of HyperStudio.  The HyperDuino works with the free limited version of HyperStudio that is now labelled “Forever Free”.  Windows users will have to download the Arduino driver.  The FAQ section has some more answers to common questions.

I know that there are many schools and resource centres that are interested in creating maker/programming areas for students.  Of course, no activity should be done in isolation of the curriculum but it doesn’t take long looking through the documents to find the rationale for its use.

Purchase of the HyperDuino and replenishment items are available here.  The HyperStudio page on Facebook has been renamed to HyperStudio and HyperDuino Central.  Support and contact with other educators can be had there.

Watch a project in the making…

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?