I hope that you enjoyed my Christmas picture as much as I did. To refresh your memory, or if you didn’t drop by the blog yesterday, here it is.
That’s such a great picture and I can use it in other places. Yes, I could bring it into Photoshop and do some work with it. I’ve done so many workshops showing exactly how to do that. It works fine and it’s a great skill to have. But now, there’s a quicker and easier way.
Photoscissors has designed an application to do the deed for you. For those moments when you need a quick background removal, there’s an online version of the application as well. You can find it here.
It works as promised. Just drag and drop and image and then indicate the background. Voila!
Now, it gets interesting. Suppose you want a different background or a coloured background. From the options on the right side of the screen, make your choice. In my case, I thought it would be nice to put Jaimie at the Navy Yard in front of the tunnel.
Then, there’s the whole thing of perspective. Using the handles on the sides of the image, I resize Jaimie and then try to background again.
And it’s so very quick.
If you use this sort of thing often or you think you might in the future, make sure to bookmark this one. If you’re doing a lot of this, a downloaded and installable application will be nice. But for the quick and easy or Chromebook users, you’ll have fun with it right on the web.
I don’t think that you can get enough of these things. You have to realize that while you may be getting smarter, those who would do nasty things are at least keeping pace.
Quizzes like this are a fun way to make sure that you’re on the top of your online game.
And, in the classroom, it shouldn’t be a matter of a “one and done” approach to online literacy and safety. It should be done regularly and constantly revisited to make sure that the lessons are learned and reinforced.
With that introduction, I turn you to a Phishing Quiz posted on the withgoogle site.
It doesn’t take too long to complete if you know what you’re looking for. There are eight examples to work your way through.
I like how the authors personalized it by asking for a name and email address which will appear in the questions so that it approximates what might happen in real life. The site claims this information never goes anywhere but I didn’t give out my real stuff just in case.
I am proud to say that I have been paying attention and got 8/8 on the quiz the first time through. I even did a screen capture to prove it. But, I decided to step back the ego just a bit and not include it in the post.
If you’re reading this on the Saturday morning that I post it, take five minutes and put yourself to the test.
In particular, I’ve got my micro:bit out and am playing around with it using the Python programming language and the tutorials that can be found here. It’s lots of fun for me and I don’t hesitate at all when using the word “playing” in this paragraph.
If you’ve ever programmed in Python, you know that it’s a text-based language and I keep having to make sure that the syntax that I’m using is correct. There is a lot of room for error.
And, growing up learning to program, error was just part of the game. You learn to check and double-check to ensure that everything is correct.
I first learned to program in high school. Wait, Doug, they had computers back then?
Yes, indeed. Ontario even had a curriculum. It was called RP-33: Data Processing and was released in the 1960s. In 1970, there was also Informatics, Intermediate and Senior Division.
We didn’t have a computer at our school actually; we wrote our programs on punch cards and they were shipped to Althouse College in London to be run over night. The next day, we had a chance to see how well we did. Our programs were run on the computer (if I recall correctly, it was an IBM 1130) We programmed in the Fortran IV language and most of our programs were related to business functions. i.e. writing cheques, doing payrolls, inventories, etc. To think that this guy could write a program that would make a computer do something productive blew me away at the time and it still does today.
There were two elements that had to fall into place for success. First, the program had to compile successfully and secondly, it had to execute and generate the appropriate results.
It’s when I think about this that I get so impressed with the opportunities that the beginning learner has today. The second part – doing things correctly will always be the acid test to your programming skills. But, with the drag and drop interfaces that are so common, the first part actually becomes a non-starter.
Instead of learning the instructions and then the parameters needed, you just drag an action to the desktop. If the steps that you’re thinking about using actually fit together, they well, actually fit together.
From the Makecode website, I took a long look at micro:pet. It’s simple enough to get started – you’re creating a pet for a friend. But the whole package is a really rich experience. Yes, there is the coding part but beyond that, there’s making, language, interviewing, etc.
It’s the whole package.
I reflect back to how I learned to program. Typically, it was by learning one or two command or concepts and then doing a few examples and experience the success or lack of it and then move on. Even the simple act of running a program took 24 hours.
It’s just an entirely different world where beginning learners can do what I did and so much more inside an hour. It’s a great time to be learning how to code. I hope that it’s happening in your class.
As noted in this post from last week, I have created an updated Flipboard of resources for 2019. If you’re looking to join a professional organization of like minded coding teachers, consider the Association of Computer Studies Educators.
From Rolland Chidiac, a couple of posts describing how he’s using sports software in his classroom. There’s a great deal of gaming and application of the concept throughout these posts.
In the first post, Rolland describes how he used a piece of software in his class with a bent towards going beyond the game and making a connection to Mathematics. All games have some way to keep score of your progress in the game. That’s what they’re all about. How else would you know if you won or not otherwise? In this case, Rolland’s students capture their scores and create their own collection of data to analyse. It reminds me of the time clocks kept during Formula 1 auto races. Then, based on this data, students predict how they could make their scores better.
In the second post, Rolland gets a little bit constructive with an unused Xbox from at home that arrives at school. The Xbox is an amazing device; I recall once at a Microsoft event where some students from Seattle had created a Fish Market simulation.
Rolland’s post, in this case, gets a bit technical about how he actually sets things up in his classroom. He provides an interesting list of the expectations that he has in mind.
I wonder if there might be a third post where the focus turns to students writing their own games.
I think that you’ll really enjoy and be impressed with the project described in this post. Fair Chance Learning partnered with Seven Generations Education Institute to create virtual reality content to help preserve community traditions. Personally, I spent a great deal of time doing some background about the Seven Generations Education Institute so that I could truly appreciate what was happening.
The context is the Fall Festival which traditionally celebrates how the Anishinaabe prepare for the winter. The post talks about:
Like years before, local elders, volunteers and SGEI staff demonstrate wild rice preparations, tell traditional stories, sing at the Grandfather drum and cook bannock on a stick. Unlike in years passed, Fall Harvest 2019 incorporated virtual reality to help preserve these vital cultural teachings and enrich the education of our students.
I’m intrigued and will try to follow the results from this initiative. Hopefully, Fair Chance Learning will document it all on their website so that other communities can enjoy the benefits and do something on their own in other locations.
If you’re going to the Bring IT, Together Conference, there might be an opportunity to see this first hand?
So, here the other two-parter from Irene Stewart and her work at St. Clair College.
In the first post, she talks about those favourite teachers and how they become a model for you. It was quite an easy process for me and two teachers most certainly sprang to mind. I have no question about how they were models for me as I became a teacher. I felt badly though because what I remember most is their lecturing approach. I like to think that my classrooms were more of an activity based environment. I do struggle to think of activities from these teachers. I know that they were there but they’re not what first springs to life.
The second post describes a pilot and then ultimately an implementation of a course, THRIVES, that delivers on the awareness of the college environment and what it will take for students to be successful. The numbers she describes blew me away. 1 000 students in a pilot. Then nine sections with a total of 6 000 students.
There is an interesting reflection about activity in the course and the quizzes involved in the timeline throughout. It’s a nice reflection and I’m sure helped move her thinking as she went from pilot to implementation.
I check in with Lynn Thomas periodically as she works her way through the alphabet and shares her insights on the work she chose. In this case, the word is “Patience”.
Is it a requirement to be a teacher?
I’d go further than that … it may, in fact, it may well be the best attribute that any person who aspires to be a teacher should have. After all, as teachers, we absolutely know the content. The students, not so much, or not at all. Success comes as a result of the transfer or attitude, knowledge, and skills.
Every students proceeds at his/her own speed. There is no one speed fits all. The best teachers recognize this and exercise patience to make everyone successful.
Education, as we know it, can be counter to this at times. We have defined times for courses and grades and an assessment has to be given whether you’re ready or not.
As I noted last week, I’m not necessarily a fan of PD at staff meetings because it isn’t always applicable to all. This concept, however, would definitely be worthwhile doing.
I’ll bet this post gives you some inspiration for thought – both as teacher and as student.
Andrew Dobbie is a teacher with the Peel District School Board. To get his attention, all that you have to do is express an interest in sustainable activities or reusing computers for the benefit of students. I had the opportunity to interview Andrew.
Doug: Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Andrew. My first question is always the same; do you recall the first time that we met in person?
Andrew: Thanks for inviting me to chat Doug! My memory is fading in old age🤣 but I believe we first met when BIT was held in Toronto before the shift to Niagara Falls.
Doug: We’ve been following each other on Twitter for a long time. Why would you want to follow me?
Andrew: I thought it was pretty obvious why people follow you, Doug. You help me sift through current media and provide me with useful, sometimes actionable resources each week🙌
Doug: Your passion for sustainable things is very evident to anyone who follows you on social media. Can you give us a sense of where your passion is with this?
Andrew: The root of my passion for sustainability is in providing learners with a quality education through equitable access to computers in their classrooms. My students needed help, so I researched a way to help them. Then, my students and I agreed that we should help everyone else.
Doug: My interest in following you comes from the conversations and interactions that we’ve had online dealing with Linux. You use it to breathe new life into old technology, often discarded. My interest was personal. I just wanted an alternative to Windows 10 for my 2010 Sony Vaio laptop.
Do you use Linux personally?
Andrew: Yes! I use Linux every day with my students. I am also well versed in Win10 and MacOS too🤣 I need to be comfortable with all operating systems because some of my students bring in their own devices and I need to be able to assist them with daily operational challenges/troubleshooting. I also dabble a bit with Android OS too just for fun. More along the lines of experimenting with converting different computing devices into hybrids running other operating systems. I’ve built some ChrMacbooks, converted old Windows computers into Linux devices, and even built one of the largest Android boxes using a massive desktop computer (as a joke- and it continues to be in operation today🤣).
Doug: Now, when a person dips their toe into the world of Linux, it can be a bit frightening. Long time Linux users go back to working the command line. apt-get, sudo, etc. Did you start that far back?
Andrew: I remember when I first tried terminal coding. I had no idea what I was doing. I have no formal training at all. Just YouTube, blogs, and Google Hangout guidance from a Linux expert, Aaron Prisk👍
Aaron continues to be a very patient and supportive teacher. He listens to my coding frustrations and helps me to find parallel understanding between our common language and that of terminal coding. I started to learn the verbs of the language and it helped me learn how to install, move, package, and assembly Aaron’s student-tailored Xubuntu OS. I still haven’t met Aaron in person. All our work has been completed remotely via Hangouts, Facebook IM, and now mainly via text message. So, yes. I use raw code in the terminal when constructing Linux FOG Servers and student-tailored Linux workstations.
Doug: Linux comes in many flavours. My first distribution was Ubuntu 4.04 and then the Edubuntu fork. What was your first?
Andrew: Oh wow! You’ve been at it a little longer than me. I started with Cub Linux and Lubuntu initially because they were packed so small and could fit on a 2GB USB for installations. Then, as I started dabbling with install on many different systems, I worked all the way back through history to Ubuntu 10, BSD, Linux plop, and all flavours after Ubuntu 10. Over the past 3 years, I have used and installed dozens of flavours to learn more about their unique strengths and differences but followed Aaron’s lead in using Xubuntu 16.04 for the first version of the student-tailored workstations.
Doug: Since that time, I’ve changed my allegiance and now run Linux Mint. What’s your favourite distribution?
Andrew: My friend Ryan, who is a data analyst and Linux junky, loves Mint too but my favourite continues to be Xubuntu because it provides me with all the necessary packaging tools to create the Linux student workstations.
Doug: You talk about using Xubuntu. Why this distribution?
Andrew: Aaron Prisk introduced me to Xubuntu (a developer version of Linux) because he was already using it to create his own districts’ student image for all of their computers in Pennsylvania. Lucky for me he was working through the process when I showed interest in learning it, and he took me under his wing (so to speak).
Doug: It’s golden when you find someone with that amount of interest and patience. If someone else was interested in getting started in this area, how do they get started?
Andrew: If anyone wants to learn how to install any Linux operating system, then I would suggest beginning with the USB installation technique. We created a gForm to walk new learners through the process:
Andrew: rcto.ca is an outstanding not-for-profit business who provide learning facilities with free desktop computers. Initially, I needed computers in my classroom because our school didn’t have the budget for them and I couldn’t afford to buy them. RCT Ontario helped us. We were lucky because they had tons of available computers back in 2016 when we first asked. They also had lots of LCD displays, which are a hot commodity and not easily available currently.
Essentially, if any learning facility needs free desktop computers, then they need to go to rcto.ca and request them. You will need to fill in a few online forms but be sure to request the free computers. They do offer some very affordable paid computer options as well (including a 1 year warranty), so they are a much better idea than buying new. The first batch of 150 desktops we received for free in 2016 is STILL in service, supporting student learning needs in our classrooms!
RCT will also be happy to answer your questions by telephone too, so if you need help just call them.
In September, I was asked to assist their IT department in establishing a Linux line of free computers, so I created a Xubuntu 16.04 FOG Server clone, and a Xubuntu 18.04 FOG Server clone. Both of which can deploy the student-tailored Xubuntu operating system on any computer 10 years old or newer.
Doug: One of the stumbling blocks that some might have with school districts is putting non-district computers on the network. How have you handled that?
Andrew: All school boards have always been open to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, so we explored and found success with multiple school boards by signing Linux computers onto board networks as BYOD devices. I was invited to York Catholic and Toronto Catholic boards to show their IT department heads how this process can work, and at that time (in 2017-2018 I believe) I created FOG Server clones for them to more efficiently deploy the student-tailored Xubuntu operating system onto their computers.
I think it’s important to note that all of this is free, and always will be.
Doug: That’s always been the claim for Linux and there are so many talented people driving that ship. We could always remind them that the Chromebooks that people buy new are running ChromeOS which is based on the Linux kernel!
How do you address concerns from teachers that running Linux doesn’t given them all of the applications that they would have on a Macintosh or Windows computer?
Andrew: Most teachers and students are running cloud-based programs these days anyway. My students never have a problem using Linux to run any gSuite, Office365, or any other web-based tools like Scratch, Robocompass, Explorelearning.com, you name it. They all work!
Some teachers have asked for special photo editing tools, so I showed them how pixlr.com runs perfectly through Google Chrome, and is easy for students to use.
Essentially, if an educator is resourceful enough, then he/she will find a comparable and free software tool that will run on their Linux systems. Yes, Minecraft too👍
Doug: Your plan also involves your students. How much training do they require before they are experts?
Andrew: Experts? Hmmm. I’m not an expert and they would say they aren’t either, I think. However, after having about a month or 2 of troubleshooting exposure and experience within our Tech Stewardship program, our Stewards are able to repurpose old computers easily. In fact, 3 of our newest Stewards just repurposed a teacher’s old laptop this past week and they just started in the program in September.
Granted, our Xubuntu FOG Server does make the repurposing process extremely easy to transform multiple computers into Linux machines with only a few key strokes.
Doug: What is the minimum requirement for a computer to be refurbished for your purposes? Do you limit it to old Windows computers or have you put Linux on Macintosh computers?
Andrew: Current minimum requirements for excellent performance running our Linux image would be 4GB RAM and about a 2.4GHz processor (not that much really). It will run fine with only 2GB of RAM as well but 4GB RAM and learners WANT to use Linux instead of brand new computers because they are faster.
Also, I recommend installing our Xubuntu student-tailored operating system on computers 10 years old or newer. Older than 10 years and we usually run into compatibility issues with hardware drivers and hardware begins to fail at times.
At this point in time, we have FOG Servers that can deploy Linux onto Windows computers easily. Regarding Macs, students love ChroMacbooks the most, and I used to hand code each one because the FOG server wasn’t designed for Macs😓. Each student-tailored ChroMacbook took about 2 hours to code about a year ago. Now, I simply open up the Mac. Remove the hard drive. Put the Mac hard drive into a windows computer. Change the hard drive to Linux using the FOG Server, then put it back into the Mac👍 Only takes about 15 minutes depending on the build.
Doug: You will be doing a session at the upcoming Bring IT, Together Conference. Can you give us a sneak peek?
Andrew: A sneak peek😕
On Wednesday morning, I will be bringing some of my special FOG Servers to make FOG Server clones for anyone that wants one. You just need to bring an old laptop (that turns on🤣) with you, and stop by. I will even show you how easy it is to use it. You can use it on site to repurpose any other laptops you bring with you🙌
When I’m not teaching the process, I can repurpose up to 50 computers an hour by myself. So, if you just want some help repurposing your laptops for student use in your classrooms, then bring them by on Wednesday morning.
I will also be sharing some of our work highlights at IgniteBit2019 on Wednesday evening, so feel free to connect with me there too👍
If you can’t attend the Wednesday session, then my students will be joining me on Friday morning to help attendees repurpose their computers with Linux too. So, we can build you a FOG server or student-tailored Linux laptop at that time as well.
Finally, I believe I will be bringing lots of free mini desktop computer towers for attendees to take back to their classrooms for their students to use. These mini desktop towers have been donated by rcto.ca and will include the tower, keyboard, mouse, and power cords (but unfortunately not LCD monitors due to short supply at the warehouse).
Doug: Wow. Come to Bring IT, Together and leave with a free computer. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, Andrew. If people want to follow you on Social Media, where would they turn?
Somehow, I ended up being notified about this post yesterday. I’m in good company indeed with those who were originally tagged.
It’s an interesting area to look at and brought back memories of various things that I’ve been involved with over the years.
I might as well date myself and indicate I go back much further than this – to the era of the Icon Computer where not only were the decisions not classroom based but by the Ministry of Education for an entire province. As a teacher, I also was the technician installing new computers and software, connecting a printer, setting up spoolers, etc.
Of course, over the years, things have changed as grant money allowed individual school districts to set direction for technology use. There were a few different players in the Grant Eligible field and decisions were still influenced at the provincial level if you were going to use their money.
Eventually, the decisions became more and more difficult as classroom technology became more than the computer in the corner. It involved portable technology, various displays, the presence of tablets, internet drops, wireless access, programmable devices, BYOD, and so on.
There also was a time when licensing software was crucial for success. I was a member of the OSAPAC committee for a while and we made recommendations to the Ministry for software to be licensed. At that point, we had to consider the various platforms in use in the province, the official languages, etc. We were also keenly aware that recommendations would only be successful if they had a purpose and so every licensed piece of software was analyzed for the curriculum expectations that it could be used to address. It was a very time consuming and intensive process.
As the number of devices in school districts increased, the planning process became so much more involved. In the case with my district, we had Computers in Education School Contacts (CIESCs – one per school) who would spend a full day of active professional learning with me for a day once every other month. I was able to introduce the group to new software and ideas and they provided regular and frank feedback to help set direction.
Amidst all this, there was another player. As the number of devices expanded, so did the need for support. It was at this point that I ended up becoming more of a mediator between the technology side and the classroom side. It made for interesting times with everyone truly having a horse in the race.
There always were wins and losses. A great win was getting Firefox installed on the image as an alternative to Internet Explore and getting sites like Twitter unblocked. A great loss was me hijacking a few computers headed for recycling that I installed Edubuntu on and showing that they still had lots of life left in them. That was, until “it won’t run Microsoft Office”. This was, of course, in a time where there had to be a local application for everything; things are much different in a web-connected classroom where excellent resources don’t need to be installed – just access them online. As an aside, I still use and love Libre Office when I need something locally installed.
Resources are evaluated and chosen all the time. You’d like to think that every facet and implication is addressed to come up with what’s best for teachers and students. And, most certainly, reliability and repair turnaround has to be part of any planning and acquisition process.
I hope that the original message that started all this wasn’t entirely true in its face value. More than ever, partnerships and working together are needed for success. Particularly with technology, decisions have to be supported with professional learning opportunities. School districts can hardly stand still and always need to be looking for the answers to the questions that technology addresses. But acquisition without support and a plan for strong educational use is just throwing money away.
Without everyone having a voice, you’re going to come up short.
Just in time for back to school with studies about the environment, science, or mathematics, you need to check out this new resource from Canadian Centre for Climate Services (and others).
It’s like everything you ever wanted to know about Canadian Climate but didn’t know where to turn or who to ask.
ClimateData.ca is a climate data portal produced collaboratively by the country’s leading climate organizations and supported, in part, by the Government of Canada. The goal of this portal is to support decision makers across a broad spectrum of sectors and locations by providing the most up to date climate data in easy to use formats and visualizations.
There’s plenty here to fuel your inner need to visualize and understand climate in your location and, well, anywhere else in Canada.
There are a number of different “Training Modules” if you want to start there. That’s not me though. I dove into looking at local climate and poked around and what was there and navigated intuitively. Then, I went back and worked my way through the modules.
Of course, you start at home.
If there’s any question that things are getting warmer, the graphs provided make it painfully clear. I really liked the ability to overlay the data on the province.
If you’re interested in exploring, local and country-wide, this is the place for you. If there were ever any questions about graphics telling a story, this site should solve that for you.
It’s earned a place in my bookmark collection for sure.