Whatever happened to …


… Solitaire?

The time was a long time ago.  We had just replaced the DOS versions of the principal’s computers with this new fangled Windows operating system.  In some quarters, there was huge push back.  DOS was great; you could get the job done without your fingers ever leaving the keyboard.

Now, there was this mouse thing or Trackpoint that needed to be pushed around in order to function.  The world had come to an end.  I still remember a comment that if we wanted Macintosh computer accessories, we should have just bought Macintosh computers.  Productivity would suffer.  What’s the big deal; why did we have to do this?

Believe it or not, the big saviour was a couple of little games that came with the computer.  Solitaire and Minesweeper.  Of all the things that sold the use of the rodent, these were the best.  It also was a great way to show how to minimize an open window when a visitor showed up.  After all, we wanted to make sure that everyone knew that we were on task.  In classroom computers, it was a likewise controversial move.  “We’ve got to get it off the images.  Students will never get on task!”  The best part was the display on the screen when you managed to win the game.  Oh, and the sound effects.

Then, there was the inevitable comparisons of the Windows version of Solitaire with the Macintosh version that some enjoyed on home computers.  Some times, you just can’t win.

With Windows 8, the Solitaire game, as we knew it, was gone.  Fortunately, with a quick Google, er, Bing search, you can find that there are plenty of versions of the original game to download and install.  And, you could play it online too if withdrawal got that bad.  But, if you poke around, you’ll see that Solitaire is actually available for Windows 10 as part of the Microsoft Solitaire Collection in the Microsoft store.

It’s not your, what they call “Classic” game.  It’s greatly enhanced; you play it full screen, there are many new options and, if you log in via the Xbox connection, it becomes social.  For a few bucks, you too could be playing the Premium version.

I suspect that many students these days opt out of installing Solitaire.  The gaming world has changed with more options like first person shooter games to while away the time online.

Within the past week, things got exciting again for Solitaire players.  Microsoft announced that they were making the Solitaire collection available for Android and iOS.

Now it’s your turn.

  • Do you remember the original, classic Solitaire game for Windows?
  • What’s your preference – classic Solitaire or the new refresh?
  • Do you have a preference?  Klondike, Spider, FreeCell, Pyramid, TriPeaks

Please share them via comment below.

Do you have an idea or thought that would be appropriate for my “Whatever happened to … ”?  They can all, by the way, be revisited here.

Please visit this Padlet and add your idea.  I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!

OTR Links 12/04/2016


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Hour of Code 2016


The Hour of Code was started a few years ago to provide an opportunity for more students (and teachers) to get exposure to coding and programming.  It’s been an overwhelming success and here we are at the brink of Hour of Code 2016 held in conjunction with Computer Science Education Week, December 5-11.

The initiative has seen some pretty substantial levels of success…

  • there are more languages and robots to code with today than ever before
  • teachers who might never have ventured into this area are giving it a shot
  • in Ontario, there are many TLLP projects with their roots in the Hour of Code
  • it’s not a strange thing to see a Computer Science club at schools where inquiring students go beyond the hour
  • coding has come a long way from the days of learning commands and evolved to block programming
  • and I’m sure that you can add your observations to the list

The mother ship, if you will, is the Hour of Code website and the links to rationale and many activities.

There is lots of discussion about the “why” to the Hour of Code.  One that you hear constantly is that there are 200,000 technical jobs unfilled in Canada.  If you need that as inspiration, go for it.  Somehow, I think that the Grade 2 student doing a bit of Scratch isn’t quite ready for it yet.  As I was out this morning, I saw a big tube television left at the side of the road.  You know the ones that dimmed the lights in your house when you turned it on?  I have no doubt in my mind that the owner thought this might well be the last television that they’d ever buy.  Technology is such a fickle partner.

But it’s the deliverables that were important.  A huge screen let them see ever detail.  The audio was stereo.  Awesome.  The analogue signal pulled in by antenna was probably the best they’d ever seen.  Try to find something with the same specs on sale in a store today!

Ditto for learning code.  If you just focus on the code, you’ll miss the point.

Check the deliverables.

Student

  • student can learn some new commands
  • student can make an object move on the screen on command
  • student might even get the computer to make a sound or play a song

Teacher

  • students work collaboratively to solve problems
  • students explain their thinking and explain/debate the logic with other
  • students take a big problem, break it into its component parts, and solve it
  • students ask “what happens if I do this?”
  • students demand “what next?”

Every subject area would die for these opportunities.

Hopefully, everyone will be involved in the Hour of Code in their classrooms at whatever level works.

Please don’t consider it 60 minutes to check off to say that “we did it”.  Please do consider that this is the launchpad for something pretty amazing.  It’s there that you make a difference and set students off to benefit from all that coding offers.

Once again, I’ve cobbled together a collection of resources that I’m happy to share.

Hour of Code 2016

Good luck.

OTR Links 12/03/2016


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It’s the first Friday of December.  It won’t be long now.

Check out some of the great reading that I enjoyed recently from Ontario Edubloggers.


Paper Twitter: Why and How to Teach Digital Technologies with Paper

Royan Lee suggests a way to teach about digital technologies, specifically Twitter in this post.  He also shares a number of resources for this in his Google Drive account.

It’s an interesting approach that undoubtedly will allow to teach the basics and keep the focus of those learning rather than all the distractions that can come from the real thing.

The purpose of Paper Twitter is not only to deconstruct how the technological aspects of the social media machine works, but also to tone down the figurative volume so that the point of it as a personal, social networking tool can be grasped through, well, social interaction, not initial solitude behind a screen.

I just hope that people don’t get sticker shock when they move on to the real thing.


Recognizing a Reluctant Writer in the Mirror

Jen Aston turned me to this post from Annette Gilbert.  It was a reflection and action stemming from a professional learning opportunity for teachers called “Inspiring Reluctant Writers”.  Part of the learning was to have the group create their own blogs to share reflections.  It’s an interesting approach and she had a couple of questions moving beyond the workshop.

Those are some interesting thoughts and it would be a nice followup to see if she gets answers to those questions.

Hopefully, the blogs extend beyond the course and we have a whole new batch of bloggers pushing the profession.


Effective Facilitating and Blogging

I had mentioned this post by Diana Maliszewski earlier, a person I still have to copy and paste her last name to get it right.  The latter part of the post dealt with her analysis of her own blog in response to a post I’d made of my own earlier.  This time, I took some time to think about the first part of the post where she’s part of a workshop from ETFO called the Presenter’s Pallette.

With the growth of the use of teacher-coaches and consultants helping educational systems grow, it sounds like a fabulous opportunity for her.  Stepping back a bit, it looks like a great opportunity for all teachers.  Even if the ultimate career goal isn’t in that area, the skillset can’t help but benefit any classroom teacher.  Hopefully, it’s made available for others to attend.


Every Day Is Unique

I don’t think that you can argue much about the title of this post from Rola Tibshirani.

Worthwhile of note are her thoughts about growth mindsets – a topic that was really in vogue for a while but seems to have dropped from the radar as of late.  It’s too bad because that’s a concept that’s worth hanging on to and building success from.

Included in the post are numerous quotes and ideas including a Google Presentation.

You definitely need to put this on your “must read today” list.


Do we see poverty in our schools?

Thoughts and sentiments about this are very prevalent at this time of year.  There’s a bigger message in this post from Paul McGuire though worth keeping in mind.

Now, I don’t see this as good enough.  I have been very fortunate to work in a high poverty section of our city – for me this is a first.  I am ashamed to say that I really didn’t know the extent of the poverty in these communities in our own very wealthy city.

For some, it’s a way of life 365 days a year.  A friend of mine notes that it’s more noticeable in the winter since you notice more when kids wear the same clothes day after day and hunger is more apparent.  It’s not as noticeable in the warmer weather when t-shirts and shorts are the order of the day.

It’s something to keep your eyes open for – even if you’re not teaching in a “high poverty section” of your community.  It’s everywhere.

Thanks, Paul, for keeping our eyes open.


Amaryllis Thoughts

I had to smile when I read this post from Kristi Keery Bishop.  I only ever had one class in my entire teaching career with a window.  It was an Accounting class and there were two windows in the back and our caretaker was a bit of a green thumb type person.  Sure enough, on the ledge, he had some plants that enjoyed the sun and thrived.  My regular classroom had no such luck.  It makes all the difference in the world.  The sad part was that being an early arriver and late leaver, there were entire days in the winter that I never saw the sun during the week.

Anyway, Kristi turns her amaryllis experience into an analogy for professional learning.

My PD thoughts turned to my amaryllis.  While I was focused on watching the stem (not) grow to great heights, I completely forgot about what might be going on under the soil.  Maybe my amaryllis has spent it’s energy these last ten days spreading roots so that when the stem does start to grow tall, the bulb will be strong enough to support the height.  You need strong roots before you make great surges in growth.

I think it’s a terrific analogy in our world of accountability where deliverables from PD matter so much.  How many times have we completed an application to speak that starts with “By the end of this session, participants will be able to …”  Maybe it’s more realistic to that “By the end of this session, I will have planted the seed for participants to be able to … on their own”


RETWEET OR SHARE?

Donna Fry shares some of the thinkers that influence her –

Other curators help me sort through the unfathomable amount of information on the web.  Stephen Downes, Doug Belshaw, and Audrey Watters are examples of thought leaders who filter, curate and share information regularly.  I know that there will be value in their curations.

But the real message was her being taken to task for retweeting a message.  I think that it’s part of the consideration that we all need to understand.  Hopefully, nobody retweets or likes a message based solely upon a title.

I don’t totally agree with her assertion

An algorithm, which you have no control over, determines what content reaches your eyes.

I suppose it’s true if you’re a passive reader of content and don’t aggressively look for the good stuff.  But, I would challenge it at least based upon my personal experiences.  I like looking for content on my own, from original sources, based specifically on topics of interest to me generally and for what I’m currently curious about.  I make no bones about it; if you follow my sharing and my blog posts, they are definitely tainted by my foci.  I make no claims about sharing both sides to any story or concept.  I may do so in my mind but that never goes public.

The topic is of particular importance right now with stories of social media getting their houses in order after accusations of phony stories arising during the recent US elections.  Will it make online reading a better place?  Probably a bit better but there’s so much and so many sources publishing daily that the best thing you can do is learn how to fine tune your BS detector.  More than ever, the skills of a knowledgeable teacher-librarian should be in high demand in any school or school system that wants to consider themselves best of breed.


Thanks, again, to the wonderful Ontario Edubloggers above for sharing their thoughts and insights again.  Please take the time to click though, read their entire thoughts and then drop a comment or two.  Or, if Donna’s blog post doesn’t scare you again, retweet or share their writing.

OTR Links 12/02/2016


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Watch Toronto Grow


This is simply amazing and may well be the most addictive thing that you watch on your computer today.

It’s Google’s Timelapse resource.

Timelapse is a global, zoomable video that lets you see how the Earth has changed over the past 32 years. It is made from 33 cloud-free annual mosaics, one for each year from 1984 to 2016, which are made interactively explorable by Carnegie Mellon University CREATE Lab’s Time Machine library, a technology for creating and viewing zoomable and pannable timelapses over space and time.

Consequently, I spent way too much time looking at the growth of one of the areas in Ontario that just seems to explode – Toronto!

If you can work Google Maps, you can use Timelapse.  Start with the default location and move the map around or zoom in and out to get to your location.  Or, simply type the address of concern in the search box in the top left and away you go.

Look a little wider and check out the activity near the airport.

https://earthengine.google.com/iframes/timelapse_player_embed.html#v=43.68409,-79.61573,11.238,latLng&t=3.24

That’s just a start.

You don’t have to limit your exploration to the big city.

Pick a place, any place, and watch it change over time.

I took a look at my high school.  When I taught there, we were just this lovely little campus surrounded by corn fields.  It’s amazing to watch it grown into the place that it is today with access to the new community centre.  As you drive along Laurier Parkway, you can see the fire hydrants already in place as a sign that this is where housing is planned for the future.  It will be interesting to run the simulation again in ten years as development continues.

If you’ve ever wanted a bird’s eye view (albeit a very high flying bird) of the growth of humanity, this is it.  You have to check out Google Timelapse.