Need to know more


Right off the bat, I’ll admit that I don’t own a dedicated personal digital assistant. That doesn’t mean that I’m not interested; I just don’t have a need right now. At least, one that I know of. That can always change.

If I’m within listening range, I can say “Hey, Google” and the Assistant comes to life on my phone. I would estimate that I use 1/1,000,000 of the possibilities that it offers. My needs typically are to ask questions. Like last night when Clint Black was on the ACM awards show, my wife wanted to know how old he was.

I could have started typing but it was just so much easier to ask my phone. I turned up the volume so that we could both hear the answer and then move back to watching the show.

The Google Assistant is certainly in a number of places.

But, what else can it do? Curiosity got the best of me so I went looking. A gold mine of ideas can be found here.


Not every option is available on every device, so this is helpful.

There’s lots to poke around with and to learn.

What’s your favourite use of the Google Assistant?

I’d really be interested is ways that people are using the Google Assistant in the classroom.

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Windows on Android


A day of freedom for me was having to turn in my iPhone to my employer.  Like the Blackberry before it, the thing was functional.  It made phone calls, connected to the internet, and let you install and ran applications.  You know, the stuff that you have one for.

And, it was customizable.  You could put a desktop image on the background.

Those of you who know me and/or my blog wouldn’t be surprised when I said that I felt handcuffed.  I got my first Android smartphone and realized that there was a whole different world out there.  Part of my frustration before was flipping through screen after screen looking for an application.  (Yeah, I install a lot.  That’s what memory is for.)

One of the nice features about Android is that you can change the Launcher.  This is the application that makes access to your other applications possible.  And, there’s a LOT of them.

Now, a big of a caveat here … I haven’t tried them all.  It’s just that when I read a review of yet another one, I read about a neat feature that I have to try out.  So, while I haven’t tried them all, I’ll confess to having tried a bunch of them!  And, surprisingly to me, I’m intrigued by launchers that try to work like Windows!  It actually shouldn’t be that big a surprise – Windows 8 was designed for touch and so is your smartphone.

Here are a few that I’ve poked around with, and quite frankly, enjoy the Windows experience with

Launcher 8 WP Style Themes

Screenshot 2019-04-02 at 10.15.19

Computer Launcher for Win 10

Screenshot 2019-04-02 at 10.18.32

and the one that is currently installed comes from Microsoft itself.

Microsoft Launcher

Screenshot 2019-04-02 at 10.21.16

The new wallpaper every day plus the access to all the apps versus a scrolling page has caught my fancy – at least at this point in time.  No advertising is nice as well.

But, ever fickle, I caught a glance at a Windows XP launcher theme.  You know, back when computers were computers…

This post originally appeared on:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

Please don’t read it anywhere else.

 

A TouchDevelop Tip


Lately, Alfred Thompson (@alfredtwo) has been sharing a great deal about his experiences with TouchDevelop.  His latest post is actually a story around a video showing how to use Turtle Graphic in TouchDevelop.  That did it.  If anyone can program and create a video at the same time, I’ve got to give it a shot.

Of course, you need an idea.  So, in tribute to Alfred’s Tip Calculator presentation at the CSTA Conference last summer, I thought I’d write a little tip program, all the while learning the language and user interface.

I head on over to the TouchDevelop site where you log in with your Microsoft, Facebook, or Google account.  I log in with my live.ca account and I’m ready to explore.  I took a look at one other program and decided to just forage ahead.  Kids, don’t do this at home.  I had no planning, no layout, (quite frankly no idea of what the syntax of the language was going to be…).

When you create your first script, you actually don’t get plopped into a blank workspace unless you want…

scripts

There’s going to be lots to explore in the future.  For my simple program, I have no need for any bells or whistles…

blank

Hopefully, I can change that!

Within a few minutes, I had learned enough of the environment and the language to create a first program.

touchdevelop

And run it, I did…

Photo 2013-06-11 7 58 13 AM

Wait a minute.  Careful observers will note that I created the program in Windows but ran it on my iPad!

Therein lies the excitement of this application.  It’s not just a development tool for the desktop.  Because it’s all online and carefully crafted, it will run on many devices!

Photo 2013-06-11 10 28 52 AM

Whoops.  OK, just about anything.  Looks like Google Chrome for the iPad isn’t on the list!

But it certainly worked well on my Android Phone.

Screenshot_2013-06-11-08-12-51

In fact, the nice clean interface seems to play well just about anywhere.

But, writing and running on your device is only part of the story.  There is an option to compile and share your work.

export

I don’t have a Windows Phone or Windows 8 but I certainly do have devices that could run the HTML 5 WebApplication.  Even running it locally is interesting when you view the source and see all that’s going on to make it work.

If I’m a Computer Science teacher, I would be very excited to see this land in my classroom.  It’s web based so you’re already accessing the latest, greatest version.  It works on a variety of devices so BYOD is a real possibility.  Students don’t need the school computers; they could be coding on their own device both at home and at school.  What’s not to like?

I would encourage anyone who is interested in coding at any level to take a look at TouchDevelop to see if it has a home in your classroom.  I’m betting that it well.

In addition to your own work, make sure that you explore the home page for TouchDevelop to see the showcase applications that are being development.  There’s some amazing things and if the author allows you, you can grab a copy of her/his code and make it uniquely yours.

A printed manual and free to download manuals are available here.  Finally, stay in touch on Facebook!

 

Signing Off


There’s nothing like learning something new and I had it happen to me on the weekend.  My newest teacher, Sharon, needed me to sign off on something and forwarded me a PDF file to sign.

Sigh, I thought.  I was in the mobile office here at dougpete labs.  It has a relaxing chair and a television in it.

So, in the worst Web 1.0 thinking, I figured that I’d have to get up, go to dougpete labs on the other side of the house, send the PDF file to my printer (hope that I have ink in it), sign it, and then fax it in.

But, Sharon said that the easiest way would be to use HelloSign.

Huh?

Well, she obviously knows what she’s talking about so off I go to download the HelloSign app for my iPad.  There also is an Android version.

This, my friends, opened a whole new world for me.  I launched the application and saw the option to import a document.  In fact, I could import from email or Google Drive.  Could it be this easy?  It turns out that it is.  Once the document is in HelloSign, you have these options for adding new content.

How sweet is this?

I have the option of writing (using my finger), typing, inserting a check mark, or inserting the date.

So, you doctor the document and a Send button at the top right of the screen attaches the document to an email message ready for sending.  The biggest time taker in the whole process was waiting for the application to download.

This is definitely a utility that I’ll hang on to.  Until now, when I stumbled upon a PDF file, it has always meant moving to a traditional computer with a traditional application.  Now, I can do it from mobile?  Again, sweet.

As it turns out, HelloSign also had a website offering even more functionality like team members, creating reusable documents, etc.

And I have my teacher Sharon, to thank for all of this.  Thank you so much, Sharon.

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Advertising Isn’t What It Used To Be


In the beginning, there was a big of advertising.  I think that most of us who are connected to the web remember back to when you’d see these little unobtrusive adverts appearing as you worked the web.

They took up a little real estate on your screen but, in your heart of hearts, you knew that having them there was the right thing to do.  After all, someone or something has to pay the bills.  There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

But then things changed.  Advertisers started shoving flashing and spinning things our way to attract our attention.  Or, even worse, instead of trying to stand out, spent the time to make advertising look like just another piece of information on the page.  Never mind the fact that we became serious about our privacy and tracking on the web – malware detecting programs were letting us know who and/or what was tracking our browsing habits.  Advertising companies were becoming more sophisticated, serving up advertisements depending upon what it was that we’re doing in our browser.  That’s kind of a scary thing.

In fact, the annoying habits became even more annoying and opened a market for a new product – advertising blocking extensions.  I think I downloaded my first version of Ad Block for Firefox a few years ago and was immediately impressed.  My lethargic web connection improved dramatically.  I never really realized how much some advertising was taking.  I suppose that, with a faster internet provider, it might not be noticed.  But, with a slow connection, speeds improved dramatically.  If you’re paying for data on your smartphone, that data also includes the advertising that’s coming through.  I was hooked and have used it with every browser since.

One of the news stories that I had read recently talked about how Google was removing ad blocking programs from the Google Play store.  It was too bad.  Google’s advertisements weren’t all that intrusive.  But, this was one of those things on my “to do list” – spend some time investigating this.

Fortunately, Stephen Downes did the leg work.  In today’s oldaily, Stephen commented on the story “New Adblock Plus Doesn’t Need No Stinking Google Play Store.”  Bottom line is this – if you want to continue to use Adblock Plus on your Android, you’re going to have to look elsewhere.  I hope this is not a trend that spreads.

Thanks, Stephen, for bringing this article to our attention.

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Scooping Policy


One of the most painful of all administrative tasks is trying to find something written in educational policy.  My superintendents were good about photocopying any PPM (Policy/Program Memorandum) and sending it to me so that we could be in total compliance with any directions.  I would read/skim and then three-hole punch and they would go into a collection of green binders on my bookshelf.  They would sit there until I need to make reference to something.  I knew it was there – just had to find it!

After a while, I would realize that I was amassing a good collection of history and do a little periodic weeding when you get a new memo that supersedes a current one.  It’s actually a great deal of work.

Now, I’m a long time Scoop.it! user with my collections of QR Codes and Ontario Edubloggers being the Scoop.it! pages that I manage the most.  It’s a handy environment to work within and having the shortcut sitting in my bookmarks bar makes adding resources a piece of cake when I find something I wish to curate.  Scoop.it! is also good enough to let you know when one of your friends starts a new collection in case you’re interested or you wish to tap into resources that others have found.

It was today that I got an announcement that Tom D’Amico (@TDOttawa) had created a new topic.  It had an interesting title – Human Resources and Education Law.  In some corners, that would be the sort of thing you’d take a look at if you were having difficulties falling to sleep.  In other corners, the topics are nice to have on hand just the moment you need it.  I know of at least three administrative assistants who would drag the big binders to meetings “just in case”.  I really like Tom’s concept!  If the documents are available online, why not cobble them all together?

After all, the resources are on the web and there are iOS and Android applications for it.  Why wouldn’t you just have it all in one spot?

Policy.png

Now, I’m not real fussy about the topic of the scoops at the top of the list but it’s the law as foisted upon education.

But, I do like the concept.  Why not use the tools available at your disposal to make life easier?  It’s a great deal easier than lugging binders and binders of policy around.  Kudos, Tom.

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Ultimate Flash Face


One of the things that I get a kick from is watching crime television shows and the victim sits with a police artist to draw an image of the bad guy.  I always have a tough time making the connection between the drawing and the bad guy.  Plus, in real life, it might go by so quickly and you’d be under so many emotions.

I don’t know how they do it.  Hopefully, it’s never needed but we do live in a world where we all pretty much carry digital cameras and there are security cameras everywhere.

Today, I stumbled upon the “Ultimate Flash Face” program.  Written in Flash, it’s good to go for your PC but fortunately, there’s an app for it at the App Store and on Google Play.

I tried it out trying to draw myself but the real to live images kept looking like Tom Cruise.

So, I decided to give it another shot.  During a dog walk today, I took a quick look at a guy and tried to remember his features.  When I got home, I drew what I thought I remembered.

guy

I’ll be honest here – he had a toque on and it wasn’t very bright.  Regardless, the above image bears absolutely no resemblance to the image that I was trying to remember.  This is much more difficult than it looks!

But, drawing the face is a piece of cake!

You choose from a selection of images like eyes, hair, nose, chin, etc. and compose your face.

It only takes a few minutes to put together a basic face, but with lots of options and detail adjustment, you could make this a serious endeavour with lots of classroom applications.

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