How I spent yesterday


We all know that yesterday was April 1.

Carbon tax day in Ontario or a chance to play tricks on people as part of April Fool’s Day.

Last week, I had read that Microsoft had indicated that there would be no jokes played on April 1.  But, we can always count on Google…

Screen Cleaner

This was kind of a cool way to spend a couple of minutes.  Allegedly, there was an external screen cleaner built into the Files application.  Not only now could you keep your Android device as clean as possible, you could clean the outside.

It’s a little bit of fun, to be sure.

But, what a great way to get people to download this application if they hadn’t already and use it to keep things clean on the inside.

Snake

Now, this was considerably more time sucking and rabbit hole-ish.

snake

The classic game of “Snake” comes to Google Maps.  Play in your favourite city, if it’s included, or wander around the world.

Snake was started from a special addition on the main menu on the side.  The promise is that it will be around for a while.

There are a few more from Google for 2019.

And, Google isn’t the only one.

Check out this article for more April Fool’s gags.

And here is a list of all of the Google April Fool’s gags over the years.

Beyond the gags, though…

Easter Eggs and unexpected actions or mystery levels in games have been around for a long time.  It was the source of inspiration for a discussion with students about the ethics of doing it.

Sure, it can be fun, but if you’re using an application for its serious intended use and the prank actually makes it fail should be a cause for concern.  Google products, since they largely live on the web can get away with it since they’re not changing anything to your computer and can fix things once and it applies to everyone.  But, suppose that Microsoft decided to get cute with Microsoft Word in the name of a joke and you ended up breaking functionality – then it gets serious.

Lest I get too serious, I’m back to the Snake game.

Getting it Right … Financially


One of the best inspirational things that I do for myself is subscribe to The Daily Papert.  In this mailing list, I get a daily bit of inspiration from one of the greatest minds  in educational technology as curated by Gary Stager.  Every day, there’s a quotation related to education and usually with a technology overture.  I would encourage you to enter your email address for a daily shot of inspiration yourself.

I don’t think that there are too many naysayers about the use of technology in education these days.  But, for all of the enthusiasts and for those remaining naysayers, the conversation almost inevitably turns to money and how we can’t afford the technology.  For years, we’ve tinkered and tried pilot projects (how many times do we have to prove that technology can motivate students?)  We’ve talked about Maine and other 1:1 projects and lusted after the opportunity to replicate but it always comes back to money.  In Monday’s Daily Papert, it was addressed.

From The Daily Papert, April 4, 2011

Now, what’s really interesting is that the prices in Mr. Papert’s quotations are from 1983.  It isn’t a huge leap to imagine what the dollar figures are today, almost 30 years later.  Now, we’re not about to sink dollars into Apple II computers, but there are current technologies that would be equivalent in terms of today’s functionalities.

We do have to be financially responsible.  Of that, there is no question.  That’s why another article that appeared has so much interest.  Ewan McIntosh’s entry “Why the cloud’s important for education: saving $199,995 on one test” will make you stand up and think.  Look at the issues that Mr. McIntosh identifies.  School boards spending all kinds of money providing internal services when there are free and/or better services readily available on the web.  Of real interest to me is that amount reportedly saved on the administration of just one test.  Imagine the possibility of removing all of the administrative costs and paper booklets and all the costs that go into offering these things.

However, a computer is just a computer until you load it up with the necessary software.  In Ontario, we are fortunate to have a program like the OESS which licenses software recommended by OSAPAC for publically funded schools.  We are also lucky to have resources like those provided by eLearning Ontario.  Despite the successes of these programs, they don’t provide all that is required for a well-rounded suite of software for students.  Fortunately, there are other great alternatives.  If we delve into the concept of appropriate FLOSS, the opportunities get better.  If we expand our definition of just what software is, web services can fill the job nicely.

Web services remain an emphasized question.  Some districts have policies that are restrictive while others less so.  These policies are undoubtely created by well meaning internal structures.  However, a thoughtful, structured approach identifying just what is needed would send a set of guidelines to districts throughout the province.  After all, we have an Ontario Curriculum loaded with references.  Getting serious about all of this would enable a suite consistent throughout the province.  And, if a web service proves to be not needed on a particular date, the provincially licensed Net Support School software lets the teacher turn it off at the class level.

In this link, I would encourage you to add your favourite software (however you elect to define it).  I’ll collate all of the responses and report back in a later post.

Are we ready for more pilots and more tinkering or is it time to get at it?  If we take the finances out of the discussion, does it make a difference?

Less Love for the iPod


My explorations with iOS4.2 continue yesterday. On the iPad, it’s really awesome and makes such a difference. The biggest thing that I’m so appreciative of is the ability to put things into folders. Now, instead of scrolling through pages and pages of apps, they’re nicely organized by categories. I just have to remember where I put them! Even with the frustration of the multiple pages, I did have a sense of where a particular application might be.

The multitasking (which is more like task switching) is OK but will take some computing style changes before it because a natural habit.

The same love doesn’t apply to my iPod though.

I did the same upgrade there and expected to find some new device using experience. It’s not there. My iPod is my portable connection but didn’t seem to reap the same overall improvements.

I had noticed a couple of things yesterday. First of all, for the first time, it would randomly drop the wireless connection. The first time, I was prepared to call it a fluke but it happened again in an area where none of the other connected devices had a problem.

Secondly, battery life seems to have gone right down hill. I could go for days with my use of the device. Not so now. I had to charge it twice yesterday. Now, I’m also ready to admit that I was probably using it more than I would normally but that’s still an unexpected turn of events.

Then, late yesterday, I received a message from a friend wanting to know if the multitasking worked on the iPod. It’s not something that I do regularly but I just gave it a shot and sure enough, the answer is no.

Now, I’m willing to admit that it’s something that I’ve done wrong – I’m always the first person that I blame when something goes wrong. But, I turned to the legions on the internet that will be working with the product as well. Somehow, it’s comforting to know that I’m not the only person who is experiencing these things. I’m sure that Apple is listening and monitoring as well. Hopefully, there will be an update pushed out to resolve these issues. If not, I really can see myself rolling back the operating system to a more functional level for me.

As always, if you’ve got a solution for me that works, I’d really like to hear it!

The Friendliest of Browsers


It’s important to stay on top of what’s happening in your digital life, right?  For many, that digital life is on Facebook.  It’s an easy log in and log out on a computer, but what about on your iPad?  With all of the resources that are available for the site itself, the iPad seems to have been left out of things.

There is a Facebook app for the iPod/iPhone and it’s pretty good for those devices.  And, yes, it will run on the iPad but it’s still at the smaller screen size.  It  really doesn’t take advantage of all of the display area that the iPad affords.  Sure, you can hit the 2x button, but it’s not the same.

For a while, I had just created a Mobile Safari shortcut and put that in my launcher instead.  It works fine since you’re working right in Facebook itself.  But, navigation is still best done with a mouse.  Using your iPad, your navigation demands are just a little more…..

Into the game, comes a very powerful little application called Friendly.  It’s available in both a Lite (Free) version and a $.99 pay product.  A partial list of features appears below, courtesy of the developers.

  • Read and comment your newsfeed
  • Chat with your online friends
  • Upload photos from your ipad
  • Read or write Facebook messages
  • Update your status
  • View your photos, and friend photos full screen
  • View and respond to events
  • Keep up with your Facebook notifications
  • Quickly login with multiple Facebook accounts

Navigation is quick and easy and you’re in and out of the areas that are important to you so quickly.  After just a couple of days, I found very little need to go into Facebook via the web at all.

Quick and easy access to your “wall”, toggling between your live feed and your news feed, check your events, update your profile, check your friends, access your Facebook messages – all are just a tap away – without the advertising!

In fact, the only reason why I feel the need to go into the website itself now is to let my so-called friends and family beat me at Family Feud!

If you have an iPad and you’re a Facebook user, you really owe it to yourself to check out this application.

Free


With the price of gas at all time highs, how do you feed your second drain on disposable income?

i.e. your computer

Look for free software.  The folks from PCWorld.ca have posted this resource.

They’re calling the article 101 Fantastic Freebies.  I wandered through them.  Many I recognized and actually already use.  I wonder if they should rename it “Things that you absolutely must have.”  The collection is great.

You owe it to yourself to check it out and do some serious downloading.

You’ll be so much more productive.

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An Invitation to Edit


It was a boring Sunday afternoon and, after my bike ride, I sat down to check out the NASCAR race.  I was actually curious as to whether Goodyear was going to upset Tony Stewart with another strange tire incident.

I’d been meaning to sit down and so something like this for a while.

In the traditional software world, we run to the local software shop and plunk down some money for a package.

Then, the world of Open Source dangles the promise of everything in front of you.  Like wandering through a free buffet, software is download and tested and the best of the best remains on the hard drive until hard drive space is needed.

Today, there’s a third alternative.  Excellent programmers are making top rate software packages free on the web.  With the promise of capability with desktop cousins and only the need of a good browser and internet access, this is the new enticement.

It may also be the new reality.

Why buy or download when the resource is online?

I created this table as a starting point to compare the three alternatives.

http://dougpete.pbwiki.com/Software%20Comparisons

Consider this an invitation to visit the Wiki and add to the table.

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