April 1

One of the days that you really have to be on your toes as a teacher is April Fools’ Day.  You never know what your charges will be up to.

In reality, it’s not all that terribly difficult to know that something is up.  First, there’s the distraction in the hallway before class when you get asked a few dumb questions while whatever is going to happen gets set up.  Then, when you enter the classroom, all of a sudden every set of eyes in the class is watching you quietly.  You know that never happens – there’s always that student or groups of students that are otherwise occupied.  On April 1, they’re all watching, watching, watching.  So, you look for the tack on your chair, check the blackboard for writing, look for buckets of water on the doorway, and so on…

The very best “gag” that was done was actually very well done.  Two students had written a computer program that looked like the log on screen to the network.  It had the details down to the last pixel.  Then, they would walk away from the computer with their program running.  The unsuspecting victim comes along and enters their userid and password (nicely done with * to mask the characters just like in real life).  This information is then piped to a text file before sending the message to the victim that they had entered an incorrect password.  In the background, the computer would close the text file, log off, and the victim would next be presented with the real login screen – they enter their details, get logged in and life goes on as it’s supposed to.  Alas, their credentials had effectively been stolen.  Of course, when the teacher found out about it, a discussion ensued on two levels.  First to the authors to indicated that this activity had risen beyond the level of a joke and to the others about the importance of being tech savvy when a computer displays unexpected behaviour.

This year, April Fools’ Day activities started to appear on March 31 locally.  Of course, it already was April 1 in other places.  There were some interesting gags this year.

What makes these so effective is the time spent by the authors making them look just like everything else is a company’s product line.  You’d have to look awfully close to see if there’s any indication that you’re looking at something bogus.  To that end, I’m going to add a number of these to my wiki resource “Sites that should make you go Hmmm“.  Their is an educational value to these.  In addition to enjoying the efforts of the creators, just like the password snagger program, students need to be able to read and discern what they’re seeing on the internet.  It’s so important to be able to assign a truth value to what you’re reading.

I couldn’t trip up my friend Alfred Thompson with this announcement.


One of the better collections of April Fool’s Jokes can be found here on this Rebelmouse Page.  Mashable has a great summary here.

Did you find a gag or joke that was particularly noteworthy yesterday?  If so, please let me know in the comments.


Learning from Radio

Talking about new ways to learn brought another thing to mind.  I’ve been a subscriber to XM Radio for a few years now.  I really like it, other than the fact that I wish you had the option to just subscribe to one channel!  If that was the case, I’d just subscribe to E Street Radio.

Other than music from one of our lifetime’s great artists, it’s just the fact that I’ve learned a great deal just listening to the station.  In particular, there’s a show called “Cover Me” devoted to Bruce Springsteen covers – either other artists who have covered his music or music that he’s covered.

From that, I’ve learned the following…

Blinded By The Light” – I would have sworn that this was an original by Manfred Mann.  Not so!  It was written by Springsteen!

Jersey Girl” – Again, I was wrong.  I would have thought this to be an original Bruce song.  It was originally written by Tom Waits.

And finally, this week, I have a new infatuation.  The tables are turned in the opposite direction.  I heard a version of Springsteen’s “Mansion on the Hill” by The National.  I really liked it and am now on a mission to listen to all of The National I can get.

This is a great find for me and I’ve just got to listen my way through this playlist.

Learning comes from the darnedest places!  What did people do before YouTube?

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Bits and Bytes

I had a good conversation with Bill MacKenzie, President of ECOO, this afternoon.  One of the topics that we touched upon was how TVOntario had contributed in its way to education in the province.  We both reminisced about a time a ways back.

It was time when computers were just dropped off at the school and those of us who were interested were left to our own devices to learn about them.  Many of us had experience working with large machines at university but this was a whole new world.

Enter TVOntario and the hosts of a series called Bits and Bytes – Luba Goy and Billy Van.

I just had to poke around and see if I could dig up the old series.  Sure enough —- some of it’s on YouTube!  Play the video below.  A lot of us learned so much from this series

So, does that bring back fond memories of the show for you?

I think it was an interesting time for learning.  There were many television shows like Bits and Bytes that were designed to education the masses about a new technology.  We don’t see the same approach these days.  Have we assumed that the learning will occur in schools?  Or through professional development?

Home computers were new at the time and this was a way to reach the masses in an entertaining way.  We’ve got away from this sort of approach now.  I can’t help but think of the varying opinions that parents have about Social Media and their child’s use.  Is it time to use the traditional media to educate the masses about the new and unknown?


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The Sweater

Bill Belsey knows his Canadiana.  I mean, how many people could make the Twitter handle @Inukshuk work?  I met Bill when we both were presenting at the Teacher2Teacher conference in Alberta.  We had a great conversation there about First Nations and I’ve followed him on Twitter ever since.

In my Twitter stream today, I caught this…

It’s one of my favourite short stories.  It’s based on the book by Roch Carrier and I only knew about the digital version on the NFB site.  http://www.nfb.ca/film/sweater/

But, Bill pointed out there is a version available on YouTube.

If you’re a Canadiens fan, you need to enjoy this video over and over!

What was even cooler was that the back and forth led to even more interesting discussions.

I mean…would today’s student understand the reference to Eaton’s?  Growing up, that certainly was a reality for me.  Or Simpson’s?  Or watching a radio?

Thanks so much for the original message, Bill.  It started a wonderful chain of thoughts with me.

p.s. I always wondered what number was on that Maple Leafs’ jersey?  10?  7?  4?  27?


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Taking Care of Christmas

It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting down to do some reading.  I turn on CMT for some background music and I hear a song oddly familiar and yet different!

It’s a remix of Randy Bachman’s “Taking Care of Business” – only this time in duet with Beverley Mahood.  Very nicely done.  I wonder if it’s on YouTube so that I can enjoy the entire song…  Yep!

But there’s more.

In addition to enjoying it on YouTube, you can download a high quality version from iTunes for $0.99.  Why do that?

The proceeds from the download go to the Corus Feeds Kids initiative.

What a great way to get some new music for your library and for a good cause at this time of year.

I’ve got my copy.  Why don’t you help this great cause?