Post #302 – Where We’ve Been

06-06-A

In case you’ve not noticed, it has been a while since I last posted. Forget March Madness as it was May Madness this year! There was much to do to wrap up the school year and to prepare for Summer Gym 2016 — starting Tuesday!

As I resolve to post more frequently this summer and beyond, I’d like to take a moment to share links to ten of my favorite posts from the last year and a half (and 301 entries).

The primary focus of this blog is to share tips and tech which support learning. Here’s a few of my favorite posts specifically about educational technology:

Lots O’Links on the Future of Tech

Use Flubaroo to Auto Grade and Report Student Assessment

Apps You Should Know: Ten Ambient Sound Makers and Other Meditation Aids

8 Little Known Video Resources Popular With Teachers

70 Practical Things Teachers Should Know

So those are the serious ones. But we all know that teachers need levity too. So here’s my five favorite fun ones:

50 Small Things to Make Up a Perfect Day…

Friday FunLink: Beautiful, Fantasy GIF’s

18 Country’s Flags Made From Their Most Famous Foods

Snakes? No…A Turkey on a Plane

A Mind Blowing Simpsons Search Engine

Enjoy! I’ll be back again soon with some new posts…

 

Sun(Fun)day Night – U.S. Presidential Candidates as Shakespeare Characters

05-01-A

Happy May! I hope that it has been a fun day for you on this Sunday.

Just a quick post tonight as I still have much to do before bedtime.

With the recent celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death  , I thought it would be fun to share this clever article observing a connection between each of the U.S. presidential candidates (current and withdrawn) and familiar characters from Shakespeare’s great works.

I won’t spoil the fun for you by listing any of the connections here. I will say that discovering which character Donald Trump connects to is well worth the read!

Have a great week!

Sun(Fun)day Night Post – Do You Have a Buddy Bench?

04-10-A

It’s a bit late on this Sunday night, so I have to keep this brief. While I was looking through my digital edition of the Washington Post over breakfast this morning, I came across this article which made me smile: Kids Don’t Have to Be Lonely at Recess Anymore Thanks to This Little Boy and His ‘Buddy Bench.’

I’m not an elementary school teacher, so I don’t know if this concept and these objects have widely caught on in the U.S.A. This was the first time I’ve heard about this myself. Do forgive me if this is widely known and I’m just a “johnny-come-lately” with it.

The concept is simple – it’s a bench where a student can go and sit during recess if he or she feels lonely and unable to connect with others. Children are coached to pay attention to the bench and, if a kid is sitting there by himself or herself, go over and invite him or her to join a group and participate.

The boy pictured above is credited with bringing this simple, yet powerful concept to the U.S. According to the article, he and his family were planning on moving to Germany and he was worried that he’d feel alone at a new school. When he toured a possible school for him, he was reassured when he noticed the “buddy bench” in their recess area. While his family didn’t move overseas, he has been able to help create this place of hospitality at many schools around the U.S.

It’s a great idea and it seems to be catching on. A Google Search brings up all kinds of images of “buddy benches.” Here’s a few of my favorite ones:

So does your school or workplace have a “buddy bench” – a place for one to go in order to show that he or she feels lonely or disconnected? And does your school or workplace have a strong enough culture of hospitality that kids or adults would invite the “buddy bench” sitter off of the seat and into the group?

Sun(Fun)Day Night Post – Feel-Good Music by The Hunts

03-13-16 - A

As I end a full and short (by an hour) weekend, I am feeling grateful for Spotify. This isn’t an add for the streaming music service, but rather an acknowledgement of how much it has expanded both my ability to enjoy music and especially to discover singer and bands who make music I like to listen to as much as I can.

Flannel Graph was the band I wrote about recently – particularly their song “Apple Pie” which I find both catchy and moving. Another great “indie” song which has been streaming on my devices and in my head is this one:

In addition to the quirky and playful music, I like the lyrics as well:

I could see,
I could see your heart, through your eyes
On that night from the balcony
How could we ever
Make this leap?

You and I,
Caught up in wind like we were parachutes
Oh how we’d fly until we hit the ground
How could we ever
Make this leap?

We were young,
I used my paper telescope,
To show you the stars and then win your heart
How could we ever
Make believe?

I can see, I can see, I can see a sunrise
Call me out from the dark, cause I’m broken inside
I can see, I can see, I can see a sunrise
Call me out from the dark, cause I’m broken inside

Up above the static
Up above the racket
I hear your voice calling me out of the darkness
Up above the static
Up above the racket
I hear your voice calling me out of the darkness

Caught up like parachutes, Caught up like parachutes
Oh how we’d fly
Caught up like parachutes, Caught up like parachutes
Oh how we’d fly!

You called me out from the dark, and brought me into the light,
You called me out from the dark, and brought me into the light,
You called me out from the dark, and brought me into the light,

It clearly fits into the category of popular “God Songs” in which the “you” could possibly be God. Seems to work here, especially with “you called me out from the dark, and brought me into the light.”

I’ve come to appreciate this band, The Hunts even more after I Googled them tonight and discovered they are all family – five brothers and two sisters – ranging in age from 16 to 24. Their official bio notes this about them:

While getting seven strong-minded brothers and sisters to agree on every last note and lyric can sometimes be chaotic, The Hunts note that the synergy born from that chaos is what makes the band so strong. “I like to look at our hectic way of writing as actually really helpful to us as songwriters,” says Josh. “Each one of us is a filter, and after going through all seven of those filters, each song is so much better than it could ever be if we each just wrote on our own.” Now heading out on tour in support of Life Was Simple, The Hunts are thrilled to harmonize for a bigger audience than ever before. “One of our favorite things is for all seven of us to sing together at once, and I think people really like to see the special camaraderie that comes from brothers and sisters creating something together,” says Jessi. “Growing up, we didn’t really have much,” adds Jenni. “But we did have music, and that was the thing that always brought us together. I can’t think of anything better than growing that relationship even deeper, through making more music that comes right from our hearts.”

And, for even more listening enjoyment on this not-yet-Spring Sunday evening, check out the strings in this song by them:

 

 

Sun(Fun)day Night (BONUS): Amazing Movie Mash-up

03-06-16-J

This time last Sunday night, I (and you too?) was watching the Oscars. If you haven’t done so yet, check out my post on where you can watch the nominated films.

Have you ever wished your favorite movie characters could be in the same film – TOGETHER? Now, thanks to editing and production so amazing I don’t even want to begin to figure it out, you can see this:

The tone does shift towards violence about halfway through when the Aliens show up. Until that point, it’s pretty fun to see how such a great range of favorite actors and characters (check out where at least four James Bonds connect) come together in one place within a story:

03-06-16-K

Sun(Fun)day Post: Two Funny Podcasts to Check Out

03-06-16-F

This post is a bit later than usual on a Sunday evening. I went for my early evening constitutional (aka walk) and then it was dinnertime. A primary New Year’s resolution of mine was to walk every day. Not to brag or anything, but since I got my Fitbit for Christmas, I’ve walked at least 10,000 steps every day (that’s 71 days – but who’s counting?)

Two things have helped me to do this – a rather warm and dry winter and great, free audio books and podcasts to listen to on my Android smartphone. As the weather warms and the sun sets later (Daylight Savings Time begins next Sunday), perhaps you’d like to walk or exercise outside more frequently?

03-06-16-B

The first place to check for audio books is OverDrive. Many libraries have contracted with this ever-growing ebook and audio book provider to be the conduit for content checked out via a typical library card. Both of our local library branches provide materials through this site – albeit with slightly different collections. The Android app for it works pretty well and it gives the option of either streaming or downloading the content via WiFi. I do find some aspects of its functionality to not be completely intuitive, so you might have to play around with it a bit.

03-06-16-A

Another good source for free audio books is LibriVox. The collection here is mainly classic works that are in the public domain. So, if you’re seeking to listen to works that you skimmed in high school, but as an adult you’re now curious about, this is your source.

I started my walking routine with audio books, but now I listen almost exclusively to podcasts. In case you’ve not been paying attention, there’s a remarkable renaissance happening in the audio programming world. I find this ironic. We’re now in such a visually-oriented streaming world as television supplanted the radio more than sixty years ago. Yet, those same devices you can use to watch Netflix, can also be used to stream a ridiculous amount of audio content as well. And on the supply side of the equation, the equipment needed to create a podcast is so minimal that anyone with a computer and a $20 plug-in-mic can become a podcaster. Sure, there’s a lot of amateurs out there, but a growing number of podcasters are gaining wide notoriety and significant earnings. A good example is Mark Maron’s WTF Podcast and his interview with President Obama last June.

03-06-16-D

To stream or download a podcast, you’ll need an app for that. Stitcher and Soundcloud are two popular, free ones that I’ve used on my Android phone. I don’t particularly like either of these since a paid app I now use is so much better – Pocket Casts

03-06-16-E

The visual design of Pocket Casts is far superior to any other podcasting app that I’ve used. More importantly, it is extremely easy to download via WiFi and then stream on-the-go. The user interface is highly intuitive. So, whether you’re brand new to listening to podcasts or a veteran, pay the $3.99 for this great app and you won’t regret it.

So, how do you find good podcasts?  Before I tell you about the aforementioned two favorites of mine, let me give you two sites to visit to find virtually any type of podcast you can imagine.

A pretty amazing one, which I stumbled across just last night is Podcast Chart (pictured above). A glance at the (partial) sidebar listing categories gives just a taste of the range of possibilities.

So, you found some interesting sounding podcasts and you’re surprised to discover that the number of episodes in the various archives is staggering. How can you find a particularly good episode? This is where NPR’s recommendation site (with weekly email) Earbud.fm comes in.

03-06-16-G

Incidentally, these two sites will allow you to podcast directly through their interface. While this might be convenient, I still prefer finding them in Pocket Casts and listening there.

OK, time for a quick mention of two podcasts I’ve been enjoying lately. The first is silly, clever, sometimes bawdy, and always funny – Hello From the Magic Tavern

03-06-16-H

You can read the premise in the screen shot above or you’ll hear it repeated at the top of each episode. I’m just enough of a Narnia fan/geek that I really appreciate the humor in this podcast as they explore and explode the many “fantasy story” tropes. The language and humor is mostly PG-13 (at least in the dozen or so early episodes I’ve heard thus far).

The second one, is in the wide “infotainment” category – No Such Thing as a Fish

03-06-16-I

This is just one branch of a large network dedicated to information – mostly of the trivial kind. In this podcast four of their British and Scottish researchers/comedians share interesting facts they’ve recently discovered. Not only do I learn from their conversations, but I bust up at both the jokes and the connections they make.

I’ve been listening to other podcasts as well and I’ll likely devote another post to recommendations sometime. At this time, I need to do the dishes – with my wireless Bluetooth headphones (I use and recommend these, purchased via Tanga) and an interesting and funny podcast in my ears.

 

 

Sun(Fun)day Night Post: How to Watch the Oscar Nominated Films and Who Should Have Won Best Picture

Oscar List

Since you and I may be watching the 88th Academy Awards tomorrow evening, I thought I’d get this post completed early. Plus, you’ll find a link below which both ranks all of the films nominated this year and tells you how/where to watch them now!

Or perhaps, you feel like me and may very well #boycottoscars because this year it’s blatantly #oscarssowhite . It may be useful to watch just to see how Chris Rock handles this reality.

If you’re not too busy planning what to teach in next week’s classes, you may want to hustle and watch some of the nominees between now and about 8pm Sunday night.

 Vox (pictured above) has a very cool article in which their film critic both ranks all of the nominees across the categories and lists where/how to view each one right now. For even more fun(ctionality), you can filter the films various ways and reconfigure the list as you wish.

If you like speculating on the Best Picture Oscar woulda, coulda, shoulda’s  check out this fun post from the Washington Post.  Two film critics go through the Best Picture nominees and winner for each of the last 40 years. They then speculate on who should have won each year. A few times they believe the actual best picture of the year won the Best Picture Oscar, but more often than not, this is not the case.

Here’s one year with which I really agree with their conclusion:

Oscars 1981

Can you guess which film my eleven year old self LOVED in 1981 (and my 46 year old self still loves) and which one I couldn’t even sit through today – 35 years later!

And who starred in Chariots of Fire anyway?  Oh yeah, Ben Cross, Ian Charleston and Nigel Havers.

Sun(Fun)day Night: Tech Breakthroughs Giving Animals the Power to Speak

Animals Able to Speak

It’s a bit late on Sunday evening, but I wanted to stay consistent and get this post out to you. Wherever you are, I hope you had as beautiful weather as we did here in Central Ohio – it was over 70 degrees and sunny on Saturday!

The always interesting Wired, has an interesting article entitled “Tech Breakthroughs are Giving Animals the Power to Speak”. It’s not really funny – although I do like the article’s image featured above.

It is pretty cool to think that animals, especially service ones, are beginning to be equipped with “wearables” which will allow them a basic level of verbal communication with humans. One situation in which this could be life-saving is:

IMAGINE YOU’RE A DIABETIC and you use a service dog trained to alert you if it senses your blood sugar is falling. These dogs are incredibly useful, because diabetics can lapse into “hypoglycemia unawareness,” where they don’t notice their own oncoming symptoms. The canines do, and they intervene. But sometimes a diabetic shock can emerge so suddenly the human passes out. Then the dog’s in a quandary: How does it go for help? Because dogs can’t talk.

Unless they’re sporting a wearable computer that helps dogs communicate with humans. Melody Jackson, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech, has been outfitting service dogs with computerized vests, so that in an emergency they can find another human and pull a mechanical lever on the vest that triggers an audio message: My handler needs you to come with me!

When people hear this for the first time, “they jump back 3 feet, because the dog is talking,” Jackson says, laughing.

Although dogs are the main animals for the focus of tech for communicating with humans, the article mentions that dolphins are being equipped in this way too.

You can learn more about this use of technology with animals from the TED Talk below:

Sun(Fun)day Night: Lots O’ Links on the Future of Tech

Lots O Links-1

It’s another Sunday night and if you’re like me – YOU DON’T HAVE SCHOOL TOMORROW! Sorry to “shout” there, but it’s always nice to enjoy a Sunday night without the preoccupation of having to prepare to teach on Monday morning.

Rather than just offer one funny  or thought-provoking Sun(Fun)day Night link, I’m offering a whole list of them. I’ve been saving these up and now seems like as good a time as any to share them here.

Enjoy these links and take a look into the crystal ball to see the future of technology:

“Mechanical Trees Become ‘Power Plants’ When They Sway in the Breeze”

“3D Touch Opens a New Dimension of User Interaction”

“Battery Research Claims 10x Gain”

“This Samsung Patent Lets Smartwatches Recognize You by Your Veins”

“Insane Ways of Making Energy You May Not Know”

“The Mobile Phone of the Future Will Be Planted in Your Head”

“Dissolvable Devices Keep Tabs on The Brain”

“Autonomous Robots are Changing the Way We Build and Move Products Around the World”

“Hop, Skip, Drive: Uber, But For Kids”

“Scientists Can Now Predict Intelligence From Brain Activity”

“Fiction’s Newest Frontier: Literary Geocaching”

“Wearable Sensors Could Translate Sign Language Into English”

“New Foam Batteries Promise Fast Charging, Higher Capacity”

“Artificially Intelligent Software is Replacing the Textbook and Reshaping American Education”

“How Your Device Knows Your Life Through Images”

“Meet Kangaroo: A $99 Windows 10 Desktop PC as Small as a Smartphone”

“You Are Your Smartphone”

“Do Robots Need a Human-Like Sense of Touch”

“This Guy Wants Us to Commute in Autonomous On-Demand Pods” 

“Why Hearables May Be the Next Big Thing in Tech”

“Mind Controlled Robot Suits Help the Paralyzed Move Again”

“Salt-Based Batteries Could Make Your Next Mobile Device Cheaper and Greener”

“7 Unexpected Virtual Reality Use Cases”

“Microsoft’s 2016 Predictions: Expect the Year of Machine Aided Wit”

“Yahoo Labs Develops Biometric Authentication Method for Touchscreens”

“2016 Will Be the Year Wearables Disappear”

“Google Testing a Feature to Eliminate the Password”

“Future of Messaging Apps Spells the End of Google as We Know It”

“OrCam’s MyMe Wearable Will Watch and Decode the World For You”

 

 

Sun(Fun)day Night – A Mind-blowing Simpsons Search Engine

Simpsons

It’s Sunday night and I remember it well…1989… 27 years ago…I’m a sophomore at the University of San Francisco…8:59 pm on a Sunday…I bolt up from the cruddy couch in the dorm TV lounge and head for the exit…”The Simpsons,” in it’s first season, has just ended…I enter the flow of fellow students heading to the near-by, on-campus St. Ignatius Church…So many of us enter, post-Simpsons, that they’ve taken to delaying the start of the 9:00 pm mass until about 9:10 as the pews are mostly empty at 9 and much fuller by 9:10 — all due to “The Simpsons”

If you’re a fan of this show, you MUST check out this search engine I learned about from io9. It’s called the Frinkiac and the memes you can easily create (see above) are a blast!

Have fun wasting time and busting up as you do it….

Simpsons-2