Back to School and Back to Blogging

In the words of The Cars, “Hello, hello again.”

I hope you had a good Summer of 2016. I did. Even though I wrote in my last post that I planned to post here during the summer, it turns out that this didn’t happen.

Turns out that during the summer I wasn’t in a writing mode, but more of a reading mood. You see I really enjoy reading novels, but unfortunately doing this is often one of my lowest priorities during the school year. So I caught up with a vengeance by reading, Lovecraft Country, Underground Airlines, Before the Fall, The Selloutand a couple of David Baldacci books as well (because I heard him speak at the Columbus Library  in June.)

Full classes begin for us on Wednesday, so I’m in full back to school mode and thinking about how and what I’m going to teach this school year. I don’t have a list of new back to school ideas. Instead, please see what I posted this time last year by clicking here, here, here, here and also here. Also, I encourage you to check out what Jared has to share over at his The Religion Teacher site.

So, I’ll wrap this reintroduction up by inviting you to check out the Sunday lectionary gospel which I’ll post before each school week. And I have a new week-daily feature which I’ll be introducing very soon.

May Christ bless you during this school year of 2016-2017!

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Wednesday FunLink – The Best Drawings From the “Baltimore Catechism”

As I was Google searching images for my daily post on Twitter at #amcathalm, I stumbled across a great link. I was Tweeting about the “Baltimore Catechism” and how it was today in 1885 that it received an imprimatur.

While I’ve been feeling old lately (I was the age of my Sophomores the last time a Catholic University won the NCAA D. 1 Men’s Championship back in 1985), the “Baltimore Catechism” was not part of my upbringing in the heady, post-Vatican II Catholicism of the 1970’s and 1980’s. A reading of its text today gives an important window into the religious education the generation of Catholics before me received in their parishes and parochial schools.

The website I stumbled across is Church Pop  with the tag line: “Make holy all the things!” I only perused it for a few minutes before posting this, but it seems to be mainly (completely?) Catholic focused. The theme looks to be lists which attest to be accurate, clever, funny, historical and perhaps even instructional.

Specifically, I landed on the page entitled “22 Classic Drawings From the Baltimore Catechism” . It’s worth visiting to see the entire collection. In lieu of that, here’s my favorite ones:

04-06-16-TV and Mass

Not clear as to how one precludes the other one…

04-06-16-Grace Circulation

Does it work the same way with forced-air heating or is it only for radiated heat?

04-06-16-Good and Bad

Quite an involved juxtaposition of symbols here.

04-06-16-Convent

Gosh – those rebellious kids today!

04-06-16-Communion

If all you learn from this post is “Dead People Cannot Eat,” then I consider my work here a success.

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

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”

 

 

Web Link Clearance – Best of 2015 Lists

On this first day of the second month of 2016 I offer you a chance to celebrate: National Girls and Women in Sports Day; Change Your Password Day; Car Insurance Day; G.I. Joe Day; and Decorating with Candy Day by enjoying this list of “Best of 2015 Lists”

Why, you may ask, am I sharing these a month and a day after the start of 2016? A simple answer: these links were in my queue for posting by year’s end – and it never happened. Rather than just delete them and move on, I thought there is still value in looking back to find quality books, music, apps, etc from last year. Hence, this “web link clearance” today.

Besides: Do you write 2016 every time you put down the date or do you still sometimes write 2015 by mistake?

The Only 9 Apps Released in 2015 We’re Still Actually Using

50 Best Albums of 2015

Longreads Best Stories of 2015

Apple Names the Best iOS Apps of 2015

10 Most Popular Podcasts of 2015  (“How to Listen to Podcasts”)

Top Illustrated Science Books of 2015

The Best Novels of 2015

Overdrive’s Best Books of 2015 [This is the excellent online portal for ebooks and audiobooks that both of our local library systems use)

NY Times 10 Best Books of 2015

 

 

Google Now and Google Search Tips

Scrolling back through recent posts, I see that it’s been awhile since I’ve shared about nuts and bolts technology which can make life better for educators – inside or outside of the classroom.

So, here’s a quick post about cool and useful ways to utilize Google tools.

First, how often do you use Google Now on your phone, tablet or Chromebook? I don’t look at the “cards” or use the voice activated search (the “OK Google”) as often as I could. But now, having discovered this amazing list of functions, I’ll surely use it with greater frequency.

If you don’t have time to click and view the list, you can take the shortcut the author suggests:

If you’re too lazy to scroll this list, you can also access a list of voice commands on your phone by tapping the mic and saying “show me what you got”.

And, thanks to Time magazine for this list of “11 Google Tricks Which Will Change the Way You Search”

BTW: The Google Image above is not from my Google Now, although I wish I was in San Francisco today!

50 Small Things to Make a Perfect Day w/#51- Use Interesting Weather Apps

What makes a perfect day for an educator like me (and you too?) – A SNOW DAY (sort of)!

Well, I went to bed last night suspecting the possibility and woke up at 5:30 am confirming it. Lately though, here in Central Ohio, we’ve had more “calamity days” the past couple of school years due to sub-zero temps with wind chill rather than because of the more traditional – ice/snow covering the streets in the early morning.

On a day such as this, I’d much rather be either creative or lazy rather than productive. In other words, I’d rather write or read instead of grade (the 50+ freshman mid-term essays from before Christmas Break). So, I’m going to create a few posts here and also over at my personal blog too. And I have until Tuesday of next week to get those essays graded!

What makes your perfect day? One thing high on my list is echoed in this great list from Lifehack at #11 – “Take a walk in nature.” I’m hoping to do this today – so that I can meet my Fitbit goal of 10,000 steps for today. But, my WeatherUnderground iPad app tells me that it’s currently 15 degrees, but it feels like 7 degrees. Ugh – I may have to go for a walk indoors at a nearby mall instead.

BTW: Now that it may or may not feel like winter in your neck of the woods, you might want to update your weather apps. In addition to the aforementioned WeatherUnderground app, I’ve also begun enjoying on my Android phone – 1Weather (which has great widgets with it), Weather Timeline and the social-media inspired Sunnycomb 

Oh yeah, here’s the list from Lifehack:

1. Once you wake up, just stay in bed for a couple of minutes and relax.

2. Always have a book with you, we never know when boredom might decide to appear.

3. Set mood playlists on your device of choice.

4. Close your eyes and breathe deeply.

5. Smile to a stranger and see what happens!

6. Have a quick fresh shower first thing in the morning.

7. Show your love to someone else.

8. Before you go to bed, say thanks for everything you have and don’t have.

9. Connect to yourself, by using a journal: write, draw, make collages, let your mind wander.

10. On your nightstand, put something that makes you smile.

11. Take a walk in nature.

12. Do yoga.

13. Make a to-do list to help you achieve your main goal for the day. And stick to it.

14. Eat healthily and accordingly to your own taste.

15. Take an hour and do as you please.

16. Write 3 good things that happened to you and what you can do to see it happen again.

17. Put some fresh flowers in the room you spend time in the most.

18. Take a long and warm shower before going to bed.

19. Get out of the house and explore your neighborhood.

20. Sleep naked to feel sexier.

21. Boost your confidence by engaging in your favorite hobby.

22. Act crazy, put the music on loud and start dancing like there’s no tomorrow.

23. Take a 30 minute nap after lunch; as an alternative, engage in a different relaxing activity.

24. Giggle with your friends– make time for them in your day.

25. Read an inspiring quote and incorporate it into your day.

26. Declutter you life by asking “Do I really need this? Why?”.

27. Be kind anytime you can and don’t expect anything back.

28. Meditate and write down everything you’ve found out.

29. Learn something new, even if it’s just a different way of doing stuff.

30. Have some sweat and exercise. Do it mindfully by choosing an activity you enjoy.

31. Sleep a bit more if you feel tired or you’re in the middle of a situation that you can’t solve.

32. Smile. Smile. Smile. And smile some more.

33. Walk barefoot.

34. Experience flow by working at something you’re passionate about.

35. Make your surroundings a little bit better: declutter, reuse and recycle.

36. Plan a trip, even if you can’t travel right now.

37. Be aware of your emotions, but don’t control them: understand them.

38. Remember your accomplishments every time you feel like a failure.

39. Lower your expectations, little by little — most of them are unrealistic.

40. Be offline for as long as you can.

41. Enjoy the now.

42. Challenge yourself!

43. Don’t worry about your problems, but work toward a solution.

44. See everything as an opportunity to learn and grow.

45. Forgive yourself and forgive others.

46. Don’t quit: make baby steps.

47. Do your best.

48. Slow down.

49. Put everything you are into everything you do.

50. Follow your heart.

Advent Prayer Resources and Calendars

It’s the second day of Advent 2016 (yes, it is now The Year of Grace 2016) and here’s some resources that I’m using with my students and in my own personal prayer:

Advent in Two Minutes:

Busted Halo Advent Calendar (pictured above)

USCCB Resources

#adventword – A Global Advent Calendar – This is a cool site leveraging social media to gather images of an Advent “word of the day.”

Sign-up for Bishop Robert Barron’s  daily Advent reflections

And a video from him as well:

Loyola Press has an engaging Arts & Faith set of Advent Resources while the home page for all of their Advent resources is here.

How about iOS and Android Apps to either create or access Advent calendars and other resources? Learn about these here and here.

Finally, for videos and other resources, from a more general Christian perspective, check out Advent Conspiracy

Have a blessed and meaningful Advent season!

 

 

Thanksgiving Reading?

Back in the day when the best way to watch movies at home was to schlep to the video store, I worked in one of those now nearly extinct stores. The busiest days of the year for rentals were the day before Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Apparently, turkey and a movie (as you fall asleep on the couch) was a special, annual treat.

Now, with so many ways to stream movies, TV and more entertainment whenever and wherever you want, I wonder if turkey then a watching a movie from your love seat is still part of many people’s plans. Might the ubiquitous RedBox machines see lines and shortages today?

While my family and I are planning on the special treat of going out to a movie tomorrow after dinner, I’m not looking forward to watching anything over the long weekend. Rather, I have some books ready to be read during these holidays I’m not grading or preparing for class.

If you’re like me, here’s some lists which may help guide your selections:

50 Super Smart Books for Everyone on Your List

We Read All 20 National Book Award Nominees for 2015 – Here’s What We Thought

Top 10 Books: The Girard Option of Interdisciplinary Influence

100 Novels All Kids Should Read Before Leaving High School

(Here’s the Top Ten from this list)

1 Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell (free eBook, Audiobook & study resources)

2 To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (free eBook)

3 Animal Farm, by George Orwell (free eBook)

4 Lord Of The Flies, by William Golding (Amazon)

5 Of Mice And Men, by John Steinbeck (Amazon)

6 The Harry Potter series, by J K Rowling (Amazon)

7 A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens (free eBook)

8 The Catcher In The Rye, by J D Salinger (Amazon)

9 Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens (free eBook)

10 Pride And Prejudice, by Jane Austen (free eBook)

OR: The 100 Best Novels Written in English

Here are the Best Books from 2015 So Far (in August)

Black Girls Matter: A YA Reading List

All the Most Thrilling Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Coming this Fall

You Must Read These Five Books Which Will Totally Transform Your Classroom

And if you read any of these books, will you be able to talk about it with colleagues via an on-line book club?

Regardless of what you read, will you choose it by its cover? If so, here’s some fascinating research on that very topic.

Or maybe you’d like to read this short story composed entirely of 5,000 “tag lines” from movies.

Would this be fiction or non? If the former, reading it can actually transform the functioning of your brain.

Maybe you’d like to read not an ebook on your tablet, but an interactive, digital book. Here’s 10 of the best of this emerging genre.

Or perhaps you’ll tell stories at the dinner table. Research shows that it makes kids voracious readers!

And after dinner, maybe watch a TED Talk or two:

10 of Our Favorite Literary TED Talks from 2015

Finally, perhaps the weather will be nice and you’ll take a walk, bring your smart phone and stream free audio books or listen to any of these 25 Outstanding Podcasts for Readers

 

 

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

Readers of this blog will recall that I am a passionate proponent for teaching mindfulness and meditation to students. I’ve blogged about it here a number of times. And I have many more links describing the benefits of it as well as how to teach it. Someday, I plan to post these too.

For now, I’d like to show and tell about a number of iOS apps which can be effectively used to support meditative practices in you or your students. While I provide links to more info about each (as available), you’ll need to go to the App Store to search for and download them yourself.

Even though I use an Android smartphone, I have the apps featured here on my iPad only and not my phone. Therefore, I cannot speak to whether there are corresponding Android apps for any of these.

I’ve selected apps which are easy and effective to use, free of charge, and have either zero or minimal/unobtrusive opportunities for “In-App Purchases” (NOTE: This is accurate as what I’ve seen in the apps and also only at the time of publishing this). I hope you enjoy exploring these apps too:

Peace_Ambient Sounds

Peace – Ambient Sounds   – Free and without In-App Purchases

This is a pretty bare-bones app with only a handful of sounds. As it is free, clear of ads and w/o in-app purchases, it’s a good, basic, “starter app” to produce background sounds for meditation.

 

WO.Audio-1

WO.Audio-2

WO.Audio (Red icon version) – Free and without In-App Purchases. NOTE: Search iTunes App Store with the “iPhone only” option selected.

For a free app, this one is surprisingly robust. It has both sounds and music along with options for users to create their own combinations which can be saved to the app.

 

AmbiScience-1

AmbiScience-2

AmbiScience 300 Lite – Free and without In-App Purchases.

The free version of this is pretty slim on options as it functions mostly as an enticement to download their fuller versions. Yet, this app is one of the few I’ve found which also has the option to blend binaural sound waves into the mix of music and ambient sounds.

 

White Noise Market-1

White Noise Market – Free and without In-App Purchases

I’ve not used this app as much as some of the others, so I cannot speak to the depth of its functionality. That being said, at first glance it clearly has a range of sounds and functions which surpass many of the other free apps on this list. And it has this interesting map of the sources of the sounds offered by the app:

White Noise Market-2

 

 

Naturely-Nature Clockstand-1

Naturely-Nature Clockstand-2

Naturely, aka Nature Clockstand – Free without In-App Purchases.

Offering a range of sounds, an attractive image representing each sound, and a built-in timer, this app is another one with a high level of usability. I like the natural images which correlate to the audio as sometimes I’ll meditate with my eyes open and gaze at art or an image.

 

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Stop, Breathe and Think – Free with minimal, unobtrusive In-App Purchases

We’re now into a slightly different category of apps. Many of the remaining ones include audio, guided meditations, timers, record keeping of time/date meditating, and other features geared especially for novices to meditative practice. This app has a friendly, light-hearted interface. The user may “check-in” by answering a few questions and then receive a guided meditation tailored to their current need. Or, as this shot shows, the user can bypass the questions and simply select a style and length of meditation:

Stop_Breath_Think_2

 

 

Breath2Relax-1

Breathe2Relax-2

Breathe2Relax – Free, no In-App Purchases

This app, while not strictly geared towards mindful meditation is designed with relaxation in mind. Designed with scientific research, this app is better to experience than to describe. So, if the screen shots above interest you, download the free app and try it out. If breathing is important to you, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in it.

 

Smiling Mind-1

Smiling Mind-2

Smiling Mind_3

Smiling Mind – Free without In-App Purchases

Not only does this app have the best name of the bunch, but it includes a number of other unique features. While the mediation counter and resulting badges are similar to what is found on “Stop, Breathe and Think,” Smiling Mind is the only app I’ve found with meditations specifically geared to different age levels (see the 2nd shot above). Within each older age group is a “course list” of downloadable, guided meditations designed to teach and encourage a meditative practice. It also includes a “social media” function so your friends can observe and encourage your meditation.

And the voices are Aussies, reminiscent of Andy Puddicombe, creator and founder of Headspace.

 

Meditation Timer-1

Meditation Timer-2

Mediation Timer Free for iPad – No In-App Purchases, ad supported

This simple, yet elegant app does one thing well. Although it doesn’t offer guided mediations or ambient sounds, it’s an excellent free timer. I use it every day to measure my 10 minutes of mindfulness. The free version is ad supported and has a couple fewer minor features than the inexpensive full version (which I purchased). I like how the user can set the time as well as sounds to mark intervals within the meditation. I use a deep chime sound for each 2:30 and then a specific bell at the end of the full 10 minutes. The app keeps track of my time and provides a number of key data points upon request. And I particularly like the option to easily post my meditation time on Twitter or facebook.

 

Calm in the Storm-1

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Calm in the Storm-4

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Calm in the Storm (Stress Management) – Free, without In-App Purchases

This app is also different then the others listed here as it is designed specifically for people who suffer from high levels of stress and/or anxiety disorders. As you’ll see in the third shot above, there are guided meditations and relaxations within this app. These are set within the context of anxiety management and development of a plan to address anxiety and stress as they arise. For some, this app may literally function as a life-saver.

Do you have experience with any of these apps?

What additional apps have you used for ambient sounds and/or meditation?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sun(Fun)day Night – Your Body and Brain on Walking

It’s been a busy weekend, but a gorgeous one for the middle of November. Today was sunny, calm and warm with highs in the upper 60’s. So, I got out for a great, brisk walk at my favorite Metro Park – Sharon Woods.

I was thinking about all the good things that were happening for my body and brain as I walked.  According to this brief article here’s the ten good things going on for me:

Walking puts you in the express lane on the highway to better health. Let’s recap all the perks of ambulating:

1. Fat burn
2. Strong bones
3. Sunny mood
4. Sharp mind
5. Healthy heart
6. Toned muscles
7. Enhanced immunity
8. Deep sleep
9. Dementia protection
10. Longer life

Will be it nice weather this week where you live? If so (or even if it’s not), as the article concludes:

Are you pumped to lace up your walking shoes?