Ed Tech Emergent Turns Two Years Old!

I finally have a moment to celebrate – this blog turned two years old a couple of days ago. Yeah! Hooray! Alleluia!

It’s hard to believe how quickly these years have flown by. And it’s fun to mark the changes over the past couple of years by looking back at some of the posts from a year or more ago:

We were eagerly awaiting the premier of “The Force Awakens” .

Pope Francis visited the U.S.

Stephen Colbert, one of America’s most visible Catholics, began his show.

The Jubilee Year of Mercy commenced 

Wealth inequality was a problem (and it still is)

Refugees were fleeing and dying (and they still are)

And we thought Donald Trump was just someone we could easily parody. 

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Post #302 – Where We’ve Been

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

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fun to share this clever article observing a connection between each of the U.S. presidential candidates (current and withdrawn) and familiar characters from Shakespeare’s great works.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?

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?

Friday FunPost: Great Music Genres Video and A Clever Book on Music

It’s been quite a few weeks since a true Friday FunPost. Lent is over, I’m not on break and I found something quite appropriate for this feature.

Spend a few minutes (less than 6 actually), enjoying this creative and educational medley by a young band from Europe:

Not only am I impressed by the precision in cutting from one genre to the next, the costumes are pretty awesome. And I learned about a few genres which haven’t (yet?) caught on in the U.S.

I’ve been thinking about musical genres lately as I discovered a really clever book which seeks to explode the whole concept. The thesis in Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty by Ben Ratliff invites the reader to move beyond genres which are based more on commercial categorization rather than structural similarities from piece to piece.

In a new era where most any listener can easily access almost any song ever recorded, Ratliff proposes a new methodology for creating digital playlists. He presents and discusses twenty playlists with themes related to the underlying elements of the music rather than its often arbitrary “type.” Some of these themes are “Slowness,” “Virtuosity” and “Density.”

I’ve only read the first chapter on “repetition” entitled “Let Me Concentrate!” After defining this concept, the author analyzes a diverse set of musical pieces which illustrate it in a wide variety of ways. I really like how he uses thought-provoking metaphors which stretch my understanding and subsequent appreciation of works with which I was unfamiliar.

For example, he uses a piece called “Four Organs” composed and performed by Steve Reich in 1970. On page 20, Ratliff writes:

This aspect of “Four Organs” – its “repetition” – is like playing a peekaboo game with a child. You’re going to do it over and over: that’s the repetition. But you’ve got to keep changing the way you do it, otherwise he’ll expect it and will not be surprised. And at some point in the game – it doesn’t take very long to get there – you and the child understand each other; you know each other’s reaction time, range of facial expressions, sense of humor, degree of patience.

After reading this description, I found the piece within my Apple Music subscription. I listened to it for a couple of minutes before I decided the repetition annoyed and bothered me, so I turned it off. While I won’t likely listen to the piece again, I am grateful to have been directed toward it as an example of an important element of musical form.

And I’m particularly grateful that Ratliff mentions the featured pieces twice in each chapter – in the text and in a handy list (in order of mention) from which a digital playlist can quickly be created. I look forward to more reading and listening and learning via this book.

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:

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Not clear as to how one precludes the other one…

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

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Quite an involved juxtaposition of symbols here.

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Gosh – those rebellious kids today!

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

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

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:

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

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?

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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 – A Mind-blowing Simpsons Search Engine

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….

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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