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Category Archives: Communications

Photoshopping the White House

No, this is not another fake news alert. It’s a teaching moment, however.

The subject matter is appropriate. While teaching Photoshop and image manipulation, it’s a perfect time to be teaching students how to become critical consumers of information often seen through imagery. And spot when someone has been tinkering with the truth.

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The class begins with the ‘conspiracy’ around the 2003 Space Shuttle explosion, by looking closely at the Photoshopped images. We also look at doctored images of public figures.

When they get to the computers, their challenge is to add to, or ‘enhance’ fountains on the White House lawn.

Here’s are a couple of examples. student-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How many fountains are really there on the North lawn?

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2016 in Communications, Ed-Tech, Education, STEM

 

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Good riddance to election noise pollution!

When the party next door becomes too noisy, people sometimes call the cops. But there was very little we could do about the ‘Party’ noise machines we’ve been enduring for the past year or more.

Finally we can reclaim some peace, as the two-party cacophony comes to an end today. (I know what you’re thinking: Yeah right!)

If it was true that Trump’s Twitter account had been wrestled away from him, it won’t be long when he gets back on the air. But at least the media might have other matters to report on. Here’s what I’m dying not to hear about:

  • The word ‘surrogates‘ and any reference to people who echo the party line.
  • Pundits. Those folks to ‘weigh in’ on every gesture or turn of phrase.
  • The phrase ‘social media lit up with…” as a preamble to a political story with no substance.
  • Sloppy, Madison Avenue-like phrases such as ‘Draining the Swamp’ and slogans such as ‘Feeling the Bern.’

Not that vacuous campaign slogans are anything new. In 1944, Thomas Dewey’s slogan was (get ready for this) “Dewey or Die.” And there was the 1980’s slogan “Let’s Make America Great Again” which was recycled (or was it ‘plagiarized’?) this season.

 

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Young web ‘designers’ in 5th and 6th Grade


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It’s exciting to be able to teach kids what it means to ‘design’ a web site, and see what they come up with.

I’m not talking about the coding part of the site, but the navigation, layout and content. So much has changed since I worked  on web sites and web content ten years ago. Especially with site builders at Wix and Weebly, or even GoDaddy.

So before website3I introduce students to online site builders, I let them play with design components, using PowerPoint. Yes, PowerPoint!

It’s a quick way to build navigation tabs, work on color and fonts, and eventually embed hyperlinks and video.

Here is some of the work of 6th grade, building a site for Space Day, the school event we just concluded.

Likewise the 5th grade is working on a website for Freedom Tower, a project they began in September. website4

Later they would be using Photoshop for image manipulation, and create and edit shapes and buttons etc. Much later, when we move into audio recordings, and podcasts, I may have them return to their web sites and add voice files using Audacity.

But for now they experiment with bevels, shadows, and other effects that enable navigation.

UPDATED:

spaceday2Design is not just for 5th and 6th Grade. To address the Arizona CCRS Standard, S1.C4.PO 1: “Use digital creativity tools to create original works” I let 2nd grade students work with shapes, colors and also contrast and perspective.

Here is one student’s poster for the same event, using Microsoft Word.

 

 

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What do we tell our children (about dirty politics)?

Did you feel like you needed to take a shower after watching  the recent debates? Or do you feel like you don’t want to mention the word ‘election’ at the dinner table for fear of dredging up unsavory topics?

‘Adults behaving badly’ might sum up what we have been witnessing these past few months.

I’ve tried to explain to young people who ask, that:

  • This is not how most grown-ups behave – you know, hurling around ugly epithets; using vulgarities, slurs…
  • Political campaigns are unfortunate war games people play, hence ‘battleground’ states, attack strategies.
  • In the 4-year gaps between the these ugly wars, try to not do as they do.
  • The phrase ‘anyone can become president’ is something we are no longer proud of.
  • Though Gallup holds that 75% of Americans identify with a Christian religion (Pew Research says 70.6%) there is nothing very Christian about this process

Aren’t you waiting for this spectacle to be over?

 

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Is ‘word-processing’ a misnomer? Or old-school?

Sometimes I wish we could delete update the term ‘word-processing’ from our vocabulary. It has been ingrained in taken up permanent residence in the cortex of our brains, and needs to be dispatched to the storage unit reserved for vintage-tech such as ‘typewriting’ and ‘facsimile.’

It’s not that we don’t ‘process‘ words anymore. It’s just that we use the software to more than highlight, punctuate, or cut-and-paste. Food processors continue to grind and chop things for us, but word processors? We can use them to embedded videos in docs, or create blog posts for heaven’s sake! As far as words go, we could use Word to translate content into, say Hungarian (‘Word processing’ turns out to be Szövegszerkesztés in Hungarian.)

In my computer class at Salt River Elementary, since keyboarding and document creation are often the starting blocks, I try to inject concepts that refer to creativity and publishing in addition to content creation, when dealing with Microsoft Word.

But what else to call it? Any suggestions? 

‘Word,’ which is still listed as ‘document and word processing software’ started out as ‘Multi-Tool Word’ in the same year that Flashdance, and Never Say Never Again was released – in 1983! Today there are many more choices – niche software such as Nitro Pro, and for authors, there’s Scrivener.

So is Word-processing just old-school?

 

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VoiceThread meets Ted Talks!

I wish I had heard of this earlier – Voicethread‘s answer to TedTalks. Just in time for the ISTE Conference starting Sunday.

https://voicethread.com/app/player/?threadId=7784579

It’s called ThreadTalk. Which is quite a neat play on TedTalk considering how VoiceThread is all about the Thread, more than the voice. They make the point that the quality of the conversation thread is just as important as the presentation.

In other words, it’s not about the fancy slides, but the content.

As the VoiceThread notes, we tend to stop using our voices and replace it with text communication because the Internet was not quote supportive of voice for a long time. It is now, as we know thanks to services such as Google Voice, Viber and other phone apps. But in education, we need to bring back the spoken word and student voices into the mix.

I’m waiting to see what evolves out of ThreadTalk, post ISTE2016.

 

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Two networks our children may never know

Networks today mean something intangible. They almost always don’t involve human intervention. But there was a time when networks functioned because of people throwing switches and pulling levers.

I ran into these when visiting the old mining town of Jerome, Arizona yesterday. Take a look at two different networks, and appreciate old tech for a moment.

This model railroad, of the adjoining town of Cottonwood where we stayed in, incorporates the school, saloon, and the ‘company town’ where miners lived.  (If you are old enough to remember Johnny Cash’s song ‘Company Store,’ this is where that sentiment began. As in “St. Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t go; I sold my soul to the company store.”)

Railroad Network

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This other network, telephones, were something else entirely. The switchboard ‘networked’ someone to another, thanks to an operator like this.Telephone Exchange

 

 
 

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