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Category Archives: Communications

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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Little known fact: Shel Silverstein penned Dr. Hook’s “Sylvia’s Mother”

I know of many parents who have a copy of Shel Silverstein stashed away somewhere. He was a prolific writer of books such as The Giving Tree, and tomes of books of wacky, insightful poetry such as “Where the sidewalk ends.”

I was looking up the man, and discovered that one of the anthems of the early seventies, “Sylvia’s Mother” was actually a vignette from his life. he knew the original Sylvia, and if you the words of the song resonate in your brain, you’ll know he was trying to get the ‘operator’ reminding him it would cost him “40 cents more” to stay on the line.

When was the last time you had an “operator” intervene between you and the person you were calling?

FootnoteThe Giving Tree has been ranked one of the top 100 books for children, beating several by Dr, Seuss, and even Lois Lowr (The Giver) and Roald Dahl’s books.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2016 in Book, Communications

 

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Good Apple, bad Apple: Tough call to unlock phone

Which side are you on regarding the FBI’s request that Apple unlock the phone of a killer?

I lean on the side of the agency because I would want those who protect us to have every possible lock-picking device to thwart criminal behavior. But I can see Apple’s point of not wanting to give up liberty for security, as it could tip the balance when citizens (and businesses run by citizens, never mind if they are global corporations) hand over their freedoms to the state.

Incidentally, that Ben Franklin quote, which must be resounding in your ears about how Those who would give up Liberty for safety deserve neither, is one of the best mis-quoted statements by old Ben. He actually said that “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”  (Note the qualifiers – ‘essential’ and ‘temporary.’) 

What if Apple gives up a little temporary liberty, and stop making a huge thing of this Apparently Apple has unlocked some 70 phones before, but had done it without the media baring down on it. Given that there are dozens of websites that provide back-door services, and there being ‘ethical hackers’ who could unlock phones, I’m surprised no one has offered to do it for Apple, thereby freeing them of the PR nightmare.

Perhaps the government ought to hold a hackathon and see what surfaces. After all, DARPA holds cyber-security hackathons, don’t they?

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2016 in Communications, Mobile, Technology

 

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