Thursday, May 28, 2009

New phone

I've missed several meetings this past month. I've lost some phone messages. I am getting more absent minded every day.....although my wife may say that isn't a new behavior. This and the fact that my mobile phone is over four years old made me say yes when my wife said she wanted to update our service to iPhones for each of us.

Boy. What a life changer this has been!

All my calendars are synced in one place. I can access all my email accounts. My contact information is exactly the same as what is on my home computer and they both sync every time I plug into my computer. Texting is much easier than my old phone. It has made a big difference in my day to day life. For the better.

The interface took me minutes to learn vs working with the manual for days to learn the features on my last phone. The hardest thing was getting my wife's phone to hook into a joint email account we have through our ISP. A little research on the web and I had it up and running in about 30 minutes. In every other instance, messing around with the interface for a few minutes and I can get it to work. I love that.

The applications available for the iPhone are also eye opening. I can connect to my Facebook account whenever I want. I can get directions to pretty much anywhere using a little app called Touch-n-Go. I've got a compatible copy of MacGourmet on my phones which allows me to carry my computer recipe bank with me to the store. I have a few music apps. But, really for the most part, everything I wanted and needed came with the iPhone.

I was reluctant to make the move up to a new cell. Now that I've had it for a week, I'm sold. My wife who isn't quite the techno-nerd I am probably loves her phone more than I do mine. It is a wonderful little device.

[Image: Captured from]

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Designing a brain friendly school

John Medina had this post recently on his blog, Brain Rules. He states the following about our work environment as it relates to our brain:

"The brain appears to have been designed to solve problems related to surviving in an outdoor setting in unstable meteorological conditions. And to do that in near-constant motion. That's what the brain's good at. So if you wanted to design a work environment directly opposed to what the brain was naturally good at doing, you'd design something like an office."

This got me to thinking about school design. How would a school be re-designed considering the factor of movement? How could we get our kids up and moving more often? First thing that comes to mind is breaking the campus apart. When I was getting my BA, the college I attended had classrooms spread over three separate campuses and several off-campus. Each was within walking distance. Add to that a dorm room that was even further away and I ended up walking a lot every day.

What about moving each of the subject areas apart with athletic fields between each building.
  • The main offices, library, lockers and food in the center. The walkways could be covered (perfect place for solar panels). Even enclosed in colder climates.
  • Teacher's offices would be in a building different from where they taught. (We could use the exercise too.)
  • By splitting the buildings up we could also more easily create multi-use plans that involve the community using our library. Our athletic facilities. Our theater and auditorium.

I can hear the complaining now.

When are we going to start building schools based on modern thinking other than some archaic architects list that says how big classrooms should be and the width of the hallways. Both of which are never big enough anyway! If we are going to start building schools for the new century, lets get out of our nineteenth century mind set.

[Image: Flickr: "UNC Campus Map"; Uploaded on February 22, 2009 by Velnich: (CC: Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic) ]

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Preparing students

This article, Encouraging Student Success, on Adobe Education Leaders discusses some areas where our web students could improve in terms of preparing themselves for the work place. He lists the following areas of possible focus for students involved in web design.

  • Develop a good understanding of web standards (and why they are important – for maintainability of the code, for improved search engine ranking, for increased accessibility and all the other reasons). Tools are important, but students need to know the fundamentals before they can effectively employ those tools.
  • Increase the emphasis on web accessibility and usability in the curriculum.
    Increase the emphasis on professional behaviors (arrive on time, test your work before turning it in, admit when you don’t know something and so forth).
  • Help students develop a solid understanding of the use of the appropriate tool and when one must go beyond a given tool.
I am giving these ideas some thought as I plan for my web classes next year. I struggle with how much time to spend on basic file structure and HTML before getting the kids into a web editor. It seems that I often err on too little of the basics. I am looking for the perfect balance.

[ Image: Flickr: "Internet Splat Map"; Uploaded on October 17, 2004 by jurvetson: (CC: Attribution 2.0-Generic)]

Friday, May 22, 2009

Funny: She's Got You

There are several versions of this on the web. I am guessing it is copied from an old stage act or tv skit. Anyone know?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gahan Wilson

Somewhere in my early adolescence I discovered Gahan Wilson. His sense of humor was warped. His drawings dark and a little creepy. It was a perfect fit. For the few moments I dreamed of writing comics, I dreamed of being Gahan Wilson.

Thank you Mr. Wilson for helping me to survive my childhood!

I was reminded of his work when I read recently about a documentary coming out about his life called Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird. He also recently illustrated this short animation based on a story by Neil Gaiman. Nice to know that he is still active.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Video Book Report

My nephew Lukas and classmate Clair created this presentation as part of a fourth grade project on The Secret Garden. Dad helped with the camera work and special effects but it's the the two kids talking about the book that is special to me. Presentation of material doesn't always have to be paper and pencil.

I am reminded of a young man a few years ago with a disability who wasn't able to function well in a regular classroom. I had him for video production and he was one of my best students. Put him in front of a camera and he was a different person. He took chances. He practiced his presentations. He was creative. He researched his topics. Technology, and in particular, video technology can be great way to get kids into a topic.

[Image take from the video: The Me Show]

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Graduation Day: Good luck Seniors!

Our seniors graduated today. The faculty was herded up and loaded on a bus and driven to an auditorium roughly thirty miles away. I was slightly worried they were taking us out to a remote area to just leave us stranded. The big joke being us trying to hitchhike back home in our funny looking robes. One last great Senior prank. It would have been funny. Oh how we'd laugh about it in a couple of years.
I'd of hated it.

In honor of the day, I thought I'd gather a few graduation speeches together. Click on the link to get the full text.

John Stewart: William and Mary (2004)

Lets talk about the real world for a moment. We had been discussing it earlier, and I…I wanted to bring this up to you earlier about the real world, and this is I guess as good a time as any. I don’t really know to put this, so I’ll be blunt. We broke it.

Please don’t be mad. I know we were supposed to bequeath to the next generation a world better than the one we were handed. So, sorry.

Bob Newhart: Catholic University of America (1997)

People with a sense of humor tend to be less egocentric and more realistic in their view of the world and more humble in moments of success and less defeated in times of travail. I certainly don't delude myself that there aren't certainly more important things to do in life than make people laugh, but I can't imagine anything that would bring me more joy.

Ray Bradbury: Caltech (2000)

I had a thing happen to me when I was 9 years old, which is a great lesson. That was in 1929-the start of the Great Depression. And a single comic strip in the newspaper sent me into the future. The first comic strip of Buck Rogers. In October 1929 I looked at that one comic strip, with its view of the future, and I thought, "That's where I belong." I started to collect Buck Rogers comic strips. And everybody in the fifth grade made fun of me. I continued to collect them for about a month, and then I listened to the critics. And I tore up my comic strips. That's the worst thing I ever did. Two or three day later, I broke down. I was crying, and I said to myself, "Why am I crying? Whose funeral am I going to? Who died?" And the answer was, "Me." I'd torn up the future.

Steve Jobs: Stanford (2005)

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

Kurt Vonnegut fake speech: (1997)

[Mary Schmich wrote this as a funny article in the Chicago Tribune. Someone sent it out as a commencement speech given by Kurt Vonnegut. It became viral and spread far and wide under Vonnegut's name.]

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.
[Image: Flickr:
Graduation Cake Guy"; Uploaded on May 8, 2006 by CarbonNYC : :Creative Commons-Attribution 2.0 Generic]

Monday, May 18, 2009

Medieval Study Discipline

The Study Ball might get you a referral to social services if you use it on your children. If you use it on yourself, then I guess that would be a kind of self discipline and totally OK. Wife might think you have taken a turn towards Kink Town. Dog might think it's some kind of tricky fetch game. Neighbors will just probably say, "That's just crazy old should have seen the time he tried hitch up the neighbors Great Dane to a cart made out of old skate boards. Now that was something!'

Anyway. Set the timer. Lock this to your leg. You won't be able to take it off until the allotted amount of time passes. The little poster on the web site creeps me out just a bit. It is reminiscent of how I used to view school as a child.

My mother used to achieve the same end through the use of the timer on the kitchen stove and a few stern looks. Other than the cost of the stove, it was free. Probably just as effective.

[via Neatorama]
[Image captured from]

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

UV Monitoring Wrist Bands

We had a nice, sunny Saturday here in Colorado for the first time in over five weeks. The sun was bright. A cool breeze in the morning but by noon it was shorts and shirt sleeves. My entire suburban neighborhood was out mowing lawns, pulling weeds, riding bikes and just hanging out. I was right out there with everyone else.

I remembered the sun screen. I wore a hat to protect my scalp since my thinning hair now allows the top of my head to burn. I even remembered some lip balm for my lips. Then I spent about four hours working in the yard. Still, after all my precautions, I got a slight burn on my cheeks. Probably sweated off the sun screen.

This little device promoed at Craziest Gadgets got my attention. It's a wrist band that you apply sun screen to at the same time you apply it to your skin. It changes color to show that you are protected and as the effectiveness of the sun screen wears off, the color changes. When it reaches the "danger" color, you then reapply lotion and go on your protected way.

I am willing to give this a shot. The bands are less than ten dollars for a package of seven through Amazon. I'd pay that to avoid an uncomfortable burn after a day of hiking. Not clear on if you have to use a new one each time you apply or if one works for multiple applications? I'll let you know.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Toilet Design

I had a yoga instructor years ago who recommended squatting while doing your daily bathroom ritual. He said it was better for your bowels, your muscles and gave you a little daily stretch. Of course in Colorado, this meant except for the occasional camping trip, balancing on the lip of the toilet. Scary concept. Embarrassing to explain to the ER doc how you broke your ankle.

I won't reveal if I tried this or not. At least without a beer or two.

Saw this toilet at Dvice that won a recent design contest. It would be nice to see a model (fully clothed of course) sitting (laying?) on the device. I believe you squat facing the wall.....but not 100% sure?

Here is a longer article from Arizona State University where the design students currently are attending.

[Image captured from]

Thursday, May 7, 2009

World of the Cyborg on its way....or is it here already?

The only human enhancement device I use currently is a pair of eyeglasses. I have friends though with pacemakers, hearing aides and metal hip joints. (You can get a feel for age of my peers by looking closely at those items.) I often imagine what the next generation will have available to help them out.

Heck but why let the next generation have all the fun. Here is a list from Dvice of some other items you could have implanted to improve your biology today. The device shown here isn't implanted but it allows you to control the robot using just your mind. Cool. Kind of bulky for the front room. But, still cool.

[Image captured from]

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hybrid Images

My students have been spending lots of time looking at this picture of Einstein/Monroe. Up close, it looks like Einstein. Back up and it looks like Monroe.

Here is a short piece on Botjunkie that describes why this happens and how it's important in designing robots to see.

Also, here is a whole gallery of these images, including a few movies demonstrating the effect. I fear that if I show these to my students, they will be lost to me for hours.

[Image: Captured from Botjunkie:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Principles of Kit-Based Learning

This short article on Principles of Kit-based learning from the Tinkering School has had me thinking about tinkering all morning. One of my biggest complaints about where tech ed seems to be headed is towards activities that are based on how easily they can be measured and evaluated. These "closed" kits tend to take the open ended possibilities out of a project and what I believe adds depth to the learning experience. So, I was pleased to see this list of criteria the Tinkering School uses in designing a learning kit:

1. Focus on the quality of the experience first
2. Allow for personal expression within the experience
3. Leave something to be discovered
4. Support failure
5. Focus on concept but connect it to the world and the sciences
6. Experience should transition smoothly to tangential or subsequent topics

[Image: Flickr: "Version 0.2 had Wheel Slippage Problems": Uploaded on April 30, 2009by gever tulley: Commons: Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0)]

Monday, May 4, 2009