Free audio books

 

Being read to at bedtime is no longer the privilege of a good  childhood. Now anyone can be read to and there are plenty of free audio books online. YouTube is one of the places you may not have thought to look for audio books. Some sites offer reasonable free trials of free audio books and then you have to pay something like $15-20 a month for unlimited access. That might suit some people. I listen to audio books sometimes in the car and there are times when people are too sick to actually read but would welcome being read to.  thebalance offers 15 sites where you can get free audio books online. It does mean you can use your phone or other mobile technology to listen to books if you are on the move and it does save carrying a book or reader around if you need to do it that way.

Educational app evaluation

Image: pain rating app

It’s pleasing to discover that the world has become very serious about rating mobile apps for educational purposes. There should be some solid reasons and explanations for using apps in an educational setting and there ought to be a well considered way now for rating apps because we have had mobile technology for quite some time . As an educator you need an approach to apps which will guide well thought out decisions about apps’ use. You also need a way to include learner opinion of apps because they are at the receiving end of it and need to be encouraged to be more than passive users. Education apps won’t improve unless we are all working together as a team and rating apps is a good way of identifying strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement. With some apps you have no choice . They are introduced into an educational environment and you are expected to use them. If you can then go though the process of rating them then there is solid evidence and data to help inform decisions for negotiations about the use of an app or to be able to contact developers and ask if they can work on certain aspects of the app. Those who work in technology usually like a challenge and so are very approachable if you can be clear about what you are asking. Digital teaching and learning is a constant improvement environment and way of being where clarity is important. There are some very helpful evaluation sites which show how you can go about rating apps:

Mobile app rating scale

App evaluation checklist

Ways to evaluate educational apps

I always involved students in app rating and it was a very helpful and interesting exercise for all of us:

The great iPad app review
There are also two useful pdfs to download if you click on the links:

Evaluating apps for Teaching and Learning

Rubric iPad Apps v0.4 Department of Education Western Australia

Technology trends 2017

Gartner is a big, American technology organisation which delivers technology research to global technology business leaders so they can  make informed decisions about key initiatives. It is one of the sites to keep an eye on if you want to see what the trends are and have some intelligent information to go on. It looks at different aspects of the impact of technology on our world and how it shapes it. It looks at the things which are changing and how they are being changed. What we don’t want to do is leave people out of this and people need communication and information. They need to know how to navigate the systems which are now in place. The information about how things are changing are getting to normal people as easily because so much is going on in the areas where the developments are occurring and so those who work there are used to it but hen it is not connecting with the larger population. The changes are quite quick and so what you thought was the way to do things isn’t any more. Much of the change is driven by big data and how we can analyse and use it but that then isn’t translating into everyday knowledge necessarily. More than ever we need to talk to each other , share information and share ways of doing something. We also need to be constantly aware that big changes are occurring and we need to look out for them and have some idea of how the world is now being landscaped. Communication is fundamental to that. Having grand new ways of doing things won’t help if people don’t know how to easily navigate them and don’t understand how the systems are now working. The video sums up the key changes very succinctly.

Puzzle Craft 2

PuzzleCraft2I completed the 50 levels of Puzzle Craft and got into my Imperial Castle. I can still play the game if I want to but I have achieved all there is to achieve. I thought I’d give Puzzle Craft 2 a go. Initially it was a shock because I had gone so far in Puzzle Craft and had enjoyed the freedom of it. I was back to having to build up resources and currency and Puzzle Craft 2 is far more complex. It seemed a bit kiddie at first but it’s not. There is so much you have to manage and keep your eye on. For a busy brain which likes to puzzle this is the game. There are so many elements and strategies . The game puts in challenges and it works across different villages this time. I have completed the second village and have to gather the resources to move on to the third village. I packed everything up without realising that. Not to worry. It’s not easy to work everything out and some of it you stumble across or the game gives you a bit of help. It’s certainly a generous game in terms of offering supplies and bonuses. I hate the notion that you can pay real cash to get yourself out of every single difficult situation. In my opinion it’s a bad lesson to teach and defeats the purpose of gaming. Games make squillions of dollars, it’s true, but cash ought not be the driving force because there is so much teaching and learning which can occur with a game and that to me is the most important thing. If I just buy my way out I have gained nothing.

 

I have got myself going and am currently stuck because there is no way I am going to be able to get 150 iron out of the mine in one hit. The puzzle board has 36 squares and not all of them are filled with iron. That is a tough challenge. I have learned to make tools on the first farm to save the resources on the second farm for the other tools. I am not sure why buildings provide free tools when they are not added to the count. You are strictly limited on the amount of tools you can have in this game unless you pay for special packages with game currency which you can build up quite well. Those tools are added to the stock pile. Sometimes I just play the boards without the tools. I try to focus on the one thing I have to do but it doesn’t quite work out that way because you have other things to keep in mind and that is where strategy and planning come in handy. I hate the long chains but the game thrives on them. I preferred the shorter chains of the first game. You can shorten the chains by hiring workers but that comes slowly when you don’t want to keep paying out more real money. There is plenty of variety in game play and it’s a game which keeps you challenged. It will change as I go up the levels and I look forward to discovering whether I enjoy it as much as I ended up enjoying Puzzle Craft. The graphics are really good and the level of organisation in the game is good. There is a really comprehensive review of it on GameZebo.

Call centre standards

Is this what we have come to? Call centre staff wanting to be mean to us and we want to be irritated  by and mean to them? The comments under the clip are just as revealing. We have done this to ourselves. We have allowed technology to run a system which is not suiting either side in many instances. Some companies and organisations have very good and effective call centre procedures so everyone is happy . Others do not. Apparently there are no call centre industry standards and that is maybe something we should be looking at. ContactCentreCentral has an article about the myth of call centre standards:

“I wish such a formula existed. I even wish there was a standards body that published verified performance measures.  But there isn’t.  And there never will be. We refer to the contact centre as an industry, implying consensus and uniformity where it doesn’t really exist. The reality is that each contact center is unique in terms of the value it provides to the enterprise, unique in terms of the skill and knowledge of the management team and unique in terms of the centre’s culture”

Talkdesk has some benchmark statistics which would only come into play if the organisation or enterprise has competition. In that case , what appears to be happening is that people are taking the solutions into their own hands and that might work initially but then it will create yet another bottleneck as companies and organisations address the change in client behaviour. Britain has been working hard to address call centre issues because it is costing people time, money and their health. The  DailyMail published an article about what health issues lengthy call waiting could  possibly create. That is something which needs to be researched , established and dealt with in a society which rates work/life balance and wellbeing highly. MyfamilyclubUK has some interesting work arounds to avoid long call queue waiting. I certainly have never forgotten the time I was on Twitter while I was waiting in a call queue and I actually solved my query on Twitter with the help of that company while I was still waiting in the queue. I stayed in the queue and encouraged them to keep providing that social media service. Emails /voicemail only work if you get the call back or a response to your email which helps solve the issue. People are in call queues because they need to solve a problem. If it can be resolved off the phone then that will save time and costs. I am also in favour of the call back option. That works for me. I am happy if I know that I’ll get a call in an hour or whatever they say. That is helpful and I can get on with my life. Talkdesk also has an article on improving call queues. They believe it comes back to staffing but that may not be the case when it comes to an emergency or an unexpected set of circumstances which then has everyone on the phone. Call abandonment is often how companies judge the success of their call centre system. If, however, it doesn’t matter how many people hang up because they cannot get through , then that is not addressing this call centre problem. I think we do need to look at better ways of managing this. I think we need to use our technology options to help us. We can use texting, voicemail, email, chat, phone calls, social media. There are so many ways we can communicate these days. We need to clearly identify the issues and then clearly develop ways of stopping call queues of 20, 30 or 40 minutes. If the call is costing nothing, that is not an issue. I know people who leave the call on speaker phone and then jump to answer it when it’s their turn. Some numbers are expensive to call because of mobile phone costs or the cost of the number being dialled. I am not sure what holds places back from using the toll free 1800 numbers. In terms of social justice and equity it’s a sensible decision. I’d like to think we’ll resolve this call centre craziness we’ve brought upon ourselves . We need to start that conversation now.

Call queue craziness

 

 

This is an interesting clip from Singapore. It identifies some of the man-made madness of call queues but it is a problem world  wide. I wonder which country has dealt with this effectively? It’s a situation we have brought upon ourselves with the advent of ubiquitous technology use and it’s something we need to address. The main problems seem to be :

Waits of 10 minutes or more. More is frequent.

Numbers – punching in option numbers, ID numbers, PIN numbers, passcode numbers

Verification of voice or secret word

Cost of queueing

Dropping out of the queue somehow

Having to constantly repeat yourself

There are a number of videos on You Tube which highlight both sides of the call queue . A customer rings because they have a problem. If they then have to pass through a series of hoops and then an interminable wait it can create anger and emotional issues. The call centre staff will then be dealing with someone who is not reasonable.

The other aspect is you can be offered an email option which only works when the email is responded to in person in a reasonable time frame. The automated responses acknowledges receipt but then you need to know that your query is being resolved. How long is a reasonable wait for an email response?

There are also time differences and language differences. Customers can be in different time zones which does have its impact and then they can be talking to someone who doesn’t understand them or they don’t understand the call centre person. Clear communication is central to effective problem solving.

We live in a complex world because we have technology and so many options. Next post I’ll look at some of the solutions.

Call centre queues

I am going to write a trilogy of blog posts about call centre queues. It is something which technology has given us and in the age of communication we care not communicating effectively when it comes to customer service through call centres. We have also created a job which is demanding and tough. This video is interesting because the CEO of a company has been into the call centre for his company to gain experience and knowledge. The staff member mentoring him is one who is a designated “escalated calls” resource. The issues around call queues and call centres needs t be addressed. Technology ought to be facilitating customer-business communication but it is evident that it becomes a trap for all concerned and one we are largely ignoring. We should look at it and find some resolutions to pressure cooker situations on the phone.

Set up a mobile phone hotspot

Dottotech’s video is more comprehensive and goes more slowly but for some reason WordPress won’t let me embed it. You can find that video here. A lot of people already know how to turn their mobile phones into hotspots. It means you are using your 4G network to set up your own wireless hotspot which you can connect to. I use my old Samsung Galaxy Express to be the hotspot and then connect my laptop , phone or tablet to that. It means I am running a separate sim card but for that I use prepaid and can make the data choices which suit me and my needs at the time. You may not have wifi access. Not all places can easily offer free public wifi. I live in one of those places. You also might want to do it for security reasons so that you are on a safer network. It can also be a life saver if you need wifi but have no other way of getting it . Yes, it runs up your mobile data costs and you need to be aware of that, but there are times where it becomes a good option for you . If you are unaware of the option you cannot choose it. It is simple to set up and it works well.

I’m using the internet!

I cannot believe it! Back in the  free world and my phone and internet connection have been restored ahead of schedule. Back in the free world! That was no detox. That was horribly hard. I have learned a lot, though, as you always do when life forces you to confront difficulties. I am more than grateful to all the tech support and telecommunications staff who worked so hard and consistently to try to resolve this problem for me. I haven’t had a home phone or proper internet access since 4pm April 26th and that was the second phone/net loss in April. No one’s fault. All part of building an information super highway. I truly do thank all those people who were trying to resolve this and then the ones who got that port swap done. So happy ! Ha ! Ha!

Putting the internet on to boil

I am currently using technology as an appliance. I am still waiting for the port swap to occur which is booked for tomorrow so I haven’t had my home phone or internet since 4pm April 26th. These things take time and telecommunications technicians are flat to the floor boards. It is creating erratic costs and erratic connectivity. I have a home phone number redirect and mobile data and phone to get me by. This is not how I use the internet. These days I put the internet on to boil, make a cup of contacts, maybe a spoonful of banking or  isp dashboard and maybe a splash of looking and searching. No surfing the web for me. No online courses. No online groups. The experience has been interesting to say the least. I don’t spend hours on the net but it is an integral part of who I am and how I live. I don’t just pop on the net to find the nearest coffee shop or quickly make brief contact. Keeping and staying in touch is more than that and being connected is normally normal …

 

Image: blog summall

Phone with cobwebs

Puzzle Craft

Puzzle CraftPuzzle Craft 

Puzzle Craft is a nice little game which I play on the iPad offline but here is an Android version of it too. There really isn’t a need to be online because it’s not reliant on a network of players to enable progression. It’s single player. It’s not a game you can stay on, either. You have to wait until you get money and build up equipment and then you can go farming and mining to build up coins and experience points. At the heart of it is matching sets of similar items so it’s like a match 3 game, but you match more than 3 but it becomes relatively demanding with the treasure chest challenges, exploding gas or wolf attacks. Nothing serious! For a while I didn’t have the coins to employ workers and they certainly help you progress faster through the levels. I am up to level 45 and aiming for 50 where I get the imperial castle. I am not sure what will happen after that or if all I have to do is fill the artefact shelves in the museum. It’s not at all stressful but you do have to think about strategy. At times you run very short of particular resources or tools and have to work out how to manage that. Once you get to level 40 the game becomes more challenging and you have to think more carefully about how you are going to progress.

I have over 400 trimmers, a tool which changes trees to grass. Why? It’s not like hay isn’t easy to come by. I have used a trimmer about 6 times in the game just to get the treasure chest challenges completed. Nothing worse than getting 9 trimmers from the treasure chest when you already have hundreds. Not sure why that is in an otherwise carefully panned and well thought out game. The graphics are good, the progression is well planned and the capacity to engage is there. Trimmers? Who knows what that is all about.

There is a Puzzle Craft 2 which appears to run differently and I look forward to playing that once I have finished this one or have had enough of it.

I am at the stage where I have to make sure I have plenty of tools built up before I can go on t he farm or into the mines. I also have to make sure I am hiring workers as often as possible so I can progress more easily.

This is not a game which tries to get money off you, trick you into paying for progression or needs a financial input so you can play it. There is an option to invest money in it if you want to and that would get you through the levels more quickly. I find I am going through the levels at a rate which is fine. At the moment it seems to be two a day and that is quite a change from the one a week or every four days. It’s the amount of coins you have to invest in tools and workers which makes a difference.

Waiting for the cyber faeries

cyber faerieImage : Cyberfaeries wear boots with my own custom border

We can’t see the information super highway. We can’t see the infrastructure. Even if we work in that industry, we can’t see all those connections all over the planet and then up to satellites and back. We just take it all for granted and yet, it is a hugely complex ,connected world. When a motor highway is being built , repaired or upgraded we can see what is happening and so we understand it . In recent times I have lived through the construction of 2 expressways and a train line extension and electrification in my area and driven past the desal plant being built . You can literally see the landscape change and be amazed at what we are capable of achieving. You manage the inconvenience and disruption because you know what you are dealing with.

When we are rolling out telecommunications infrastructure we can’t see what is happening. We don’t understand the changes and we can’t put the picture together easily. It’s new ground and it’s a J learning curve. We live in the information and communication age , though. Communication is central to getting everyone to work together.

I have had access to a home phone since the 70s and the internet since 1995. It has been tough to do a month with first 8 days of no phone and no internet and currently day 10 of the second adventure of no phone and no internet. I am waiting for a port swap which will hopefully resolve my disconnected state. It’s hard living without unlimited access to data and a phone. I have never needed my mobile phone much so I didn’t have a plan to cover an event such as this. This has never happened before is probably the reason I haven’t thought too much about mobile access and plans.

I have had a lot of conversations with technicians and technical support over this last month. I have also seen a lot of telecommunications people out on my local streets as I drive around, some of them totally lost in the big trenches they have to dig. Everyone is working . Everyone is doing their job. Everyone knows what they know and it’s now we are starting to get those connected conversations which are going to facilitate the process and understanding of what is actually occurring.

Not everyone is having my problem. It’s a classic new millennium situation which requires a 21st century process: personalised learning, customised response and then everyone being part of the conversation to get the feedback and growth which will inspire solutions. Create content – share – get feedback – reflect – create more content…. I have spoken about the internet model so much on this blog.

Technicians I have had personal contact with and the tech support from my ISP have just been getting better and better. People listen to me. They say what they need to say, they give me information and then we move on.

I have had to get really good at mobile technology. Everyone should learn how to set their phone up as a mobile data hotspot. It’s not hard. It’s in the settings and the phone tells you what to do for wifi name and password. It is now a life skill for when there is no wifi, no ethernet. Just you and your devices. In a city you could probably go outside and get free wifi. Doesn’t work like that here. I have to get in my car and drive somewhere and access is not 24/7. You have to learn to make the right decisions about mobile plans and then ,if you get another sim card ,to make the best choices there. Currently I am using my old phone to be the wifi hotspot. I should have made the unlimited talk and text choice for the old phone and used my regular phone for the wifi hotspot. I have learned.

Complex problems need complex solutions. It’s important to know what your options are and understand how you can customise your own survival package depending on where you live and what choices you have. For me mobile data has been critical but then I have been stuck when I need to make a call which isn’t often but not having a phone plan which covers calls in this situation is making it harder. Took the wrong turn at Albuquerque but at the time I didn’t have enough information and the outage wasn’t expected to be this long. I have done it the olden days way and paid my commercial practices a visit. That has been the nice side of this. The other bonus is now I am so familiar with my online information from my online ISP account. It’s a great site which gives very useful and helpful information . I knew it was there and what it did but it is only become meaningful to me now because I have had to have very particular information in order to go from one day to the next. So my top 5 tips:

Know :

your mobile plan and sim card options

where you can access free wifi

your ISP site and what information it provides

how to set up a mobile phone hotspot

how to use one online calling service like Skype , Messenger, What’s App or Facetime phone.

As I mentioned in my previous post, mobile access is expensive and so you have to be really mindful of that. It is something we all need to think about because normal access isn’t expensive at all. We all need a tech outage plan like we have a bushfire plan and an electrical outage plan. Meanwhile I am waiting for the cyber faeries to do their work. Some of them are a bit mischievous and like to play tricks but I have faith the cyber faeries will work their magic and get my cyber connections back.

Messing with mobile


Wordpress says to share my story here. All about narrative these days. In my 14th day of phone/ADSL2 outage for the month. This is from the second lot of scheduled upgrades for my area. My phone never comes back when the outage is over. Waiting for a port swap. This could take a while. Meanwhile I am having to run my connected life disconnected. I feel like a cat up a tree tentatively picking my way through the branches. The mifi worked until it gobbled up my last 500mb data yesterday. Great.  No more mifi. At $10 a gigabyte for mobile data that is not on. So I bought a sim, revived my old Galaxy Express phone and am totally mobile now…trying to economise , find the work arounds and use my data efficiently. I cleaned up the Express. No updates, no notifications and no sites which muck me about and just chew up data because that is how they are designed. They make you click and stuff up and then you have to redo. Meanwhile data is draining. Those sorts of sites are to be avoided. I am back to bluetoothing files, using my stylus for screen accuracy and finding I can do things better on a mobile. It is not the freedom of a wifi connected person with unlimited access. I am a user not a consumer. Either way mobile data plans need to be more generous. There are some improvements. Limited data means limited experience and limited access. I’ ll just have to keep gingerly picking through these branches and hope my free, connected world comes back soon. I don’t  feel upgraded . I do have a weakth of learning challenges, though. This , for instance, is my first blog post ever from a mobile phone. Thank heavens for mobile apps.

The last of the red hot outage queens

no netOutage is the new normal , apparently. For the second time in a month I have had another unexpected Sunday to Wednesday outage on my phone and therefore my internet. Last time my phone didn’t come back as it was supposed to so I actually did a Sunday to Monday outage. Who knows what this one will bring, except my ISP is really onto it this time and has been great at keeping the information to-ing and fro-ing so we know what we are doing should my phone not come back as expected. Which it hasn’t . I am now back in the process of trying to unmuddle the muddle. There is another line mix up again so my calls are going elsewhere. I live in an area which is in the middle of nbn line installation and then line and broadband upgrades. Telecommunications staff are pushed to their limit at the moment. Establishing nbn into Australia is a massive job. Upgrading networks is a huge undertaking. Some who have signed up to the nbn are saying it’s woefully slow. It probably will be until we have all the connections there. Technology likes all the bits to be the same and they have to be able to talk to each other . If we are introducing old bits to new bits , the old bits are going to get mighty huffy. There needs to be some public awareness programmes going on to raise the profile of what is actually occurring. At this point a decision has been made as to how it will be done. What needs to happen is people need to really be informed as to what that entails.

At no stage have I lost patience with telecommunications staff. They all got up that morning to do their job. They are not responsible for the things happening to me , my phone and my internet. They are there to listen and to try and help resolve the issues. ISPs are not the ones who own the lines . Only one ISP is and then nbnco for the optical fibre installation. The work on the upgrades may or may not entail direct involvement with an ISP. I am already in the habit now, if my phone goes down , to start living on M&Ms – mobile and mifi.

I check my isp site

I check the aussie outages site

I check the Telstra site because they own the lines involved with nbn upgrades.

I check the nbnco site

I check the roads in my area

As inconvenient as it is this , it is the equivalent of building a major expressway and I have lived twice through expressway building . It takes a couple of years and literally ground breaking changes. We cannot see our telecommunications upgrades and so communication with each other and with the key organisers of this upgrade is vital. We have to notice and contribute. As soon as my phone was gone again, I waited an hour and then emailed my ISP after I’d checked as above. Since then there has been useful two way communication.

I have learned :

to prepare what I need t o do on the net to save data

to turn off automatic data downloading

have found that Facebook phone calling is good

have navigated my mobile devices better and know more about them

have stuck with Linux. As an OS and with the Ubuntu browser I save data

to park myself in the call back queue of my ISP to save my mobile data

It’s not the same as being always connected but it’s manageable and we need to talk about this. About what is happening and what our responsibilities are in a connected world , because we can facilitate the process by sharing of information and then what is actually being done. This way no one gets the blame. No one gets unpleasant surprises and we can just do it until it’s done. Meanwhile I am queued for a call back.

Nutrition information

chicken vs eggsGoogle is trying to improve how it provides us with useful and quality nutrition information . The results are instant and so if you are trying to find out about food or make informed food choices then the option is there to use Google to get a quick answer and then follow it up in your own time and way. It’s not perfect. The more we use it and the more Google can establish what we are trying to do and find out ,the better Google will become. In the search bar you type, for instance :

beef vs chicken or chicken vs eggs

 

chicken vs potatoAt the moment Google needs basic input . It can’t do chicken vs barramundi. If you type something like chicken vs potato you will get 129 million results and they will be about the nutritional information with regard to each food and you will have to make the comparison yourself. If you type something like tomato vs cucumber it will bring up the sites which compare these two foods and then other nutritional sites to do with each. The results are not consistent as yet for each comparison you do and a search engine like Google relies on people input patterns to improve its performance. One day it will dazzle us with its comparisons but right now , it’s still pretty impressive and helpful.

Cyberjargon tools

If you have trouble understanding SMS speak  or cyber jargon which comes up on the Net then I highly recommend the site Lingo2Word. You can decode SMS but you can also dazzle your entourage by coming up with perfect SMS speak! If you click the top  links on the site you will find common emoticons and acronyms that some people use as a matter of course.  The other site for decoding cyberjargon and slang is NetLingo. This site has a sense of humour but it also keeps a current database of all the cyber terms on our planet and so you are always in the know! Currency. It’s about currency.

Usability

 

Is usability a science now? Certainly there is detailed analysis around usability in the design of apps, websites and technology in general. Does detailed analysis and data collection make it a science?  The fact the hue saturation can fatigue users is a fact we know now. If the colour on your sites or in your apps is too saturated then people will tire easily and maybe blame the app or website . Don Norman is the doyen of design and who people interact with it and he is worth listening to because he has spent his life in this area, researching about it and then sharing his ideas. He is widely acknowledged for expertise in the fields of design, usability engineering, and cognitive science. He looks at how people interact emotionally with design and how that plays an important role in what they can or can’t do with technology or will or won’t do. “It’s the real needs of people, what people think they need often isn’t right.”  We do need , at least, cognitive science to determine the best outcomes for people who use technology. We do need to understand how it can impact on others when we choose and select our designs for apps and websites. UserFocus UK  has an interesting discussion about whether usability is now a science or not. It comes to the conclusion :

“But I do think we can agree that as usability practitioners we should at least adopt a scientific way of thinking. By this, I mean we should approach our work with a self-critical and naturally sceptical mind set, and that our methods, whenever circumstances and budgets allow, should employ the scientific method of investigation.”

Usability at the least needs to be informed by science and if you are using technology to teach others then you need to understand the basic , underlying principles of UX and UI design and their emotional impact. That way you make informed choices about what to use and how you present your content.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 2017

Maslow's hierarchy of needs This revamped version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has been making the rounds. I found this one on Twitter by Morten Øverbye. It’s something which has sparked some good discussion on his feed. Adding battery and wifi to the hierarchy of needs acknowledges we have become technology dependent. Does it mean we can’t be stable and secure without them? Is it a first world problem? To have battery there is a bold statement about how we have failed to address the basic requirement of a technology society. We are constantly interrupted by failing batteries, batteries which have a short life, places which don’t sell the batteries we need,waiting for the right battery to be delivered. It really is an implementation problem in our technology paradigm. As for wifi, yes, we are looking for that everywhere, but we also have mobile coverage which can alleviate the problem if we have the money to pay for it. Do we need batteries and wifi before food and water? I think not, but as someone points out , we might need our location services to find food and water. Interesting remodelled hierarchy to ponder and a sign we are changing as a society and that Maslow’s will need to be upgraded.

Easter apps

Color me Easter appHave fun this Easter with the Easter apps reviewed on technologyrocks. Have a Happy Easter!

Google Easter Eggs 2017

These Easter Eggs have been made this year so there is some chance you’ll find something different. Hidden tricks and surprises in programmes and apps are just a nice little fun thing to do as a developer and find as a user. Have fun with your Easter Eggs from Google. Is there an online award for the best tech Easter Egg?

YouTube gaming Easter Eggs

You Tube Gaming

 

 

YouTube has its own gaming subsection where you can just focus on videos to do with games and publish your live gaming videos.  It has the 3 horizontal bars top left which you click on and then you get to the setting which are discussed in the video so that you, too, can find the gaming Easter Eggs.

Check username

namechk siteThere have been a number of funny memes about how hard it is to create a username for some sites because the one you want is always taken and then you try 10 others and end up with something stupid just because you are frustrated trying to find a username. Namechk will cross check usernames across plenty of sites. It means you then have the chance to dignify username choice because you are not in that pressure situation of trying to come up with a username as you are signing up to a site. Namechk will block out the sites where you cannot use that name and highlight the available sites in green. Easy!

Accurate weather information

My favourite free weather app is AusWeather. The graphics are excellent as is the information you get with it. If you can read satellite and radar pictures then you can increase your capacity to interpret weather data. Not all of us can do that and sometimes we just want an app which tells us. Dark Sky is a paid app  for Android and iOS which has been getting excellent reviews. It particularly predicts rain accurately in your area and gives you detailed information and alerts about it. It can handle the snow , too. Down the track it might be able to forecast other weather events for exact locations . The story of how the app came about is interesting. Apps development is becoming increasingly needs based. People have ideas and are connected and are now using the data we produce to create apps which will serve our needs. If you are an events manager, have events planned, have a life where you need to go outside and do things then Dark Sky can take the guesswork out of whether it might rain or not. It would save a lot of heartache and stress when planning outside events. Dark Sky has a website too which you can use and then decide whether you want the app or not. You can download the app here. If you want to know more , Wired has a detailed review.

Windows keyboard shortcuts

Windows 10 shortcutsYou aren’t going to remember all of the keyboard shortcuts for an operating system. Most people know the CTRL-C   CTRL-V shortcuts for copy and paste. If you learned those, you can learn others and it’s a matter of prioritising. Choose the ones you want to know and would help you and learn them one at a time. In the end you’ll know quite a few and some are better than none . There are times when you need to know keyboard shortcuts because it is the only way you can access the screen. Other times it’s good to know them because it just makes things quicker. g-Post has a complete list of Windows 10 shortcuts.

MiFi

MiFi

My new BFF

So what’s MiFi ? I knew about it but it’s not been a thing with anyone I know and I have never seen anyone using one . They have been around for quite a few years and yet, they don’t seem to be a thing in Australia. They are very handy little devices , though , and worth knowing about . The MiFi featured left has saved my internet bacon from the week long loss of my own phone and internet services. When I borrowed the MiFi on Saturday my life changed and I could start feeling connected (normal) again. The MiFi I had was prepaid and I set it up in less than 5 minutes. On this one you can connect up to 10 devices if you want to. It is a life saver during outages. It would be handy if you have mobile access  towers anywhere. It would be great if you were on holidays in Australia and wanted internet access. The one I have been using is as big as the phones we used to have before smart phones became popular. In fact, it fits neatly into one of my old phone cases. It is so portable. It would be good camping or caravaning and I am certain if people knew about them , they’d use them more. Mobile data can be expensive , though and I am not sure why that is. I couldn’t get a mobile broadband stick to work and yet this MiFi connected and settled in straight away. It doesn’t like my netbook but it loves my iPad, my android smart phone an my Linux laptop. It was just as fast and efficient as my normal ADSL2 service. No different in use at all. Knowledge Centre looks at  a number of pocket wifi gadgets. PC Advisor looks at different MiFi gadgets and what to look out for. They can be locked to a mobile carrier like a phone and you might not want that. You can also rent them and that might be an option you need to know about. Lifehacker explains why it is better to use a MiFi device rather than your phone as a tethering device. It really isn’t good for your phone.  I have only known this device for a couple of days and I find it hard not to like it a lot. It is just so handy and convenient and when I get to think about it some more I may just want one of my own. This one has to return to its owner as soon as I have used the data. I learned very quickly only to use one device at a time on the wifi and make sure the other devices had wifi turned off. I also made sure automatic updates were turned off. You do have to pay attention to how your devices are using data when you are attached to these things because, as I said, mobile data does not come cheap. It taught me to discipline my usage!!

Writing , writing and writing

writing Image 10 Best Writing apps

Devices offer a diverse array for writing practice in all its varied forms. You can painfully type your way on a mini touch screen and embarrass yourself publicly in quite a spectacular way like I do if you wish or you can nimbly glide across a touch screen and insert images and sound as quick as lightning. Writing doesn’t have to just stare back at you. You can make it move, talk, connect to a website, a clip. You can add animation and annotations. One of the great experiences I discovered on my iPad was iPad magazines. I still read paper ones from time to time but an iPad magazine might include video clips, text reading, QR codes to go elsewhere on the Net, interviews. The whole thing just jumps into life. It means there are also a variety of tool where students can practise the art of writing, planning writing, publishing, multifaceted writing and a number of literacy skills. When there is a smorgasbord of how you can write and develop your writing then the chances of your writing well and being creative are probably quite high. Some of the “cooler” apps are paid for. It is important to research them well to see if they meet your needs or the needs of your classroom. Any app I plan to use in class I research first and then test it out with a couple of students if I plan to use it. They value participating in reviews. TeachThought has 15 e-book writing apps which seem to be paid but which do come tested, so to speak, and so you can look at them to see the sorts of things the e-book writing apps can do. I can see my students using some of these and loving it. There are also 10 best writing apps recommended on NextWeb. Some of these are free and some of them practise and utilise hand writing skills. My favourite writing app is Notability but I also like Documents Free. Now that I have seen all these other apps I want to try them out because each app creates a different impact. Bottom line? Don’t go anywhere without Evernote! Cross platform, cross device , always there and pretty comprehensive.

Disconnected

outage“Use the cloud, “they said. “It will be so much more effcient. “

“Detox , “said the others.”You’ll feel so liberated without technology.”

“I am neither, “say I.

I have been without internet access and home phone from Sunday afternoon 2nd April until….who knows. My cordless phone reports line in use and there is activity on my internet account which the isp hasn’t blocked. There was no notice on this outage of major proportions. No chance to rally a plan B, to let people know or to organise myself. I was suddenly hurled into a non-connected world. I don’t have a big mobile data plan so using mobile data was not an option. I frugally used what I had to try and get some things achieved. I even went to the library Wednesday and soaked up all the delicious connectivity. Thing is, though, when you are randomly trying to manage a connected world in a non connected way you are nowhere near as efficient as when you have access to technology services. Maslow’s hierarchy of digital needs is a reality these days. The worst thing was that people trying to call my home phone number had been getting a lady in a suburb one over. She has had to battle this as part of an ongoing two week mess with her home phone line. She is with a different isp. Is it really 2017? I haven’t been able to access my banking, my planning, my social media, my online course, my blogs, my searches, my online tools. My outage is caused by the nbn rollout in the area and the technicians have been in my street and around the corner for several weeks now. The outage was notified on the line providers site but I had no knowledge of it. They are not my isp or phone providers. Communication in this day and age ought to be easy. I was in the middle of personal business transactions which needed attention and the capacity to achieve that without the internet and a phone has stretched me to the limit. I feel like I have been thrown into the Tardis and transported back in time. I am scrambling for pens, paper and envelopes. I am going to the library to do things. I am going into my bank to talk to people to resolve the issues and then more pens, paper and stamps. It all feels so cumbersome and awkward. I confess the banking people were so effective , as have been others ,I have had to deal with in person.

None of this has been helped by what would be a strain on our telecommunication services because of the cyclone in Queensland. It’s hard, I know. I do think outages in nbn areas need to be publicly broadcast and notified somehow. People need to have a chance of working out their best way of managing an outage of several days. It is disrupting phone services I found out by talking to others. It is a big infrastructure change. There will be problems but no one is owning and identifying the problems. We are left in the dark and confusion.

It is better to have things on your computer than in the cloud for the reasons I have experienced. There are files and information I can’t access because they are in cloud storage. I do keep plenty of back ups and files ready to access on my computer but not everything and much of what I do is now connected to online services. There are not alternatives. I’ll be rethinking all my cloud things again but there really isn’t a solution to a world which is increasingly online other that to have a rock solid access available and then a well thought out back up plan for when it isn’t. Wouldn’t it be possible to have wifi access available in areas which have outages as they have in major cities?

I know there is mobile broadband. The stick which worked perfectly interstate on a trip refused to work in my time of need. The older stick I had didn’t work either and neither did the other older stick . I tried. I tried on 3 computers to get a mobile broadband stick to work. No. Computer said no.

I don’t feel detoxed. I feel like I can’t run my life properly or effectively. It’s amazingly quiet and I have appreciated that. No ringing, dinging, blipping, plopping, bingly bonging. Nothing. Birds singing, cars passing by and maybe an occasional voice. I have liked that. For some people it would send them to breaking point. No capacity to have or make phone calls and no chance to engage online. They would be isolated like in the olden days. The other thing I have really noticed is that it is so much easier to establish yourself online. People get to know you and your capabilites very quickly because you can showcase them very efficiently. In real life lots of people would not know who you were and what you can do and have no way of connecting with you. I have worked out you can make the real life relationships as positive as online and it allows you to connect really quickly with others . Apply those online skills in the real world and it really facilitates relationship building.

For now, I am glad someone has lent me a mifi gadget. It is saving my life and my sanity. . I am going to rethink my online things and try and get a back up outage plan together. Internet and phone providers need to consider that too , especially when there are major telecommunication infrastructure upgrades going on. You can’t really ask people to lump it. That is not a business plan for technology use at all and the bottom line in all of this is communication. Work with people.

Alexa AI on Raspberry Pi 3

Christopher Barnatt is the consummate professional when it comes to making instructional videos about the Raspberry Pi. Everything is presented carefully and in an organised fashion and the visual aspect of his videos has been honed to perfection. This video is clear, instructive and easy to follow. Christopher Barnatt is a professional futurist and is very comfortable in a changing world which relies on technology development. He wants us to be too and as a consequence he gives us ideas to work on which we can follow. Alexa AI 10, 000 skills available now. Tech Republic has a quick overview of what Alexa AI can do . The video shows you how to set up Alexa AI on a Raspberry Pi 3. I haven’t done it yet and even though I have the recommended wifi dongle for the Pi 2 I may not have sufficient processing power. I might try it and then work out whether I really need a Raspberry Pi 3. Nice little project for a rainy day.

Keep IT knowledge up to date

wizard installs softwareAs I have mentioned before on this blog, the internet shifts about every six months and you have to make some functional and cognitive adjustments to realign yourself with it. It’s not doing that to be difficult. IT is developing at a rapid rate and our skills and knowledge are growing at an exponential rate. Keeping up with the trends is as simple as staying connected with good sites which bring you the up to date news. You won’t want to know all of it and you won’t be able to take it all in. You will know what is happening, though, and you will find things which you immediately connect with. Better Cloud is a site I like to visit and I subscribe to their daily email. I do want to know how to keep Google secure and you might want to know how to explain IT developments and changes to non IT people. There is at least one thing every day which is of value to me…even if it’s just looking at the memes they put up from time to time. One of the acronyms you find frequently on the site is SaaS = software as service. We have the hardware. Big developments and improvements are being made in how software looks, functions and delivers. Much of that it to do with subscription services and hosting 3rd party software elsewhere but you pay to subscribe or sometimes there’s a free and then a premium version. It’s where the cloud services are gaining traction and becoming more important.

Google search tips

Google is probably everyone’s best friend. I don’t know how I lived without it. Lugging an encyclopedia off a shelf and thumbing through used to be a serious, important task, now I just Google. I never have to live in ignorance and I can always know. Google has a lot of built in functionality that you may not be aware of. It pays to keep up to date with their changes to help you find exactly what you need. Your results are as good as your search techniques. Distractify offers 32 great tips for Google searches. I am always using it to look up words, translate single words, dates and so I knew a lot of these. There were a number I didn’t know. Every time you add a new search function to your toolbox you will improve your ability to get what you want!

Adding bullets and numbering in Word

 

I am writing this post because today two people I know were driving themselves crazy trying to get Word to number and bullet properly. Often happens when you have more than one line and not just a list. It’s important to go back to basics and remind yourself to check and double check settings. Sometimes you have to clear the settings out. Word is designed with big companies and offices in mind and so if you change what you are doing frequently you can sometimes fall foul of the settings. You can read straight forward instructions here on computerhope. There are times when it’s most certainly not you – it’s them – and the best thing to do is Google for help with something like: how to fix numbering in Word 2013. You If nothing else you will be comforted to know it’s not just you!!

AI update

No single post could hope to cover all the new innovations with AI. It will , however , give you an orientation to what is being done and what already exists that you can readily identify with. We have voice synthesisers, text to voice synthesisers, we have robotics in car manufacture, mining, hospitals and Japan even has hotels where the check ins are managed by robots. Artificial talking heads are popping up over the Net and have their uses. Professor of AI Nello Cristianini of Bristol University is world renowned in the  field of artificial intelligence. The video explains the sorts of things we are already accustomed to but he has other videos on YouTube which look at the implications of this. Data mining and labelling is critical to optimally functioning AI and so we do have vast quantities of data being kept and sorted through. TechRepublic looks at the top 10 things IBM is doing in AI because machine learning is becoming increasingly important so we can manage the huge amounts of data we have. It has to be sorted , labelled and categorised so we can create the information architecture of tomorrow. If you are interested in AI you can keep up to date with developments with Science Daily. Wired also runs articles on AI developments.

Extract dominant colour

Image: Vaunt

It doesn’t matter whether you are trying to accessorise your latest outfit, decorate your home, create a stunning PowerPoint, an impressive visual presentation, rejig your website or create an appealing app, attention to colour is an essential skill in a visually oriented world where we are looking at everything all the time. Some people have always had a natural colour sense. The rest of us can now use tools to help create a finished product which is visually cohesive and has impact. You do that by extracting the dominant colours of an image and then matching the additional elements to that colour palette. It is easily coded and so there are apps and online sites which will help you keep your sense of colour together and aid you to create web pages, projects, posts and videos which have an intrinsic sense of colour balance. You can also use it to play with colour to get more interesting visual effects.

Vaunt is a free app which will give you plenty of dominant colour extraction options. It is as simple as dropping the image into the box and then trialling the options until you get what you prefer. There are two other quick and easy online sites for doing this as well but without the extractions options: Color Thief and Vibrant.

Enjoy!

IT skills for jobs 2017

it skills for jobs

Image : smh 

We are well past the stage where using a computer and mobile devices are desirable job skills. We are very much into the realms of data, SEO (search engine optimisation), apps development and UI/UX (user interface and user experience). Education is not about jobs but the skills people learn through study are generally the sorts of things which will carry them through to employability and the learning skills needed to advance themselves. Students do need to be familiar with the sorts of knowledge which will promote growth in their lives. I have spoken about UX and UI a lot on this blog. In classrooms which use technology it is something teachers need to be aware of. Design and technology  together. There was an article in the Sydney Morning Herald which discussed the sorts of IT skills we are looking for in Australia and it also included the soft skills we seem to be short of : teamwork, ownership and problem solving. Collaboration has been a classroom requirement for a long time as has teamwork. Ownership is about belonging and certainly there have been conversations and practices around that in education in Australia so I am wondering why these skills seem to be missing. CIO looks at the 10 IT skills which are most in demand at the  moment and looks and the reasons why.  The World Economic Forum looks at it from a global perspective and lists the skills we are looking for in the world. Not that much different form what we are looking for in Australia. FastCompany discusses at length three IT skills in particular and why they need to be commonplace now because they are so important to economic growth.  They are also important to an understanding of how technology works and influences us and how technology is being used and leveraged in today’s world. We have a lot of tools and software now. We need to progress to the next phase where we get he best out of them and then understand how they are impacting on us and can impact on us

Texting and driving doesn’t work

Well over a million people  world wide are victims of mobile phone misuse in traffic. Snapchat can be one of the biggest traps these days for people to text and drive. The “snaps” are quick and people are compelled to react to them. The message still has not got through about mobile phones and driving. Why? Plenty of people have been hurt. Too many people have been killed or seriously injured. The police and emergency services are over removing mobile phones from the hands of a deceased person behind a wheel. Nothing sadder when the phone is active and the person is not. YouTube is now full of videos of people using mobile phones and driving. There are personal videos, police videos and advertising designed to stop people indulging this destructive habit. It’s like people cannot understand it’s dangerous. It’s their mobile phone. It rises above all. It conquers all. It is invincible. There are people , like the instructors in this Belgian driving school, who are trying hard to help people break these stuck thoughts about mobile phones. It really is important to clearly demonstrate why this is dangerous and how it is because people just are not getting it. Technology has given us mobile phones but it has also given us the avenues for constantly re educating people about good uses of mobile technology as opposed to dangerous ones. 

Wireframing digital lesson planning

digital lesson planning

Teachers probably need to wireframe assessment plans and lesson plans on a reasonably regular basis. Wireframing means you can get the block areas of the document easily so that you are covering all the current requirements. I have put an example up from i21zone because one of the key features of this is that it covers technology in a sound way. A lesson plan (or assessment plan) now needs to include so many elements:

lesson goals/outcomes

lesson content

digital resources

cross curriculum links

other resources

acara subject

acara general capabilities

student performance standards

teacher performance standards

inclusion

accessibility

school site plan

There are other things which should and could be added and that is my point. Lesson planning and topic planning in the 21st century has become complex and mostly for good reason. It would be a good exercise, then to sit and map out a wireframe for the perfect lesson planning document to suit your needs. It would also be an interesting exercise to sit and group plan a wireframe for the most suitable lesson planning document. Wireframing could just be done with pen and paper. but there are free apps you can try for wireframing. You need to get a list of the elements first. Once that is done the blocks need to be designed and the y have to fit an A4 page. It’s all part and parcel of aitsl encouraging teachers to base their lesson planning on reason. It is also why the innovation unit in the UK has done so much work around getting the right lessons for students. In the end it is about getting a template which suits your needs and the needs of whom you are teaching. Without it you are carrying all that stuff around in your head and it’s draining.

Innovation is done

Looking around the inside of one of Google’s data centres is fascinating and you can hear from the vice president of the Google data centres himself. As he says , innovation is not done, not by a long shot. We may eventually get to the stage where we have smaller, more efficient data centres but that will take time, planning , thinking and innovation. You can see from the tour that a lot of thinking has gone into place to create a centre like this. I use Google all the time. I have never really thought about it being a place which has to be maintained and had no concept of the enormity of it. I just use Google. The centre is run on hard work but thought has had to go in as to how to manage the sustainability of a place like that. I am wondering what the air quality is like inside this water cooled, air conditioned centre. As they move around on their little scooters then some thought has gone into physical activity. You could not sit all day as you worked somewhere like this. All this for my Google searches and Google apps. It’s not just what goes on our screens which is important. It is all the work and infrastructure behind it which allows you to understand just what we are achieving and then to understand what the vice president of Google data centres clearly understands. We are not done yet with the innovation for the brains of the internet. We need to grow and develop our own brains to keep moving forward.

Checkbox for Ubuntu 16-04

I discovered Checkbox at the time I also discovered that if you press the Windows key on your keyboard, the Unity screen comes up. I had pressed the Windows key and there was Checkbox, an app I had not seen or heard of. It is a very thorough system checker and you can see the impressive list of what it checks on the Ubuntu help page. It checks everything! The video I have on this post has no sound but is a live example of what it is like to use Checkbox and how you can select preferences. I got it to check everything and it takes a while. I did have one problem. There was no opt out when the tests came up and it was too hard at the time to get my headset and earphones when Checkbox was doing the test for those. I was under time pressure . When I used the laptop later in the day I nearly blew my ears off with the racket coming from my speakers. Checkbox had set the volume to very high and the sound distortion was incredible. Easily fixed though, and my own fault for not plugging things in. It’s a very comprehensive diagnostic tool and worth knowing about. Checkbox is still an active Ubuntu project so the refinements and improvements are happening all the time. It is very much a community, collaborative project.

Content review

content planningIt doesn’t matter who you are providing content for. It doesn’t matter if you are an educator, a business owner, a trainer , an entrepreneur, an organisation, society or individual, you have to create a process whereby you review the content you are producing. I have created two slides which show how I quickly assess my content. It has to be current. My content has to address the fact I have a number of visitors from all different countries, some of whom do not speak English. I have to make some sort of effort to ensure the limitations of electronic translators will not mar comprehension. It is also important to be aware that you can offer your content in different ways and that visual literacy is very important in a digital world. Sometimes you find old content you created which needs to be updated and made relevant because the core messages and information are still relevant. People want to know there is value in content. They want to be able to use it, add to it, grow it and move it forward.

content review If you want them to act on your content you need to explain why and give them reasons for doing so. Content also needs to be appropriate for the audience. Nothing more unsettling to find out you don’t belong where that content is and you don’t want anything more to do with it. The opposite is also true. You find yourself engaging with content and then find yourself asking – What was that all about? Why did I bother? There was nothing in it. There are what are known as puff pieces. Your content review then has to focus on relevancy and context. You need to create a framework to ensure others can see the relevance of your content. Some of that it is in your display. Some of it is the perspective you offer and the way in which you show the value of the content. People like to have takeaways. They are surrounded with information and stuff. If you don’t look at the creation, presentation and development of your content in a constructive way then you just become part of digital chatter.

Be the change

Drive change

drive changeAt some point a teacher needs to work out that they are the one who is driving change and leading the people they are associated with onto newer and better ground. They have to have the confidence to be that kind of teacher,leader and influencer. Teachers have to have a methodical way of feeling so secure in themselves and what they are doing that they can be those sorts of change agents. It is not surprising some teachers feel confused, swamped, isolated or abandoned. It is a big, complex job and when you realise they are the people who can profoundly change others then it should not come as a surprise that it feels daunting and extremely challenging to be a teacher. Changing the lives of others and being an influence for positive growth is a demanding task. You need to address those feelings and perceptions methodically. You need to remind teachers they are the ones who can make a depressed child more at ease, a struggling child more comfortable, whole classes full of children who want to be a somebody that somebody they want to be and then they are also the ones who can inspire their colleagues, assure parents in a difficult , disrupted world and who can make breakthroughs in the delivery of curriculum so that it more meaningful, useful and more accessible. Teachers need to be held up, supported and encouraged to understand that they are profound influencers and need to take control of that. The internet is  full of great professional education sites which are supporting schools and educators both locally and internationally. Teachers can connect and be part of virtual groups and initiatives which will hold them up and move them in a safe way to be the leaders they are capable of being. The feedback loop is essential but part of that means teachers need to be able to identify, clarify and express the sorts of help and support they need. They need to participate in discussions so they can drive those discussions further and deeper. They need to collaborate with others so they can share their ideas and thoughts in order to grow them. They also need to feel sufficiently strong and competent that they can walk in and start developing the  ideas they have so they can make them reality. As a teacher you are responsible for a lot of lives and involved in so many interpersonal transactions. You have to know, without a shadow of a doubt , that you are the one who can be the change and that waiting for things to happen won’t bring that change about. You need the professional educational input and development but you also need the personal strength training so you feel you can make a difference and just go ahead and do it. It’s about learning how to be an independent operator who has a way of engaging positively, and in a considered way, with those within  your sphere of influence.

lily tomlin quote

einstein quote

It’s not justified

toolsWordPress has decided to remove the justification of text button on the template for this blog. The two new templates I chose for the blogs I imported from Blogger didn’t have the option of justifying the text, which I thought somewhat remiss, but still , I used the templates and knew I wouldn’t be able to easily justify the text on the click of a button. Yes, I can code it into every post. I can tell we are moving with the times in 2017. If you want something, code it yourself. Been there, done that and obviously I am going to be doing it again. Where are my options? My choices? Whatever happened to correct format? I justify text. I justify email texts. I think it is the right and proper thing to do under certain circumstances. I am treating you as an adult and being polite.

Text justification is now up for discussion as have been  spelling correctly and correct grammar. We no longer live in the age of protocol and accepted practice. We live in the consensus era and if most people don’t mind whether text is justified or not then WordPress can feel vindicated in pulling the plug on the justification button. This will further erode the knowledge and use of text justification. There are so many discussions about it. Some claim justified text to be harder to read. Some claim justified text is more formal. Some claim it is now a matter of choice. WordPress has its own forum on it going and the comments are interesting. Thoughtco more or less sums up the arguments on both sides. Adams drafting has an interesting look at it and one of the strongest arguments not to justify is we are not trained publishers. If a skilled publisher justifies text then it will look neat and professional. Otherwise you can get inappropriate spacing or rivers of white through the blocks of text. A business writer for Ontario Training puts a case for which sorts of texts need to be justified according to popular demand.

We live in a world were the emphasis is currently on white spaces in design. That is all very well. White spaces in texts belong to children’s stories. We leave white spaces around the text to allow children to absorb and process the text better. Is our busy , optimised, values driven, productive centred life leading us to be being so swamped we are now having to read and process text in a child’s way? That may well be how the digital caretakers of our online lives are helping us to cope and manage. I want a choice, though. You can’t just take the justification button off me. All right. I’ll code it myself.

Study sites for older students

We are all into lifelong learning, right? So these websites might not just be for older students enrolled in courses. They might be for all of us. The tumblr blog Study your heart out , where I found these links, is full of good information an tips for older students. It is a site which is particularly strong in literacy and literature links but there really is something there for everyone.

Habitica

HabiticaI said I would test Habitica for a month to see what I thought because I wasn’t sure. In a month I achieved a lot but for me the game part of Habitica was superfluous to requirements. I then did not use it for a fortnight, again, to see. I signed back in yesterday and was so glad!

In terms of functionality the site works really well. It is easy to load and navigate. I don’t find the app so helpful but I have grown used to it in the time I have used it. The app conforms to progressive disclosure as most apps do these days. I prefer to see the options and choices as you do on a website and take it from there. I find the app is handy to update my lists either by adding or completing tasks , to dos and dailies. The site for me, though, is more usable. I like to see it all in a glance and then drill down to the next lot of information if I want to. I guess the app is my quick look and check place and I use the site to think and plan.

Why am I back on Habitica? Why use an app where I am not interested in half of it? The half which works for me gives me back a lot of brain real estate. I don’t have to have a head cluttered with things to do and then hold and carry them around. I can write things in my diary or make notes on my phone but then it is all over the place. Habitica has sorted out my goals from my habits and then there are the things I need and want to do. Now that I am back I am using the dates on the to do list more. I really would like a forward planning list which captures my future plans if I have the time and wherewithal to complete them. My wish list. I do have a done list now and that is so handy. I can see all I have done. It is there for if I ever think I am not doing enough. It also shows me just how much I do.

Others really do like the gaming aspect of Habitica. They love the Guilds and Quests. It is not for me. Not right now , anyway. For others the gaming aspect keeps them on their toes, they get rewards and they are encouraged to achieve their goals in a nice way. Habitica is a very friendly, positive site and a site which focuses on positive performance and encouragement. I love the pixellated pictures and it fits right in with my current game Stardew Valley.

You don’t have to pay for Habitica. You can subscribe, donate or buy parcels of gems but there is no pressure to do so and no trickery in terms of forcing you to.  I am happy to dress up my avatar, grow and feed pets and just benefit from the positive feel of the site. When I use Habitica I get my ideas planned and worked out in the morning and then I can spend the rest of the day achieving them, adding to them, changing them and I do plan ahead now using the dates. I can achieve everything more easily with Habitica but the best thing is I don’t have a head full of garbage…it’s on my lists and ready to go!

Install Steam on Ubuntu 16.04

SteamI tried to install Steam on Ubuntu 16.04 about a month ago. I got a shortcut onto the desktop. I had the hourglass going and I was thinking it was going to load but nothing. I just could not get it past that point. There is all sorts of help on the Net and  all I can say is – persist. Eventually you will get there like I did. I found it easier to install Steam through Terminal:

sudo apt-get install steam

I had followed the instructions on the Linux Config site. Plenty of stuff downloaded through Terminal and then I thought I was there but it just wouldn’t work. I had it loaded on Windows so I just left it. You can also look on the site It’s F.O.S.S.. That site has some other ideas you can try.

steaminstallToday, I decided to try and get it going and a line of code on the ask Ubuntu site was the thing which got Steam updating, functioning and allowing me to log into my account:

env LD_PRELOAD=’/usr/$LIB/libstdc++.so.6′ steam steam://rungameid/730

It took a while but versions of Linux vary, laptop hardware varies and with Linux you have to ensure you have all the bits you need in order for software to work. Happy now!

Stardew Valley downlaod from Steam

Progressive disclosure

All teachers know about chunking the work. All teachers know about planning lessons and assignments around the steady and controlled revelation of information and knowledge. Step by step teaching and learning is second nature to them. Now they are using technology , it’s time for them to meet the UX and UI experts and learn the term progressive disclosure. It’s not that they don’t know it. There has been IWB software which includes spotlight or hidden screen functionality. There have been Powerpoint presentations where you reveal the learning material a bit at a time. Progressive disclosure is a familiar term and concept in UX and UI and software designers these days think in this way. Apps and software are designed with this in mind so that the user is not swamped with information and can navigate their way through the app , site or software in an intuitive way. Teachers, then, need to be able to talk about progressive disclosure. They need to be mindful of it as they design digital materials and they need to be able to have those conversations with people who are designing educational software and apps so they can explain to them what sorts of stepping processes influence classroom learning and learners. My students were always complaining very loudly if they had software which would not let them progress in any way unless they could write exactly what the software wanted as an answer. It was a big turn off for independent learning. They didn’t like being swamped with a whole array of things to do either. I would ask them to let me know if there were things which deterred them as they learned. I asked them to be able to explain that clearly and with their reasons for being put off. I would then have conversations with the companies supplying that software either on the phone or via email/support to try to explain that from an educational point of view. It often did boil down to the way the software was operating in terms of progressive disclosure. We are still developing tools and techniques for the classroom. We need to keep the conversations going and students need to be encouraged to be a part of that ongoing development so they understand how to improve their virtual world.

Deskbot

 

Back in the 90s desktop toys and avatars were all the go on Windows computers. I had a man climbing a ladder and a little mouse who used to play the violin and eat scones. They were toys. Brain breaks. We used to have Clippy too and other animated avatars to help us with spreadsheets. They went out of vogue but you can install Deskbot and it runs on Microsoft Agent as did the desktop toys and avatars. Deskbot will read text to you. On the one I have downloaded I can only get American English, it sounds a bit robotic but is nevertheless a very helpful genie which is the only avatar/personal/bot currently available to me. I got it to read a whole blog post to me. Great asset for if you want to hear something rather than read it. Great asset if you are learning to read or learning to read in another language. Great asset if you need someone to read to you because you cannot see the text very easily. So Genie has those uses and would have plenty more. He is about saving time, energy, accessibility, literacy. Pretty handy little deskbot. You can read a detailed review here on makeuseof. You can download the deskbot here  free from Bellcraft. There is no malware which comes with it or extra programs you might not want. it takes a few seconds to download, a few more seconds to install and a couple of minutes to go through the options of the setup. I look forward to exploring this more.

4MAT learning

4MAT learning was developed by Bernice McCarthy in the 1980s and has never really gone away. There is an interesting  paper by Sandra Craven which she submitted in using class 4MAT research as a part of her Masters of Education degree. She concludes:

“Student communication and presentation skills using the 4MAT System showed marked improvement in that student application of the system included audience participation, involvement, and engagement. Furthermore, improved organizational and research skills produced presentations that not only entertained but informed. Although students did become aware of learning styles, to say that they understood their learning style, or were capable of truly honouring their own after only one experience, would be untrue. Only through repeated exposure brought about by the teacher during lessons will students reach this goal. The collaborative learning experience was much more successful than this educator anticipated. This was evidenced not only by student actions during the project, but carry over has been noted in the classroom generally. Furthermore, because of the intensity of the project, students appear to have bonded and are now treating each other with greater respect.”

Teachers have always striven since then to teach students according to their needs and develop materials which will connect with different sorts of learners. Differentiation became the key word and has stayed. Teachers are more than aware their classes are made up of so many sorts of people with different learning needs. When they then have to address curriculum requirements, standards, professional standards, deadlines, national testing and then the documentation around that and put that all into a digital context it is not surprising it becomes overwhelming at times. Teachers put the content value in but the picture can sometimes become muddied with the content  value out because of the complexity of classrooms these days. It doesn’t matter who is teaching what and at what level, 4MAT is a useful way to address content delivery to maximise the outcomes for learners no matter where they are and what they are using in terms of resources. We are all now engaged in lifelong learning. When you have no idea what you know, what you are supposed to know, what you are doing and what you are supposed to be doing then you need tools to clarify the picture so that you can make it realistic and know what is possible at the time.

The content model and the strategies you employ to deliver content which will make the path clear for learners. You have to develop a way of connecting with  learners at each point of the learning pathway. AbbyEagle explains  well how to use 4MAT learning :

“The ‘why’ learner needs to know why they need to learn the material.

The ‘what’ person wants lots of information and is looking for facts.

The ‘how’ person wants to know how things work?

The ‘what if’ person learns through a process of self discovery.”

Read more: http://www.abbyeagle.com/nlp-coaching-resources/4mat-system.php#ixzz4Zq1qNo7J

By focussing on those four areas and gathering your resources and delivery around them you have a better chance of being less lost in the array of demands from varying sectors of education. The sector requirements can be fitted in on the basis of clarifying what needs to be done, what needs to be developed and the value it will then provide and the learning goals being set.

Is Twitter safe?

TwitterI blogged earlier about checking Facebook settings and my instinct was right. Since the compulsory live feed about who is liking what and who is commenting on what, the likes and comments have dropped off significantly and it’s interesting what people have since decided to comment on and react to. A reminder to check bottom right on the cog and you can turn off the right sidebar as I have. You still get birthday notifications! Twitter is a different kettle of fish entirely and it is harder to manage as such for you keep a stable, balanced feed. Every so often there is a spawning of grossness and undesirable which puts good people off and makes it hard then to enjoy the benefits of Twitter. Again, as social media users , we perhaps need to make some requests of the social media companies because we are contributing to their success and the research that goes on around them. Twitter is by far the most efficient means of communicating and getting out information in an emergency. Our farmers use it to get stock and feed to each other during bushfires and floods and to organise the help they need to save their farms. It has been a huge bonus in those times that Twitter is there, the hashtag can be created and people can get the help and/or reassurance they need in times of trouble. Companies can engage with customers in a real way and I won’t forget the day I solved my problem on Twitter while I was waiting on the phone to be put through to resolve a phone company issue. I hadn’t planned it that way. I just was trying to fill in the wait time. I have also used Twitter to help others who are stuck or want immediate help with something. Twitter can be great and providing you follow the hashtags you want it is more than a helpful venue. There are some interesting statistics on brandwatch:

Twitter user statistics

There are 310M monthly active users

A total of 1.3 billion accounts have been created

Of those, 44% made an account and left before ever sending a Tweet

Only 550 million people have ever sent a Tweet

500 million people visit the site each month without logging in

29.2% of US social media users are Twitter users

80% of active users access the site via mobile

208 is the average number of followers

391 million accounts have no followers at all

Katy Perry has the most followers, with over 87m

Journalists make up 24.6% of verified accounts

83% of the world’s leaders are on Twitter

79% of accounts are held outside of the U.S.

Twitter estimates 23m of its active users are actually bots

 

It’s the bots and fake accounts which tend to create the problems. A bot can spam Twitter feeds with anything. Fake accounts can spread whatever they like and are not held accountable. Real people are surprisingly good at finding out who owns these fake accounts. From that point of view Twitter becomes self regulating but there are times when you know that things just should not be there. We have laws and they don’t seem to be able to be applied or they are being ignored. I would think most users do not want to be in a swamp or cesspool and that intermittent aspect of Twitter is doing it harm. The fakeness aspect has to go. There is no kudos in having 40, 000 fake followers and building your name on fake just doesn’t work.

Theoretically children younger than 13 should not be on Twitter without parental consent. Given the nature of some of the material at times then 13 is still too young according to our laws and media ratings. Social media ratings matter and Huffington Post explains why. Trying to pin down the age restrictions is hard and it is explained here in the post and comments on Lisa Nielsan’s blog. Age screening is explained on the Twitter support site. There are other Twitter-like sites which might be more suitable for children. Learning how to use social media effectively is a desirable part of current educational needs in the digital age. education.com has some solid advice about children and Twitter.

Assembly app

Techgen has created a pretty good review of the Assembly app and the video goes through the key points of using it. I have been using it on my iPad and haven’t, as yet, encountered the problems he had on his phone. I can manage the shape choices across the bottom bar of my iPad Air quite well . What I can’t do is find out how to put in my own backgrounds as he did . There doesn’t seem to be an option for that. Maybe it comes with the subscription to Assembly Pro.

assembly app

Yesterday’s image

I am running the free version and have plenty to be working with and the shape packages are now all free. You can easily download them as you want them. I run it with the snap to grid functionality because it creates very precise placement and image manipulation. It is easy to change the colours and add text and to bring pictures forward or put hem to the back. It is an app which fits in well with the ACARA Digital Technologies curriculum requirements because students can learn how to manipulate objects, how to apply graphic design ideas , how to collaborate and how digital systems work to create meaning. It’s a great app for creating logos, simple designs and not so simple designs when you get good at it. There are tutorials on You Tube and the Assembly app site itself points you in the right direction. Currently it’s an iOS app. There is a review of it on stuff.tv . It saves the created images  in HD and the size is about 4000 pixels square , so a good size for manipulating further and reducing them will not disturb image integrity.

Benefits of coding

That cartoon came up on my Facebook again this morning, endorsed by a teacher. We live in the digital age and we can be victims of it and put ourselves in the position of being constantly rescued or told, or we can take control of it and have some input, some capacity to see what is happening and have sufficient knowledge to be able to manage what happens with devices and computers. I am not a big coder but I know enough to know when to alert sites, to know how to discuss technical problems and to negotiate improvements. I know when to be concerned or not when something goes wrong and I know how to customise some things when I want to and it’s possible. Knowing code puts you in the driver’s seat. You make better choices. Coding is cardio for you brain and The Smart Girl Workout explains it well. The article on the Benefits of Coding explains why it is good for anyone to learn how to code and then provides a number of links to support the arguments. It covers a number of different benefits including sustainablity. Douglas Rushkoff, in the video, has looked at our digital world from all angles and has widely shared his ideas. He analyses and questions our digital world  in a comprehensive way. Rex Salisbury looks at the benefits of immersive learning at coding bootcamps where you are in an intensive learning situation and come out of it with a strong sense of achievement and knowledge. For some that would be a better way of going about it rather than being drip fed. Immersive learning cannot be sustained because it’s exhausting and demanding but it’s a great way to get a head start into the ongoing brain cardio work of coding.

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