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.

Learn coding

vivaLucci is straight to the point and explains clearly how to go about learning code. Code is problem solving. Get a good project and learn to code. Get a reason to code and learn to code. Start with one code and dedicate yourself to that learning and you’ll find a lot of the knowledge and approaches are transferable. I started coding because I was there when Commodore 64s came on to the market as the first home computers. They were clever but to get the best out of them you had to code. The manual came with some codes to learn and I built on that. The school I was in introduced BBC computers which could run some software but we had nothing for languages. I used my Commodore 64 language, borrowed books on BBC computers and learned to write scripts to run programmes to teach languages. I was coding the images, the sequence of events and then collaborating with interested students to develop those programmes further. That’s a point vivaLucci makes. Coding gets you collaborating and collaborating improves your coding. Students couldn’t write the scripts I was writing but they could add to them. We were a mini coding team and grew our knowledge by helping each other. We had a purpose. We were trying to make cool things for the class to use in the computer lab. I have grown from that point and add to it when I want to. Forbes has a good article as to why students should learn coding :

“It also has the potential to bring about a fundamental shift in the way we view technology, turning us from passive consumers into active producers. “There is a massive difference between consuming content and being able to create it,” Sutcliffe adds. “It is important to have agency over the tools you are using.””

Entrepreneur has some good sites to help anyone learn coding. There is so much free material to help you learn and you can go back to it and learn some more when you are ready. Lifehacker has some good recommendations for apps and sites for children to learn coding. For children to learn coding adults have to know what to safely recommend and have a degree of comfort with the software and apps and teachers need some good training which enables them to feel at ease with coding and see the purpose of it:

“But if coding is to become embedded in schools it is going to take a massive effort in terms of teacher-training. Kirsop attests to the shortage of time lack spent on programming skills on her own training course. “There is a long way to go before teachers feel confident enough to teach these skills,” she says.”

Teach kids how to code and you give them a skill for life

Why teach coding?

teach coding

 

This image was doing the rounds on the net earlier on the week and it was surprising how many teachers supported it. That said a lot. It means they do not feel comfortable with coding. Teaching code does not in any way mean that you ignore or replace other curriculum content, personal and social capabilities or wellbeing. As one of the people says in the video if you want to make money or you want to change the world then you need to learn coding. Coding is everywhere and in every part of our life. Healthcare is one of the biggest growth areas for IT development skills and programming skills. Coding is saving lives but we don’t currently have the source code to save the planet. Something to work on.

Kodables has a really good infographic as to why we should teach coding but it supports that with some very helpful downloadable materials to teach it. coding skillsEducational Technology and Mobile Learning

why learn coding

Why learn coding?

has looked at the skills students learn from coding . The video explains it all well, though, and teachers need to be able to find a level of comfort with teaching coding. That cartoon could not have been broadcast and shared on the internet without coding. Researchers collaborate across the planet to solve problems and develop ideas. All of that requires coding. Someone else in the video said that if someone had told her that software was about humanity she would have been able to approach coding in a better way earlier in her life.

coding joke

Our outboard brain

Discussions around the outboard brain were strong around 2007 when wired magazine and others picked up this notion of us now having an outboard brain and outsourcing some of our thinking to a device. The article Your outboard brain knows all was a lively discussion of this issue:

“My point is that the cyborg future is here. Almost without noticing it, we’ve outsourced important peripheral brain functions to the silicon around us.”

It made me think. I love being able to look anything up when I do not know. In that sense I am more informed. My blogging has really contributed to my knowledge but I have just done exactly what the article is talking about. I surprised myself by finding a blog post about the outboard brain on another blog of mine. I had forgotten all about it. The issue is still relevant and David Bowden’s poetry examines the impact of technology on us. There is another poem The inner net which examines our so called connectivity and what the impact of that has been in human terms.

I have ready access to factual information because blogging makes me think and integrate that knowledge into my own database. I’d say technology has contributed well and effectively to my ever growing brain. To ensure this though I make sure I put myself at risk technologically by learning new software, a new OS, a new gadget. Nothing like databases to force a literary brain into chaos and ensure it HAS to learn!! Technology is for me a tool, not a substitute…and I thank this poem for helping me think this through.

Tablet ergonomics

As with any other new technology it takes a while for research to be done and then the data to be analysed so we can put it to good use. There is now some solid research information available about tablet ergonomics, what to look out for, what to pay attention to and how to change your posture and usage so you are not putting unnecessary strain on different parts of your body. The ergonomics blog looks particularly at the problems which might occur for children and there is a lot of good information and sensible practice advised. It is important to notice children’s use of tablets and then help teach them the better way of going about using their tablets. digitaltrends look at the impact of the tablet on your neck which is the biggest area of concern. It’s important to get good information about tablet ergonomics so you can use it for yourself and then pass it on.

Check your Facebook settings

Facebook likes and comments

Image:  Customised from Clipart Kid

Great functionality for stalkers, noseyparkers and eavesdroppers. Facebook is now running a live feed in the sidebar on the activity of your Facebook friends so you know when they like something and when they are commenting on something. I’ve just shut my sidebar down because it is none of my business. As such that sidebar is also broadcasting when you are online which may or may not be a problem. Facebook asks a lot of us and I think it’s time we need to ask Facebook to adapt to our needs too. We know Facebook. We know it’s a blabbermouth but the amount of concern caused by the broadcasting of likes and comments on the main Facebook feed was enough to drive people to try and find a way to shut it down. That was invasive. Now the live sidebar is escalating that. Facebook has always pushed the social boundaries and operated on the notion that people will squawk for a while and then settle down. Good old chook shed slapping. This comments and likes broadcasting is causing real concern fro two main reasons:

  1. Your friends and friends of friends can see what you like and comment on
  2. Friends of friends can comment and like  things from your friends even though they don’t know each other

It comes back to the settings. You cannot turn off the broadcasting of what you have liked and commented on. You cannot control it either. Your Facebook friends have to limit this for you. They have to go to their settings and change the permissions so that your privacy is respected a bit more. It would be better and easier for Facebook to change its algorithm but it’s called co option and, at this point, it is unclear as to what we are being co opted into. Asking others to change their setting?  Leaving Facebook because they have gone too far and thereby being the ones who bring down Facebook? Not liking and commenting so that Facebook gets no more interaction and therefore fewer discussions which breaks our connections?

Everyone needs to look at their settings. You can start with the 5 cnet recommended in 2011. You can try and scroll down to the bottom of your own Facebook wall to adjust further settings there. Quickest way is to click and hold anywhere on the Facebook page and press the spacebar. I am never going to get to the bottom of my wall. It just keeps loading. Check the settings top right of your Facebook page, especially notifications and limit who sees what you publish and do. Set it to friends and not public or friends of friends. Check the bottom right of your Facebook page and click on the cog. Change those settings to suit your needs. Check your privacy settings. Basically, you have to go around Facebook and take  control of the settings as much as you can. You can help change this by contacting Facebook about your concerns and also by asking your friends to change their settings…which is rude, but we seem to be living in a socially incompetent world by default.

Manage the social media onslaught

social media likes

Social Media

Image: DMN

Social media has been channelling my mother lately:

Why don’t you talk to Brandon? He’s a nice boy.

Go and see your Grandma and tell her about how well you are doing at school.

Why don’t you play with Connie? You’ll have fun together. 

Mr. Smith is a nice man. Go and talk to him. You can tell him you won the relay. 

Why don’t you want to go out? You can’t sit and read all day. It’s no good for you. 

 

There was always this compulsion to be sociable, to play with your friends and to get outside. Then the pressure to announce your recent achievements. From my mother’s point of view  all she wanted was for me to be happy, to be sociable and to do well. She wanted me to have manners, knowledge and social connections.

Social media is different in that it also wants to tell you what to read, what to believe and what to value. There is the pressure to follow and connect with people and there is a pressure to like things and be friends. It’s becoming annoying because there is a level of manipulation there we don’t quite understand or we don’t want to understand because there is a feeling we are no longer driving our choices and thoughts. It’s not my mum. There is something more to it and that is largely driven by branding and  research. Social media is used a lot to support other media and research papers. It is also used to drive an economy.

So what do you do? You take control. Bloomberg had an article Try breaking  your  media filter bubble which gives you three ways of setting your social media feeds straight. Barry Ritzholz picked that up and developed the idea so you can manage your feed but also challenge yourself and your thinking with regard to social media in his article Re-engineer your media diet. This article looks more about how you can constructively balance the bias and your own bias. The image on this post comes from DMN and their article  explains how important it is to branding that companies engage with social media and create real connections with people. It’s not new. It is what the corner store and the haberdasher were about. Small, family owned businesses used to engage with their communities and build their customer loyalty from who they were and how they conducted their businesses. It’s just done in a different way now.

The article which prompted me to write this post , though, was about the Facebook friend recommendations. Social media sites do come up with recommendations supposedly based on your activity and people you follow. Happens on Twitter , Instagram and LinkedIn and I have found some good people worth following and people have found me.  They are not Facebook , though. Facebook is seen as your home on the net and is generally more personal. People are finding Facebook a bit more disruptive these days because it throws up random memories which can open old wounds as well as create joy. There is no option to opt out. The friend recommendations have never bothered me on Facebook but I can see why they would bother others. In the end you want to add people who support you and who have a positive impact on your feed. Knowing people is not a reason to have them on Facebook. Amelia Tait’s article :

People you may know: is Facebook’s friend-finding algorithm putting you at risk?

is worth reading because it explains the security aspects of Facebook and then how the algorithm is working. I don’t have my phone number on Facebook and I don’t use a significant email address. I don’t add people I don’t know and I don’t feel obliged to keep people or sites on Facebook if they disrupt my feed. With social media you have to learn to block, unfriend, mute, unfollow, hide and do whatever you need to do so that your feed has a positive input into your life and adds to you. Breaking your media filter bubble is a must do these days.

My new games

I have segames 2017ttled on my new games after a while of hunting around and looking. It has been quite an experience. I have Puzzle Craft on my iPad and that is a brain break game. It’s not very demanding but it is diverting for a while and gives me a chance just to stop and relax a bit. I used FarmScapes on the iPad but have since changed that to my desktop. It’s more demanding than Puzzle Craft but it’s  quite straight forward . The narrative isn’t bad and it includes hidden object and match 3 puzzles to do as well as a bit of farming. Stardew Valley I paid for and downloaded from Steam and it’s been a tough challenge. It doesn’t have support for my game controller and so I am doing everything with a keyboard. That was quite a learning curve. Those who play it on Play Station or X-Box can go so much faster. The pixilated art and retro look of the game are part of its charm. It has really challenged me, my thinking and how I go about games. It keeps me alert and it keeps my brain turning over. From that point of view it is having a big cognitive development impact. I can’t just play it. I have to work it all out. When I do anything there is a big sense of achievement for me because it is so different from anything else I have played. I have just downloaded and installed Anno2205  . I bought the discs thinking the game was on them but you get to download 19 Gb of data!! Could not believe it and it took hours. Lesson learned. I am playing that from the Ubisoft site when I want to but I can play offline. It’s the polar opposite of the other games. Totally high end graphics, total coolness and cutting edge performance. I was so worn out from downloading and installing it I have had hardly a chance to play. I was so glad I knit and crochet so I could get on with things as I monitored the installation. It is different but has the same themes as Stardew Valley. It centres on the environment , the impact of big corporations and sustainability but it comes at it from a different angle and that angle is visually very rich. This game will require me to step up and really sort out my thinking and game playing skills. All my games are designed to contribute to my learning and life and I am happy with my choices now. Taking on new games mean you have to adapt and learn to think outside your comfort zone. It’s a challenge in itself finding games which give you the sorts of challenges you need.

Habitica

HabiticaIt is week 3 of my trial and Habitica now is easy for me to use and I can manage it according to my needs. I am feeding 3 pets to see what happens. I still haven’t felt the need to be part of the questing and gaming aspect of Habitica. You have to be part of a party (group) to follow quests. The idea is they will set you quests to help you or you participate in quests to help yourself. It is all about achieving your goals and improving your life. If the wolf is part of my avatar it is because I am a bit of a lone wolf. You can’t do quests alone or just for yourself and be responsible for your own achievements. This is why the gaming aspect holds no real interest for me. I don’t actually need another layer of involvement to get things done. Others are finding it highly motivating and are loving it and have enjoyed participating in the social, challenging aspect of Habitica. Habitica itself puts out some good quests and challenges to help keep people real, honest and prepared to tackle the tough side of not achieving. It is really noticeable just how much Habitica does to encourage people to do a reality check and then find the tools, quests and people who will help them move forward and upward. It is a very positive, can do approach which is established. I am automatic now in how I organise things and I have shifted some of that stuff to OneNote into tabs so I can follow my project based way of achieving my goals. I really need a pending list and wishlist. Habitica, though, reminds me every day of how much I can and do achieve and so I don’t fall victim to the mindset that says I am not doing much.

Map PC Game Controller

I am putting this here incase you need or want it. I did download the program and if I can map the keys on a game controller and create a profile , you certainly can. I know nothing about game controllers and am finding out. Some games automatically set up your game controller on a PC. Others you can put in your own profile and others let you browse for a profile and that is where JoytoKey is handy. You can create profiles for different games, save the configurations and load them when you want to . The video explains well how to do this.  Follow the instructions on the site too and make sure you download the official version and read the information in the readme file which explains how to practise with this software. You can actually use JoytoKey to operate any programme and that might be helpful in some situations and certainly for accessibility.

One Note 2016

The new 2016 version of OneNote comes free now with Windows 10 which is a real bonus if you haven’t used it before but it has been stripped down to perform more like a tablet app rather than a fully functional version of what used to be a purchased piece of software. I own  OneNote 2007 and have used it a lot but it won’t work now the new free version is on my computer. I cannot find it and I cannot reload it. Windows 10 offers to repair or remove which isn’t a lot of help. End of complaint. I have just started to use the new OneNote because it is a very handy app for planning and organising and it does help me to set things out clearly and logically so that I have all the information, pictures, resource links and ideas together in one place. If you don’t know it , give it a try.  You can add Onetastic or just Onecalendar which increase the functionality of OneNote.  They too are free. The Microsoft OneNote site gives more information.

P.S. It is 2 hours later and since I wrote this post my 2007 version of OneNote now can open and access the numerous  .one files I had saved. Now I have the benefit of both worlds and thank Windows 10 for hearing my thoughts and taking action.

Between games

myplaycityIt has been a long time since I have been between games , so currently I am learning again that games teach you a lot about life, how you think and literally force you to lift your game. I have been a bit of a games tragic looking for new games to play but it has been funny and a wake up call. If something is teaching me I need to be more alert, I pay attention. Last week my favourite game HayDay managed to lose 40 diamonds. You can gather some during the game but you also pay real money for them. 40 diamonds is a lot. It happened last year and I lost 10 which I wasn’t happy about , but I could make that up. 40 is more serious and has spoiled a safe gaming area for me. Having googled, there doesn’t seem to be a way of addressing it  so I am not playing the game. I had no sooner lost my diamonds than I was recommended Stardew Valley, an indie farming game, and I looked it up on the iPad. What is there in the app store is not the game at all. Neither of them were the farming game and represent a false image of what they are. So now I have learned not to trust the app store. I shall only download apps which are free, have reviews and then see. If I want to pay later then that is fair. So first lesson between games is to be ready for the pitfalls. I went to MyPlayCity because I always got games from there before and they were a site which really helped me to find the games I liked. It was also a site which helped me learn how to play games. They have hundreds of games to choose from which you can play online or download and try properly. I downloaded Farmfrenzy3 and found out I can’t farm in a frenzy. It was such a different approach. MyPlayCity was restarting the game for me to try to get me to remember what I was supposed to be doing. I found out I couldn’t hold a lion in a cage , farm, collect and produce at the same time. I went back to my iPad and tried a Sherlock Holmes hidden object game and in 5 minutes I couldn’t find much, lost all my points to randomly stabbing the screen because it has penalty points and then decided I just was not able to concentrate properly on that game. It requires a high level of attention. Every game works on different personal skills and attributes. Every game wakes up your skills and thinking. I then tried Farmscapes and I quite like the mix of reading, doing and match 3 gaming to get money to buy things. I realise this game is making me use things I have learned before but in a way so that I am in control and calling up the things I have learned in games before. I am about to go and download Stardew Valley  from Steam because it has a strong community, support and is a game which people seem to love. I have to pay for it but the Steam site, which is a great gaming site with good graphics, also has free games to try and games which have tiny prices. I am enjoying exploring all the different games again because they are all challenging my thinking.

Android TV

Do I need Android TV? I don’t know. Do you? I don’t know that either. We do , at least, need to know what it is and does and how much it costs and why it’s there. We know about smart TVs , Apple TV and Chromecast more or less. The video presenter calls my TV a dumb TV. I don’t. It’s what I want. My Blu Ray accesses the internet if I want it to, but I have a computer hooked up to my flatscreen and access the internet comprehensively that way. Easy because I am using a keyboard. That is what I keep saying. Devices now can do what you want. Not what the world tells you you want. Each to their own and we can select the devices and connectivity we want for  our life and lifestyle. Back to my point. Android TV. What is it? It runs off a box like Apple TV. You can play Android games if you want to and you can access things like Netflix and downloadable content. recombu gives a really good overview of what Android TV does so that you can decide if it’s worth investigating more or not. If you add that information to the information from the video, you are in a much better position to decide whether Android TV is a good choice for you or not.

Habitica

habiticaI  lost 3 mana points just by being there this morning. The red bar is health, the yellow experience and the mana is blue. It was a new bar which came up when I went up a level and I was just doing my usual of checking things off and getting things set up for the day and boom! 3   mana points gone. I shall try and work it out myself , if not, the Habitica help guild is very prompt in getting a reply back if you need help. I have been on Habitica just over a week and there is plenty to do and learn. In my last post I said I would trial it for a month. I have learned a lot in a week and can only expect to be so much more in control by the end of a month. That’s the thing. You have to give new apps and sites an opportunity to allow you to learn before you make any real judgements. I have found I have distinguished between what I want to form as habits as opposed to those things I want as a daily routine. I have then been able to add the things I want to do each day and this site is stopping me from doing things and not acknowledging them. I put everything on there and so I notice what I am actually doing. I don’t do things and then wonder where all my energy has gone. I took a look at the guilds and they are really impressive in their breadth of interest so that like minded people can encourage each other. I was really pleased to see one for Duolingo because it’s an app I have recommended, one I use and one we used to use in class. The guilds really do cover some interesting topics. I worked out how to grow 3 pets and feed them and how to create my avatar picture. I keep looking at those little pixilated pictures and thinking they would make cute little cross stitches. So the plan is to find out about mana and how it works. I have put it on my to do list. I have always been organised but Habitica is enabling a clearer version of my organisational skills. I’d like another list where I could put a wish list of things I want to complete but am waiting for the right time or equipment or whatever. You can put checklists under the main headings and so on. With  a wish list you’d have time to work out what you needed to do in order to achieve that wish. It would be like forward planning. As it stands I do that in my paper journal . The gaming aspect of Habitica isn’t something which appeals to me at the moment or something which will encourage me to do better. It certainly has some real pulling power with others, though,  and you can see that on the site. They do involve themselves in the gaming aspect of the site and love it. It does help them to do better and improve.

Help from home

help from homeHelp from home is a site you will want to visit if you like to help organisations and charities in different ways. Projects are listed under helpful headings and you can have a look at what’s on offer and consider whether you want to participate. Once you get the hang of the site you can use their tools to set up micro projects of your own which would help others. Great initiative and a good way of helping yourself help others. It is a site which has been globally recognised with awards for a number of years. It has had the sense to create an approach whereby you can develop your own skills and see that as you are helping others.  You can find them on Twitter @helpfromhome or on Facebook.

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