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.

MeisterTask

MeisterTask is a free project management tool which runs across all devices and so you are never limited as to when or where you can use it. It is also a tool where you can gather your own ideas and collaborate with others if you want to . Its closest competitors are Trello and Asana. It will import data from both of those. I use Trello frequently and haven’t yet tried importing anything into MeisterTask  because I have only just discovered it! The user interface is intuitive and well thought out. It is easy to follow, clear and the screen remains uncluttered. You know where your main tasks are, your checklists and then any comments you wished to add. It is an effective project management tool for anyone who has a specific task in mind . You can plan it out properly so that you can see all the steps from the first ideas, the ideas in progress and then a list of what you have already completed. All of that at a glance. You have to be able to easily identify the tasks you need to complete  and then put them through a clear process which you can see and MeisterTask does that for you. I really like it so far because there is a clarity there which I like and a process which I have adapted to quickly. There is a detailed review of it on projectmanagement.com.

 

 

Printable minis

printable minisSmall Stuff is a site dedicated to producing printable versions of miniature items so people can decorate and construct tiny things and tiny doll’s house scale miniatures. There are lots of resources on the site and it’s a place to find those sorts of tiny things but it is also a site to which you could contribute if you are interested.

Declutter your desktop

Rachel is a busy woman and so she likes to follow the current minimalist trend of keeping her computing and phone life uncluttered. She has made a series of clips to take you through her choices for decluttering her life in the digital world and they make sense. It is so easy to become swamped and overwhelmed with what ends up on your phone and your laptop just so you can keep going. From time to time it’s good to look at a video like Rachel’s to remind yourself of basic decluttering principles and to get some good tips.

Habitica

I have had the Habitica app on my iPad for quite a while and hadn’t got around to using it. I loaded it up today and thought, no, no, I don’t like this. I looked up the online site up on my computer and it looks so much better, I can follow it better and I have some chance of deciding whether this is for me or not. Another negative , though, probably not. Do I need to gamify my life and todo lists? Maybe.habitica Will it motivate me better? Don’t think so. I think it will create a layer of stress. I am willing to try, though, and find out whether this is for me or not. I really like how you can set the goals up under headings and then look at how you are achieving. That is excellent. Often you write up lists and todos and you get no reward for what you are doing and then you don’t pay a lot of attention to what you are actually achieving. Habitica makes you notice. I think the gaming aspect of it would really suit younger people and the video certainly attests to that. Habitica does allow you to look at your life in a logical fashion and work towards achieving what you want to achieve. Gamifyng your life is probably a good thing if it is getting you places. I am going to try it for a month and then see what I think. There are certainly plenty of videos to help me along the way. If nothing else Habitica has made me notice that dealing with my emails is an achievement.

Customise Windows 10 Lock screen

Lock screen Windows 10So why hadn’t I worked this out before? I hated that picture of the rocks and bit of ocean. The lavender field they changed it to wasn’t so bad. I have now customised my Windows 10 lock screen to one of my own images. It’s easy.

Click on the start button bottom left.

Select settings

Select Personalisation

Select Lock screen in the left hand column

Select Picture in the drop down menu under the picture of your lock screen

Select one of Windows 10’s pictures or browse for one of your own.

Done.

 

 

Hay Day

Hay DayIt’s been a little while since I posted about Hay Day. So how’s it going? Pretty well, really. I bought 3 new horses which meant I had to put in a new stable. Surprisingly, it fit in without too much trouble or over crowding. I don’t need or want different farm layouts. I need more space. I really wish the developers would consider land releases along with all the other lovely releases they have considered recently. The game has become more user friendly in that the developers canvas opinion and work with some of that. With all the new trees and crops it really is getting squishy and not at all aesthetically pleasing. The developers really need to swot up on the current decluttering lifestyle trends and work with us and the times. I have developed all the areas as far as I can . There are no choices for decorating the fishing area and the town is decorated to the hilt. I even have harps on the beach front and my fantastic New Year fireworks item which I was given for participating in one of the  competitions. The graphics on that are so well done and it’s such fun. I can’t believe I am up to level 77. I still remember struggling so hard through the first 14 levels thinking I’d never make it anywhere. Persistence is really encouraged in this game. Every level brings new challenges and new ways of thinking. It is extraordinary how ,when you go to the next level, things change and you suddenly have to reformat your thinking and way of operating or you won’t succeed. You can go from something as simple as having too many eggs to constantly running out. Fortunately, there are plenty of egg people in the brochure. The same cannot be said for most other items. There is still a dearth of variety in the brochures and it seems hard for players to understand if there is no variety we all bottleneck and can’t move forward. When I sell things I put  a variety in the shop and it vanishes quickly . I help others  to expand their farms and fill their river boats and trucks. Then there is always the thing. That thing which becomes a nemesis in your life and the brochure. It used to be chilli popcorn. No one wanted it and no one needed it but it was always there in the brochure. Then it was the pretty red cloche hats. You could never get rid of them. Now it’s tofu hot dogs and who’s surprised about that one? It is interesting how people deal with that. Part of the game is that after a while Greg or Tom will always buy something you can’t sell so some people put in 10 chilli popcorn or 10 cloche hats or 10 tofu hot dogs. That is taking the battle back to the developers. Right now we have a surfeit of map pieces as well and who knows why that is? No one can get rid of them. Why?

Media Literacy

Don't bring me your problemsClassic classroom content override. I have now watched all the videos by Miguel Carrasco. I’ll write another post about that but meanwhile there is this one which came about because Miguel Carrasco was showing us how to get ideas for content and then popped onto someone’s Facebook page and there was the quote: “Don’t bring me your problems . Bring me two solutions.” . I was listening to Miguel Carrasco talking but my mind had gone off on a tangent because of that quote. It made me think of how I operated in a classroom with technology. It was standard practice for me to say to students:

“If you are having trouble, tell me what you have tried to do yourself and if you are still stuck, I’ll try and help you…or we’ll all try and help you. Have a go yourself first with your ideas. ”

When it came to research on anything I’d come into class with 20 minutes of teaching on good and helpful sites to get them started and on the right track and then we had the open invitation that if you had a good site too , you’d let me know and I’d put that into the list of resources on the LMS. Team effort on good research but as the teacher I shone the light on the path. Students also got into the habit of messaging me on the LMS to send me links at any time so I could add to those shared resources. Parents could enter that research arena because we blogged a lot of what we were doing. Based on their knowledge and experience they could come in with other information and links. It was always growing and pointing us in the right direction for good learning and reliable information.

Image: dreamstime

I  appliinformation supported the classroom tenet to myself. There were occasionally days where I had to walk in and say:

“I have tried to find some good examples of …. and I have looked here and I have looked there and the best I can do is this…”

I would go through my information and then we’d spend 10-15 minutes to see what the students could come up with that was better and then put that on the shared resources. Students had input into worthwhile content and reliable resources.

We learned from each other.

Dana Boyd has written a long and interesting article Did Media Literacy Backfire? It is worth the read because it looks at how we are bombarded with information and misinformation and how we may be trying to deal with that. On any given day everything is coming at us: news, fake news, distractions, red herrings, information and misinformation. We have to stay in control of that and we have to teach others how to stay in control of that. So we need to be coming at it from a solutions point of view and not a problems one. If we see it all as a problem we’ll collapse under the weight of what is headed in our direction. We need to step back and have a plan of how we deal with this and , in my book, networking and team effort wins.

Photo Collage

photo collageThis is a great free site for making a group of images look more interesting. It helps you with the design process so that you can create images which are more individual and more aesthetic. it’s not just for collages though. There is a suite of tools which will help make your images look better and things like the built in screenshot taker. It allows you to have access to some good tools to create interesting images. I found it very easy to use when I was making my  new Facebook cover. Just a reminder:

Facebook cover :  851 x 315 pixels

Facebook  profile picture : 180 x 180 pixels

PhotoCollage runs in several European languages.  You select yours with the flag drop down menu.

 

Social Media Makeover

social media makeoverIt doesn’t matter whether you are a personal trainer, like Miguel Carrasco, an entrepreneur, an organisation, teacher, student or who you are. We all need to make the most of social media.  So far I have done two of these free tutorials which are offered and it was interesting to see that even Miguel Carrero takes a break from social media for a while to get a different perspective. We do live in a connected world. We are able to build up our connections if we want to. It is interesting that he recommends, that no matter what , you keep adding content. I  blogged a while ago about content being king. He might call himself the smart ass trainer but  he is well credentialed :

Miguel Carrasco is a 3x Elite Beachbody Coach. He is also the 3x Top Canadian Coach, 2x Top Male Coach, Executive Leader, and a member of the Millionaire’s Club. He has helped over 30 personally sponsored coaches reach the rank of Diamond or above, and has 5 of his own personally sponsored coaches in the Top 100 of the company.

Smart Ass Fitness Academy

There is nothing smart Alec about these tutorials. They are very good examples of agile thinking and a positive mindset.  Miguel talks you through the steps and ideas very carefully but with a lot if energy and enthusiasm. You learn because he is focused but personable. From the two tutorials I have already got a list of things I want to do and try.  It’s 2017 and we have a real world image and we need to ensure we build a strong online image too since so much of what we do can be accomplished online. One is not better than the other. They complement each other and it’s good to have a structured way of approaching your online presence.

New Year Resources

calendar template123newyear.com has everything you could possibly want by way of New Year resources. It has messages, traditions, calendars, monthly calendars, horoscopes, wallpapers. There are so many things to help you get your New Year off to a good start and know where to come when you are looking to plan New Year next year. This site helps you to keep track of and organise everything ! No more scrambling to find your things and ideas for the New Year.

Ready for 2017

PNew year 2017lenty to celebrate already with my blogging! WordPress just put up my 10 year anniversary celebration of blogging on WordPress. I started on Blogger in 2003 and this year I have had a chance to really focus on what I want to achieve through blogging. It is worth thinking about. It helps me clarify my ideas , get feedback, look at ideas and think about them. Blogging is always a journey of discovery and growth. The reflection and ideas building are intrinsic to blogging. My top post for the month and this year continues to be the MiniMac OS shortcuts.  That was a good find and helped me a lot at the time.

I found the 2017 Windows 10 desktop theme at winaero. I really like it and the graphics are very clear and well thought out.

I’d like to thank all my followers on WordPress, all the people who visit my site, all those who connect with me on Twitter from the tweets about the posts and those of you who just come and look. I get a lot of really helpful support and feedback which has enabled me to blog on.

I wish you all a really happy , positive and productive New Year.
wordpress10years

20 apps for New Year Resolutions

21thnextweb has reviewed 20 apps to help you keep control of any resolutions you want to make for 2017. The apps will help you to achieve whatever it is you want to do . In fact, if you look at the apps you will see they will help motivate you to have ideas about achieving things you want to do. I had only looked at the first one and setting myself a 21 day challenge is the sort of thing I respond to well. To have an app to customise my challenge is a bonus. A lot of them are goal setting apps but it is how they set that up which will determine whether you respond and the app helps you to achieve what you want. I like the look of the MindBloom app.  I shall take a closer look at that.

Say Christmas in different languages

We need a good YouTube clip or web page where we can find how you actually say Merry Christmas in different languages. There are clips where some of the languages are used but they go too fast and have no text. Not good if you are trying to learn how to say something. I have picked a clip which goes slowly enough so that you can actually see what is written and try to pronounce it yourself. There are also plenty of web pages where you can find the lists for different languages but no sound files. Net needs to get onto this so we can all meet each other half way. WhyChristmas.com has a good list of how to say Merry Christmas in different languages and they have backed it up with cultural exploration of the festivities in the different countries.

Star Wars Christmas

Just a bit of fun from the Salt Lake City Comic Con.

DIY Raspberry Pi Game Boy Zero

I am a bit like one of the commenters under this video clip. I love watching videos like this but don’t think I could make one myself. I am just fascinated by how people can do things like this and how they go about it. Who would have thought of using a Raspberry Pi board to make your own version of a Game Boy? It’s a hands on thinking challenge. It is problem solving and creative. It also draws in the knowledge of others. Wermy has put his video up on YouTube to show others what he has done and then others have come in with their comments as to how the build could be improved. And that’s how you learn something in 2016. You make, share, show others and get feedback. The feedback can be rude and unhelpful but often someone will suggest something to move your skills and thinking forward. A project  video like this becomes an online learning community so that in the end there will be the best DIY Raspberry Pi Game Boy Zero ever. Skills and ideas sharing can be done very effectively on YouTube by using videos and getting effective comments which further promote ideas and thinking. Project based learning is something which has high audience appeal as well as involving the learner because it naturally creates thinking and puzzling situations. Part Two finishes the project off with the wiring.

Are 3D printers eco friendly?

3D printers can be eco friendly and they can be energy efficient. Like most technology developments the early prototypes are energy and environmentally disastrous and then science and people get to work to create better , more efficient models. We don’t need more plastic which cannot be broken down or is toxic. We don’t need devices which burn up energy. We do not need devices which add small particles to the air we breathe. Since 2013 a lot of work has gone into 3D printers and their energy and environmental impact. If you want to look at the issues 3D printers can cause with the environment you can look at this post on LIVESCIENCE but the world has since been tackling some of these issues. 3D printers could save overall energy and environmental impact by printing locally and in smaller numbers to match need. There is a 3D printing pen which recycles plastic bottles. Quora has been discussing the environmental impact of 3D printing but it comes down to us as consumers to know what we are looking for. If you want to know the materials used in 3D printing they are explained here on 3DPrinterHelp. As with anything else we buy we need to look for the environmentally friendly, energy efficient models. We cannot do that unless we know what we are talking about.

Teachers being asked to teach porn literacy

protective behaviours

Image: Protective Behaviours

The porn industry relies on the compulsive attitude of people towards porn. It relies on exposure both literally and metaphorically. I haven’t missed the irony that if you ask teachers to address porn literacy in schools  because it would appear research suggests children are being damaged by exposure to porn, we are then allowing even more exposure. I understand why so many parents now are home schooling and world schooling their children. Both of those areas are growing. I was one of the few teachers who trained for the compulsory and urgent delivery of AIDS education in schools in South Australia. I went on to be one of the teachers delivering a 4 week sexually transmitted diseases prevention course to year 11s (16 year olds). We were required by law to deliver the AIDS education . The school I was in at the time then went on to create a one year life skills course to help teenagers deal with the real world issues and STD teaching was part of that. That was pre SACE. SACE had its own compulsory subjects like Australian Studies. We were all trained to deliver the AIDS and STD materials and curriculum. I had also trained as a trainer of trainers in protective behaviours.  I didn’t find delivering AIDS education difficult. It was something which parents and students at the time found very helpful. We did not just do it, though. For the  AIDS education we had no choice and parents knew that. The life skills course was something we discussed with parents so everyone had their input and say. If children are being exposed to porn we need to remember we have laws against it.  We need a really clear picture of how  young people are accessing it. If they are not doing safe searches then parental controls are not on. If they are by passing the  parental controls we need better ones. If they are accessing porn in someone else’s home or other venue it then comes back to our laws. If nobody cares much what images are on prime time, popular sites then we have a problem. It’s a big issue. Children need trusted adults to talk to about these matters. It should be their parents. If it can’t be their parents then there are counsellors available. If it is determined to be a really serious a problem which requires action then maybe some teachers should be specifically trained in porn literacy as I was in AIDS education and STD prevention.  Putting it in the curriculum only adds to the industry  exposure in the same way talking about food porn does.  We just keep using that word and we are normalising it and helpfully detracting from what appears to be quite a problem. The industry thrives on access. So I’d not be thinking about porn at all. I’d be looking at how to deal with the issues which have arisen . Given our laws, unless they change, we need to go back and look at what they say and start asking sites and individuals to please comply. Saying it’s everywhere and then putting it in schools is not my idea of how to solve it. Like AIDS education , though, it’s something where there can be a dialogue between parents and schools and then suitable courses developed if there is a perceived need for this.

If you want to read some of the discussions  , you can take  a look at  these sites:

Teaching Media Literacy and Combating Pornography – Catholic Education Resource Centre

Schools ‘should teach how to view porn’, sex forum says – BBC News

Should schools teach ‘porn literacy’  – Quibly

New Zealand Health Education 

Coder blogs

I really like this video by Chris Hawkes. He is a competent , successful coder who has taken time out of his busy schedule to take us on a walk and discuss his ideas about what he thinks the fundamental issues are with regard to contemporary coding . We can walk with him and listen to him unfold his thinking. Coding requires a very disciplined mind and thinking but it also requires a capacity to keep up to date. Chris Hawkes puts forward a very strong case for coders to be able to be efficient and capable researchers who share and discuss their knowledge. We no longer have the answers, the way, the method, the procedure. We live in 2016. We can’t just use Google a quick solution to something. We can’t spend our time reinventing the wheel . We need to have people who know how to get quality information which will move  a project and thinking forward. People need skillsets and knowledge but they need to be able to quickly update their capacity to function now, today. Coders have communities to build their skills and knowledge. They learn to connect , share and problem solve. Nobody can know everything any more and one thing will suddenly become obsolete. Programmers need to be able to learn on their own and they need to now how to do quality research and find things out. They need to be interested, self directed and lifelong learners. Communities develop best practices and share their updated knowledge and tackle trouble shooting and problem solving . It takes teamwork to solve complex problems. Coders are sharing their knowledge in lots of ways. Huffington Post published 25 best coder blogs. Makeuseof has recommended 7 coder blogs for student programmers. One of my favourite coder blogs is codercoach because Kristi Pollard (Stanton), RHIT, CCS, CPC, CIRCC gives such a personal insight into coding , the life of a coder and issues with coding.

Blue Mail for Android

Yesterday I downloaded and installed the free  Blue Mail app as an email client on my  Android phone. Until now I haven’t needed an email client. Why do I need one now? I have mail notifications I need to keep up with and prioritise. I don’t want to spend my time on my desktop trawling through emails and then decided which ones I need to respond to. Using my phone means I can respond straight away and quickly if I need to or just read and delete. It’s about getting the updates I need and quickly dismissing what I don’t need. Blue Mail installed quickly on my phone and picked up the email address I wanted effectively. it is then very easy to use and manage. YouTube has plenty of training clips if you want to be able to use all the functions properly and if you want to run multiple email accounts from email. At this stage I haven’t organised the multiple accounts. I need to get used to the app first. The is a review of Blue Mail on techrounder  and it really has had some good reviews. There is also a technical review as to why someone decided to forgo Blue Mail. It was written in 2014, updated in 2015,  and so, by now, perhaps the issue might be resolved. You can read a copy of Blue Mail’s privacy statement.  At this stage I have had no issues and the advantages have been immediate.

Colour your world

 

PANTONE 15-0343 Greenery is the colour of the year for 2017. Pantone is  one of the significant industry standards for colours and colour integrity. They are there to make money, yes, but they are also there to set standards, create ideas, inspire design in a visual world and all of that is important with technology. It’s not just about fashion. It’s about film, user interfaces, video software, gaming.  Just think about it. How much of our technological world is determined by our visual experience and much of that is related to authentic colour and the use of colour? The Pantone matching system is here on cal-print.com.  Printed colours and digital colours are not identical. Colour charts can be used to get the best match . Mixedmedia has some troubleshooting guides. Even engineers and scientists should worry about colour and there is a good research paper about that here by Rogowitz and Treinish at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Center. Colour matters in a visual world.

Right age for a mobile phone

This is hard. I was at a meeting the other day and one of the people was saying a six year old in his family wanted a mobile phone for Christmas. Wanting and having are two different things. The family decision was no. We were talking about it , though, and it is a hard decision for parents to make these days. The everyone else has one argument has been there forever no matter what the item. It’s not a reason to give someone something. Mobile phones can be costly, they can open a child up to the internet, they can open a child up to cyber bullying, media images and content. it seems to me safety is one of the strongest reasons for a child to have a mobile phone , that and the convenience of communication when parents have to run around meeting work commitments and then family commitments. As we talked we more or less came to the consensus that upper primary was probably okay – 12/13 years of age. It really does depend on the child and family. Commonsensemedia has a series of questions you can ask which might help you decide. Parenting has a rational discussion about it with some helpful things which can be considered. Canstarblue also has some important points for consideration. Ownfone puts the risks in a nutshell for you because that is the thing which is the deciding factor…do the benefits outweigh the risks?

The internet uses a lot of energy

 

 

green energyIn more ways than one. There is the CO2 footprint and then the footprints all over our daily living and lives. It needs to be managed both physically and psychologically. The video looks at how they are trying to manage data centres so they are more energy efficient and the reasons why they are energy intensive. That way you understand some of the issues and mechanics behind internet energy use. Some big companies are investing in 100% renewable energy for their internet output so they are not dependent on the finite and dated fossil fuel energy. The carbon use infographic  from climatecare gives a lot of useful information about our internet energy use.

…the carbon output of hitting “send” on 65 mails is on par with driving an average-sized car a kilometre (0.6 of a mile)…

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-11-carbon-footprint-email.html#jCp

Enerdata has an informative interactive map showing the increasing use of energy in the world.  China is currently at the top of the list. You can also look at CO2 emissions and China is top again. As you look at the top 10 countries you can see there is quite a difference in energy use between the top five and the next five. This particular site offers a great deal of information about world energy use and also offers a daily update. Technology is increasing energy consumption and in a connected world the answer is not going to be using less. It is going to be about using renewables and creating technologies which are less energy demanding. Those ideas are already being implemented and worked on. We need to be mindful of that and encourage ourselves and others to keep coming up with better, more energy efficient ways of using technology. Stopping spam emails would be a good start!!

 

Moving forward on Instagram

Instagram Best NineBack in March I blogged about being an Instagram tragic.  I had signed up to Instagram at the end of last year and then the life events were so big I had no time to get going . I had 6 followers in March. Bit sad, but still, I have moved on. I wasn’t totally useless. The time between signing up and March had been spent getting Instagram on my phone and tablet and finding good people to follow so that my feed was positive and inspiring. I certainly did not fail in that and the daily input from Instagram was, and still is, very uplifting and motivating. Today I have 178 followers which is not a bad improvement and is evidence you just have to be there and participate to grow your social media following. Many of my followers are local and I get input from them which has made Adelaide look and sound very different. I have got to know the benefits of my local area so much better. A number of followers are very creative, artistic people and that is something which has a good impact on me, my life and my thinking. Others are design and tech experts and their ideas are worth seeing. A lot of my followers are from overseas and that keeps me in perspective , is good for my languages and allows me to look at things differently. One of the people I follow and who follows me back put up a picture of their best nine  images for 2016. I have chased that down and you can get your best  nine images from 2016bestnine. It is quick and easy. For me the pinks have it. It’s amazing how many of those pictures are pink. I am laughing that unfinished things are more valuable on Instagram than the finished things. I got more likes for my poor unfinished Hallowe’en cat with just its head than I did for the cat itself. I got more likes for the piles of handspun wool than I did for the beanie I actually made with it. That’s the thing. Instagram really is a good way to document the stages of a project . Instagram also values works in progress because it’s a site which supports learning , creativity, process and development of ideas. That is one of the biggest advantages of Instagram. There is a community which will encourage you to develop ideas and get them into practice. I was also pleased to see the picture of when I left my home to go to my first Living Smart SA course at McLaren Vale. Instagram was there appreciating the fact I was doing something new, worthwhile and which centred on learning.  The nine pictures tell me what I  have achieved on Instagram but also give me an opportunity to reflect. There is what you think and what the world thinks. There is you and your interests and then what the world is interested in. Instagram gives you a way of calibrating yourself and your ideas but it also gives you a way of documenting what you value and what you are learning. Will I make changes now based on the best nine? I have to look at all the other pictures I have put up and see if there is something I really value which others don’t. Does that mean I shouldn’t do it? Not at all. If I want to get those sorts of things  noticed then that forms a basis for social media learning.

Google sites

Google sites is free but there are education and business versions of it where you pay an annual fee. It can be used for intranets within an organisation or family websites. It could be used to build an e-port folio so you have a record of what you achieve with your reflection on those achievements. It has the templates and tools you need so that you don’t have to go looking for them. Google explain it here on their welcome page . The Google help forum gives you an insight into what is paid and not paid and discussions around Google Sites. There is a review of Google Sites on SuperWebsiteBuilder. Google Sites is another way of demonstrating growth and progress. Often people are so busy they think they are not achieving anything. If they can look back over blogs and websites they can see the growth because it has been documented along the way.

Gaming has gone up a level

 

I am not here to advertise Nintendo or Super Mario. I am using Super Mario as an example of where gaming has headed and the sort gaming growth which is occurring. If you do not game and aren’t a gamer you won’t be aware that gaming is now encouraging game making and development. Super Mario is a well known retro game which has held on to its popularity because, well, because it is Super Mario. It is now an iconic game which started as an arcade game on September 13th 1985. It’s  on the Nintendo 3D device and you can get the Super Mario Course Maker . Once you have made the courses you can upload them and other people can play them. Nintendo encourages players to do this. The Course maker runs like a game and so it unpacks things as you learn and it requires you to put in some basic time requirements so that you do learn. Games are now starting to encourage players to think about the games in a different light and to involve themselves in development. The recipe for success is sharing these levels . One of the tried and true methods of growing knowledge and learning on the internet. The video I have used on the post shows you that you can work on the music for the Super Mario games as well. This kind of approach to gaming is allowing those who want to become more involved in something they like and use their skills, brains and capabilities to improve and develop something. It really is interactive learning.

Steam Castle is ready for Christmas

Steam Castle

Had a lovely time decorating my computer for Christmas. It has a USB tree and lights, a little LED bling Christmas tree light which I have put in a frame, a cool glam candle holder made from perspex and glitter beads and then strings of gold beads on  top of the Steam Castle . The Christmas theme comes from themepack.me. It’s the Christmas Tree theme.

Kobo Reader on Windows 10

I have a Kobo e-reader which I like because it is small, exceptionally portable and  when you use the light for the screen it does not glare. I find that better for reading text. The dictionary function is excellent ,aKobo reader appnd, all in all , it suits me well. I had not connected it to my Steam Castle PC which has an OEM version of Windows 10 and a very nice one at that.  The e-reader started charging , updating and  was showing up on MyPC for about 10 minutes but then it vanished. No amount of turning things on and off worked. It seems to be a problem with Windows 10 having searched for that problem on Google. Except it is not. The Kobo e-reader works perfectly fine on Windows 10 . It just doesn’t show in MyPC. I downloaded the Kobo desktop app which picked up my e-reader for the amount of time it was showing on MyPC. Then I could do nothing other than browse the shop, sync the device and  look at my account.  There is , however, a Kobo universal reader app which you can download from the link on  The Digital Reader for Windows 10. I downloaded that. It comes up in the Start Menu as  Kobo eBooks so you have to be careful not to confuse it with the  Kobo desktop app which just comes up as Kobo. The app is very easy and cruisy. The interface is very clean and the menus top and bottom do everything. I could sync my e-reader, add new .pub and .pdf files, which I really wanted to do, and browse the shop. I can export files too to my desktop. It works very well and in a fuss free manner. Within 2 minutes of loading it I could navigate and use it. There is nothing mystical or troublesome about it. So, it didn’t matter that it was not showing in MyPC when I used the  free Kobo eBooks app from the Windows store.

Making an LED card

 

Paper circuits are all the go at the moment because they are fun for making light up cards. It is also a very straightforward and simple introduction to circuits and electronics. The video explains clearly the logic behind what you are doing and then you can see that it is not that hard to do. Copper tape, 3V batteries and little LED lights are not that hard to source and then making the card adds something creative and personal to the process. If you prefer written instructions you can find them here on  Hi-Low Tech .

Write a novel

Yes, write a novel. Just do it. Why not? The internet is full of great ideas, tools and information to get that novel written. I am writing this post by way of follow up to the Storyboard post. You really can do anything you want to these days. There is no way you are short of help, advice, tools, templates, tips. Everything is there to get you on the road to learning whatever you want. We live in a world where writers like Trevor Schmidt, Major Geek, is willing to just sit down for a few minutes and take the time to help you -anyone- to realise their dream and be a writer like him. You don’t have to sit and think about it . You can just start because the internet gives you so many ways of starting. That is all you have to do. Take the first step. Writerswrite has 5 top online tools to help you organise your writing. The Snowflake method is worth exploring a little more deeply because it is one of the most popular ways of getting yourself into writing these days.  It is a method which seems to be having a great deal of success. If you want some tools and templates then allindiewriters has some very good recommendations for you.

Send free e-cards

e-cardsImage: imaginaryecards

It’s that time of the year where you need choices in the e-card department. You can’t send what you sent last year and you may be stuck for other sites. Imaginaryecards.com has plenty of choices. How-to -geek has 9 other sites which it recommends for free e-cards. That is all I have to say. You need to go looking now to find the sites you like.

Write stories with Storybird

I have picked and education oriented video about Storybird because this blog has always had a strong education focus. Storybird, though, can be for anyone who wants to read or write stories and provides a lot of support to help you achieve your aim to be a writer. There are so many aspiring writers out there. So many who have an idea for a book or piece of writing. There is also room for artists on Storybird too because people want their books illustrated and don’t necessarily have the skills. It then becomes a collaborative site and a site where you can encourage yourself  and others to write if that is what you want to do. It provides incentives for you if you want to participate in that kind of approach and ,yes, there is a paid section where you can actually publish your writing and get a print or digital copy. The prices are more than reasonable. It is a site which will guide you through the process of getting your writing into reality. How many never get to that stage? Change is action. If you want to be a writer , you need to write. If you want use your imagination and write creatively then the site will probably help you. There are quite a few other YouTube videos about the site. Children have to be 13 to join but can join at a younger age with parental permission. Commonsense media has a review of the site. There is also a teacher review here. It is a platform for all readers, writers and artists, not just a site for young children.

Taming technology

Simplifying our use of technology really is a first world problem. We are spoiled for choice with technology , whether we are talking about hardware , software or services. In global terms we are not really overwhelmed by the weight of technology in our lives. Truly, others have far more demanding issues to confront on a daily basis. Nevertheless, there are people who are genuinely becoming stressed by the constant demands of technology and there are people who are being pushed to the wall by the constant requirement to be connected or to access technology. We really need to use our critical thinking skills when it comes to technology and the video sums it up as these 5 steps:

Formulate a question
Gather information
Apply information
Consider implications
Explore other points of view.

The website Inc probably sums up the increasing encroachment of technology on our time:

“After you’ve checked SMS, WhatsApp, voicemail, email, your second email account, Facebook messages, LinkedIn messages, Twitter mentions, Twitter DMs, Quora messages, snail mail, and Slack for the third time in a given day, you’ve lost the opportunity to actually, ya know, get anything done. Narrow down the number of communications media you use, and batch process the messages that arrive, to reclaim your day,” suggests VC Patrick Mathieson.

The whole post about simplifying our lives talks a lot of common sense and it will probably strike a chord with you as it did with me. The tips recommended for simplifying your life can apply just as easily to technology as life in general. You do need to set boundaries. You do need to have reasonable expectations of others. Why should they respond immediately to your SMS or email? How many sites can a person reasonably belong to and check in a working day and if they have dependant children or older parents ? How does it help to be connected? What are the things which trigger bad responses to connectivity? How many devices do you need to use and why? Can you do more on one device? Why can’t you use the device of your choice? Have you explored the apps and sites which streamline your activities? Those are some questions to start your critical thinking.

I have been using my phone more because it is always with me. I have taken the time to learn its settings and I have improved how I do things on my phone. I check emails in the morning and again in the evening. I do not connect to emails on my phone. If I don’t want to be interrupted I turn the sound off. The pressure comes from the perception that technology is harassing you. When you feel like that and that your life is not your own you need to change the balance and make incremental changes until you reach that point where the balance of power is again in your favour. You have to change the point of critical mass until is flows your way according to your wishes. Popsugar has some nice ideas for simplifying tech use . Put the critical thinking time in so it works for you. We are lucky to have all this technology but it does need to be tamed.

Geocube

Geocube runs in English, Spanish, German and Italian. It would be good to get some more languages onto it because it is an amazing tool for learning geography. It makes good use of the visual and graphics capabilities of the internet and our current hardware . It presents material like a Rubrik’s cube. There are 54 pre-prepared topics and it really is a very appealing site. You need to play with it and see what it does.

2 x 2 Leadership Matrix

No claims to being able to explain the real mathematical import of a 2×2 matrix and its implications. There is, however,  work being done around 2×2 matrices for leadership. Even with a limited understanding of maths, the import of the 2×2 leadership matrix is worth exploring for its merit. A 2×2 matrix establishes the determinant of a matrix and is an inverted matrix which means it can reverse another function. It’s about balance and the relationships between the elements. Inverted matrixes can be used to decode or to help solve other mathematical functions. The argument for a 2×2 leadership matrix has been put forward by J.R. Bailey and it centres on the tension between good and great leadership and how that affects the power and impact of a leader . Leaders can be good or bad. They can be effective or not but to have vital, positive leadership the great leader needs to be held accountable by positive good leaders:

Great leadership is powerful, dominating, often overwhelming. It can sweep people along through sheer animation. Great leadership excites, energizes, and stimulates. It’s a rousing call, shocking complacency and inertia into action. It’s one of the most potent pulls in human history, and as such accounts for much of humanity’s progress, as well as its suffering. While it ignites collective action and stirs passion, its direction depends largely on those that wield its power. Great has no inherent moral compass, and thus its unpredictable potency can just as easily be put toward pugilistic and peaceful purposes.

Leadership is not a continuum. You can work on the skills but the outcomes are determined by the other elements of the matrix and how they operate. A very clear version of this is explained by Justin Bariso. The video about the 2×2 matrix on the Harvard Business Review site clarifies it further.

The key elements of leadership are discussed on the onlinelivingblog. The three elements which would impact positively or negatively on the inherent relationships within the 2×2 matrix would be:

1. your own motivation
2. transparency
3. responsiveness

aitsl has the downloadable leadership reflection tools so that you can work on:

locate your current leadership practice
identify strengths and areas for development
view your developmental pathway
access targeted leadership resources to assist your professional growth.

The aistl interactive leadership profiles also give you an opportunity to mix and match different aspects of leadership so that you can work to strengths and positives and notice the weaker spots you have . It looks at relational and systemic impact so that engagement with others is broadened and enhanced. That contributes to vital leadership and one that is in balance with the 2×2 matrix. The matrix gives you a way of looking at leadership. aitsl gives you the tools to do something about itso that you engage with others. Leadership is not in a vacuum nor is it on a continuum. It is in a matrix and as you work on your skills you have to be mindful that the impact of others with determine the sort of leader you are. The corollary is also true: the impact of leadership is the responsibility of others and so it is always important to develop the skills of others. It’s a  dynamic state.

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