September 2009


CCAttribution License http://www.wordle.net

CCAttribution License http://www.wordle.net

This image was created using the Web site
http://www.wordle.net

Thought the software behind this image, and the site itself, are not open source, the results you create are licensed using the Creative Commons Attribution License. You are free to use the image in any way you want.

The images are created on-the-fly and randomly based on text you paste into an on-screen form. Once the image is created, you can choose to modify it in several useful ways, you can get it redrawn with new color choices, fewer words, change case, orientation (vertical, horizontal, mix, anywhichway).

Make sure you capture the image(s) you like because it won’t necessarily be much like the next redraw. You can save the image to the Wordle site, and if you do, anybody else can make use of the image you saved. You can post the link which is automatically generated on site.

The text used to generate this image is the U.S. Declaration of Independence, but you can use any text you want, making it suitable for discussion starters in your classes. Paste in an article and get students to begin analysis of the importance of terms that appear. The bigger the word, the more times it occurs in the text.

Thanks to this site for making me aware of Wordle.net:
http://h30411.www3.hp.com/discussions/viewTopic/p/topicId/51053/Wordle.htm?messageBoardId=700&webPageId=1002100&order=Recently%20Updated&flags=&posterId=&viewSelect=&forum=Lesson+ideas+(6th-8th+grade)

Software patents are silly. A math statement, also known as an algorythm is an idea, not a physical piece of property. Tomorrow is a protest day. Join in.

Join in!

Join in!

http://stopsoftwarepatents.org/

Jono Bacon is a long time Linux activist from the United Kingdom and currently works for Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu. He is their community manager.

He has written a book about communities in the context of groups that share common goals like support for or development of open source software. The book has been recently published, and is currently on my to-be-read bookshelf (one sadly sagging from the weight of volumes there). However, Mr. Bacon has taken the extra step of getting his publisher to agree to an unusual thing. The book is also available for free.

http://www.jonobacon.org/2009/09/18/the-art-of-community-available-for-free-download/

Even if you are not a part of the writing or support of open source software, you may be reading this blog because you are part of the education community. You may also be part of the group MassCUE, for which this blog represents a special interest group. MassCUE is Massachusetts Computer Using Educators with a strong community.

Since you don’t have to pay for the book, you can certainly afford to read it. Go to it!

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in education, it is a household name, even if you only say the initials MIT. Everybody knows what university you mean.

If your undergrad or advanced degree were from MIT, you and your parents would be proud.

In the past few years, MIT has innovated once again by opening its courses to use on line. If you have the interest, you can “take” an MIT course without paying tuition. You won’t get a grade on a transcript, but you will get knowledge from a world class professor.

Now, a person has decided to document her effort to get education without the tuition. Lisa Chamberlin has an M.Ed, and now she wants to get a PhD but is going to see if it can be done in an unusual way, on line, outside the university walls, without the tuition.

She has just started. I intend to follow her blog as she progresses. I hope you will, too.

http://openphd.wordpress.com/

Additional Open Courseware links that might be interesting, if sometimes controversial:

In the years since 1974, when I started to get seriously involved with computers, there have been many programs that have met my needs. Many, if not most, have disappeared. That’s not a big surprise; the computers for which they were written are long gone, too. However, most of the programs have been replaced by newer and mostly better versions. My computing needs have been met nicely. I don’t use Applewriter any more, but OpenOffice.org does what is needed…quite well, thanks.

However, there have been really nice programs that have just dropped off the grid. Either the company that owned the copyright went out of business or the company was bought out and the new owner didn’t support it. The software was buried, abandoned, orphaned.

Maybe the software didn’t sell millions of copies. Maybe it was niche software that teachers used for a lesson or so, but didn’t get used all year long, making it hard to justify for lab set or site license purchases. Some of these programs also didn’t fit the standard curriculum sequences. They were definitely not drill-and-kill software, though.

I miss some of these programs, for sure. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Rocky’s Boots – a logic puzzle “game” my students really liked. The program allowed a student to explore some practice rooms and eventually construct logic “circuits” that caused a boot to kick a target object. Higher order thinking skills and some basic understanding of logic and even the fundamentals of computer logic circuits were the result. Good stuff.
  • The Factory – another high order thinking skills program challenged students to develop “products” through a sequence of punch and stripe “machines” in an assembly line.
  • Bannermania – In a time of dot matrix printers, getting good-looking signs wasn’t easy. Bannermania made wonderful banners, signs, posters in color (if you had it), and even worked very well on laser printers to make signs on overlapping pages that aligned easily.
  • HyperCard – the original card stack with hyperlinks programming environment. Apple Computer included it as part of the base software of early Macintosh computers. Students could easily create the buttons, connections to other cards and do their own graphics. We did a haunted house project that was loosely based on the “adventure” game idea. My students loved it. HyperStudio took over the educational market primarily because it added color and sound when Apple gave up on HyperCard development. Macintosh and Windows users can apparently get a freeware tool called HyperNext. (I’m going to check it out and will report on my experience…Have any of you used it?)

Do you have similar good memories of software we no longer have available?

What are the programs you used that you most miss today?

Wouldn’t it be great to have a modern version available?

Is this one of those opportunities that an open source software developer can take to fill a void?

One example of such an “adoption” is the creation of Pingus, an effective work-alike for the very popular Lemmings game.

What missing software tools would you like to see some developer create for education?

This post is really just a link to the good work done by someone else, but if  the link is new to you, then you deserve to know about it, right?

http://mashable.com/2009/09/07/web-apps-teachers/

Early information says that this is the Ebook Reader to watch.

http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/article6822723.ece

Basic and premium versions sound like they are scheduled for release by the end of 2009. The premium version sounds fantastic. Two touch screens that close to face each other and protect the screens, color, virtual keyboard on one of the screens, WiFi connectivity. More details need to be available, and I’ll probably want to hold one in my hands before I jump.

The basic model is slated for $150. If the premium model is under double that, it sounds like a winner.

Asus gave us an inexpensive, very portable netbook a couple of years ago. This sounds like the merging of netbook and ebook reader that will cover most of my needs, easy to carry, access to the Internet, ability to hold like a traditional book while reading the etext, and the ability to take notes in a more serious way with the integrated virtual keyboard.

I am really looking forward to getting my hands on one of these.

Can your imagining eye see your students carrying these around?

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