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28 December 2011

Seeing and naming color

Robert Kosara wrote a  post on EagerEyes not long ago about the interaction/interface between color and language.  More specifically, "While color is a purely visual phenomenon, the way we see color is not only a matter of our visual systems. It is well known that we are faster in telling colors apart that have different names, but do the names determine the colors or the colors the names? Recent work shows that language has a stronger influence than previously thought."

He reviews research and litterature on this subject, including " Russian blues reveal effects of language on color discrimination".

This BBC video is also embedded in the post.

I'm posting this here, because our Middle Primary Class is investigating poetry in a unit of inquiry titled "The Eye and Voice of the Poet".  That means they're thinking about language, and choosing words, and enlarging their vocabulary.  If they were to consider poems about colors, would it matter what language the poem had been written in originally?  How would one translate a Russian poem about shades of blue into English, which might not have those words? Or a Japanese poem about willows into English without words for shades of green?

From http://thedoghousediaries.com/1406 Shared under CC: A N-C S license.
I urge you to click through and read the whole blog post on EagerEyes.

I investigated this a little further and found a fascinating page on Wikipedia:
"The English language makes a distinction between blue and green, but some languages do not. Of these, quite a number, mostly in Africa, do not distinguish blue from black either, while there are a handful of languages that do not distinguish blue from black but have a separate term for green.[1] Also, some languages treat light (often greenish) blue and dark blue as separate colors, rather than different variations of blue, while English does not." (Read the rest of this interesting article.)

You might want to explore the  user-named colors on this web site, ColourLovers.

I'll leave you with Ludwig von Drake -

Read more about this song at Wikipedia.

18 December 2011

Let it snow

Here's a chance for you to make the inside of your computer look just like it does outside your window, if you live in a place where it's been snowing.

A few weeks ago I wrote about a Google "Easter egg"* - Gravity - for you to play with.  Today, you can make it snow on your computer screen.   Open Google.com, type "let it snow" into the search bar, click the search button, and watch it start to snow on your screen.  And steam over....soon you can't see the search results...but, hmmm, just like on a real steamy window, you can use your mouse to rub away the steam and see the search results.  Or you can press the "Defrost" button.  Fortunately, the effect ends when you close the window, or type in a new search request.

This Easter egg also works on my iPad - it was more fun using my finger to wipe away the frost - just like a real window.
Screen shot

Thanks to Mashable for the heads up.

*"A virtual Easter egg is an intentional hidden message or an in-joke in a work such as a computer programweb pagevideo gamemovie,book or crossword... It draws a parallel with the custom of the Easter egg hunt observed in many Western nations as well as the last Russian imperial family's tradition of giving elaborately jeweled egg-shaped creations by Carl Fabergé which contained hidden surprises.[2]"(link)

16 December 2011

Capturing video at the speed of light — one trillion frames per second

More in our "Seeing the Unseeable" series 

Uploaded by on Dec 12, 2011
MIT Media Lab researchers have created a new imaging system that can acquire visual data at a rate of one trillion frames per second. That's fast enough to produce a slow-motion video of light traveling through objects. Video: Melanie Gonick.
Read more: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/trillion-fps-camera-1213.html
Project website: http://www.media.mit.edu/~raskar/trillionfps/

On the Project's web page, you'll find this video, and more explanations.

Uploaded by on Dec 11, 2011
We have built an imaging solution that allows us to visualize propagation of light at an effective rate of one trillion frames per second. Direct recording of light at such a frame rate with sufficient brightness is nearly impossible. We use an indirect 'stroboscopic' method that combines millions of repeated measurements by careful scanning in time and viewpoints.
The device has been developed by the MIT Media Lab's Camera Culture group in collaboration with Bawendi Lab in the Department of Chemistry at MIT. A laser pulse that lasts less than one trillionth of a second is used as a flash and the light returning from the scene is collected by a camera at a rate equivalent to roughly 1 trillion frames per second. However, due to very short exposure times (roughly one trillionth of a second) and a narrow field of view of the camera, the video is captured over several minutes by repeated and periodic sampling.
For more info visit http://raskar.info/trillionfps
Music: "Rising" by Kevin MacLeod (http://music.incompetech.com/royaltyfree2/Rising.mp3)

In a story in the New York Times about this project, John Markoff writes

"More than 70 years ago, the M.I.T. electrical engineer Harold (Doc) Edgerton began using strobe lights to create remarkable photographs: a bullet stopped in flight as it pierced an apple, the coronet created by the splash of a drop of milk...

"(In this current project) To create a movie of the event, the researchers record about 500 frames in just under a nanosecond, or a billionth of a second. Because each individual movie has a very narrow field of view, they repeat the process a number of times, scanning it vertically to build a complete scene that shows the beam moving from one end of the bottle, bouncing off the cap and then scattering back through the fluid. If a bullet were tracked in the same fashion moving through the same fluid, the resulting movie would last three years. 

" “You can think of it as slow motion,” Andreas Velten, a postdoctoral researcher who is a member of the design team, said during a recent technical presentation. “It is so much slow motion you can see the light itself move. This is the speed of light: there’s nothing in the universe that moves faster.”"

Read the whole story on the New York Times web page, and then watch the video below, pretending that each little sequence (egg, milk, apple, ketchup, water bottle, mellon, takes 3 years to watch...that's 18 years you're about to spend here....if you had started watching the day you were born, you would be out of secondary school (high school, gymnasium) before your the video had ended.


Thanks to Open Culture for the heads-up.

15 December 2011

Smashing mugs

Another in our series of "watching the un-see-able"

Several tea mugs get smashed in this video,  and there's good explanation about what fps means.  You'll be able to judge for yourself which speed you think is the most effective.  Be sure to watch until the very end - when the cat gets in the window.

I'm not sure I endorse his movie recommendation at the end for Primary students - but there are probably many other instances of slow motion in movies and TV that you see.  Do you notice them?  After watching this video, can you gauge how slow they are, or guess their fps?

And for the Middle Primary Class: what are the laws of motion in action in this video? Why do the mugs fall?  Why do they stop falling?  Why do they break? What kinds of energy do you see here?

12 December 2011

Europe’s dry autumn soils

This post is for ISOCS Junior Primary Class, which is investigating Water.  This year's unit will be different from last year's of course - different teacher, different children, and different weather.  There just isn't as much water around this year as there was last year.

I saw this post this morning from the European Space Agency, highlighting the lack of rain fall all across Europe this summer.
"7 December 2011
Dry soil resulting from Europe’s exceptionally warm and dry autumn is being monitored by ESA’s SMOS water mission. The images here show the stark comparison between soil moisture in November 2010 and November 2011.
Like the most of the year, this autumn has been particularly dry. In the Netherlands, for example, just 9 mm of rain fell in November, compared to the average of 82 mm. According to the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute KNMI, November was the driest since records began in 1906.
Prolonged dry weather in Germany is not only disrupting shipping in the Rhine and Elbe rivers, but has also recently sparked a forest fire in Bavaria.
The UK Environment Agency says that even if England experiences average rainfall over winter and spring, parts of the country are unlikely to see a full recovery from drought conditions in 2012...While these maps offer an interesting snapshot, the information is important for a better understanding of the water cycle and, in particular, the exchange processes between Earth’s surface and the atmosphere." Click here to read the whole story.  

I explored a little further for more about water, water levels, weather in Switzerland, and found these news stories (I'm focusing on Switzerland here, because that is where our Junior Primary Class is doing its first-hand research):
In April, there was already concern about the low levels of Swiss lakes:
"According to a report by the Swiss Federal Environment Office, the levels of the lakes in Biel, Murten and Neuchâtel are far lower than they should be for April. Lake Biel, for example, is about 40 centimetres shallower than normal, and ten centimetres lower than it was at its previous all-time low for an April 3rd, which was recorded in 1993." (link)

After the summer, the lack of water continues to be news:
"The extraordinary autumn dry spell is having a significant impact on transport, power generation, tourism and aquatic life in Switzerland.
"It’s not just the autumn, the beginning of the year was also historically dry, leading to a dramatic roll-on effect.

"Figures compiled by the national weather service MeteoSwiss show precipitation levels in western Switzerland and the Rhone valley for 2011 so far (January 1 to November 19) are the lowest since records began in 1864." (link)

Vowels Control Your Brain

This post is for the Middle Primary Class at ISOCS, which is investigating poetry.  Poetry is made of words and sounds, so I thought the class might be interested in the thoughts expressed in a blog post I read this morning:

A few days ago, Robert Kulrich of National Public Radio in the USA wrote a column titled "Vowels Control Your Brain". "Here's something you should know about yourself. Vowels control your brain...OK, here's the weird part.  When comparing words across language groups, says Stanford linguistics professor Dan Jurafsky, a curious pattern shows up: Words with front vowels ("I" and "E") tend to represent small, thin, light things.  Back vowels ("O" "U" and some "A"s ) show up in fat, heavy things...."  The post explores research about this idea, and gives some interesting examples. Click here to go to read the full story.  I think it's especially interesting when thinking about poetry.  What words would we choose to write about "thin light things"?  about "fat heavy things"?  Do your choices support the research described in Mr. Kulrich's blog post?

Screen shot from http://n.pr/rrLsj6

11 December 2011


This morning on  a Flowing Data blog post, I found this video:
Baroque.me: J.S. Bach - Cello Suite No. 1 - Prelude from Alexander Chen on Vimeo.
Baroque.me (2011) by Alexander Chen. Video capture. http://www.baroque.me visualizes the first Prelude from Bach's Cello Suites. Using the math behind string length and pitch, it came from a simple idea: what if all the notes were drawn as strings? Instead of a stream of classical notation on a page, this interactive project highlights the music's underlying structure and subtle shifts.

Grab and interact: http://www.baroque.me
More details at: http://blog.chenalexander.com/2011/baroque-bach-cello/

Built in: HTML5 Canvas, Javascript, SoundManager
Made while a resident at Eyebeam (http://eyebeam.org)


Of course, I clicked through to http://www.baroque.me  to see what "interact" means here.  As the page loads, it looks just like the video.  But if you grab one of the little white dots with your mouse you can drag it around, ruin the beautiful circle patterns the white dots are making, and totally mess up Bach's music.

Give it a try!

05 December 2011


The Senior Primary class at ISOCS is concentrating on learning to keyboard with 10 fingers, not much looking at the keyboard, and few errors...
I added a new typing game (Typing Tidepool) to the Keyboarding page on our Netvibes ICT site, and have grouped all the other posts about keyboarding on this blog at this link for you.

In our PC laptops at school, we're working with KeyBlaze Typing Tutor, a no-frills, serious sort of free software. Serious as in no story line, no songs, no animation.  Just keyboarding. Read the CNET review here.

Image from NCH Software 
My advice to the Seniors is:

  • Practice for a short time every day (10-15 min is enough)
  • Don't cheat yourself by looking at your fingers.  Learn the home position, and then use it.
  • Take as long as you need to perfect this skill.  It's like riding a bicycle:  once you've trained your fingers and your brain to work together, you will never forget how to do it.
  • Concentrate on the vowels and consonants.  Punctuation will vary from computer to computer, depending on where you live, where you bought it, what language you have it set on, etc.  Numbers will always need to be verified. Vowels and consonants are your basic writing tools.

30 November 2011

Using "Comic Life" by Plasq

The Middle Primary Class at ISOCS spent most of a happy day yesterday using Comic Life - a software program by Plasq - to retell the story of their trip to Technorama in Winterthur.  They had chosen the pictures they wanted to use from our pictures from the Flickr set, and drafted their writing beforehand, so when we opened the computers, the assembly process was pretty straight forward. You can read about the day on their class blog.

There were the usual confusions over saving, and exporting the finished pages as images.  Some of the students had used the program before, and some were new to it. Although it's fairly user-friendly, there are details and fine points that take a bit of practice to master.  We plan to use it again soon so we can master it.

Here are the pages we made (You can see them on Flickr, too):


27 November 2011

Incorrect laws of motion

We're coming to the end of our Force and Motion Unit of Inquiry in the Middle Primary Class. Here's a new video for the Middies, so they can check their understanding. Do you agree with what the speaker in the video is saying?

Text from the YouTube page:

Uploaded by  on Mar 10, 2011
Newton's Three Laws of Motion are a landmark achievement in physics. They describe how all objects move. Unfortunately most people do not really understand Newton's Laws because they have pre-existing ideas about the way the world works. This film is about those pre-existing ideas. By recognizing what people are thinking, it becomes easier to describe the correct scientific concepts of Newton's Three Laws and how they differ from this 'intuitive physics'.

I found this video on the Best Physics VIdeos playlist.

25 November 2011

Learning with mobile media

This morning I read a post on Teaching with Technology, by Ben Rimes, which outlined ideas for teaching and learning for teachers, but also ideas for parents.

Photo by Roger's Wife on Flickr
Under the heading "Supporting Your Child's Learning with Mobile Media", he suggests:
  • "Load up on digital content before a new topic or unit of study – If you can look at your student’s syllabus or assignments ahead of time for a class they’re taking, try to load up their mobile device with podcasts, videos, and other digital media that pertain to the topic coming up. You now have a digital handheld library of content that serves as a good starting point for reference.
  • Small “infobytes” can be just as helpful as longer content – Often all learner’s need are small pieces of information to help support their learning. Having longer pieces of media in the form of audio lectures and videos can be helpful, but often with a mobile device you just want a few minutes worth of an explanation or demonstration of a topic.
  • Capture learning moments all around you – A lot of learning takes place in the real world, away from the classroom. Many mobile devices have cameras and microphones built right in, so you can capture audio, still images, or video whenever you come across a “teachable” moment. Students can use it later for studying, sharing with their classmates, or just as a valuable reminder of application of their learning in the real world.
  • Play a little – When approaching the end of a unit or learning objective, students have much more to rely on when it comes to reviewing. Audio podcasts, videos, and apps are helpful, but increasingly games and other “play based” forms of review on websites and in mobile apps are playing a role in learning. Allow time for your child to play games and simulations related to the content on their mobile devices.
  • Know when to put the device down – Although mobile devices are everywhere, don’t let them dictate every aspect of learning. Sometimes it’s good to put down the devices, get your hands dirty, or communicate with others face to face. Make sure to balance time spent “plugged in” with time spent communicating and interacting with others without the mobile device."
ISOCS parents can follow our program of inquiry at this link, and can keep up to date about what's happening in each class room through our class blogs (links are in the side bar of this blog, under "ISOCS Class Blogs").  ISOCS keeps a list of bookmarks about iPad apps for Primary Students on Diigo. It is by no means complete, or exhaustive, but lists apps and information sites which seem to be appropriate for younger students as they are discovered by our staff.
Photo by nooccar on Flickr

Middle Primary Class at Technorama

As part of their unit of inquiry into force and motion, this week ISOCS Middle Primary Class visited Technorama in Winterthur - a huge, hands-on science experience.  The teachers had preped the trip during the summer, creating a map and a "passport" showing which of the hundreds of exhibits the students should visit.

All the photos are on Flickr, there's a post on the class blog, and here are snippets of  unedited video to give you more of an idea of the investigating that went on during our Technorama visit.

21 November 2011

Imagine a fantastic garden

Here's a quick Animoto video of our Junior Primary Class's trip to Bruno Weber's Sculpture Park in Zurich last week. Read all about the visit on their blog.

12 November 2011

"The elusive technological future"

I recommend this nearly hour-long video of John Naughton's keynote speech at the 2011 conference of the Association for Learning Technology to anyone interested or involved in using technology in education. The speech itself is only 30 min; the rest of the video is comments and questions, some of which evoke very interesting answers from Dr. Naughton.

Text from the YouTube page:
Uploaded by  on Nov 2, 2011
"The elusive technological future" Keynote speech by John Naughton, Professor of the Public Understanding of Technology at the Open University, at Thriving in a colder and more challenging climate, the 2011 conference of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT). Session given in Leeds, UK, on Thursday 8 September 2011 at 11.40. For information about ALT go tohttp://www.alt.ac.uk/. Made publicly available by ALT under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 2.0 UK: England and Wales licensehttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/uk/.

"...Whenever something new arrives, you have to ask yourself, 'What do we loose? What do we gain? Who benefits, and who looses?' from the adoption of this stuff..."

Towards the end of the video, Dr. Naughton makes a reference to the work of Michael Wesch. Here is one of his TED talks, TEDxKC - Michael Wesch - From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able:

Text from the YouTube page:
Uploaded by  on Oct 12, 2010
"TEDxKC talk synopsis: Today a new medium of communication emerges every time somebody creates a new web application. Yet these developments are not without disruption and peril. Familiar long-standing institutions, organizations and traditions disappear or transform beyond recognition. And while new media bring with them new possibilities for openness, transparency, engagement and participation, they also bring new possibilities for surveillance, manipulation, distraction and control. Critical thinking, the old mainstay of higher education, is no longer enough to prepare our youth for this world. We must create learning environments that inspire a way of being-in-the-world in which they can harness and leverage this new media environment as well as recognize and actively examine, question and even re-create the (increasingly digital) structures that shape our world..."

11 November 2011

Video Story Problems

I just found a Vimeo Channel of Story Problems, as in Math. Its "a collection of Video Story Problems created by students, teachers, and anyone looking to bring more of the 'real world' into their classroom through the use of video."

Brownie Video Problem from Sean Dardis on Vimeo.

Video Story Problem - Domino Estimation from Ben Rimes on Vimeo.
"I was volunteering in my daughter's kindergarten class while they had some free play time. I watched them start to build a pyramid, and wondered if they would have enough dominos to complete it. They only had a box full of 200 dominos to try and build the pyramid.

"I didn't want this to be a simple "count the dominos" problem, so I didn't provide any other numbers besides the pyramid being 6 layers of dominos high. You'll have to watch the video carefully and estimate to see if they can do it."

The Channel is the idea of Ben Rimes, who writes at The Tech Savy Educator. He's the K-12 Technology Coordinator for Mattawan Consolidated School District in Michigan

How would you make a video like these?  Do you have a good idea for a "story problem" ?

09 November 2011

How we see the IB Learner Profile

Inquiring into the Learner Profile from ISOCS on Vimeo.

The Middle Primary and Senior Primary classes at the International School of Central Switzerland inquired into the IB Learner Profile for their first unit of inquiry of the year. They share their learning, and reflect on their experience in this 20 minute film.

07 November 2011

Measuring Time

The Middle Primary Class at ISOCS is looking at measurement of time. Here's a video to help you understand Daylight Saving Time, or, perhaps,  to confuse you a little more! Switzerland went back to Standard Time a week ago.

Published on Oct 24, 2011 by 

If you want to read more about Daylight Saving Time, check out this web page.  The Wikipedia article is here.

If you want to be a little more confused, or perhaps not so confused, read about how the ancient Romans kept track of time on this web page.  This page has lots and lots of links to other pages about measuring time (It's an older web page, but most of the links still work).

Thanks (once again) to Richard Byrne for the link to the YouTube video.

06 November 2011

Google Gravity

For the Force and Motion crowd

Open Google.com, and enter the words "Google Gravity" in the search bar. Then click on "I'm feeling lucky" under the search bar. Watch what happens to your screen.  Is this really gravity at work?

If you can't make the above happen, click on http://mrdoob.com/projects/chromeexperiments/google_gravity/ instead, and the click on "I'm feeling lucky" as above.

Click on another open tab in your browser, and then come back to the Google page.  Watch what happens. Could there be wind in your computer?

05 November 2011


Another bit of Measurement.
Do you take naps?  Would you like to take them at school?  Do you have a regular pattern of naps? Check out all the information in this infographic. An infographic is

  • A way to visualise and give meaning to data using pictures, maps, diagrams, graphs, or other graphic elements.
How many ways are naps measured and described in this inforgraphic?
Shared with permission - even encouragement! by infographicarchive.com

04 November 2011

How much does the Internet weigh?

Another video about measurement for the Middle Primary students, who are probably not going to measure the amount of information they gain from this....

Text from the YouTube page:
Uploaded by  on Oct 29, 2011

02 November 2011

Why Parents Help Tweens Violate Facebook's 13+ Rule

Yesterday, Danah Boyd (Senior researcher, Microsoft Research and Research Assistant Professor, New York University) published an article in the Huffington Post titled "Why Parents Help Tweens Violate Facebook's 13+ Rule".

Ms.Boyd describes the well known statistics concerning children under 13 on Facebook, their relation to the US COPA law (the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act ) and the research she and her colleagues did about that data:

"My collaborators and I decided to focus on one core question: Does COPPA actually empower parents? In order to do so, we surveyed parents about their household practices with respect to social media and their attitudes towards age restrictions online. From a national sample of 1,007 U.S. parents who have children living with them between the ages of 10-14 conducted July 5-14, 2011, we found:
  • Although Facebook's minimum age is 13, parents of 13- and 14-year-olds report that, on average, their child joined Facebook at age 12.
  • Half (55%) of parents of 12-year-olds report their child has a Facebook account, and most (82%) of these parents knew when their child signed up. Most (76%) also assisted their 12-year old in creating the account.
  • A third (36%) of all parents surveyed reported that their child joined Facebook before the age of 13, and two-thirds of them (68%) helped their child create the account.
  • Half (53%) of parents surveyed think Facebook has a minimum age and a third (35%) of these parents think that this is a recommendation and not a requirement.
  • Most (78%) parents think it is acceptable for their child to violate minimum age restrictions on online services."

She points out that
"Rather than reinforcing or extending a legal regime that produces age-based restrictions which parents actively circumvent, we need to step back and rethink the underlying goals behind COPPA and develop new ways of achieving them. This begins with a public conversation about what it means to parent in a digital world."
She is writing from the US; her audience is mainly Americans who could be in touch with their law makers.  (In Britain, the site is banned for children under 13 under a voluntary "good practice code".)

Those of us outside the US are interested in this discussion because most of the websites we use with our students (and our own children) are based in the US, or another country which follows strict child protection laws.  Everyone's decisions affect all of us.  Read the whole article, which includes very interesting, graphic charts.

For more information on our findings and their implications for policy makers, see "Why Parents Help Their Children Lie to Facebook About Age: Unintended Consequences of the 'Children's Online Privacy Protection Act'" by danah boyd, Eszter Hargittai, Jason Schultz, and John Palfrey, published in First Monday.

You can read more about this issue at these web pages:
Should Kids Be Allowed on Facebook?
Facebook's 7.5 Million Underage Users Are Largely Unsupervised: Consumer Reports Survey
7.5 Million Facebook Users Are Below the Minimum Age

From The Huffington Post articleImage Credit: Tim Roe  
What do you think? Where do you fall on this chart? How does this discussion fit into the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child? A child has...
"...the right to love and understanding, preferably from parents and family, but from the government where these cannot help.
... the right to go to school for free, to play, and to have an equal chance to develop yourself and to learn to be responsible and useful. Your parents have special responsibilities for your education and guidance.
...(a child) should be taught peace, understanding, tolerance and friendship among all people."
(Taken from the Declaration of the Rights of the Child Plain Language Version)