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31 March 2011

Wikipedia is 10 Years Old

I listened to a podcast episode from the BBC - formerly called Digital Planet, now called Click - which featured an interview with WIkipedia founder Jimmy Wales.  The program aired on 18 January 2011, and you can listen to the program at this link.

I learned some new facts about Wikipedia:

  • Only 20% of Wikipedia entries are  in English, the rest are in all the other languages of the world.
  • The impact of Wikipedia for us is convenience, in many languages it's the only encyclopedia - for instance Swahili now has 20,000 entries.  "As the next billion people come online, we want to make sure that they have access to information."
  • The Golden Rule for information posted on Wikipedia is "Can you site a source?  Where did you get the information you're posting here?"
  • Wikipedia is pushing to  improve the software that would allow non-Roman alphabet languages to make keyboard entries on the site.  For example, it's hard to type in Hindi on an English keyboard!
I began to dig a little on the web for links relating to this interview and discovered more:

"Once criticized as amateurism run amok, Wikipedia has become ingrained in the online world: it is consulted by millions of users when there is breaking news; its articles are frequently the first result when a search engine is used. This enhanced role has moved hand in hand with Wikipedia’s growing stability (some would say stagnation). With more than three million articles in English alone, there are fewer unexplored topics, and many of the most important articles have been edited thousands of times over a number of years." (The New York Times)

Read the New York Times' story about the Wikipedian in Residence program at the British Museum

A Wikipedian-in-Residence at the British Museum
Wikipedia and the British Museum are very similar institutions - "One has the artifacts and expertise, and the other has the online audience." (Liam Wyatt)

Find more statistics about  Wikipedia   on its page in Wikipedia.

30 March 2011

Comic Life

This is for the Middle Primary Class, who are going to explore a software called  Comic Life.

(Click on this picture to see it full size)

The videos below were made on a Mac, and in the first video the speaker says the software is "exclusively for Mac", but that is no longer true. The process of using the software is nearly the same on our Windows computers.

You can also drag-and-drop a picture from its file into the Comic Life frame, without using the file navigator in ComicLife.

24 March 2011


"Ever wish you could do a quick Google Search as quickly as you can say Google? Now you can! With Speechify you can access many online services and use Speech Input to search and shop. Search Google, Hulu, Amazon, Youtube, and many more!"

Read a review here at TechCrunch.  The extension requires that Chrome 11+ Beta be installed on your computer.

On the Google Chrome Blog, this post announced the new Beta release:

Talking to your computer (with HTML!)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 | 4:35 PM
Today, we’re updating the Chrome beta channel with a couple of new capabilities, especially for web developers. Fresh from the work that we’ve been doing with the HTML Speech Incubator Group, we’ve added support for the HTML speech input API. With this API, developers can give web apps the ability to transcribe your voice to text. When a web page uses this feature, you simply click on an icon and then speak into your computer’s microphone. The recorded audio is sent to speech servers for transcription, after which the text is typed out for you. Try it out yourself in this little demo. Today’s beta release also offers a sneak peek of GPU-accelerated 3D CSS, which allows developers to apply slick 3D effects to web page content using CSS.

Lastly, as mentioned in yesterday's blogpost, those of you on the beta channel will start seeing the brand new shiny Chrome icon on your desktops.

Stay tuned as we make all these updates widely available in the stable channel soon!

Correction (March 23, 2011): This beta release's Speech API implementation is a prototype of Google’s proposal to the HTML Speech Incubator Group. The title of the blogpost has been changed to reflect this. 

Ode to the Brain

The Symphony of Science is a musical project headed by John Boswell, designed to deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in musical form. Yesterday, the 9th video was added to their collection, "Ode to the Brain".

From the YouTube page:

 http://symphonyofscience.com "Ode to the Brain" is the ninth episode in the Symphony of Science music video series. series. Through the powerful words of scientists Carl Sagan, Robert Winston, Vilayanur Ramachandran, Jill Bolte Taylor, Bill Nye, and Oliver Sacks, it covers different aspects the brain including its evolution, neuron networks, folding, and more. 

The material sampled for this video comes from Carl Sagan's Cosmos, Jill Bolte Taylor's TED Talk, Vilayanur Ramachandran's TED Talk, Bill Nye's Brain episode, BBC's "The Human Body", Oliver Sachs' TED Talk, Discovery Channel's "Human Body: Pushing the Limits", and more.

Special thanks to everybody who's donated to keep the project alive and to those who helped track down the material used in this video.

To download and watch more videos visit http://symphonyofscience.com.

Here's the script from the video:

[Robert Winston]
It's amazing to consider that I'm holding in my hands
The place where someone once felt, thought, and loved
For centuries, scientists have been battling to understand
What this unappealing object is all about

[Vilayanur Ramachandran]
Here is this mass of jelly
You can hold in the palm of your hands
And it can contemplate the vastness of interstellar space

[Carl Sagan]
The brain has evolved from the inside out
It's structure reflects all the stages through which it has passed

[Jill Bolte Taylor]
Information in the form of energy
Streams in simultaneously
Through all of our sensory systems

And then it explodes into this enormous collage
Of what this present moment looks like
What it feels like
And what it sounds like

And then it explodes into this enormous collage
And in this moment we are perfect
We are whole and we are beautiful

[Robert Winston]
It appears rather gruesome
Wrinkled like a walnut, and with the consistency of mushroom

[Carl Sagan]
What we know is encoded in cells called neurons
And there are something like a hundred trillion neural connections
This intricate and marvelous network of neurons has been called
An enchanted loom

The neurons store sounds too, and snatches of music
Whole orchestras play inside our heads

20 million volumes worth of information
Is inside the heads of every one of us
The brain is a very big place
In a very small space

No longer at the mercy of the reptile brain
We can change ourselves
Think of the possibilities

[Bill Nye]
Think of your brain as a newspaper
Think of all the information it can store
But it doesn't take up too much room
Because it's folded

[Oliver Sacks]
We see with the eyes
But we see with the brain as well
And seeing with the brain
Is often called imagination


[Robert Winston]
It is the most mysterious part of the human body
And yet it dominates the way we live our adult lives
It is the brain 

"The goal of the project is to bring scientific knowledge and philosophy to the public, in a novel way, through the medium of music. Science and music are two passions of mine that I aim to combine, in a way that is intended to bring a meaningful message to listeners, while simultaneously providing an enjoyable musical experience. "(John Boswell)  His group has produced 6 full length videos.  You can see them all, and download them for free (and contribute to the project) at the Symphony of Science web site.

I wrote last May about 3 other Symphony of Science videos - click back and look again.

22 March 2011

Being persuasive about water

We had a great day yesterday in the Middle Primary Class.

A little background: In our last unit of inquiry, the class investigated water. Now we are looking into rights and responsibilities, and the class practiced their persuasive writing skills to create a variety of media to help people understand their rights and responsibilities regarding water. We had a whole day of "ICT". First, the students used our unit wiki to plan their writing, and decide on their media. Then, we held mini "workshops" for each media - comic strip, poster, webpage and magazine cover (for a "pretend magazine"). There was time before lunch to begin exploring the tools, and after lunch everyone set to work on their project.

Here's how they look on Flickr:

The web pages students made are here and here, and the Bubblr creation is here.

Be sure to read the superb description of the day by Judy on the class blog, and find out what the next step in the project is.

The wiki guidelines for the project are here.

Reflecting at the end of the day, the class teacher and I both felt that what made this day a success was

  • having two teachers (the class teacher and the ICT integrator) in the room all day; 
  • having planned the process together (some in person and some remotely with email, Dropbox and the wiki);
  • sharing the planning step by step with the students, so that they could work at their own pace, on material of their choice, (plus they can go back to it at home if they wish, as it's all on the web);
  • each student having a laptop to work on, and already having some basic computer know-how. In a previous activity they had learned to take and save a screen shot.
As I prepared all this, I discovered that weebly.com has an education section, which let me create free accounts for the students. (Our wiki is a wikispaces.com for eduction account.) Bighugelabs also has an education provision. These provisions are very much appreciated!  

20 March 2011

20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web

Yesterday I wrote about MathBoard, a Chrome app is an example of HTML5.  Another page of HTML5 is Google's new book about the Internet: 20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web.

"How do browsers and the web actually work? What is HTML5—or HTML, for that matter? What do terms like “cookies” or “cloud computing” even mean? More practically, how can we keep ourselves safe from security threats like viruses when we’re online?" Read more about the book at the Official Google Blog)

Though the book "acts" like page-turning books on web pages we've come to love (like this one), that are built in Flash, the "20 Things" book is really a web page written in HTML5, JavaScript and CSS - there is no slow-loading Flash plugin.

Though the illustrations by Christoph Niemann might lead you to think this is a children's book - it isn't.

(Investigating Mr. Niemann's web links, I found this video. It is only tangentially connected to the subject of this post; I thought you would enjoy it.)

19 March 2011


In a Mashable post about HTML5,   I found MathBoard, from Pala Software. "MathBoard is a popular education app ... that helps students learn and practice their integers."

"MathBoard Addition is appropriate for all ages from kindergarten to elementary school where learning math can be a challenge. You can control the range of numbers you want to work with, the number of questions you want to answer and even assign a time limit per quiz. MathBoard Addition will make learning math fun. "

Mathboard is available as
a free Google Chrome App (addition only)
a paid Google Chrome app 3.99 US$ (Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Squares, Cubes and Square Roots)
for the iPad (US$ 4.99) (available in English, Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese)
software for Mac 10.6-6 or later

Here are two videos about the iPad version:

18 March 2011

Geek Pop 2011

"Geek Pop is a free online music festival featuring artists inspired by science. Every year, we bring together musicians from around the globe in a gleeful celebration of geek culture. You can find all the performances at the website or download them and listen to them at your leisure." Read more about the festival on this page.

Here's the map of the Geek Pop 2011 Music Festival.  On the website you click on the different stages, and then on the performers to listen to their songs, and download the free tracks. All the musicians are scientists (of one sort or another), and all of the songs are science-related (one way or another).

I've shared a few of my favorites from the 2011 Festival here.  There's lots more music on the website.

If you enjoy the music, you might want to subscribe to the Geek Pop Podcast, or have a look at the Geek Pop YouTube Channel.

15 March 2011

Nuclear Reactors in Japan

How does a nuclear reactor work?  What's happening to the reactors in Japan?  This video from the University of Nottingham explains the answers to these questions and others, very clearly.

"Following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, we discuss what is causing problems at the nuclear reactors in Fukushima."

If you're interested in chemistry, you can see more  videos on the Periodic Table of Videos YouTube channel and  at the website http://www.periodicvideos.com/

12 March 2011

Cool Tools for Writing

I was looking at the latest post on Ed Tech Ideas, Part 5 of the "Cool Tools for Writing" series.  You can  see them all by clicking these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.  There are several  interesting web sites to explore in each post, and you don't have to be a teacher to have fun with them.

Here are my favorites:
Zoo Burst
"ZooBurst is a digital storytelling tool that lets anyone easily create his or her own 3D pop-up books."

"StoryJumper is a site that gives parents, kids, and authors a fun set of intuitive tools for writing and illustrating kids stories. Our goal is to inspire anyone that's ever wanted to write a kids story to get started! Our StoryCreator is free to use, and gives everyone access to our basic art libraries for story creation, online sharing, and book publishing. You can order your books as professionally published hardbound volumes starting from $24.95."

Learn Something Every Day
There's nothing to do on this page, except to read and enjoy, and probably say, "I didn't know that!"
Screen shot of http://www.learnsomethingeveryday.co.uk/#/2011/03/05

Super  Sentence Machine
This is just one of the many small programs developed by Barking College which help children master different areas of the curriculum  On the web page, you can construct sentences by making choices of words.  From this link, you can download the Super Sentence Machine app to use on your own computer.  Be sure to browse through the other ages ranges and subject categories.

Screen shot from

08 March 2011

Learning German from YouTube

In my Group Resources for Languages email update this morning, this bookmark posted by Belinda Flint (a German Teacher in a Secondary School in Australia) caught my eye:

"One of my Yr 10 students made this grammar tutorial on Relative Pronouns without much guidance from me. This isn't a topic that I normally teach at Year 10 level so I'm very impressed!"

As someone who, rather unsuccessfully, has beentrying to learn German for years, I always look at a resource that gives the impression it will be easy!

"A presentation describing the use of relative pronouns in German (part one).
This presentation will teach you how to use and conjugate relative pronouns in the accusative, nominative and dative case.
You will also learn how to manage the word order in the relative clause, even when using the present perfect tense, modal verbs, werden and seperable verbs.
There are many examples and questions included.

Website referred to: http://www.nthuleen.com/teach/grammar/relpronexpl.html"

OK - German is not easy!

In the side bar on the YouTube page, another series from http://www.deutsch-online-lernen.com/ looked interesting simple!  You can watch their videos on the website.

05 March 2011

Ads Worth Spreading

Most of us are familiar with TED Talks. Perhaps you're like me, in that you never paid much attention to the advertisements in their videos. That's why I was surprised when I saw this:

"We want to nurture ads so good you choose to watch. On TED.com, ads run after our talks, not before. This means they can run longer than the TV-standard 30 seconds. And that's the key! In 2-3 minutes, there's enough time to really tell a story, share an idea, make an authentic human connection, become unforgettable. Instead of ambush, they offer pleasurable, intelligent engagement. We invite you to view, comment, rate -- and share!"

You can see all 10 winners at this page, but I'm sharing my favorites, below. See if you can figure out what company made the film, and what the message is.


Dulux Walls

"This 2 minute global film was shot by multi-award winning director Adam Berg over four weeks in Brazil, France, London and India. Every location is real and they remain transformed by a palette consisting of 120 different colours. The people in the film are not actors, they are real people who rolled up their sleeves to transform their community with colour."

The Clock is Ticking

The Infinite House

04 March 2011

What can you do with an iPhone?

"In October, (this band) had its instruments stolen. Fortunately they know how to improvise...)

"This video was filmed unannounced on Friday October 8, 2010 aboard the New York City B Train, over the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn and edited from 3 iPhone cameras. All footage is performed 100% live and executed in one take. "