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30 November 2012

Be careful where you sing "Happy Birthday"

For the ISOCS Middle School students who have been, or are about to, investigate the concept of copyright in their Digital Fluency wiki.


Published on Nov 28, 2012 by 
You know how chain restaurants always sing some weird unknown birthday tune, instead of the actual Happy Birthday song we know and love? It's because "Happy Birthday To You" is protected by COPYRIGHT!!!! They are legally not allowed to sing it in public, and neither are you. Copyright was originally created for two reasons: to protect the original creators so they could benefit from their work AND have creative works enter the Public Domain. Unfortunately, the whole system has gotten out of whack with copyright extensions that extend far beyond the life of the creator. The current holder of the Happy Birthday copyright is the Warner Music Group and the original creators of the song stopped having birthdays a long time ago because they're dead. It makes you wonder if copyright law hasn't deviated a bit from it's original intentions. Or maybe you just shouldn't celebrate your birthday in a Red Lobster.

26 November 2012

Managing your ebooks

Our Middle School students at ISOCS have Galaxy Tabs, which, among other things, are great ebook readers.  (There's a page on our Android Tablet Wiki for ebook readers, with a section of where to find free ebooks. )

How does one manage a growing library of ebooks?   By using Calibre, a free and open source e-book library management application. It has a cornucopia of features divided into the following main categories:
Library Management
E-book conversion
Syncing to e-book reader devices
Downloading news from the web and converting it into e-book form
Comprehensive e-book viewer
Content server for online access to your book collection

There are versions for Windows, Mac, Linux and Portable (to carry on your USB memory stick)

Watch the grand tour demo at this link http://calibre-ebook.com/demo

In addition to keeping track of, and organizing your ebooks, Calibre is a superb tool for converting books from one file type to another. If you've found a book you want to read, but it's a .prc file (which the Kindle reader can read), but you want to read it on an iPad, Calibre will convert it to an epub file, which the iBooks app reads easily.

If you've loaned your tablet to your little brother so that he can play games (or Skype with his friend in Australia), you can read your ebook on your desktop computer with Calibre.

Once you have your ebooks organized, get your paper book library organized with LibraryThing.

A Slower Speed of Light

If you have a new-ish computer, like games, and are open to scinece-on-the-edge, then you'll be interested in MIT's new game,  A Slower Speed of Light.

As the player, you walk through a landscape collecting orbs.
"As the 100 orbs are collected, gamers increasingly experience counter-intuitive principles of traveling near the speed of light
  • The Doppler Effect – objects become more blue, red, or rainbow colored in accordance with the light spectrum
  • Length Contraction – objects warp and bend in space
  • The Searchlight Effect – “increased brightness in the direction of travel”
  • Runtime Effect – the ability to see the past through the light that is yet to hit the eyes of those in the future" (link)

The Game's home page describes it this way:
"A Slower Speed of Light is a first-person game prototype in which players navigate a 3D space while picking up orbs that reduce the speed of light in increments. Custom-built, open-source relativistic graphics code allows the speed of light in the game to approach the player's own maximum walking speed. 

Visual effects of special relativity gradually become apparent to the player, increasing the challenge of gameplay. These effects, rendered in realtime to vertex accuracy, include the Doppler effect (red- and blue-shifting of visible light, and the shifting of infrared and ultraviolet light into the visible spectrum); the searchlight effect (increased brightness in the direction of travel); time dilation (differences in the perceived passage of time from the player and the outside world); Lorentz transformation (warping of space at near-light speeds); and the runtime effect (the ability to see objects as they were in the past, due to the travel time of light). 

Players can choose to share their mastery and experience of the game through Twitter. A Slower Speed of Light combines accessible gameplay and a fantasy setting with theoretical and computational physics research to deliver an engaging and pedagogically rich experience."

Published on Oct 26, 2012 by 

Will it run on your computer?
"A Slower Speed of Light has been tested on computers with the configurations listed below.
 • Intel Core 2 Duo T9900 or Core i7 (2.8GHz clock speed) 
• Windows 7 and Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) 
• AMD Radeon HD 6970M/AMD Mobility Radeon HD 4850/Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT 
• 8GB RAM Some users have reported that the game may run on Windows XP and 2GB RAM. 

A known bug will crash the game on computers with some Intel graphics chipsets."

24 November 2012

Enhance Internet Accessibility

http://paulhami.edublogs.org/files/2012/11/Accessibility-Logo-1reyhxy.jpgThis morning a colleague showed me a website new to me, Free Resources from the Net for Every Learner. Click over to read the latest post, Make the Internet Accessible with Google Chrome, in which the author, Paul Hamilton, reviews 8 extensions, apps, and websites that enhance Internet accessibility with Google Chrome.

One of the featured apps is Read&Write for Google Docs.  Hamilton has also written a blog post about this app/Extension.

The Ig Nobel Prizes

This is for the ISOCS Middle School students who are working on their online Digital Information Fluency course.  If you investigate this link,   Ig Nobel Prizes, and listen to the podcast at this link, you will have a big hint about something in Module 2, Evaluating Web Resources.


23 November 2012

Brains, the Internet and Analogies

This video was shared on Art Ed 2.0 by Craig Roland:

Published on Nov 5, 2012 by 

BRAIN POWER: From Neurons to Networks is a 10-minute film and accompanying TED Book (ted.com/tedbooks) from award-winning Director Tiffany Shlain and her team at The Moxie Institute. Based on new research on how to best nurture children's brains from Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child and University of Washington's I-LABS, the film explores the parallels between a child's brain development and the development of the global brain of Internet, offering insights into the best ways to shape both. Made through a new crowd-sourcing creativity process the Moxie team calls "Cloud Filmmaking," Brain Power was created by putting into action the very ideas that the film is exploring: the connections between neurons, networks, and people around the world.

18 November 2012

Enigmatology, or How a Crossword Puzzle is Made

Do you like words?  Puzzles?  Language? Clues? Have you tried constructing a crossword puzzle?

  1. Decide which language your puzzle will be in (English, French, German, etc.)
  2. Decide on a theme for the puzzle, that all the words and clues will relate to in someway.
  3. Give your puzzle a name.
  4. Make a list of the words you want to use, and their clues.
  5.  Use this web page to create your puzzle. You'll see, there are several bits of information it asks for before you get to the words and clues part.  The first time you use this site, don't change anything except the paper size.  Change it to A4.

Here's a screen shot of a sample, made by a friend:

You could solve your puzzle online, or download and print a pdf file of it.

If you want to become a professional enigamtologist, read this page for help constructing puzzles.

16 November 2012

Optimal Potatoes

Published on Nov 15, 2012 by 

Spend some time with the other Vihart math videos.  Highly recommended!

14 November 2012

Hearing about Buddha and Mohammed

This morning LibriVox.org posted a new recording that might be useful for Mr. Harris' Class at  ISOCS as they investigate beliefs.

LibriVox is a site which provides free audiobooks. "Volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the net. Our goal is to make all public domain books available as free audio books."

The recording of A Treasury of Heroes and Heroines by Clayton Edwards includes stories about two figures of interest to our students:  Buddha and Mohammed. Files can be listened to on your computer, or downloaded to an mp3 player. (Check their How to listen page if you need help.)

image from Wikimedia
 01 - Buddha – 00:28:43 

image from Wikimedia
05 - Mohammed – 00:22:56 
[mp3@64kbps - 11.0MB]
[mp3@128kbps - 22.0MB]
[ogg vorbis - 11.6MB]
Read by Jeannie Tirado

Go to the LibriVox page for other stories,  links to the entire book, and the iTunes feed.  

13 November 2012

Aqua Alta

If you've been watching the news, you know that this past weekend's rains have also fallen on Venice, and connected with maximum tide, have flooded the 90% of the city.  Open Culture reminded me of a video we watched last year, when the Middle Primary Class investigated their community, their history, and how they meet the needs of their inhabitants.

Venice Backstage. How does Venice work? from Insula spa on Vimeo.

There are interesting pictures and videos of this weekend's Aqua Alta at France 24, annd a description of the barriers under construction in the Venice lagoon on Science2.0

Images from the City of Venice's webcams are all visible on this page, and if you want to keep an eye on the water level in Venice, go to this page.

12 November 2012

My Shoebox

This morning PetaPixal reviewed a new site/app called My Shoebox, which looks like a very useful tool for ISOCS Middle School students, who are creating Digital Portfolios, and looking for ways to send photos taken on their Android tablets to other applications or storage sites.  My Shoebox may be a good candidate for photo storage, because unlimited backup is free.  You can send photos from your Mac, PC, iOS and Android devices.

The site features
  • Secure Private Backup - Only you can access your photos. Your photos are stored with the same encryption used by banks. Nothing is ever shared without your explicit permission.
  • MyShoebox will automatically keep your photos backed up from your computer, phone and tablet. No external hard drives or manual syncing.
  • MyShoebox lets you access your entire photo collection from any device without taking up storage space.
  • By default, the  Android app waits until your phone is charging to backup full resolution photos.
How can this be free?
 "MyShoebox doesn’t limit its membership plans based on storage, but on resolution. Free accounts can store an unlimited number of JPG and PNG photos (RAW isn’t supported), but it limits the dimensions to 1024px and shrinks uploaded photos down if necessary. Pay $5 a month, and you’ll be able to store an unlimited number of max-res images — as long as they weigh in at under 20MB each."(Read more at PetaPixal)  

Which means that for free, you can look at all your pictures, display them on any digital device. Read more on the FAQ page.

I decided to test My Shoebox, to see if it would useful for our students. easy to use, and work as it promises. I created an account, and uploaded all the photos in my iPad: Here are some screen shots (taken on my PC):

Screen shot My Shoebox
 You can view, sort and search for your photos by "Events",
Screen shot My Shoebox
 Through time order,
Screen shot My Shoebox
 Click on Explore, and your photos will fill the screen.
Screen shot My Shoebox

Search by date,
Screen shot My Shoebox
 or by camera.
Screen shot My Shoebox
You can read more about MyShoebox, and the company behind it at TechCrunch. Be sure to watcch the video with one of the developers.

MyShoebox from Fidelity Format on Vimeo.

10 November 2012

Caught Mapping in 1940

  shared a video today on Open Culture which I pass on:

"...Chevrolet had a vested interest in glamorizing anything to do with four wheels, including the process that put maps in a supposedly adventurous, car-buying public’s hands. Caught Mapping (1940), like so many of the short, informative films the automotive giant engineered with director Jam Handy and “the cooperation of State Highway Departments,” has all the earmarks of its time..."(link)

Uploaded by  on Feb 12, 2012
"How road maps are drawn, field-checked and printed."
Public domain film from the Library of Congress Prelinger Archive, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and equalization.
"How road maps are drawn, field-checked and printed."
...In cartography, technology has continually changed in order to meet the demands of new generations of mapmakers and map users. The first maps were manually constructed with brushes and parchment; therefore, varied in quality and were limited in distribution. The advent of magnetic devices, such as the compass and much later, magnetic storage devices, allowed for the creation of far more accurate maps and the ability to store and manipulate them digitally.

Advances in mechanical devices such as the printing press, quadrant and vernier, allowed for the mass production of maps and the ability to make accurate reproductions from more accurate data. Optical technology, such as the telescope, sextant and other devices that use telescopes, allowed for accurate surveying of land and the ability of mapmakers and navigators to find their latitude by measuring angles to the North Star at night or the sun at noon.

Advances in photochemical technology, such as the lithographic and photochemical processes, have allowed for the creation of maps that have fine details, do not distort in shape and resist moisture and wear. This also eliminated the need for engraving, which further shortened the time it takes to make and reproduce maps.

Advances in electronic technology in the 20th century ushered in another revolution in cartography. Ready availability of computers and peripherals such as monitors, plotters, printers, scanners (remote and document) and analytic stereo plotters, along with computer programs for visualization, image processing, spatial analysis, and database management, have democratized and greatly expanded the making of maps. The ability to superimpose spatially located variables onto existing maps created new uses for maps and new industries to explore and exploit these potentials. See also: digital raster graphic.

These days most commercial-quality maps are made using software that falls into one of three main types: CAD, GIS and specialized illustration software. Spatial information can be stored in a database, from which it can be extracted on demand. These tools lead to increasingly dynamic, interactive maps that can be manipulated digitally.

With the field rugged computers, GPS and laser rangefinders, it is possible to perform mapping directly in the terrain. Construction of a map in real time, for example by using Field-Map technology, improves productivity and quality of the result...

Watching this video got me thinking about maps, and the automobile industry, and all the other things which the invention of rubber tires, asphalt roads, Model T Fords, etc. are responsible for.  It also caused me to wonder what kind of maps people had before automobiles. Did medieval pilgrims to Rome or Jerusalem have paper (or parchment) maps, or did they follow road signs? Did American pioneers in covered wagons have paper maps?  or did they rely on guides who knew the trail? (Read these journal entries from c. 1850's - how relatively recent that is!)  As in so many other areas of our lives, did various wars have an impact on the quality of maps? Would we travel so easily today if we didn't have GPS and excellent paper maps?

Ptolemy's world map, reconstituted from Ptolemy's Geographia(circa 150) in the 15th century, indicating "Sinae" (China) at the extreme right, beyond the island of "Taprobane" (Sri Lanka, oversized) and the "Aurea Chersonesus" (Southeast Asian peninsula).

09 November 2012

Story Builder

Yesterday (8 November 2012) Google launched  Story Builder  "to help make personalized video featuring the characters, story, and even music of your choosing and then share it with everyone through Google Drive."

I haven't been able to find much written about it on the web, not even at the Google blog.  It seems to be a more visually interactive version of Google Docs, on which several people can already collaborate.  The Story Builder formalizes who is writing what, and lends itself to dialogue.

Screen shot of Story Builder

There aren't many directions given - you'll learn by trial and error!

There's a very limited selection of music you can add to your creation. When you click "Finish Up" the story will be sent to Google Docs, and you can share it to Google+, too. A link to the story is generated. Click here to view my "Odd Conversation from Homer" ( http://goo.gl/DYkqW)
(Text for the story courtesy of Project Gutenberg)

Give the site a moment to load the audio.

08 November 2012

Is YouTube Making Us Smarter?

Public Broadcasting System's Idea Channel on YouTube has posted a new video.  Watch at least the first part, in which Mike Rugnetta surveys the learning opportunities available on YouTube. (You might want to subscribe to this Channel, and receive emails when new videos are posted.)

If you follow Mike's advice, and investigate a subject/skill/question you're curious about through YouTube, you will most likely get to exercise your search skills, evaluate the information received (along with the delivery mode, or quality of the video), and, just as with a web page or ordinary paper book, decide if the information is reliable, informative, and worth your time.

If you think it meets your standards, look at a few of the other videos on the channel, and if you like them, too, then subscribe to the channel.  You'll receive an email when new videos are posted to it.

Published on Nov 7, 2012 by 
YouTube People:
Brady Haran: Numberphile http://www.youtube.com/numberphile
Deep Sky Videoshttp://www.youtube.com/deepskyvideos
Vsauce: http://www.youtube.com/vsaucehttp://www.youtube.com/vsauce2http://www.youtube.com/vsauce3
Smarter Everyday http://www.youtube.com/smartereveryday
ViHart http://www.youtube.com/vihart
ASAP Science http://www.youtube.com/ASAPScience
CGPGrey http://www.youtube.com/CGPGrey
CrashCourse http://www.youtube.com/CrashCourse
MinutePhysics http://www.youtube.com/MinutePhysics
Sci Show http://www.youtube.com/SciShow
Veritasium http://www.youtube.com/Veritasium

Teachers with YouTube Channels
Amor Sciendi http://www.youtube.com/amorsciendi
Bozeman Biology http://www.youtube.com/bozemanbiology
Keith Hughes http://www.youtube.com/hughesdv

More assets:

06 November 2012

Power Searching with Google

If you're feeling frustrated because you were away with the Middle School in September, and couldn't start, or couldn't complete The Power Searching with Google courses which has been run a few times recently, you can  take the course in your own time.  You'll find the course at http://www.powersearchingwithgoogle.com/course, and everything is the same as the real-time course, except for the discussion forums.
Screen shot of http://www.powersearchingwithgoogle.com/course
The full text and slides for each of the lessons are available. Click on the "Text Version" blue button in the upper right of the Lesson  frame, or to see just the slides, click on the "Slides" button.