Coding for kids

In a recent post, Larry Cuban takes on the topic of “coding for kids“.  He labels it as a new vocational emphasis and raises some of the obvious concerns regard just what subject area it would replace or the issue of whether it would lengthen the school day.

I share Cuban’s perspective that to developing coding as a vocational skill would require a significant commitment of time. To be fair, others see coding a serving other purposes (including Rushkopf who Cuban cites). Rushkopf also argues that understanding coding takes some of the mystery out of technology tools we use and that to use powerful tools in ignorance creates vulnerabilities that are dangerous. Others see coding as a way to develop problem-solving skills (Papert).

I am not certain I follow Cuban’s concern that some are pushing coding for all – perhaps he is arguing present suggestions are a foot in the door. My understanding of present suggestions include more widespread access to AP coding courses and the opportunity to count HS CS courses as either a math or science credit toward graduation requirements.

I guess I support CS as an elective. Recognizing that few are trained to teach CS at the high school level, online courses might be a viable option for districts without the resources to invest in qualified teachers.

CS is certainly a viable career opportunity and more competent coders are needed. However, there is a substantial difference between increasing the number of college CS graduates and universal exposure to coding.

We all would like to see modifications of the K-12 curriculum. My personal recommendation would be the substitution of a course on statistics and research literacy for an existing math course. I see mathematical literacy issues related to statistics and the implications of how data are collected essential to understanding data-based arguments we all experience and frequently can be led to misinterpret. I see such skills more generally essential than pre-calc or programming.

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Ad blocking is immoral

I recently read a blog post on the attitudes of those who block ads. The post considered various positions taken by those who employ ad blocking plugins. I tend to agree with the comments (there must be an ad on this post somewhere). While ads may be a nuisance and ads that intervene are obnoxious, the attitude that readers have a “right” to eliminate these ads is pretty self-centered.

Viewing specific sites is a choice readers make and the author(s) have made the site available at no cost with an understanding that ads will be seen. I am a fan of Google ads as the ads are generally not obtrusive, are supposed to be related to content, and can pretty much be ignored if a reader is not interested.

The long-term implications of denying revenue (only potential revenue in the case of Google ads) to content creators and service providers is worth considering. The motivation to spend time to create content and often to purchase the means to offer this content should not be assumed.

What I fear is that ads will become embedded in content if those who are willing to offer content become convinced their potential source of revenue will not be considered. If you think this is unlikely, try the link to the original post on the immorality of blocking ads.

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Flickr Updates

I was anxious to generate this post because I am an advocate for the educational use of Flickr and because tech pundits I follow (e.g., Leo Laporte) recently claimed Yahoo has allowed Flickr to stagnate.

So, to the contrary, Flickr has made recent modifications including a new uploadr and a new way for viewing your photos – the camera roll (sounds similar to Apple).

Camera roll

flcameraroll

 

uploadr

fluploadr

 

I find the Camera Roll useful. I have mixed reactions to the uploadr. It seems to me that users have different ideas about what Flickr is for.  Some want to store everything there and some use it to showcase selected images for selected groups. I am not a fan of upload everything stored on every device and sort it out later. The terabyte of storage and setting who can see what seems to be what Yahoo assumes most folks prefer to do. I guess, but I would rather be more selective in the upload process so that

I am not a fan of upload everything stored on every device and sort it out later. The terabyte of storage and setting who can see what seems to be what Yahoo assumes most folks prefer to do. I guess this works, but I would rather be more selective in the upload process so that those accidental-photos taken with my phone and the multiple exploratory shots of the same scene with my cameras do not end up on Flickr. Uploadr does allow the selection of a folder for upload, but this option will not jump out at you. I turn off all of the preselects to give me the option of selecting a folder.

selectfolder

Flickr did need an improved way to upload images and this works well but my method is obviously a kludge.

 

 

 

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Where did it go?

Don’t you hate it when a software company simplifies its software to help you out and in the process takes out the one feature you actually used. I have been updating some of my instructional content and I discovered that my tutorial on the use of Garageband to create podcasts was no longer accurate. I tend to use other products when I generate podcasts (actually vodcasts and technically not even that as my videos are not syndicated) and I had not noticed. I thought everyone used Garageband for podcasting. What does Apple have against podcasting anyway?

I had to revert to iMovie to create the product I had in mind (something with some legal sound effects). iMovie works fine, but Garageband was really much better.

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Reality

I write frequently about the disconnect between educational reform suggestions and the scientific research on these same practices. Part of the challenge in recognizing this discrepancy is communicating the disparity in a way that gets attention. People seem to believe what they want to believe and resist consideration of challenges. Here is another attempt.

My wife recently suggested I read a post by award winning educator Nicholas Provenzano – I’ve failed and it is not alright. You can read the post yourself and draw your own conclusion, but my take goes something like this. A gifted and experienced teacher spent a great amount of time on a new strategy, but the attempt to repeat when making the same commitment was not possible failed to achieve the same results.

One possibility in the discrepancy I mention is that attempts to duplicate what others propose, particularly those who have high standing or good marketing, do not achieve the same success. This may happen because of poor instructional design or an under appreciation of the effort or skill required. Some research studies do achieve success in demonstrating the value of methods such as problem-based learning. However, general implementation does not show a similar benefit.

Somehow, communicating this combination of enthusiasm and outcomes seems an important goal.

 

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Musk Battery

Elon Musk of Tesla fame has a new product – a battery. This may not sound like much but the role large batteries could play in addressing energy needs and global warming makes the role a battery worth understanding. Educators – watch this video.

I have long thought that K-12 institutions should explore solar energy and universities should manage a wind turbine.

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No luck with Web Clipper 2

I flip back and forth between Evernote Pro and One Note when I organize content from the web for my work. Evernote has had an advantage because of the built-in capability to clip pieces of web content. In combination with Skitch, I can clip and annotate content to be integrated for projects. With One Note I have had to rely on a separate product, Web Clipper, to perform the same functions.

Web Clipper 2 is supposed to add the capability of copying portions of a display. This would be a great addition, but I cannot get second edition to work. I have tried both Macs and a Chromebook and both seem to add the extension to Chrome. However, both generate the same error when I attempt to connect to One Note.

Online comments indicate a variety of issues with Web Clipper and it is difficult to sort out just what the issue is.

clipper2

 

I consider clipping a region essential to the use of One Note as an Evernote alternative and would welcome suggestions.

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I am worried about Microsoft – Really

What do ed tech writers write about when things become generic? Unlike those who are proposing 50 uses for the Apple Watch in education, I am trying to identify developments I think are significant. This lack of material does not imply that products and services are substandard. Rather, it means there is presently no great “new thing”. To me, the devices, software and services we presently have are not significantly different in what they can be used to accomplish.

I have been reading “Becoming Steve Jobs” and some of the comments in this book generated my present train of thought. By the way, this book has left me with a more positive image of Steve Jobs and Apple than other books I have read lately. I had come to the conclusion that Jobs was a genius-jerk and I do not like to find motivation in such heroes. More relevant to this post, one of the threads running throughout the book was the interaction of Jobs and Gates (Apple and Microsoft).

I have always been an Apple fan going back to my first experiences with the Apple II. Microsoft was always the evil empire. My attitudes have tempered over the years and I have grown to value multiple productive companies in a given space as best for all of us. I hope that the tech hardware/software companies never go the way of those who provide us Internet access.

Anyway, I now must say I am most concerned about the future of Microsoft. Of course Microsoft has great inertia based on existing patterns of use, but inertia eventually succumbs to the friction of quality. I was trying to think of a Microsoft product I thought was necessary. I only used the OS when my employer somehow made this a requirement. I used Word and Excel because they were purchased for me and it was sometimes necessary to prepare documents in Word for commercial publication. When someone else pays, it just easier to go along.

I write more now than ever and I cannot remember the last time I used Word. I had Word installed on my work machine, but when I turned that machine in and began to rely exclusively on my own equipment there was not need to invest. Working in the cloud from multiple devices running multiple operating systems changed my ways. I understand you can now do a similar thing with 365, but Microsoft has the same problem with me that keeps many businesses involved with Microsoft. I have a way of doing things that works just fine and I see no reason to move to the present Microsoft way of doing things. I would have to be convinced that it was more efficient, more cost-effective, or something else of value.

So, I think Apple has better hardware. I am willing to pay a little more for the quality. I have a Chromebook I really like and could move to something under $400 if money was an issue. I think Google is far superior when it comes to general cloud services. Apple is lousy at the cloud, but I can use Apple hardware to use Google services. I use free apps or purchase specialized apps from a wide variety of companies. The costly productivity apps are no longer necessary. So, if the world runs on hardware, OS, cloud services, and application software, I just do not see any of these categories in which Microsoft is necessary.

The one Microsoft products I think is uniquely useful is One Note . Much like Evernote, One Note offers a flexible work environment in which I can do most of what I do daily – collect, organize, generate and share content. It is really the integration of different uses of technology rather than the quality of individual apps that is important. As software moved past basic functions and could only be differentiated on the value of more and more features, feature bloat became more of an annoyance than a differentiator. This same reality can be applied to hardware. CPU speed, hard drive capacity, screen resolution, etc., are of less and less important. The most typical bottleneck to productivity is now the speed and cost of Internet access.

I have no idea how Microsoft will make much off One Note. Free is great, but as part of a business model only if it increases the value of other paid services or products. I suppose they can mimic the Evernote business model, but the company has such an immense infrastructure of people to support. I see nothing necessary or unique in the other software products.

Time for the next new thing.

 

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Dumbing down as progress

It annoys when a service is updated and loses capabilities in the process. This seems to happen fairly regularly of late and I am not certain if the idea is to somehow make the user experience easier or removing capabilities is a cost saving measure (own up if this is the reason).

One of the capabilities of Flickr I thought had great value to students was the ability to add notes to images. In the old days and not in Flickr, I remember this being described as creating an image map. The idea is that one can identify “hot spots” on an image and take an action (e.g., display text) when a user mouses over that spot on the photo.

oldflckr

 

This is what the creation of a “note” used to look like on Flickr. I am fairly certain this capability has been removed. Please let me know if I am wrong.

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Earth Day

I always try to post on Earth Day to recognize environmental issues and an appreciation for the natural world.

I had hoped to capture an image and use that image as part of this post. I have the opportunity spend as much time as I want in the north woods of Wisconsin and this is a very beautiful area. I had an opportunity to photograph a large female, bald eagle, but I could not get close enough to capture a good image without my telephoto.

What I decided to do was to bring in my trail cam and see what I could find from the past couple of days. My trail cam represents one of my “tech in the wild” hobbies. We own a little over 4 acres of land and share this area with interesting wildlife. A trail cam is a motion activated camera that you position to capture images of wildlife. Hunters use these cameras for scouting. I use them just to see what I can find.

Here is the best “capture” from this week:

earthdeer

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