Explain Everything Comes to Windows

Educators who live in the Apple world have known about and perhaps used Explain Everything since 2011. It was just announced that this app is now available for Windows 8.1.

For those unfamiliar with this software, here is my early description of the original version for the iPad. This is a multimedia development environment that can be used productively by authors of a wide range of age and skill.

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Docs vs. Drive – Confused?

I hate when companies change their terminology. Why is this necessary when pretty much everything remains the same? It makes what I write seem dated.

OK – ignore this mini-rant. If you use online Google services, you may have noticed people starting to use the phrases “Google docs” and “Google drive” to refer to what you thought was a single thing. Here is a video from the Lynda.com collection that explains the actual differences. Yes, Lynda is a paid service, but sometimes segments are made available at no cost. This is one of those times (BTW – I am a big Lynda fan).

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Equal <> Fair

e-Rate pioneers (Washington Post story) are concerned with the direction FCC is proposing for the e-rate.

The lawmakers object to how the FCC has suggested funding WiFi upgrades in schools and libraries according to a per-student or per-square-foot formula, arguing that it unfairly allocates more money to large and wealthy institutions over smaller, poorer ones where the need may be greater.

There is also the issue on whether e-rate funding should be increased with board members weighing in along party lines.

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Mysteries from my basement

We are moving and that means we need to clear out our stuff so we can sell our house. This is not a fun process, but it does lead to the rediscovery of interesting stuff.



So, you digital natives, here is a one item quiz. What is this? I have covered up the name, but some clues are still available. It is an Apple product and it includes a stylus.

I admit I did not know. This was one of those products Cindy used.

I could make this a weekly feature for a couple of months. What Apple computer weighed in at approximately 60 pounds (the molar mac). I hauled that monster up from the basement by myself. Not bad for an old man.

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The transparency of algorithms

The recent reactions of many, including me, to the news that Facebook was trying to manipulate user emotions got me thinking. Why was I offended? I sometimes play a certain type of music to manipulate my mood – mellow music, energizing music, somber music. I think the difference is that I know I am attempting to manipulate my mood and I am  doing this because my actual psychological state is not what I desire. My awareness of what is going on allows me to keep track of reality. When another entity does this without my awareness I am being mislead. I am unaware that I am being manipulated.

This lack of awareness seems similar to the issue raised by Eli Pariser in the Filter Bubble. He claimed that Google uses our reaction to search results to adjust the type of information we see. However, there can often be a difference between what I want to hear and reality. I may want to think I appear young and athletic, but being told this when these are not the facts could get me in trouble. That hike into the Grand Canyon might be a foolish thing to attempt unless I am actually up to the task. I need to know when the information I seek represents an accurate picture of reality. Being told what I wish were the case is not necessarily the same thing.

This is when insight into the algorithm responsible for what we experience is important. I used to think the Google search algorithm was based on page rank.  Pariser challenged this view. The recent revelations regarding Facebook now also cause me to question my understanding of the newsfeed. I understand the competitive advantage keeping the actual algorithm secret offers a business advantage, but I should be able to be assured that the view of reality I am experiencing is the view of reality that I expect.

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K-8 Coding Experience

Looking for online learning opportunities? Summer (or Fall) online and off line coding activities for K-8 students are available from Code.org.

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Check out a hotspot

I have written multiple times regarding the inequity in home access. Here is an interesting attempt to respond – libraries lending hotspots.

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So you think you can multitask

The description of digital natives (sorry, I use the popular terminology) as multi-taskers and concerns that multitasking can lead to disastrous consequences (texting and driving) get a lot of coverage while often lacking a scientific evaluation. The known limitations of short term (working) memory have always been enough for me. Some scientists have taken a more direct approach and are attempting to determine whether a cohort or individuals do have this capability.

Here is a recent description of some researchers work (Scientific American) including an online task you can try.

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CIPA search blocked

I encountered something today that has me baffled. I gave students in my class an assignment that required them to learn about and describe the educational implications of different legal mandates. To present the assignment, I identified the legal requirements as acronyms – e.g., CIPA, COPPA, FERPA.

I wanted to determine for myself what I thought they should be able to find so I did a search on each acronym myself and I was unable to generate hits when I searched for CIPA. It is very difficult to search for anything in Google without getting something so I was perplexed. I thought I may have the acronym wrong so I searched for Children Internet Protection Act and sure enough the CIPA acronym appeared on every page. This seemed very strange.

I often do not read things closely enough and at some point I read the fine print in the feedback to my Google search. There were no hits, but the follow message was provided.


I was able to replicate this issue using students from my class who had safesearch turned on and off.  This may be an embarrassing display of my own ignorance, but why would SafeSearch block a search for sites explaining CIPA?


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President Obama Visits North Dakota

The President was in North Dakota visiting reservations.

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