Whether you are good at some career has nothing to do with your gender or the color of your skin or the community you grew up in or the language you speak at home or your grandmother’s religion… this is the American Dream, that you succeed on the basis of your efforts!
I’ve been using Everyday.app on my iPhones since April 2011, using it to grab a daily selfie that could be used to create time-elapse videos. This was something that I began, in part, because these videos disproved something that I was accused of many years ago, that I only published flattering photos of myself while not giving others the same treatment.
The first time you deploy anything in the classroom, much less something involving lots of small moving parts, I can guarantee that things won’t go as planned but if you planned well you’ll be able to see all the areas you need to fix/change the next time you do the lesson/unit. I’ve been waiting over a year to give my students a chance to do some hands-on learning with the EV3s, mostly fretting over how I was going to share eight LEGO robots with over 400 students spread over 21 classes and survive the experience. Today was the end of our first four-week attempt and boy did I learn a lot about what NOT to do next time (with the next group of 5th grade students beginning next week).
As I’ve said before, nothing tests the reliability and toughness of equipment (and people) like being subjected to the daily use by 4- to 11-year-olds. It gives new (literal) meaning to the words “wear and tear.” Thus, my hearty group of learners have vanquished with almost no effort over a dozen styluses that were designed to be used by the military. More recently they have disabled three iPads and a z-Space computer by (mostly unintentionally) breaking off the ends of the headphone plugs inside of the 1/8” audio ports. Because the end of the headphone plugs is stuck in the devices, no audio is sent to the perfectly good speakers and obviously another headphone can be connected to the blocked port.
I’ve reported this issue to IT two times this year, and both times IT simply replaced the damaged iPads with other iPads because we’re able to fix them (remove the broken bit stuck in the jack). When the third current iPad of the current batch went down I decided that I needed to do something myself. Looking online there were numerous videos on YouTube touting various solutions, most involving dabs of superglue and skinny straws.
In my Google search I saw that Fry’s had an extraction tool (for $6) that might do the trick. Yeah, no so much. The tools I bought we mostly designed for inserting and pulling plugs from serial cables, etc. and not broken audio plugs. So that one’s going back to Fry’s. I found something called the GripStick that was specifically designed to exact broken audio bits… but it was on kickstarter, so I check amazon.com for a tool similar to “GripStick.” I found something called “S&G Tool Aid 18552 Deutsch Release Tool” that conditionally advertised that it was for removing broken audio bits… but this was going to be about $24. Damn. Well, I need to rescue these iPads (and zSpace computer), so I made the order. Then I thought that I should look at the price for the GripStick and ordered that one too.
We’ll see if this really fixes things by helping remove the broken audio plugs, but it feels good to do something versus filing a report and doing without. It’s always better to find a solution that keeps one in the game.
Adios AIM: Tool to Create Constructive Virtual Presence
AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) silently ceased to exist on December 15th, and most of the tech pundits I heard appeared to either be happy to see it go or spoke of the service with low regard. I mark this passing from a different set of experiences.
When I got my Master’s degree online in 2002 and later when I worked on my doctorate in 2005, AIM was my life-blood and for at least the decade following it was how I stayed connected to my friends and classmates who were spread across the world. Long hours working on projects on my computer at any hour of any day, having an open chat window gave me a sense of presence with my friends who were also engaged in similar endeavors across the whole world. Unlike previous academic experiences, listening to hours long monologues in crowded impersonal lecture halls with virtually no connections to those around me, because of AIM & AOL chat rooms, I spent hours with my friends during our group lecture sessions, exchanging snarky comments and quips, which didn’t belong in the main session. I came to appreciate the powerful social component in a meaningful learning experience using AIM and AOL chat rooms. I even employed AOL chat rooms when we were all sitting in the same physical classroom. I first did this during my Master’s program, and the five of us who met in our own AOL chat room for our weekly full-class session bonded in a way that I have never experienced in all of my years as a student. We called ourselves the Back-row and we’ve remained good friends 15-years after our graduation. I can’t say that about the other five universities I’ve attended or graduated from.
Too often pundits demean technologies because they cannot see a rational use of said technologies. My experiences with virtual learning communities via AIM/AOL chat rooms was strong enough that when I began teaching online at the Master’s level I required that my students post their AIM handles and as part of the curriculum 30% of their grade was based on their level of interaction/posting meaningful comments on each other’s work. Others may dismiss AIM/AOL chat rooms as something that was used by teens trying to work around parents monitoring their phone use, but I used it as a tool to create and support learning communities that significantly helped my students during their Master’s degree program.
Alas, the world has gone mobile and while I can still communicate with anyone at anytime via the powerful online tools and communities that are currently available, there’s something missing now that I don’t depend on having a list of those online floating on a part of my computer screen whom I could chat with via a single click on their avatar. We have better tools that allow for full audio and video connections (remember AIM was entirely text-based and having great speed at typing was an advantage), but I rarely feel like I have my virtual pals on the ready just one click away. I guess the closest experience would be Slack. Close, but not the same.
I put “Constructive Virtual Presence” in the title because I’m aware that there’s an element of real-time “virtual presence” possible with FaceBook and FaceBook messenger, but everything else (distractions) about FaceBook makes it such a time-suck that I feel like FaceBook hinders more than helps when it comes to creating virtual connections and communities. It’s a necessary evil, but again, more of a hinderance than a help. Adios AIM, thanks for helping me experience the real power of learning with friends spread across the whole earth. Despite the dismissive comments of others, you helped change my life.
Daily Random Shit: Photoshop Beginner: Removing the Background
Last night I learned how to erase the background of my LEGO EV3 image using Photoshop CC 2018. At first I watched a video on YouTube (below), but the differences between the version used in the video (CS6) and my version, while getting me used to using layers, was too confusing to be followed.
So, I went directly to the Adobe.com website and found the help instructions for removing backgrounds for images (click here). And now I know how to remove the background from an image… and it wasn’t that hard. Yea!
Daily Random Shit: New Camera, Continued
I got to shoot with the new mirror-less Olympus E-M10 Mark III camera today. Loved it. I was right. With the stock lens, it’s small enough to fit in my 5.1.1. pants pockets and even with the “big lens” (40-150mm) attached it’s every lightweight when attached to my Peak Design Capture Camera Clip. I need to learn more about how to use this camera. Happy. Guess what I’m reading in bed tonight…
Daily Random Shit: New Smaller Camera: Olympus OMD EM10 Mark III
Smaller, cooler, retro-looking, I’m really looking forward to shooting with this camera. I wish I knew about these mirrorless cameras when I upgraded my Canon Rebel last Spring. I’m thinking of “trading in” my old and new Canon cameras to cover the cost of buying a second Olympus (body). With the smaller lens I’m thinking that I could literally pocket the camera in one of my 5.1.1. Tactical Pants pockets. This is very nerdy.
I’m spoiled. I buy some piece of tech, I expect it to work, no muss, no fuss. I’ve been doing this long enough to remember how hard it used to be to get anything done to the point where I’m now often unprepared for what to do when tech things don’t work. I posted in my social media feed that my Drobo died and was met with mostly “meh” and some confusion.