battis.net and I'm all out of bubble gum…

One of my responsibilities at Jewish Day School is to post a monthly column on the goings-on in our media studies department (and in education technology in general) to our online parent bulletin. This is one such column.

In today’s world, where “there is an app for that” — no matter what that may be — it is easy to lose sight of the fact that, in fact, when we are dealing with real problems that involve real people and real situations and real information, there often isn’t an app for that. Nor is there a systematic, rational approach for tackling the unknown. It’s easy to find an app that tracks the balance of your checking account… but very, very hard to find an app that can tell you why your portfolio is going up (or down).

The Media Studies department is offering a new course in computer application design and computer science in the coming academic year, to complement our existing offerings in video, photography, web and game design and new media. Seth Battis, who joined the department this year, will be teaching the course, which is designed to complement the robotics learning led by [a colleague] and [Jewish Day School’s Academy of Science and Technology].

Computer science is the study of computation, using computers to process vast mountains of data into that nugget of usable, useful, valuable information. And, in the past decade, it has become the domain not just of computer geeks, but of professionals, scientists and researchers seeking to better understand the information they have and the challenges they are trying to tackle. Computational biology, statistical modeling of markets, physical simulations of wind energy are all being done by people with a foot in two worlds: the world of their chosen, beloved studies and the world of computation facilitates their studies.

Computer science has gone in and out of vogue many times over the last several decades — and with good reason. It can provide a unique perspective on creative problem-solving and ways for humans (us!) to understand vast and complicated data. But it can also be the drudgery of “pixel-stained technopeasants” sweating over line after line of arcane code.

The purpose of the Computer Application Design and Programming course is to, at the high school level, make these same skills and this same practice available to [Jewish Day School] students. Students will have the opportunity to practice their analytic and reasoning skills, while developing new practices in problem solving, using modern tools further their learning. The course will be taught using object-oriented programming practices, applicable in a broad array of modern computational environments — from the iPhone to the web to stand-alone computers to computing clusters.

Students and families interested in the Computer Application Design and Programming course are encouraged to contact their advisor or Mr. Battis or [my department chair] for more information.

May 3rd, 2010

Posted In: Parent Communication

One of my responsibilities at Jewish Day School is to post a monthly column on the goings-on in our media studies department (and in education technology in general) to our online parent bulletin. This is one such column.

In today’s world, where “there is an app for that” — no matter what that may be — it is easy to lose sight of the fact that, in fact, when we are dealing with real problems that involve real people and real situations and real information, there often isn’t an app for that. Nor is there a systematic, rational approach for tackling the unknown. It’s easy to find an app that tracks the balance of your checking account… but very, very hard to find an app that can tell you why your portfolio is going up (or down).

The Media Studies department is offering a new course in computer application design and computer science in the coming academic year, to complement our existing offerings in video, photography, web and game design and new media. Seth Battis, who joined the department this year, will be teaching the course, which is designed to complement the robotics learning led by [colleague] and [Jewish Day School Academy of Science and Technology].

Computer science is the study of computation, using computers to process vast mountains of data into that nugget of usable, useful, valuable information. And, in the past decade, it has become the domain not just of computer geeks, but of professionals, scientists and researchers seeking to better understand the information they have and the challenges they are trying to tackle. Computational biology, statistical modeling of markets, physical simulations of wind energy are all being done by people with a foot in two worlds: the world of their chosen, beloved studies and the world of computation facilitates their studies.

Computer science has gone in and out of vogue many times over the last several decades — and with good reason. It can provide a unique perspective on creative problem-solving and ways for humans (us!) to understand vast and complicated data. But it can also be the drudgery of “pixel-stained technopeasants” sweating over line after line of arcane code.

The purpose of the Computer Application Design and Programming course is to, at the high school level, make these same skills and this same practice available to [Jewish Day School] students. Students will have the opportunity to practice their analytic and reasoning skills, while developing new practices in problem solving, using modern tools further their learning. The course will be taught using object-oriented programming practices, applicable in a broad array of modern computational environments — from the iPhone to the web to stand-alone computers to computing clusters.

Students and families interested in the Computer Application Design and Programming course are encouraged to contact their advisor or Mr. Battis or [my department chair] for more information.

May 3rd, 2010

Posted In: Computer Science, Parent Communication

Tags: , , ,

I just slapped together a very quick plugin for a teacher’s blog that adds a [category] shortcode to WordPress. Basically, it just passes through all of the attributes of the shortcode as parameters to wp_list_categories(), allowing the user to embed a list of blog categories in any page, post or widget. This feels like something that should already exist (but I couldn’t find it).

category_shortcode.php

April 23rd, 2010

Posted In: Blogs, How To

Tags: , , , , ,

One of my responsibilities at Jewish Day School is to write a weekly “tech tips” column for the online faculty news. This is one such tip.

One of the oft-touted features of social media, blogs, and news sites is RSS feeds. The phrase “subscribe to my feed for updates” probably connotes some twenty-something layabout in a coffee shop, but, in fact, RSS feeds are enormously useful to grown-ups (like thee and me) for managing large (vast, huge) amounts of information.

First, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. In this case, we’re using syndication in the same sense as a newspaper syndicate (not a crime syndicate — there’s different software for that): suppose Dave Barry writes for the Miami Herald and the San Francisco Chronicle carries the Bizarro cartoon. How is it that we open the LA Times and see both of these in our paper? The newspaper syndicates distribute all of the updates to Dave Barry’s column and Bizarro just prior to the newspaper going to press each night.

RSS, really simple syndication, is a newspaper syndicate for the rest of us: we can subscribe to the RSS feeds on web sites for updates from that web site, and use a feed reader (Google Reader, Newsgator, Bloglines, iGoogle, etc.) to present all of these updated feeds to us in one place. Common Craft has a short (brisk, even) video explaining this:

All of the blogs on our school blog server have RSS feeds. In fact, you can subscribe to updates from a particular category on a blog, or to updated comments on a particular post on a blog, if you want. Major newspapers provide lists of RSS feeds for their articles.

As a voracious newshound myself (I used to read two, three and sometimes four newspapers in a morning), I’m finding that — with RSS feeds — I no longer even open a physical paper. Instead, all of my information comes through Google Reader subscriptions to blog and newspaper feeds. About 5,000 updates a week.

For more plain English explanations of web technology, check out Common Craft’s YouTube channel.

April 22nd, 2010

Posted In: "Tech Tips" Column

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I came across Rahul Mahtani and Yofred Moik’s conceptual design of a Google Mail Envelope a few days ago and was… instantly captivated. I’m not sure if it’s just the aesthetics of a design on the envelope in general, the way it hearkens back to an old school airmail envelope, or the conceptual neatness of the route between the two addresses. I just know that I love it and I want it.

So, I spent some time making a version of it.

Right now, my implementation is very much hacked together (I was teaching myself the Google Maps API as I went — it’s not hard, but it’s not familiar vocabulary, yet — I have a few other projects that will get me more expert soon, I hope). The things to know are:

  • Change the addresses and the map will (should) update to reflect the new information.
  • The first line of the address is removed on the assumption that it’s a name and not part of the address (and users are cruelly constrained to 3-line addresses right now).
  • The resulting envelope template is pretty much exactly a full-bleed letter-size page. Which means that printing it is a hassle.
  • I strongly suspect that there should be a dampening-down of the colors on the map so that the USPS can automatically scan the right information easily. My recollection from constructing bulk mailings a few years back is that the address just needs to have a bit of white space around it, but having a mess of other geographic information scattered nearby may not be helpful…
  • The snazzy orientation of the address infoWindows on the original design hasn’t happened yet. I think I have an idea of how to do it with some CSS (they won’t be “real” infoWindows), but haven’t taken the time to fiddle with it yet.
  • There’s something hinky with the borders of the side-flaps due to the not-yet-standard border-radius CSS.

More to come as way opens.

April 11th, 2010

Posted In: Computer Science

Tags: , , , , , , ,

One of my responsibilities at Jewish Day School is to write a weekly “tech tips” column for the online faculty news. This is one such tip.

When I was a summer camp assistant director, back in the day, my least favorite task was to field “dead or alive” phone calls — those phone calls where parents were inquiring whether Junior, who had not written home in the past month, was still alive or not… with, perhaps, some suggestion that “not” would be more acceptable than “not writing home.”

Knowing that we’re all headed off campus for Pesach, now is a good time to set up a vacation auto-response on our email, hopefully staving off any potential “alive or dead” inquiries about us.

Also, I want to share the coolest trick that I’ve learned in FirstClass in the last week: Calendar Punch-Through — layering multiple calendars on top of each other, so that you can see all the events at the same time. Watch the video to see what I mean. It’s rad. Or, at least, gnarly.

The bonus: I maintain a feed of recent internet posts on teaching and technology. This is the filtered version of what I read: I slave so that you can benefit. These are articles that I think are in some way interesting or informative about teaching, or teaching with technology, or generally existing as a teacher in the early 21st century. It’s a fascinating mish-mash.

http://battis.net/link/AcademicComputingFeed

And thank you all for your feedback on last week’s blog “explanation” — a more polished, finished version will be ready after Tiyulim Week!

March 25th, 2010

Posted In: "Tech Tips" Column

One of my responsibilities at Jewish Day School is to write a weekly “tech tips” column for the online faculty news. This is one such tip.

As teachers, we instinctually know how to use a lot of the tools that come our way: pen, paper, whiteboard, textbook. These all have self-evident uses. Not only do we understand how to use these tools, but we can think creatively about their purpose, and how they might be used to teach, challenge and push our students.

Where this gets a bit sticky is when we’re presented with a tool that we aren’t quite sure how to use, or what it’s purpose might be. To this end, I’ve been thinking about ways to explaining some of the technology that we’ve been talking about this year at its conceptual level: not what it’s for, but simply how does it work? (Perhaps this is residue of reading too much David Macaulay in my mispent youth.) Once we grok the working of a tool, then we can start to think about the purpose to which we might put it.

This week, what I share with you is not a finished thought, but a rough cut of the first half of a video explaining how blogs work. This is the work of an afternoon — not a polished product in any way shape or form. And I would be delighted (nay, indebted) to you for feedback on this proto-explanation. Does it makes sense? Does it help you to think about a blog as a device? What would make it better?

March 18th, 2010

Posted In: "Tech Tips" Column

Tags: , , , , ,

One of my responsibilities at Jewish Day School is to write a weekly “tech tips” column for the online faculty news. This is one such tip (and it is, again, a bit FirstClass-centric, focused on some of our internal systems — we’re running a WPMU blog server and a MindTouch DekiWiki).

We won’t rehearse all of the problems with email attachments here (Can I open that file? What happened to my disk quota!? Which version was it?) Instead, let us focus on things that improve the experience. In fact, here’s a short video Top Ten list:

Links from the video

March 11th, 2010

Posted In: "Tech Tips" Column

Tags: , , , , , , ,

One of my responsibilities at Jewish Day School is to write a weekly “tech tips” column for the online faculty news. This is one such tip.

As teachers, we are perennially swapping the hat that we wear: lecturer, confidante, counselor, coach, security officer, parent. With the ability publish work instantaneously to the entire globe with a single click comes a fresh and daunting hat: copyright lawyer. The Gordian Knot of copyright law raises its Medusa-like head at several times during the year: preparing readings, vetting student research and writing, and presenting student accomplishments. At this time of the year, it seems most appropriate to focus on the last of these…

What copyright concerns come along with exhibiting and presenting student work? What follows are some questions to ask yourself (and your students) to clarify this situation. (Remember: IANAL, so this is not technically legal advice, this is friendly, collegial advice!)

In general, if you can’t answer yes to at least one of these questions, your best bet is to not publish: you’re taking a risk not just for yourself, but for your student and the school. Treat work that doesn’t meet these criteria as a draft, available only within the school walls. Push your students to revise their work to meet these criteria in exactly the same manner that the editor at your publishing house would push you.

March 4th, 2010

Posted In: "Tech Tips" Column

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The tough thing about best practices is remembering to practice them: a while back I started to collect my screencasts on particular topics into one, easy-to-remember link (e.g. iMovie ’09 information is at http://battis.net/link/imovie09). I spent a while uploading my Flash tutorials to one of my class conferences the other day, forgetting to just create the simple link (and thereby limit repetitive work). So, with that in mind…

Here are a few tutorials on animation (at a basic level) in Flash 8 Professional. They need to be re-recorded and cleaned up a little, but they’re a useful starting place for someone totally at a loss when faced with Flash’s ridiculous learning curve. The link to this post and to anything else I might have to say about Flash is http://battis.net/link/flash8

The videos in this sequence are (with links to higher-quality, but less-firewall-friendly, Screencast-O-Matic videos):

  1. Create a Simple Animation — How to create a simple Flash Professional 8 animation using a Motion Tween between two keyframes.
  2. Adding Complexity to a Motion Tween — How to use rotation (or scale, skew or other Transformations) to adjust a simple animation.
  3. Adding a Motion Guide — How to add a Motion Guide layer to a simple animation in Flash Professional 8.
  4. Shape Tweens — How to use Shape Tweens to animate motion (or, well, shapes) in Flash Professional 8.
  5. Reverse Exploding Animation — How to have a scattered group of shapes “resolve” themselves into your design in Flash Professional 8 (this was a request from my media design class).

February 26th, 2010

Posted In: Educational Technology, How To

Tags: , , , , ,

« Previous PageNext Page »
css.php