Tag Archives: technology

Thank You OneDrive

I was paying $25/year ($2.083/month) for 50GB of storage on OneDrive.  I just learned that this plan is going down in price to $11.88/year ($0.99/month).  This seems to be in conjunction with the raising of free storage to 15GB for new OneDrive accounts.

Here is the pricing for the new storage plans on OneDrive:

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If you are keeping track, here are the storage plans for Google Drive:

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The fine print is good to note on Google Drive:

Store files up to 1TB each. Anything you create with Docs, Sheets, or Slides won’t use up any of your storage. [emphasis mine]

Attachments sent and received in Gmail as well as your email messages use your storage.

Photos bigger than 2048×2048 pixels use your storage. Everything smaller than that is free.

Apple iCloud storage is 5GB free with pricing plans per country for upgrades at 10GB ($20/year = $1.67/month) and 20GB ($40/year = $3.33/month).

Dropbox storage is 2GB free with pro upgrade plans at 100GB ($99/year or $9.99/month), 200GB ($199/year or $19.99/month), or 500GB ($499/year or $49.99/month).

WordPress storage is 3GB free, or 13GB ($99/year), or unlimited ($299/year).

A Notebook for doing Washington Professional Certification (ProCert) in OneNote

In order to keep teaching in the State of Washington—after 3 years of getting to a residency certificate, and before that residency certificate expires (3 more years)—teachers need to upgrade their licenses to Professional Certificates.

The Public Employees Standards Board (PESB) has worked with the State of WA and ETS (Educational Testing Service) to create the Washington ProCert (Professional Certification).The web site for the ProCert is called WaProTeach.

As I embark on this next endeavor, I have captured that web site to a OneNote file.  Most importantly, the worksheets (question prompts, i.e. Entry 1, Entry 2, Entry 3) that must be filled out to complete an application for a ProCert are each in that OneNote Notebook.  I expect that I will plan and draft my responses in OneNote  using these templates before I copy and paste them into the form on the website.  The OneNote also contains the rubrics and other supporting information that should help a candidate write their best ProCert application.

Since the OneNote is currently blank, i.e. before I start filling it out, I thought I would share it with folks that might find it useful.  (I exported it to a OneNote file that you can download and use yourself!) 

Here’s a direct link to the OneNote file (56MB!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.  Not to be confused with a National Board Professional Certification which implements National Board Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) on a web site called BoardCertifiedTeachers.  After completing that you are a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT).

So close . . . and yet so far.

One of my science students, PK, recommended a game to me called Doodle God, from JoyBits Ltd.  My student said, “since we are studying chemistry, which is about combining things, check out this game, where you try to combine things.”

I was excited to give it a try and have now been playing it off-and-on for about a month.

Here’s what I like

  • Easy to learn to play.
  • Very rewarding to see two things swirl and create something new.
  • Some combinations are very creative, not immediately obvious, but logical.

Here’s what I don’t like

  • From the start, the portrayal of a monotheistic, creative deity as a grandfatherly, tinkering, bumbling, bug-eyed, wild-haired, white-bearded, tongue-protruding simpleton, seems borderline blasphemous for at least three major religious traditions of the world.  But, hey, whatever sells…
  • When I let my 8-year-old play—ignoring the 13+ rating of the game—I should not have been too surprised when certain risqué themes emerged.  Alcohol, drugs, sex, [censored], rock-n-roll are all there, and were they all necessary?  But, hey, whatever sells…
  • From the beginning I was a little peeved when I tried to combine certain things—that made logical sense to me—but they didn’t combine.  Similarly, when I saw hints which led to things that did wondrously(?) and improbably combine, I almost put the game down.  (And how was I supposed to guess that?)

Seeing that the dislikes for me seem to outweigh the likes, why am I writing this blog post?  I feel this game is *so close* to being something of real and amazing educational value.  Imagine something like “Chemistry Zeus” [any similarities between deities living or dead is purely coincidental], where students start with a few elements and either bombard them to make new elements (nuclear physics) or combine them with other elements or molecules to make compounds, or whole families of substances.  I think I would play that game, and if it taught a little science or history of science along the way, cool!

JoyBits, if you need a scientific consultant, you can contact me.  Smile

Some math fooling around

You start with 4 elements and are asked to deduce pairings that create successively more complex elements.  Since the deduction part is flawed in my opinion, I believe most successful game-players resort to trial and error.  Let me explain.

If I give you N items and tell you some of them might pair, by trial and error you would take the 1st item and try to pair it with the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. up to N.  When you are done with the 1st item you then take up the 2nd item, and try some pairings, but you don’t have to test it with the 1st item, since you already did that, so you test 2nd+3rd, and 2nd+4th, and 2nd+5th, etc.  one way to visualize this is with a grid.

  1 2 3
1 1+1 1+2 1+3
2 X 2+2 2+3
3 X X 3+3
Doodle God game with 3 elements (1-3)
Table shows all the combinations you need to check.
You do not need to check combinations marked “X”

The square with 1+1 means you are taking the 1st element in the game and trying to pair it with itself.  The 1+2 means that you are trying to pair the 1st element with the 2nd element.  Notice that the square that would be 2+1 in this example is marked with “X”.  That means you don’t need to test that combination because in the game 1+2 is the same as 2+1, the order you click on elements to pair them in the game doesn’t matter.  (If someday it did, the following analysis would be invalid.)

The formula for how many pairings you have to check for N total elements is

Total Pairs You Need to Check = N2-(1/2)(N-1)(N)
(thanks to Wolfram Alpha for helping me evaluate a sum)

We can verify that this formula is correct, by checking for N=3, plugging that into the formula and then counting in the table above to see if the results agree.  For N=3, from the table I would need to check 6 pairings to exhaust all possible combinations in the game.  The formula predicts

Total Pairs You Need to Check = N2-(1/2)(N-1)(N)

Total Pairs You Need to Check = 3*3-(1/2)(3-1)(3)=9-(1/2)(2)(3)=9-(1/2)(6)=9-3=6.

Now, the object of the game is to find successful pairings so let’s say 1+1 is successful.  But that would produce a 4th element.  That means we have to check more potential pairs.  (Note that some pairings produce two elements, that happens pretty rarely so the analysis so far and following is not invalidated.)

If successful, then you create a 4th element, and the table would now look like this:

  1 2 3 4
1 1+1      
2 N      
3 N N    
4 N N N  
Doodle God game with 3 elements
But the 1st element paired with 1st element produced a new 4th element.
The table of combinations thus adds a row and a column
 
Notice that although the 1st element paired with the 1st element made a 4th element, you haven’t tested any combinations of that 4th element yet.  You will have to test those, so we add a column to the table.
 
The number of total combinations we needed to check when we only had 3 elements was 6.  We tried one pairing of elements and we were successful so now we only need to check 5 plus the new pairings we potentially created.  It turns out that when you add 1 new element to an N-element game, you add N+1 more pairs to check.  In this case, i.e. N=3, we get 6-1+4=9.
 
Can we write a formula for how many pairs we still need to check on the 12th turn of the game?  Sure!  First let’s define a few things.
 
N = total number of elements in the game that you start with.
t = the turn of the game that you are on, in other words how many pairs you have tried already
s = successful matches already
u = unsuccessful matches already
Note that one relationship we can spot right away is
t = s + u
Which just says that the number of unsuccessful + successful matches you have made is equal to the number of turns you have been playing.  But the relationship we are after is “How many more matches do I need to test after t turns in the game?”  I believe this works, let’s try it out.
Potential Matches Left = (N+s)2-(1/2)(N+s-1)(N+s)-t
In the example above, N=3, t=1, s=1, u=0, the number of matches left to test, i.e. the number of blank squares in that grid is:
(3+1)2-(1/2)(3+1-1)(3+1)-1=16-(1/2)(3)(4)-1=16-(1/2)(12)-1=16-6-1=9.
Notice that the function goes like a quadratic in the total number of elements, which means the game gets progressively harder as it goes along.  Even if you don’t blindly try all combinations, you still have to remember which combinations you have made and the combinations you haven’t or review all those elements you have not yet combined for “reasonable suspicion” of being able to combine to form new element.  We say the order of that comparison is O(N2), O() means “order of”.
 
The tradeoff that becomes important in the game is that if every turn in the game produces a new element (s=t), then the number of new combinations increases quadratically.  But that is the reward of the game, producing a new element.  The frequency of reward needs to be traded-off with the rate of increase in complexity of the game.  You can make the game less complex (s << t) by not letting any elements combine, but then who would play it?
 

Back to the game Doodle Farm (Free)

 
Meanwhile…a game that would allow players to combine things in ways that are accurate given physical laws, e.g. chemistry, would be an amazing pedagogical tool.  None of the flavors of Doodle God to date seem to represent any even remotely accurate view of the physical world.
 
I played Doodle Farm (Free) and used a Google Sheet to keep track of my pairings, much like the table above.  I was able to solve the game fairly systematically that way.  But what was annoying (and a deal-breaker for me, sadly) is that two of the first 4 pairings were completely illogical.  Not that the game makes any pretense of teaching accurate animal husbandry, but the whole point of this post is that the game would be used by Teachers if it were more accurate.
 
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Doodle Farm Free initial elements and successful pairings.
How does Mouse+Mouse=Rat+Cat?
How does Worm+Mouse=Ant?
 

Reviewing the Atomic Model Using ImageQuiz

ImageQuiz is a beta which lets you use pictures to review content.  Check out a sample I made here:

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An Excel Spreadsheet That Generates Randomized Chemistry Questions

Last year I fell in love with the “Infinite Algebra/Geometry/etc.” series of programs from KUTA Software.  If you haven’t seen them, they basically delineate a topic of study into regimes of problems that can be randomized.  Once you have randomized questions you can generate multiple versions of quizzes and stymie those in your classroom that are doing “unsanctioned collaboration” during assessments.

The basics behind my spreadsheet is a Periodic Table of the Elements Excel Spreadsheet designed by Vertex42.com and copyrighted by the same.  It has a database sheet of all the elements and it is from that database sheet that I can generate random worksheets / quizzes.

Here’s the latest version of the spreadsheet and here’s a sample of the output, a multi-version quiz that I generated to test students knowledge of the Nuclide Symbol.

It has been very interesting using Excel as a quiz markup/generator tool.  I have sent this idea to KUTA and haven’t heard back.  I have sent this idea to Microsoft (dailyedventures@microsoft.com), we shall see!

SnapChat Leak: An Educational Opportunity?

If you’re following this story, then you know that SnapChat, a super-popular App that a large number of my high school freshmen have on their phones, had a security problem that allowed a hacker to get the usernames and phone numbers of 4.6 million SnapChat users.

[Was your data leaked?  You can check using this look-up tool.]

I was eager to see if any of my students were in the set of leaked accounts.  I wanted to create conversation around why data leakers do this, and what appropriate responses would have been for the users and creators of such technology.

So I did some poking around.  I downloaded the data (46MB ZIP).  I to open it as a CSV in Excel 2013, but it couldn’t.  I opened it in Notepad+ and searched for my number.  Not found.  I searched for anything in 425 area code (Bellevue-Redmond).  Nothing.  I searched for anything in 509 area code (eastern WA).  Nothing.  So none of my students were in the leaked data.

It turns out only a select few numbers in 76 area codes were shared.

https://i2.wp.com/www.snapchatdb.info/img/count.jpg

http://mashable.com/2014/01/01/tool-snapchat-compromised/

And it’s interesting that only 10,623 numbers in 206 area code (Seattle) were shared.  That’s only 1 part-per-thousand of the total numbers in 206.  Which is either a comment on the importance of SnapChat in Seattle or the underestimation of area codes to include from the hacker.

Or take a look at 815 area code in the picture above, if 215,953 numbers in 815 use SnapChat, that is 21 out of every thousand phones (or 2%)!  Not bad for a small App that doesn’t care about security.

So, can someone get me all the 509 numbers at SnapChat please?  It would help me in lessons at school next week.  Smile

Software Feature Requests–Bug Reports*

*from a former-Microsoft-test-engineer-turned-teacher.

RealPlayer

  • stop crashing on secondary monitor

PowerPoint 2013

  • stop crashing so much (embedding videos feature seems to have some bugs…)
  • don’t roundtrip to SkyDrive on the UI thread, save locally first, then do your network stuff
  • for teachers there should be a feature to display a timer on a given slide, the timer should count down or count up, have visual or audio clues while “ticking” and have visual or audio clues when “time’s up!”, to do this now I am embedding videos (2-minute, 3-minute, 4-minute) on each-and-every slide.

Adobe Acrobat Professional

  • don’t lock the file when you are previewing in Windows Explorer, when I open, edit and try to save, I can’t because Windows Explorer was previewing a thumbnail

Word 2013

  • stop hanging when I try to mail merge with an open Excel file.
  • stop hanging when I try to insert a hyperlink
  • I need a standard bullet that looks in-your-face like a checkbox.  It would be great if it really did check like OneNote (see below).

Excel 2013

  • I need a function CountDistinct() or CountDuplicate().  I’m using Excel to create random worksheets/quizzes from the periodic table and I need to know if a random sequence of atomic numbers has any duplicates.  For that matter, I need a RandomSequence() function that does NOT allow duplicates.

OneNote 2013

  • Need a standard bullet that looks like a checkbox, don’t know why we didn’t think of this sooner.  It needs to be an “in-your-face” checkbox, like CTRL+1, but a bullet.

Outlook 2013

  • I have this crazy bug where my insert hyperlink dialog freezes up or is very non-performant

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Windows

  • Suppose you have multiple monitors.  You move a mouse to a monitor and do ALT+TAB to find the application window that you want.  But:  ALT+TAB only shows you the application windows that are on that monitor.

Technology Investigations / Applications / Tools [2012-2013]

This is a reprise/extension of a prior blog post where I discussed some things I had learned during the 2011-2012 school year when it comes to technology, applications and tools.  So here goes, what I have learned from another year (so far).

Description Student Learning Impact Teacher / Practice Impact
Dropbox A more prepared teacher is a more confident teacher.  A more confident teacher is a teacher that projects an air of organization and control.  Students can sense that. Absolutely nothing beats being able to create a student homework assignment, worksheet or powerpoint at home save it to a Dropbox folder and know that it will be on your computer at school when you need to look for it.
Microsoft OneNote I can grade student assignments quicker and more reliably when I have electronic access to my answer keys. I store all of my Algebra assignment answer keys in OneNote.  It replicates over Dropbox since domain live.com is blocked by my school.
Edline.com (now Blackboard Engage) Students who miss school and who have access to Edline can now go to the class they missed, click on the calendar for that day and download homework or view pictures of the whiteboard that was created during that class. This has helped my practice in being able to know that if one class is slightly different from the other I have a record of what was different and why.  This frees me up to improve classes that are repeating each day, but exempts me from the fear that I will be inconsistent or tell students the wrong thing.
KUTA Software Students freak out when they don’t know something.  They scramble to get answers and will copy homework and collaborate inappropriately on quizzes without qualm or thought to the damage they are doing to the learning process. Using KUTA Infinite Algebra 1, I can create homework assignments and quizzes quickly and easily.  However, most importantly, I can create 30 *different* versions of a quiz on the same material and thus remove cheating from the equation altogether.  Quiz retakes are not an issue, I just regenerate a new version of the quiz.
DataDirector from Riverside (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Students can take quizzes or tests on bubble sheets that are familiar to them from other standardized tests.

Question banks can also be used to help prepare students for the style or content of some questions.

Teacher can grade quizzes and tests quickly using a scanner or using other bubble sheet manual grading tricks.

I have found occasionally that there are problems with the questions in the question bank, but that there is also a way to submit your feedback on a question.  And, someone will read and act on that feedback!

Gradecam plugin for DataDirector from Riverside (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Students can do short formative assessment in class, and get results quickly.

This should revolutionize student motivation and ability to get formative feedback on their classroom work.

Teachers can set up bubble sheets that are graded quickly merely by holding them under the document camera.

Frees up the teacher from having to grade in real-time, and allows for discussion around what is not understood.

Holt McDougal Online (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Students can access the book and other educational resources over the internet. Teachers have exercises, quizzes, powerpoints, and other resources that help them differentiate their teaching quite easily.  Good stuff!
OfficeMax IMPRESS Print Center Students get homework that is well organized and printed in time to be useful for their learning. When a teacher needs copies and can’t get them in time from the district print shop, OfficeMax has a great service where you can upload PDF files and have them printed and ready to be picked up the night before.
Tyler Technologies Schoolmaster Web Classroom Students benefit from quicker and more accurate feedback on their grades. Allows teachers to access Schoolmaster from home, so that grades can be immediately entered, even when teacher is not at school.
Whiteboards and markers    
A laser pointer and clicker.    
RedOxygen as a provider for Outlook Mobile SMS “Johnnie, if you don’t get to work, I’m going to text your parent/guardian right now and ask them to have a talk with you when they see you tonight.”  Can you please focus? Ability to communicate quickly and directly with parents via mobile SMS from my desktop computer at school has been invaluable.
Teacher Created Materials   Another source of great content for instructional drill and homework.
DataScanner from DataDirector Quick turnaround on formative assessment has been shown to have positive effect on student learning. Having a page-fed scanner of my own that is compatible with ScanDirector has helped me provide quick turnaround to quizzes and tests that I have administered in classrooms.
     

Twitter as Log of What I’m Reading

A little while ago I started using Twitter as a log of what I was reading on the web.  Most of what I am reading has to do with education, and although it is intriguing to think about how to solve all of education’s problems, I should focus my reading primarily on getting certified and stuff I need for my classes at SPU.

So check out my Twitter feed to the left here on my blog, and if you want to follow me, click here

“Doing Math Like Mathematicians Do” FluidMath from Fluidity Software (and Physics!)

NOTE:  you need a SmartBoard, Tablet-PC (with touch), or a traditional PC with a Tablet input  device.

Fluidity just won an award from the US Department of Education | Institute of Education Sciences | Small Business Innovation Research.  Here’s the award announcement story..

Here’s a blog post / testimonial from a teacher.

Here’s a YouTube video demo from FluidMath’s YouTube Channel:

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