Finding Digital Tools for Education.

As a teacher of computer it’s kind of expected that I’ll know about most of the digital tools out there, which is like expecting a history teacher to know the deatils of all of history. Where the reality is most know knowing the techniques without the details of the individual tool.

Finding the right tool for the task at hand has been an uphill challenge with literally thousands of different pieces of software or web services to choose from. Many of those solutions have hidden catches or create other problems that are not obvious from the outset.

Also having move school over the last few year, I’ve discovered that each workplace has it’s own common choice of software solution. Jane Hart maintains a list of the top 100 digital tools. The Best of Breed 2016, is excelent list of software that meets a particular need. Although be aware that with the speed of change on the Internet it will never be a complete list.

Now the trick is to reduce the list to a minimum set of posible choices, that will do what is needed. So I ask a series of questions to narrow my choices;

  1. Purpose. Know what you want to do. By setting out and planning your software goals, it’s easier to meet them. Do I have something that will do the job already? For example; for most of the image cropping I do Paint loads quickly and can finish the job, while Photoshop is like using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.
  2. Availablity. Does the school already prefer certain software, or require the use of particular systems? For example, if the school supports Microsoft’s Office365, of Google’s Docs/Drive/etc, then it may be best to start there. Something that limits your choices can be make it easier. Personally, I have a preference for open source software. mainly because the underlying code is checked others, and not locked away in-house and it’s less likely to disappear if the company goes under.
  3. Support. Who is available to assist you if you need help? Most good software will have a wiki or some form of online documentation. The ‘For dummies’ series of books can be very useful to get started with somethign new. If another teacher is already using something within the school, then it can be an easy source of professional development and experienced support. Also consider if the digital tool is Cross-platform, in that it will run on different operating systems, because in the BYOD school environments you should only need to learn the software once regardless of which operating system it is run one (ie Windows, Mac or Linux), and that will make life easier for you. This is where online websites work well, as they run in any web broswer, but if the network is goes down or is slow, then the service becomes less usable.
  4. Cost. Not just in terms of money from the school budget, but in in terms of time & nuisance. For example, with a lot of web services using the SAAS (Software As A Service) model there maybe a monthly or yearly subscription cost to cover the development of the software. Another model is the freemium, where the basic service is free and the useful version costs. Also watch out for ‘free’ software that incorporates advertising.
  5. Trust & Longevity. If you are planning on using a piece of software or an online service to achieve your educational goals, then is the company who’s technology you are using to be trusted, or likely to be around in the long term? For example, Geocities was once a huge hub of Internet culture with websites that are now considered horrific. Since it’s heyday it has faded into nothing. Myspace was another large Internet company offering online space and it has also become a backwater.

So when searching for the best digital tool for your educational purposes and considering its suitability for your purpose look at it’s Availablity, Support, Cost, Trust & Longevity.

GATTACA is happening in kuwait

It’s kind of scary t see the ideas from the movie Gattaca enter the real world with Kuwait creating a DNA database for all of it’s residents. It is in response to a local terrorist incident. And there are legal consequences for those who give fake samples.

In the European Union, such a database has been declared by illegal after the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2008 that keeping a non-criminal’s DNA sample “could not be regarded as necessary in a democratic society”.

Such a database has serious privacy and ethical considerations as to how to information could be used or abused.

Creating Electronic Circuit Diagrams

I need a quick and easy way to create the diagrams for electrical and electronic circuits. So I’ve done a quick web-search. I’ve decided to go with Partsim as a way to create the circuits, instead of another java app. a library of Electronic Symbols, or a word document with the Symbols in it. The last was the atlence resistor-viewer, but it’s a 30 day trial (instructions).


The Council of Professional Teaching Associations of Victoria

A list of all the Member Associations of the Council of Professional Teaching Associations of Victoria. Below is a short list of the associations that may be useful in case I need the them;

What is Crowdfunding, and how do you make it work?

When something like Potato salad (See Kickstarter) can make over $55,000 on its $10 goal. It reads like a joke and probably started that way. So I can see why this TechCrunch Handbook on the new era of crowd funding talks about how it defies logic, and in a sense it does, because you are talking about the democratization of ideas and funding these to get started. It appeals to people to have a hand in backing an idea to positively change the world.

So according to TechCrunch what are the ingredients for a successful campaign?

  1. Telling a great story to get your idea across.
  2. Partner with people who can help tell your story, like Video Producers, PR and marking people to improve the reach of your story.
  3. Funding the ad with a real budget, to improve the reach and maximize success.
  4. Having a digital storefront. So that once the campaign has finished, customers can keep coming back.
  5. Gamification of they campaign. To have stretch goals (or levels) that can be unlocked, or to allow customisation of the backer level.

So from the above you can tell that Crowdfunding is expanding from a grassroots movement to include small business to secure funding for a great idea or product, or a testing ground for corporations to trial new product ideas.





Using Android phones for remote control presentations

Years back some teachers had Bluetooth remote to control their Power Point or Keynote presentations, which is a great little tool to make presenting to the class without having to look at the computer. So today I wondered if anyone had made something equivalent for the mobile phone?

Thankfully people have and after some searching, comparing, reading of the reviews, and testing I found Bluetooth Remote PC for the Android phone. It’s made up of two parts. The first is the server that is installed onto your computer to receive the signals from your phone.
For the Computer =>
PlayStore =>

There should be similar cross-platform solutions for apple <-> iOS devices, Apple <-> Android, or PC <-> iOS. The above solution meets my needs and I will not be taking this further, however, if you find a cool or useful app or program then pass it on.

Historical Novel Society Australasia Conference 2015

The Historical Novel Society Australasia gave me a mention in their list of service providers for the background image I created for the 2015 conference pozible campaign.

It is worth noting that many of the authors have produced young adult novels that explore historical periods. For example; Australian historical novelist Wendy Dunn has written Light in the Labyrinth provides an interesting perspective on the live of Anne Boleyn from the perspective her niece, the 14 year old Kate Carey.

Support the Pzilbe campaign for the Historical Novel Society Australasia Conference 2015

HNSA 2015 Conference Pozible

Visual Perception, looking at Tetrachromacy & Colour Blindness

Is your perception the same as mine? There are the extremes of Tetrachromacy & Colour Blindness that create unique abilities and problems, but for the rest of use it does raise questions of how we perceptive colour.

Looking at developmental neuro-science for a child I assume that the neural pathways in the visual cortex that handle colour perception are formed early on. Our brain makes the links between the perceived colour and the linguistic label for the colour. So it seams extremely unlikely that the pattern of neurons that formed the visual cortex are identical between people.

Tetrachromacy (tetra = four, chroma = color) in humans is a visual oddity which allows the perception of 100 millions colours (See this from IFLS). This is a boon for artists, like Concetta Antico who can see the colours to produce them in art. (BTW her website has a few pages on Tetrachromancy including a Preliminary report of her ability and the genetics involved) It appears to be X-chromosome-linked, so it will be more common in women, but still exceedingly rare.

On the flip-side there is colour blindness. I’ve used colour-blindness tests to head head off potential visually based problems with assessment. To ensure that it is a fair assessment, based on student skill and accounting for disability.  There is Color Vision Testing Made Easy, which as a bunch of images online, and there is the EnChroma Color Blindness Test an interactive online test and a mobile app. Disclaimer: Neither of these should replace professional expertise.


Vatican digitizes manuscript collection.

This post from the International Business Times highlights a Vatican project to digitise their manuscripts. This is a cool thing as a medieval reenactor, but it is most likely one of the largest collections of historical documents from all over the world. So it makes it a great resource for schools.

In this collection there are a range of Artworks, Illuminations & Manscripts from the 1400s onwards. Of course that are items from Itailian history, along with the Aztec, Japanese, & Herbew cultures.

The Vatican Library Digitization Project part of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana aims to scan, save and distribute these slices of history and have set up a crowdfunding website to aid in this happening. And for €5 a page it’s worth it.