Best of the year

This seems to be the time when many content creators offer their best of the year. You can translate this as “I am tired and this is one way to generate an easy post during the holidays”.

I admit I do not have data on my blog posts, but I can easily identify the most popular YouTube I generated. I doubt the popularity of this effort has anything to do with my production skills or the deep thoughts explained in the video. I am guessing that coding was in this year and demonstrating how Ozoblockly could be used to control an Ozobot was something educators wanted to understand. I also noticed an increase in hits this past week or so. I am guessing Santa brought some Ozobot and parents now wanted to know what to do with them.

Ozobot Blockly

Not ready for prime time

I am working on a new book that explores how tech tools can add value to existing resources. I call the approach “layering”. More about this project in a few months.

In exploring what might be coming, I have been considering what is available when it comes to augmented reality. This is adding information to what is visible in the world. The version of augmentation that offers information about a location is easy. How about adding information about unfamiliar objects.

The most basic form of information about an object would be identification. I knew that there are some services that attempt to identify images. I read that Wolfram had an advanced image identification service so I thought I would give it a try.

I admit that the following image is upside down and the image would be difficult to match to a database, but the image is not a shark.


I then tried what I thought was an iconic image from my wildlife collection.


Again, the Wolfram service was wrong, but suggested several different birds none of which were loons. It seems the Wolfram service attempts to learn from errors and it allowed me to describe the image. I hope I was helpful.

I did try the Google photo search with the loon image. It suggested it was a bird. Not that helpful.

Maybe I will have to offer examples of the futuristic stuff in the second edition.

Change platforms to improve edchats

I have been suggesting for some time that I doubted the actual value of the existing approach to edchats. Several of my issues were focused on the choice of Twitter as the microblog platform of choice for these conversations. Specifically, after viewing and sometimes participating in many of these chats, it seemed to me that the 140 character limit of Twitter severely limited what actually was being said. In general, there seemed to be a lack of real substance in conversations. I also found the public nature of what were often one-sided conversations to be annoying. If you are a Twitter user and not participating in a specific chat, what is the value of that flow of partial comments from some of the individuals you follow? This is somewhat like listening to the speaker side of several conversations going on from the self-centered types who feel it appropriate to site in a coffee shop and do business their business. This is just not necessary.

While listing issues with TwitterChats was easy, I have it found it somewhat difficult to offer an alternative that would be practical for educators in K12. I have finally found what I think is an ideal solution to the two issues I mention – the service offers a 500 character limit and it has a private conversation mode. The service is called Mastodon (evidently this is a favorite band of the developers). You can signup very easily and I would recommend moving a chat group to this service for exploration.


Mastodon uses a TweetDeck-like interface. I have highlighted a longer submission (a toot) and the button for setting public or private toots. Simple to use, easy to join, and superior as a platform for conversation.

Thanks for being late

What? Thanks for being late. Those who are always late annoy me to no end. They seem to assume their time is somehow more important than my time.

Tom Friedman says I should relax and appreciate the opportunity to look around and reflect. Of course, he is right. Certainly, if I am sitting in a coffee shop with my iPad, he is right.

Friedman probably has done more to shape my world view than any other author. I believe I own and have read every book he has written. Some I have gone through several times. Some folks just have a way explaining things I find both insightful and approachable.


Friedman has a way of staying consistent to certain key ideas. Some complain he has really written the same book a dozen times, but I don’t see it this way. Without intending to address critics, he says something in this most recent book that explains why this may seem to be the case. In describing what an effective opinion writer does, he proposes that the writer must create a personal understanding of what I like to call the “big picture” (he calls it the “Machine) and the writer then uses this perspective to persuade others to action. The capacity to generate a solid model of how the world works and to propose how we might push this model in a more positive direction is what opinion writers do. The big picture we create for ourselves and explain to others should always be a work in progress, but it is essential to decide what is important to address and then to explain related positions to others.

This makes sense to me and I can see the components of Friedman’s machine emerge across his more recent books (The World is Flat; Hot, Flat and Crowded; That Used to be Us; Thank You for Being Late). In the most recent book, he identifies what he calls “accelerators”. Similar “forces” are identified in the series of books I have identified. Core accelerators include technology, globalization, and mother nature (climate change). These factors impact everyone in both positive and negative ways. Friedman also writes often about the role of education as a force important in how society ends up being impacted by the accelerators.

Understanding my similar view of the big picture, my reaction to the most recent election should make some sense. I believe that technology is and will continue to play a dominant role in all aspects of our lives. We must learn to adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of these influences. Who will work in what jobs and where they will work have changed dramatically and we better adapt. Technology has interconnected us as never before. It is foolish and self-centered to assume that any country can operate independently or dictate to others. Those days are long gone and should be. Climate change is likely one of the most important challenges we face. We have created this problem and we must fix it should we want our children to live in a world without escalating problems. The science of this reality needs to be accepted and switching to new energy sources should be embraced as an opportunity for innovation and economic opportunity.

Educators – you play a key role here. How do you see the “big picture” and what are doing as an influencer to move everyone in a more positive direction?

I encourage your attention to the books I mention here. I say this no matter what your vocation. Your reaction to these books and your understanding may be quite different from my own, but I do think Friedman has a way of identifying important ideas that we all need to consider.





Rewordify online

Rewordify offers several tools focused on reading proficiency. One particular tool works as a plugin/extension with several browsers and allows the text from a web page to be simplified. You may have found online content you would like to have students read, but you recognize that the vocabulary may be too difficult for some of your students. The Rewordify extension will attempt to simplify the most difficult works.


I used a page I had written on social constructivism to try the service. This would not be a topic assigned to your average fourth grader. Some of the changes are not what I would recommend – psychologist became mind doctor. However, most of the changes make sense.




The approach Rewordify takes allows some customization.

The browser extension does not provide all of the features available from the Rewordify site, but adjusting web sites to meet the needs of individual students is a special challenge and the extension offers an approach worth trying.