Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fun with Punxsutawney Phil

Below are some interactive sites, printables, videos, and treats
to help you celebrate Groundhog Day with your students this week!

Groundhog Day Sites:
A great talking storybook by Mighty Books here.

Groundhog Day Story by Starfall

Online Groundhog Day quiz here.

Groundhog Day Songs here and here.

Groundhog day Smart Notebook files to download here and here.

Groundhog Day Printables:
  • From ABCTeach here.

  • Groundhog Day Quiz from Education World here.

  • TONS from Enchanted Learning here including: puppets, masks, follow the instructions worksheet, spelling worksheets, word hunts, alphabetical order, word search, analogies, poems, quiz, code, fractions, books and MANY more!

Groundhog Day Videos:
There is a great Groundhog Day slide show from the New York Times here.

Here are some fun YouTube Groundhog Videos:

Groundhog Day Treats:
There are also some SUPER cute little groundhog day treats I found recently on Pinterest.

How cute is this one from Sweetology?

Kitchen Fun with My 3 Sons has several cute groundhog day treats here.

Family Fun has these adorable groundhog cupcakes! So fun!

Jeff's List of his favorite FOSS Applications

People like stuff that is free. People like lists of things. Today I am going to put these two things together with the following list of my favourite FOSS (free open source software) applications.

Web Browser: Firefox

Platforms: Linux, Windows and OSX

I know Chrome/Chromium have gained a lot of popularity in the past year, but I still like Firefox most as my primary web browser. My two pmain reasons for this are the fact that it generally renders text "nicer" than most webkit-based browsers and the fact that it integrates with most Linux desktops more fully than Chromium does.

IRC Client: Xchat

Platforms: Linux and Windows

Xchat is a fairly straight forward GTK IRC client. It supports a variety of features, but also is clean enough to simply let me get right into the chat room I want without much configuration.

Instant Messenger: Pidgin

Platform: Linux, Windows and OSX

When it was first created it was known as "gaim", but today many know the popular GTK instant messenger client as "Pidgin". Supporting a number of messenger types including AIM, Yahoo, Google Talk, MSN and many others - Pidgin is a very versatile messaging client.

Torrent Client: Transmission

Platforms: Linux and OSX

Transmission is fairly light bit torrent client that has both GTK and QT interfaces. It is stable and fairly feature rich while staying out of the user's way. It supports many commonly used torrent features such as setting download/upload speed limits and prioritising downloads.

FTP Client: Filezilla

Platforms: Linux, Windows and OSX

The swiss army knife of FTP clients Filezilla supports many common transfer protocols including FTP, SFTP, FTPS, and FTPES.

PDF Viewer: ePDFViewer

Platform: Linux

ePDFViewer is a very simple and light weight PDF viewer that utilises the GTK and poppler libraries.

Office Suite: Libre Office

Platforms: Linux, Windows and OSX

Libre Office is a full featured office suite that provides a word processor, spreadsheet editor, presentation creator and much more. It is written in C++/Java and was forked from a little over a year ago.

Video Editor: Openshot

Platform: Linux

Easily one of the best open source projects to be started in the last couple of years. Openshot is a non-linear video editor that is written in mostly in python and GTK. The interface is clean and generally makes finding whatever function you are looking for fairly easy.

Video Ripping: Handbrake

Platforms: Linux, Windows and OSX

Ever have a video DVD you purchased and wanted to backup in case you lose or scratch the disc? Handbrake is the perfect tool for this task. It will simultaneously rip and encode a variety of media formats to a variety of other different media formats.

Disc Burning: XFBurn

Platform: Linux

Part of the XFCE software collection XFBurn is a to the point disc burning software based on libburnia. In case you hadn't noticed by now I am a fan of "simple and clean" software and XFBurn is no exception to this rule.

Media Player: VLC

Platforms: Linux, Windows and OSX

VLC is a multi-media player that is written in QT. It's most valuable asset is the fact that all of it's many multi-media codecs are self contained - meaning it can play nearly any media format right after installation without the need for installing system wide codecs packages.

Now, take note that I mention these are my favorite applications - not that they are always the best application for every possible task. Odds are there are others that are just as good (or better) in some situations than the ones I listed. One of the best things about FOSS is the ability to choose what you want to use. So try lots of different software and find which applications work best for you.

~Jeff Hoogland

Heart Writing Fun

I love Valentine's Day and love doing some heart related things with my kiddos. 
Below are some fun heart related ways for your students to practice writing and spelling!

This fun site allows you to type in your own words (poem, story, etc) and then it turns it into a heart shaped page! Here's one I did using part of I Corinthians 13.

This Word Hearts site allows you to change the color of font, the font, the background color, and use your own words to populate a heart.  This would be fun to use for spelling word practice!

Make your own customized candy heart here 

or here

which would be so fun for spelling word practice!

Make your own heart maze here. 

Read Write Think has a fabulous shape poem interactive that allows student to create and print a poem (or short story) in the shape of a heart. 

Arguments for a Universal Health Record – Part II

All animals can exchange information when in proximity to each other. Humans advanced this useful exchange to occur when the interacting parties are far apart, which makes the human animal quite unique. First came human couriers carrying verbal information, followed by human couriers carrying written missives, then came technology. Technology in the form of transportation vehicles, and technology in the form of unmanned transport of sounds and symbolic characters, changed the world. Telephones and computers on the Internet rendered the travel time of information from any point on the globe to any other point to milliseconds or less, but did not change the age old paradigm of information physically moving from one place to another. Until now.

This is the age of social media. Those of us who remember licking envelopes and stamps are often tempted to dismiss social media as a superficial waste of time better suited to perpetually distracted kids than any serious endeavor. When you think about Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Farmville and such, it is hard to believe otherwise. Ignoring the actual activities currently occurring on social media platforms, and looking exclusively at the mode of communication, one is forced to acknowledge that a change in paradigm has occurred, and we are reverting to exchanging information when we are in close proximity to each other, only this time around proximity is virtual, not physical. Information ceased to travel virtually, and instead, we do.

When we “go to” Google+ and engage in a lengthy discussion regarding Universal Health Records, we are creating and consuming content which resides in one virtual location – Google’s network of servers. If you want to participate in such conversation, you have to “come to” Google+, just like you had to come to Town Hall in days gone by, if you wanted to debate matters of importance. Unlike exchanging information by horse, train, telegraph or email, this communication paradigm is once again social, but flexible enough to occur in real time or at a time of your own choosing.

Back to medical records. Today most medical records are stored in physical format (paper) at various physical locations (brick and mortar facilities). Health information exchange is occurring mostly through courier, whether manned (patient, snail mail) or unmanned (fax). Those who advocate for electronic medical records desire to change the format of the record from physical to virtual, leaving the storage of virtual records pretty much as it is today. Once the content is computerized, it can also be exchanged by computer couriers, such as email and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). This is supposed to make medical records “liquid” and the data can then flow from one computer to the other in a network of rivers and rivulets spanning the entire nation. Since such a complex system of waterways can be useful only if 100% clean water is allowed to flow through, as opposed to a mixture of seawater, oils, spirits, and other beverages, much care must be exercised at every medical records repository to transform whatever is released out into the public system to clean water. As discussed in part one of this series, ensuring water purity and building canals, dams and other infrastructure is expensive, fraught with peril, and assuming such system can be built, it is also obsolete right out of the box.

What problem are we attempting to solve by computerizing medical records? The customary answer to this question is that medical care has become extremely complex, it requires scores of professionals working together and, to foster better outcomes, they should all have the most accurate pertinent information at their disposal. Now, if we could bring all these professionals into one room filled with books and journals, and sit them down around one table, we would be just fine with old fashioned verbal information exchange. Since this type of physical proximity is becoming less and less likely, we find ourselves in need of a solution to allow disparate teams to collaborate on one project. We can do this the old way, and arrange for virtual information to flow electronically between team members, or we can do this the social media way, and arrange for team members to meet in one virtual space and work in virtual proximity. But wait, there is more... In health care, our projects are longitudinal. Each episode of care builds on all previous ones and also informs all episodes to come. This in a nutshell is why the entire medical record must be an open and shared resource.

Given the realities of our health system of systems, I am being told that such selfless collaboration at the data level is very unlikely, and given the real and manufactured concerns with privacy and government oversight, having a universal comprehensive data store is politically impossible in health care. Nobody objdcted to the technical soundness of the proposed solution. Granted, health care is much more complex than Google+ or Google Docs, and we will need more data, more definition and a much bigger and more sophisticated transactional database structure. As much as I would like to, we cannot flip a switch and begin accumulating universal health records overnight. So how would we go about starting to move in this direction?

One very promising idea comes from Dr. David Kibbe and the Collaborative Health Consortium. The notion of a health care collaboration platform, or clinical groupware, could do for health care what Google+ and Facebook did for virtual social interaction, but it stops short of providing a longitudinal and open medical record. If you were an avid Facebook user and recently tried to switch to Google+, you probably already encountered the big tall wall surrounding that particular platform. While this may be a minor nuisance when it comes to social media, and fully understandable from a software, or platform, vendor business perspective, it is not so minor when it comes to medical records, as every doctor who tried to switch EMRs can tell you. Every business should have the right to erect walls around its platform, its innovation and its intellectual property. No business should have the right to monopolize patient data, even if it was created by services and tools of a proprietary platform. The data layer must be separated from the service platform layer, because the data layer belongs to individuals and, in aggregate, it is a public good.

Another suggestion was that initiating standardized information exchange may lead to the eventual creation of local and later regional data stores. Perhaps the various State HIE organizations would grow into such data repositories. Perhaps the ever expanding integrated health systems would accomplish something similar. Eventually, we may be able to connect all these repositories into a federated model of national health records. All this is possible of course, but this rudderless experiment strikes me as a major waste of time and resources. So here is a small suggestion. There are several billions of dollars appropriated for a VA/DoD joint EHR which is supposed to be open source. Presumably, such effort will yield a database schema sooner rather later. Let’s use that. Let’s define a minimum set of data, not much different than what is required to be exchanged for Meaningful Use, and begin populating a national database. It will take time before this becomes the authoritative version, but it will happen. Initially, we can mandate certified EHRs to use the national database to retrieve and update this modest dataset in real time. This should not be a very difficult task for EHR vendors. At the same time, we should allow new products to be developed against this new and open schema. What would be the cost of building a simple user interface to the Universal Health Record to display an accurate list of problems, meds, allergies, immunizations and lab results? Hint: very close to zero. What value would physicians, and patients, derive from the ability to access such definitive lists for any patient, any time, from any browser, on any device? You decide.

Health Information Exchange is an outdated paradigm. It is based on understanding the Internet to be an improved version of the Pony Express system. The Internet has evolved into something completely different and unless we evolve with it, we are doomed to be arming heavily for a war that has concluded and it will never be fought again.

Introducing E17's Notification Module

The Enlightenment developers are busily hacking away as always. There are so many SVN commits to the E repository that it is easy to over look new features if you aren't looking for them. A nifty little module recently made its way into the core of Enlightenment though - its called "Notification". Notification is a native E alternative to other notification daemons such as notify osd.

If you have a recent Enlightenment build you will find Notification under the core E modules:

Simply loading the module is enough for it to start working. However as is the case with most of the E17 desktop, the Notification module is fairly configurable:

The notifications themselves are sleek, simple and stay out of your way:

The Notification module should work with all applications that work with other notification daemons such as notify osd.

~Jeff Hoogland

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Confused about iPads in Education

It's been nearly two years since I got my first Asus convertible tablet/netbook, loaded it up with Linux and started kicking it around with my every day to classes. In general I have found it to be an extremely useful tool.

I need to type notes or prepare a presentation? Not a problem - it is a netbook after all and can perform all the same functions as a laptop. I need to take hand written notes? I don't have to keep track of notebook paper that I always inevitably lose. I simply fire up Xournal and can use any stylus (or even a pen with a cap over the tip) to take notes on the computer just as if I was writing on a notebook. 

My netbook convertible does what any good piece of technology should - it makes my life easier.

You want to know what doesn't seem tn make anyone's life easier during class? Those iPad's I've seen piles of people caring around campus with them this last year. In fact, I've never once seen an iPad used productively to take notes in a classroom. You can't type notes effectively on the dang thing - at least I've yet to find anyone that can match my 90+ WPM using a touch screen keyboard. You also can't take hand written notes effectively due to the poor quality of basically every capacitive stylus in existence.

One useful thing the iPad can do is function as a calculator. Another thing I've heard proposed is replacing text books with ebooks on the iPad. You know what else has all the functions of a calculator and can read ebooks and pdfs? You guessed it - my netbook.

The biggest joke at the end of all of it? Even the "16GB" version of the iPad costs more than the highest end Asus T101MT.

Maybe I'm just not "hip" enough to see the need for them, but it seems to me if we want to revolutionize how our students learn using technology they would be better served if that technology came in the form of something other than an "iPad" or capacitive tablet of any sort. Whats your take on it?

~Jeff Hoogland

100 Day Posters

I have a big blank wall in my room that is waiting for some computers to be delivered {woo hoo!}. 
While we wait I've been using it as a giant bulletin board which I love. 

Since Thursday is the 100th day of school, this week I put up some posters for my kids
 to add to with our goal being 100 items per poster. 

For them to add something it has to be unique and it's been super fun to see the neat things they add! 

Here are the posters we have up:

  • 100 Things We Love to Eat
  • 100 Things We Hate to Eat
  • 100 Different Animals
  • 100 Different Things That Are Round{ish}
  • 100 Different Books We Love
  • 100 Things That Make Us Angry
  • 100 Things That Make Us Excited
  • 100 Things That Make Us Sad
  • 100 Things That Make Us Scared
  • 100 Things That Make Us Happy

Here are some of my favorites: 

{Love Fat Albert}

{the bookroom was written by a teacher :}

Here are the headers if anyone would like them! 

100 Different