27 March 2009

Spring Fever

Seems like it's been awhile since we've had some fun around here. All grading and no playing makes for a very dull blog indeed. So hows about I share some of my current favourite toys?

Kicking things off is my new Acer Aspire One. For those of you who haven't seen one of these before, it's a teeny-tiny laptop: about the size of a thin hardback book, but a lot lighter. Yes, the keyboard is small---but I'm not finding that to be much of a problem. Typing is a simple adjustment. The greatest problem has been remembering where special keys (e.g. del, pgdn, arrows...) are, and even that isn't too much of a headache. I have also been surprised to discover just how much I rely on my touchpad for navigation---and how little I rely on a keyboard at all. This little toy will accompany me on trips from now on. It easily slips in my purse and allows me to leave my regular laptop safe and sound at home. I love it!

I have been doing my presentation on grading practices and student motivation for almost a year now---which means that I am going to retire it from the circuit soon. It doesn't mean I won't support school/district requests to work with them, just that now that I've hit the area conferences, I probably need something new in my repertoire for that crowd. I have to say that the biggest response I get is about record-keeping strategies---especially using Excel for this purpose. So, I hope to expand that piece into a full session on information visualization for the classroom. The newest version of Sparklines is sure to be a crowdpleaser. I may actually spend my Friday night playing with this.

Speaking of presentations, I'm always looking for unusual ideas and images to capture the imagination or use as transitions between sessions. From my most recent YouTube meanderings, I recommend Extreme Sheep LED Art and Humans! I'm also liking this tiltshift approach to video (you can make your own tiltshift photos here) as shown in this Mardi Gras parade.

Need a game to keep you amused? Adam Savage from the Mythbusters recommended Balldroppings. I admit the name of the game seems slightly risque, but it's quite family friendly.

Or perhaps you need some new digital tools? How about Contxts where you can create a mobile business card? Thinkature, Blellow, and Mixed Ink supply you with some interesting new ways to collaborate on-line. If your travel and meeting budgets are now as extinct as the Dodo due to budget cuts, have a look at these as alternatives. And if, like me, you're trying to be more visual in your approach, you may want to have a look at Lovely Charts and Exploratree for ideas and support.

It's the weekend, and for many out there, Spring Break. Even if I don't have time off, I plan to get out for a bit (weather permitting). Michael Perry said that "Seed catalogs are responsible for more unfulfilled fantasies than Enron and Playboy combined." He's probably right---as this is the time of year when I begin longing to dig around in the dirt and see things come to life again. It's time for Nature to pull out her frocks and sandals. When you're done checking out the links above, I hope you'll join me in the garden.


Clix said...

How much was your Acer? also, what programs do you use for word processing? internet? does it have image or pdf editing software available?

Jenny said...

Grading goddess,
Your post hit a nerve with me (in a way that you probably didn't intend) and I'm curious to get your thoughts. I take a ton of anecdotal notes with my first graders and then rarely have a chance to look at them again, much less use them well to guide instruction. So, I've been thinking about getting a netbook and setting up some various google docs to keep my records in. I'm hoping to create something that I can use on the fly and will be sortable/searchable as I plan further. What are your thoughts?

Roger Sweeny said...

To be a healthy earth, all your elements must be in equilibrium.

Except that, like economies, no ecosystem is ever in perfect equilibrium. Perhaps the video's author has heard of ice ages. Or a man named Darwin...

As a species, we are in the minor leagues when it comes to destruction. The first place award goes to the bacteria who discovered how to use sunlight to split water and carbon dioxide. As a byproduct, they freed oxygen, which poisoned 99.999% of everything that was living on earth at the time, turned iron into rust, and created a new danger: fire.

The Science Goddess said...

Clix---the Acer was $275 at Office Depot. It is just like a regular laptop (only tiny). So, it runs all MS programs, Adobe, etc. No special software is needed. It doesn't have a CD/DVD drive, but there is very little these days which can't be downloaded. So far, I am very very happy.

Jenny---I think your idea sounds great. Do you have a system in mind? I'd like to hear more. Last year, when I was still in the classroom, I was very much in paper/pencil mode for collecting evidence. I can imagine that your notes are more voluminous because you have more time with your kids and teach more subjects. My only other thought would be to have some sort of system (color coding?) such that you're not tracking notes on everyone...perhaps just keeping an eye on the kiddos you're most worried about for a given lesson.

Roger---You always have such intriguing observations. Seems like nearly any species could be destructive, given the right conditions. Invasive species are often seen as unwanted, but perhaps they're just another evolutionary pressure. Perhaps humans will "force" the next round of mass extinction/Darwinian explosion of new types?

Roger Sweeny said...

Perhaps because we have written records for such a short period, we don't realize how much "nature is change."

For one thing, "solid ground" is constantly moving, causing climate to constantly change. We owe our very existence to it. If east Africa hadn't became drier and forest turned into savanna, there would have been no new niche for an ape to come out of the trees and eventually become homo sapiens.

The most destructive recent episode of invasive species occurred when plate tectonics caused North America's peninsula of Panama to join with South America and become the isthmus of Panama. Animals and plants from the South crossed over to the North. Animals and plants from the North did the same to the south. Many native species went extinct and there was major disruption of ecosystems.

We parochially pick a point in time and say, "If the ecosystem doesn't function like it did then, it is unhealthy." But this is usually an aesthetic or moral judgment, not a scientific one.