April 28th, 2012 by John Rappold
Google Glasses are not yet available as a consumer product, but there is no doubt that within days of their release you’ll see an article on how to use them in the classroom. I have a problem with that.
It’s difficult even for those involved with tech to keep pace with sometimes daily changes in the industry. I spend roughly 90 minutes a day reading general tech, job-related (web design, app development), and EdTech news. There are trends in EdTech that I find to be detrimental to Education.
THE NEXT BIG THING
I recently read articles on using pinterest and QRcodes in the classroom, and although I don’t use either, I am familiar with them. It seems that for every online service, social network, app, etc., someone thinks it should be used in the classroom. Maybe many of them can, but the articles touting these technologies are mostly poor in core concepts and learning outcomes. If I’m an educator who knows nothing about QRcodes I’ll probably not learn anything about the technology itself from an article using it for classroom projects. No context for the basics of the technology are given within the article or through hyperlinks. Most articles on using tech in the classroom seem to have the attitude of “let’s throw out some ideas and see what sticks”.
Secondly, did the author bother to take the time to actually try the ideas in the classroom? How did it affect learning? As a teacher, do I want to spend valuable classroom time beta testing suggested projects from an article that the author didn’t bother to test?
ITS ALSO ABOUT HARDWARE
I use an iPad, and love it. It has fundamentally changed how I interact with the Internet, read, and my creative uses for music and photography. Would I implement an iPad lab somewhere in a school district? Yes. Would I implement the iPad throughout the district? No.
I’m reading articles on district-wide rollouts of iPads, and it bothers me a bit. Hopefully the districts have done some studies on outcomes, either through testing in a small lab environment, or through written studies. The tablet market is young, and when implementing new hardware, other factors need to be taken into consideration.
For example, what does it take to provide support for the iPad? How does the district stop students and teachers from downloading unauthorized apps? Do Android tablets offer better features for support? Will the upcoming Windows 8 tablets integrate better with the district network and productivity software?
You may have guessed that I would wait until the tablet market is more stable before rushing into a complete district implementation.
The most harmful aspect of the rush to embrace new technology is how teachers are essentially being forced into the equivalent of a High School clique.
You don’t use pinterest in your classroom? What’s wrong with you? Still using Google+? That’s so last year. C’mon, everyone’s flipping their classroom.
So, if I don’t use some of these technologies I can’t be part of the cool kids. Sad, but this seems to be the philosophy of a lot of EdTech. If I’m a teacher who likes using tech, but is not particularly savvy, I would find all of this overwhelming and discouraging. Why bother to learn new tech, if someone decides in six months I need to stop what I’m doing and adopt something new?
Maybe EdTech should take a lead from commercial business. We know many corporations are still using Windows XP as their main computing system. Why? Because it works. They know rolling out a new OS is expensive in hardware and software costs, as well as in training employees.
I think it may be time for EdTech to slow down on the constant desire to change, and give teachers some breathing room.
June 10th, 2009 by John Rappold
I’ve created a couple of test sites with various versions of Drupal, and while they were certainly usable, I never went back to finish the sites because it was difficult for me to remember how Drupal works. Every time I went to administer a site, there was always a period of re-learning how to do things with Drupal.
So, why didn’t I simply try another CMS? The answer is that in my opinion, Drupal is by far the most powerful CMS out there, but it is sometimes difficult to harness that power because of the initial learning curve.
The developers of Drupal intend to rectify usability problems with the release of Drupal 7 in early 2010. From my standpoint of just wanting to get a CMS online without a lot of hassle, Drupal terms such as taxonomy, nodes, etc. should be hidden from the user, making an interface that is much more intuitive to use. Of course, if I was developing modules for Drupal, then the aforementioned items would be necessary to know.
Truth be told, I’m not completely crazy about the admin interface for WordPress. It is much easier to use and more intuitive than Drupal, but seems a bit cluttered to me.
Check out the link at the top of this post and view the video of the Drupal usability study completed at the University of Baltimore. You’ll view screencasts of users working with the Drupal interface and hear their comments. I would agree with the majority of the issues that are stated.
May 31st, 2009 by John Rappold
One of the downsides of shooting landscape videos is the problem with the built-in mics of a Camcorder. It isn’t that my Canon HF10 and Sony HC1 microphones are bad, but they are extremely susceptible to wind noise, making most location sound unusable. I’ve been struggling on what I was going to do to solve the problem.
A few years ago, I owned an excellent pair of Core Sound Binaural microphones that I used for environmental sound with a Sony Minidisc recorder. The microphones were lost, and I had planned on getting a new pair. I also wanted a new recorder; something that used flash cards so I could just copy the files over to my PC after recording. I figured that replacing my microphone set and purchasing a decent recorder was going to set me back around $450-600. Also high on my wish list was maybe finding a decent set of quad microphones to record surround sound in the field. Again, core sound has an excellent product with their Tetramic, but at $1000, it is out of my league, especially considering I still have lots of photographic equipment to purchase before my trip out west in 2010.
Last week I stumbled across the Zoom H2 Handy Recorder, purchased it, and I couldn’t be happier. IF you do a Google search for the recorder, you will find lots of information.
You can record in mono, stereo (using either the front or rear mics), four-channel stereo (using all four mics), or four-channel surround. Note that the surround feature is not 5.1 sound, and it really isn’t needed. Simply setup the H2 and it will output two stereo files. The front files are the 90 degree angle and the rear files are the 120 degree angle. In my case all I have to do in Sony Vegas is drop the two files into a Dolby 5.1 project. I can add just a bit of delay on the rear channel files to create a wider sounding sound field, mix a bit of the front channels into the center channel if needed, and Vegas can be setup to automatically create the LFE Channel based on certain frequencies.
The H2 remembers your last settings, so all I have to do is turn it on, arm it for recording, check my sound levels and then hit the record button. For surround sound, the H2 defaults to .wav files, and since the processing can be heavy for this process, I purchased a 4Gig Class 4 SDHC for asbout $15 and it works really well. The 4Gigs of storage will allow for about 3 hours of surround sound on the device.
I’m not going to go through all of the many features of the H2, but here are some highlights:
- .wav and .mp3 recordings at many bitrates
- files are time-stamped, and cue points can be marked in the file as you record
- USB port
- Many types of Automatic Gain Control, limiting and compression
- External mic input
- Comes with a stand (pictured), also a microphone stand adapter
- Can be mounted on a standard tripod
- Foam windscreen (seems to work well, although some other owners are using “dead cat” windscreens)
- Tuner for musical instruments
One common complaint I’ve head about the H2 is that the preamp for the external microphone is noisy. This was a common complaint when the unit was first released, and I’m not sure if the later models exhibit this problem. Another complaint is the “membrane” keypad. The keypad doesn’t bother me at all, and in fact will probably be better for keeping dust out of the unit when used outdoors.
The display screen is small and difficult to read. However, for recording purposes, once you have the unit configured for the way you want to record, it’s just a matter of turning it on and hitting a couple of buttons to begin.
My biggest worry is that the door for the SD/SDHC card slot seems a bit flimsy.
The H2 doesn’t come close to matching the sound of my old binaural microphones. Binaurals have a depth and richness that is hard to explain. In my case the tradeoff in sound quality is offset by the fact that I can record front and rear 4 channel sound on location. I want to stress that the quality of the buit-in mics of the H2 are good, just not as good as my binaurals.
The H2 is a steal at $179 retail.
Below is a 1:44 sound demo I’ve recorded. The two four-channel .wav files from the H2 were mixed to a two-channel .wav file in Sony Vegas:
- H2 in Car as I go through an underpass in Huntington
- H2 in car – A motorcycle passes me
- H2 mounted on tripod – Nature sounds in the forest
- H2 on its floor stand on my front porch – rain and distant thunder
You’ll notice some phase shifting on the thunder, due to mixing down to stereo. In a four channel mix this would not be a problem.
I noticed today that IE8 seems to have a problem linking to the file. You may have to right-click the link and save it to your computer.
May 6th, 2009 by John Rappold
Since this is mostly a tech blog, I thought readers might be interested in some of the music tech that for the most part I still own. If you’ve read the “about” section of the blog you already know I was a music teacher. I was a percussion major at Marshall University. Prior to coming to MU I had a little experience with the piano, having taken a couple of years of lessons, and then learning more on my own. At MU they thought I was advanced enough to pull me out of Piano class, which all non-piano majors were required to take, and I was given private instruction.I never had great technique, but my professor thought I was good enough that he wanted to put me in one of the weekly student recitals, performing Debussy’s The Girl With The Flaxen Hair. Even though my technique was weak, I was actually decent at being able to interpret slower Impressionistic style music, a style I very much enjoyed. I ended up declining to play in public, simply out of stage fright.
Around 1968 my brother had a copy of Switched on Bach, the first real recording to feature melodic playing of an electronic music synthesizer. I figure at this point, almost everyone has heard at least a portion of that album, which was wildly successful. I remember reading how much they had to overdub each individual part, and how Bob Moog provided the giant synthesizer for the recording. The Beatles also used a Synthesizer on their Abbey Road album, and you can here it prominently in Here Comes The Sun and Because. I thought the synthesizer was an interesting concept, but it didn’t wow me.
One day around 1970, while in my dorm room, I believe I heard one of the most amazing things ever. It was a recording of Lucky Man by Emerson Lake and Palmer. The synthesizer solo at the end is hard to describe, and nothing like it had been heard in rock music before. It was powerful, scary, and extremely cool. Keith Emerson performed it on the first Minimoog Synthesizer, an instrument that was portable. I saved my money, and by 1975 I was a proud owner.
The Minimoog was a revolution, and not only because it was portable. Previously, if you wanted to change sounds on a synthesizer, you needed to physically connect patch cables from say, an oscillator to a filter. Marshall University had synthesizer modules like this, and I remember one of the composition majors had patch cables running all over the place on the synthesizer with all of it eventually output to a 4-track reel-to-reel tape deck. Really advanced stuff back then. Eventually, any pre-programmed sound on a synthesizer was called a patch, in honor of the cabling
When using the minimoog in live performance you needed to use “patch charts”. These were simply diagrams of the front panel of the synthesizer, and you marked the positions of dials and filled in whether a particular switch was to be pushed to the left or right. Click the diagram on the left to view the chart full size. I still remember spending a very long time with my record album trying to figure out how Keith Emerson had setup his patch for the solo on Lucky Man. I eventually came pretty close and could play it on a good day.
The main competitor to the Minimoog in rock music was the ARP synthesizer. It’s the one used on Edgar Winter’s famous recording of Frankenstein. Electronically, the ARP was a much more stable synthesizer and didn’t need constant tweaking between songs like the Minimoog. The Minimoog’s oscillators would detune at the drop of a hat, but it’s big advantage was a much “fatter” sound than the ARP.
My other piece of music tech at this time was a Wurlitzer Electric Piano. Oddly, I can’t find a picture of my particular model, but it sure was an ugly beast. The Wurlitzer was a distant second place in popularity compared to the Fender Rhoades, with its soft bell-like sound. The Wurlitzer had a much harder-edged funky sound. A good recording to hear the Wurlitzer is to listen to Riders On The Storm by The Doors
Next: my 80s Music Tech
May 5th, 2009 by John Rappold
I was going to use another quote from Animal House about “taking the bar”, but I do try to make this a family friendly site. If you know the quote to which I’m referring, it more accurately projects my feelings on the matter at hand.
This morning, the Boss emailed me to ask if I could put up an app for the staff to track projects they are working on at all of our districts. After a couple of emails to determine exactly what was needed I told him I would have it finished sometime on Wednesday. I also told him I was a week behind in my Training Management System V2 project, not only for having to add a couple of new features, but also because I had to squash bugs in the Adobe Dreamweaver Developer’s Toolbox, an add-on for Dreamweaver for implementing lots of data-specific features. It’s a great tool, but it doesn’t speed up the process when I have to go through my code to correct some longstanding bugs in the product.
I told my boss that Adobe was supposed to release a bugfix version that would also be compatible with Dreamweaver CS4, but I hadn’t heard anything about it yet. I decided to do a search to see if there was any news.
After careful consideration, Adobe has decided to discontinue development of Adobe® Dreamweaver® Developer Toolbox 1.0.1 software effective April 9, 2009. Sales of the product will end through the Adobe Store on April 23, 2009, and sales across all channels will end on May 1, 2009. Existing customers are encouraged to consider the development environment of Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 software.
Here’s the thing. Adobe never sent email to current owners of the product to let them know. It was only announced on the company blog, product home page, and the Adobe forums. Apparently they did create the bug-fix/CS3/CS4 version, but I don’t know if I can get the upgrade, which was to be free.
As you can imagine, lots of users of the product are upset, many of them (including me) who had been using the product when it was owned by Interakt before the Adobe purchase. There are tons of features in the Toolbox that can’t be done easily by using Dreamweaver alone.
After reading through the release a few times, I have come to the conclusion that maybe Adobe will incorporate some of the toolbox features by the time Dreamweaver CS5 comes around. Still, this is a slap in the face to developers that have depended on the product, and forces them to stay with CS3 or CS4 if they don’t want to recode entire sites.
So what was one of the deciding factors in the discontinuation of the Toolbox? Let me direct you to a quote I made on this blog on March 12th:
If I had the power to add new features into Dreamweaver, here’s what I would do: release design and development toolboxes for the major open source web content systems in use today. For example, release a WordPress Designer’s Toolbox to make it easy for anyone to build a theme for WordPress. Release a Developer’s toolbox to help coders with designing plugins and widgets. Make toolboxes for Drupal and Joomla. Make these products as add-ons so that users can pick and choose the platform with which they want to develop or design.</Kreskin>
From Adobe’s Press Release:
Therefore, in order to help our web professional customers take advantage of the functionalities brought by the rising use of CMS frameworks and the strong web design capabilities of Dreamweaver, we have decided to focus our efforts on delivering features in Dreamweaver that will help developers easily and quickly integrate, brand, and customize prebuilt components, instead of going through a separate tool.
Yes, Adobe recognizes that many developers have turned to tools such as Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress. While I’m all for that type of integration, Adobe really needs to step up and find some way of adding some backward compatibility with the Developer’s Toolbox whenever Dreamweaver CS5 ships.
April 30th, 2009 by John Rappold
Though GIS technology appears in the National Geography Standards, teachers in earth, environmental, biological, and general science also are incorporating geospatial technologies into their lessons. The growing use of these tools in an array of social studies and STEM subjects supports authentic, problem-based instruction, helping students tackle real social and environmental research projects in their communities.
School leaders, too, are using geospatial technologies to help with their planning and decision making. These tools can help districts make more informed decisions related to facilities planning, student transportation, school safety, and more.
With the generous financial support of ESRI, the editors of eSchool News have compiled this special collection of news stories, best practices, and other resources–all designed to help you integrate GIS and other geospatial technologies into your classrooms and district offices
April 5th, 2009 by John Rappold
A few days ago I wrote a post on my photoblog about my first gigapan photo. It is a lousy shot, but enough to get me started on learning the process.
Today I was on the gigapan site, and decided that I would use their tools to geotag my photo in Google Earth. This site provides a really cool tool for tagging, and is a great use of the KML format, which allows for almost real-time updating of a file.
First, you download a KML file for Google Earth and open it. Next, you use the form on the gigapan site to mark the geo location of your photo and the direction of view. I had to work on the direction of view quite a bit, since my gigapan photo really doesn’t show very much. The cool thing about the process is that as you update the form on the gigapan site, your Google Earth file will update a few seconds later.
Once you are done with the web form, simply submit it, and it is geotagged on the gigapan site, and others can download your file if you’ve marked it for public viewing (I didn’t). In Google earth, simply right-click the marker in the Places seciion in the left panel and save as a KML or KMZ file.
To view the gigapan in Google earth, click to open the marker on the map. and then click Enter Panorama. You’ll see a cool animated effect, and then you’ll have the gigapan photo in the top half of your screen with a navigation feature. The lower part of the window has the map view. This is a very nice effect.
Here’s a screenshot of the view in Google Earth (click to view full size):
You can download my KML gigapan file and view in Google Earth:
April 4th, 2009 by John Rappold
I am far from the greatest web designer in the world, but I know what I like. Here are two web sites I have visited many times but don’t particularly like.Click the screenshot to view full screen. Click the text link to visit the site.
Camcorderinfo is one of the best sites for consumer/prosumer camcorder reviews. The site is fairly easy to navigate and there are good forums available for discussion.
What annoys me is the advertisement model they use on the site. Click a link and you’re almost sure to get hit with a full page advertisement before the page you want loads. We’ve all seen these full page ads before, but on every other site I’ve visited you only see the ad once. On camcorderinfo you have to suffer through a full page ad even between pages of a long review. I know the site needs revenue, but there has to be a better way. A very frustrating site when you want to read through a review.
Let me state here that I’ve all but stopped visiting Nikonians. This site is for users of Nikon cameras, and has varying membership levels. There are a lot of reviews and information on this site if you can find what you’re hunting for. I have lots of issues with this site.
I think the color choices are lousy, and the home page is way out of control . Look at the large number and ugly placement of the input boxes, dropdown, and buttons at the top of the page. For me there is way too much information to filter and scroll through, and they need to find some way of making the sponsor icons work together. I know that it is difficult with different logos, but it makes things ugly. I’m a big fan of a simple home page with just the right amount of navigation to get a user where he or she needs to go. There is just too much stuff on this page. I’m also not a fan of white text on a black background (except for special effects). Some of this stems from the fact of my vision problems, and it strains my eyes. I think the design needs a menu system to group topics better, and some sort of AJAX dropdowns or popups for the user login to get all of that stuff out of the top of the page.To me, this site looks amateurish, and not professional at all.
But it doesn’t end there.
I was a paying member of the site and I wanted to upload some photos to the gallery. What does it say about a site when you need to download a PDF with instructions on how to upload? Flickr and many other sites figured this out a long time ago. Heck, it was even difficult to navigate the site to find my gallery after I uploaded photos. Intuitive? I think not. Also, in this day on the internet, having photo size restrictions is very old school. Set a cap on the file size of a photo, and then let your site resize the photos. Don’t put that extra burden on the user.
My last problem with the site is one of the podcasts. I was a regular listener to the very very good The Image Doctors podcast, which has great tips on photography and using Nikon equipment. The hosts are very good and always have interesting topics. I regularly copied the mp3 podcast to my Garmin nuvi GPS to listen in my car on commutes or weekend photo trips. Somewhere along the way I believe someone changed the bit rate of the file, and it no longer will play on my nuvi. I don’t listen to podcasts at home except for rare occasions when I play them on my Sony PSP. Anyway, I’m no longer a regular listener of the show. One other beef I have is that there is a new music opening, with some power chord solo guitar. It really doesn’t match the low key aspect of the series. They need to get rid of that.
Of course, I could be wrong about all of this. Check out the sites, form your own opinion and let me know.
March 29th, 2009 by John Rappold
Last week I finally broke down and joined Facebook at the suggestion of my friend Bonnie. I confess that I never visited the site before. My former career as a band director made me very sociable for 19 years, and I felt I had enough. Due to both my vision problems and the fact that my job requires lots of concentration, I’ve been working from home the last 11 years in my job at the SCOCA ITC. Outside of family and a few friends, i rarely socialize anymore, and I’ve not even attended a class reunion after the first 10th year in 1979. I was totally unprepared for the Facebook experience.
When I joined last week I was happy to get friend requests from some co-workers (and I do enjoy the SCOCA staff). I haven’t learned a lot about Facebook in the few days I’ve used the site, but I learned enough that I could search to find some students that I taught. I have been overwhelmed.
If there is one teaching job in K-12 that is different from any other it is being a band director. I had the same kids in class every day from 6th grade through high school, and of course you become close to them. In some situations I’m sure some of my students were around me more than their own parents. I had one student from a good family that was going through difficult times at home who told me that I was more of a father to her than her own father. I haven’t found her on Facebook, but I’ve never forgotten that, and I’ve always wondered if thing s worked out well for her. I’m not lying when I say that high school graduation was always a very sad time for me because I knew I would never see most of these kids again. It was really hard for me to see them go.
I randomly searched Facebook for a student I remembered and she popped up on a list and I sent her a message. She’s married now, is an “art chick”; has done illustration work for the NY times, books, magazines, etc. She’s now teaching and doing grad work at WVU. She sent me a link to her web site (which she coded in Flash) and she does wonderful work. I was so proud to see what she does now, it is hard to express myself. She also told me that both she and her sister considered me to be their favorite teacher. Her sister sent me a friend request within a few hours. I did more searching on my own and sent friend requests, and also received requests from other former students who found me. It was a real experience seeing pictures of them and their own kids, and yet it was a bit sad that I’ve missed out on their pasts. I think what I’m going to have to do is see if Facebook will allow me to group them so I can send a mass email to let them know what I’ve been doing (and they actually want to know).
Facebook has been a strange experience for me. It’s given me more energy than I’ve felt in years. Thanks, Bonnie.
March 24th, 2009 by John Rappold
Note: I thought this might be a decent way to show some Internet Research methods.
In 2010 I’m planning on taking a two-week road trip to the Southwestern United States. The two prime sites I want to visit are Monument Valley on the border of Utah and Arizona; and Lone Pine/Alabama Hills in California. If you’re a film fan, you know that lots of westerns have been filmed in these areas, and Lone Pine even served as India in the 1939 version of Gunga Din.
A few weeks ago I was thinking about another Western I saw as a kid, The Hallelujah Trail. The film is an almost three-hour comedy that unfortunately isn’t all that funny. The film did have very high production values, a great score by Elmer Bernstein, and it may be one of the most beautiful westerns ever filmed. I rented the film from Netflix recently (not a very good transfer to DVD), and I noticed a particular location during the opening montage that looked great, and is also used prominently in the last third of the film. I grabbed a screenshot from my PC DVD player, and then began my search on IMDB.
If you want to know the details of a film, you know IMDB is the best source. Once I hit the page for THT, I looked in the left column for filming locations. Here’s what I found after clicking the link:
- Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, California, USA
- Coyote Canyon, New Mexico, USA
- Gallup, New Mexico, USA
- Santa Rosa, New Mexico, USA
- Shiprock, New Mexico, USA
- Tohatchi, New Mexico, USA
- Twin Lakes, New Mexico, USA
Next step: check Google maps. If part of the film was filmed in Lone Pine, CA, and the other locations were in NM, they probably weren’t that far apart. After looking around Google maps, I saw that the locations would also be fairly easy to visit from Monument Valley. I saved my locations to Google MyMaps for later research.
I next visited flickr and searched all of the location areas except for Lone Pine/Alabama hills. to me, the desert areas of NM, seemed to be the correct area. I searched for a few hours and didn’t find a photo that resembled my screenshot. However, I did find a flickr photo group for photographs from the Gallup, NM area.
I uploaded the screenshot to flickr and then posted the photo in the flickr Gallup Group on March 11th, with a request to identify the location:
As of today the location hasn’t been identified. Click the above photo to see the comments that have been posted.
Looking at the photo it seems to be a fairly prominent location, so perhaps I am looking in the wrong area and need to check the Lone Pine/Alabama Hills area more closely, but I’m still not ready to give up on New Mexico.
This evening I decided to read through the user reviews of the film. Bingo. A reviewer grew up in the New Mexico area where THT was filmed and visited several of the locations as a youngster. What was even better was that the reviewer’s email address was listed. The only potential roadblocks were that the review was posted in2001, and the email domain wasn’t from a known ISP. I sent an email this evening and it bounced. I also used google to search for the reviewer’s name and came up with an AOL address but it also bounced. I’ll still keep trying this thread of my research.
I know I have many readers of this blog with great research skills. Maybe you can come up with some other possible avenues of research that I’ve missed. If so, let me know by posting a comment to this post. Help me achieve my vacation dream.