The Theremin

This past Sunday on CBS Sunday Morning, I learned many interesting facts about Halloween, but one particular story struck me as purely educational technology genius.  It was scripted to teach about a very unique subject that many of us have overlooked even though we have all heard it played.  CBS presented a story about the theremin, one of the oddest musical instruments known to musicians.

Controlled without physical contact with the actual instrument, the musical technician intercepts electronic signals between two antennas to produce electronic sound on the Theremin.  The theremin created by the Russian spy of the same name is frequently heard in eerie and/or out of this world type movies, and it has even been adopted by The Beach Boys‘ in “Good Vibrations”  and various electronic guitar creations by  Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin.  Even Bob Moog, the creator of the first synthesizers, credits the theremin in helping him understand and create digital keyboards with varieties of electronic sounds.

But I am writing not so much to discuss how very tricky it is to master this instrument as it is to describe a great educational technology story about technology.  CBS Sunday Morning knows how to tell at story and teach at the same time.  This short segment taught more about history, culture, electronic music, and politics in four minutes than most of us can teach in an entire week or month.  It reaches the audience, it adheres to academic goals, and it cleverly speaks to the learner.  It is the type of video that we should strive to create.

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Using the Internet as Your Network

Good Morning Readers!

I have discussed within the past year or so the importance of considering a change to Google Apps as a way to run your school, and while I have seen schools adopt its usages to some extent, I am not seeing the full implementation by any school yet.  I have seen schools implement the email systems with some shared documents here and there, but by and large I am not noticing policies that reflect a complete movement toward them or an entire community shift in how it communicates its information.  And whether Google Apps, Outlook.com, Dropbox, or iCloud is your preferred platform, it is vital to make a move to using the Internet as your network now.  Here is why.

Tablets are going to continue to grow as a choice in computing for many users, and tablets by design are making use of the Internet as a network already.   Server speeds, connections to servers, data storage, and your accessibility to the Internet are making it easier for experts in server administration to provide low cost services to the tablet market via the Internet.  You have heard that the desktop is dying out, and well the local network is dying out too.  As these tablets become better and faster more people will choose them for the cost, accessibility, and portability.  Yes, there will still be a need for laptops, servers, and desktops, but the average user is going to want this low cost solution of pay as you need it; and therefore, your network should service it via the Internet.  And why not do that for free?

Services via the Internet are also growing by at an incredible rate.  If you are are a Microsoft Office enthusiast, you can get a free version of Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint via outlook.com for your school.  Google offers its own version of documents, spreadsheets, gmail, and presentations, and it is even offering a way to connect your printers to your own virtual print servers to print from any device including iPads.  So think about that for a minute, the best network administrators in the world (Google, Microsoft, and others) have created a virtual school system and server for you for free.  That sounds like a great deal for me and less headaches.

Even if you simply start your email system, you should start implementing it today.  These services will only continue to grow and to improve as the market dictates the move to tablets.  You will need to support it, and why not do that for free.  A network on the Internet can reach more people, and a safety guarantee from Google or Microsoft security experts is better than any government policy to protect our kids on the Internet.

If you have any concerns or questions about this week’s writing please submit your comments below.  I am also absolutely learning.

The Danger of One Way Emotional Emails

A friend of mine recently posted upon Facebook her concerns about emotional lengthy emails and cautioned those with a lot on their minds to pick up the phone or to set up a meeting for direct communication.  I responded to her concern with a cheer, but I also stated that as an educational technologist I have been teaching this to parents, students, teachers, and administrators for years, and while I believe they can respond in class and upon tests regarding what to do in those situations, I am seeing little evidence of this in real practice and interaction among individuals.  In fact, there are many one way emotional emails being sent to teachers and administrators that need additional two way feedback from all parties involved, but is that happening?  Are these inquiries and/or complaints being properly handled to resolve conflict?

In my presentation of a one way emotional email, I am referring to those emails that are intended to define in great depth a problem with varying points of dissatisfaction.  These emails are harmful to the person of subject, but these emails are rarely sent to that person.  These emails are also sent without discussing topics with those involved.  I call them one way emotional emails because they remind me of politicians in front of a camera, a preacher on television, or a paid 30 minute advertisement on TV.  There is very little time for rebuttal or real open discussion from the other point of view, but there sure is a lot said about the other party, consumer, religion, or product.  It generally seems like a one sided and most likely biased document of frustration.

In my experiences in schools, one-way emotional emails have taken the form of various parent concerns such as academic goals, social circumstance, and disciplinary actions.  However, I have also seen teachers concerned about student behavior, school policies, and modern learners, and let’s not forget administrators intending to improve the school environment, student learning outcomes, and community visibility.  While I am not perfect in these matters either, lengthy emails of extreme frustration or emotional content are not always the best response to a situation because frequently parties that are involved are not understood, questioned, or expected to respond.  Conflict is defined.  Thoughtful resolution is not.

Well, without continuing to create a one way blog, I am seeking your advice.  How do you feel about email used to describe well documented frustration?  Should email be used to complain in such depth?  Is it valuable or is it defining a generation of complainers who can not solve problems through direct conversation?  Are we solving problems or just telling another person in hopes that some else will solve the problem?

iOS Development

I have been studying programming since the late 1990’s, and I have programmed applications for the web, stand alone applications for the desktop, game interactions, and interactive multimedia modules.  I have taught computer programming to many students using Java and ActionScripts, and I have created many functional class demonstrations.  In order to make those projects fit specific needs, I had to learn new code from libraries and other syntactical phrasings.  While I do not consider myself an expert in any one language, I do feel that I can manipulate many programming languages to create the desired effects of most common UI interactions, story animations, and general database connections.

This summer, I focused my life long learning efforts on the Objective-C language, X-Code, and the programming of Apps for the iPhone and iPad.  Education needs great apps for the platform, and I feel prepared for the challenges of Educational App creation.  To me, Objective-C was really a review from my studies in the 1990s of C and C++.  Yes, there are differences, but I was glad to see there was also a strong inheritance of common C language usage.   I also familiarized myself with the X Code environment, and I have concluded that this can be compared to working with Microsoft’s Visual C++ although I agree there are differences there too.

After finishing my fourth test application with success and running on my iPhone, I have decided to continue this trek of learning and developing for the iOS platform.  I am creating apps with multiple views now and examining the Core of iOS.  I am studying through textbooks, iTunes University, Apple’s Developer resources, and prior knowledge refactoring.  Also I am currently seeking employment as an App developer with a larger organization so that I can hone my skills and develop highly functioning apps for the iPhone and iPad.  My ultimate goal is to create educational apps, but I believe that I need to work with an expert organization to learn more about he process of complex apps for the iPhone and iPad.  Consequently, I am seeking employment either full time or contractual in the iOS development field in the Los Angeles or Ventura County area.

Educational Technology from Absolutely Learning – Matt Moore