Happy 30th, Mac!

Thirty years ago I lived beside the University of Toronto Bookstore in Sir Daniel Wilson residence. My frequent forays across the alley into the store were generally to browse the new fiction shelves. On or about this day in 1984, I discovered the Macintosh computer set up on a table just inside the front entry door of the store.

I was transfixed by this computer. My previous experiences with computers had been line prompt-driven screens on Vic-20s or large card reading HP machines in high school. The graphic user interface of the Mac opened my world to the power of computers. I frequented the store to such a degree that I began demonstrating the computer to prospective purchasers. One such buyer, Tim S., asked me to take care of his new Mac one summer while he visited Paris. What a thrill!

I was soon desktop publishing a catalogue of my 180+ cassette music collection and falling in love with a tool that truly enabled my creativity. What a watershed moment for me. I’ve been a happy geek ever since.

Thanks to my dear friend Jamie Lawson, I have one of the early Macs in my office at home. It works like a charm, and the smiling face reminds me of those winter days in January 1984 when I would set aside the novels from my first year English survey course to go play on the magical Macintosh computer at the bookstore.

Happy Birthday, Mac!

Nearpod – A Great BYOD App!

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I’ve recently started teaching in a BYOD environment and am always on the lookout for ways to take full advantage of the technology in the room. It’s the first time that I can rely on the devices being present in the room since the days I used to block-book the Apple laptop cart for entire terms for my English Media class! 

One app that has me very excited and spreading the word is Nearpod (www.nearpod.com). Nearpod allows teachers to log in and create a slide presentation, including quizzes, polls, graphic tasks (e.g circle Verona and Mantua on the map of Italy), weblinks and multimedia. Students log in to the website or via app and are conducted on a synchronous trek through the lesson at the teacher’s pace. Student data on quizzes and graphic tasks and polls are streamed back to the teacher’s screen – all of which can be shared with the class by the teacher. The data from a classes’ session is then emailed to the teacher via PDF or data file for review by the teacher.  

My Grade 10 English students were very excited by the synchronous teacher-directed path through the lesson. Nearpod made a pop quiz far more motivating and simplified the process for me! The presentations are very simple to create and sequence and link.

A paid subscription to the base free service adds the capability to send out Homework presentations, which differ in permitting asynchronous treks through the material. The paid level is also required to add audio and video to the presentations, and garners a more capacious library space.

My only frustration with the service was the limitation on word counts in questions and quiz answers; I had to rein in the verbiage. The only glitch I encountered in this cool app occurred when I shared quiz results as a few students were still completing the quiz, bumping them from the exercise and requiring them to start from square one on that quiz/poll item.

Give Nearpod a slide. It’s an ideal BYOD solution for class-based and distributed exercises! *****

 

 

 

 

Unplugged—Day Three

Day One:

The scenery has turned spartan.
We drop down into a red-rock desert.
The group stops for gas in Green River,
and I check my e-mail again.

Recapture Lodge,

A rustic two-story motel
surrounded by cottonwoods.
No phones in the rooms,
there is wireless Internet access,
installed a few years ago
because, the proprietor says,
people could not stand
to be without it.

Day Two:

We head into the tight curves
the San Juan has carved
from ancient sandstone,
float away from our devices
a short distance downstream,
past a narrow steel bridge
150 feet above the river —
after which there is
no longer coverage.

Cellphones do not work here,
e-mail is inaccessible
laptops have been left behind
with their drumbeat of incoming data
digital bursts of distraction
the false sense of urgency
the expectation of e-mail
their balm to times of micro-boredom.

Day Three:

Time is slowing down
For the first time
in three days in the wilderness,
I am not wearing my watch.
I forgot. It is a small thing,
I have lost the nagging feeling
to check for a phone in the pocket.

We sit in a red kayak in calm waters,
passing a goose and her two goslings on the banks
We eat pork chops, the Big Dipper brilliant above,
the thousand-foot canyon walls
narrowing our view of the heavens.
A few bats dart and dive,
seeking bugs drawn to the flashlights
The conversations blur,
with periods of silence
awed looks at surroundings —
the circling hawks, the bighorn sheep.

This is the rhythm of our trip:
As the river flows, so do the ideas.
our path to uncluttered thinking
to our appreciation that
attention is the holy grail;
everything that you’re conscious of,
everything you let in,
everything you remember
and you forget,
depends on it.

Adrian Hoad-Reddick, August 19, 2010

Inspired by New York Times article, Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain by Matt Richtel, August 15, 2010