The internet is really outdoing itself this year with April Fool's jokes. Here's a quick run down of my favorite so far. 

Google Maps and Pokemon

Okay, I talked about this one in my last post, but it's worth mentioning again. I'm really not sure if it's TECHNICALLY a joke because you can actually find 150+ Pokemon on your mobile device's Google Maps app. Make sure your app is updated and join the adventure. As of last night, I'd caught around 90 different Pokemon, but my phone was getting really warm so I stopped for the evening. 

If you'd like to be your own Pokemon Master, here are some tips to catching them all.

  • Search major cities around the world.
  • Make sure you zoom in to at least 200 meters to see them all.
  • Some water types are in the surrounding oceans, lakes, and rivers of major locations
  • Try looking at landmarks around the world- Eiffel tower, Disney Land, and the Alamo to name a few.
  • If you get really stuck, /r/googlepokemon has already caught them all and has the locations of each one!

Imgur's Viralizer

If you peruse funny pictures on the internet, Imgur is my top choice, although you may occasionally get the NSFW picture. (So be careful at work and don't say I didn't warn you.) They have created a beautiful new feature that automatically generates the best comments for your post to make it go viral. If you've never been to Imgur, you'll have no idea what any of this means, and the comments probably won't make sense, but for frequent visitors, you should get quite a kick out of the comments section on each picture. Something, something, arrow to the knee.

David Hasselhoff Photobombs Your Google+ Pictures

What's better than photobombs? CELEBRITY photobombs! Supposedly when you upload photos to Google+ (Honestly, who does that anyway?) Google will have David Hasselhoff automatically photobomb you. Pretty rad, I guess?

Headdit

Reddit has a pretty cool little feature today that lets you control your Reddit front page with your face. Headdit can be found in the right corner of your front page. Let it have access to your webcam and surf away. I didn't have a lot of time to play with it this morning because I'm writing instead of getting ready for work (SHAME! On a standardized testing day too!!), but feel free to check it out and leave me your impression in the comments.

I hope you enjoyed my super-fast round-up of a handful of the many April Fool's pranks that are sure to present themselves throughout the day. I want to prank my students, but we have standardized testing today, so I have to be a lame teacher and have no fun. Womp womp. 

What cool jokes did I miss? Leave me a comment and let me know!

31
Mar
2014

Pokemon in Google Maps!

Posted by Nicole

 

Now, knowing Google, this could easily be one of their April Fool's pranks. They always have a really awesome prank each year. Some people are saying it's not a joke because it's March 31st, others are saying it's April 1st in Japan already, where Pokemon originates.

Either way, if you update Google Maps on your phone right now, you'll get to play around on your very own Pokemon adventure. I believe it's a mobile-only feature at the moment, and you don't get augmented reality like in the video, but it's a lot of fun nonetheless. So go right now. Go. Do it. Update your app, click the search button and you'll see a Pokeball. You're officially on your way to be a Pokemon master.

Now, let's get real here, Google. First off, this needs to be a thing just because it's awesome. I would be a happy paying customer of a fully developed Pokemon/Maps crossover game or app. How awesome would it be to actually travel the real regions of Japan and France and catch Pokemon there?!

Secondly, from an education standpoint, HOLY HYPNO, Batman! How insanely useful would this be?! Are you a World Geography teacher? You could feature a new Pokemon (and location) every day and hardly ever run out. You could lead your kids on a scavenger hunt around the world, using geography clues to find Pokemon. Math teacher could conceal coordinates in solvable equations. Science teachers could create riddles to lead you to the species of Pokemon. There are SO many ways to get your kids engaged in a Pokemon quest. I teach music for cryin' out loud, and I'm going to tell my classes about this. They'll have to use technology (+1) to find locations on a map (+2) and collect a Pokemon! There's your cross curricular action right there! 

Google. Please. Just please let us make this a thing. Keep it. Let us teachers develop our own Pokemon searches to showcase places we want to teach about. Hnnnnngggg it's just so cool that I'm all out of real words. Ultimately, I'd love for this platform to be developed and added to the classroom. We need to be able to create customizable pins to drop on different locations, and an option to collect those pins or badges. You could make an Achievement Hunter list for your class. You could collect Pokemon, badges, coins, characters, composers, or anything else your mind could come up with. This is a fantastic idea you've come up with, please don't leave it on the 1st as a prank!!!

Tags: 
16
Mar
2014

So I guess I'm a Harvard student now?

Posted by Nicole

I totally dropped the ball the last few days. I was so proud of posting and then got distracted looking into options for my future. It stared with looking up what certifications are necessary to teach computer classes, then what kind of classes does Texas say you have to offer, then what on earth do I need to know to teach those classes?! So all of a sudden, I find myself at www.edx.org which offers online classes from some very important colleges. 

Through some searching, I found my way to the CS50 page. CS50 is Harvard's Intro to Computer Science class. They offer it on campus, online, and the free version. The three options obviously have different costs and resources available, but I'm just happy taking getting to learn from some of the best. You can't really argue with free college. Anyways, they have designed their whole class around posting it online, so I can watch the lectures whenever I have time and complete the homework at my own pace. I have to complete everything by December, and I think I get a certificate. I'm not really in it for the paper though, more for actually learning computer science.

Week 0 consisted of a basic overview of computer science, how binary works, psuedocode, and finally Scratch. Scratch is a really cool program created by MIT that lets even young children create their own computer programs without having to know how to type code. It's a drag-and-drop interface that is designed so you can quickly visualize what bits of "code" go together and where they would go. You can create games, animations, instruments, and much more through the program. It's worth your time to go play with it, especially if you have some smart kids (either biological or students).

My first assignment required a certain amount of scripts along with certain conditions that had to be present. I had to restart a few times because I just couldn't squeeze the requirements in. For example, my first animation didn't require a variable, and my second one didn't require a loop. I finally settled on a little game that lets you play instruments. You can try it out here!  

School's about to start up, so I'm waiting just a little bit before I start Week 1. I know we're going to dive into programming with C, so I want to give myself time to focus on preparing for UIL instead of focusing on programming. I'm pretty nervous about this year because I don't feel like I know how to fix the problems my band is having. I can diagnose the problems, I know a few ways to fix it, but I don't know the exact right words to say to a 13 year old to get them to play what I want them to play. It's a lot like programming. I know what I want to say or achieve, just not the best way to say it. I guess that's the story of my life though! 

Tags: 
13
Mar
2014

More Google stuff, Barkday, and Tweets.

Posted by Nicole

I've posted for three days in a row. That's pretty much a new record. Too bad my posts are about the most random crap ever. Today, I spent my morning working very hard on the Google curriculum I'm designing for my district. I got a bit done on the Google Site, but not as much done on the actual lesson plan. Oh well, it won't happen overnight. The whole thing is designed to be a three-day session, with day one covering all the basics. Day one is required for all the staff, with days two and three being optional extra in-service (either go to these in the summer or go during the year on your days off). So I'm trying to make two tiers of all the GAFE information- what everyone should know to function, and then all the cool stuff that comes later. Once I'm done, I'll post a link to the training site so maybe you readers can give me some feedback.

But more importantly, it's my Sophie's fourth birthday.

 Image

She spent the day lounging around on me like I am her personal pillow (I am) and enjoying her birthday rawhide. I can't believe my one and only is already four. We got her the day of my lingerie shower at college and my husband had to drive her halfway home to live with his parents for the last month of school before we got married. It's a good thing she's cute or she probably wouldn't have made it home alive with all the barking she does.

My other unrelated bit of talking for today has to do with tweets and followers. As I get more into technology, I'm looking for ways to get my name and product out there. What is my product? I'm really not sure. I'm kind of quirky and weird, and hopefully that's unique enough to gain some attention. It started this morning with the twitter hashtag #addawordruinapiece. That consisted of things such as "The Rite of Spring Rolls" and "Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Coffee Machine". Obviously, if you're not all caught up on classical and modern pieces of music, you could easily be lost here. I decided to add to the gold with "The Immovable Donut" and "Mars: The god of Chocolate." Someone else was clever and parodied Frank Ticheli's piece with "Hell's Angels in the Architecture."  Now if you know that piece, you'll know how great it already is, but if you change the angel into a Hell's Angel... well, I followed up that tweet with one of my own. 

I'm pretty sure "Hell's Angels in the Architecture" would be an @Ostimusic piece. That's how I imagine it.#AddaWordRuinaPiece

JOHN MACKEY HIMSELF retweeted me. I felt pretty special. A little bit star struck. I know composers are just normal people (using the term normal loosely), but it's still pretty cool. I decided to give it a shot again when I saw Kathie Lee Gifford's feed this morning. I watch KLG and Hoda every day I'm not in school. It's kind of my guilty pleasure. Anyways, her dog's birthday was today, so I replied to one of her tweets about it, telling her he shares a birthday with Sophie. She replied to me with "Happy Barkday."

Maybe it's just me, but I feel pretty cool. Maybe it was the hipster from yesterday working on my coolness today, but I feel awesome nonetheless. I have a lot of respect for a few particular famous people, and while I don't ever want to be all fangirly, I do hope they know that I respect their work and want to show them that I think they're pretty cool too. Sometimes you just get fangirly though. 

So that's my twitter story for today. Do you follow me on twitter? Is twitter supposed to be capitalized or is it like tumblr, where it's not supposed to be? Twitter. twitter. Okay. You should go follow me because my tweets are like bundles of sarcasm and humor crammed into 140 characters. @mrspixel5

11
Mar
2014

Googley Moogley!

Posted by Nicole

Second day of Spring Break, and I'm enjoying my lazy Tuesday morning at Starbucks, feeling quite hip. I'm listening to some music from a band on Pandora you've probably never heard of. I should just be writing a book instead of a blog and I'd be all set. I'm already on a Chromebook, which is cool because no one has them (yet). I don't have fake glasses on, and I don't have a tumblr, but maybe I'll give off a few hipster vibes.

Actually, my goal today is to get out of the house and work on my Google training curriculum. I went from interested in Google training, to taking my tests, to OH CRAP I'M TRAINING MY ENTIRE SCHOOL DISTRICT oh bother. I feel totally confident in my knowledge of Google Apps for Education, but I don't feel confident being the youngster teacher trying to teach old dogs new tricks. I met with a teacher last week who was vehemently against change and "anything Chrome." So I guess I have my work cut out for me. I just want to stand on a mountain and shout "YOU COULD BE DOING THINGS A LOT EASIER!" but I know they'll just go on about their way.

I get it. Change is hard. I mean, the new Facebook Layout hit me last week and I had to like, hesitate for a whole second before I knew what was going on. But really, I understand how people get set in their ways. I really don't like change at all. I like routine, sameness, knowing what to expect. I also understand the value in change and improving and growing. That's why I'm so on board with the Google stuff.

Google is a huge company with many different faces. It isn't going away any time soon, and its presence will be seeping in to all aspects of life before we know it. I mean, look how quickly the world as we know it has adapted to Facebook, Twitter, QR codes, hashtags, "liking", etc. Google owns so many large companies, that it won't be long before it's in everything we use. Now, I'm not saying you have to like it. I don't think phones need to ship with Facebook already installed. I don't think TV shows need to have their hashtag watermark in the corner of every episode. I'm not even saying you have to like Google, for you Bingers out there. I do understand that that's the way things are and we need to learn and adapt. 

Take Apple for example. One little music player evolved into an entire industry including both media devices and phones. Now, the world is designed around people who have one certain type of phone. If you look even further, we are nearly a two-party system between iOS and Android. If you don't know how to use those two OSs, you'll probably have to learn in the next few years, whether you have to for work or school, or you have to get a new phone.

So hopefully, I can preach the idea of adaptation and change as the main idea of my Google sermon this summer. Google isn't the only way, but it's the way our district is going, so we need to figure it out. If we went with Microsoft 365 or whatever it is, I'd still have to teach and train on changes and how to adapt. I just hope that the staff is understanding that we are now a GAFE school, and we are now using GAFE. This isn't me personally requiring anything. I just happen to be the young'un who knows how to work that newfangled googly thing and am like a grandchild fixing grandma's computer. Wish me luck!

10
Mar
2014

Spring Break and Scrap Yarn

Posted by Nicole

Finally, we're on Spring Break, which is kind of dumb considering we haven't had a normal week of school since December. There have either been trips, conferences, auditions, or snow days messing up our schedule for two months, so to have a week off now is going to make the end of the year feel like a nightmare. I'm not complaining about having a week off, but I like routine. I'd LIKE to get into the routine of posting here, but you know me. I'm not very good at being consistent. Well TOUGH, self, I'm gonna do it anyway!

Today I decided I'm going to figure out my pattern for my scrap yarn blanket. I have quite a bit of old Red Heart lying around. Some of it is quite old- it's either been handed down or picked up at thrift shops and garage sales. Some of it's fairly new. I'm finding that solid colors are quite a bit thicker than any of the multi-colored yarns. My original plan was to do make granny squares of the scraps and piece them together. I started working and got through about 15-20 squares before realizing they were turning out different sizes. They differed up to 3/4 of an inch all the way around, which is a pretty big difference. I think you can block them, but that seemed like a lot of work- crocheting hundreds of squares and blocking each individual one. No thank you.

So I've looked and looked and looked for something I can do with different sizes of yarn. I really like this blanket and have wanted to do a hexagon blanket, but I know it wont work at all with different sizes. I played all morning with different squares, hexagons, and other shapes and finally settled on a hexagon pattern I liked. In order to combat the different sizes of yarn, I've decided to double everything up to kind of even it out. So far, it's worked pretty well! After a little while, I had a few hexagons to check and make sure they're all the same size, make sure the pattern looked good, etc. and I'm pretty happy. 

Image

Hopefully, in the end it will look really fun and bright. I'm just picking colors at random for now while I try to use up what I have. Inevitably, I'm going to buy more yarn to finish my stash-buster. That's the way things work in the crochet world! I don't have much orange, purple, or green, so it won't be long before I'm due for a trip to the craft store. Now, my next project will be figuring out how I want to connect them all. Sheesh!

 

08
Mar
2014

GUYS! GUYS! I DID SOMETHING COOL!

Posted by Nicole

I just got my Makey Makey in today. SO EXCITED. What on earth is a Makey Makey? Well, here's a pretty simple explanation. It's a USB keyboard that you can assign anything that conducts a charge to be a key. I'm gonna let the video do the explaining. 

So of COURSE I bought one. I mean, a banana piano? Who can resist that!? Well, it came in today and I'm all out of bananas. I started playing around with it using carrots, strawberries, and apples. My apples didn't seem to work, but the carrot piano and strawberry bongos worked like a charm. Then, I decided I needed a project to really test my knowledge and to see if I could make something cool. My husband plays a game called Haxball quite often online. I thought, what a perfect starter project. The game is played using WASD and either Shift/X/Space to kick. I decided to try to make a mouse/mousepad combination that would replace the WASD keys.

So off to the hardware store we went. Picked up a ball-bearing caster thing for about $2 and grabbed the cardboard box the Makey Makey came in. I started with the caster by covering it in electrical tape so it could be used as a mouse. It was surprisingly ergonomic, but I ended up adding some cardboard panels so you could rest your index/middle fingers and thumb on it.  Image
You have to ground the controller to your body if you plan on using your hands for part of the keyboard, so I put one wire from the caster to my index fingers as the ground. I made a little foil patch so when I held on to the "mouse", my fingers rested on the foil and grounded the whole thing. On the thumb patch, I connected the wire to the space bar function. The nice thing is I can quickly change what it's connected to in just seconds, so it's easy to manipulate for other games.

Next came the mouse pad. It wasn't ideal, and I'd like to re-do it eventually to allow for pressing two directions at once (up and left), but that'll be a lot of extra work. For today, I just wanted to throw together something functional. I lined up foil so that as you rolled the ball over parts of the mouse pad, your direction would change. On the left, you can see the failed first attempt, and the right side is the working model. 

Image

 

After a little tweaking, I got everything working as it should. It's a bit clunky and not ideal, but it was fun to make something that actually worked! It has given me some really great ideas for the future. There are people on YouTube who have used their Makey Makey to make a foam Minecraft sword actually work in the game, or set up a sort of Occulus Rift to play Skyrim with. There really isn't a limit to what you can pull off with this thing.

I'm so eager to try it out at school. I want to make piano stairs soooooooooooo bad. I'm even thinking of doing some DDR pads or something so I don't have lug mine up to school. The younger kids can even make their own instruments and we could hook up foil buttons and let them play it. Maybe I'm way too nerdy about this, but I don't really care. What's better than making a piano out of bananas? Maybe the possible uses this has for the upcoming talent show... BWAHAHAHAHA.

 

18
Feb
2014

TMEA, Technology, and Twitch Plays Pokemon

Posted by Nicole

After a long week, I'm finally home and unpacked from TMEA. When you go to conferences like these, you tend to come back raring to get back in the classroom and try out all the cool things you learned. Hopefully, they'll go as planned and actually work! It's always such a good time to meet up with my best friends and bounce ideas off of each other.

They're skating to Les Miserables in the Olympics. Sorry. I'm a little distracted. If you haven't been watching the great skaters and listening to the perfect music selections, you need to get your butt to NBC and start watching!

Anyways, yeah, so I get to see my BFFs at TMEA each year, which is fantastic. I love having an outlet to talk out ideas, plan, and brainstorm. I didn't make it to as many clinics as I usually do, but the ones I did go to were awesome. Bubbles for your brass players? Heck yes! Saxophone flexibility exercises, we'll start tomorrow!

I've also taken the unfortunate opportunity of being away from the classroom to experiment with Instagram for my students. I already have a "teacher" account where I post mostly school-related things with the occasional picture of my dog. While I was at the convention, I took pictures of instruments my students would have never seen before. I threw them out there and told them to guess what they were. Quite a few responded, but no one searched quite enough to get the right answer. (The pictures were of a metal clarinet and a straight tenor saxophone.) I'm hoping to bring it up when I return to class tomorrow and get the kids excited about it. Read: Reward correct answers with candy. Yeah, I know, candy is kind of a touchy subject in public education, but if we can have a school sponsored snack time every morning with nothing but junk food, I don't feel so bad giving a Tootsie Roll out here and there. 

I'd like to continue with the Instagram thing and see where it goes. I'm also playing with other social media avenues such as Twitter, Spotify, Facebook, and Pinterest. Ultimately, I want to be well versed, but it doesn't seem reasonable to use multiple services to do the same thing over and over. I'll probably delve into Google+ quite a bit more, mainly for two reasons. All my students will have to use it next year, so they won't have to sign up for anything, and it'll all be regulated by the school. Second, I can post all sorts of types of media to it. I'm not limited to just pictures like on Instagram.

Now for something totally unrelated. If you haven't heard yet, Twitch is playing Pokemon. Twitch is a website that streams live video games of all sorts. They devised a way to let the chat function of the video stream control an emulator of Pokemon Red/Blue. What started off as a small multiplayer game of Pokemon has quickly exploded all over the internet, creating memes, videos, and similar feeds. Now, there are about 70,000 players trying to control Red throughout his world. As you type a command in the chat, it's reflected in his movement after a bit of a lag. At my last check, he was stuck in a puzzle after the second gym.

Besides being totally awesome because it's Pokemon, this social experiment is really fascinating. I'm hugely impressed that they were able to battle, collect, and train enough Pokemon to make a full team. With that many people and that big of a lag, you're going to have lots of trolls and lots of errors. For example, they released two of the Pokemon into the wild and have been stuck in a maze for three days. I'm interested to see where it will all end up, assuming they ever make it out of the puzzle!

10
Feb
2014

Baby Blankets, TCEA, and Google

Posted by Nicole

First and foremost, I finished a baby blanket for my college friend who is expecting in April. This was my first attempt of a chevron pattern, and I loved the way it turned out. I guess technically, this is more of a ripple, but they're made just about the same way as a chevron, give or take a stitch. Compared to my only other baby blanket I've made (an awful, AWFUL first attempt where I learned many lessons), I'm so very happy with the way this turned out. You'll have to forgive my cell phone photography skills. image

Believe it or not, I do have a nice DSLR camera and can take some pretty decent pictures, but I just didn't feel like messing with the whole set up tonight. I have to hunt down the SD card, charge the battery, mess with the living room lighting, blah blah blah. So sorry, you get a cell phone picture. :)

I got home from TCEA on Friday afternoon and hit the ground running Friday night and all day Saturday with work and my brother's 21st birthday (oh goodness). Now that it's Sunday, I'd better organize my thoughts before I pack up and do the whole convention thing all over again this wekk.

TCEA was a really neat experience, and I would like to go again someday. I learned an awful lot, and it was all extremely overwhelming. I have an entire bookmark folder filled with great resources about technology in education, and I'm working on the slow, tedious process of going through it all and finding what is the most useful. I'm also trying to sift through what will be useful for the upcoming training I'm doing.

I've decided to get my Google Certified Trainer certificate, and in the blink of an eye I found out I'm going to get to do our district's Google inservice sessions... twice... While I am incredibly excited, I'm also slightly terrified. We're going entirely to Google Apps for Education in our district, so this means I'm going to be responsible for teaching the whole district how to set up their gmail accounts and organize their new Google lives. On top of that, there's an insanely good chance I'll get to present at the region level as well. That will hopefully be a specialized session for music teachers (and maybe coaches, ag teachers, other weird teachers) and how to incorporate Google tools in our unconventional classes.

If those three sessions go well, and I start to feel confident, I'm even considering doing a session at next year's TMEA. Hnnggggg I would be so nervous. Like, right now, I feel like I'm top of the world and I know more about this stuff than a large percentage of teachers. But the thought of standing up in front of other band directors I respect and look up to (not to mention my friends that would be there), I'm already getting butterflies in the pit of my stomach. I may hold off another year before I feel brave enough to take that plunge.

It's going to be a busy week. Two days of school, then I leave for San Antonio to judge All-State auditions and enjoy three days of friends, food, music, and maybe a little bit of education.  ;)

 

 

I'm at the TCEA Convention here in Austin, Texas this week. It's my first time and has been a wonderful opportunity to learn all sorts of neat tips, tricks, and resources to use in the classroom. Now, while this is my first TCEA, it isn't my first major convention. I've been going to TMEA since college, and I have to say, the two may have structural similarities (large convention center, large exhibit hall, many sessions without enough seating), but they differ more than anything.

1. It's quiet here. No one talks to each other. Everyone keeps to themselves and pours over their iPads, Chromebooks, phones, tablets, laptops. No one stops to talk to their friends. No one networks and has helpful discussions (at least on the TMEA level). Even among my own group of teachers, we spend lots of time not talking. At TMEA it's LOUD. There is a dull roar at all times fro the exhibits to the hallways to outside. Everyone knows everyone and if you don't, it's time to meet them. Everyone shows up to talk, help, discuss, brainstorm, and encourage. Sure we check up on each other and our personal lives, but we talk a LOT about music. I am so surprised at how little discussion about technology is happening outside of the sessions. I would have though there would be tweed-ups abound here. Maybe I'll just sit in the hallway and play really loud, awful trumpet to make it feel more at home.

2. This convention center is a bit smaller than the one in San Antonio. Like, I could have walked all day in heels and probably been okay. (Okay, maybe that's a lie). The sessions end at like... 5-6. There aren't as many sessions each hour. Granted, it's a smaller convention overall, but I'm twiddling my thumbs by dinner. At TMEA, we have sessions all night. We usually take a dinner break, but almost always come back for a concert afterwards. There's just too much free time here.

3. I'm lonely. I love the teachers I'm with, but it's just not the same as going and seeing almost everyone you know, miss, and love. I get to see my best friends twice a year at this convention. I see my mentors, friends and acquaintances... and some other people I don't really care to see, but whatever. Here it's just not as friendly overall.

4. Women. Yeah, I'm gonna go there, because I can, because I'm a women. I'm really surprised at the fact it's maybe like... 15% men here overall. Shocked actually. Then again, I thought this convention was mainly for technology administrators and teachers. It's actually composed of mostly classroom teachers with an interest in technology (like me), librarians,  and whatnot. It's just an odd observation, but interesting nonetheless.

Overall, TCEA's been a great experience. I've had a good time and learned a lot. I may even come back again in future years. But, for me, TMEA will always be home. 

Tags: 

Pages