January 31st – Binary

Like one of my students – I’m turning everything in at the last moment!  Whew – finally caught up, the next challenge is to get ahead…

As I’ve been quickly rushing through a lot of these final post, I’ve been trying to link them together and every once in a while they are random, this is one of the latter.  When I saw 31, I immediately thought of Binary Code or base 2.  Base 2 is one of my favorite subjects to teach because it really feels like you’ve accomplished something when you’ve “cracked the code” and are able to read numbers in binary – and often times the skill transfers to Octal and Hexadecimal number systems as well!

January 31st – Binary Code or Base 2

We live in a Base 10 world so it’s difficult for a lot of people to not see “10” as ten, but breaking it down into one “block” of 10 and zero “ones” is the mind shift that needs to happen.  As that abstraction happens and student are able to recognize the symbolic meaning of things rather than the meaning that they attached to it so long ago.  10 in binary is actually “2” because you have one “block” of 2 and zero “ones”.

Decimal has the prefix “deci-” meaning ten, binary has the prefix “bi-” meaning two.  Decimal is powers of ten, starting (right to left) with ones(10^0), tens(10^1), hundreds(10^2), thousands(10^3), ten thousands(10^4), etc…

BVX ECS Day 3 (1)
Class Slide from Binary Lesson – Decimal

Binary (from right to left) is one(2^0), two(2^1), four(2^2), eight(2^3), sixteen(2^4), etc…

Class Slide from Binary Lesson – Binary

So “11” in binary is 3 (1 in the “2’s” place add to the 1 in the “1’s” place) and 10001 is seventeen in decimal.  There are a few tricks to read binary quicker – if the number ends in a 1, then it has a value in the 1’s place and is odd.  Also, as you add the digits together, you’ll notice that once you have “filled up” that value, you’ll need to move over to the next place value (think carrying in decimal addition) – so “111” in binary is 7, which is one less than the next place value.  “1111” in binary is 15, which is one less than the next place value. And finally “11111” is 31, which is one less than the next place value and why I thought of binary on January 31st.

Enjoying binary?  Play a binary game developed by Cisco to practice your skills! (Warning: has a rather annoying game sound – if using in class have them mute the computers first!)


January 30th – myHistro

Back on January 13th, I discussed a helpful hack to show your iPhone or iPad on your laptop – I found that as I returned back to school for the Spring 2016 semester. I’ll be finding a lot of new resources and bringing them here, and today I feature another one.

January 30th – myHistro

myHistro is a website which is so simple, it’s brilliant and I’m sorry I didn’t know about it sooner.  myHistro is simply a way to mark the location, time and post text, pictures or videos of anything you want to tell a story about.  It’s a great visual alternative to the traditional timeline by making connections to what’s happening in the world at the same time, but different locations.

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myHistro Home Page taken February 2nd

Greek mythology and Homers Odyssey seem to be commonly taught in 9th Grade, why not have them create points in time with a location attached so they can see the Odyssey come alive, rather than have to imagine in books?  For my classes, I hope to use it to show how the Internet (as we know it today – was called different names back then) was being developed by multiple people with a similar idea to connect the world.

myHistro is free to sign up – so start a visual timeline today!

January 29th – Piazza

As a lot of schools (at least in my area) have a Google Apps for Education domain, they can use (and do) Google Classroom (which I’ll talk about later).  The limiting thing about Google Classroom is they need to be in the domain so it might be difficult to get that figured out and connected for new teachers.  If you are in that situation, you might want to look at Piazza instead.

January 29th – Piazza

Piazza gets its name from the piazzas (town squares) popular in Italy and Rome, which people would come around to share ideas and discuss.  Piazza allows the same thing in a digital form.  Anyone can get an account and then join a number of groups or classes with that same login.  The site is built to have an instructor, but also crowd source information and answers to questions. It gives real time stats about who is answering questions and how quickly it is before your potential question is answered.

For high schoolers, this can be a great game to encourage use and “see who can post the correct answer the fastest”.  As the instructor you can endorse correct answers, encouraging the students to be there own knowledge base and seek out answers on their own.

There are a dozen other great features within Piazza, but like any application, you have to get in an explore it first!

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Piazza Home Page taken January 31st


January 28th – code.org

A short 3 years ago, code.org was launched and the Computer Science world has never been the same.  The CEO Hadi Partovi graduated from Harvard, worked for Microsoft (a few times as they purchased his startups) and then realized that he could be doing more for the youth of America in regards to Computer Science.  So he did.

January 28th – Code.org

In 2013, Code.org started with this video, and schools around America realized that this is what they needed to reach a new generation of students.  They began the Hour of Code which encourages everyone to try coding (through tutorials) for an hour to see how simple it can be.  3 years later, Code.org is the leader for CS education in America and building and expanding everyday.  Exploring Computer Science, Bootstrap, The Beauty and Joy of Computing are all supported by them (and the National Science Foundation [NSF]) and that support allows teachers who have taught the course to become facilitators and train other teachers.  This work is also supported by the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) which works with curriculum but also states to recognize Computer Science as a subject and for teachers to be licensed in it.

We are at a very exciting time in our history as the world is changing, becoming smaller thanks to technology, and we are on the cusp of developing a brand new curriculum in schools to support it.  It’s what I’m passionate about, and after a few tutorials hopefully you’ll become to.

With the recent announcement by the President and #CS4All – I’ll be posting a lot more on all of this!

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Code.org Home Page taken January 30th

January 27th – Beauty and Joy of Computing

As previously mentioned, Computer Science education looks a lot different today than it used to.  As curriculums come out, they are tried and tested amongst the masses and some succeed and some fail. Code.org is a great resource for some curriculums (including ECS) and the curriculums found there have a sort of “stamp of approval”.  Another curriculum that is linked in with them is Beauty and Joy of Computing.

January 27th – Beauty and Joy of Computing

Beauty and Joy of Computing (BJC) comes out of Cal Berkeley from their course by the same name that is CS for non-majors.  The two professors behind it are Brian Harvey and Dan Garcia that have taught this for years to UC Berkeley students and recorded the lectures (similar to a CS50 style without as much post-production work).  The course uses SNAP! as a language, which was first born out of Scratch as an add-on with many additional blocks, think of it as Scratches older brother.

The course itself is typically taught by Dan Garcia which is a blast to watch and has a energetic nature that is infectious.  You can find the course lectures through Dan Garcia’s YouTube page and/or check out the course for free at EdX.

The curriculum has been adapted for high school students to take for the new AP Computer Science Principles course but with the nature of SNAP (which I’ll dive into later) it can be applied to all ages.

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Beauty and Joy of Computing Home Page taken January 30th, 2016


January 26th – Mac Color Picker

Today really isn’t fair, but I want to use you some of the cool features on a Mac that can be very helpful. Full disclosure – I am color blind. In an effort to avoid more conservations about it, here are my general responses: I can’t see shades and I see only about a fourth of the color spectrum “normal” people see (or I’ve been told).

January 26th – Digital Color Meter

Just because I’m color blind doesn’t mean I can’t work with color.  I just need someone to be very exact in what they want, then I can find ways to reproduce what they need.  A helpful tool (only available on a Mac, I believe) is the “Digital Color Meter” (I hear trumpets when I read that – I don’t know about you).  This simple tool allows me to place my cursor over a color and get it’s properties (via RGB) so I can use it in other places (HTML, Processing, anywhere that accepts those values).  I don’t know if it’s of great use, but very helpful for me!

To find and open on a Mac, Finder > Utilities > Digital Color Meter (I haven’t moved it from the default place).  Warning: once you open it, you’ll be playing for hours!

Digital Color Meter
Digital Color Meter Tool

January 25th – EdX

With the influx of academies and websites offering classes and “knowledge” on the internet, it’s difficult to know what to trust and not. With Harvard and MIT, they always seem to have a finger on the pulse of how things are changing. And while I’m not saying that the academies are bad (I’ll be reviewing quite a few of them here) EdX is a vetted source which a lot of college professors are offering their classes AND giving you a badge or certificate to use on future resumes.

January 25th – EdX

EdX is the brainchild of Harvard and MIT, yes, the same Harvard with the prestige and is in the new for possibly offering free tuition to brake down that barrier to college. EdX is an improved Blackboard or Moodle that isn’t within the organization to use it.  EdX is another MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) with around 90 partnerships with Universities and Companies to provide you, free of charge, an education.  I suggest looking around – and diving in, it’s quite the rabbit hole and who knows who’ll emerge out of it! (Probably you, with some more knowledge…)

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EdX Home Page (screenshot taken January 30th)