Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fun On Friday #103: Fun with photos

I was surprised to find I haven't featured Dumpr here before. Another site with a silly name - I can understand dropping the "e" since the site links with Flikr... but "dumper"? I don't get it.

To me, Dumpr sounds like you are throwing stuff away, being destructive, but this site allows you to add value and be creative. Essentially, you give it a picture and the site manipulates it in interesting ways. For example, how about a Rubik's Dog:

Or, pictures at an exhibition:

There are twenty-one different effects you can apply and you can upload photos from your hard disk, or pull them in from facebook, Picasa, Flickr or a Web URL.

So what are you waiting for, go and have some fun with photos... And if you do, remember to share your creations by posting a link to them here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Computing Is the New Maths

Following on from What do we teach and why do we teach it?, I wanted to share a link to a post from a home school blog - Just SCRATCHing the Surface of Fractions where ther is an example of using programming to explore Maths:

Brute Force Solving in Scratch (screen cast) from Rhett Allain on Vimeo.

I have used a similar technique myself when my daughters were stuck with a problem in the Scottish Mathematical Council's Mathematical Challenge. Clearly it would have been unethical to solve the problem for them but often I'd suggest that they fire up a spreadsheet, plug in some sample values, then enter the connections between the numbers (from the problem specification) as spreadsheet formulae. Once they have built a model in the spreadsheet they could change the values and watch the effect. This gave them a feel for what was going on and often in working out the formulae in the spreadsheet, they had solved the problem. It was usually fairly straightforward to turn the spreadsheet formulae into an algebraic form for the official answer.

Learning Maths by learning programming... In this case programming a spreadsheet.

Perhaps I'm still infected by the disruptive ethos of the Learning Without Frontiers conference but I really like the idea that Computing should be a compulsory subject at school and Maths should be optional.

I suspect that many people can get through the day without directly coming into contact with Maths. (Arithmetic possibly, although even that can be avoided thanks to electronic tills and a host of other technological gizmos.) Direct, personal contact with Maths is unlikely but direct contact with Computing is almost unavoidable

So out with Maths as a compulsory subject and in with Computing instead. ...Or am I getting carried away here?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fun On Friday #102: Matika Yakoff

This is almost too educationally worthy to be a Fun On Friday post but I enjoyed it too much to pass it by:

I think Matika Yakoff deserves his own series. Much more interesting than David Blaine sitting in a box for 40 days... I mean, apart from anything else, Mr Yakoff has a cape and a hat!

What do you think? Is this video only fun if you are a sad old computer geek like me?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What do we teach and why do we teach it?

I taught Maths for five years from the age of 22 to 24...
-- Joke borrowed from Fred MacAulay

I usually describe myself as a Computing teacher but I wanted to make my Maths credentials clear right at the start for reasons that will hopefully become clear.

A couple of things started me thinking about this post: first was a conversation about the curriculum I had with a Chartered Teacher student; the second was a video of a TED Talk. The conversation with the student was about the balance between content and process. I asserted that much of what we teach in schools is taught because that's the way we have always done it. I also described how most years I deliberately wind up the Maths students (and at least some Primary students) by telling them we are wasting pupils' time when we get them to memorise their times tables; it is a completely redundant skill. I do this partly to annoy them but mostly to get them thinking about what we teach and why we teach it.

The TED Talk was from Conrad Wolfram and it is embedded below:

A couple of things in particular struck me about this talk. First, about halfway through he says that a great way to teach Maths is to teach programming. Second, towards the end, when he is talking about the radical changes to school Maths that are needed, he says that he is not even sure it should be called Maths any more. My immediate thought was: what he is proposing already exists... and it is called Computing!

I have posted before about the identity crisis school Computing teachers are facing (e.g. Computing: The Science of the Digital World) and it struck me that this call to shake up the Maths curriculum is one of the best defences of Computing that I have heard in a long time. So:

Computing is the new Maths

What do you think?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fun On Friday #101: Lego Star Wars

I've posted about Lego animation before (e.g. Fun on Friday #76: Brick-by-brick fussball) and I've posted about DIY animations of Star Wars before (Fun on Friday #69: Crowd Sourced Movies). Well, today, we have the original Star Wars trilogy told with Lego in just over 2 minutes. Brilliant!

I love the description of the Ewoks at around the 1:40 mark of the video.

I'm impressed at how well the trilogy is summarised with the main points covered and a fair bit of humour and the animator's personality in evidence too. I suspect this is a whole new genre of animation I will now have to explore - great movie trilogies summarised. Anyone know where I can find The Godfather told in Lego?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Fun On Friday #100: Bananagrams

I have recently become obsessed with a word game called Bananagrams - a game that is described as: the anagram game that will drive you bananas! I had never heard of this game until I was given it as a birthday present but am now a full convert.

Essentially, you get a bunch of Scrabble like tiles in a bag (a bag in the shape of a banana!) You have to form the tiles into crossword style combinations. However, unlike Scrabble, everyone plays simultaneously. There is no hanging about waiting for your turn and each hand is completed reasonably quickly. Also there is no scoring, so no need for paper and pencil. And a final endorsement is that our youngest daughter and compete successfully with her English Teacher mother, so while an extensive vocabulary is probably an advantage, it does not on its own guarantee success. Instructions on how to play can be found on the official Bananagrams site.

Normally, the Fun On Friday post links to an online resource, so you may be wondering why I'm featuring a board game here? (Well perhaps more accurately a table top game!). It features because, it is available as an online game in Facebook, Bebo and Myspace as well as a download for the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad.

If you don't already have a facebook account, signup now and look for this game - it really is that good!