My mom is pretty dang tech savvy for an 84-year-old. She has an iPhone 6, she texts, and she even has a Snapchat (although we made her promise not to sext!).
So, when she called me up in February and told me she had a new Amazon Echo and wanted to set it up, I wasn’t surprised. I hadn’t gotten an Echo, but I had watched from the sidelines–reading everything I could about Amazon’s wonderful speaker with the AI assistant, Alexa, available, like a genie in a bottle, to grant your every wish. You can shop, listen to music, track your packages, and even control a smart home–why wouldn’t I be impressed?
A long time ago, my mother and I started sharing our Amazon Prime account, and so when I went to set up the Echo for her, it was a breeze. Almost immediately, I wondered, “If my mother fell or had an emergency, could she use Alexa to call for help?” I Googled the question, only to find that the new Alexa “skills” marketplace had no way to connect Alexa to 911 or any emergency services. Developers had complained saying that only Amazon engineers could install that capability.
So, I looked for another option. Yesterday, I started looking at recipes for Alexa in the very wonderful “If This Then That” app (IFTTT) on my iPhone. I discovered that there was a way to have Alexa call your phone–even an IFTTT recipe for that–but all it would do is call. It was good for finding your phone, but not much else.
What about texting? I couldn’t find a recipe to directly text, but I did find a recipe for an app I use a lot: GroupMe. GroupMe allows you to create a group of people you want to text. I have used it a lot with my classes to inform them when I am late, or when class is cancelled, or when we have an assignment coming up. I also have a group for family that I established years ago when my son was seriously ill in the hospital. It was PERFECT.
In the IFTTT app, I created the following recipe:
I set up the “Alexa” part of the recipe by first connecting the Alexa app on my phone to IFTTT (it’s painless, they just ask you for permission), then I chose “say a specific phrase” as the Alexa trigger. I set that phrase to be “emergency.”
For the GroupMe part of the recipe I already had a group set up, but if you don’t, first establish a group of family and/or friends that you would want to notify in an emergency on the GroupMe app on your phone. Then add GroupMe to the recipe. It will ask you which group to connect to. Select the group you established for the emergency notification.
Next it will ask what you want the message to say. I knew I wanted to test the recipe first to make sure it worked, so I put in “This is a test. I am setting up an emergency notification for Mom’s Alexa. If you see this message, it worked!”
Make sure you save the recipe before you test it. To test it, I called my mother and asked her to say, “Alexa trigger emergency.” She replied “Sending to IFTTT,” and I immediately received a text on my phone with the message I had typed.
I then went back into the IFTTT app and changed the message to read, “Someone at mom’s house has just indicated there is an emergency. Please call: (I added her house phone here). If there is no answer, please notify 911. Her address is: (I put in my mother’s address and zip code.)”
That’s it. Now we have an emergency notification set up and, as I said to my mother, “I hope we never need it.”
I just tried a new app called ZCast, and I am so excited about it! It’s like Periscope or MeerKat, but it is for audio only–for podcasting live to anyone else who has the app.
Tonight I tried listening in to a few of the podcasts, and the quality of the sound was impressive. I also enjoyed messaging live to the hosts of the podcasts and sharing my perspective with them.
In order to join in the fun, search the Apple App Store for ZCast and download (it was free). Then, connect it to your Twitter account, and you are good to go. Mostly, I am intrigued by how I can use it in my teaching.
The first thought, of course, was teaching in real time when my classes are cancelled due to weather this winter. How cool would it be to have my students listening in and chatting while I podcast my class? It would be a great way to keep everyone moving forward on my syllabus. The only drawback is that it does not yet support recording those podcasts–so I can can’t archive it for my students to listen to later (I hear that is coming).
Also, I found another drawback as I was trying to participate in the conversation online. I am lazy. I don’t actually text–I use the voice to text on my phone. When I spoke my comments into the little mic on my keyboard, it cut off the audio to the app and I missed what was going on. I also couldn’t send it in, and ended up redoing my comments. These are problems that are sure to ironed out, as the app is very very very new.
Meanwhile, I also thought of a great way to use this app for accessibility. I have a student who is hard of hearing. In that class, I could use ZCast during my lectures, and my student could listen live on her phone with her headphones–adjusting the volume as she needed.
I’m also thinking about doing a short edtech broadcast with this app, but I will have to work up my nerve and find a quiet space to do it (not easy with so many rugrats running around!)
I just removed Adblock from my phone and my computer. Yeah, I will miss being free of the advertisements, but I also want to make sure that the internet that I love–the one with all the free tools and great advice and wonderful blogs–stays that way.
Every single one of you that still has an adblocker needs to realize that what you are doing is wrong. You should not be enjoying the free internet if you won’t at least spend some time looking at the ads that support it. Yes, those ads are annoying, but they are also paying for your right to access free content. Those businesses, and spammers, and silly cat video promoters are doing you a big favor–so, you should , at least, spend some time looking over what they have to share with you.
I will even readily admit that I do, on occasion, click on the ads I see, just to make sure that my favorite internet blogger gets some traction on the ads on their site. I want to make sure that the advertisers know that some of us do see those ads, do notice them, and do click.
Like it or not, the world runs on money, and the people who share great tools and advice and great blogs need to get paid at the end of the day. If you start blocking the very same ads that give those people revenue, you are insuring that the next generation of internet stars are practicing their craft behind an internet paywall.
I think of using an adblocker somewhat like being a petty thief. Yeah, you may get away with it, but you will, eventually, make everything a lot more expensive for everyone else. It’s not fair to enjoy the benefits of an open internet if you won’t at least spend a few minutes closing pop-ups.
So, I’m hoping that you will join me. Get rid of the adblocker on your computer and your mobile phone, and take a stand to protect free and open internet access–an internet paid for by those annoying, essential, and sometimes creepy ads.
My son is nine, and he loves Grand Theft Auto (GTA). Now, before you start condemning me as a bad parent and scolding me about how I shouldn’t let my son play a game clearly designed for older players, hear me out. My son is the seventh of eight boys. In other words, the game was purchased for older players, but they have since aged-out of my house and left for college and life. So, what we have is a legacy game, a game he grew up watching his brothers play–and he plays. But, if you still want to condemn me, I have to say there are a lot of other mothers and fathers out there that need condemning as well because, just in my experience listening on the other end of the game (and I do listen!), I have heard him play with scores of kids his age and…
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Flipped learning is great, isn’t it? It is the basis of much of my face-to-face and online courses, and it provides an opportunity to get my students involved and interested in the lesson before they come to my class.
Like most faculty that uses flipped learning, I often use videos that I find online or that I make myself to prepare my students for in-class workshop. Unfortunately, because students are used to watching videos for entertainment, they lack the capacity to view video in an efferent way. More often than not, I find my students letting video lessons simply wash over them without accessing or retaining knowledge that I expect them to hold onto for my lessons. Many students lack the skills to absorb detailed information from videos without specific direction–especially in online courses.
This is where VideoNot.es comes in. It is useful open source Google Drive add-on (and Chrome extension) that provides an easy…
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I’m in shock mostly because Frederick doesn’t teach the elderly, and he doesn’t teach K-12. Frederick is an Assistant Professor of English at a Community College. He teaches college students. You know, the “Millennials,” the Wunderkinder of social media. Yeah, them.
So, what is the deal with email? Why don’t they know how to use it? It is, after all, a basic digital skill. But, as I thought it over, I realized that my teen kids don’t really email. So, perhaps email passed them by? Their generation wasn’t taught computer skills in school–so what they know, they know in order survive socially: they use Snapchat, they text, they Facebook Message, they Tweet–but they don’t email.
Perhaps all that…
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Many of you are completely unaware that Google Drive has, again, changed dramatically.
If you have been using Google Drive at all, and have been paying attention even a little bit, you probably noticed that little menu item at the top, but many have completely ignored the treasures that await beyond the tab marked, simply, “Add-Ons.”
Add-Ons act somewhat like extensions in your browser. They allow you to do things in Google Drive that you couldn’t do before–like accessing some awesome tools without leaving Drive. Why would these companies want to contribute time and effort to make a Google Drive Add On? . . . for the simple reason that it brings awareness of what they have to offer to an amazingly broad audience that may have never known their product existed, let alone understand why they need it.
I see them as small gifts. Tiny jewels hanging inside the cave of wonders known as Add-Ons . . . but that’s just me channelling my inner geek (or maybe not?).
One of those amazing gifts from Google’s new Add-Ons comes from an unlikely source: the e-mail distribution company Mail Chimp. Mail Chimp is a young company, hungry for market-share, and dedicated to service. They have their offices right here in Georgia, so I was already inclined to support them before I Continue reading →
I will be using this blog to post a lot of “outside of D2L” stuff that you can access. Some of the students in the course were not able to access D2L, so I want to make sure they don’t fall behind. This is what we are doing this week:
Participate in Discussion=I’ll keep it open so you can do it later!
Write and turn-in Translation Paragraph: Write one well-formed, well-worded paragraph on the following: When you listened to the video while reading the play, there were times when the translation differed significantly. Identify one specific word or line that was different, and explain why you thought one translation was better than the other.
I hope this helps!!
Yesterday I spent a few hours on the phone with a similarly geeky friend, Fredrick, playing with NGram Viewer from Google. If you have never been on NGram Viewer, I have to warn you–make sure you have enough time!! We got sucked in quick, and we stayed a while.
NGram Viewer is a wonderful tool that allows you to enter one or more terms into a search box. Then, through the magic of Google (search, books, pictures, etc.), you receive a wonderful graph informing you of the popularity of whatever you have entered.
As we played with the tool, we were looking for ways to use it in the writing classroom to generate authentic research. For example, we put the word “ipod” into the Ngram viewer and got the following results:
Then, of course, we asked, “Why were people in 1800 and 1905 so crazy about ipods?” It’s easy to…
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But, my dear students, I am trying to learn.
TRYING is the operative word here. Maybe I won’t get good at it, but if I keep trying, I am bound to learn something.
Spend a few weeks on your winter break learning to code. It is something you will need for the rest of your life. Below you will find a video, and a list of FREE sources to learn to code and/or to learn to code even better. Get to it!!
Here’s a video to get your motivated:
Now go to any of these FREE sites to learn on your own!!
Codeacademy.org: Step by step, learn any language you want for free. Great sandbox areas to learn and even local meetups if you get stuck.
Code.org: Advocacy organization with resources to get computer science into your schools and community. They also have a directory for free”learn to code” events in your community.
Coderacer: Learn to code with this free and easy computer game.
CodePlayer: Learn how people made things by watching them do it. A great “learn by watching someone else” site. Then, join in and show others.
MIT Open Courseware: If you already know something and want to learn a lot more, this is a great site for motivated learners. You will find entire MIT courses here.
Udacity: Learn to code, or learn anything else you can think of. This is a free and open courseware system!
Mozilla Developer Network: Learn everything from the basics of coding to developing new software solutions.
Kahn Academy: You know Dr. K loves Kahn Academy–and this is a great way to learn to code. LOVE IT! (I think I’m doing this one, although the “CodeRacer” game looks like a blast too.