Saturday, March 26, 2011

5 Tech Verbs

Personas utilizando multiterminalImage via WikipediaI've been giving this some thought lately and I've decided our interaction with popular technology can be summed up with five verbs. By popular technology I mean in large part that which has to do with personal computers, and by stating five verbs I'm sure that means there are more I haven't considered. Nevertheless, the verbs I've decided on are commonly used with many applications and are associated with other similar actions. They are as follows: Enter, Copy, Format, Share, and Search. Consider these the "parts of tech speech" in their basic essence in all that you do on your computer or mobile device and all of their applications.

Enter - the most primary of all interactions. In the beginning of computers I'm sure this would have been phrased as Input for its insertion of punch cards or stream of 0's and 1's but today this means much more. We enter whenever we touch the keyboard or click our mouse. We may enter text into a document or enter a formula into a spreadsheet. Selecting a tab, highlighting text, playing a movie or music file, or any other click (or double-click) we make is a form of entering a command. To enter is the origin of which all else follows. You may think that compute is a verb that belongs on this list, but I think that action is done by the computer and not the owner. For it to compute - we must enter its commands. Enter is our communication to the machine to tell it what to do.

Copy - a verb of convenience. To copy is to make an imitation of an original and so copy is the action in which our actions are made easier or more efficient. Besides the obvious print, fax, or scan, we copy portions of our work to complete other tasks within the same document. Copy and paste is used most often with text in word processing but it may also involve transferring images or other elements about the page. We copy links, code, files, text, images, and more in many applications we use.

Format - is the organization of our interaction. Formatting is where we put our personal input on how we want something to appear. Formatting a document includes everything from tabs and fonts to color and spacing. Formatting may involve pasting, deleting, or adding a table. The very documents themselves can be saved in a variety of formats for intended uses. We format when we switch to full-screen views or arrange the homepage on our browser. Blogs such as this one allow the author to choose color schemes and backgrounds. HTML, or Hyper Text Markup Language, enables programmers to format the elements on Web documents. Formatting allows us to decide on the composition of our views.

Share - is how our efforts are communicated. We share with others and ourselves, be it in the form of emails or saving a file to our desktops. It is the way we save what we have done or communicate it to a larger audience. This blog post is a form of sharing, as are adding comments in forums, or communicating via FaceBook, Twittter, or Skype. In its personal form, we share with ourselves when we add bookmarks, print a document, or add events to a calendar. Sharing enables our work to become productive.

Search - is how we find what we desire. We may search for help on how to use an application or we may search for that perfect apple pie recipe. Most of our browser experiences are derived from searches for websites, videos, articles, or images. We search when we are looking for something that someone else has produced.

Well there you have it. Feel free to point out all of the flaws in my logic or blatant omissions you may see. Enter, Copy, Format, Share, and Search. It would have been nice to wrap them in a convenient acronym but you'll just have to find another mnemonic device.
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Friday, March 18, 2011

How do you quantify a disaster?

OTSUCHI, JAPAN - MARCH 14:  In this handout im...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeI'm sure like many of you, I have been watching the news coverage of the crisis in Japan. Perhaps because I am a math teacher, I have been more aware of the amount of numbers in the reports. From earthquake scales to radiation values, we seem to need numerical values to understand or quantify just how severe the disaster has been. How high were the tsunami waves? How far did they travel? How much stronger is a 9.0 quake than a 7.9? What is the safe distance from radiation fallout? etc. etc. The worst question of all: How many people died?
Numbers are the universal language. One lesson for your students from all of this is that people understand numerical values. Numbers may be pronounced differently in other languages but they are worth the same no matter where you are. The color blue has a variety of interpretations but the number two is the same for all. And so, although it is difficult for us to comprehend a disaster like this, numbers are a way for all of us to understand the severity of the event.

The Google Earth Blog has posted links to Google Earth material that covers the earthquake in Japan. This includes before and after overlays of the eastern coast of Japan. Here is a link to their post.
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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japan earthquake & tsunami

A picture of the 2004 tsunami in Ao Nang, Krab...Image via WikipediaI am very saddened by the news out of Japan. I've visited it often and always enjoyed my time there. I even experienced an earthquake there several years ago. What's astonishing about the destruction is that Japan is more prepared for earthquakes and tsunamis than anywhere else in the world. Their warning systems and disaster drills are very thorough and Japan has some of the best tsunami experts.
After the quake, we had the tsunami warning on Guam. I was staying by the coast and so I participated in the evacuations we had here. I learned a lot about tsunamis when I developed the Tsunami Warning activity for Real World Math so I knew there was a potential for destruction across the Pacific. Tsunami Warning is a measurement lesson where students examine the 2004 Indian Ocean disaster and calculate the speed of tsunami waves. As I developed that activity I scoured the Internet for tsunami information and photos. If you want to address the Japan disaster and educate your students on tsunamis, then I recommend you take a look at that lesson.
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