Lockdown sign - streetname
Lockdown teaching? 6 tips to help with emergency teaching!

Emergency teaching during a lockdown

Let’s call it by its name. We are in a phase of emergency teaching. This isn’t remote teaching or online teaching. This is emergency teaching during a lockdown. And yes, it’s normal to feel tired. The productivity of students and teachers alike is lower. In this blog, I want to share 6 tips from my own experience.

Tip 1 Accept the lockdown situation

This was the hardest one for me. I’ve been teaching from home for quite some time and I know it’s a challenge for everyone. Staying at home and losing control over your schedule. Or, as one of my students called it, losing the freedom to save us all. Accepting the situation is a huge step. Yes, we are at home, yes, my contact with students is different, yes, in other situations, I could XYZ. It helps no one to keep affirming that offline teaching is better. What does help is accepting and offering help! And keep perspective. This lockdown is going to end.

Keep perspective. This lockdown is going to end
Lockdown, keep perspective!

Tip 2 Stay in contact during a lockdown

For the sanity of yourself and others, keep in contact. We are social creatures. There is a reason why we enjoy breaks with others, drinking coffee. A goal to keep in contact is to have a non-work related call with a friend, family member, or colleague a day. It helps to stay connected and share experiences. Everyone can feel alone. And the quickest solution is to stay in contact. Be explicit when communicating and when in doubt over-communicate. And I try to plan the next meeting during the current meeting. Not only useful during a lockdown.

Tip 3 Routine during a lockdown

Routines ensure that everything you need to do is done. Yes, I know, it’s a dead giveaway. Even if my first lesson is at 11.00 (am), I always have an alarm set for 7.00. Breakfast, coffee, and ready to start another day. Because I shut down every computer I use at night; the machine is responsive in the morning. Using the stand-by function is causing many problems during a conference call (also known as I can’t have that now). Lunch and diner are also at planned moments. Your own health is priority number one. And reboot/shutdown computers/iPads/iPhones helps a lot with speedy and snappy responses

Tip 4 Boundaries

Set boundaries and manage them proactively. With family members and disturbing you during your work, with coworkers, and no replies after working hours. With yourself, no Netflix at 10.00 (am), no phone in the bed.

Tip 5 Mental fitness

Our brains need stimulation. Try to find a new hobby or learn a new skill. I started baking bread. One of the great communities for a lot of things (and a lot of garbage) is Reddit. I learned a lot from Breadit. I was lucky to have a great mentor (thanks Rico!), he is famous for his breads. Share the newly acquired skills (see tip 2). I’ve started blogging again! It’s a good way to organize thoughts, and the product of that organizing is always fun to put in writing. Daily I ride my bicycle, the IKEA one (from a previous blog)

Lockdown mental fitness

Tip 6 know the tools, really know them!

In a traditional environment, you have a whiteboard, beamer, and perhaps even a chalkboard. Learn everything there is about the new tools. Google Meet has a few hidden features (most of them are located in the overflow (look for three dots)-menu. Help and support help a lot to identify a problem (bandwidth or CPU problems). Bandwidth problems are solved by getting closer to a Wi-Fi access point or limit machines on the network. CPU problems are solved by closing all but one window (close Spotify/outlook helps a lot!)

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image of paper
Inky pHat and Raspberry Pi. 5 How To Tips And Tricks Automate Weather Reports.

For the annual i&i-conference, I try to find a ‘new’ gadget for speakers and board members. Last year we bought Inky Phats with a Raspberry Pi Zero W. To be used as interactive name badges. A great success! In this article, I’ll share 5 tips on using the display, and I’ll be discussing a few problems. Inky pHat is an e-paper display with a dedicated controller in the PCB. Plug and play! And big thanks for the excellent documentation @Pimoroni!

Inky pHat, a Raspberry Pi with a pHat on top of it. Displaying a squid

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Secret Santa in 15 minutes? Unlock Your Inner Mailninja with YAMM!

In this blog, I’ll share some insights and tips when I organized Secret Santa. Sounds easy, doesn’t it. Organizing Secret Santa with only superpowers. With my blog, I hope you can also use the superpowers I used to organize Secret Santa in 15 minutes. First I used Google Forms. This was a major thing. What information is helpful and gives a nice insight into the ‘giftee’? With this experiment, I tried my first Add-On, and we are now in love. Add-ons make dull-tasks fun! (… or at least simpeler)

The Secret Santa questions I used

  • Name (yes, you need to ask)
  • Email
  • What makes you happy?
  • What is your favorite color? (in a selection list)
  • What is your lucky number?
  • What is the maiden name of your mother (ow, wait this isn’t a credit card hacking scam)
  • How would you rate 2020?

And then? How can I used the earlier mentioned Super Powers With YAMM?

With that list (pro-tip export it to a sheet) the fun starts. I used YAMM (Yet-another-Mail-Merge), free of usage with 50 mailmerges/day. Like any decent Mail-Merger, it used the first line as a guide. So the list is now used as a data collection; keep the titles simple; name, email, happy, color, number, 2020. I used the documentation a lot. An excellent example of good documentation. There are free themed email templates! And now the fun continues. Do not only provide the ‘gifter’ with the data of the ‘giftee’. Provide examples of gifts, suggestions for poems/nice letters and don’t be afraid to write an example Haiku 🙂

The << >> are the placeholders for the titles from the first line from the Sheet. <<User_Name>> here is used. Notice the camelbacks; the Two Capitals? Be very consequent with capitals! Via Add-Ons in the Sheet. Easy right?

Install YAMM open add-on menu
Add ‘Add-ons’
Example template – free to use –

These are tips to be an Email ninja

  • Select a themed email template
  • Double-check before sending
  • Track (!) opening rates. So we can nudge non-openers
  • Provide shops links
  • And repeat the suggested amount of money per gift
  • Nudge, repeat, rinse repeat
  • Provide an optional unboxing party.
Quick video to install YAMM
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AxiDraw & Snap!cloud, een gouden combinatie?! Ga aan de slag!

Ga er maar aan staan, een snelle handleiding over AxiDraw is er niet. Het gebruik ervan is bedriegelijk eenvoudig en tegelijkertijd bijzonder complex. Toch probeer ik een ‘ga aan de slag!’ te schrijven.

AxiDraw promo video

AxiDraw

Een aantal zaken zijn van belang. Een SVG (meer info) is hét bestandsformaat waar je het meeste mee kunt. Het is een 2d-vector formaat en dat levert door de schaalbaarheid voordelen op. In het voorbeeld kun je ook zien wat het verschil is tussen een SVG en een PNG bestand. De PNG wordt door interpretatie van Inkscape opgesplit in losse pixels. De SVG levert doordat het een vectortekening is directe lijnen op.

Snap

Snap! kan eenvoudig bijhouden hoe een tekening getekend wordt. Doe dit via settings -> log pen vector. Daarna kun je een vector (SVG) dowloaden.

Onderstaande voorbeeld komt uit de example directory van Snap!.

Boven een SVG, onder een PNG
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BETT 2019, vooral meer van hetzelfde ?
In Dutch, sorry folks! Also published in Vives!

Wat is BETT?

De 35e Bett show werd dit jaar voor de zevende keer gehouden in de ExCel hallen in Londen. De afkorting Bett staat voor British Educational Training and Technology Show. Jaarlijks bezoeken ongeveer 35.000 belangstellenden uit 113 landen deze ICT beurs. Onder de 850 aanwezige bedrijven bevinden zich ruim 100 startups. Nagenoeg alle aanwezige standhouders richten zich op onderwijs en ICT. Voor bezoekers is de BETT show gratis.

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Brave, a new world?

The internet has changed us as a society. It has penetrated (almost) every aspect of our lives. Being online was a new outlet when I was young. I still hear my mother raising her voice when the telephone company sends its bill for the monthly usage. And still, I was allowed online. Under the supervision of my mother, who thought that it was a great invention at the time (1992/1993).

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CIDREE meeting

On the 11th of April, ten countries joined their computational brainpower to explore each other’s vision on Computational and Mathematical thinking. What started as a little chaotic conversation, after 30-45 minutes this conference found it’s a voice. We started with a Skype call to Paul Drijvers from the University of Utrecht. I love a chaotic start of a conference. 🙂

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Understanding Music and taste better

Reviewing project, ‘help Moorlag understand music’. This is the result of one year of collecting music. The link to the playlist can be found here.

Using a collaborative playlist on Spotify, I started the project.  One thousand songs later, I can conclude that the plan was a success. My followers on Instagram contributed, my students participated, and the internet learned the elegance of Musical preferences via crowdsourcing.

I felt a full array of emotions while listing to the Playlist. It was fun, sad, colorful, abrupt, slow, fast, and most of all, it connected. I feel that I understand my students better because of the music they shared. The contributor is mentioned in the Playlist. The top three contributors added value, not only in absolute terms but also in a relative sense. I was shocked that my students had a very, very broad sense of musical taste –  music from the 50s to the present. I listened to it all. Even better, I use the playlist daily. It helps me connect with students, to their emotions, to their needs. And it is also great fun!

To prevent spamming on my playlist (yes, c-artists use it a lot!), the link can be found via my instagram account

Top contributes
Top artists
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Numworks

What is it and how does it work?

This quick review of my unit starts off with a short story Numworks about Numworks”.  There is an online simulator of Numworks. It has all the same functions as the physical device.

Targeting a high school audience and competing with Texas Instruments’ Ti-nspire family, the NumWorks calculator is equipped with a non-touch color LCD2.

Translated from the Wiki

It offers a programmable interface in Python. Launched in France in the summer of 2017, the NumWorks calculator was quickly sold to several thousand students among French high schools, mainly thanks to a fine design, Python interface (programming language whose learning is mandatory in secondary education in France), the recommendations of many teachers and the creation of a community of users offering various applications online. The calculator is announced in open hardware (“open hardware”, schemas and plans are available) and under open source with a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND4 license.

Translated from the Wiki

This is a calculator that has a great design and Python build into the OS. Updating is easy, just a modern webbrowser with webUSB. The device runs on a 100 MHz Cortex-M processor. It’s lightning fast and the fun part… it runs Python! With software on GitHub and the community on Reddit makes for an impressive online presence. Repair is easy! The entire process in terms of hardware is open source, The level of documentation is impressive. It’s excellent. This is what documentation should look like. Did I already mentioned that it runs Python?

Why do you need it

Great design, build with durability from the beginning and it can be upgraded. It has all the functions of a regular calculator and it can be programmed without much extra training.

What’s the fun part?

It runs Python, had a USB connection and utilizes webUSB for updating. The calculator runs the core uPy and can be programmed with a computer. Or if you are up for a challenge… with the ABC-keyboard on the device. I’ve written a small script to return a random value of a dice.

Code Example

The example can also be found here

import random 

#returns a number
def roll_dice():
  print (random.randint(1, 6)) 

print("""
This python script returns a random value between 1 and 6. It's a dice
""")

flag = True
while flag:
   user_prompt = input(">")
   if user_prompt.lower() == "quit":
      flag = False
   else:
     print("Rolling dice...\nYour number is:") 
     roll_dice()
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e-Estonia. Looking at others is confronting to yourself.

24 hours after returning home I suddenly felt an urge to write out my thoughts and feelings after being emerged in the Estonian educational system. UPDATE: It did take a few weeks to finalize this blog, let’s blame Trump 😉

In retrospect, I  enjoyed the trip to Estonia but the vast gap between a Gymnasium and a Polytech institute was so large I felt uncomfortable. The inequality between students is enormous. And I later heard that the Gymnasium we visited was in the average range.  

I had great conversations with the students at both locations. Both types of students had an excellent vocabulary in English, both enjoyed school, both felt that this was ‘their’ place. And somehow I felt uncomfortable. At the Gymnasium, I counted over 60 (!) boxed with LEGO Mindstorms (400 euro a pop), a theatre, a semi-Olympic pool and a conservatory (with a large fountain) and a lot of other student facilities. The Polytech had a few gifted printing presses, old computers, and no wifi-network. The age difference between the students was almost non-exciting. I discovered that a lot of Polytech students did talk better Russian then Estonian. Quite the opposite at the Gymnasium; everyone talked Estonian and English at C2-levels. And most the students also spoke German and French.

And somehow this country is functional. 

The comparison is that most aspects of digital literacy are that we are on a similar level.  In the Netherlands, we are having a large review of our curriculum with the help of curriculum.nu. I didn’t see any urgency in Estonia with educating in digital literacy. I’ve seen some students ‘working on digital literacy’; e.g. robotics and MS Word. It was strange, but a fun trip to visite that other European country. 

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