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+ - Ask Slashdot: Alternate software for use on smartboards?

Submitted by SmarterThanMe
SmarterThanMe (1679358) writes "Teacher here, you can call me Mr. SmarterThanMe. I have a fancy smartboard installed in my room. Smartboards allow me to show students a whole range of other stuff other than just whatever I'm writing. I can prepare instructions and activities before the lesson and just move through the boards. I can pull up some students' work and display it through the projector. I can bring up some stimulus for use in a writing task. So much better than blackboards.

Except the software that comes bundled with this particular brand of smartboard is ridiculously clunky. Without naming this particular piece of software, and highlighting it's shortfalls, has anyone got any suggestions on alternatives (open source or otherwise)?

The main features that I'd like are:
  • Handwriting recognition
  • The ability to make and use templates
  • Grids or guides or *something* to be able to teach measurement

I have gold star stickers for any good suggestions. Thanks in advance."

+ - Original 11' Enterprise Studio Model Being Restored, Yet Again

Submitted by NormalVisual
NormalVisual (565491) writes "The original 11-foot U.S.S. Enterprise studio model from the original series has gone back into the shop again. The Smithsonian owns the model and has had it on display in a gift shop at the National Air and Space Museum for the last 13 years, but will be placed on display in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall in 2016, to coincide with the museum's 40th anniversary. In the meantime, the model will be undergoing its fourth restoration to address a number of issues. The last restoration in 1991 was performed by Ed Miarecki, a professional modelmaker well known for his work in "Star Trek: The Next Generation", as well as films such as "Event Horizon". This previous restoration had Trek fans up in arms owing to the paint job, which many feel doesn't represent the way the model looked originally. Hopefully this next restoration will bring her back to her former glory."

+ - U.S. threatened massive fine to force Yahoo to release data-> 1

Submitted by Advocatus Diaboli
Advocatus Diaboli (1627651) writes "The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user data that the company believed was unconstitutional, according to court documents unsealed Thursday that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the NSA’s controversial PRISM program. The documents, roughly 1,500 pages worth, outline a secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle by Yahoo to resist the government’s demands. The company’s loss required Yahoo to become one of the first to begin providing information to PRISM, a program that gave the National Security Agency extensive access to records of online communications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms."
Link to Original Source

Comment: Do not get your 4yo a phone (Score 3, Informative) 682

by SmarterThanMe (#44989875) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Suitable Phone For a 4-Year Old?

I'm going to assume that this isn't just a troll post. It is a pretty freaking ignorant question.

Wearing every single one of my hats (teacher, parent, part-time academic in linguistics (and, in particular, child language acquisition), techie, etc.), I'm going to claims some authority when I say this: DO NOT GET YOUR 4YO A PHONE. Mostly I'm adding to the chorus above, so I'm not going to bother rehashing the reasons against that everyone has already given, but I will add a couple more in dot points:

@ We have enough problems with the social reliance on phones in adulthood, but in early adolescence it's a disaster, let alone infancy. For adolescents, phones bring with it all sorts of problems like increased risk of cyber-bullying, exposure to age-inappropriate content, and problems with Google/Apple sponsored apps^h^h^h^hscams. There is no good way to stop this for teenagers, so how are you planning to stop it for a toddler?

@ Remote parenting does not work, and fairly consistently causes problems - you know all those parents whose Dads were at work until late at night? How did they turn out?

@ There is no type of "play" involving a phone that isn't better done by a kid, physically, in the real world. A block sorting game on a phone? Brilliant, why not do it in real life?

Comment: What sort of idiot... (Score 5, Insightful) 284

by SmarterThanMe (#42483805) Attached to: Scary Toothbrush Prompts Shutdown of World's Busiest Airport

What sort of idiot bombmaker would make a bomb that vibrated, ticked or had a big freaking waste of money LED showing a countdown? It's right up there with literally having a red wire and a blue wire. The extension of this, then, is what sort of idiot "airport official" closes an airport because he saw something vibrate?

Comment: Re:Feminization of US schools (Score 1) 690

by SmarterThanMe (#42477859) Attached to: Why Girls Do Better At School

You know what I find funny? Choices on reading material for students (particularly in middle school), which overwhelmingly favour girls' preferences in reading (i.e., more contemporary, more female main characters and so on). I prefer to get my students to work on books that in which they individually have an interest, rather than working on books that I like.

Comment: Why do girls have a better attitude? (Score 5, Interesting) 690

by SmarterThanMe (#42477765) Attached to: Why Girls Do Better At School

I think we need to ask why girls have a better attitude towards learning. Speaking as a teacher, I think that I can suggest a couple of factors and examples of why this is an important question.

TLDR: schools and schooling is overwhelmingly female oriented, and does not adapt to the needs of boys (nor anyone, really).

Schools, particularly primary (elementary for my American friends) schools are female dominated and, unfortunately, this leads to problems for boys. I taught in a school recently where I was the only male teacher at the school where there were some issues for boys. Whether there was a causative relationship or not is open to question, but the boys at the school were wild, and their achievement was substantially lower than the girls on several measures. I (simply because I was a male) was seen as the solution to an ongoing behavioural crisis among the boys in the older grades because I was seen as a role model as a boy who was interested in learning, but I think that by middle school, where I teach, it's too late for that to have much effect.

In fact, against the more influential male public role models who seem to be more interested in sport, driving, etc., than anything school-related, my effect would have been minimal (and I argued this point prior to my appointment, and my position was confirmed time after time through my appointment - in fact that failing was attributed to me which was fun). I have seen at other schools attempt to conflate an interest in sport with an interest in school by involving local sports people in reading programs at the school. The sports people come in to the school and inadvertently confirm students' beliefs, that sport and reading do not mix much. But it's a fun novelty, I suppose.

The other problem with female dominated schools is that the curriculum becomes more female dominated. At least in my experience, boys do have shorter attention spans, and do seem to have more kinaesthetic or visual approaches to learning (against girls, who more often seem to have auditory learning styles more suited to the "stand-and-deliver" lecture approach to teaching). Teaching in a single sex boys' class requires shorter lessons with more emphasis on doing stuff than discussing stuff, and this doesn't suit the approaches that a lot of teachers want to use.

Finally, there's a belief that boys are bad, whether this is explicitly stated or not, and, equally, that we should be easier on "boys being boys". In my work, I visited a school and sat through a presentation given by Year 1 students on school rules. Which was hilarious for a whole bunch of reasons, but most notably in the way that the activity seems to have been presented to the students. They were providing examples of good and bad behaviour. The teacher had chosen to tell the students to make a girl doing something good, and a boy doing something bad. The students then got up and use male pronouns for describing one scenario (where a student does something wrong) and female pronouns for describing the other (when a student does something right). The teacher corrected a student (a girl actually) twice when she said that she had drawn a girl doing something wrong, which had me on the verge of heckling the stupid woman.

As to being soft on "boys being boys", I believe strongly that we need to instil a sense of honour among boys. I had a Year 6 student a couple of years ago who incessantly physically and verbally bullied younger students and girls in the playground. I constantly brought him up on it, but was always held back from applying the school's discipline policy because "he doesn't have any great male role models", "you know his parents are really strict", or "he's just a bit energetic". The worst excuse that I heard from a colleague was that a girl he had bullied had to "share part of the blame" because she "instigated" the situation by talking to him (it's like a "she asked it by dressing that way" defence in rape cases). Over and over excuses were made for him by other staff such that he got away with things that would probably result in severe measures (like separation from other students, or meetings with parents or behavioural plans) being enacted. In fact, generally, the approach to dealing with boys at that particular school was to accomodate them rather than guide them. This meant that there were parts of the playground which were considered practically lawless by students and teachers. On the other hand, the principal strictly enforced rules for girls as petty as sock colour and the wearing of ribbons and even gave a stern talking to two Year 5 girls in my class for being best friends (because it's apparently exclusionary, even though they self-excluded themselves from other students also). I'm all for understanding students' wants and interests in our teaching, but boys sometimes do things which are stupid and they need to be pulled up for it, just as we apparently have no trouble in doing with the girls. If this is the case in regards to behavioural management, how can we expect boys to be engaged in the classroom?

It's important for me to note that I'm not saying that girls have it easy through school: they don't, particularly in later schooling, and particularly because of the social structures that we (teachers) set up in our classes and schools. But our approaches to teaching have to be modified to suit the needs of learners and I'm not convinced that we're doing it. Part of the reason is that schooling and learning is, unfortunately, seen as inherently a female pursuit. I also agree with the authors quoted at the UGA article that this is not a problem that has recently come up, but has always been there.

Comment: My Nominations and Choices (Score 5, Informative) 321

by SmarterThanMe (#42400729) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Was Your Favorite Web Comic of 2012?

1) Best overall web comic series of 2012. (Any web comic that produced content in 2012): Gunnerkrigg Court is a brilliant webcomic that has a compelling plot, interesting characters and art that has developed superbly since the comic's beginnings.

2) Funniest web comic of 2012. (This one represents the single funniest comic of any web comic series.): Evil Inc. got the most laughs out of me this year, even if a lot of the humour was a bit Dad-joke-ish. Runners up would include: Penny Arcade , XKCD , Scandinavia and the World and Overcompensating .

3) Best art in a web comic of 2012. (Web comic from 2012 with the most amazing art ever): Dresden Codak is, without any doubt, the repository of some of the most geekiest and beautiful artwork the web has ever seen. Runners up would include: Namesake , Lackadaisy Cats , Sore Thumbs and Avengelyne

4) Web comic that was most relevant to you in 2012: Real Life , because his adventures with Harper are roughly mirroring my adventures with my daughter Hailey.

Honorable Mentions (because they'd likely win categories if there were a couple more here): Bad Machinery (Best Story), Eerie Cuties (Best Black & White), Three Panel Soul (Best Drama) and Wapsi Square (Best Main Character), and Sinfest (Lifetime Achievement) among others.


Spectacular New Views of Saturn's Polar Vortex 49

Posted by Soulskill
from the mind-the-undertow dept.
sighted writes "Today the robotic spacecraft Cassini returned some jaw-dropping images of the odd hexagon in the planet's north polar region. The hexagon has been seen before, but the change of season has more fully revealed the feature in visible light. Cassini also zoomed in on the churning vortex at the north pole itself. The south pole features a similar maelstrom."

Comment: Re:Good (Score 0) 211

by SmarterThanMe (#42051735) Attached to: Tolkien Estate Sues Over <em>Lord of the Rings</em> Slot Machines

Regardless of the effects on the individual, one must consider the ramifications on the larger scale. On the family level, there's strain on people who are not involved in the actual gambling (i.e., partners and children of affected individuals). Then there's the social level where gambling leads to increased social costs because of crime and mental health ramifications.

It's like smoking. Second-hand smoke has been shown to affect children and others in an environment as much if not more than the actual person who is "exercising" his/her rights to smoke. Further, my taxes pay for smokers to get treatment for diseases that they should not have. Is that fair? No.

Comment: Good (Score 5, Interesting) 211

by SmarterThanMe (#42048705) Attached to: Tolkien Estate Sues Over <em>Lord of the Rings</em> Slot Machines

Poker machines are morally disgusting. They're basically a way of imposing a tax on people too stupid or hopeful to know better. Here in Australia, there's people who literally bankrupt themselves pouring money into the bloody things. I'm all for individual responsibility, but those bloody things are designed to addict more than cigarettes or crack cocaine.

What's more, venues that have poker machines deliberately target the poor. I've walked into a couple of poker machine venues, they are literally the embodiment of everything that is wrong with modern day society. Pensioners, disabled people, smoking heavily and desperate for, if nothing else, just a near-win.

Computers can figure out all kinds of problems, except the things in the world that just don't add up.