Considering Political Perspectives through Newspapers of the World

Perspectives of the News
I’ve written before about the Newspaper App for the iPad that pulls in newspapers from around the world. But there is nothing like a Global Crisis to take a virtual tour of the headlines around the world, not only to see what other countries are thinking but also to analyze how media outlets use rhetoric to pursue a political path forward. With Syria on everyone’s mind, I wanted to see what some countries in the Middle East, as well as Russia, was viewing the developments of the potential of bombing the Assad regime that has been accused of using chemical weapons on its own people.

Perhaps not so surprising, many of the newspapers in the Middle East were in Arabic, but there are a few English-speaking news outlets. And not surprising, the media coverage in places like Lebanon are highly critical of the United States and focus on the US Navy beefing up its presence in the Middle East, and Russia is outright belligerent about America’s power (with headlines about Obama failing to make his case). Interestingly, none of the Chinese newspapers that I took a look at had barely a mention of the Syria crisis. The coverage from the G20 was all positive news about China’s future economic growth. I was curious about Israel, too, and the news there focused more on the use of chemical weapons and less on the United States gathering allies for a bombing campaign.

The Newspaper App costs 99 cents now (it used to be free) but it works wonderfully well for giving perspectives on the world. (I do note that there is a 17-old-plus warning on the app now, which is something to consider if you are a teacher. This is likely due to the coverage of war and other violence on the front pages of the world’s newspapers). Even without an app like this, older students can just as easily search for online newspapers and analyze the current events from geo-political viewpoints.  Or teachers can hand-pick headline articles to share with a class. This kind of critical research forces us to break out our often self-contained Patriotic stance and come to better understand other people of the world.

Peace (please),

Webcomic: Waiting on the Download

The download for XCode took quite some time for me (DSL, wireless, etc.) And at one point, the download got gummed up, so I had to restart my computer and restart the download again. (This time, I used an Ethernet cord, which was much faster). I need the XCode software to keep working on my App Development Adventure project. So, I created this comic ..

The Tweets App Development2

Peace (in the wait),


App Review: Visual Poetry

Word cloud poem
I admit it: I am a sucker for word clouds. I have been since that first Wordle created so long ago. This app — Visual Poetry — is a cool twist on word clouds, turning short poems into visual images. Relatively simple to use (type in poem, choose cloud type, and generate), the app makes writing interesting to behold. The image above is a short poem that I wrote.

Lost amidst these words
I scramble for meanings

In this case, I actually think the word cloud is better than than original. Perhaps it is that “scramble” idea.

The app costs $1.99, which seems rather steep for what it does. But I paid, since I like what it does. There might be other ones out there that are free or cheaper.

Peace (in the poem),

PS – check out this Tumblr blog of visual poetry (not related to the app at all).:

Panoramic Photography for DS106

Room Panorama for DS106 daily create
Yesterday’s Daily Create at DS106 suggested we take a panoramic photograph of a room in our house.  I am no photographer, so this use of imagery is very different for me. But I was game and I figured, there has to be an app for that, right? Of course there was. I first tried a free app for panoramic image but it was difficult to use, and I got frustrated with it. So, I pumped out 99 cents for an app called Panorama 360 Camera. It’s great, and includes an automatic helper for taking your photos. The app stitches them together for you into a 360 degree view.

I took the iPad and app outside and captured my backyard with it (I wanted to get my dog in every image but he would not work with me!), but used one of the app’s filters to create this different kind of 360 experience. It transforms my yard into a world, doesn’t it?
The Backyard

Isn’t that cool?

Peace (in the image),

Adding an Augmented Reality Video to Connected Learning Principles


I’m following the lead of some new friends on the Making Learning Connected MOOC by trying out Augmented Reality. I toyed with the concept a few weeks ago but then lost the thread. I’m back, now, thanks to some exploration being done by others, and we are using the app called Aurasma. What it does is allows you to layer (they call it an “aura”) media on top of an image. The app comes with some animated “auras” but I wanted to see how I could put a video on top of an image.

So, given our focus on the principles of Connected Learning in the MOOC, I decided to use this image as my launch point:

(or go directly to the image for full screen)

If you want to see the video that I created, explaining what Connected Learning means to me, you will need to use a mobile device, download the Aurasma app, and point it at this poster right here in this blog post. I’ve been testing it out by pointing my iPad at my Laptop, which is sort of weird in a way I can’t quite explain. (By the way, it doesn’t matter where you view this poster because as long as the app recognizes the image, it will launch my augmented reality layer). Once this fantastic concept map of Connected Learning is in the view finder of the app, the video should (?) launch. Actually, this is one of my questions: If anyone with the app points at this image, will it always bring up my aura layer?

Or if you are on your mobile device right now, use this direct link: to get started.

I took a quick screenshot of what it should look like when the video launches:
Augmented layer connected learning

I’d really like to know if this experiment with the Connected Learning principle map worked for you, and what possibilities you might have for augmented reality. What can we make with this kind of app? How can we connect?

Peace (in the layer),

PS — here is a video that was shared in the MOOC about using the App. It gives a good view of what it all looks like.


App Review: The World in Figures

Somehow, last year, we got a free subscription to The Economist magazine. It’s not on the top of list for “must reads” each week (New Yorker and Time hold that spot) but it can be interesting at times as it sees the news through a world financial lens. I’ve been noticing a free app that the magazine is touting called The World in Figures, and decided to give it a go to see what it is.

Well, it’s pretty nifty.

The app is built around data from countries around the world, and the results come out as a sort of infographic format. You can search through categories such as education, crime and punishment, and freedom of the press, and see how countries are faring. You can even choose two countries and compare data points. Or you can randomly wander through topics or even use the trivia option to get random information about countries. The app is fairly easy to navigate and provides a glimpse at the world through numbers.

I could see students using this app to gather information around important topics as part of a research query. The visual rendering of information is useful for understanding the world.

Peace (in the app),


App Review: 123D Creature

Screen Shot 2013-05-10 at 8.47.46 PM

I am pretty sure I found this app from Richard Byrne. I realize that many of the cool apps that I try out on the iPad often come suggested from Richard (Thanks, man!). Along with his amazing Free Tech for Teachers blog site, Richard also runs the periodic app review at his iPad Apps for School site. Both are worth following.

Anyway, this app — 123D Creatures — is a nifty three-dimensional creation tool that allows you to design and “cook” creatures, and it’s free. What I liked about it is the simplicity of instructions (the app walks you through the entire process) and the range of ways you can invent something new, something crazy, something interesting. You are in charge of body shape, texture, colors and even poses as you go through the process. The “cooking” part if when you are done, and the app renders your creature as an image that you can then export. (It occurred to me, too, that if you used the new ThingLink app with this image, you could perhaps create an interesting “story” or “informational text” layered on top of it. That’s for another day, perhaps.)

Here’s what I created one afternoon:
3d Creature
Cute, eh?

The process reminded me a lot of our claymation work — in which kids are using their hands and minds to create something out of a giant blob of nothing. Here, with the 123D Creature app, that nothing is virtual, and yet, you could easily make connections to the way engineers design things using CAD (computer aided design) software programs. A lot of the same steps that would go into an engineer design also goes into creating a creature here.

Peace (in the mold),

PS — I see in the reviews of the app that some folks had trouble with the rendering. I did not. But it’s good to read reviews just to get a sense of potential troubles.


Playing Around with Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality: Digital Writing Cover
For some time now, I’ve been intrigued by the movement towards more “augmented reality” apps are allowing people to layer information on top of the view of physical objects. I suppose this idea has been given a great big push forward with the emergence of the Google Glass project.

But, how to experiment with it?

Erin Klein, a friend in several teaching networks, shared a post this weekend at her blog that helped show one way forward. She describes in great detail how she is beginning to use an Augmented Reality app called Aurasma, which is a free and allows you to set up a virtual layer of information on top of images. (The layer is called the “aura” by the app.) What’s nice is that it is not overly complicated. You essentially choose the layer (either one that comes with the app or you make your own), then choose what it is that you want to layer information over, take a photograph of it, and then whenever you look at that image through the mobile device screen, the layered information magically becomes visible. While there is a bank of “auras” built into the app, Erin assures me that you can create your own media (video, etc.) and use that as the layer, too.

You can even publish the augmented reality layer at the Aurasma website, and share it with others.

I experimented first with a little dancing ninja popping up on a flower pattern on one of our rugs, and then brought my 8 year old in to check it out. Yeah. He was jazzed about it.  He kept putting his hands down to the ground, wondering where the ninja was. But, the thing is, you would need to have my rug in your viewer in order to see what I am even talking about. No offense, but I am not inviting the world into our sun room to watch the ninja in action.

So, I looked around my bookshelf for a book that I thought others might have access to. Since so many of my friends are in the National Writing Project, I pulled out Because Digital Writing Matters, and layered a floating Earth on top of it.

Want to see?

Tap to view my Aura.

If you don’t have the book itself, you can point your mobile device at this image of the book and click on the link above (This is where you will need to juggle your mobile device with your computer, I suspect. Oh, and you have to have the Aurasma app downloaded, too. I should have mentioned that. Center the image with the app open, and the layer should start by itself). It should still work by using the embedded image of the book, although you have be sure to carefully situate the view in the screen.

(I just tried it with the embedded image and it worked!)

So, what’s the point? There’s the cool factor, for sure, but is there more to it than that? Erin does a much better job explaining how you might begin to conceive using Augmented Reality in the classroom for learning, and she has plenty of great information about her work and ideas at her blog. She even has a free guide to using the Aurasma app, as well as some handy videos. I love it when other teachers share what they are doing. Thanks, Erin!

I could see this technology being used in a classroom (with access to mobile devices, by the way) where presentation posters hang on the walls, and students use the app to create layers of information about their projects; or in a library, where book reviews might be embedded as invisible overlays; or perhaps the layers are part of an informational treasure hunt around the room, or school; or … well, who knows? The ease of Augmented Reality is still pretty new, and so, the possibilities are still unknown.

What would you do? What will you do? If you make something, share it out in the comment section, so I can check it out.

Peace (in the reality, slightly augmented),




App Review: Topps Pennant

When my youngest son started his recent fascination with baseball cards, I figured there must be some cool apps for the iPad that could give him some more information about collecting and information on players. I haven’t found that App yet, but I did stumble upon this pretty nifty App from Topps called Pennant. It allows you to choose a team, and with a very interesting visual, infographic-style interface, you can see all the stats from every game from 1952 to 2012.

There are a couple of ways to look at the data. A timeline view allows you toggle through the years. A spinning wheel for each game allows you to view every inning, and every play. Other elements take you into a view of the entire season of a team, and even the winners and losers of divisions over the years. A map of the country allows you to find team to examine, and there are more features here than we have explored.

This Topps Pennant App really is what they say it is: “…the modern box score” document. It costs 99 cents, but it was worth it for our family of baseball fanatics.

Peace (in the history),

PS — here is a video overview:

Topps Pennant Full Trailer from Topps Digital on Vimeo.



App Review: Upstanders

I really wanted to like Upstanders HD, an app for the iPad that suggests it will give players the tools to stand up to bullies and not be just a simple bystander, watching the action unfold.  I was lured in by the title, of course. (Smart move, that title.) Unfortunately, it is a simple game couched with the jargon of the moment, and not only is the game not very exciting but the learning is minimal. The game professes to put players in difficult situations and have them take action. The only real action is jumping around the school, grabbing bananas and other things, and “making friends” by jumping into people, so that you have enough confidence to “stand” in between the bully and the victim.

Empowered? Not really.

I’m not sure what I would do different for a game that teaches young people how to become more than a bystander to bullying. I think it is important and I do work with my students on this topic, particularly how it relates to digital platforms. I had been hoping this game might be an extension activity. But it won’t be. It just doesn’t have enough substance for a teaching moment or, a true mark against it, the gameplay to make the game worth playing. I don’t often post negative reviews but this was one dollar I wish I had back.

Peace (in taking action),

PS — A better way to share upstanding behavior is to check out the Upstanders, Not Bystanders project and the Stepping Up Project through Digital ID website