lardbucket: school

3/3/2013

Calcsy – See your calculator on your computer

Filed under: Education, Math, Programming, School, Technology — Andy @ 9:17 pm

Calcsy LogoCalcsy is a tool you can download and use on your computer to show (and save) the screen of your TI-84+ or TI-89 Titanium calculator.

It’s useful for projecting the screen large enough for other people to see, or for taking a screenshot to use in instructions. For example, I’ve used it in teaching how to graph functions on a calculator, and I suspect it will be similarly useful to other people.

I first wrote Calcsy almost two years ago, and have been (very) slowly making it better since then. It’s now to a state where I think it’s reasonable to release. At the moment, it’s only available for Mac OS X, although it should be possible to port to Windows if there’s enough demand. Hopefully it’s pretty self-explanatory, but feel free to let me know if you have any questions.

All you need is a TI-84+ (or TI-84+ Silver Edition) or TI-89 Titanium and a USB cable to plug it in to your computer. The program is free, and you don’t need any special software on your calculator. (You also don’t need one of the special “Presentation Link” adapters – your computer and a normal USB cable works just fine.)

Other details of note: I suspect it won’t work with the very new TI-84+ Color calculators, but I’m happy to try to make it work if someone wants to send me one. Also, the logo was made by David Felice, so thanks are due to him.

Anyway, it’s free, go check it out. Let me know if you have any questions/comments/problems/etc.

Andy Schmitz

1/16/2013

Flat World Knowledge

Filed under: Education, School — Andy @ 10:00 am

Over the past few years, a publishing company called Flat World Knowledge has been publishing a number of textbooks in several subject areas, from history to psychology to math. One of the features they have advertised is their “open” books, meaning in part that their books are available for free online to everyone. Until recently, this was nearly unheard of: students can now legally get their textbooks for free (while paying for extra features if they want them). While I had not heard about their books until recently (likely because they have few math books), this is definitely something I like, at least in the abstract.

Unfortunately, Flat World Knowledge has recently decided that the “open” model will not work for their publishing, because not enough people were buying their books. As much as I would like to argue that such a model should work, I’m sure they have more data than I do, and have undoubtedly done their analysis and decided that such a business model is unsustainable for them at this time. While I hope that they are able to offer their books in an open manner again in the future, they have at this point decided to restrict the way in which their books are available on their website, starting on January 1, 2013. (They have already started implementing this change, as well.)

The good news is that they previously published their books online under a Creative Commons license, a common license which allows redistribution (in particular, the attribution, share-alike, non-commercial license, version 3.0). This means that people have the right to continue to redistribute copies of the books, if they happen to have them.

I am still a bit disappointed: I would have liked Flat World Knowledge to succeed in their open publishing experiment. I would have liked more books to be available, and I would have liked even more companies to follow in their footsteps. Unfortunately, it appears as though that area may remain the realm of private or government financing for the moment.

I would like to remark for the inevitable debates to ensue in unseen boardrooms in the future that the Creative Commons license likely allowed Flat World Knowledge to have so many books. In nearly every foreword I had read, the authors extolled the open license of the book as a primary reason for publishing with FWK. Were it not for this license, it is entirely probable that FWK would not be in such a favorable position. The ability of others to share your books should be regarded as the feature so many authors see it as, rather than a liability.

9/1/2012

Getting Complicated, Embedded YouTube Videos

Filed under: Hacks, School, Technology — Andy @ 3:29 pm

So, earlier today, Karl Fisch asked for a copy of an Olympics video from NBC’s website to use in his school. A number of the “standard” ways of getting the video didn’t seem to work, so I figured I’d pitch in. By the way, the first thing to try (if whatever addons you might have to download YouTube videos don’t work – although I don’t use any myself, I’m told they didn’t work in this case) is to click the YouTube button.

The YouTube button will usually open the video up into YouTube’s website, where most addons for downloading a video will work better, and there are plenty of other websites happy to help you.

In this case, clicking the button only got to the NBC Olympics home on YouTube. A quick search of the channel showed that the video I was looking for wasn’t on the NBC Olympics channel, and I’d have to find another way to download it.

(more…)

10/11/2010

Announcing scavhunt

Filed under: Open Source, Programming, School, Technology — Andy @ 5:48 pm

Since the end of Dan Meyer’s SLV SCAV, it’s been in the back of my mind to get the source code available to more people, and there was at least some interest from others about running their own copies.

As a result, I took the time to go through the code, remove any references to the school, students, or teachers that I could find, and generally cleaned the code up for release. I changed the name to “scavhunt,” and made a working version that I can release. I’m happy to say that the code is now available as open source (AGPL v3), from GitHub as scavhunt.

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet had the time to properly document things. As it is, if you pull the code down (either use git if you’re comfortable with it, or download a tarball/zipball with the “Downloads” button in the upper-right corner of the GitHub page), it should be a working scavenger hunt, although a bit sparse. There are a number of files you should modify, and some directories that need to be writable by the web server, but those are all documented on the README.md file (and also on the GitHub page for the project). It comes with two example questions as a basis for writing your own, although additional question types exist in the code as well.

So, the code is now available for your use, however you see fit (as long as it complies with the AGPL v3, which is pretty relaxed in terms of usage). If anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me at andy [dot] schmitz [at] gmail [dot] com, or potentially file an issue on GitHub (although I’m new to GitHub, so it may take me a while to figure out how to respond). Unfortunately, at the moment, I don’t have enough time to necessarily improve the code in the ways I would like to, but I can certainly answer questions and respond to pull requests from those who would like to improve it on their own. Contributing your improvements back would be greatly appreciated. And hey, if you use it, I’d appreciate an email or tweet (@aschmitz) to see where it’s in use.

Andy Schmitz

P.S. This is indeed where the scoreboard movement tracking code came from, so that section is rather well-commented. Unfortunately, the rest is less documented, but hopefully understandable.

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