Saturday, July 21, 2012

It's a Cartoon, It's An Avatar,
It's a New Animated YOU!

Let's Get Animated!
Jodie & Phyl my hosts from Australia (background story below!) asked me to write a short article on a tech topic to distribute to schools in Australia and New Zealand. So, you know I HAD to highlight 20+ of my favourite Super Avatar Generators & Creators! The piece has been made into a promo flier & a full article - PLUS... you know you can get all the links & graphics from the
Companion & Updated Avatar wikipage! 
(Click below)

You can view the flier embedded below or download it from Slideshare

Download the article directly from the SybaSigns server or Slideshare (embedded below)
It's a Cartoon! It's an Avatar - Full Article from gwyneth jones
Your Head - In a Jar!
Hope you enjoy it! If you have visited that wikikpage before, I've recently updated it adding the latest, coolest APP....the Futurama Head in Jar generator for iPhone & iPad with design tips!


Super thanks to **jake duncan** @**duncanbilingual** for exposing me to this COOL new generator on his Google+ Profile!

I'll Carry Luggage!
SybaSigns of Australia have treated me very well, and I haven't even met them YET! My mentor, Dr. Joyce Valenza has worked with the awesome gals Phyl & Jodie of @SybaSigns traveling to Australia & New Zealand speaking and conducting Teacher Librarian workshops for years. This year she & they invited me to come along! Ummmm Yes, please! Heck, I'd carry Joyce's luggage and get her latte every morning!....Oh and speak a little here & there! Seriously, I'm terribly flattered to have been invited with Joyce to go on a 3 city speaking tour conducting workshops. Am I gushing? I'm gushing a bit, huh? Ok, I'll tone that down! Check out our wikipage for the tour - Navigating the Digital Shift: Transliteracy, Transparency, & Curation.

Meet You Down Under!
I hope I'll be meeting some of my Australian PLN and getting to know a whole new group of kindred spirits! (Yeah, that was an Anne of Green Gables moment!) This is a true dream come true for me - ever since I was a swoony teen girl and saw a Masterpiece Theatre production of a Town Like Alice & got the hots for dishy Bryan Brown (Ahem!) ......errr...anyway!
We're visiting Sydney, Adelaide, & Perth! Check out our tour!

Cheers dears! Take, Use, Share! As always, I love your thoughts, suggestions, & comments!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Goodbye iGoogle - Hello Protopage!

(Click above for larger image)
iGoogle Gone, Baby Gone
So, thanks to my amazing mentor @JoyceValenza & Google+ I recently heard the upsetting breaking news that Google is doing away with iGoogle!
"iGoogle will be retired in 16 months, on November 1, 2013. The mobile version will be retired on July 31, 2012."
What the What!?
Now... to be honest I only use iGoogle at school as my start up page & to bypass my district filter for Twitter using the totally awesome TwitterGadget! (more about that below!) Shh! Don't tell.
But let's talk about what's really important...what about my pet digital Hamster!?? Whew! Thank goodness Adam Bowman, the designer, assures us that the hamster will live on by giving us the modifiable embed code for this engaging widget! Hint: look for the tiny blue link Edit Settings - make those mods then copy & paste the embed code!
(Click on Aloysius the hamster to wake up & feed!)

(My original iGoogle Page - Click above for larger image)
Social Media to the Rescue!
So.....what to do? Of course I complained about this on my G+ and on Twitter and Hmmm a few min later I got this unsolicited tweet! (actually they Tweeted me 3X!)

Protopage Outlasts iGoogle!
Humph! I don't really like to be "spammed" by ANYone...but I admit I was intrigued! So I checked it out -- and not so bad. Apparently, Protopage was designed before iGoogle and has lasted 7 years! So, like on and off the whole flippin day I played with it - added a pet (a puppy - they didn't have my hamster) weather gadget, clock, to-do list and more. Changed from 3 columns to 4, saw that I could also add tabs...SWEET!

Branding, Backgrounds, and Graphics!
Using Photoshop I designed my own Protopage background coordinating with my new blog header & Twitter background. (#VisuallySnobbyIam) But seriously, branding is all about visual continuity!
Thanks the responsiveness of John Sortino of TwitterGadget for a timely answer to an email, I finally figured out how to add it to my page! (I also donated $10 to TwitterGadget just seemed the right thing to do!) Voila! I'm sold! View my LIVE Protopage (you can have yours public or private)
and I forgot to mention it's FREE & easy to set up - tweaking like an OCD geekazoid, Optional!

Do you use iGoogle? Are you sad to see it go? What other Google apps that have come & gone that you miss? What do you think? Your comments are always desired.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Gaming, Zombies, & Education for the Win!

Hi! My name is Gwyneth and I'm NOT much of a gamer. Oh, it feels so good to admit that! I mean, as much of a geek grrl as I've always been I know I *should* be a gamer but alas, epic fail, not many games have held my attention. Sure, like everyone else I played & aced Angry Birds as soon it came out but I was more of a fan of the plush birdies than getting 3 stars on every level. I grew bored fast. Though I did see the possibility for teaching math, science, and other subjects with the game using Chrome Apps.
I PWNED Plants Vs. Zombies!
The other game I was drawn to was Plants vs. Zombies, which I will shamelessly brag I am an expert in beating! (PLANTS Vs. ZOMBIES Game Tips at end of this post!) Imagine my surprise when I saw this....

Cyberbully Zombies Attack!
The popularity of PvsZ was not lost on the the people of Net Smartz Teens (sponsored by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children) Cyberbully zombies are attacking NSHigh! Don’t let them get inside or they will send you mean IMs, post embarrassing pictures of you, try to steal your identity…and eat your brains! The game designer & illustrator Amy Charlick describes the project: "NSTeens required a game based on the infamous 'Plants Vs Zombies' for their online safety game. Focussing on cyber bullying, the game used school-aged zombies as the enemies, and digital devices and social networking elements as the weapons. I designed and animated all backgrounds and characters." -- So, taking the engagement of Plants Vs. Zombies translated to digital citizenship! Fascinating.
But that's it. I even gave up on DrawSomething after I noticed that once getting past 100 words with a few friends & my mom they started repeating! Added to that when confronted by my friend Jennifer LaGarde's expert drawing, I gave up & raised the white flag! ;-) Epic fail! [grins] Srsly, click the image to see a larger size of her mad amazing drawing skillz!

Level Up Book Club for the Win!
So yeah, I'm not really a gamer or an expert in gaming & education. But I have friends who are! (Now you're thinking how misleading this post is, huh? Don't give up!) I've mentioned the LevelUp Book Club before but my oh my how it's grown! Brainchild of dear friends Matthew Winner & Jennifer LaGarde - the long distance wonder twins first created the book club blog only a month or so ago - then it GREW - to epic proportions! LevelUp has morphed into it's own Gaming & Education social network! There are challenges, prizes & points to win, books to read, Diigo and Live Binder resources to share, a Tumblr page, hashtags to Tweet, and more!

Wiiiiiii Learning!
Matthew & a colleague Meghan were chosen to conduct a workshop at ISTE titled: "Wii Math: Engaging Students Through Gaming Technology at the annual ISTE conference in San Diego." Visit their Wii Learning Wikipage (or click the Wiii Piggy above) for K-5 lessons (with room for 6-7!) all linked to state standards!

Hungry for more?
How about a tasty bite of a soon to be published SLJ article by Matthew & Jennifer!
"The following 1400 words will blow your mind because they reveal how two wonder twins met through the power of social media, threw a simple idea into the air, and saw it land with the most epic win, shattering into engaging challenges, enviable prizes, and innumerable opportunities to learn and connect with like-minded educators and professionals."
Sounds great, right?! GO...go now to LevelUp! Because although I'm not a gamer, there are experts out there who are and I'm proud & honored to point my dear readers to the Gaming in Education promise land!

Plants Vs. Zombies
My best tips:
Always plant from back to front of the yard! Gives your offensive plants more time to kill the zombies! Always plant 2 rows of sun producing plants. I like to plant on the sides with garlic protecting (more on that below) but when you're first starting out you have to plant 2 rows at the back of the yard - I like to have at least 10 sun producing plants...the more the better!
My "go-to" plant is the flinging Kernel-Pult - because it damages with the corn kernels & paralyzes with the butter pats AND it's only 100 to buy! "It launches either small light-damage kernel or bigger double-damage butter which temporarily immobilizes zombies. Like other lobbed-shot plants, the Kernel-pult fires at a rate of 1/2x, meaning that the light or normal damage is an average of the damage of the kernels and butter respectively. Also like other lobbed-shot plants, the Kernel-pult can hit Snorkel Zombies while still in the water. "
GARLIC is your friend! - I use garlic on the sides of the lawn or roof to plant my sun-creators the garlic protects them from being eaten because they divert zombies to another row. HINT: Plant double for levels with the pole-vaulter & don't forget to re-plant. Each zombie will take one bite, get grossed out, & move to the next lane - will divert 21 zombies before eaten.
I did not respect the Star Fruit at first but this is one great plant! "The Starfruit is a plant received at the end of level 4-6. It attacks by projecting stars in five different directions. Each star does normal damage. The Starfruit begins to fire anytime a zombie enters a lane within its range, so planting multiple Starfruit a distance from the intended target and overlapping their lanes of fire is a good strategy" If you can plant 2 Star Fruits behind garlic this will protect it and shoot at all zombies passing by....creates a perfect little killing hallway...AND with a starry smile!
Use the Sun-Shroom for all night games NOT Sunflowers! Sure, they take 2 min to grow up to full strength but give out the best once fully grown. While you plant as many as soon as you can, waiting for them to mature, fight off the zombies with the FREE puff shroom!
The Puff Shrom is a humble but highly effective plant! Put 3 or 4 in a row and they can take down the traffic cone head zombie. Did I also mention that they're FREE? So when playing a night game this is one Must Pick! Plant these on Lily Pads in the water - at least 3 in a row to kill those pesky water zombies. Once you get more money you can unpick them & put more offensive plants like the kernel-pult or Cattail on the lily pad.
Cattails are the BEST for pool levels! Sure, they cost 10,000 from Crazy Dave's store, but they're SO worth it as they will attack any balloon zombies and any zombie in any lane and can even take down the metal Zomboni!

Finally, the Chomper is a hungry zombie muncher! This cool plant, which has a range of two squares in front of it, so it can eat a zombie on the "other side of a Wall-nut, Tall-nut, or Pumpkin. Like all massive-damage plants, it's best against tough zombies, or for when a zombie manages to get past your defenses" See above for a gameshot of how I used the Chomper to win! Visit the Plants vs. Zombies Wiki for more information & tips!

What are your best Game-based lesson ideas? Any great Plants vs. Zombies tips? I love your comments!

Cheers dears & Happy Teaching.......AND Gaming!
and as always @CritterSharpe has the final word err YAP!

The real Miss Critter Sharpe taking a break from folding laundry to say a Yappy hello!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

QR Codes Are NOT All Hype - So There!

One of my fav members of my PLN on Twitter is Josh Stumpenhorst - this morning he posted this Tweet about an article on Social Media Today titled QR codes – Don’t Believe the Hype which got my blood boiling because it's flawed logic - especially for educators!
QR codes – don’t believe the hype interesting

Which, of course, leads to great Tweets & discussions. So I decided to write a blog post refuting their assertions because when it comes to QR Codes you know I'm a fangrrl! If you search my blog with "QR Codes" you'll see I've blogged a LOT about them over the years, what they are, connecting with parents and the community, and lessons utilizing them in the classroom & library!

Ha, I love when a blog post gets people fired up! ;-) Would love to read your post!

My dear friend and QR Code long-distance partner in crime Ms. Mensing Tweeted this back!

Student engagement increases tremendously when using . That's worth the hype!

I think you MUST! Defend our beloved ! I got my school K-6 going with them and ALL students loved them!

1. No one understands them

"The majority of consumers simply don't know what a QR code is; they aren't even sure what app they need to be able to read one. Even if you do search for 'QR code scanner' in the app store, you're greeted by a never-ending list of options, there's no clear app to use and all this just confuses people more."

HA! Not true! It's a bar code. It's square. It can hold more information than a standard striped bar code. It can encode a web link, text or audio message, or phone number. It was developed in Japan by Toyota to track auto parts. It's square. Oh, I already said that. Done. Was that hard? But for those that are visual I created this Comic Tutorial to help! I also have a comprehensive QR Codes in the Classroom slidedeck on Slideshare to give out the basics & ideas for use in the classroom!

2. They are too much effort

"QR codes require engagement from a potential customer. If they see a QR code on a product or an advert, they have to download and install an app, take a picture of the code then scroll through the website to find out more. In today's world people want speed and clever technologies to save them the most valuable commodity, time. Unfortunately, QR codes leave you standing still waiting for a screen to load for too long."

What? Now that's just silly! Like the commenter Craig0r on the socialmediatoday article said: "Really? Pulling your phone out of your pocket and clicking the screen two or three times is too much effort? Sure, you have to get the app ONCE, but beyond that, you turn on the phone, open the app, click the capture button, and you're done." My favourite QR Code reading app is inigma - download once - scan forever. -Inigma Reader - Don't know how to make a QR Code?...that's OK, I have a comic for that! How to Create a QR Code in 3 Easy Steps!

3. No one wants to read loads of information on a tiny screen

"QR codes are meant to help you find more information about a product or service. However, if you want to delve deeper into something before purchasing it - if you really want to know the details - then you're more likely to research at home, on you computer. Not when you're out an about and having to thumb around on your smartphone."

Seriously? As my new friend Craig0r said and I vehemently concur "Well... yes they do, that's why people HAVE smartphones, so they can read information on the go. People use them for texting, web browsing, Twitter, facebook, ebooks... how is that any different?" Ok, I'm there with Craig0r with all that except the FB part (cause you know we broke up, right?) but really, that's just re-donkulous!

4. QR codes rely on a good Wi-Fi or 3G connection

"For a QR code to take you from the maze of black and white squares to a website promoting a product, it needs a good internet connection. This is a problem because there are times when the mobile internet is really slow, doesn't work or makes a website look bad if it isn't mobile friendly. There's also the problem of QR codes being displayed in places where there's no internet - I refer back to the confused people wondering why their QR code scanner isn't working on the tube."

Bah! Doesn't everything on a Smartphone or iPad require a connection of some sort? So you're blaming the vehicle of the internet because there may possible connection issues? Really? Well, then let's forget these QR codes and smartphones all together and go back to 2 tin cans and a string otherwise I'm sorry but this doesn't hold water.

5. One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch

"In the marketing rush to have a QR code promoting products there were a lot of poor codes slapped around. Some of them didn't scan properly and of the ones that did, some took the customer through to a bad website or linked to something they weren't interested in. These bad experiences have put people off and left the QR code redundant."

OMFG!* Again, hello? That can happen with any link on the Interwebs! Do you quit using the Internet all together because of one clumsy 404 site not found? Do you quit Twitter because one day you got the fail whale? No way. Though I gotta say that was one of your best points. Just for laughs now checkout WTF QR CODES - NSFW humour *Oh my fairy godmother!

Let's Get Real! The first picture in this posting is from a Google+ Hangout with QR Codes! long-distance lesson I did with my friend and Gifted & Talented teacher Karen Mensing. You can see those kids leaning forward with their mobile devises scanning those codes! You can also see MY 6th grade kids holding up printed QR codes up to the screen for the 2nd graders to scan! They get it! Even a 5 year old can "get it!" Also from Karen Mensing: "I had lunch with a fellow teacher the other day and she was telling me how her 5 year old (just finished KG) STILL gets excited each time he sees a QR Code anywhere in a restaurant, store, flier, etc. Five years old! You just do not see that kind of lasting engagement with most things! "

Haters Gonna Hate! QR Codes are free to create, flexible, fun, and engage kids with mobile learning faster than I've seen just about anything in the last few years. With only 2 iPod touch G4's, my iPhone, and a few smartphones that kids bring in (with permission!) my mobile media lessons are buzzing with excitement! I think other kinds of codes will come around but I really think QR codes are here to stay! So there....[grins] Whew! I had to get that off my chest. So There Michael Ruffles ! Reposted by Matt Thomas aka @smartamatt from the UK - I think you're dead spot OFF on this one! (Yeah, I just made that up. You're welcome.) PS. Haters Gonna Hate Meme origin.

(Authorship Clarification) Cheers!

Nice response - but please correct: the piece was written by not me! Assume my account was used to add to site...

What do YOU think dear reader?

Are QR Codes all hype? Here to stay? Replaced by near-field communication (NFC) chips? Your comments are always desired!

Coming Soon!

Gaming with Plants Vs. Zombies, Cyberbullies with Zombies, and the Level Up Book Club!

My Related QR Posts:

QR Code Quest Scavenger Hunt- Part Deux!

Google+ Hangout with QR Codes!

QR Code Quest: a Library Scavenger Hunt (orig post)

QR Code AT-A-Glance Comic Tutorial

HOT QR Codes in the Classroom & Library

MSET Conference, Colbert, Crabs, & QR Codes

QR Code Custom Jewelry, Swag

Library in Your Pocket

Oh and I've gotta give a huge shout out to Mr. Russel Tarr of Class tools for creating a neat QR Code Scavenger Hunt generator! LOVE this idea! My way was more visual with custom .jpeg graphics & answers but my way was also a LOT of work! LOL

Oh and as a little giftie to you dear readers...feel free to download & snag this blank version of my Second & Comic Life tree! Insert your QR Codes on this tree (or just paste them on) - photo of tree taken from my property in Second Life - 4 season SL tree created by Sixpense Ninetails.


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