Free Apps from HPL

The Haverhill Public Library (HPL) is a great resource, not just for students but for everyone. Just as technology has transformed the way we do everything else, it has changed our relationship with the library as well. When I was a kid, the library was just a building that warehoused books. Today it is still a great place to find printed material, but it is also a place on the internet that gives us access to valuable digital information.

Our good friends Nancy Chase and Rachel Gagnon, librarians from the HPL, visited on Thursday, November 13, 2014 to introduce us to some of the digital resources available. They spoke to Ms. Quinney’s, Mr. Lavieri’s and Mr. Rossetti’s classes and plan to return in the future. Here’s a brief introduction to the services they spoke about:

  • Free legal music: Downloading music from unauthorized sites is still considered piracy nowadays, even though there is no high profile site like Napster in the news any longer. Freegal Music is a great alternative and it is free and virus free (which is always a big deal). While library users must deal with a weekly download limit, all songs do have a sample clip which lets you preview the songs. All songs are in MP3 format and videos are in MP4 format; there is no DRM content. The mobile app is free and available at the Apple App Store and through Google Play.

 

  • Hoopla: Someone paid the copy people at this company good money to sell their service, so I’ll let them speak for themselves as to what this app is all about.“Freedom starts here, now.Bringing you hundreds of thousands of movies, full music albums, audiobooks and more, hoopla is a revolutionary digital service made possible by your local library.From Hollywood blockbusters to best selling artists and authors – not just the hits, but the niche and hard-to-find as well – you’ll soon discover that hoopla provides you the freedom you’ve been searching for to experience, explore and enjoy what you want, when you want, and where you want.Simple to access and use, without the hassle of having to return the items you’ve borrowed, all you need is your library card, a web browser, smart phone or tablet to get started. The freedom you want is here, now. Sign up today!”

 

  • Overdrive: Another great app that every student and avid book lover should have. Overdrive allows you to download books, audiobooks and some videos to your smart devices. They have a good, brief introduction video here and like the other services above, content is never overdue since it “disappears” from your account and your devices when it is due back. Overdrive is available for iOS, Android, Kindle and Windows Phone, as well as for Windows and Mac desktop platforms.

 

  • Zinio: Like newspapers, magazines and other periodicals have seen their print subscriptions plummet since the advent of the internet. For a while, these print sources simply offered their content online for free, but those days have passed. Nowadays, you’ll need a subscription to access most of the content of these sources. Fortunately, the public library offers you a great alternative to buying all those magazines. Through Zinio, you are able to access all the magazines that your local library subscribes to, including back issues. You can download content to read while off-line, and like with other digital services, the content disappears from your device when your time expires.

All of these apps are free to download and use on any of your devices. Highly recommended for both teachers and students, and anyone else who wants to get the most from their public library. Hope you find something useful and thank you for stopping by.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2014. All rights reserved.

Digital Tourism

……………I was watching the SkyDive from the Edge of Space on CNN last Sunday afternoon, and rather than listening to the talking heads explain to me why this was so important, I decided to go to Google Maps to do a little digital tourism. I’ve been wanting to take my wife and children to Puerto Rico to visit my mother’s side of the family before all of my elders disappear.

……………While looking at the map of the Caribbean, I noticed the little island of Montserrat. An island I only know because of a volcano that erupted there back in 1995. I hadn’t thought much about that place since the stories appeared in the newspaper 17 years ago. (Newspapers were still a daily staple back then, and I’ve always been an avid reader). I decided to visit.

……………Using Google Maps, I zoomed in, noticing along the way that the island is a little more than 5 miles wide and perhaps as much as ten miles long. While the whole island could still fit on my computer screen, I could begin to see where the volcano had spewed its gray ash. Zoom in one more click and now I can see the names of the cities and towns that were in the way: Molyneux, Tuitts, Bramble Village, and the former capitol, Plymouth. As I zoom in, I am continually amazed at the amount of detail that I can gather from the satellite photos. The direction of the ash and lava flow; the formation of new beaches, new lands. Along with the map, I also viewed the photos that people attach. An amazing little feature and easy to use.

……………Here’s where I took a break in this search, and left for about six hours of the day to do other things. Shopping for food and cleaning the kitchen, clearing the fridge of unusable leftovers and spoiled produce that never manages to push the bad food off our plates. Cooking Sunday meals and getting everyone ready for the week, I forgot about my earlier search until I returned to my computer. I remembered having a virtual tool, that looked more 3D that Google maps, so I searched and found Google Earth, which I quickly downloaded.

I was not disappointed. Google Earth is Google Maps on a serious training regimen (Notice I didn’t say it was on steroids, because that’s like saying Google Earth cheated). Using Google Earth, I was able to do some serious Digital Touring, visiting my old neighborhood in Brooklyn, checking out the new Barclay Center (home of the lowly Nets), seeing how the rebuilding was going along in downtown Manhattan at the site of the World Trade Center attacks, and even admiring the 3D sonar mapping around New York City … I just finished reading Mark Kurlansky’s The Big Oyster, which recounts the long and prodigious history of clamming in New York waters, and seeing these online maps with so much information allowed me to see my hometown in a completely different light.

……………Needless to say, Google Earth is a wonderful and powerful tool that can easily become a huge time vortex, mindlessly consuming hours of your time as you hop around the world digitally. Could I check out China, I thought? Sure I could. How about Cuba? Or North Korea? Why not, says Google Earth. It’s just information. So off I went. Scanning miles and miles of endless rainforest in Brazil (there’s tons of missing information there … not too clear). I went from thought to thought, checking out places that popped into my mind. Next I checked out Abu Dhabi and their crazy land formations. Unlike other nations in the Middle East, the leaders of Abu Dhabi are hoping to court Western visitors and investors to their country and they are looking forward to a time when their oil and petroleum profits literally dry up. They are building up a resort wonderland that aims to rival anything anyone in the world has ever envisioned. (Those palm trees in the picture below are actually man made islands, and all the way to the right there is a mini earth where wealthy people can purchase an entire island in their favorite part of the “world”).

……………It’s been a week since I started writing this post, and I can’t stop using Google Earth to visit places that pop into my head or that just look interesting from space. I’ve visited my father’s small town in Ecuador; my mother’s birth place in Ponce, Puerto Rico; I gazed at the Bering Sea and saw the underwater profile, and imagined how a few degrees of cold could lock the whole area in ice, allowing the ancestors of my ancestors to cross long ago … to populate North and South America. As a kid, I heard that the Great Wall of China was the only man-made object visible from space. Even though I thought I knew where I should find this “obviously” visible structure on Google Earth, I couldn’t find it. Sadly, whenever I typed Great Wall of China in the search box, what I got was directions to Chinese restaurants by that name. In the end, I was not able to see it from space, and I found out that it was an urban legend.

……………I turned to visit towns on the edge of deserts, wondering how people can resist the relentless onslaught of the sands. I viewed a winding river curving through the Congo (-3.493203,17.532806) creating an amazingly fluid and beautiful shape that made me want to get up and start painting. But I didn’t. I remained and kept zooming in and out, exploring whatever caught my eye; a remote corner of Australia, and the huge and apparently orange sands of the Simpson desert. Using the 3D building feature, I visited Rome and the neighboring Vatican City.

……………Google Earth’s 3D models are created by volunteers, amateurs and professionals, who upload their Sketch Up renditions of real buildings to a warehouse. After that, a team at Google Earth selects those models that will be placed on the maps. Information about the works and creators is available by clicking on the model, and you can even visit the warehouse and check out all the models people have uploaded. Another incredible store of digital information that is completely free and available for anyone to explore and use.

……………Finally, I had to stop exploring all these amazing tools and get to posting this. There are other tools that allow you to record and narrate a digital tour. You can also explore underwater areas that have been mapped and even photographed. There are panoramic photographs at every historical site I could think of, and just when I thought I couldn’t take in more information, I discovered that Google Earth also allows you to explore the moon and mars, including all of the landing sites.

……………Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you find somewhere interesting to visit.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2012. All rights reserved.

April Post: A Potpourri of Unrelated Goodies

               I hope that your April vacation days were well spent rejuvenating in preparation for the home stretch of the school year. There is still much work to be done and many things to be accomplished before the year is over, so I hope the weather is on our side from now on. During my free time, I look for inspiration to keep myself focused on the things that matter. For me as the school’s “media specialist” this runs the gamut and includes pretty much everything.

               I have been reading book length works, which I tend not to do during the school year, and I always like to share what’s on my reading list. Over the April vacation I finished both Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes and Joseph T. Hallinan’s Going Up the River: Travels in a Prison Nation. I’m also about two thirds of the way through my first go at Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, since my twenties. Read concurrently, these books make for some interesting, albeit depressing thoughts about the nature of human beings and civilization. I think I’m more like Cornelius than like John Galt.

               Before the vacation, I was recycling magazines that lined my office shelves, titles that go back to 2006 …. but I can’t help peak through each one before I finally let it go. In the process, I find articles that I think are worthy of sharing. Thanks to our fabulous new copier/printer/scanners, I can now scan the articles (in full color) that I want to save and share them as PDF files with our faculty. If you don’t yet know how to use the scan feature on our copiers or if you have forgotten how to use it, stop by the LMC for a quick lesson. It’s a great way to store information digitally and I highly recommend everyone also learn how to store their information in various places (thumb drive, DVD, CD and hard copy).

               Online, I always find videos, sites and stories that I want to share with someone. Below you will find, in no particular order, the potpourri promised in the title:

  • Take a virtual ride to the moon. No one seems to be much impressed with the fact that we’ve been to the moon. It doesn’t seem like that big a deal, until you really think about what’s involved. Seriously, would you sit on top of a giant tank of fuel made to explode in a “controlled” fashion that’s gonna shoot you to the moon? I don’t think so. And if you actually make it to the moon, imagine the danger in LANDING there! Think you can do that math? Didn’t think so. This virtual launch from, We Choose the Moon, does a great job of illustrating just how amazing landing on the moon was and why it deserves to be celebrated as a major achievement in humanity’s history.
  • Carolyn Porco flies us to Saturn. Going to the moon and back wasn’t enough for us, of course. We realized quickly, however, that if we were going to visit any of our other cosmic neighbors, we weren’t going to be able to go in person … instead we would spend the following decades launching satellites and the robotic equivalents of Lewis and Clark, Henson and Hillary to explore our cosmic neighborhood. Planetary scientist Carolyn Porco shares images of Saturn and two of its most interesting companions; the cloud covered Titan, and the deep freeze Enceladus, that appears to shoot jets of ice into space. This is just another in a long line of great TED Talks. 
  • Speaking of TED Talks, may I share one more, that happens to stick with the theme of space (space-time?) and understanding our place in the universe. Big History is presented by David Christian as he attempts to “tell the story” of the complete history of the universe, from the Big Bang to the Internet, in under twenty minutes. In the talk, Christian challenges us to look again at our understanding of complexity, life and humanity, when presented as part of the larger cosmic timeline. 
  • The Scale of Things: In case you’re having trouble imagining the scale of the things that David Christian is talking about in the video above, I suggest you check out the clumsily named Universcale, hosted by Nikon.com. This is a fascinating and interactive website that puts things into perspective … from the barely perceivable level of the subatomic particle all the way to the edges of the cosmic background radiation 13.7 billion light years away. Loaded with interesting facts …. makes you feel tiny and immense, depending on where on the scale you find yourself.

  • A picture is worth a billion tiny particles: While I was down at the subatomic end of the Universcale above, I started thinking that I kind of understood something about the world of physics. When I remembered Feynman’s quote, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” Even so, I found this graphic useful as it breaks down what we know about the elementary particles of the universe. Perhaps most striking is that dark matter and dark energy account for 96% of the universe …. and we know absolutely nothing about it. 
  • Back on Earth … A New Map Reveals the Size of U.S. Forests: One of the best things that we do with our technology is measure and document the real world around us. This information boon will become ever more valuable over time, as humans continue to compete for the limited resources available on the earth. Hopefully, our deeper understanding will lead to better management and greater respect for the wonderful bounty that the planet provides us. 
  • Last, but not least, I have just on more gem from our friends at TED Talks, and it is Hanna Rosin: New data on the rise of women. Lifted straight from the website, the description of the video says, “Hanna Rosin reviews startling new data that shows women actually surpassing men in several important measures, such as college graduation rates. Do these trends, both US-centric and global, signal the ‘end of men’? Probably not — but they point toward an important societal shift worth deep discussion.” Is it just me or does it seem that whoever wrote that description sounds a little disappointed with the answer to the rhetorical question about the “end of men”?
  • Just for Fun: I came across this quirky blog a while back. It’s basically a dad (who is a professional artist) drawing little scenes on his children’s brown paper lunch bags. I think it’s great that he takes the time every day to personalize his kids’ bags, and it’s a little thing that will stay with his kids forever.

 

Thank you for reading, and I hope you found something worthwhile.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2011. All rights reserved.

Quick Hit: Cool Time Wasters

I know, I know. I’m always telling the students in the LMC to get off of the game sites because they should be using their computer time productively. Yet here I am with a blog post claiming to direct you to “Cool Time Wasters”. Three things. It is Friday, I am home and all work and no play makes Jack (and Jill) a dull boy (and/or girl).

Truth be told, I probably waste more time online than any one you know (except for hardcore gaming junkies, which no one ever sees anyway). I still believe, however, that some forms of fun are better than others, and that having the world at our fingertips, we would be fools to not use that power occasionally to exercise our minds. I can hear you kids, now stop yelling “BORING!”

Here are two entertaining and thought-provoking sites that ask you to consider just how good your eyesight, and therefore perception, really is. First ask yourself if you think you can spot the middle of a line or the center of a circle just by eye-balling it? Seems easy right? The only problem is you can’t. But you can give it your best shot and see how you do at http://woodgears.ca/eyeball.

screen capture of ultimate flash face app

After you’re done being fooled by simple geometry, try your hand at sketching a familiar face. The Ultimate Flash Face  application from Lemondrop.com is a great little tool that puts the skills of the sketch artist in your hands. You can choose from ten facial characteristics, scale the features and move the items around to recreate any face you can imagine. No erasers necessary, and you can save or print your digital masterpieces.

So, it’s Friday. Have fun and thank you for stopping by.

© 2008 henry toromoreno