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Technology

Who’s up for a Chat?

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Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 5.30.33 PM

Hopefully you’ve heard, but we forgive you if you haven’t, Answerables has moved into Open Beta! Close to 2 years in the making; we’re putting it out there for you to try out for free, and feedback to us on how to make it even better. So, if you missed the memo, head over to the Aswerables dashboard, sign up and download it,  and see what all the fuss is about! You can even do it right now if you like…this blog’s not going anywhere ;).

But if you ARE still reading, we’re going to be highlighting some of the awesomeness that’s been integrated into Answerables for your user experience pleasure in the next few blogs.

Today we’d like to introduce you to our voice and video chat, courtesy of a couple of cutting edge technologies: WebRTC by Google and OpenTok by TokBox.

WebRTC was developed by the good folks at Google, who then put it out ‘open source’ (which means free to use, which is always good). The RTC stands for ‘real time communication’. Basically, it enables web browsers to allow for real time communication between users.

We then took something called OpenTok by TokBox , mixed and stirred, and the next thing you know…after a few weeks of fancy footwork by our resident geniuses…voila! Voice and video chat that’s really been turning some heads with our first sets of users; it seems they haven’t seen anything quite like it. Perfect :)

Picture this. Your avatar wanders over to a set of backpacks on the floor (we call them Compacks). You click on one and it appears on your back. Click on the video chat button on the compack and you appear on a small screen- above your head to others, but on the compack as well so you can make sure your hair looks good ;). Click on the microphone button and you have voice. Cooking with gas!!

For educators this has got to get those cylinders firing: online face to face tutoring; after school ‘office hours’ from home; running a ‘live’ classroom portal; meetings with colleagues for PD sessions.

And for students…well, we know of at least ONE who wants to show Vince Carter’s Top 10 dunk videos to his friends, and provide live commentary to them as he does it!

Hey, sign up…maybe you’ll get an invite!

Inspiring kids to create their own literary masterpieces

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Most days when I pick the kids up from school it’s bathroom, snack, then flop on the couch for a half hour of tv or iPad, or both, before settling in to homework time around the kitchen table. But the other day, my 11 year old surprised me by dusting off the kids’ ancient and massive (but still fully functional) laptop, and sitting at the kitchen table right away, forgoing snack and sofa. “What gives?” I asked.

What GAVE  was….http://www.bitstripsforschools.com

 

Alouette 1, Back on the Air

Alouette 1, Back on the Air

He and his class had been turned on to this by their awesome teacher, who had taken the time (and swallowed the expense) to set up her whole class (all 30 of them!) with Bitstrips. It is basically a way to create comic books online—my son prefers to refer to them as ‘graphic novels’ ;) It’s super easy to use, gives them lots of choices in terms of characters, backgrounds and props- they can even import their OWN photos or use the copyright free Flickr Image Search. Basically all the tools necessary to create some top notch comics—sorry, graphic novels, to either print out or share online with the other kids in his class.  No push to Facebook or Twitter yet—it’s actually kinda nice to know that somewhere, someone DOESN’T feel they need to get all their content into our massive social media karmic wheel.

And it’s also nice to know SOMEONE was inspired by our Chris Hadfield post a while back—cause now he’s full on into NASA and even obscure, lost in space Canadian satellites—

Check out  “Alouette 1, Back On the Air”

Geocaching: Outdoorsy Family Fun & Exercise meets 21st Century Magic

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Ahhh, Spring. When a Nexed-er’s thoughts turn to—anything NOT covered in slowly melting piles of grey-black specked snow and ice.

As you can probably guess, we’re pretty big fans of the ol’ mobile devices around here, but we’re also fully into treks through the woods, birds birding and bees bee-ing…so here’s an awesome Vulcan mind meld of tech and trees- GEOCACHING!

The recipe? Take one part running around the woods all day as kids- back when spending the whole day outside (except for a quick baloney sandwich break at lunch) was just what ya did, and mix in our 21st century magic devices we have fully attached at our hips and all their GPS-y glory and what you get is something pretty wonderful.

Caches are hidden by players and tagged with their precise GPS location. Usually they are as simple as a weather proof container housing a logbook and some little trinkets for ‘trading’. Using the app you search for any of these that are nearby then hop on a bike or head out on foot and start looking! As you get closer to the cache the app guides you with a compass and hints to within a couple meters of where it’s stashed (often in an old tree stump, or lodged between a couple rocks). Once you’ve discovered it, you open it up, sign the logbook and trade for a trinket or two. Then, the cache is replaced for the next hunters to find.

Needless to say, the kids absolutely LOVE this! We’ve even stashed our own cache in the woods behind the house and we’ll get notified when it gets found by others. All in all, a full on Nexed-approved way to get out of the house and away from the various screens we find ourselves staring at a little too much sometimes these days—just don’t forget your phone ;)

Chris Hadfield + Mars = The Kind of place to Raise your Kids

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You know we’re all about intergalactic communication over here at NXHQ. Well, how’s this for a long distance call—careful now, roaming charges WILL apply!

Earthling (8 yrs old):‘When you get close to a star, what does it really look like? I’d like to know so I can draw them better.’

Commander of International Space Station (live via video link):

‘Stars come in all different sizes. The sun is just a little yellow star. There are red ones. Ones that look brownish. There are huge white ones, ones that look blue. It depends on what chemicals are in them and how strong they are. But from the space station, they look like perfect points of light. Like an absolutely perfect diamond of light. They don’t even twinkle. They’re just a brilliant, piercing point of light. There’s nothing in the way, between my eyes and the star, there’s nothing to stop the light. They’re perfect.’

Just in case you’ve been trapped under a moon rock for the past few months, that would be Chris Hadfield, Canadian astronaut extraordinaire, talking with a Grade 2 student from the public school in Milton that proudly bears his name. He’s taking social media into the stratosphere, and bringing our kids along with him!

Check out http://starstore.ca/products/renaissance-rocket-man – an awesome new e-read about what he’s been up to; and join the 500,000+ who follow him on Twitter @Cmdr_Hadfield for up to the minute-ers—

Who says ‘Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids’? ;)

Gamifying Laundry (try this at home!)

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minute to win itWeekends are usually chore time around our house. I’m sure this comes as no surprise to all the working Moms and Dads out there. Much like the inevitable whining and complaining from the kids that comes with getting them to pitch in and help out.

After finally corralling my 11-year old in front of a mound o’ laundry to fold, and he had succumbed to his fate, I was thinking it would be about 3 t-shirts before the litany of moans and groans began. But what came out of him next threw me for a loop—but I guess it shouldn’t have—

He started into a full blown ‘Minute to Win It’-style narrative giving himself a minute to fold a certain number of clothes, all the while commentating on his progress. When each minute’s challenge had been passed, he moved himself up a level, increasing the difficulty of his task, but also the ‘cash reward’ he was heading towards.

Now, of course, there was no $125K bonanza for him when he had put all his pj’s away in record time, but he did get though his folding with a smile on his face, AND he put a big smile on mine as well. He GAMIFIED his task, nothing that kids haven’t been doing with the banalities of life for donkey’s years, but a good reminder that what we’re cooking up over here at NXHQ is gonna be all that and a bag of chips!

three jars

So while we’re on the subject of chores, here’s a really cool allowance/spending money management app that we’re going to take for a spin with our in house guinea pigs. It’s called Three Jars. Sort of a 21st Century version of the dreaded ‘list on the fridge’ that would appear on Saturday mornings—;)

 

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