Teague's Tech Treks

Learning Technology and other Tech Observations by Dr. Helen Teague

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To Kill A Mockingbird Turns 54 today

Happy Birthday #54 to the Pulitzer prize winning novel,  To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee published on this day in 1960.

To Kill A Mockingbird Book Cover

 

Garrison Keillor assessed the impact of To Kill A Mockingbird, “The novel has sold more than 30 million copies since it was published, and has been translated into 40 languages. In 1999, librarians named it their favorite 20th-century novel. It was also one of the most frequently challenged or banned books of the 20th century.”

To Kill A Mockingbird is finally available in eBook form.
After years of holding out, author Harper Lee agreed to the book’s digital publication back in April. The e-book and a new audio book narrated by Sissy Spacek (can you say, “perfect choice”?) Amazon is selling the title for $3.99 in the Kindle Store. Barnes & Noble has it for $8.99 in the Nook Store. Apple has the iBook available for $4.99. Source: GalleyCat

 

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Happy Birthday Typewriter June 23

This is what 146 years old looks like!

red typewriterOn June 23 1868, the first typewriter was patented by Christopher Latham Sholes. It only had capital letters and it took up as much room as a large table. Typewriters were slow sellers at first, but Mark Twain bought one almost as soon as they came out, and in 1883 Twain sent the manuscript of his book Life on the Mississippi (1883) to his publisher in typed form, the first author ever to do so.

Source: The Writer’s Almanac

Typewriter Picture Source

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May the Fourth Be With You

Today is Star Wars Day. According to the online resource Wookieepedia, celebrating fans host parties featuring movie marathons, Star Wars-themed toys, the occasional light-saber duel, and movie-quote exchanges on Twitter. Garrison Keillor offers these suggestions for today, “You could also celebrate by reading one of the many Star Wars-related novels, playing a video game, or gazing at your collection of action figures in their original packaging.” Keillor quotes an Lucas Film insider, “It’s nice that this particular date seems to observe and celebrate the power of the Force, and we’re thrilled that Star Wars fans continue to find new ways to connect with a galaxy far, far away.”

 May the Fourth be with you.

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Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Today is Dr. Seuss‘ birthday (books by this author). He was born Theodor Geisel, in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1904. His mother read bedtime stories to him every night. He’s the author of more than 60 children’s books, including Horton Hears a Who! (1954), One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (1960), Green Eggs and Ham (1960), Hop on Pop (1963), Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! (1975), The Butter
Battle Book
(1984), and of course, The Cat in the Hat (1957) which uses just 220 different words.  His first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, which he said was inspired by the rhythms of a steamliner cruiser on which he rode.

Seuss was actually his mother’s maiden name and he took it as a pen name when writing for the Dartmouth campus magazine. Garrison Keillor writes interestingly of this time in Dr. Seuss’ life in The Writer’s Almanac. Keillor describes Seuss’ writing style as “rhyming anapestic meter, also called trisyllabic meter.”

“The meter is very alluring and catchy, and Seuss’s masterful use of it is a big part of why his books are so enjoyable to read. The meter is made up of two weak beats followed by a stressed syllable — da da DUM da da DUM da da DUM da da DUM, as in “And today the Great Yertle, that Marvelous he / Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see.”

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

from Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac

 

 

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A DNA Anniversary

An important technology milestone occurs tomorrow, but in the frenzy of Valentine’s Day today it may go unnoticed.

DNAThirteen years ago tomorrow, February 15 the Nature journal published a draft of our DNA,  the human genome. Known for its two twisted molecular strands, DNA is the schematic of all life. The entire human genome sequence, called the Human Genome Project was completed in April 2003.

The human gene sequence, first explained in 1953 by James Watson and Francis Crick is available to anyone through textbooks and on the Internet. Its availability is not under patent protection because of a provision enacted in 2000 by President Bill Clinton.  A Science Odyssey, published by PBS has excellent classroom units and activities related to Watson, Crick and their work with DNA sequencing. See the DNA workshop for a classroom simulation activity (requires the shockwave plug-in).

All living things have genes that potentially can be mapped. Humans have between 20,000- 30,000 genes. Like a fingerprint, every person’s DNA sequence is unique. However, great advancements in healing and cures are possible if common genes can be found between people with different diseases and hereditary conditions. The International HapMap Project continues research to create a database of gene similarities shared by diseases such as various cancers, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, and many more.  According to King, Rotter, et al. common diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, psychiatric illnesses and inflammatory diseases are caused by combinations of multiple genetic and environmental factors (1).

Largely because of technology’s role in DNA sequencing and the human genome projects, biotech companies and biotech research flourishes. Bioethicists address the ethical issues surrounding DNA testing and sequence mapping which may lend itself to discriminatory practices if left unprotected. The Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications program, formed in 1990, continues to consider.

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1. King, R. A., Rotter, J. I. & Motulsky, A. G. The Genetic Basis of Common Diseases Vol. 20 (eds Motulsky, A. G., Harper, P. S., Scriver, C. & Bobrow, M.) (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 1992)

For more information, see Garrison Keillor’s essay in The Writer’s Almanac.

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Weekend Ed. Quote~January 11

crossing the Rubicon

“Take we the course which the signs of the gods and the false dealing of our foes point out. The die is cast” ~Julius Caesar, on the crossing of the Rubicon, January 10, 49BC

According to Garrison Keillor in The Writer’s Almanac, “With Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon, the Roman Republic was thrown into civil war. Eventually, Caesar defeated Pompey and his allies and emerged as the winner. As emperor, he made some radical changes in government. He decreased the power of the provinces, and centralized power in Rome. He eliminated much of the government’s debt, disbanded powerful guilds, and rewarded people for having children in an effort to increase Rome’s population. He set a term limit on governors, launched a huge rebuilding effort, established a police force, and modified the calendar. He made himself incredibly powerful and demanded that everyone revere him as part-deity. Because of Caesar, the phrase “crossing the Rubicon” has entered popular culture, meaning ‘past the point of no return.'”

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Picture Source

 

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A Poem for the First Monday of the Year

A Poem  for the First Monday of the Year, perhaps for students to listen to at some point today:

Mindful
by Mary Oliver

Everyday
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

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Listen to this poem read by Garrison Keillor (cue to 3:00)

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Happy Birthday Grace Hopper

From Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac:

Happy Birthday Grace Hopper

December 9th is the birthday of one of the people who helped invent the modern computer: Grace Hopper, born in New York City (1906). She began tinkering around with machines when she was seven years old, dismantling several alarm clocks around the house to see how they worked.

She studied math and physics in college, and eventually earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale. When World War II broke out, and Hopper wanted to serve her country. Her father had been an admiral in the Navy, so she applied to a division of the Navy called WAVES, which stood for Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service. She was assigned to work on a machine that might help calculate the trajectory of bombs and rockets.

She learned how to program that early computing machine, and wrote the first instruction manual for its use. She went on to work on several more versions of the same machine. In 1952, Hopper noticed that most computer errors were the result of humans making mistakes in writing programs. So she attempted to solve that problem by writing a new computer language that used ordinary words instead of just numbers. It was one of the first computer languages, and the first designed to help ordinary people write computer programs, and she went on to help develop it into the computer language known as COBOL, or “Common Business-Oriented Language.”

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A Mouse Memorial

 

Happy Birthday computer mouseWith the busy, pre-holiday shopping of your weekend, you may have missed the birthday yesterday of the computer mouse.

On November 18, 1970, Douglas Engelbart received a patent for the first computer mouse, while working at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Having first conceptualized the idea in the decade of the 1960s, he wanted to develop easy, intuitive ways for people to interact with technology.

Garrison Keillor, quotes Englebart as saying, in “We had a big heavy tracking ball, it was like a cannonball,” he said in a 2001 BBC interview. “We had several gadgets that ended up with pivots you could move around. We had a light panel you had to hold up right next to the screen so the computer could see it. And a joystick that you wiggle around to try to steer things.” Engelbart first demonstrated his “X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System” in 1968. It was a wooden shell over two metal wheels, and his team had been informally calling the small, boxy device a “mouse” in the lab, because the cord resembled a mouse’s tail.

Garrison Keillor, writes in The Writer’s Almanac that “Englebart never received any royalties, and SRI ended up licensing the mouse to Apple for a mere $40,000. He was disappointed, but not because he lost out on the money. ‘It’s strange because I’ve had my eye set on something way beyond that. It’s sort of a disappointment that the world and I haven’t yet got further,’ he said in 2001.”

Today, raise your mouse in Englebart’s honor!

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Picture Source

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Weekend Ed. Quote~August 31~Maria Montessori

From The Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor: It’s the birthday of Maria Montessori, born on this day in Chiaravalle, Italy (1870). When she was 13 years old she was the only girl student studying engineering. She then studied medicine became the first Italian to earn a medical degree. Keillor writes, “It was so unheard of for a woman to go to medical school that she had to get the approval of the pope in order to study there.”

In her practice, she worked with children with special needs. This experience became her calling and she espoused that children were not “blank slates” but gifted in individual ways.  Keillor explains Montessori’s belief, “It was a teacher’s job to help children find these gifts, rather than dictating what a child should know. She emphasized independence, self-directed learning, and learning from peers. Children were encouraged to make decisions. She was the first educator to use child-sized tables and chairs in the classroom.” In 1912, her book,The Montessori Method (1912) was published. It emphasis on teaching reading via phonics is still considered a major treatise in educational theory and practice.

Montessori opposed Mussolini’s fascism during World War II. In exile from Italy,  she lived and worked in India and Holland. She died in 1952 at the age of 81.

Here is my favorite quote from Maria Montessori:

Maria Montessori

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Additional Ed. Quotes

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