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Study Opportunities' Blog

DAZ 3D & Blender

One of the things we talk about when describing what computers can be used for - and that often comes up as a factor when deciding on the type of hardware to buy is 3D Rendering. The problem is that we talk about the concept without context - our learners never get to experience the software or understand what it does. This blog introduces you to two free apps that can help you solve this problem - and improve your learner's understanding. On top of it, playing with DAZ especially is just plain FUN!!

3D Rendering is when the computer creates a 2D image (like a photo or sketch) from a 3D model.

A 3D model is creating a mesh of points and lines that represents the surface shape of an object - e.g. a cup or car or tree or person. The mesh is most typically made up of connected triangles but can also be other shapes. The size and quality of the model is usually described in terms of polygons with each triangle (or other shape being a polygon). More polygons = a better quality model BUT also means that the model takes up more memory and will take longer to render.

Before a model can be rendered it needs to be textured and lit.

Texturing is assigning a bitmap pattern that will be stretched over a set of polygons. A model can have different textures assigned to different areas of it polygons.

Lighting happens when you put a 'light source' into the 3D scene. This tells the software where the light for the picture is coming from, how strong the light is, what colour the light is, etc. A scene can have multiple lights in it.

When all of the above steps are completed then you are finally ready to render the scene and create a picture.

If all of the above sounds like a lot of intimidating and technically difficult work then don't worry - we've got you covered. Read on...

DAZ 3D

DAZ 3D is free software that takes a lot of the pain technical knowledge requirements and difficulty out of creating 3D art.

DAZ 3D provides you with pre-created human figures, clothes and props that you load, dress pose and render. You don't have to create the 3D model and textures yourself. It is backed up by a very large store that sells all kinds of 3D assets (that's where they make their money and why the software is free) but the assets included in the free download are enough for you to be able to experiment with and to be able to demonstrate 3D rendering to your learners with confidence and ease.

They can even get the software themselves and use it for their own artwork and projects. It might also be an idea to tell your school's art department about it.

Anyway, here's a video introducing the software and showing what it can do.

And here's a getting started tutorial video.

For the more serious about 3D here's a more serious tool:

Blender

Blender is another kettle of fish. It may be free but it is a very capable 3D content creator tool. You use Blender to create 3D models and texture them. It is a very powerful tool but takes a much greater investment of time and effort to learn and to do anything meaningful in.

The idea is that you can demonstrate 3D rendering to your learners easily using DAZ 3D and if any one of them wants to do more (for example, create their own models) you can tell them about Blender.

Here's a Blender show reel, a movie created with Blender and a Blender tutorial. The tutorial is great because it gives an idea of how much work is involved in just creating a donut and coffee!

News:

Hardware

  • SSD cost vs HDD cost vs Time saved - makes you think....
  • But hard drive capacities will continue to increase (20 - 80 Tb HDD anyone?), making them the cheaper option for storage of large amounts of data.
  • If you are thinking about new hardware maybe now is the time to buy before the effects of the corona virus potentially cause a steep rise in price and a shortage in supply later this year.

Social Implications

Free resources

History

  • Larry Tesler. A name you probably don't know but should. He died this week but he has affected your life deeply by being instrumental in developments that made computing easy and user friendly. Find out more from the New York Times.

Spam, Scams, Malware, Etc.

  • A new form of blackmail for web sites. Many web sites depend on money from advertising for their income. Google (and other advertising services) dont want to pay for fake views (i.e. when you click on your own ads or get bots to do this) - and so have algorithms to check for this. So the criminal comes along and says "pay us or we will get our bots to click your ads and get Google to ban you so you will get no ad money at all". More at Krebs on Security.

  • You've been selected for 'like of the day' cash prize. Really???

That's it for now. Have fun playing with 3D!

Nebo and OneNote

Using digital technology effectively should also include the ability to use it for making, using, reading and sharing notes much more effective and efficient than taking notes by hand. There are two sides to this coin - having the hardware to do the note taking on and using the best software for the task.

The first part of this blog is for those of you who are lucky enough to have learners that come to school with tablets or mobile devices. In this section we take a quick look at ntwo of the best apps available for digital note taking.

Let's start off with Microsoft OneNote (NB: you need a (free) Microsoft Account to download the application - the app can also be downloaded from the Mac Appp store, the Google Play store, the iOS App store and Windows Marketplace).

Q: What is Onenote?

A: A free note taking app that allows you to mix text, pictures, drawings, handwriting and even clip web pages and organise them in a tabbed notebook format.

Q: What devices / OS does Onenote work on?

A: Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android.

Q: Does OneNote sync?

A: Yes - it uses OneDrive for syncing across all devices. This means your notes are available all the time (even on the web).

Q: Can I share my notes?

A: Yes you can - so you can collaborate with your friends.

Q: What are OneNote's best features?

A: Check the bullet list below:

  • You can combine all sorts of media (typed text, pictures, handwriting, drawing, photos, movies, audio recordings and even clips from web pages) into a note.
  • You can write or type anywhere on the screen
  • The maths features are very useful - helping you to solve, understand and even graph equations - even if you write them out by hand.
  • Audio recorded in OneNote synchs with your notes - so you can choose an element on the screen and listen to what was recorded as you were creating that element.
  • Handwritten notes can be converted to text (NB: on WINDOWS ONLY).

Here's a video you can show your learners about how to use the app:

An alternative that I like is MyScript Nebo. Believe it or not, most people still like taking notes in handwriting rather than typing - and Nebo is the best tool available for doing anything you can imagine with handwriting!

Q: What is MyScript Nebo?

A: A R169.00 note taking app that has the best handwriting recognition / conversion features of any app out there.

Q: What devices / OS does MyScript Nebo work on?

A: Nebo it works on all devices with active pens, namely: iPad, Android devices with the S Pen (Samsung) or M Pen (Huawei), Windows 10 devices with an active pen, Chromebooks with an active pen.

Q: Does MyScript Nebo sync?

A: Yes - Nebo syncs with Dropbox, Google Drive or iCloud.

Q: Can I share my notes?

A: Yes you can export your notes as a Word document, in HTML or as a PDF(iOS only) and send them to anyone you like.

Q: What are MyScript Nebo's best features?

A: By far its ability to work with handrwritten notes. Nebo allows you to

  • edit your notes using simple, easy to learn gestures
  • convert hand written notes to text if they are in English or Afrikaans.
  • search through all your notes, whether they are handwriting or text
  • draw diagrams interactively

**News:** ***Robots*** * New York Times on the growing use of robots in agriculture in the USA. The article is useful as it illustrates how data collection can improve agricultural yields and crop production. * How about a robot that draws your blood? ***Social Implications*** * In this time of growing awareness of climate change and the importance of reducing our 'carbon footprint' it should matter to you to know that data centres generate as much carbon as all the airlines in the world! * The problem with License Plate Recognition Software * Artist creates fake traffic jams on Google Maps ***Business*** * YouTube made $15 billion from advertising last year. * Why web browsers are free: * Does anyone own Linux? ***Hardware*** * Hard drives are on their way out. Here's some tongue in cheek stats from the Register to back this up. * A rotary cellphone? Yep. It's possible. Take a look! ***Malware, Phishing, Scams*** * Israeli soldiers catfished by Hamas * Beware the Corona Virus safety measures phishing scam. For interest, here is a site that maps and graphs the virus. * Fake dating apps in SA * Mac malware growing? That's it for now. Happy teaching!

Video hero....

Videos. They can help your learners with mastering new content. If you use YouTube they are free and available anywhere. That's the good side of videos. From a teacher's perspective videos do come with a few problems attached to them like limpets:

Number 1: You do have to watch and vet the content of a video before you recommend it to your learners (not all videos out there are accurate or up to date). This can take a lot of time.

Number 2: It is hard to check that learners actually watch the video.

Number 3: Video watching is passive - and we know that learning is more effective when the learner is actually active.

Enter a solution. Edpuzzle is a free web site that allows you to take videos (whether you have created them yourself our sourced them from YouTube) and add in questions - turning the video into a more interactive activity and giving you a way to check how much of the content the learner really understood (and that they watched the video!). You do have to create an account to use the site.

Here's an example you can look at, try and even give to your learners to work with. It covers basic hardware (something CAT and IT teachers should be doing in Grd 10 theory).

Here's this week's news:

Social Media

Malware

Social Implications

Software

Hardware

That's it for this week. Enjoy!
Comments

Crosswords

We all know that learner activity is far more productive than their sitting watching you PowerPoint. The problem is the time and effort it takes to create meaningful and worthwhile activities. Last week we looked at Quizizz as a re-enforcement and assessment tool. Crosswords can be another fun way to re-enforce vocabulary and help your learners... learn!

Crossword Labs is a free online tool that lets you create crosswords, print them out or even complete them online. When I say free I mean really free - no irritating advertising or clutter. A simple clean interface that allows you to create, print and share crosswords that works as easy as pie.

Crossword Labs also has a huge library of crosswords made by other people (some of which can be used by other teachers in other subjects at school - think of how popular you'll be when you tell them about this free resource!).

To get a little bit of extra capability - and to support the author of this very useful tool - you can choose to pay a once-off lifetime fee of $9.95 for which you will even be able to download the answer keys for crosswords created by other people - so that you don't have to work out the answers on your own! Paid members can also choose to make their crosswords private and protect them with a password.

So how does a tool like Crossword Labs help you as a teacher?

Well, here's an idea to keep your learners busy (and learning) for a lesson or two:

  • Take a section of work that is new to the learners.
  • Provide resources (textbook section, your own notes, online resources).
  • Create a crossword on this section of work.
  • Either print out the crossword or share the online address for the crossword.
  • Let the learners complete the crossword by finding the answers they need in the resources given to them - freeing you up to walk around, watch them work, help them with concepts that they don't understand, etc.

When they have completed the crossword you can then test how much they have learnt by following it up with a Quizizz test that will help you see what work they know and what work they are struggling with!

You could even make the work count for marks.

We've taken the time to create a crossword with all the basic terms for the hardware section of Digital Technology Grade 8 Module 1.1. These terms overlap with CAT Grade 10 and IT grade 10 basic hardware concepts - so teachers of these subjects - you can also use this example for your learners as well!

NB:

If you press enter after typing a word into a line in the crossword then your answer will change from blue to either green (correct) or red (incorrect) to give you an idea of how well you are doing!

Once again, if you create some crosswords that you would like to share with other teachers and readers of this blog then please add a link in the comments. The more we share, the better everyone's life will become!

News:

Windows 7 is officially dead and off life support. Microsoft will no longer issue patches or security updates for Windows 7, so please make sure that your computers have been updated to Windows 10. Please also inform your learners and encourage them to upgrade as well - and make sure that your school's IT department has upgraded all the school computers as well.

Networking and Internet

  • My Broadband compares the cost of a 10 Mbps Uncapped ADSL connection from 2012 with the same connection on Fibre today. Prices have more than halved.

Hardware

There is hope for better batteries yet. We all know that battery technology is the big hurdle between us and better, more powerful, longer lasting mobile devices. Two new technologues show a glimmer of hope on the horizon (maybe in 5 years time):

It's good to know a little about these technologies so that you can talk about future trends where the move to mobile continues and accelerates thanks to better batteries!

Hacking and Security

Software

When talking about subscription software models you can add a new disadvantage. The software company can simply cancel your scubscription at any time for any reason - and you don't even get a refund!

In September / October 2019 Adobe cancelled all Venezuelan user's accounts for their Creative Cloud subscription products. President Trump had just signed an executive order stopping US companies from doing business in Venezuela.

Adobe gave users until the end of October to download their files but claimed that the Presidential order prevented them from giving refunds.

Internet publicity led to Adobe backtracking on the decision not to give refunds - and, by the end of October 2019, reversed its decision to cancel the accounts.

This is an example of one of the possible risks associated with a subscription software license and can serve as a good discsion topic in class.

Social Media

  • How does trolling work? It's hard to describe, explain and teach. Here's a resource that can change that. Troll Factory is a game that puts you into position as a new recruit in a trolling business. your job is to gain followers and reposts by posting on social media using your phone. Your boss sets you tasks and you choose what type of posts to make. You get rated according to how much hate and disinformation you spread. It is an excellent way to see how the whole fake news / trolling business works and, because it takes the form of a game, should help your learners learn and understand the concepts better than if you just explain them.

That's all for this week. Happy teaching!

Comments

Welcome to 2020!

With the new year comes a new change to the format and contents of the blog. We'll try to add resources and tools each week as well as a news summary. This week we take a look at something that can increase the amount of fun, competition, participation and learning experienced by your learners. We're talking about online testing / quizzing.

"...tests strengthen memory even more than do extra opportunities to study the material."
- from The effects of tests on learning and forgetting : SHANA K. CARPENTER, HAROLD PASHLER, JOHN T. WIXTED, AND EDWARD VUL.
University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.
2008

There are many testing and quizzing tools out there. Some are free and others are subscription based. Some allow for a whole range of question types whilst others are basically multiple-choice on steroids.

This week we are going to take a look at one that allows for a competitive class quiz scenario with a live scoreboard that you can project so that your learners can see who is winning. The tool is:

Quizizz.

  • Quizizz is free.
  • It also has a great, gamified feel to it which makes the quizzes feel less intimidating - and I have found that the competitive class quiz creates a buzz in the classroom and energises the learners.
  • The question types are multiple choice, true/false or select the correct answers (multiple select). This is a limited range of question types so, as much fun as it is, don't use Quizizz as your only form of assessment!
  • As a teacher you get feedback on the class average, which questions quiz takers struggle with, marks for the quiz (which can go straight into your mark book) and more.
  • Learners can take the quiz in the classroom - or at their own time at home or on any of their mobile devices (there are native apps for Android and iOS as well as a web interface).

Here are some videos that you can look at to find out more.

If you like the tool, create some quizzes and want to share them you can add them for people to find using the comments below.


News links:

Social Implications

Hardware

SQL

User interface

AI

Software

Hacking

  • Some great examples of how social engineering can be used to hack someone - the topic of social engineering is often difficult to describe or give example of. Use this to give some practical examples - and warn your learners not to do this themselves!

Finally: All about AWS

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