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World’s Coolest Software – Picasa 3.5

Last night we transferred a few thousand of my daughter’s photos (she’s a picture taker and filled her last hard drive–it was admittedly small and old) from a Windows XP machine to a Windows 7 machine. (This isn’t about Windows 7 but I am really liking it) We’d put Picasa 3.5 onto the machine and let it start cranking through the photos. It indexed the pictures really fast, but the amazing thing it has is the facial recognition capability built into it.

Within seconds it was cropping faces out of every picture and displaying them. After training the program by naming a few images, it would go find other images of that person VERY ACCURATELY and put them into special people folders. You then continue to teach the program about it’s guesses but they are mostly spot-on right. I can’t tell you what a relief this is to me to have a program do this and I’m just starting it up on my computer which has loads of pictures of our children and trips on it.

I have to say this is so cool to be able to look at one of our children and see their progression from baby to toddler to childhood to teen all in one folder with a minimal amount of effort. I also have to say that the second coolest thing is when the program makes a mistake guessing who someone is and puts the picture right next to one of the other children and you can see the similarity of features that it’s picked out that you’ve never noticed before. It’s truly amazing. I just can’t believe it can accurately choose childhood and almost baby pictures from adult and teen pictures of a face. Very cool.

On a core duo 2.6 mhz processor, it took about 12 hours through the night to finish tagging photos and finally completed finished this morning. There is now a directory with a lot of unsorted photos but for every photo you identify, dozens disappear from the list as it has matched them in the background but wasn’t fully confident to put them into someone’s specific directory.

All in all, I think this piece of software is probably the one program I can no longer live without. Get it here and best of all, it’s FREE.

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One Nation Under God artwork

“One Nation Under God” is the title of a cool art piece by Jon McNaughton. Click this link and then click the picture for a neat little app he’s got that lets you zoom in on every aspect of his painting and understand the symbolism he’s put into this work of art.

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Ultimate School Choice

I received this email recently from Erik Syring who you probably don’t remember but I’ve mentioned him before. He runs a global education company (in the sense that it’s available all around the world, not indoctrinating for global causes :)) and has on board some names you’ll recognize like Jim Milgram, etc…

There was recently a conference on the future of education which sparked some great thoughts and Erik sent me this email. The full discussion is available at the link below, and below it are a few random quotes Erik included. This is the ultimate school choice.

School Choice a la Carte (Education Sector on-line conference)

“Schooling has entered the zone that the big telephone companies were in before cellular and VoIP services became dominating factors. Within a decade the scene for education will be changed just as much as telecommunications was. Good for students; inconvenient for a lot of adults who make their living in the traditional model.”

“Education is still viewed as public school for the masses, private schools for the rich, virtual schools for computer geeks, and charter and home schools for the non-conformists. We need to stop thinking of education as a place and realize it is a process.”

“To succeed with the kids the system now loses [struggling students and very strong students], we’ll have to be open to major differentiation.”

“(primary/secondary education)…should pursue a system similar to many colleges, in which students get advisors, must fulfill certain requirements, but have substantial freedom within those constraints to choose the classes and instructors they prefer.”

“Weʼre headed for radical choice–not just school choice but choice to the lesson level. Weʼll soon have adaptive content libraries and smart recommendation engines that string together a unique ʻplaylistʼ for every student every day. These smart platforms will consider learning level, interests, and best learning modality (i.e.,motivational profile and learning style to optimize understanding and persistence). Smart learning platforms will be used by some students that learn at home, by some students that connect through hybrid schools with a day or two onsite, and by most students through blended schools that mix online learning with onsite support systems. Choice between physical schools will increasingly be about the learning community they create in terms of the applications and extracurricular opportunities and guidance and support systems. Families will gain the ability to construct a series of learning experiences that fit family needs, schedules, preferences, and interests.

“… very school-focused… legislation. In the accountability systems… the school is the unit of accountability in all areas – attendance, graduation, reading and math achievement. This type of accountability won’t work, however, in a system with increased customization, where students get reading instruction in one place and math instruction in another. A critical step in shifting our thinking from education as a place to education as a process is to create accountability and data systems that work in a system of increased choice and customization, and that don’t rely on having one place-the school-as the unit of accountability.”

“Just as the new flat world economy is requiring new kind of business leadership at all levels to address how companies will compete in this new order, our education sector is desperately in need of a new paradigm of leadership at the school and district level and the appropriate infrastructure to support and nurture this New Education Leader.”

“The question is not whether this will happen, but how. And my main concern is that if we don’t affirmatively embrace these options from a public education standpoint and make sure that our systems, policies, and educators support these options for ALL students, then many will not be able to take advantage of this potential. And, to be clear, by support I mean make sure that our policies and programs are structured not just to provide access, but truly structured to ensure 1) that many different types of students can succeed — especially those that are not currently succeeding in traditional environments, and 2) that our data, accountability, funding, and other policies are designed to build these seamless experiences, rather than marginalize them to the province of the already successful or affluent.”

Erik E. Syring
Chief Executive Officer
Global Education
“The best education in the world brought to students everywhere”
“The world’s 100,000 best teachers teaching the world’s top 5,000,000 students”

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Halloween scavenger hunt activities

If you’re looking for a fun Halloween scavenger hunt activity, can I recommend a product I made and not have it sound like a self-advertisement? 🙂 Several years ago my wife and I came up with an idea for a product that would let parents have an easy way to do fun activities with their kids. We called it Riddle Me and came up with hundreds of objects and thousands of age-appropriate riddles (over time and with a lot of help) and got the software built. It’s a really easy to use program that lets you pick your settings and then print out a set of riddle clues you just cut out and tape into place. You hand the children the first clue and off they go. Almost every birthday party at our home has involved a clue hunt because our kids love it so much and there’s a lot of other people that have done some really creative things with it as well.

To get some ideas of your own, check out this link for Halloween Scavenger Hunt ideas.

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Book of Mormon Geography

This is one of the coolest sites I’ve seen on Book of Mormon geography. It tries to take a bunch of the various theories that have been espoused by people over time and fit them onto comparison grids and maps. The site author’s theory that everything took place in Panama gets the best ratings on his comparison chart (naturally), but it’s interesting to see how he’s lined up a dozen theories and tried to evaluate them. To see the comparison chart, hover over the first menu item “Book of Mormon Lands” and a dropdown will appear and at the bottom is the comparison link.

Also, if you’ve never heard of the white Indians that were found years ago, he’s got a brief report on it here: