WolframAlpha Facebook Report

This is a delightful exercise that everyone seems to love. WolframAlpha will provide you with an extremely detailed analysis of your own Facebook data including visualizations, world clouds, graphs, and more.

Graph of Facebook Activity over time




Here’s how:

  1. Go to WolframAlpha.com.
  2. Type “Facebook Report” and execute the search.
  3. Allow WolframAlpha to have access to your Facebook account by clicking on “Analyze my Facebook Data” and following the directions.
  4. Wait while the data is analyzed.

Note: Sometimes the report seems to stall after 100% of the data is analyzed. If this happens, simply repeat steps 1-3. The second time, the report seems to load just fine.


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Report from the 1st TaLDA Workshop

During the 2nd week of May, a group of faculty and instructional designers gathered for the first ever TaLDA Workshop at Muskegon Community College. TaLDA = Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age. This was a workshop inspired from the success of the annual Math & Technology Workshop, but designed for faculty and staff from any discipline. This year, instructional designers and distance ed coordinators joined faculty who teach Theater, Humanities, Psychology, Education, Library Sciences, Information Literacy, and Computer Information Systems joined to create a truly unique and fun week of technology experiences.

This was a tech conference unlike most any other. There was laughing, dancing, and even some crying. [Note: The crying was tears of joy.]

The TaLDA workshop is designed to layer on technology skills as the week progresses.  Participants must attend for the whole week – there’s no picking and choosing.  From years of experience, I can tell you that we all have gaps in our knowledge base, and the more of these gaps that get filled, the better our technology experiences will be.

View our FlickR Photostream from TaLDA 2012

Some of the topics at TaLDA included:

  • HTML Basics (so you can do a little bit of hacking when a website or course page doesn’t behave)
  • Jing (for sharing images or video on both the student and instructor side)
  • Search tips, browser tips and online bookmarking (aka “The Secret Technology Club”)
  • Web Tools for Enhancing Online Courses (see mindmap by following link)
  • Data visualizations
  • Building your own web presence (primarily LinkedIn and Google Sites)
  • Using digital mindmaps to organize and retrieve information
  • Online learning design
  • Social media for learning and for educational use (primarily Twitter and Facebook)
  • Presentation design
  • Copyright and Copyleft
  • Using SnagIt to create any image you can imagine
  • Synchronous Communications (SAVI = synchronous audio visual interactions)
  • Using Camtasia Studio to edit and produce videos
  • Mobile and Tablet Apps for learning and professional use
  • Using games to teach/learn concepts
  • Finding and using Classroom Response Questions
  • Wolfram Alpha Workshop (trust me, it’s not just for math folks)
  • Google Docs, Forms, etc.
  • Organize Your Digital Self

The big surprise (for everyone, including me) was the great joy we found in using Instructure Canvas (an LMS that is about 15 months old now).  The operative word of TaLDA turned out to be “gobsmacked” as in “we were all gobsmacked when we discovered that there is an LMS that is intuitive and easy to use from both the student and teacher side.”

Click on the image of the infographic to enlarge.

One of the participants (Christopher) created a great “infographic” to demonstrate the great power to misuse infographics.  It cracked us all up, and so I share it here.

Also, it’s true. There was dancing.  At some point, we decided that every mouse action should have a dance move, and the rest is history.  Yeah, there’s a video of the silliness that ensued too.

I’m not sure if we’ll do this again at MCC as the timing seemed to be bad for many potential participants, but we have to run these things between semesters to get lab space.  However, TaLDA can definitely be taken on the road, so let me know if you want one in your neck of the woods.

Also, I have to say a HUGE Thank You to our sponsors for this year’s workshop: Muskegon Community College, TechSmith, and Mindomo – we’re truly grateful for your continued support!

Update: Oh my gosh! How could I possibly forget about thanking Anna?  Anna was a godsend!  Couldn’t have done it without her.  I wish I could just keep her around all the time!

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Navigating WolframAlpha Pro Features

Last week I had to do a workshop about WolframAlpha, and I noticed that there are three different feature sets: not logged in, logged in, logged in to Pro.

I needed to know which login settings provided which features (especially for giving workshops and working with students), so I decided to be thorough about it.  You can download the PDF of this document, Guide to Wolfram Alpha Features, as well.

Hope this makes the decision-making a little easier for you!


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10 Things Our Kids WILL Worry About Thanks to the Information Revolution

After reading this list of “10 Things our Kids will Never Worry About Thanks to the Information Revolution” from Forbes, I was inspired to remind people that technology usually creates just as many problems as it solves.  So here’s my list of the new worries created by the Information Revolution.

1. [Will never have to worry about Taking a Typing Class] They will have to worry about … Mastering multiple input methods and keeping track of which ones autocorrect which words badly.  Now you have to master typing on a keyboard, typing on a tablet device, sliding over touch-keys on a Smartphone, using a numeric-only keyboard on a cellphone, using the voice-input from Apple, using the voice-input from Google, or using the voice-input from Microsoft. Each one of these uses different AutoCorrect features and has different oddities.  That’s plenty to worry about.  One bad autocorrect could lose you a job if you’re not careful.

2. [Will never have to worry about Paying Bills by Writing Countless Checks]  They will have to worry about … Losing control of finances because it’s too easy to make impulse purchases.   When all it takes to make an impulse buy is one click on your phone, tablet, or computer, it’s pretty easy to overspend your income.  And, while $0.99 or $4.99 is a pretty inexpensive purchase, those small impulse App purchases add up pretty quickly.

3. [Will never have to worry about Buying an Expensive Set of Encylopedias] They will have to worry about …  Evaluating the Source of their Information.  I’m sure you know an educator or parent who has “banned” Wikipedia.  Now information comes from Twitter, Facebook, Internet Search, online journals, firewalled “scholarly” research journals, Wikipedia, and more.  Is it good information or bad information?  Well, now you have to make that determination too.

4. [Will never have to worry about Using a Pay Phone or Racking Up a Long Distance Bill]  They will have to worry about … Racking Up a Roaming Charge or Data Overage Bill.  The last time I roamed on my phone in Canada (for about 30 minutes), it cost me $27.  The current overage on a wifi hotspot on Sprint is $50 per GB (after you surpass 5 GB a month).   And, for the record, most phone plans DO come with a limitation on certain types of minutes, and the overages on those are NOT cheap.

5. [Will never have to worry about Having to Pay Somebody Else to Develop Photographs]  They will have worry about Managing the Storage and Rights on their Digital Photos and Videos.  Now they need to decide on their photo- and video-sharing strategy.  Where will they store their photos?  On a hard-drive only? (better have a backup system in case the computer is stolen or lost)  In the cloud? (Flickr, Facebook, Picasa, Vimeo, YouTube …)  What kind of access do you want to give to your photos?  Should they be private or public? Private to specific groups or all your friends?  Do you want to copyright the photos?  If so, which copyright should you use? Oh, and did you still want hard copies of some photos? Then you’ll have to purchase and maintain a printer that is capable of printing color photos (together with proper toner or ink + special photo paper).

6. [Will never have to worry about Driving to a Store to Rent a Movie]   They will have to worry about … Violating Copyright by Accident when they Make their own Videos.  The U.S. Copyright laws have become so complex and confusing that you can accidentally violate them when you make a home movie in your living room while some copyrighted song plays on the radio in the background.  One can imagine a future when being sued for copyright infringement is an almost daily occurrence for the average person.

7. [Will never have to worry about  Buying or storing music, movies, or games on physical media.]  They will have to worry about … Being Locked in to a Single Media Device (and Format) Forever.  Kindle books won’t work on Nooks, Nook books won’t work on Kindle, and iTunes songs won’t play on Android.  Once you make your choice of digital format for books, music, and note-taking, you are either locking yourself in forever, or facing a very expensive switch to a new provider at some point.  The choice of media network not only locks you in to a format, but might lock you out of a sharing network with some of your friends.

8. [Will never have to worry about Having to Endlessly Search to Find Unique Content.]  They will have to worry about … Managing the flow from the firehose of information. When I was a kid, you could write a research paper after consulting your school library and your set of Encylopedias.  With the information now available (and having recently written a dissertation) I can say that having too much access to information can make it incredibly difficult to know whether you’ve thoroughly researched your topic.  How much searching is “enough” to say you’re done?

9. [Will never have to worry about Sending Letters.] They will have to worry about … Responding to Communication on a Multitude of Platforms and Networks.  A professional will have to communicate with their colleagues through email, several social networks, texts, and synchronous communication systems.  Not only is this a lot to manage, but each medium requires different etiquette. If you screw up the etiquette of the medium (for example, you use text-speak in an email) you’ll look like an idiot to the receiver.

10. [Will never have to worry about Being without the Internet & instant, ubiquitous connectivity.]  They will have to worry about … Getting enough Sleep and Managing Stress.  In an always-on world, you have to be able to disconnect to stay sane.  Many youth go to sleep with their cell phone on their pillow, unable to disconnect from their social network for even one minute.  As these sleep-deprived teenagers become adults and parents, one can only imagine the damage to their psychological well-being if they are unable to learn to disconnect.

So, yes, there are some things that our kids will not have to worry about thanks to the Information Revolution.  However, I don’t think technology has exactly made it less worrisome to grow up in today’s world.


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WolframAlpha: Recalculating Teaching and Learning

For at least a decade, we have had the ability to let CAS software perform computational mathematics, yet computational skills are still a large portion of the mathematics curriculum. Enter Wolfram|Alpha. Unlike traditional CAS systems, Wolfram|Alpha has trialability: Anyone with Internet access can try it and there is no cost. It has high observability: Share anything you find with your peers using a hyperlink. It has low complexity: You can use natural language input and, in general, the less you ask for in the search, the more information Wolfram|Alpha tends to give you. Diffusion of innovation theories predict that these features of Wolfram|Alpha make it likely that there will be wide-spread adoption by students. What does this mean for math instructors?

This could be the time for us to reach out and embrace a tool that might allow us to jettison some of the computational knowledge from the curriculum, and give math instructors greater flexibility in supplemental topics in the classroom. Wolfram|Alpha could help our students to make connections between a variety of mathematical concepts. The curated data sets can be easily incorporated into classroom examples to bring in real-world data. On the other hand, instructors have valid concerns about appropriate use of Wolfram|Alpha. Higher-level mathematics is laid on a foundation of symbology, logic, and algebraic manipulation. How much of this “foundation” is necessary to retain quantitative savvy at the higher levels? Answering this question will require us to recalculate how we teach and learn mathematics.

There are two videos embedded in the slideshow. You should be able to click on the slide to open the videos in a anew web browser. However, if you’d just like to watch the video demos, here are direct links:

Note that I’ve turned ON commenting for these two video demonstrations and I will try to load them into YouTube later this weekend.

There are several other posts about Wolfram|Alpha that you may want to check out:


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