Guidelines for Middle School Students in Evaluating Websites

|   GOOD   |    BAD     |        MAYBE         |
| .edu     | .com       | .org                 |
| .gov     | .net       |                      |
|  |    | GOOD                 |
|  | answers.   | |
| |  | BAD                  |
| | wiki/wikia |        |
Websites with many advertisements are trying 
to sell things to you. Avoid these websites.

These are the guidelines I give my students to help them find high quality websites for in-class research. They are not perfect, but they save us a lot of time.

Mailbird Space Invaders Easter Egg

I have been using Mailbird as my email client on my work PC since it was available about a year ago. Although I religiously keep my inbox empty by practicing Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero strategy, I only today discovered an Easter egg hidden on the Inbox Zero screen. Hovering your mouse over the o in the word Zero causes the o to darken. Once it has darkened, click on the o.


Wait a moment and you will hear a midi-style jingle and see a screen titled “Mail Invaders.”


Then you will be able to play mail themed Space Invaders game.


Thus far I have found no documentation of this Easter egg, but I am sure it will be pointed out to me if I am wrong. Enjoy!


Weather Map Symbols BINGO Cards

UPDATE: I’ve added a key to help students learn the symbols and their associations. I’ve also created an HTML file that acts as a random generator for calling out the letters and symbols.

Using standard weather map symbols from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a bingo card generator from a website called ESL Activities I created 35 unique Weather Map Symbols Bingo cards. View and download the set at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Weather Map Symbols Bingo Card 1

Science vs The Volcano

Incoming sixth graders think they love science; but what many of them really love is the elation they feel when observing the reaction between vinegar and baking soda as it foams out of a model volcano. What can be learned from the vinegar and baking soda model of a volcano? Did the student really not know that magma comes out of a volcano?

The “wow” factor in science education is fine, but students need to understand that science is not all bells and whistles. Science education needs to provide students the opportunity to develop abstractions of natural phenomena, and to test and revise their abstractions until they can learn something new about the actual phenomena. You just can’t get there with a classic model volcano.

I am excited for this school year; another opportunity to help my students more fully understand the nature of science.

Mapping of Keyboard Controller Input and Output – ROHS T2414A JH108PCB

Wanting to put an old Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) controller to “good” use, I dialed up some instructions for converting a standard NES controller with a serial cable to an NES controller with a USB cable.  The instructions recommended first extracting a keyboard controller from a working keyboard, and then wiring the NES controller buttons to the keyboard controller inputs. After removing a controller from an unused keyboard, I examined the circuitry for identifiable markings on the PCB.


Finding three useful looking strings (ROHS, T2414A and JH108PCB), I searched online for information about the output of combinations of the terminals labeled R and C. Unable to locate anything, I decided to map the inputs and outputs myself. I was able to quickly record the output of the various combinations by placing one end of a jumper wire in an R terminal and tapping the C solder points one at a time. I ended up using a simple text editor for this task after difficulties using a spreadsheet program and wordprocessing program. In both of the latter programs auto-formatting features made the task of recording the outputs unnecessarily cumbersome. The table below shows what I found using a Macbook.

Input		Output
R0+C1		q
R0+C2		w
R0+C3		e
R0+C4		r
R0+C5		u
R0+C6		i
R0+C7		o
R0+C8		p
R0+C11		Shutdown
R0+C9		F1
R0+C14		+
R0+C15		9
R0+C12		8
R0+C11		7
R0+C0		F2
R1+C1		Tab
R1+C2		Caps Lock
R1+C3		F3
R1+C4		t
R1+C5		y
R1+C6		]
R1+C7		F7
R1+C8		[
R1+C10		Delete
R1+C11		Shift
R1+C9		0
R1+C15		6
R1+C12		5
R1+C11		4
R1+C16		Command
R1+C0		Shutdown
R2+C1		a
R2+C2		s
R2+C3		d
R2+C4		f
R2+C5		j
R2+C6		k
R2+C7		l
R2+C8		;
R2+C10		\
R2+C11		Shift
R2+C14		Down Arrow
R2+C15		3
R2+C12		2
R2+C11		1
R2+C17		Command
R2+C0		0128
R3+C1		Escape
R3+C2		Help
R3+C3		F4
R3+C4		g
R3+C5		h
R3+C6		F6
R3+C7		a
R3+C8		'
R3+C11		F11
R3+C14		Up Arrow
R3+C15		.
R3+C12		0
R3+C11		Space 
R3+C0		Shutdown
R4+C1		z
R4+C2		x
R4+C3		c
R4+C4		v
R4+C5		m
R4+C6		,
R4+C7		.
R4+C8		\
R4+C10		Return
R4+C11		F12
R4+C9		a
R4+C14		F8
R4+C15		*
R4+C12		/
R4+C0		Control
R5+C1		a
R5+C2		a
R5+C3		a
R5+C4		b
R5+C5		n
R5+C8		/
R5+C14		Left Arrow
R5+C15		-
R5+C12		Right Arrow
R5+C11		Down Arrow
R5+C0		Shutdown
R6+C1		`
R6+C2		F1
R6+C3		F2
R6+C4		5
R6+C5		6
R6+C6		=
R6+C7		F8
R6+C8		-
R6+C10		F9
R6+C9		000
R6+C12		Help
R6+C11		Delete Right
R6+C16		F10
R6+C0		Control
R7+C1		1
R7+C2		2
R7+C3		3
R7+C4		4
R7+C5		7
R7+C6		8
R7+C7		9
R7+C8		0
R7+C10		F10
R7+C12		Shutdown
R7+C11		Shutdown
R7+C0		F5

Not all input combinations yielded an output. Where a letter, number or symbol was the output, it was recorded in the table. For the function key mappings I used an on-screen keyboard visualizer which is available in the OS X preference pannel under settings for the keyboard. A few input combinations outputted a string of numbers (see R3+C0 and R6+C9). While none of this information is super-exciting, I hope that by recording it here I might save someone working on a similar project some time and effort. Happy tinkering!