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What would Annie Leonard say to Robotics students

If you’ve never watched “The Story of Stuff” now may be a good time. It’s about the ‘materials economy.’ I have used this as a great way to communicate, using simple language, and a great ‘story’ format. Including, great stick figures!

It deals with how (or why) stuff end up where they do – from toxic waste in a river, to social problems around villages where diamonds are mined. The former, as we have seen in this country, involves graphic images such as this picture below. The latter is a story in TIME magazine last week on Blood Diamonds.

This year the ‘Story of Stuff’ will be a must-see piece for all robotics teams around the world. Annie Leonard stumbled on this and researched this about a decade ago, and it is still relevant. If you have 21 minutes to spare, watch this!

If I could invite Ms. Leonard to speak to my robotics students, I wonder what she would tell them about following the ‘trek’ of ‘stuff that becomes trash.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2015 in Education, Robotics, Social Media

 

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For Robotics this year we’re re-imagining ‘Trash’

We just kicked off our new Robotics season in my school –my 5th year as coach!

With 26 students signing up, that’s more than twice the number of applications from last year. It’s a ‘good problem’ to have, to see kids become so excited about doing the hard stuff – the building, programming, doing the requisite research, and finally running those complicated missions.

On first glance, this year’s theme, Trash Trek,‘ is much less abstract than last year’s ‘World Class’ (around global education). Lots of big ideas to get our minds around the three R’s that could become a cliche unless we re-interpret RE-ducing, RE-using and RE-cycling . For instance, how about RE-imagining:

  • How far does the trash that gets into our bins has to travel? Could we calculate this (the ‘M’ in STEM) and display it somewhere? Perhaps in our communities — as some sort of a dashboard? If so, who would build the app? What would that display look like?
  • Who decides on the packaging that gets into the products we buy? How much cost will it save if we RE-fuse to ‘pay’ for this (with our landfills?)
  • Could our trash bins earn us money – a la Recyclebank?

I’m talking to all kinds of people – entrepreneurs, engineers,, designers etc who could come in and inspire my students. If you know someone, please call me, email me or send me a tweet at @heyangelo.

Some examples we might use for inspiration this week.

              

 

 

 

 

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Baiting the media, achieves nothing – except an ego boost

Donald Trump is more entertainment for the media, than a front-runner per se. They may not want to admit this, but especially in the US, where campaigns are fought and won with war-like strategy, it’s always been useful (to the media) when there’s a wild-card.

Think Sarah Palin. 

It seems as if Trump is trying desperately to fill the void left by Sarah Palin (remember her attack on lamestreammedia?) Which is why his attack on Jorge Ramos of Univision, is enlightening. He knows it will guarantee coverage.

Sadly this is also the strategy of terror organizations, as we have seen in recent months.

Think ISIS, and its despicable acts against journalists.

Or Wednesday’s cold-blooded murder of two reporters in Virginia. The killer seemed to anticipate that this would get him media coverage, making sure he distributed the story himself, via social media. A pretty pathetic use of social media,or any media for that matter. He was just looking for attention, not change.

 

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Sri Lankans “consolidate the January 8 revolution” in landmark elections

Pardon for my dredging up the cliché about how “the people have spoken.”

As Sri Lanka sees the results of a peaceful general election today, the real revolution has been in the making for a few years.

We now take for granted that most journalists provide results and news in real-time. Even providing clarity today, amid the euphoria, and contradictory ‘reports’.

We aren’t surprised anymore that the Deputy Minister of Policy Planning and Economic Affairs, Harsha de Silva uses his Twitter handle, as if he was texting you personally (and bilingually, too).  He’s not alone in this digital democracy of 20.8 million people.

One of the 5 trends in Sri Lanka, as outlined by Anna Bruce-Lockhart at the World Economic Forumis the gains in digitization. (The Full report is here.)

I welcome the maturity of an informed digital democracy in our Chat Republic.

 

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Attack machines. Two elections, different priorities

It’s two days away from General Elections in Sri Lanka. And 15 months away from the US Presidential Elections. Comparing these could be a study in what has how personalities (and by this we mean character and reputation) and priorities differ.

Oh, and how the media conducts itself.

This week there has been a virtual political firing squad in the US, as presidential contestants attack each other as a way of differentiating themselves from the pack. And there is a pack, as far as Republicans go! Take this classic, if not representative battle between Rand Paul and Donald Trump. Rand calls out Trump for lack of political finesse in these words:

“He is devoid of ideas other than he likes the idea of power and getting attention for foolish statements and bluster.”

This was a comeback to Trump going out of his way to attack Rand, thus:

“You look at a guy like Rand Paul: He’s failing in the polls, he’s weak on the military — he’s pathetic on military…I actually think he’s a far better doctor than he is a senator.” 

Indeed, all this gets into play because there is media to cover every sound bite.

SWITCH TO A DIFFERENT CONTINENT, and attacks are less about personality and more about substance. Character comparisons are about political expedience or the controversy surrounding it past deeds. Amantha Perera just contributed to a balanced analysis about the two contenders, president Maithripala Sirisena, and his ousted predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Though it is a general election, the personality of the party leader is in play. But by comparison, despite digging through the past (a recent exhumation, for instance), there is a certain maturity in the political process that’s quite evident.

As Americans must put up with the tripe as Trump and Paul, or Clinton and Bush duke it out over golf games, business reputation, or emails (!), Sri Lankans must consider how its future party and its leader plays on an geo-political stage, with its allegiance to India and/or China.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2015 in Journalism, Media

 

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Hi-tech Augmented Reality goes low-tech with ‘Cardboard’

In May this year I previewed Augmented Reality glasses – the Google ‘Cardboard’ variety. So it was a pleasant surprise to see that Palmer Luckey, who came up with the clunky but amazing viewfinder called Oculus, is featured on the cover of the upcoming issue of TIME.

The plan this year is to feature Google Cardboard in a ‘STEM Talk’ in my class. As the TIME feature puts it content will be coming up soon that will enable us to learn in immersive environments. Using special or tricked out cameras that could record in panoramic view, students may soon be able to experience life on the Space Station, or that of otherwise inaccessible nomadic tribes.

Partnerships and competitors will soon bring this AR world into the mainstream. As would some GoPro hacks. I’m betting on Google cardboard, though it’s not as good as Oculus, (I could see schools more amenable to partnering with the Google folk, rather than Facebook, which now owns Oculus Rift).

It goes from this

to this

 

 

 

 

 

 

And it’s coming your way! Perhaps soon in my class!

 

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Pros and Cons for Technology in the Classroom

Your child probably goes to school with a device in her backpack with more processing power than the rocket that took men to the moon, and this child wants to be… an astronaut?

You’ve forgotten how to log into your son’s school website to download his missed homework, but… he’s found a way to ‘jailbreak’ your cell phone?

Yes, teaching and learning is changing!

My July technology column was about tech in the classroom, which somewhat coincided with my talking to teachers in Sri Lanka about technology and STEM. Indeed, there are still those who want limited screens – parents of hi-tech execs, of all people. And those who think otherwise. Which side are you on?

 

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