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Author Archives: Angelo Fernando

About Angelo Fernando

Author, business journalist, elementary school teacher, podcaster. I have been blogging since 2004, and a business and technology columnist for magazines, since 1994. Passionate about education, and media literacy.

Star Wars, a gift when teaching image manipulation, animation

For the past few weeks I’ve been having a blast (and hopefully my students too), using Star Wars as material for classes on image manipulation, and color correction whether it is in Microsoft Word or Photoshop. The latter, for instance is a forthcoming 6th grade class that will be continued this year as well.

Chewey - DesireeStudents pick their favorite Star Wars image from Google, and the fun begins.

  • They learn to copy and paste (the keyboard shortcuts as well as the right-mouse commands).
  • The learn to layer an image, and color correct it – as in the example on the right
  • They learn to delete a background color using the much-ignored ‘Set transparency Color’ tool
  • They learn how to tweak the ‘saturation’ of the image, and what that means – and says. Or how to re-color an image for a specific effect.
  • It’s a good way to introduce ‘layers’ before we get to Photoshop.

Star Wars is also helps open the door to other topics and discussions about space.

Over the past few weeks, my 5th graders are working on The Moons of Mars – a PowerPoint, specifically aimed at understanding animation paths and orbits. I’m not a big fan of PowerPoint, but it’s a great canvas on which they could understand the purpose of animation, beyond the obvious wow factor.

I am now considering using Star Wars as a backdrop for a class on Digital Storytelling. Perhaps an animated cartoon strip with voice-overs matching the speech bubbles. I can see a lot of storm trooper effects, and tricks using the lovable BB8.

 

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Start taking notes! (It’s good for your brain.)

I’ve always known that note-taking is good for you. There are plenty of stories about this, and it’s always refreshing to see research and evidence for this. Here’s Why Writing Things Out By Hand Makes You Smarter: By slowing down the process, you accelerate learning.

One theory is that introducing ‘desirable difficulties’ that challenge the user help retention. The person who introduced this idea is Robert Bjork, at the Learning Lab – interestingly called Bjork Learning and Forgetting Lab.

 

Of course the best example of note-taking can be seen from the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. His notes went like this:

“Put this in the Book of useful inventions and in proving them bring forward the propositions already proved…”

Or, in what looks like a ‘note to self, Leonardo jots down this:

“And this is to be a collection without order, taken from many papers which I have copied here, hoping to arrange them later each in its place, according to the subjects of which they may treat.”

A notebook, after all is a piece of ‘technology’ designed with a simple interface. Use often. Use responsibly!

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in Communications, Media, Technology

 

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Media Illiteracy prevails, and the adults aren’t off the hoook

As our modes of communication grow smarter, we seem to be doing a shoddy job of using them. This is not just about the misuse of Twitter, of which dumb tweets are legion. Such as a Time correspondent firing off a tweet wishing for a drone strike on Julian Assange in 2013. This is about young people who have too powerful publishing tools at their disposal. If you like to know more, you will love this compilation!

This week, six High School students in Arizona got themselves and their school into serious trouble, using SnapChat. They got a picture of themselves taken wearing shirts that spelled out a racial slur. They learned, too late, that an app’s ability to ‘communicate’ should not define the message. (If none of them had data-enabled mobile devices would anyone have even bothered setting up the shot?).

An editorial in the Arizona Republic asked how students who have gone through a curriculum that probably included close reading and discussion of the civil war era, could have been so crass.

It’s hard to imagine these girls got this far in school without reading the ugly chapters in American history about the enslavement and oppression of Black people. Did they fail to pay attention? Did they fail to connect the dots to real people?

Let’s not get parents off the hook. How much time are we spending with young people to inform them about media use? It’s easy to be tool literate and media stupid.

Here are some thoughts for parents who may be considering giving a teenager (actually pre-teens, now) a mobile device:

  1. You pay for the phone and the data plan. You own the device; you set the rules. A phone is not like a pair of shoes, it doesn’t have to belong to the end-user.
  2. You better decide on the apps that get on the phone. Don’t complain later when a kid is spending too much time on Insta-brag or Brat-chat. I mean Instagram and Snapchat.
  3. Like your car keys, devices not owned by a child should be stored outside of bedrooms at night.
  4. It’s possible for homework assignments to be completed without digital devices. Really!
  5. Make sure your child makes every effort to not be in a video taken by a fellow insta-bragger.
  6. Finally, make sure your child’s school has a policy that has been updated to match the ubiquity and speed of shared media. It’s no longer valid to call it a ‘social media policy’. It’s a device use policy.
 

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It’s a kite. It’s a tethered bird. Could it be a drone?

I love how this guy is disrupting the idea of what we think of a drone, to re-frame it as a kite.

A kite that takes pictures, that is.

Funny how we box ourselves in by classifying things the way they originally emerged as. Is a cell phone today really a phone? Ore more recently, with the idea of a supersized ‘commuter drone’, is a drone a light aircraft that may or may not need to be autonomous? But apart from the boxing ourselves in, the need to be creative is often stymied by those who are reluctant to make mistakes.

Sergei Lupashin, in the video below spoke at an Education technology conference last year about this. His point being we need to get young people to feel comfortable with making  a lot of mistakes! That is how we could make breakthroughs

 

If you haven’t seen the Chinese-made single passenger drone, here’s how they position it – learning from their mistakes. Um crashes!

 

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2016 in STEM, Technology

 

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International Ping-Pong Space Station

Space could be fun (OK, except for dehydrated food) especially if they let you play a few games. All in the line of testing out how some materials behave in micro-gravity.

One of my colleagues lets students work on NASA projects, such as making a glider out of a shoe-box, or growing vegetables in space-like conditions. Her students are currently working on how ‘toys in space’ might perform.

So in this line of thinking, there’s Scott Kelly, who’s spending a year in space, playing ping-pong with a water droplet. If only he played against, say Sergey Volkov or Timothy Peake (UK). That would make it a more realistic international playoff.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2016 in Education, STEM

 

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So kids aren’t playing with rubber bands and string anymore?

True story: Recently I took a small group of students to visit a lab, and while breaking for lunch on some garden benches, they began climbing the trees nearby. They were getting a bit noisy when a lady walking by stopped and looked up into the branches. I thought I would get asked to get them to ‘behave’. But the lady smiled and said loudly to others passing by, “Look! look! children are playing on trees again!”

It took me a few seconds to figure out what she was really saying – that having seen so many kids today plugged into screens, it’s thrilling to see them having fun scampering up trees. (Side note: this was outside a Mars Space lab in Tempe, Arizona, and we were on a field trip to see a whole lot of technology!)

Drawing from : 7th period: Feed a Fish Wikispaces page Click on image to visit this class project page

I keep this in mind when I introduce students to new technologies. Last week, I began a lesson on animation, and as subject matter, I returned to the ‘Rube Goldberg Machine.’ We don’t always need screens for this. (Unless we need to check out the many Rube Goldberg contests like this.). How could we turn students into makers, and innovators, problem-solvers and scientific thinkers?

A Rube Goldberg Machine (or ‘contraption‘) teaches us a lot about levers, gravity, kinetic energy, and chain reactions among other things – such as precision, iterative design, and learning from failure. All it takes is some lengths of wood, string, paper cups, shoe boxes, old clothes hangers, marbles and/or ping-pong balls, rubber bands and cardboard tubes.

I like to get them to ‘design’ their machine first, and see what they come up with – then set them on a building mission! We could use a drawing app, but paper and pencil work just fine!

Image on right – One of the manyprojects from a 7th grade class – found here

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, STEM, Technology

 

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Google’s ‘Expedition’ project visits Arizona

So I’ve got ‘Google Cardboard’glasses ready, and I’m excited to hear that Google will be here in Arizona this week. It’s part of their roll out of Google Expeditions – a classroom project using virtual reality. A few weeks back I applied to have them come out and run VR sessions, so –fingers crossed — I’m hoping my school gets picked.

So what’s Google Expeditions? There’s a good explanation here on this EdTech site, EdSurge. The Google team is visiting selected schools in the US, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Brazil, Canada, Singapore and Denmark. Each school will get an Expeditions kit – probably a VR ‘Cardboard’ headset, and apps. I noticed that the ‘expeditions’ feature a wide range of topics from ancient civilizations and rain forests, to space and historical events.

Think of it Expeditions as a virtual field trip, or more appropriately, an immersive experience that you could not get out of a text book – something I touched on in the recent Sri Lanka STEAM workshops for teachers.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, STEM, Technology

 

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