Category Archives: Education

Best of Mars Day at Salt River Elementary


Students learn about constellations, galaxies and the solar system




Students investigate a ‘new planet’



Session on 3-D printing



Zak Wilson talks about 3-D printing


Pictures from Tuesday’s Mars Day at my school.



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Posted by on November 13, 2015 in ASU, Education, STEM, Technology


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Mars Day taps NASA, StarLab and HI-SEAS Crew Member

StarLab_1It’s fun to have an event such as Mars Day at a time when there’s so much more being discovered about the Red Planet. Like the excitement about flowing water, a few weeks ago.

For this year’s Mars Day at Salt River Elementary, we feature three interesting facets of Space exploration and discovery.

StarLabThis is an inflatable planetarium that will give younger grades an interstellar experience. It comes to us through ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. Just the idea of having a planetarium come to the school turns science into something more experiential. Added to that we have a great outreach team that gives students a ‘tour’ of the night sky, and a hands-on table-top experience.

hi_seas_3Zak Wilson is one of the crew on the Mars Habitat experiment last year. He will be here to conduct concurrent sessions, and be our keynote speaker. Zak, who was part of a 6-member crew lived in a Martian habitat (seen on right) for eight months! It was situated on a volcanic terrain that resembled Mars. More about this experience here.

ASU/NASA. And last but not least, we have the team from ASU’s Mars Space Flight Facility conducting hands-on sessions with grades 3,, 4, 5, and 6. This is the fourth year of our collaboration with this group.

Mars Day 2012 - Kody EnsleyHere’s how Mars Day has evolved.

In 2012, we had our students talk to Kody Ensley, a
Native American who interned at NASA, and worked on Robonaut,

In 2013, we featured Commander John Herrington, former Space Shuttle commander,and the first Native American in Space.

In 2014, we had the Hi-SEAS Mission team, and Dr. Jack Farmer from ASU.


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Posted by on October 23, 2015 in Education, Events, STEM


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Derrick Mains on Augmented Reality

Could a pair of cardboard goggles become a critical student engagement tool?

Derrick_1I invited Derrick Mains to my computer lab yesterday to explain Augmented Reality, and what doors it might open for us educators, and of course students. I think I am sold!

Many students have heard of AR and VR, and you would be surprised how curious they are about this. Just as they are more interested in photography today because of disruptive devices such as the GoPro, they are more interested in Apps like these because of what it could do “seeing things differently.”

Cardboard_tnAs Derrick explained, this is another way to use Apps in education. Not just to stare at a screen but to ignore the screen (which disappears, the moment you put these goggles on) and engage and explore new worlds. We are not talking about fictitious virtual worlds, but uncharted territories whether it is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, or to observe an eco-system in a rain forest.

Some of you might remember Derrick Mains from his work in social media. He was one of my co-presenters in a workshop on Digital Citizenship. The reason he’s on camera again, is because he will be in one of the several videos I am producing with my Salt River Pima-Maricopa TV team for another upcoming workshop.


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Sri Lankan teaches GoPro to my class (Never mind the time the difference)

Nazly_profileThanks Nazly Ahmed, for taking the time to teach a 35 minute class to my 4th graders this morning. It was 8:45 am Arizona time, and 9:15 Pm in Colombo, Sri Lanka. But what’s a few time zones when it comes to learning from experts?

This technology class was a bit of a ‘planned surprise’ for them. Some have even seen a GoPro in action. I happen to have one in class, so before I introduce the hardware, I wanted to bring in a user to talk about it. There were three cameras in class – not counting the one on the PC for our Skype call. Nazly used screen-share from his end, to explain different camera perspectives. Forget drones with cameras. We watched the flight if an eagle mounted with a GoPro!

And students wanted to engage, so the class was (nicely) interrupted by many questions. One student volunteered to document the session on a regular camera. Everyone said they wanted to work with the GoPro, which will be in a forthcoming class.

Now if I could only find an eagle that’s willing to participate in an Ed-tech experiment :-) 

GoPro class


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Posted by on October 20, 2015 in Ed-Tech, Education, STEM


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Learning to avoid cameras – from TV reporters

I love cameras. I hate cameras. Are you like me?

I take a lot of pictures, and often avoid being in them (a photo-catcher’s prerogative!). But sometimes we can’t avoid being in them. (photo-radar, group shots…)

This week, I have to be part of a series of STEM videos that I am putting together. I was looking for ways to not be on camera 90 percent of the time. Ergo, the table-top presentation.

In the TV news business, it’s called Continuity and Cutaways.‘  A well-practiced art we are oblivious to. It works like this:

  1. Anchor introduces story, and station ‘cuts away’ to reporter.
  2. Reporter on camera takes over for a few seconds.
  3. Video cuts away to scene of story – the so-called B-roll footage. The reporters voice (arguably on ‘A-roll’) runs over the video and maintains continuity
  4. Studio cuts back to reporter, who wraps up story in a few seconds.

In total the reporter is on camera for a fraction of the time. Our brains fill in the gaps, and make us believe we were being addressed face-to-face. I hope to really shrink that fraction. Let’s see.

Note: For a good understanding of the cutaway and B-roll, read Steve Johnson’s explanation here.


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NASA ‘flowing’ water on Mars newsflash, messes the plot

I’m sure many wanna-be Martians (and there is a training program for this) are breathing a sigh of relief to know that one does not have to go the Matt Damon route to stay alive on Mars.

Today NASA announced that H2O from hydration salts means that it is flowing –as evidenced by image analysis from the Reconnaissance Orbiter. It also thickens the plot for may *young* scientists to whom we put this question: What would you take on a long trip to the Red Planet.

Mars Day is around the corner at my school. This will certainly be a topic that comes up. Maybe we ought to contact MarsOne. Bas Lansdorp, if you get a chance to see this, I’d love to chat with you about speaking to my students.


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Posted by on September 28, 2015 in Education, STEM


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Photography (and Ed-Tech) lessons from the Blood Moon


Sometimes the cheapest camera does the trick.

This evening’s Blood Moon, and the lunar eclipse, was a spectacular show in our southern skies.

Not as stunning as these, however, but it could be a great lesson in photography, about how to frame a slow-moving event, and compensate for lighting. The camera was a Nikon Coolpix, which was less expensive than the lens of an older SLR. (It’s become my ‘better’ camera, especially on my recent trip to Sri Lanka, where I shot close-ups of rural life, and in the wilds. Easier to pack to the beach and on mountains hikes.)

Which brings me to the point about technology. How often does the technology get in the way of what you are experiencing or working on in the moment? Just as how we often get trapped in the software just to make a great presentation, a microphone or camera can become a distraction.

In Ed-Tech, which is what I teach, I like the focus to be more on the ‘Ed’ and less on the ‘Tech.’


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Posted by on September 27, 2015 in Ed-Tech, Education, Sri Lanka, Technology


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