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Category Archives: Education

Using robots to teach PowerPoint animation

Around this time of year when I introduce animation in PowerPoint, I try to find something topical to animate.

So I’ve got my 4th graders to think about ‘Man and Machine‘ -specifically how a human could evolve into a humanoid. We use the custom animation tool to draw a path to make the human glide across the screen to turn into a robot.

To preface it, I showed them a clip of Asimo, the Honda humanoid project. Asimo is the acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility. It is a 4-foot 3-inch character that can run, climb steps, and play a bit of football (soccer). Even those who aren’t into robotics get instantly engaged.

I asked the class what they thought of man and machine after watching this; some thought it was a bit weird and creepy, but pretty cool.

Once the unit is completed, I figure this will be a good way to re-introduce Coding for the Hour of Code project. How do they build a set of instructions to make an inanimate object move? Coding and animation have a lot in common!

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Posted by on November 13, 2017 in Ed-Tech, Education, STEM, Technology

 

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Trolls, bots, and memes become parents’ new nightmare. So what’s the solution?

A friend recently asked me if someone should be putting together a source for parents who have to address so much in the lives of their digital natives. I have a few go-to websites that we use as teachers, but was struggling to find a good hand book.

First two of the best web-based resources I recommend.

COMMON SENSE MEDIA – This is a wonderful, deep trove of information that is updated with plenty of topics (plus short videos) on such from phone addiction, and fake news, to privacy tips and how to navigate the difficult world of plagiarism, copyright, password protection, oversharing etc.

EDUTOPIAAnother great place for articles on technology skills such as coding, academic skills being taught such as note-taking, problem-solving, state standards, digital citizenship etc.

But the reality is that almost every week, children are bombarded and confused by new issues. One week it’s plagiarism, the next it is memes, and add to that the constant misinformation through bots and trolls, followed by the news related to cyber-bullying or inappropriate behavior that pops up on TV or their social media feeds. The search engines and social media platforms are often gamed by bots, and tricked by pranksters, but who has time to inform the kids about these fast-moving events?

So the sad thing, as I had to tell my friend, was there is no handbook. Just like there was no user-guide when we first got onto the early Internet. However that Internet was a place we went to, consciously logging in to it, or “dialing up” to it. Today, that place isn’t somewhere we visit – it visits us. Students who grow up with it have to navigate it on their own. It’s like giving them the keys to the car, before they go to driving school, expecting things to be alright on the road.

But of course there is one user-guide. It’s unpublished. It’s called Parenting.

 

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Your input matters as robots with facial expressions and emotional intelligence emerge

What might you get if you affix an android head onto a metal and plastic life-size body? More than a bobble-head, for sure. especially if there’s a whole bunch of robotics, plus artificial intelligence under the hood.

The android known as Sophia debuted at the Future Investment Initiative, an event with speakers as varied as Richard Branson, to Nicolas Sarkozy, to Maria Bartiromo. Indeed Sophia made recent headlines because Saudi Arabia granted it ‘citizenship’ – whatever that means. Let that sink in for a moment – giving civic status to a machine.

Hansen Robotics, the workshop where Sophia was built has several models. A bald-headed Han, a 17 inch tall boy robot called Zeno, and a full-sized animatronic, Albert Einstein. These bots use facial tracking, natural language processing, and their creators plan on developing Emotional Intelligence for Einstein.

Robotics is a double-edged sword. I cover robotics, help train students, and often talk of being alert to where all this could be headed. Governments, labs, schools, policy-makers and ethicists should be joining the debate. (Recall Elon Musk and others sounded a warning that AI could threaten human civilization.) It shouldn’t be a conversation dominated by those in technology alone.

 

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Spacesuits – Designed by kids

It always surprises us teachers when students do something outside the guidelines. It’s easy to preach the outside-the-box cliche, but what happens when they color outside the lines – defy the rubric, so to speak?

I asked one of our presenters to help judge the entries from students. The contest challenge was to ‘design a spacesuit of the future.‘ No other limitations except nothing could be bought from a store. The scientist who designs satellites for a living, had a hard time picking 3 entries. So did my Specials team.

Some students interpreted the ‘rules’ and used recycled material. One took the whole astronaut approach, with a  diorama. Some focused on the breathing apparatus – after,all they do hear that the air on Mars is not exactly fit for consumption! So here’s what we got. The 1st place went to an entry made entirely of water bottles and tin foil – to the right of the spacesuit (which was the prize.)

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2017 in Education, Events

 

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Space Day at Salt River Elementary

So today is Space Day! Our 6th year, Space Day is turning out to be quite an event!

This year we have two keynote addresses from NASA scientists:

Dr. Jim Rice,  Co-Investigator on the Mars Exploration Rover Project. His work has involved mission experience working on the Mars Odyssey Orbiter and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Projects, the Mars landing site selection for every NASA Mars Mission since Mars Pathfinder in 1995. he is currently involved in manned missions back to the Moon and Mars.

Dr. Ashwin Vasavada, is the Deputy Project Scientist working on the mission of the Mars Curiosity rover. He helps lead an international team of over 400 scientists. His work has involved geologic studies of Mars with regard to surface properties, volatility, and climate history.

Other sessions will be specific to grade levels:

  • Robots in space
  • Planets & Liquid Nitrogen
  • Food in Space
  • Moon rocks
  • Rockets and launches
  • Satellites Communication in Space
  • Small-scale satellites

We could not have done this without the support of:

  • Challenger Space Center
  • NASA
  • Orbital ATK
  • ASU – School of Earth and Space exploration
  • ASU – Collective Systems Laboratory
  • SpaceTrex

 

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2017 in Ed-Tech, Education, STEM, Technology

 

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Robots vs Teachers. Expecting a standoff?

I’ve got this poster in my class that says “Technology won’t replace teachers. But teachers who use technology will probably replace teachers who do not.”  

It raises a few of eyebrows.

So I was intrigued by a story in Education Week last month about how ‘intelligent tutors’ could upend Teachers’ jobs. The story cites an EdTech professor at the Harvard’s Grad School of Education. Christopher Dede says, “AI changes teaching, yes, but more important than that, AI changes the goals and purposes of teaching.”  Besides the reference to Artificial Intelligence are references to a ‘Tutor Machine,’ cognitive tutoring, and ‘Intelligent Tutoring Systems’ or ITS.

I’m not surprised this discussion is veering into the AI realm. It’s not just about data, but about knowing when to intervene. It will nudge teaching away from the ‘factory’ model and into a consultative approach.

The old guard armed with rubrics and lecture notes will cry foul. The robots are not going to walk into our classrooms anytime soon. But technologies could emerge to phase out robotic teaching methods.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2017 in Education, Technology

 

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Plans afoot for Space Day 2017

Just announced plans for Space Day at Salt River Elementary – our 6th year!

  • This year’s focus is on the Moon, rockery and spacesuits.
  • The student competition is to design a future spacesuit 
  • Each class in every grade level will experience one facet of space science
  • When: Oct. 26th, 2017    Time: 8:30 am – 3:00 pm

As the event grows bigger each year, my thanks to those who will be supporting it:

  • Orbital ATK, Arizona
  • Jet Propulsion Lab, California
  • Autonomous Collective Systems Lab, at ASU
  • SpaceTRex, University of Arizona
  • Challenger Space Center, Arizona

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 


 

 

Space science is a fascinating field, and gives us who focus on STEM an ability to widen the lens. Consider some of the recent developments

 

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2017 in Ed-Tech, Education, Events, STEM

 

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