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Category Archives: Education

Long before fake news, we had half-truths

You’ve heard the adage, “a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.” 

In the absence of fact-checking, we cultivated scepticism. It’s easy to blame our epidemic of fake news on the Russian trolls, and geo-politics. But truth is, half-truths and conspiracy theories circulated before social media arrived on the scene. Some even embedded themselves into the pages of history. Here are two:

Have you heard the one about Black Confederates? It’s a ‘story’ of how 80,000 black soldiers supposedly fought for the Confederacy. This is, as the Civil War website calls it, shoddy facts that’s were “repeated, amplified, and twisted” to become credible to some, just because the story fit their agenda.

Or the story of American planes dropping napalm in South Vietnam? It surrounds the Pulitzer prize-winning photograph, taken by Associated Press photographer, Nick Ut on June 8, 1972. That too, we are informed by Joseph Campbell, was a myth. The photo was accurate. The story was not.

Which brings me to how do we teach fact checking to young people ?

Until a few years ago some made Wikipedia the culprit. But even before that there were stories circulated via email, that travelled through an unverified friend-of-a-friendsnetwork. They contained dubious facts no one bothered to fact check. Fast forward to now, and we like to blame the trolls.

How easy it is to blame someone else when the onus ought to be on us.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2017 in Education, Journalism, Media

 

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Wired, Tired, and killing our creativity

As we get back to school, I can’t help noticing how tired students seem to be. One doesn’t need to look around to know the reason why: We are probably over-wired!

There are new details coming out each month on how over-connectedness, rather than stimulating creativity, is killing it. When anyone asks me what my follow-up to my book about social media, Chat Republic (2013) might be, I flippantly say it will be called Anti-social Media.

There is plenty of research and literature on the topic. Two books I am planning to read are “The Power of Off. By Nancy Colier. And Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle.

It sounds a bit like my favorite works on the subject, which I have commented on before:

 

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Do we have space for Makerspaces and tech shops?

Some days I wish I could convert part of my computer lab into a Makerspace. After all I have re-defined it as a Computer and Technology Lab, so it would be appropriate to have other technologies. Like a metal cutter, or workbench to build things – such as making a speaker out of an Altoid tin, or rudimentary printing such as silk-screening.

I thought of this again after getting into a discussion with a teacher visiting our school from New Zealand this week. She spoke of how curriculum there includes woodwork, needlework and many hands-on activities.

She was not been aware of Makerspaces, but mentioned a parallel well-organized movement called Mens’ Sheds – run by retired people so that anyone could take up a new skill.

Makerspaces here are great places for students with rudimentary engineering products in mind, for say a science fair. They are open to anyone and are often free. Some school libraries are carving out makerspaces for 3-D printing.

I’ve visited one in Mesa, Arizona called HeatSync Labs. Love the name!

I’ve still to visit the TechShop in Chandler where you could learn CAD drawing, or how to build a (guess what?) Bluetooth speaker!

 

 

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When Microsoft ‘draws’ as good as a Sharpie

When I tell students that Word or PowerPoint is a versatile tool, and not just for typing of creating slides, I never know what to expect. Such as how some of them have mastered the ‘Curve’ tool in the Shapes menu.

Here’s one. Looks like a pen-and-ink sketch, doesn’t it?

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It gets better! Because this is about animating.  The student’s storyboard in PowerPoint  just kept growing!
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Posted by on December 20, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, STEM, Technology

 

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Hidden illustration & animation talent

I simply asked my 6th graders to work with ‘stick figures’ this afternoon, teaching animation in PowerPoint.

Within 20 minutes, this is what I saw!

Mini storyboards with cartoon characters, galloping sheep and even a shark attack. The one with yellow bars is actually a ‘game’ that plays with sound as the ball travels through. What hidden talent!

 

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Posted by on December 13, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education

 

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Farewell to our quintessential Rocket Man, John Glenn

John Glenn was quite a guy. You don’t find many role models like him these days. The ones you could hold up for kids as examples of someone pushing the boundaries of science. He was the first American to orbit the Earth. To me he stood out as someone who put in the grunt work most people miss.

It’s easy to forget that before he climbed aboard ‘Friendship 7′ spacecraft on Feb 20th 1962 for his short (4 hrs, 55 mins, and 23 secs) flight, John Glenn was a fighter pilot.*

The story not often told is that before re-entry, NASA’s Mission Control told Glenn “not to jettison the retro-rocket package after firing” in order to better hold the heat shield in place. In other words, “Wait and see – you are part of the experiment!”

At the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, standing beside Friendship 7, one marvels at the courage it took to climb into this over-sized tin-can in the interest of science, not knowing what might happen when being hurled into an orbit around the Earth at 17,000 mph.

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John Glenn passed away today. He was 95.

* He flew missions in World War II, Guam, and Korea, and later served his country as a senator for 25 years. He even got back to space, briefly for a flight on the Space Shuttle.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2016 in Education, STEM

 

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Robotics team researches Dakota Access Pipeline for FLL project

When our robotics team picked the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (‘DAPL’) for their research this year, they never imagined a solution to the standoff would come days before they presented it.

It did.

Yet the insight they bring is even more powerful. But how does an oil pipeline relate to this year’s theme, Animal Allies?

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A quick thumbnailThe controversy began over a 1,170-mile  underground oil pipeline crossing 4 states (N. Dakota, S. Dakota, Iowa and Illinois). It had been approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but as Native American opposition gathered momentum (with activists from several tribes, including a group from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation) president Obama stepped in, and the pipeline was stopped.

As for the robotics project: It is on the impact of the ‘dirty pipeline’ on animal life. They will present a case for how water and the land are sacred to the Native American people. And how it could adversely impact animal life.

The ‘problem’ may have a political solution. But their project board looks at deeper issues than that, as you could see in their brainstorming session earlier in October.

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Posted by on December 7, 2016 in Arizona, Ed-Tech, Education, Robotics

 

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