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Category Archives: Education

How handwriting develops the brain in the digital age

If

If you’re interested in education, or chiming in on a controversial discussion of whether handwriting is still relevant (or ‘old fashioned’) in the age of keyboard, here’s some fodder:

Why handwriting is still essential in the digital age – by Perri Klass, MD

The key is to pay attention to “early fine-motor writing skills” even in pre-kindergarten. I’ll spare you the sciency details of this article if you are just scanning this blog. But suffice to cite this from the well documented studies that Dr Class cites:

“After the children were taught to print, patterns of brain activationin response to letters showed increased activation of that reading network.”

It may be satisfying to some that this is not an either-or discovery. There is a role for Manuscript writing, Cursive, and Keyboarding – the need for ‘hybrid writers.’

This is a topic that comes up a lot in my work as a teacher, and I will return to it shortly when I get back to work in my ‘hybrid’ computer lab.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, Technology

 

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Google Expeditions meets ViewMasters – highly overpriced

It’s pricey, but it’s here. The answer to having Google Expeditions as a Virtual Reality tool for classrooms.

It’s a long, long shot from the basic Google cardboard headset that could potentially work with a smart phone as Google once promised.

The cardboard headsets were part of the lure because they had such a hand-made feel to it. The new kits, sold by Best Buy (the kit uses a Mattel ViewMasters unit) start at $3,999 for just 10 students, making it an over-priced nice-to-have for many schools. Way beyond the budget of many schools.

Virtual field trips are great, but some of us will have to wait until the a disruptor enters the field .Stereoscopy or the ability to have perceptions of depth and mass is being put to use in many areas outside of education. Let’s just hope Google Classroom continues to give us less branded, low-cost ways to experience Google Expeditions. We have already begun looking into VR for some of our STEM sessions, as I have mentioned before.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, Technology

 

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ISTE Ed-Tech Conference Wrap-up: Part 1

Just got back from the ISTE 2016 conference in Denver, and it’s hard to decide what stood out more: The technology, or the practices.

HARDWARE: Being a tech teacher, indeed the tools were mind-blowing. From the simple Digital Storytelling hacks, and wide range ofgaming technologies, to Makerspace ideas such as conductive material, to Virtual Reality, and Robotics. (More on robotics in a later post.) VR seems to have matured since 2014, and mini robots –like the Sphero, here — were practically running over our feet. OK, I actually took the challenge and drove one of these across the floor. They’re practically unbreakable, too!

SOFTWAREThe software definitely made me do a double take, when it came to programming languages, and ‘kits’ to simplify the learning curve. It’s finally come to this: software doesn’t exist in some abstract dimension, but comes coupled with devices that a student could learn to program – and see the effects in real-time. Google and Microsoft appeared to be fighting for attention. If you had the stamina and enough coffee, you could go through an entire day toggling between a Google classroom and that of Microsoft’s. Both have well defined Education divisions. (The former made 5 education product announcements at the conference.)

The sessions I liked most, were the Education Playgrounds. These were informal on-on-one or group sessions. I picked several that combined hardware and software. I met with a few Raspberry pi experts, basically teachers who worked with kits that were built around this mini computer.

I was fascinated by the no-frills entry-level kits (starting at the princely sum of $35 an unit!). Why?

RaspberryPi-tn

First because this hardware was not housed in some beautiful laminated case but was transparent enough or a 3rd grader to understand what a computer was all about. I often need to remind students that ‘computing’ is not some mysterious art form.

Second, computer literacy and digital literacy are joined at the hip today, in the same way that Robotics and the Maker movement can be two sides of the same coin. We need to merge our lesson plans, and get our young Digital Citizens to be Makers, engineers, designers, tinkerers, problem solvers and storytellers to recognize they can each take a piece of this action, and run with it.

FINALLY: I attended a few mind-expanding poster sessions, where the presenters were students. I’ve said it before that no teacher conference would be complete until you have met with students who are after all the reason our schools go to great lengths to send us out to these professional development events. It’s inspiring to see the end product of great teaching, and how underpaid teachers in bootstrapped school districts get students to soar. Many takeaways from these sessions.

 
 

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VoiceThread meets Ted Talks!

I wish I had heard of this earlier – Voicethread‘s answer to TedTalks. Just in time for the ISTE Conference starting Sunday.

https://voicethread.com/app/player/?threadId=7784579

It’s called ThreadTalk. Which is quite a neat play on TedTalk considering how VoiceThread is all about the Thread, more than the voice. They make the point that the quality of the conversation thread is just as important as the presentation.

In other words, it’s not about the fancy slides, but the content.

As the VoiceThread notes, we tend to stop using our voices and replace it with text communication because the Internet was not quote supportive of voice for a long time. It is now, as we know thanks to services such as Google Voice, Viber and other phone apps. But in education, we need to bring back the spoken word and student voices into the mix.

I’m waiting to see what evolves out of ThreadTalk, post ISTE2016.

 

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Attending ISTE 2016? Don’t miss these events

Just a few weeks away from the ISTE 2016 conference in Denver, and it could be daunting keeping up with the information onslaught of sessions, speakers, and trends. The trick is to balance the learning sessions with hands-on activities. Here are two things you shouldn’t miss if you’re attending:

DIGITAL PLAYGROUNDS. ISTE has something called Digital Playgrounds, an area which I plan to frequent a lot, considering how much I was able to take back and implement from the last ITSE conference I attended.There’s a Maker Playground, and a Google For Education session I’m planning to go to, and

POSTER SESSIONS. Sure it’s great to meet one’s peers, and fellow techies. But if you are attending ISTE for the first time don’t miss the poster sessions, where students from many countries will be presenting. In 2014, I learned a lot about robotics from a team in Mexico.

Of course there’s more. Stay tuned via @isteconnects

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, Workshops

 

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Salt River Schools named great ‘company’ to work for in Arizona!

Proud to hear that my school district, Salt River Schools, was picked as one of the Top 100 Companies to Work For in Arizona. This is an annual ranking by AZCentral.com.

In the past companies have included companies such as Harley Davidson, banks, and advertising agencies. They are recognized on criteria including inclusiveness, communication, and teamwork, among other indicators. Here’s what our HR director Mike Latko had to say:

“The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community is a leader in compensation, employee benefits, and support for professional excellence for all its employees, and we are excited it is being recognized today.”

Salt River Schools is the first tribal organization in the history of the Top 100 Companies to Work for In Arizona.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2016 in Education, Media

 

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Farewell to a legend – Prof. Ashley Halpe

“And one man in his time plays many parts…”

Professor Ashley Halpe, who passed away on 14th May was more than a teacher to me. He was a role model,  a constant inspiration, a consummate artist, and a friend.

His inspiration was contagious – it made no difference whether it was in the hallways of the arts faculty in Peradeniya, or the living room of his home. His humor was a constant, as was his ability to remain unruffled by the latest flavor-of-the-month student strike or political upheaval. As for the latter, Ashley Halpe lived through many, from the insurgency of 1971, to the ethnic unrest on the campus pre-July ’83. It might be fitting to say that he looked at these events with a poet’s eye, not as a keen observer, seeing himself as part of the solution.

As Professor Walter Perera, commented, “No other lecturer in our time was able to bring poetry and drama alive as he did. But his strengths were not limited to the classroom.”

If I may expand on that, I would say his influence was not limited to books on his shelf or his classroom. True story. One day a few of us who showed up for class were asked to leave our books behind in class and get into his blue station-wagon, which he drove to Peradeniya Gardens. This was not a field trip, but a ‘seminar’ under the sprawling BanyaHalpe1n trees in the 147-acre botanical gardens. To Professor Halpe, the classroom could be anywhere! “All the world’s a stage; And all the men and women merely players.”

I was fortunate to visit prof. Halpe in Kandy in July last year. We talked of many things –about writing, and teaching, poetry and publishing. But I am not sure if I thanked him enough for his sphere of influence that reached out and touched us, no matter how far we have moved.

Farewell dear Prof. and fellow Peterite.

Halpe_car

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2016 in Education, Sri Lanka

 

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