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Category Archives: Education

Is ‘word-processing’ a misnomer? Or old-school?

Sometimes I wish we could delete update the term ‘word-processing’ from our vocabulary. It has been ingrained in taken up permanent residence in the cortex of our brains, and needs to be dispatched to the storage unit reserved for vintage-tech such as ‘typewriting’ and ‘facsimile.’

It’s not that we don’t ‘process‘ words anymore. It’s just that we use the software to more than highlight, punctuate, or cut-and-paste. Food processors continue to grind and chop things for us, but word processors? We can use them to embedded videos in docs, or create blog posts for heaven’s sake! As far as words go, we could use Word to translate content into, say Hungarian (‘Word processing’ turns out to be Szövegszerkesztés in Hungarian.)

In my computer class at Salt River Elementary, since keyboarding and document creation are often the starting blocks, I try to inject concepts that refer to creativity and publishing in addition to content creation, when dealing with Microsoft Word.

But what else to call it? Any suggestions? 

‘Word,’ which is still listed as ‘document and word processing software’ started out as ‘Multi-Tool Word’ in the same year that Flashdance, and Never Say Never Again was released – in 1983! Today there are many more choices – niche software such as Nitro Pro, and for authors, there’s Scrivener.

So is Word-processing just old-school?

 

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Robotics 2016 challenge guessing game begins

Each year, as we wait for details of the FLL Robotics challenge, some teams begin speculating what the specific challenges might be on the tournament table.

FLL had announced the theme, ANIMAL ALLIES. If we were to look into the crystal ball, there could be ‘missions’ around animal rescues, conservation and human-animal bonding.

Previous themes have been: Conservation, Education, Health, Ageing populations, Food, and Catastrophic Events.

Animals will certainly fire up elementary school students, especially in the research project. As for the missions, here is how one team speculates what the table-top missions could be, with detailed builds!

AS the FLL puts it, ANIMAL ALLIES season will be all about young people collaborating to solve a real-world problems. That’s the part I like about the FLL. It creates a rich, evolving context for students who could see bots as part of society they inherit and –most importantly, will influence.

 
 

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A Lesson from the conflicting ‘birthdays’ of the World Wide Web!

Yesterday, (August 23rd) was one of the birthdays of the Web. At least it is the day when non geeks got access to the ‘global hyperlinked information system’ that Tim Berners-Lee designed.

I began using this 25th Anniversary milestone this week in classes that introduce students to how to find and discern information on the wild and woolly Web.

When I posed this question to my 4th grade students: “What is the Internet? And where could you find out about it?” one of them responded without missing a beat, “On the Internet!”

“But,” I responded, “What if the Internet was wrong about the Internet? How would you know?”

Note I said today was one of the birthdays of the Web. Oddly, while media outlets, including the likes of Huff Post, ran features, claiming Aug 23rd as the date

So if the real birthday August 23rd, August 6th, or March 12th? Should we go to the ‘Mesh‘ to find out? Are our trusted sources wrong? Now there’s a lesson for my students far greater than helping them ‘research’ a few factoids.

 
 

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Online textbooks could be fun (or completely annoying)

You’d think I would applaud the trend to digitize textbooks. After all, I’ve winced at the sticker shock of trying to busy a book for a college level class.

But the other day my daughter explained how ‘lame’ it was to have to jump through multiple hoops online just to get to a few pages she had to read for a class. The time spent would have been better spent elsewhere, she said. I had to agree. Sometimes to make things more ‘convenient’ and deliver them in a digital skin, we hide them in confounding folders, hidden behind firewalls that even the Russians my have trouble getting to.

The goal of reading is help students discover ideas and find meaning. Not to be able to check a box on a progress report. Books made from pulp have been a ‘technology’ many want to disrupt. The Nook and the Kindle made a few inroads, but could go only so far. We humans still crave the feel of paper, the tactile experience derived from objects that convey meaning.

I just ordered a book on Amazon. Indeed I read the reviews in the digital realm, but did not buy the Kindle version. Don’t get me wrong. I love reading material on the Kindle app. Just not books anymore.

If you like to read more about The Reading Brain, there’s an excellent Scientific American article which explains how paper sometimes triggers brain circuitry in a way that screens cannot.

 

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What’s next in Ed-Tech? Wrong question!

Buzzwords and the next big thing are hard to escape. They sidle up to us when we are not watching. I get my share of these, especially in education. (Truth be told, I could not escape it even in marketing, or advertising).

So I get asked sometimes what I see as the next big thing to hit us in teaching. It’s easy to rattle off some tools, because they are touted as some form of  ‘student engagement.’ I have this feeling that Ed-Tech is going to be as passe as Social Media. Meaning we should stop talking about it as if it was some self-contained phenomenon or enigma that needs to be deciphered.

I’m not alone in having this sentiment. I’m sure many teachers are thinking the same. Andrew Marcinek has written a sensible piece about this in Medium. He goes so far as to say (“The End of Ed-Tech”) that

It is no longer necessary to say whether you consider yourself “tech savvy” or not. Essentially, “tech savviness” should be an inherent part of an educator’s educational philosophy because it will be an essential part of every student’s future. This is to say, educators should understand how active use of technology hardware and software should be led by the learning objectives and outcomes as opposed to being front and center in any classroom.

Like it or not almost anything we don’t yet consider ‘technology’ or a ‘tool’ will become so embedded in what we do that we won’t need to have a class on how to use it. I don’t think there was ever a PD session on how to use the electric pencil sharpener, or the two-button mouse.

So the next big thing in Ed-Tech will be ‘Nothing Much.’ To look out for it, is to look ponder about the wrong question.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, Technology

 

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What’s a humanoid robot doing in a STEM class?

Intrigued by robots that look less like appliances and more like humans?  Even I sometimes get a bit creeped out.

But this little guy, NAO, changed my perspective. It is a learning tool, no different from any other bot, such as a spherical bot, a drone, or an Lego NXT brick. It’s got a friendlier interface, too.

I met the company that showcased it, RobotLAB, and this week spoke to their team members about how it can help students learn programming. It’s possible to even incorporate it into some aspects of a STEAM program.

ISTE 2016 Denver (17)I found out that some schools in the San Francisco Bay area are using this NAO to support reading and writing modules. As you might imagine, the program – a software and hardware package- is a bit pricey. But they are big on year-round support for teachers. Meaning it’s not like buying some hardware and being left to figure things out, or fix something that breaks.

Fours years ago, I spoke to someone who worked on the first humanized a robot to be sent up to the International Space Station. It was clear even then that such a humanoid  ‘device’ (which could be folded into a suitcase!) was designed to work alongside a real engineer or scientist –rather than make humans redundant.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, STEM, Technology

 

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Cooking with sunshine in Arizona

We took out the solar oven again this week, and it was amazing what a ‘black box’ could do, unsupervised.

My wife has become quite an expert – and experimenter. This was the latest. Stuffed bell peppers, with rosemary. Previously it was roast beef. Before that egg plant, and spaghetti squash…
The oven we use the Solavore Sport. It comes with two black pots that perfectly fit in the oven space even with the lids. This week, with temps hovering in the 108 degree range, it didn’t take long to get up to 250 degrees in the oven.

In May, I conducted a Chili Cook-Off at Salt River Elementary, as part of a year-end STEM project for 6th graders. May was a ‘cooler’ month (if you could call 98 degrees cool – a sarcastic Arizona joke of sorts). And yet we had chili cooking at 275 degrees within 20 minutes. 

 

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2016 in Education, STEM, Technology

 

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