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Category Archives: Events

Smarter than Google? The hunt for a ‘research’ engine

In my attempt to differentiate between Search and Research (a topic that I return to around this time in the semester) I found a current event with a point of focus: ‘Chasing an asteroid!’

As luck would have it, NASA just launched a mission, Osiris Rex, that is basically a space explorer that will be chasing an asteroid for two years, before it grabs a piece of it and hustles back to earth. Students love events like this, and quickly dig deep into finding information around it.

omnityAnd as luck would also have it, there’s a new Search engine called Omnity that promises to do better, providing ‘constellations of meaning.’ Smarter than Google, even! I wish it was true, and plan to find out shortly.

Sometimes ‘research’ involves going down that rabbit hole and unearthing nuggets of information that seldom shows up on a simple search query. Students will find out that although the mission will take 7 years the return trip will take longer than getting there. Why? What determines the timeline? Google sometimes lulls us into being content with unspectacular answers. It makes us unwilling to do probe deeper.

 

After all, it’s not enough to teach today’s students how to use Google and Bing, or even Wolfram Alpha, but emerging tools, as we go chasing after asteroids in class.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, Events, Search

 

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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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Solar Chili cook-off continues today at Salt River Elementary

Thanks to Anne Patterson of Solavore, for helping me host the solar oven event in my class yesterday and today. I put together this STEM event for 5th and 6th graders as a final year STEM module.

AnneP1A great way to end the year on a high note – focusing on concepts such as insulation, radiation and the greenhouse effect, and letting students taste the end product! I liked how she compared different feeding habits of living creatures – carnivores, herbivores and ‘solavores‘ – to bring home the point about how we consume energy in one form or another. The sun, however is not a ‘consumable’Top 10 Sunnest Countries in that sense since we have an infinite supply of it.

Anne then compared the Top 10 Sunniest Countries, showing how the US has the most number of sunny days, and Arizona tops the list of States as well, with 4015 hours of sunshine a year!

Which is why, within 20 minutes of placing our ovens outside, they reached 250 degrees. One even topped 300 degrees!


Judges_1_SolarSRE

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Thank you to my judges on both days, Annette Williams, Chris McIntire, Erik Haarstad, Joni Andreas and Wayne Sekaquaptewa who braved the chili recipes and the near double-digit heat outside. Today’s judges got to taste some of my Sri Lankan Chili as well.

Finally a big thank you to my colleagues. 6th Grade teachers: Erlinda Allen, Donna Horn, David Crebs, John Emmons. 5th Grade teachers: Maria Enriquez, Bernadette Spencer, Valencia Gorman, and Ashlee Chee for supporting this crazy idea.

 

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Big payoff for science students at ISEF

Not only is science fun, it could have a big payoff for students.

Big, as in $150,000!

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (of ISEF), the world’s largest pre-university science competition, really rewards budding scientists,engineers and inventors.. This year three students won the top $150,000 prize each. Second place winners won $75,000 each.

This year’s ISEF Fair will be held here in Phoenix from May 8 – 11th. I plan to be there. Interestingly, three Sri Lankan students will be participating in it.

Founded 75 years ago, the fair attracts some 1,700 high school students from over 75 countries, regions, and territories who showcase their research and compete for approximately $4 million in prizes.

One of the winners (left), 17-year old Paige Brown, found a way to filter pollutants in stream water, and has nano-technology in her sights to expand on the device.

This kind of scientific problem-solving is extremely relevant here in the US, where several cities are discovering high levels of lead in drinking water, after the Flint, Michigan disaster. As the New York Times states in its report, “Rules and science are outdated.”

The future generation of scientists and policy makers like Paige will be updating the science. Other students are ‘discovering’ new ways for disease management and medical breakthroughs.

All this while still in school!

 

 

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White House goes Cheesy, hashtags and all

It’s that time of year when communicators have too much time on their hands. Consider how: North Korea is pretending to prove it has a Hydrogen bomb (various sourcessay this was a damp squib); the sports minister of Sri Lanka is claiming he’s received ‘scandalous’ pictures of cricketers in New Zealand (hotels are denying this), and Google’s ‘self-driving’ cars are supposedly dangerous (drivers have sometimes had to stop them from crashing).

Perhaps it’s that down time after the Christmas season, when there’s a news hole that needs to be filled. With Cheese, for instance. The White House is hosting a humongous cheese party. The hashtag being #youfetabelieveit. It’s called the Big Block of Cheese Day. It’s been created after Andrew Jackson’s 1837 event, for which he trucked in a 1,400 pound block of cheese and had citizens come and mingle with the occupants. A sort of Open House event.

I don’t know how Mr. Jackson managed to handle this without a Tumbler account, but it sure goes to prove that sometimes all you need is a piece of cheese to get people to hang out with you. Unless you don’t mind keeping away the lactose intollerant.

 

 

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Too Much Information? Try Pottery!

I was listening to a teacher, Ron Carlos, demonstrating pottery a few weeks back, and he was telling students on how important it is for them to stay ‘in touch with the earth’ around them. This included being aware of the natural resources they have been blessed with. Creativity, he said, takes patience, and spending time ‘tuning in’ to the material. Sometimes, he said, it’s as if the clay in his hands decides what shape it wants to be.

IMG_0565It reminded me of the craft of writing. Many authors describe how the character they give birth to, often decides where to go and what path to take. Just like wad of clay, I suppose!

How does this apply to many of us? Many of us sleep with a cellphone by our bedside, and a wi-fi-connection within a few feet no matter where we wander. No wonder it is such a challenge to find ‘think time’ and creative time. We are victims of TMI  –which is an old acronym for ‘Too Much Information’, but also an acronym for ‘Too Many Inputs.’ And we can’t honestly blame anyone for it.

In a forthcoming workshop, I am planning on bringing up this topic of how important it is to be connected, but also to often (very often) be off the grid, so to speak.

Thank God, clay does not tweet!

 
 

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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