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Category Archives: Technology

Planning for Star Wars class for ‘Hour of Code’ next week

I wish I had had the opportunity to learn JavaScript. But it’s never too late, since I can learn it while teaching some programming next week. You know, ‘He who teaches, learns twice‘ and all that!

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I’m doing this because it is Computer Science Education Week from Dec 5 – 11 with a focus on the ‘Hour of Code‘. (It is also the week when I have to take my ‘Lab’ to the classrooms, while the computer lab is being used for NWEA evaluations.)

The ‘Hour of Code’ folk have added new tutorials featuring, Star Wars. Something my students are focusing on for an Image Manipulation class this week. It helps to have Kathleen Kennedy (seen in the video below), producer of The Force Awakens explain how programming is very much a part of movie production today.

Students will specifically learn to program a game in which BB8 must be sent on missions to recover objects and deliver messages.

In case you are interested, Hour of Code has several social media outlets, including

Twitter https://twitter.com/codeorg
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Code.org
Instagram https://instagram.com/codeorg
Tumblr https://blog.code.org

 

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Please don’t ‘Like’ this post – read it

Look, you are free to not read this. I’m mainly concerned about people clicking on links or forwarding them, while not reading beyond the first two sentences.

If you got this far, Thanks!

I run into issues of young people not ‘seeing’ information in front of them, because their brains have become trained bypass information on a screen and look for images and videos. They are good ‘readers’ as the data shows. They borrow a lot of books, for sure. However they seem inattentive to information, even on beautifully laid out web pages.

Does it have something to do with our newfound desire to share, reducing our appetite to absorb, and for conversations, as Emerson Csorba says. [“Online sharing and selfies erode the value of our private lives“]

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The article for the above quote is here at the New York Times article on Digital Connectedness. Worth a read.

If you got this far, I’m flattered. Thanks!

So how do students read in the digital era? Or rather, how is reading taught today to digital natives? Sadly, in many places, no differently from the pre-digital era. I read a long (warning: long!) article in Education Week, where reporter  says that “practitioners have few guidelines, and many are simply adapting their lessons as they see fit.” Those in literacy studies recommend that we adopt a simultaneous approach, teaching traditional and digital reading skills.

My gut feeling is we assume too much that seeing young people click on topics and pages. It makes us believe that they click, therefore the must be reading. The linear experience is being remodeled by a hyperlinked, non-linear experience even while we watch. Given the powerful desire to share instead of absorb, the non-linear experience may be not as great as advertised.

If you got THIS far, I would like to talk to you! 

(There is, intentionally, no picture in this post. What made you read on?)

 
 

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Former copyboy, Scott Pelley’s optimism in the face of ‘bad information’

Last week, Scott Pelley, anchor of CBS News made some timely observations about the news business. Which, we should not forget is indeed a business. Pelley was awarded the Walter Cronkite award for Excellence in Journalism by the Cronkite School at ASU.

Now I regularly watch his broadcast, so I admire his candor  when he observed that:

“Never in our history have we had so much bad information.”

Let that sink in, against the other platitudes we hear that ‘never in our history have we had so much information at our fingertips’ etc. In 2013, Pelley warned that the media was getting the Big Stories wrong, over and over again. How prescient, considering most media misread the 2016 electorate. They are, after all our filters, and when their filters get trapped in the same gunk, we lose our faith in them.

At the ASU event he went further to warn, “We’re in our digital citadels, unchallenged by ideas. Biased reporting closes minds. Journalism is meant to open them.” Pelley, kicked off his career at age 15, as a ‘copyboy’ at a newspaper in Lubbock, Texas. If you’ve never heard of the job of ‘copyboy’ this person was, to put it nicely, a delivery boy who was given a sheet of butcher paper (on which stories were then written), to deliver it to the sub-editors’ desk.

Like Kelley, Cronkite was also optimistic about delivering the truth, alluring to the movie Network, when he said:

“We’ve got to throw open our windows and shout out these truths” 

Just for larks, here’s Walter Cronkite, as he signed off on March 6th, 1981.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2016 in Arizona, ASU, Events, Journalism, Media, Technology, TV

 

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How the Internet is working against us, but no-one seems to care

Plenty of studies, and many critical thinkers have weighed in on how the Internet, once heralded as a gift to society, is not exactly working in our broader interests.

 

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Young web ‘designers’ in 5th and 6th Grade


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It’s exciting to be able to teach kids what it means to ‘design’ a web site, and see what they come up with.

I’m not talking about the coding part of the site, but the navigation, layout and content. So much has changed since I worked  on web sites and web content ten years ago. Especially with site builders at Wix and Weebly, or even GoDaddy.

So before website3I introduce students to online site builders, I let them play with design components, using PowerPoint. Yes, PowerPoint!

It’s a quick way to build navigation tabs, work on color and fonts, and eventually embed hyperlinks and video.

Here is some of the work of 6th grade, building a site for Space Day, the school event we just concluded.

Likewise the 5th grade is working on a website for Freedom Tower, a project they began in September. website4

Later they would be using Photoshop for image manipulation, and create and edit shapes and buttons etc. Much later, when we move into audio recordings, and podcasts, I may have them return to their web sites and add voice files using Audacity.

But for now they experiment with bevels, shadows, and other effects that enable navigation.

UPDATED:

spaceday2Design is not just for 5th and 6th Grade. To address the Arizona CCRS Standard, S1.C4.PO 1: “Use digital creativity tools to create original works” I let 2nd grade students work with shapes, colors and also contrast and perspective.

Here is one student’s poster for the same event, using Microsoft Word.

 

 

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Pictures from Space Day – Rockets, Satellites, Stars and Bots

This event couldn’t have been better timed. Unbeknownst to me, October 19th was a day that space pioneer, Robert Goddard had called his “Anniversary Day” — the day he thought that it just might be possible to humans to break free of gravity and travel to other planets.

Oct 19th, last Wed, turned out to be a day filled with hands-on experiences for our students who got to hear about (and see) rockets, small-space satellites, robots that could some day work in ‘teams’ or swarms on a distant planet, how to design a landing craft and parachute like the Phoenix Mars Lander, and of course sit inside a portable, inflatable planetarium

Here are some of the highlights in pictures.

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SpaceTrex Group from ASU launched a rocket and talked about Small-space satellites

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft, which lifted off on an Antares rocket Oct 17th (two days before Space Day) carrying 5,290 pounds of cargo for NASA to the International Space Station.

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The little bot that runs on Arduino, could be part of a bot swarm!

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Autonomous Collective Systems Lab let students program and run robots in a Rover obstacle avoidance challenge

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Hands-on session on planets and what ‘designing’ a new planet might involve.

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StarLab, the inflatable planetarium was here for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades.

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My third year of collaborating with the Orbital ATK team

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Arizona State University’s teams

 

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StarLab team from ASU

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2016 in Education, Events, Robotics, STEM, Technology

 

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It ain’t heavy- it’s my phone. Or camera. Or computer.

How much lighter could phones get?

If you thought the ‘brick phone’ was a quaint monstrosity, consider what a 130-pound phone must have been. And this is what it looked like.

Not exactly for the pocket, eh?

Yes the early global phone, around 1991, comprised a few suitcases for a satellite dish, a transmitter and the handset. Great read by journalist Walter Barranger, of the New York Times who used one of these.

In the same vein, anyone remember using a video recorder that comprised a heavy box in a case with a strap? This was connected by a cord to the actual camera that weighed about 20 pounds.

Or a ‘portable’ computer that was about the size of a small microwave? This was the Apple Color Classic. I feel silly recalling how I lugged this through several airports.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2016 in Technology

 

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