RSS

Category Archives: Technology

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.

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , ,

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.

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , ,

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.

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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.

 

Tags: , , ,

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

Ovens1

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.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Sri Lankan students shine at Intel Science and Engineering Fair

Lochana1

Lochana Fernando

I volunteered at the Intel Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix yesterday as a translator for Sri Lanka competing at the international event.There were thousands of students from Azerbaijan to the Ukraine –and 24 from Arizona. There were outstanding inventions and research across the board. These three students’ work were very impressive!

  • 17-year-old Lochana Fernando had breakthrough research on cancer. His board was titled “Anti-proliferative and Apoptotic Effects of Ellagic Acid Functionalized iron Oxide Nanoparticles on Endometrial Cancer Cells.” In plan English it was looking at a way to use nano-technology to fight uterine cancer.
  • 16-year-old Abishek Gomes had a product, a smart glove, that would convert sign language to English. His board was titled “Wearable Device to Translate American Sign Language (ASL) into English.”
  • 14-year-old Chamindu Jayasanka displayed a pair of “Modified Adjustable Crutches” he had invented to help amputees in particular. It is easily adjusted, but the neat part is that it also serves as a foldable seat!
Abishek1

Abishek Gomes

Chamindu

Chamindu Jayasanka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lochana is from Senanayake National College, Madampe. Abishek is from Belvoir International School, Colombo. Chamindu is from Rajasinhe Central College, Hanwella.

SmartGlovesTo make the pair of smart gloves, Abishek explained how he had to teach himself programming, and learn how to modify a 3-D printer (among other things) in order to give precision to the flexible connectors inside the gloves. This was crucial  to precisely convert finger movements to  the alphabet in real-time.

The stakes are high. Three first place winners are awarded $150,000 each!

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

If you support computer science – speak up!

Care to support a push to promote Computer Science in schools?

Most schools don’t have it as a foundational class, so leaders from across the US –which includes the Zuckerbergs, Cooks, Schmitdts and Gates’ of this world — have begun a movement to petition our political leaders.

You could find it here at Change.Org.

The petition was started by Code.org founder Hari Partovi., and is also supported by governors and school districts, not just the private sector. Please give it your consideration.

 
 

Tags: , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,767 other followers