Category Archives: Technology

Learning to avoid cameras – from TV reporters

I love cameras. I hate cameras. Are you like me?

I take a lot of pictures, and often avoid being in them (a photo-catcher’s prerogative!). But sometimes we can’t avoid being in them. (photo-radar, group shots…)

This week, I have to be part of a series of STEM videos that I am putting together. I was looking for ways to not be on camera 90 percent of the time. Ergo, the table-top presentation.

In the TV news business, it’s called Continuity and Cutaways.‘  A well-practiced art we are oblivious to. It works like this:

  1. Anchor introduces story, and station ‘cuts away’ to reporter.
  2. Reporter on camera takes over for a few seconds.
  3. Video cuts away to scene of story – the so-called B-roll footage. The reporters voice (arguably on ‘A-roll’) runs over the video and maintains continuity
  4. Studio cuts back to reporter, who wraps up story in a few seconds.

In total the reporter is on camera for a fraction of the time. Our brains fill in the gaps, and make us believe we were being addressed face-to-face. I hope to really shrink that fraction. Let’s see.

Note: For a good understanding of the cutaway and B-roll, read Steve Johnson’s explanation here.


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Photography (and Ed-Tech) lessons from the Blood Moon


Sometimes the cheapest camera does the trick.

This evening’s Blood Moon, and the lunar eclipse, was a spectacular show in our southern skies.

Not as stunning as these, however, but it could be a great lesson in photography, about how to frame a slow-moving event, and compensate for lighting. The camera was a Nikon Coolpix, which was less expensive than the lens of an older SLR. (It’s become my ‘better’ camera, especially on my recent trip to Sri Lanka, where I shot close-ups of rural life, and in the wilds. Easier to pack to the beach and on mountains hikes.)

Which brings me to the point about technology. How often does the technology get in the way of what you are experiencing or working on in the moment? Just as how we often get trapped in the software just to make a great presentation, a microphone or camera can become a distraction.

In Ed-Tech, which is what I teach, I like the focus to be more on the ‘Ed’ and less on the ‘Tech.’


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Posted by on September 27, 2015 in Ed-Tech, Education, Sri Lanka, Technology


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When Distance Learning was a mule-drawn wagon!

I have always been interested in Distance Learning, but as I like to tell young people many of our modern business and education models existed before the Internet.

For instance, about 50 years before eBooks made it possible to have the library accessible from home, we had the ‘mobile’ bicycle-drawn lending library.

But this ‘school on wheels’ known as the Jesup Wagon beats that! It was developed by George Washington Carver, a former slave.

A scientist, better known for the innovation we call ‘crop rotation’ and also peanuts, he loaded a wagon with seeds in this His ‘horse-drawn classroom’ and laboratory. His students were former slaves who had become sharecroppers.

The Movable Classroom program began in 1906. The wagon cost $674.

We could all use this to get some perspective, especially when we think we need fancy technology to connect knowledge with students.


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For Robotics this year we’re re-imagining ‘Trash’

We just kicked off our new Robotics season in my school –my 5th year as coach!

With 26 students signing up, that’s more than twice the number of applications from last year. It’s a ‘good problem’ to have, to see kids become so excited about doing the hard stuff – the building, programming, doing the requisite research, and finally running those complicated missions.

On first glance, this year’s theme, Trash Trek,‘ is much less abstract than last year’s ‘World Class’ (around global education). Lots of big ideas to get our minds around the three R’s that could become a cliche unless we re-interpret RE-ducing, RE-using and RE-cycling . For instance, how about RE-imagining:

  • How far does the trash that gets into our bins has to travel? Could we calculate this (the ‘M’ in STEM) and display it somewhere? Perhaps in our communities — as some sort of a dashboard? If so, who would build the app? What would that display look like?
  • Who decides on the packaging that gets into the products we buy? How much cost will it save if we RE-fuse to ‘pay’ for this (with our landfills?)
  • Could our trash bins earn us money – a la Recyclebank?

I’m talking to all kinds of people – entrepreneurs, engineers,, designers etc who could come in and inspire my students. If you know someone, please call me, email me or send me a tweet at @heyangelo.

Some examples we might use for inspiration this week.






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Hi-tech Augmented Reality goes low-tech with ‘Cardboard’

In May this year I previewed Augmented Reality glasses – the Google ‘Cardboard’ variety. So it was a pleasant surprise to see that Palmer Luckey, who came up with the clunky but amazing viewfinder called Oculus, is featured on the cover of the upcoming issue of TIME.

The plan this year is to feature Google Cardboard in a ‘STEM Talk’ in my class. As the TIME feature puts it content will be coming up soon that will enable us to learn in immersive environments. Using special or tricked out cameras that could record in panoramic view, students may soon be able to experience life on the Space Station, or that of otherwise inaccessible nomadic tribes.

Partnerships and competitors will soon bring this AR world into the mainstream. As would some GoPro hacks. I’m betting on Google cardboard, though it’s not as good as Oculus, (I could see schools more amenable to partnering with the Google folk, rather than Facebook, which now owns Oculus Rift).

It goes from this

to this







And it’s coming your way! Perhaps soon in my class!


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Technology in schools. Love it or hate it?


Touch screens and Robotics. My classroom this yea

In my upcoming July technology column I analyze the pros and the cons of Technology in Education. A few in my network have asked me about my thoughts on this ever-changing topic. (In Oct 2014 I did cover it – “Disrupting Education)

Here’s a summary of what’s to come. As you and I witness the discomforting transition from text books to tablets, from hand-outs to videos-as-homework, from sequential ‘lectures’ to disruptive (noisy) small group activity, it’s easy to fold our hands across our chests and fight it. But there are some compelling arguments on both sides. The Wall Street Journal, and the International Association of Technology in Education almost in the same week ran Pro and Con arguments about Ed-Tech. I get both sides! In my classes I argue against the inane use of social media for the sake of ‘publicity’, but I encourage thought use of digital media with real, and real-time audience participation.

‘Hall and Stevens’ Vs Khan Academy. In my younger days, I had to thumb through Hall and Stevens, the geometry ‘bible.’ Today’s kids are learning geometry from a guy called Salman Khan, founder the free online learning portal for mathematics and science. (Fun sidebar: ‘Hall and Stevens’ is available as an eBook; flip the pages as if it was a real book, here:

Screen Time vs Think Time. I am a big proponent of virtual and augmented reality, especially if it could bring in ‘distant’ experiences (Civil War, 3D models of engineering, space science etc), but I also aggressively advocate limited screen time. Odd isn’t it? That’s the dilemma we educators and parents face. Augmented Reality

Your son or daughter probably goes to school with a device in her backpack with more processing power than the rocket that took men to the moon, and this child wants to be… an astronaut? You’ve forgotten how to log into your son’s school website to download his missed homework, but… he’s found a way to ‘jailbreak’ your cell phone? There are ‘teaching moments’ in all of these.

Sal Khan speaks of the “fundamentally dehumanizing experience” in education. And he was not talking about teenagers and even pre-teens staring at their phones and not talking to one another. A real, ‘digital citizenship’ crisis, right now! He was referring to children packed in a classroom! Hmm!

Love it or hate it, technology is gate crashing our class rooms, just like ball-point pens or calculators once did. Are you ready for it?


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Messy Learning Labs. Just what our screen-obsessed kids need

If you’ve ever complained about classrooms being stuck in the industrial age, here’s a glimpse of a different kind of class. It’s Hi-Tech space with a factory-floor setting. Perfect for digital natives, huh?

I took my robotics students here last Tuesday, to a place called HeatSync Labs in Mesa, Arizona. Not the kind of ‘lab’ they had in mind – but in a shocking way! It is what’s known as aMaker Space’ where kids come to ‘learn by doing’. They didn’t want to leave!

You see, a Maker Space like this is more like a mad scientist’s garage, than a classroom, with a variety of machines, tools and material just begging to be used. If you recall how HP began in a humble garage, you’ll see why a tinkerer’s tool-shed like this is what classrooms ought to be like if we are to motivate the next generation of inventors, astronomers and mad scientists like Bill Hewlett, Dave Packard. Or the next Thomas Edison (who barely went to school, please note).

Having worked with 6-12 year olds for four years now, I know how hungry they are for science. Especially science that comes to them in unexpected packages. OK, so in one corner of the lab there was a 3-D printer, an artifact from our all-too-digital present. But someone had used it to produce intriguing pieces such as this plastic cube (right), with gears!

In 75 minutes my students probably got more about science that any slick PowerPoint presentation. This was about experimenting, making mistakes, and asking ‘what-if’ questions. This was about rummaging through bins, and peering through scopes, working with laser-cut stamps they mounted on blocks of wood. And not a tablet in site!










At one point, Eric Ose who works there took me aside and told me, awkwardly, “I am not used to young people here asking permission to do things.” Meaning, this was a space that people came and just tried things out, used material lying around, and worked on their own pace. Of course there are guidelines – especially safety guidelines, as when watching laser cutting, or operating the 3-D printer.

But the real house rules are this: Try something out. Make things. Break things. Revise. Start from scratch. Discover. Build something impossible!

Note: If your students have never been to one I urge you to make it your next field trip. Many cities have these community run spaces. (Map)



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