Friday, May 20, 2011

Things I'm excited about...the Makerbot

This is the kind of stuff that I'm excited about in the area of educational technology lately. One of my professional goals is to increase opportuntiies for kids to create and make objects that have personal meaning to them. I don't know how I'm going to do it, but I am going to give kids the chance to create stuff with the maker bot at my new school.

What is your school community doing to give learners the chance to make cool objects??

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What project based learning isn't

I love this image and quote from Darren Kuropatwa over at the Great Quotes about Learning and Change Flickr Photo pool.

It sums up many of the challenges I've grappled with when designing learning experiences with teachers through the years.

I'm a firm believer that knowledge is the direct consequence of our experiences-it's essentially how we learn everything...until we go to school that is.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Videos of Arduino in action

While I don't own any Arduino components, I'm quickly becoming captivated by the potential of this platform to encourage kids to play, tinker, explore and create cool objects that they dream up. Arduino is a powerful open source hardware programming system that is used by engineers and artists alike. See this article from the New York Times on how artists and museums are using the platform to create interactive, low cost exhibits.

I'm much, much more excited about the potential of Arduino in K12 than any emerging educational technologies, including the iPad. I could see kids making interactive toys, alarms for their rooms/lockers/lunch boxes, interactive displays for their art work, and more. Arduino is interdisciplinary by nature and brings together skills from a wide range of disciplines.

Below you'll find just a few videos that demonstrate the kinds of things that can be built on this platform. I think they'll give you a sense as to why I'm so excited about Arduino!

In the video below, a guy shares his Arduino based system that he used for locating his bike in the herd of bikes at Burning Man. His project description and write-up is posted here.

Interactive Talking Toy:

Interactive Talking Plush Portal Turret from Jonathan M. Guberman on Vimeo.

Arduino controlled 'Wirebot':

Sunday, May 01, 2011

"Is Social Media Ruining Students?" and more questions

The results of a survey on this topic were published as an info-graphic in the 'Education Database Online Blog' at the end of April.' To be fair, the survey doesn't aim to provide a yes or no answer to such a complicated question, but as an advocate of using social media to improve many different parts of the teaching and learning process, I find myself quite defensive. It seems we're so eager to readily dismiss new opportunities to engage students without scrutinizing some of the questionable practices that have been in our schools for eons. 

I'm glad we have a desire to deeply interrogate the intersection of new media and learning. However, I hope we're equally critical and introspective regarding all forms of technology, systems, pedagogy and methods when it comes to learning.

In this light, here are a few questions that I have:

1. Is lecture ruining students?
2. Do standardized tests ruin students?
3. Do solitary, paper and pencil final exams ruin students?
4. Does homework ruin students?
5. Does project based learning ruin students?
6. Does the non-stop reading of books ruin students?
7. Does google ruin students?
8. Does play or a lack of play ruin students?

9. Do school based reward and award incentives ruin students? 
10. Does the use of processed, packaged and unhealthy foods in school lunches ruin students?

This list could go on and on. Let's be sure we're asking all of the tough questions as we imagine and create the best learning design possible for youth.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Classroom 2.0 Discussion: "Should teachers and students be "friends" on social networking sites?"

The discussion topic, "Should teachers and students be 'friends' on social networking sites," was started back in December of 2008 on the Classroom 2.0 ning site. I subscribe to this discussion via email, and it has been interesting to see how it has 'evolved' over the past couple of years (I'd say it hasn't really 'evolved' much at all...most posts are pretty dogmatic in the assertion that students and teachers should never connect via the social web).

Anyway, below you'll see my latest response to this discussion. Stop over to the discussion at Classroom 2.0 if you'd like to view the discussion history and leave some thoughts of your own. (click here to see my personal facebook friending policy that I wrote back in 2009):

It's amazing how this conversation has moved along over the past few years.

All I can say is that I'm really glad I'm connected to a variety of  students, past and present, using websites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. On one level it has given me TRUE insight (not insight influenced by sensational media reporting) as to what students are doing in these spaces. Contrary to what the media might report, youth are using these spaces for creative and useful purposes like study and collaboration, commenting on the latest news of the day, mobilizing social justice campaigns (remember the 'wear purple day' in support of LGBTQ youth last fall?), socializing in healthy ways with friends, connecting with family members, playing games, sharing photos, etc.

The experience of connecting with students in a variety of ways and spaces allows me to talk intelligently to other adults about what students are doing with these powerful communication and collaboration platforms. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Switching from FirstClass to Google

It seems to be that time of year again when institutions finalize decisions and make preparations to move to a new collaboration environment. Within the past week, I've been contacted by five different schools around the US that are transitioning away from FirstClass to Google Apps Education Edition. I've written about my organization's journey from two years ago here at my blog...this is more of a resource dump intended for anyone out there who might be moving from FirstClass to Google. This is also useful to me as I now have a single link to all of the documents that we found helpful as we went through our transition. 

At some point in the near future I'll write a little update reflection on how things have gone over the past 2 years of using Google apps, but for now I'll just provide links to relevant transition support documents. 

Best of luck moving to Google Apps!

Links, resources and documents:

Our organization's transition support site - a collection of documents, tutorials, videos, etc that documented our migration process.

Rating our transition - what went well - a blog post summary of the things we did well in this process.
Rating our transition - what didn't go so well - we didn't make many mistakes, but this post highlights those areas where we'd like a 'do over.'

General Google Apps security and privacy questions - answers to privacy and data ownership questions can be found in this document. I'll save you a little time here...yes, the data is secure and private. Regarding data ownership-yes, the organization owns the data. Regarding data mining-No, google does not mine and harvest information from Google Apps domains.

Google Apps for Education common questions - SUPER helpful and useful doc

Top 10 Reasons to Switch to Google Apps

Six step deployment plan

Testimonials from other schools who are using Google Apps Education Edition