Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cartoons in the Classroom!

Found a wonder blog that features lots of lovely tools for technology in education. Not sure how I happened upon Creating Comics Online, but I'm glad I did: cartooning makes teaching storyboard design relevant, and the online tools are much easier than demonstrating my stick figure storyboards and having students draw on sheets of paper.

He ends the article with 20 Ways to Use Comics in Your Classroom and More than 100 Editorial Cartoon Lesson Plans which makes cartooning immediately relevant to the classroom.

Embedding Blogger into Google Sites

I wanted to embed my Blogger into my Google Site without reinventing the wheel...this article provided the code to make it happen.

Single feed from Blogger
  1. Insert> More Gadgets > Search for "Generic Feed Reader"
  2. insert "your blog url"/atom.xml ---> Blogger's built-in RSS feed

Feeds from Multiple  blogs
  1. Insert > More Gadgets > Search for "RSS News Feed Scoller"
  2. add blogs to gadget

Monday, December 6, 2010

Include gadget for Google Sites

I've been using [free] Google Sites for years to organize my lessons, present to students, and have students access resources and lessons. Google Pages, the precursor to Google Sites, was more flexible in formatting different pages: I had 1 site but could change the design of individual pages. Because Google Sites does not have this functionality (I really needed to differentiate between my regular site and pages for a Computer Science Education Week), I built a new site just for CS Ed Week. The problem was how to direct students to the site without too much interference in the normal procedure (ie. going to the regular website).

  • refresh the homepage to the new website: functionality not available
  • embed the new site: embed did not work but ....
  • Solution: Include gadget: embeds a URL like an iframe
Not as elegant as a dynamic refresh, but it kept the interface familiar and I could direct students to working from that website.

Update: Robotics are the new programming

I read somewhere [link coming] that there is grant money for student robotics competitions to prepare the next generation of computer scientists.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Robotics are the new programming

At the Grace Hopper Conference 2010 I attended a workshop on getting girls in grades 4-12 excited about computing, and 2 of the 4 technologies featured used robotics of some sort.

Scratch & Alice are programming languages, and allow students to make incredible animations (2D and 3D respectively) limited only by their imaginations.There are lots of programming challenges for students to participate in throughout the year to really flex their programming muscles.

Pico Cricket & Pleo Dinosaur kits were passed around for us to program and play fun! During a meeting with my peer computer teachers I also learned about Pico Boards, which are like Pico Cricket connections but powered by Scratch...totally awesome...gotta get a few!!!

Then this article about a robotics lesson plan came in my e-mail and I now know that robotics are the next big thing in student computing. Of course it makes sense: artificial intelligence has remained behind the scenes in computing, we have a number of domestic robots (the vacuumers and floor cleaners, and toys) that make us more comfortable with independently operating machines. So the next wave of computers is to develop programmers who are comfortable and familiar with robotics. This means we technology teachers have to step our game up!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Google Bookmarks

I've been using Google Bookmarks to organize my classroom bookmarks. I like that Google Bookmarks (G.Books) allows me to create folders instead of insisting on using it's search box to find what I've categorized: that used to drive me crazy with Gmail so I label important messages and only search using the iPod Touch.

I used (aka, but did not separate work and personal bookmarks.

Adding Interactive Internet Safety Lessons

I now have to practice what I preach: I have a severely learning disabled student in my class for whom I CANNOT give text-based lessons. In addition we read an article in our staff meeting about the purpose of homework and types and length of assignments we should give students. All of this coalesced in my looking for interactive lessons on cyber safety.
We increasingly discuss students who grew up in a multimedia, multi-modal world, yet because we teachers grew up in the text age and are comfortable in the text age, we tend to give students...text. The test will be if students retain the internet safety lessons better through an interactive module than with reading through.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Board Games teach logic, right?

Today I had the privilege of fore knowledge of a planned network outage so I brought in some board games and cards that had been used in an outreach 10 years ago to keep students occupied. My 7th and 8th graders were mystified by Kerplunk, a game that came before their 1999 birth years lol! It got me thinking that it's possible to teach logical thinking "unplugged" using certain board games that promote logical thinking:
Kerplunk: modern version of Pick Up Sticks where marbles fall through a column, winner has fewest number of marbles in receptacle
Mancala: strategy game that requires counting, and quickly or your opponents confuse you
Ludo, Parcheesi or Sorry: game of chance and strategy as you try to get all your pieces "home" while keeping your opponents from reaching "home" first
The thing is these games may be old fashioned to us because we are of the "7 channel"-"do homework every night"-"play board games or play outside" because "there was nothing else to do" generation. These games are not familiar to our students because they are about 100 generations away from ours, their teachers. So for your next fundng cycle, be sure to invest in a few board games to take your logic-teaching lessons offline and to a whole new level.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Professional Development Goal: becoming Google Certified

It seems that Google is going international now with Google Teacher Academy, and relying on the corps of teachers in the U.S. built up in the last few years. However, if you really want access to the materials and resources, they can be [partially] obtained from this site. As a non-GCT, it can be viewed, and it's not the official site of Google Certified Teachers (GCTs), which is closed to the public.

Access to another professional network of Google Workshop for Educators participants (GWEN) can be gained by paying a fee to attend a workshop at a CUE conference or paying a fee to have the session delivered at your school, instead of attending a free Google workshop, but as I mentioned, they seem to be branching out from Mountain View.

more iPod Touch love: Classroom tools

The iRevolution continues! Did you know that the Calculator app becomes a scientific calculator by horizontally orienting the iTouch? Yet another device replaced by the iPod Touch! So far this year I am replacing with my iTouch:
  • Taking attendance wirelessly via PowerSchool website
  • Using Clock app as a timer instead of purchasing a separate timer
  • Posting to my Blogger blogs via PenMyBlog app
  • Add assignments to my class site via Google Sites (though there's a weird glitch with certain fields where I edit via HTML instead of WYSIWYG...guess I should report that to Google)
  • Research anything for assignments (need to share my bookmarks to access on other computers, though Google Bookmarks will solve that)
  • Checking e-mail instead of having multiple windows open on my class netbook (you know the kinds of things that embarrassingly show up on e-mail!)
  • Make phone calls with Rebtel, Skype and Google Voice (but I was taught to use my classroom phone so less of this :) 
Things I would be able to do with the latest iTouch:
  • Take pics of our whiteboard discussions and instantly post on class pages (camera added) 

Accessories that would [almost] render a laptop/desktop obsolete:
  • 16 pin projector (they have that)
  • Speakers (they have that)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Google Revolution 2.0

Preparing the next phase of lessons to aid students' research reports and investigating Google Tools for Educators...something called Google Notebook, which has been phased out (rightly so, it's very similar to Google Docs) but is a cool metaphor for notebooks students take notes in. That page refers you to Google Bookmarks, which is similar to social bookmarking but is part of the beloved Google suite of apps. This will take group projects and online research to a whole new level and will hopefully not be blocked by filters.

Google also sponsored a series of workshops for computing teachers in Summer 2010 called CS4HS-Computer Science for High School (though it can be used for Middle School also); take a look at the agenda and links for the various workshops and stay tuned for 1 coming near you...I didn't attend my local session, but that's another story...

Lastly I want to highlight TeacherTube though not a Google app: my district cleverly redirects all social networking requests to TeacherTube, prompting one student to ask if Facebook was blocked. Funny as all get out, but effective. However as teachers we should be using the resource, so get out your digital still or video camera and start taping your classes!

Creating Video Games as an introduction to Computer Science

Much ado in the educational sphere about making programming sexy by introducing youth to creating computer games. My opinion: there are people and there are programmers and a student may be enticed by being able to create a game, but the true computer programmer will be onto a programming language faster than you can say, "Call of Duty 3"!

I remember in a cognitive science class we were asked to classify games, that is define them based on our knowledge of the parts that make up a game. This is much more difficult than it seems but is a great way to start discussing all types of games, and ensures that students consider games other than point-and-shoot. Wikipedia offers an inkling of the enlightened discussions and definitions we held in that class!
  • Creating sprites (avatars):
  • Step-by-step to design your own game:
  • Select programming language to design game with

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Periodic Table iPhone app Includes the latest elements, exciting after returning to Lawrence Berkeley National Lab as a teacher intern (having been a high school intern) and seeing how many elements had been filled in since the 1990's! And some were discovered during Summer 2010 when I was there!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cool Science

Was invited to participate in a Chemistry class blog, chemistry being one of the sciences I can participate in (biology NOT being in that company), and happened upon a number of science experiment sites:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Interdisciplinary Curriculum via computer games

On the topic of educational games: "What good are they?", "Oh, those games are just like the drill-and-practice games from the 1980's, they're of no use to students". Well, they're not.

In continued exploration of educational uses of the iPod Touch, I downloaded a number of games and thought, "Well, this teaches math, geography, and critical thinking, in addition to being fun and addictive!" Isn't this the best of all worlds in educating students?
  • Chocolatier: think Oregon Trail but it's all about sourcing ingredients for ... CHOCOLATE! You travel to different countries to buy ingredients to make chocolate, use math and critical thinking for projecting how much of each ingredient you need to keep your factories stocked, use memory to recall which nations paid the highest price for your CHOCOLATE, history parallels to understand the transportation routes (Panama Canal, ship route Slave Trade, railroads)
  • Mancala: an age old game that teaches projections and critical thinking, a bit of math to calculate how to maximize as you try to get more marbles than your opponent.
  • any electronic version of board games: Monopoly, Scrabble, Scattergories, etc. all taught strategy in addition to academic and life skills: counting, money, spelling, facts.
    • Monopoly, especially having students research the locations or objects featured in any of the special editions
So you see educational gaming has come a long way: it's not just improved graphic capabilities, it's that they are more interdisciplinary and more interactive. With enough time, students will hopefully gain knowledge and skills and have fun doing so.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

iRevolution: iPod Touch in the Classroom

Note the eMacs in the background. Ubiquitous computing in the flesh!

With the hurrah over the iPad, I wandered over to my local Apple Store, which was packed as usual. I ventured tentatively in to the front door and asked the salesperson, "What's the big deal?" All he could discuss were the "apps", which didn't impress me: I just bought myself a birthday iPod Touch and to date have only purchased 1 game that I'm obsessed with and one of my all-time favorite albums. The other apps I've downloaded are all free and about 90% entertainment, 10% productive/informative/educational. I thanked him then walked out.

Then my eye doctor asked me about the iPad: initially I said, "I don't get it," but being in a doctor's office I recanted, "I can see how it would have great use in a hospital, especially with digitizing medical records." He agreed. Then I convinced him not to upgrade to Windows 7, to downgrade to Windows XP...I'm lethal!

Then a friend mentioned getting a Touch to entertain her 1 year old and we researched age appropriate entertainment options: come to find out, there are enough apps for keeping actual kids of all ages occupied, not just kids at heart!

iRevolution (continued): iPad

Yesterday I realized it would be easy to have an iPad connect wirelessly to my projector to enable walking around while demonstrating. The problem is my students are on PCs and Apple and PC are not speaking on speaking terms (Apple is not speaking with a lot of proprietary formats right now). So even though I can foresee a use good enough for me to invest in the iPad (for teaching purposes, of course :), I'll have to take my own advice and wait for the next generation or for Apple to play nice with other formats.