Tuesday, December 30, 2014

5 Lessons from 2014, A Year in Learning

I thought I was done blogging for the year. I am working on a couple of posts, but I wasn't going to post anything else. I was going to take the time off. The thing about blogging is that it helps me make sense of the work that I do. 

So today, I find myself wondering why I would take a break from making sense of the work I do.
Blogging has helped me to grow as a professional and has connected me with some great educators, and reflecting is part of the process. So here is a quick reflection on 2014 and the top 5 things I learned in 2014.

The more I write, the better I teach.

Although it is tough to find the time to write, it makes a huge difference in how I teach. Daily lesson production and delivery has the inertia of a freight train, and there is always tomorrow's prep to do. Stealing some quiet time in the morning to write about what I am doing diffuses this momentum. It gives me a chance to think about what I am doing.
Once I have the writing done I can share my thoughts and questions with other teachers. My lessons are always better once I share them and get feedback.

Play is a powerful teacher.

When I started as a K-5 tech teacher I had no idea how much fun it would be. Now I am crafting playful lessons everyday that support content area learning. From Sphero robots to toy skateboards, there is so much to be learned in play. Learning in STEAM is too important to be taken too seriously. When I ask my students to explore, think, discover, and share, they all find opportunities to be successful.

Ask for the help you need.

Despite what the various “award shows” would have you believe, being a connected educator is not a contest to see who has the best ideas, the most well-written blog, or the coolest conference swag. This year, more than any other, my PLN has been an amazing resource. This amazing resource got a powerful upgrade in July when I attended the Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View, CA. Meeting with people face to face can make the online collaboration so much more powerful.  Almost everytime I asked anyone for help this year I was energized and inspired by their response.  Once upon a time I wanted to be the teacher who was smart enough to have all the answers.  Now I strive to be wise enough to know when I should ask for help and to be brave enough to ask.

Collaboration is a force multiplier.

Without a doubt, 2014 has been a year of collaboration. While I love my online community, the biggest shift in my second year as a tech specialist has been more collaboration with the teachers I share students with daily. The work I am most proud of right now is in elementary STEM, and those classes are not even on my schedule. By working closely with our STEM resource teacher, I have been part of amazing learning. I am so grateful for the thoughtful, smart, and tireless people around me.

There are people out there doing amazing work and there is so much to be learned.

When I was working alone in my classroom, unconnected to my local community as much as I was unconnected to any online community, I had a manta. “There is too much to do is a fact, not a complaint.” My thinking was that when there was too much to do, it was a given that things would not get done. My job, I thought, was to “manage neglect” and make sure no one part of my life had too many things not done.
Now I see that there is too much for any one person to do. I can see in my connected community that there are so many people doing amazing things and sharing them, that I have shifted my outlook. I don't have to do, learn, know, or share it all. A big part of contributing to a community is being ready to learn from others, celebrating their success and supporting them when you can. So while I struggle to find the time to write, I also struggle to find the time to read and learn. When Something connects with me I try to share it, comment on the post, send the author a note, or provide some other feedback that says “Thanks, I needed that.”

So here I am at the end of 2014, wondering what the year ahead holds. I know there will be robots, trainings, puppets, play, writing, sharing, reading, celebrating, programming, and challenges I have not yet imagined. I know that no matter what I find in 2015, there will be others sharing the journey with me. Thank you for taking the time to share my journey, and I hope you join me this coming year and share your own struggles and successes.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Roller Coasters in Second Grade #STEM

Looking for a simple roller coaster design program? My second graders loved Coaster Frenzy. This week in Tech we designed and rode our own Roller Coasters!
Building on our STEM study of balance, energy and motion, we used the app Coaster Frenzy to design our own thrill rides.  In the process we asked questions like “How do I make it go faster” and these question led to discussions of gravity and energy.

The app is available on iOS and Android
iOS link https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/coaster-frenzy/id542899183?mt=8
Android Lnk https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.affinestudios.coasterfrenzy&hl=en

Holiday Slow Down

Just a quick note to let you know that I will be posting less through the rest of December.  Never fear! the writing will continue.  We have upcoming pieces about Core 5 reading,  reviews of new ASCD books, a profile of Literably, and a review of OZObot.
With the new year we will be looking for teachers to write guest posts for Mypaperlessclassroom.  I want to help you share your stories about programming, pedagogy, the tools you use, and even puppets.
Have a great holiday, hold your loves close and enjoy the time you have.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Want Minecraft, but don't Have the Tech? Try #Sugarcraft

Note: there is a real use of #Sugarcraft and it looks like a healthy community of culenary artists.  If this is what you are looking for here, I am sorry.  This is about teaching.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

7 Facts about Hackathons for Teachers

This weekend I was working in Hacker Dojo, a shared workspace in Mountain view and I found that I was surrounded by a Hackathon.  I had heard of Hackathons, but since I am not a hacker, I never went to one.  The idea is that in a weekend teams create an app or a program.  This Hackathon was hosted by Flir One, a thermal camera that connects to an iphone.  
Sitting in the midst of this group, I found myself thinking about project based learning, choice-based learning, game based learning.  We have so many models we use to try to prepare kids for life after school.  This can be challenging because as teachers we spend most of our time in school, for us all of life has been school.  Now I sit in this giant workspace watching teams developing and refining an idea.
As an educator I notice some things.
  1. Everyone participating choose to participate.
  2. There is a real goal with a real reward.  The top 4 ideas get cash prizes (5k for first place)
  3. The organizer supplied a list of starter ideas
  4. Most of the teams formed at the event, some changed during the event
  5. There is food
  6. There is a rubric
  7. Everyone has to present

What do you see in this that resonates with you as an educator?  What doesn't fit into your model of learning?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Reverse Engineering Toys, Second Grade #STEM

The meeting began like many other meetings with my teacher teams. I asked “what are you working on now?” The teacher shared that in science they were starting a project focused on balance in motion. At the end of the unit they are planning on having the children design their own toys.
I suggested we have the students analyze some existing toys, so they could decide what was important to them in a toy.
Today we study: Toys!

Lesson prep involved going to the dollar store and finding as many cheap and simple toys as I could. I came back with some miniature skateboards, some toy cars, and some knock off slinkys.  
Before the teachers brought the students over to the makerspace, they asked the students to think about their favorite choice. All of the toys the students listed were electronic iPads, gaming systems, computers.

When the students arrived, and they said down at the table they immediately all claimed a toy. I hadn't anticipated this, I had put enough toys out so they all could be working with one, but I hadn't guessed that as soon as they sat down they would each claim one. What I then had to students do was navigate to the class blog. On the blog I had embedded a Google form which asked them some simple questions about the toys.
  1. How much fun is the toy?
  2. Where does the phone come from?
  3. How do you play with the toy.

The students initial responses were fine for the first two questions because they were just a scale question on the multiple-choice question, but the free response question was under responded to. The students were writing two or three words. So I made the requirement that they use complete sentences, and I added a word count. In hindsight, I should have found some other way to promote detailed response.  Many students struggled to come up with 20 words describing  how to play with a toy car or how they play with a toy skateboard or how to play with a slinky. I was surprised because I encouraged them to talk with each other, to get ideas.

I found that the ones who had difficulty writing also had difficulty talking to their table mates.The task quickly turned into a writing class. We put a word wall up on the board, talked about where ideas come from, and even gave some of the students starter sentences. When a student became stuck I often suggested, “write a sentence using the word pretend.”

Our results were for the large part good and useful.  The data we collected was instantly viewable using the “view summary of responses” tool inside the Google form.

When we begin working on our toy design we will return to this data.

We may even get a chance to extend this lesson to full “reverse engineering, and take toys apart and study their components. The current plan is to have students create toys out of recycled materials. The big question is, will we have a 3-D printer in time to have students print their toys?

This #STEM lesson, spent a great deal of time on writing and even keyboarding. So much learning is naturally cross curricular in elementary. What cross content connections are you making in your lessons, what are the challenges you face?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Neck Straps Help Kinders Film with Tablets

Collaborative problem solving is awesome, and this week I got to experience it at it's best.  One of my Kindergarten teachers and I were talking about how hard it is for her students to hold the ipad up and film.
We want them to be able to interview each other in front of their work and film it.  Our solution started with her handing me a strip of fleece and saying "Try to do something with this."
The strips were really long, so I cut them in half and fed them through part of our iPad case.
We turned the kids loose filming and they were able to film longer, no iPads hit the ground and the videos were a bit better.  The problem came at the end of class.  We had to use pens to pry the knots apart!  the weight of the device had been pulling on the knot and made it very tight.  

We also saw that some of the strips were way too short.
So we revised our deign.  The new strips were longer and Sally suggested we tie them in loops first and then use a lark's head knot  to attach them to the ipads.  
This worked great.  We tested the design with the other kindergarten class and then with the first grade.  
We are keeping the design on pretty tight lock down until the patent clears.  But if you want to be a beta tester, let us know in the comments.

Scoodle Jam for Free! on 12/16

Save The Date
Free Download Day!

Scoodle Jam

By Scoot & Doodle

Mark your calendars! 
On Tuesday, December 16th, we're making Scoodle Jam free for a day.
Share the date with your colleagues and IT Depts. It's a great time to get Scoodle Jam for your entire classroom, even school.

“It’s a space that explicitly, elegantly supports student learning and imagination." -- CommonSense Media’s Graphite

Scoodle Jam for iPad empowers K8 teachers & students with CCSS-aligned content, creation, and collaboration tools to enhance Common Core Math & ELA instruction and learning.

What People are Saying

Featured in Best New Apps for Education and Middle School Collection
Four Stars from both Common Sense Media's Graphite & USA Today
2014 Tech & Learning Awards of Excellence Winner

Compatible with iPad 2 or later
Requires iOS 7.0 or later
Available in US and New Zealand markets only

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Kodable Web is Live!

The hour of code is upon us!  and we are so excited about all of the possibilities for coding in class.  If you made plans for what to do during hour of code a month ago, it might be time to change those plans.  
Coding app developers have been staying up late to get the best tools in your hands for computer science education week.  I just found out that after spending the day at Hausner's family coding event, Neil and Grechen went back to Kodable HQ and launched the web version of Kodable.

That is right, now you can play everybody's favorite coding app for pre-readers on a desktop machine in the browser, In fact, it is optimized for chromebooks.  The reports from the beta tests indicate that it will even work on your android tablet or phone, although this is less than ideal.   It won't play on an ipad, but they have the app for that.

For existing Kodable class users, teachers can have students log in with their class code or student code. For teachers not yet using Kodable, students can start a new game for free, then save it with a student code. This progress will sync when they play on the iPad as well. 

The link is game.kodable.com

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Live from the Hour of Code! My School in the News

What a day! with over 200 parents and kids in attendance we had a great Hour of Code!  We had Robots and dancing, cup stacking, and apps apps apps!
This event is my favorite all year and I am lucky so many people helping make it possible.  It was a real treat to have the news show up.  #hourofcode

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sphero and the Inclined Plane

The more I collaborate with great teachers the more I am convinced that teaching is a team sport.  I am lucky this year because I get to work with Megan, the STEM coordinator for the lower grades as well as 8 other problem solving roles.  Megan and I share many students and we work to integrate our work whenever possible.
One good idea can make my week
Neither of us has time for real meetings, but we make good use of out time.  This week Megan gave me my best robot lesson yet.  It came in a text, I think she was riding the train home.  Looked at the text in the evening and only focused on it again around the time I took this screenshot.
I was planning for the second grade class that begins at 8:30.
Balance, Forces, Sphero on an incline.  Oh, I was all over this.
So I set up as many multi-user inclined surfaces as I could. even re-purposing a decommissioned smart board.  When I started prepping for class I thought I would just use the white board.  It was bad, so bad I had to take a picture.  Obviously at some point in the morning my coffee kicked in and I actually made a slide deck to help the kids focus.  (they got really excited when they heard Spheros were on the menu.)

We paired the students up and had them explore the various planes, including a small personal white board and a plastic block.
The energy in the room was awesome, and the students really experienced dynamics of power needs and an inclined plane.

One of my favorite moments was when a student explained that if they used the whiteboards at a shallower angle the Spheros could make it farther up the ramp.  This was just an "into" activity for the force unit, we didn't spend much time on vocab, we got to the heart of understanding inclined planes.
The robots allowed us to quantify our exploration, as one of the students observed "We could go up that ramp at 30, but the other one we couldn't do even at 100."

What science concepts could you explore with robots?  Leave a comment and let's make some plans together.

What will we do for Hour of Code?

I am so excited about the Hour of Code.  We are hosting a family coding day for the second year and I am so thankful to all the people who have come together to make this day possible.
One of the parents in our school community created Evenium, a great event management platform.  Check out the embed below to view our full agenda.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

So You Want to Do the Hour of Code

What is the Hour of Code?

From http://hourofcode.com/us
"The Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. Anyone, anywhere can organize an Hour of Code event. One-hour tutorials are available in over 30 languages. No experience needed. Ages 4 to 104."

Who Should participate?

The simple answer is everyone.  Code.org's mission is to make coding and computer science visible and accessible to everyone and the hour of code is a glimpse into the wold of programming.  They have expanded their offerings this year to include a 20 hour computer science curriculum for grades K-5, and they are introducing new curriculum that connect with math and science at higher grades.

Why an Hour?

The hour of code is aimed at getting all kids and teachers to experience what coding can do in the classroom for an hour, but their resources can support much more instruction than this.  The hour is about changing perceptions of programming.  The videos that accompany the curriculum don't just describe concepts of loops and algorithms, they break down stereotypes about what programming is and what it can do.  You can take this much further than an hour.
Last year the Hour of Code helped me introduce programming as an instructional mode on my campus.

First you learn to code, then you learn through code -Mitch Resnick creator of SCRATCH

While the hour of code got my kids programming more, I had already introduced most of the to programming in technology class.  The transformation took place as their content area teachers experienced coding with them.  Until our science teacher saw how SCRATCH could model equations, he never used it in class.  This year both middle school math and science classes are using programming to develop their understanding of key concepts.

Where do I start?

Check out the tutorials and videos at Code.org/learn for yourself. Challenge yourself to do an hour of code and see what you learn.  Then talk to your school leadership about the opprotunities available to all your students and teachers.

What next?

Talk with the other teachers on your campus aboutthe instructional potential of programming, help them design a lesson that connects with their curriculum.  Need some help?  Drop me a line and let's brainstorm together.

Mitch Resnick has said that programming is the next or the new writing.  He is more correct than he knows.  Not only is it a meaningful mode of expressions, but it is viewed as mysterious and hard to teach and the people best positioned to make it accessible don't know where to start.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Programming and Music, Hour of Code and the Arts

There is a chill in the air, lights are going up everywhere, it is like the whole world is prepping for the hour of code!  While I might have enough excitement about the season to carry my whole school site, I know that other people can't believe we are talking about the Hour of Code already.  They ask me "Wasn't it just connected educator month?"  Some of my favorite teachers anguish over the time needed for the hour of code and how fast the short period between turkey day and winter break rushes by.  They aren't sure they can find a spare hour to "do coding."
I am putting together some of the best resources I know to help them find meaningful ways to help their students learn through code.
As I have been learning about programming and teaching kids to code, music is a theme that keeps emerging.  Vikas from WonderWorkshop first got me thinking about you music could help teach programming last year when I heard him speak about why Dash, one of their robots, plays the xylophone. He spoke about the power of music to help kids understand sequence.  Whether a scale or Mary had a Little Lamb, we can hear the difference between wrong and right in a musical sequence. When we can take something like music and use programming to interact with it we can teach programming basics at the same time as sequence, rhythm and even some basic music theory.
Thinking about how to make Hour of Code accessible to my music teacher I was playing around with Trinket.io and their Music trinket.
this is a neat interface and it plays the music you program into it.  The window has a "cheat sheet" available and allows you to program but the bass and treble parts.   Trinket.io is one of the companies in the Imagine K12 startup incubator this year.  Their Philosophy:
trinket knows that educators belong at the center of open education. That’s why we believe that Teachers won’t be Replaced by Software and that there’s a Middle Path for Education Technology that can disrupt an industry without disrupting teachers’ connections to their students. The trinket team has been working towards this vision since 2013. Together we’re building the tools that you need to make a difference in your classroom, whatever and whoever you teach. We hope you’ll join us.
Below you will find 2 music trinkets, see what you can come up with.  Could these help you support a meaningful hour of code in a music class?  I was really happy to discover that they work in the Safari Browser on my iPad


From Eliot at Trinket.io
We describe the music trinket as everything you need to teach and learn music theory/composition and nothing you don't.  We use a lightweight music markup language in the trinket to help show that code can enhance other disciplines without being about computer science.  Like all trinkets, music trinkets are free to use, easily remixable and shareable.

Does this have you thinking about the relationship between programming and music?  Well here is some reading to support your curiosity.

Cal Arts Programming of Musicians

Musicians written about by a coder

Music Programming intro essay

Friday, November 14, 2014

Using Ipads for Instruction- Desert Research

As the elementary technology integration specialist for my school I wear 2 main hats.  I teach kids to use technology and I also help teachers new to technology figure out how capture the power of mobile tech to deliver instruction.  Today in 3rd grade we are researching desert bios and this is the lesson.  The kids will each have their own iPad and a printed version of the data collection sheet.  For the 3rd graders right now writing on paper is easier than navigating back and forth from 2 windows as they need to look at the information they are recording as they record it.
I have made the links bigger in this lesson to help the kids see them, and I scanned in the data collection sheet.  My hope is that using tech time to deliver this type of traditional instruction guides and inspires the teachers I work with towards creating their own digital content.

Sometimes we get to model more than we anticipate.  Below you will see 2 versions of the same post.  The first is what it looked like when I went into the first class.  The second post reflects the changes we made as the kids struggled with selecting an animal and plant.  We limited the choices to some of thew more clearly written articles.


Today in class we will be using the internet to read for information.  The first thing we will read is a page about the Sonoran Desert (click on the words Sonoran Desert to go to that page).

After reading that article for some background information you are going to research a desert animal and a desert plant.

This is the link for the desert animals.

This is the link for desert plants.

You will click each link and fill out your data collection sheet on the animal and plant you choose.

You will be researching by READING, so please don't watch the videos.  We are practicing getting information from written texts today.

Definitions to keep in mind:

  •  Range is the geographic region where a plant or animal lives, such as “arid regions of the North American southwest” (any plant or animal you choose to write about must live in the range of the Sonoran Desert.) 
  • Habitat is the kind of area where it lives, such as “sandy and rocky soils in desert locations.”

Version 2.0 improved for more learning 
Today in class we will be using the internet to read for information.  The first thing we will read is a page about the Sonoran Desert (click on the words Sonoran Desert to go to that page).

After reading that article for some background information you are going to research a desert animal and a desert plant.

This are the links for the desert animals.
The Southern Pacific Rattlesnake 
The Desert Tortoise
The Cactus Wren
The Jack Rabbit

This are the links for desert plants.
Desert Paintbrush
The Mojave Monkey Flower
The Ocotillo
The Organ Pipe Cactus

You will click each link and fill out your data collection sheet on the animal and plant you choose.

You will be researching by READING, so please don't watch the videos.  We are practicing getting information from written texts today.

Definitions to keep in mind:

  •  Range is the geographic region where a plant or animal lives, such as “arid regions of the North American southwest” (any plant or animal you choose to write about must live in the range of the Sonoran Desert.) 
  • Habitat is the kind of area where it lives, such as “sandy and rocky soils in desert locations.”

Modeling Orbits by Programming in Hopscotch

This week in fifth grade we have been studying planetary movement.  From navigating by constellation to the mechanics of an eclipse we have been working to understand how the heavens work.  We extended this conversation into technology class as we used Hopscotch to explore the movements of planets.
We only had about 30 minutes available this week, so I kept the instruction short.  I reminded the students about how to add characters from Emoji.  Then we talked about how to program the characters to move in a circle.
While the students worked, I helped some with hints and gave bigger challenges to others.
Overall I was really impressed with the quality of conversation about planets and orbits.  Several students developed pretty good models.  I gave them the chance to impress me and they delivered.  The most rewarding moment was at the end of the lesson when many of the students asked when we would have time to finish their projects.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

15 Digital Curation Tools For Teachers

What is the difference between finding a great idea on Pintrest and building a professional library of resources?  A solid curation strategy so you can find and share those great ideas when you or others in your PLN need them.  In this episode of the TechEducator podcast we share our favorite tools for collecting and sharing out favorite tools.

Show Information

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Write on! The Equil2 Smart Pen -Bringing Writing Back

I have a confession, while I strive for a paperless classroom, I love writing in notebooks.  Actually, it is more than love.  In many ways I need to write in notebooks.  I think differently when I write by hand.  
The fact that the pen is mightier than the keyboard in my creative process is a double edge sword.  My handwriting is bad.  Throughout my education most of the feedback I got from teachers grades 1-10 was about how bad my handwriting was.  Handwriting worksheets have left their scars on my psyche.  I rushed into the world of screens and keyboards that fit in my pocket with open arms, only to find empty betrayal.  My brain needs the clumsy, messy, hard to read process of ink on paper.
Thus my love affair with the smart pen.  The idea of a pen that holds all the writing I have done, and makes it searchable is like having an extension added to my brain.
When I saw the Indegogo campaign for the Equil2 Smartpen I knew I had to see what this writing revolution was all about, and I was not disappointed.

How it works
The Equil2 pen works on ANY notebook.  The receiver unit clips to the top of the page and uses a combination of infrared and ultrasound to map your writing into the aopp on the connected device.  The unit will also store writing you have done while not connected to a device.  I was really impressed with the fidelity of the image and the quality of the connection.  If you are in a very noisy coffee house, the blenders and cappuccino steamers will occasionally cause a bit of interference.

What is in the box
When you get an Equil 2 smartpen you get a charging station/ case with a wrap around cover.  It is small and fits nicely any small bag, tote, or purse.  It is a bit too bulky for a pocket.  The case hold the pen and the receiver unit.  The receiver is about the size of an old school pink eraser and the pen is a standard size pen.  For those of us who have used oversize smartpens, this is a relief because you can write with the equil2 for extended amounts of time without fatigue.  The charging station uses a standard micro USB charger, making it easy to keep charged.  The batter life on the receiver and the pen is great, in my month of testing I charged the pen every 2-3 days and never ran out of battery.

Pen + tablet = live scrapbooking
Smartpens are an important part of my note taking toolkit because I go to some meetings that have a “no screens” rule.  In fact there are leaders I work with who believe that being on your device is a sign of disengagement. In an age of 1:1 programs where we expect kids to learn using devices I am hopeful this will trickle up to the leadership soon, but until then I need a way to capture my learning and thinking that is screen free, thus the pen.
When I need to work screen free the equil 2 save the pages I write to be imported later.  When I can work connected to the device, the functionality of the pen sky rockets.  The equil Note app allows me to add pictures directly into the page I am writing, in full graphic layout mode! (insert picture) I can even drop a picture onto the page, change the ink color, and annotate directly on the picture.  Sitting through a presentation, I can use my android tablet to snap pictures of the slide and drop them into the notes I am taking, like these notes I captured at the Wonder Workshop educator’s day.

Once I started working with the photo import feature I went a little wild exploring digital scrapbooking.

When I dialed it back, I started thinking about using this for text annotation.  One of the pen modes you can select is highlighter mode.  So I photographed my text and gave it a shot.

But wait there is more! My use of the pen has focused on how it works with the notes app and there is a whole other side to this tool.  The Sketch app allows the user to create awesome artworks using a pen and paper just as if they were using a stylus and a tablet.

The team behind the Equil2 have developed a tool that allows users to create digital content with a pen on any piece of paper they choose.  IN the short time I have used it my writing productivity and quality have both increased.  I connected it to my evernote account, so my work is fully searchable.  This is a game changer for anyone who likes to write by hand, but wants their work accessible from any device.  

Google Like A Pro: Wolverine Edition

This quick video demonstrates the awesome power of Google search tools like site: and ~

Sunday, November 9, 2014

When Amazing is Failure

Working as a technology integration specialist in a small school is the best job I have ever had, and I love it.  All good jobs are challenges at points, and I worry that I am getting half of my job wrong.  The most visible work I do, teaching kids technology, is going really well.  We are programming in grades K-8, students make videos and post them to the class blogs, the 3rd grade even made bird puppets and 7th grade is going to be making puppets soon.  I can see that I have made a difference and can confidently say that the technology class model has changed to suit the adoption of the 1:1 program.
That is only half of my job.  My second charge is to support teachers using technology in class.  I know I am making progress, but I thought it would be more visible now that I am in my second year.  I try to model solid pedagogy and lessons that seamlessly include and leverage technology to support learning.  I try to keep my work transparent and accessible, but the other day I heard it.  A teacher I love working with said, "Sam is amazing, he is a wizard."  This sounds like high praise, and I know it was meant to be, but it is evidence of failure.
If what I do is amazing or magical, it is the opposite of accessible.  This teacher did not follow up her declaration by saying that she too was a wizard.  This praise was a clear measure between what I do and what she feels she can do.  This is the hard work of technology integration, keeping it accessible. I want to be more "You got this" than "Look at this amazing magic."
Even as I write this I can think of teachers who are using more tech this year than last.  They are using it in ways that make their students work sharable and engaging to a wider audience.  It isn't all of them, but it is happening.  Like any good teacher, I con't focus on the successful ones, unless we are all successful.
I know so many great teachers working on this same challenge, so how do we do amazing and transformative work, and keep it accessible to other teachers?  How do you spread the message of "You got this" with your colleagues?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Exploring Yosemite, the New Mac OS

This episode of the TechEducator podcast we dive deep into Yosemite, and Jeff Bradbury and Jeff Herb compete for the title of Mac-Daddy.  Who has the best tips and tricks? It doesn't matter because you will win with all the new things you learn about how this OS powers up your productivity.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Can We Do That? (ROI/ Risk and Sphero)

Working with middle schools kids in an afterschool programming club, I am always looking for an engaging challenge.  When I mentioned the idea to my robot club they said "Oh that will be easy."  Sphero Robots to dance.  He mentioned Ok Go's new video "I won't let you down."
Later, I mentioned to a friend that I wanted the kids to teach our robots to dance.
This is a challenge worth chasing.  So today when they show up, I will throw down the OK GO video challenge to the kids.  Can they:
1. Choose a song they want to choreograph
2. Design what they want the robots to do
3. Program the robots to do it
4. Film the robots
5.Edit the film into a great short video

Honestly, I don't know if it will work.  This is a BIG gauntlet.  I also have to admit if I were faced with this challenge I would not know where to start.
Yesterday my collegaue asked me it we could ask kids to figure out programming challenges that we do not yet have the answer to, and I glibly told him "Sure!"
I believe it is important to have kids try things that might not work out, and to push them to explore beyond what we could imagine and prepare.  So today I am putting my money where my mouth.
Watch this space for updates, pictures and videos as my programmers attack this challenge.

So I wonder what the return on this investment of risk will be, and I can honestly say, I can't imagine.  (Seems like that is an indicator that I am moving in the right direction)

Here is our inspiration deck for this afternoon's robot club

I Won't Let You Down


End Love

The Writing's on the Wall

Some ideas are already pouring in from readers!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Epson ELPDC12 Document Camera Review

Document cameras save lives.  Ok, this might be an overstatement, but when I think about the tech my teachers used when I was in school to to show a book to the whole class, it rings true.  Mrs Arthur in 2nd grade would roll in the opaque projector, a noisy and hot behemoth that resembled a sinister character in Dr. Who.  What I remember most is that we could not use it for too long because the book inside the projector could catch fire.  This was before overhead projectors and the ability to photocopy onto transparency.
 In the old days, tech could catch fire.  
Thank goodness the current tech for sharing books, experiments, and other desktop work is safe, easy to use, and powerful.   While I love the simplicity of cameras like the Ziggi by Ipevo, I was blown away when I test drove the Cadillac of document cameras, the Epson ELPDC12.  The Epson has been designed to help teachers deliver and capture awesome lessons in almost any tech configuration.  
As I unpacked the unit, the first thing I noticed was the weight of the base.  If you want to grab this camera by the head and adjust it? No trouble it is all about the base.
The next thing that amazed me was the variety of configurations the camera is built to accommodate.  The camera can connect directly to the projector via VGA or HDMI.  In either of these configurations you can connect a USB mouse directly to the camera and do live digital annotations without connecting to a computer.  So even without running the signal through a computer teachers can capture lessons using the camera and save it to an SD card in the unit itself.
The "Smartest" configuration is when you use HDMI to connect the camera to an Epson projector.  Even when I used a 5 input HDMI switch, the camera automatically took over the HDMI signal to the projector.  I turned on the projector and powered up the camera and my desktop was almost instantly projected onto the screen.  There was no switching inputs, no selecting, it just worked.
The camera also works well through the desktop interface.  I connected the projector to the computer via USB and used the desktop camera software to record and annotate.  there are two examples below, the first is a review video I made.  

The second video was created by one of our science teachers in class.  She loved how easy it was to clearly show the detailed work.  Her reflection was "It was soooo much better than asking the kids to gather around the table and try to make sure they can see."  The camera allowed her to make the small desktop chicken wing dissection visible in large scale in clear detail projected to the whole class.

My big take away is that the Epson ELPDC12 has many great capabilities and a quick basic learning curve.  I gave my science teacher 5 minutes of training and she successfully created a recording in class.  I showed her how to turn it on, how to focus, how to annotate, and how to start the recording.  So if you are looking to increase your ability to share desktop content with kids with a tool that does not require specialized knowledge or training, this camera might be just what you are looking for.