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.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Are you Making Enough?

Work is a constant sense of business.  There is too much to do.  Once again the truth of it is freeing.  There is too much to do, therefore it cannot all get done.  We do our best every day and try to make good choices, and apologize when we get it wrong.  What is lost in this endless work machine of teaching can be perspective, and a sense of self.
Sometimes I make pictures
I have found this at times through writing and creating.  When it happens, it is the best part of play. Jane McGonigal calls it "flow": in her Ted Talk.  It happens sometimes when I read, write, or create something. It is a state of concentration and engagement that centers me wholly in that moment.  If you don't know what I am talking about you might not be Making enough.
Consider designing and building something that will be useful.  I built puppets to help me make videos for class, it has been amazing. I don't think it is going to be puppets for everyone, but it should be something.
I make so many things these days: this week the list includes a blanket, several videos, and a partial puppet..  Yes I was building a puppet with LED eyes and I broke him.  I think I will have to tear it down or start over.  My main problem is I have no idea what I am doing.  I ask for a great deal of help, but I always have more questions.  I always have more work than I can do, and there are always pressing deadlines. making things takes time and I start and stop projects constantly.
I really appreciate the creative potential of programming apps like Scratch JR.  I made a short presentation using Scratch JR.  I was trying to understand how Dialogue worked in Scratch JR so I programmed a dialogue about something I believe in.

I want my students to make more, and it isn't easy lessons can me messy and dangerous, everybody is a little outside their comfort zones all the time.  I encourage you to take the risks you need to and share about it.  Your sharing helps me be brave, and kind.  It helps me remember that when I create something I am creating myself.  It is a self I feared lost some years as work piled up and I was buried and knew other teachers had it much worse.
There were years I was too busy to make anything, and my brain missed it.  Even if all you are making is a short program, give it a shot and share your process with the kids.  Help them make something important to them.

Our Fifth Grade Launches

One of my students just handed me this press release.  The fifth grade class is excited to announce, a website by kids and for kids.
I am blown away by what they have done to transform their state research project into an interactive experience,  Take a minute and give them a visit, send them a note and let them know what you think!

STEM Learning with Sphero: Mean, Median, Mode

Fourth grade is a very practical year for tech integration goals.  We get email addresses for the first time.  The teachers expect wall final draft work to be word processed and printed (more on that later).  We have spent the first part of the year creating documents and books, yesterday was the first tech class we could delve into the world of programming.
I talked with the teacher sin fourth grade and learned that they have been studying Mean Median and Mode, so I knew that Sphero's SPRK lesson on Mean Median and Mode lesson would be a good match.
My Prep:

  • I printed out the student guide (one per pair) and the data collection sheet (one per student).
  • I measured several 7 foot wide spaces and marked them off with tape
  • I connected Spheros to their iPads.  I have each of my Spheros connected to one and only one ipad so there is less confusion and kids don't connect it themselves
Once the kids arrived I told them what we were doing.  They had not used Macrolab before so I did a VERY quick walkthrough and then I gave them the instructions, an iPad and a Sphero.  I told them to read the directions before asking me for help.  I had a couple groups that needed help aiming the Sphero.
I was pleased how quickly they got started in Macrolab.  I only had to make one change to the directions.  some students who were using Sphero 1.0 had trouble getting it to move when they set the speed to 10% power, so I had them increase it to 30 or 50%

In our 40 minute class we got 1/2 way through the lesson and I had the students write their sphero number and their names on the data collection sheets, so that next time we can get the same results with the same robots.
I am excited to continue exploring math in a hands-on lab and working with the data collected to learn more about mean median and mode.

watching programs run and recording outcomes

When it works, we dance.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Create a Dialog in Scratch JR

This video is the second in a series getting you started in Scratch JR.  In this video we show how to use the send and receive message commands to create a dialogue.  Dialogues are great ways for students to explore things they are learning in their content area lessons.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Learning about Loops in Scratch JR

This is an "into" video for my first grade students.  I play this video at the beginning of class to get us thinking about loops.  We have worked with Scratch Jr before, so I don't have to go over every part of it.  I just focus on loops and showing them how to build one.  as we work I will keep a screenshot of the loop on the board for their reference.
What could your kids do with loops? Share your ideas in the comments.
This is a loop in Scratch JR

Monday, October 27, 2014

K12 Online Conference: Programming in Primary

I am honored to be presenting as part of the awesome K12 online conference this week.  The best part about it is that I don't have to miss any school to attend, and neither do you!

Check the conference site for all the other great sessions.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sphero Giveaway _We Have A Winner!

We have a Winner!!!!!
We are excited to announce Tim Jones has won the 10 pack of Spheros.  I encourage you to follow Tim, and see how he puts these robots to use with his 4th graders.
a 10 robot kind of guy

Twitter: @teachjones
Bio: 4th grade teacher in East Palo Alto, Ca. Been teaching for the past 9 years and trying to incorporate technology to the fullest. 
Find him on Donors choose: 

I am excited to announce that Mypaperlessclassroom has partnered with SpheroEdu to offer an amazing giveaway.  To support my mission of getting more teachers programming and using robots to support learning, we are giving away a Education 10-pack of the Sphero 1.0.  
How do you enter?  Easy: just fill out this form.  You can enter once a day.  Want to increase your chances?  have multiple people from your site enter daily, the winner will be announced on 11/10.
Be a pal and share this page with other teachers, come back and enter daily.  Let's get more robots into classrooms.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

SmartPens in the Classroom

Are smartpens finally smart enough to assist in classroom learning?  Jeff Herb of Instructional Tech Talk and I had a great conversation about Livescribe pens and the new Equil2 smartpen.  We talked about my 3 years of experience using smartpens to flip my class and save me work,  In many ways I have finally realized my boyhood dream of having a magic pen that saves everything I write.
I hope you enjoy this in-depth conversation and check back soon for a full review of the Equil2, my new favorite pen and live digital scrap booking and note taking tool.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Legos in Edu

Bo and Yana with building attachment

I never thought I would use LEGO as a teaching tool.  I built with them back in the free range age of lego.  I built houses and square rockets and looked with longing at the advanced building sets.  Like so many interests this faded and I went on to more books, writing, poetry, and other foibles of middle youth.
The tech lab I call my room has many lego kits, 3 generations of lego robotics is various states of completion.  I have been learning the basics as quickly as I can, and as soon as I learn something I am trying to figure out how to shape learning around that.  I am surrounded by awesome tools and i am sprinting to try to figure out how to implement the best learning.  
Luckily I have some really smart teachers in my PLN and we all got together to talk about LEGO in education last week.  I was prepping for a board meeting (link) during the chat, so. Nathan Stevens (link) had stepped up and ran a great chat.  I loved how he put his questions together.  Barbara from livebinders archived the chat on storify, thanks, 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Learning in Minecraft with John Miller

Learning in Minecraft with John Miller

At my school site we bought MinecraftEDU and I am excited to get started with it.  But this leaves me with an important question, what should we do with Minecraft?
To help me with this question, Wokka sat down with John Miller, a teacher in King City who is doing amazing things in Minecraft with his history class.
In this video, John thoughtfully discusses how he uses this virtual learning space to support engaged learning.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Where Would a Robot Fit in my Curriculum?

I will admit that when I see something interesting like a robot, a puppet, or a quadricopter, I begin to wonder “How could I use that as a teaching tool?” I daydream about the learning experiences I could construct around a specific device/ toy/ or idea.  I am still up in the air about what I can teach using a quadricopter, but I am inviting you to think about robots in your curriculum.  
Robots are more accessible to classroom teachers than ever before, and by thinking critically in the early stages of content area integration of robots we can help shape the common classroom use of robots to be something much greater than personal testing robots.
Artist/engineer Christian Croft made a Scantron test-taking robot as part of an art installation. Here's a photo of the machine by Kevin Slavin, used under CC license:  
I think some subjects, like computer science, are such a good fit I will not even address them here.  But math and science are pretty easy goals also.  With a small amount of coding instruction kids are quickly working with real world forces as they program input and measure output.  The Sphero Robot puts lessons like Rate Time and Distance  or this one on mean median and mode within reach of any classroom already using tablet computers for about $60 per robot.  These lessons as well as others are available for free from their SPRK program.

There are not as many ready-made solutions for robot-embedded reading and language arts, yet.  Some of the people I talk to about robots in education don’t see a great fit here.  There is math needed in the writing of programs, even in blockly.  Robots move through the physical world, so they can help illustrate all types of things about science, but can they support language and literacy learning?  

I think they can, and I think the best uses will come from teachers.  The first step is to think about your content in 3 dimensions. Consider a robot-based activity in place of a small group discussion, especially with younger students.  Make the content you want to teach (sequence of events, cause and effect, the importance of setting) the context the robot has to move through or make decisions in.  Maybe the robot has to navigate from a word to its meaning, or through the events of a story in order, or from cause to effect.  The learning happens as kids discuss and engage over the problem the robot has to solve.

What does it take to do this kind of learning school wide? Basic comfort and literacy in blockly code early.  Although you can have some success earlier, most students are ready for the reading challenges in blockly by second grade.  I am sure that as tools become more sophisticated there will be more languages that are text free, opening coding to student who cannot yet read, but can learn the logic behind loops, and functions.

If, as the technology teacher, I make sure all students have experience learning in blockly script through Hopscotch, Tynker and the forthcoming Tickleapp.  I can prepare them for lessons that use hardware, like robots, that are driven by a blockly-style interface.  This puts programming activities that support content area learning in reach of all students.

Maybe your students will learn geometry in Hopscotch, or use Tynker to code a presentation, or use Tickle app to drive a robot through the world of a book you are reading in class.  Blockly style programming makes the advanced logic of programming available without the alienating syntax.
The tools to make this a reality are available today and improving by the hour.  We all need to think together about how to best use these high engagement tools to support content area learning.

What are the opportunities for robot-supported learning you would like to develop in your classroom?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Connect your Pen and Scanner to Evernote, Save Every Word You Write

I have my Livescribe connected to my Evernote as well as my mobile scanner.  I save everything I need in Evernote all; the time.
The Livescribe 3 Smartpen
 These hardware supports turn Evernote into a completely different type of tool for me.  This is an archive of what I have written and it is searchable, even the handwriting.  In this short segment of The TechEducator Podcast, I demonstrate how I use my pen connected to Evernote.  In many ways. I finally have a magic pen that saves every word I write.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Drawing Polygons and Patterns with Programming

This was the post I made for Second grade this week as we used Hopscotch for a second time

What does it take to create a regular polygon on Hopscotch? Last week we learned that programming a regular hexagon required at 60 degree rotation followed by a draw command, repeated 6 times.  You may not know that 60 multiplied by 6 equals 360.  
When we are talking about polygons 360 is a very important number.  If are drawing a square we would use a 90 degree rotation, because there are 4 sides. What happens when you multiply 90 by 4?  You get 360.

Today when we are programming in Hopscotch, we will be building on what we learned last week about hexagons and make designs using what we have learned about repeat blocks and polygons.

When you want to create a shape how do you figure out how many degree each turn is?  Well we know that when we add them up it will be 360.  We also know that since we are drawing a regular polygon all the rotations will be the same.  So we can use division to solve our problem.  If you ask Siri, she can divide for you.  to do this you just hold down on the home button until the Siri screen come up and you ask “What is 360 divided by _____”  and let go of the home button.

Here is a chart to get you started:

Programming a Regular Polygon? Use these measurements for the rotations


How many sides will your shapes have? How many different shapes will you use? Can you add extra rotations and repeat blocks to create a more complex pattern?

Is it possible to create a tessellation?

Here is a interesting site that creates tessellations, how would we program that in hopscotch?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Which presentation tool should you be using?

With so many presentation tools out there, which should you be using?  Which tool is most appropriate for your students? Are they the same tool?  In this episode of the Techeducator podcast we look at some of the most popular choices available.  We look at them through many lenses, but the ultimate choice is up to you.  
Which presentation tool do you like and which is best for your students?  What are the deciding factors?  Drop us a note in the comments and let's keep thinking carefully about choosing the best tools to support learning.