April 30th – Infographics

In today’s society, data is everywhere.  We create data with each step we take, not only with the physical steps, but our GPS position, our heart rate, the wear on our shoes – it can be overwhelming.  A big part of Computer Science is making sense of the data and seeing how we can use it to our advantage.

April 30th – Infographics

We’ll look at a few infographic tools later, but while the last post was on “The Internet Minute” we’ll talk about the power of visuals and how helpful they can be.  The last post had some helpful visuals to show everything that happens in a minute on the internet, Tweetping.net is powerful to show how people are communicating all of the world in an instant, even a subway map is an infographic that shows information.

When given the opportunity to look at 10,000 rows of data in a spreadsheet, or plot those on a map, which would you rather do?  Which is more effective of a method?

Now the problem is that we can’t give a computer the NYC Subway map and have them scan and plot the stops in a spreadsheet.  So the computer prefers the spreadsheet to produce the map, after a clear algorithm to process and plot the information of course.

NYC Subway Map taken from web.mta.info on May 23rd.

April 29th – Data per Minute

Hello! It’s been a while.  With the school year finishing up at my high school and graduate classes I got a little overwhelmed.  So I’m back and I need to catch up.  The good news?  I learned about a ton of new tools to share with everyone.  So while I work on catching up, it might be just a giant brain dump and we’ll be using the Categories and Tags to make sense of everything.  Onward!

April 29th – An Internet Minute

May 13th, the Bronxville School District was awarded the Pioneer Award for Technology by the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center (LHRIC) and there was a keynote speaker that brought this graphic from Domo to my attention.  This is the third version of the graphic released, and the facts are staggering.  Enjoy!



April 28th – Maker Culture

I’ve spent the past few days talking about MakerSpaces and Maker Culture, but have yet to really explain what it is.  Hopefully my post explain it well enough, but consider this post as a primer and a few resources.

April 28th – Maker Culture

Education changes based on popular trends and needs. When I was in high school, I found myself with gym everyday, classes that challenged me to think and only the AP exams to really worry about.  These days, gym (along with music, art, and the performing arts) are disappearing because you can’t always accurately measure those – classes are geared towards state test and teachers teach to those test because it’s the only thing that we can be measured on for our jobs.

With this shift we now value book smarts over street smarts.  We value writers over tinkerers and readers over engineers.  Of course I’m never going to say that we should value one over the other, but why does anyone get the backseat.  Maker Culture looks to even the odds and give back to those students that struggle to write a 10 page paper, but can tinker and create something really amazing that represents their feelings and opinions as well as a 10 page paper.  In my former school I saw students slip through the cracks everyday, they could edit a film, code a iPhone app or build a steering column out of Legos during lunch, but couldn’t focus long enough to write a paper.  I spent some time working with teachers to have them create a documentary or interactive project to express their views, and the teachers agreed – but why is that needed in the first place?

Maker celebrates those that choose to work with their hands AND their heads.  Gives all students a place to succeed and teaches them valuable lessons about “Living in Beta“.

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Make: Home Page taken April 28th

Maker Culture is everywhere, and whether or not you have a 3D printer, or a bunch of cardboard toilet rolls, as long as you can create – your are welcome.  Makerfaire is the celebration of these talents with large events happening all over the US (and now World) and Make magazine gives inspiration to those just starting.  Browser the eZine or view a MakerFaire and be inspired – and allow your students to impress you in multiple ways as well!

April 27th – Living in Beta

Beta is a term used by the technology community for years that is starting to creep into the everyday lexicon.  For a developer “beta” is having a (what you consider) working product that people are going to test, understanding the entire time that there are going to be changes made and needed. This idea of ever changing and ever growing is exactly the mindset that everyone needs, especially in education.

April 27th – Living in Beta

For my Computer Science classes I introduce the idea of “beta” early and use it often.  The idea that we can always change and improve is a realistic point of view for today’s society and a mind shift from the idea that when we do something, write a paper perhaps, it is the finished definitive product. Information is constantly coming out and more and more available so everything is constantly changing – we have to have a growth mindset philosophy to make sure we know things are in flux.

Taken from http://blog.edtechteam.com/2014/08/back-to-school-with-chromebooks.html on April 28th

Beta is my classroom has been incredibly helpful in addressing the “rough draft”, “authentic audience” and late work policy.

I found that rough drafts are becoming more and more difficult to come by, mainly because the students are knee deep in information that they want to get it out on the page and struggle to revise and edit it.  Plus with Google Docs and the constant collaboration, there are no longer moments of print, turn it in and then wait for edits.  With “beta” I let my students know that I except the finished product, but with room for improvements.  This, if the students buy-in, changes the dynamic in a final product and then constructive criticism to improve it.

Some times I find that students approach projects differently if they know it’s just for me.  I would setup rubrics and focus on the “4” column, but as long as they were checking off boxes, they weren’t invested.  “Beta” testing their games or websites with their peers and classmates completely changes that dynamic and suddenly it’s something they are proud of and the stakes are raised.

Late work has always been a troubling policy.  You want your students to do well, but sometimes life happens and work comes in late.  If you open that door, you’ll spend the entire semester re-doing grades, but if you close that door, your star athlete is punished because they got a chance to go to the state competition.  I accept late work, only if it’s an improvement on the original assignment.  This allows students to get credit but also know it’s in flux and can always be improved upon.  In my class a majority of the curriculum is project based learning so this becomes difficult but the two reasons above help out at certain checkpoints during the project.

Beta is the Maker Culture in a nutshell, try and try again until you succeed.  Check out this great Ted Talk from Molly Schroeder (which is the blog link for the images as well).

April 26th – MakeSense

As we continue down our road of MakerSpace gadgets, I wanted to introduce you to one of my favorites.  MakeSense is a company started by a NYC school teacher, Stephen Lewis, when he couldn’t find the right physical computing tool to help his class explore.  MakeSense is a great plug and play device that, with a few sample projects on Scratch, allows the students to instantly see data being read and applied.

April 26th – MakeSense

Ironically, how Stephen Lewis describes MakeSense is exactly what I wanted for my classroom as well – he’s just more skilled and handy to create it.  I found out of the two immediate tools available to me, MaKey MaKey and Arduino (post coming soon), there was a huge jump from gator clips to the breadboard and it frustrated and lost/turned off some kids (which speaks to a generational thing – but that’s another blog altogether) – but MakeSense is the perfect in between.

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MakeSense Home Page taken April 26th

MakeSense is basically a plug and play board with 8 inputs and a collection of sensors.  If you visit the website, on the top navigation it gives you getting started directions, examples and then a few Scratch projects that you can instantly jump in and starting using the data! The famous example is the heart monitor and horseracing game, which I made the mistake of showing and playing with my 3.5 and 5 year old niece and nephew and now that’s all they want to do.  The basic board is $50 and the sensors range in the packs you get.  It’s worth spending some time on both the sensors guide and the Scratch page to spark ideas and then learn/play/have fun!

April 25th – Lego Mindstorms NXT

Lego is a large company with a huge reach.  They have kits, themed kits, movies, and of course – their hand in education.  Lego WeDo was featured and that is more for the elementary audience.  It fits perfectly in line with Scratch and assist the early childhood students in taking something they are comfortable in (Scratch) and expanding the borders just slightly not to over whelm.  Lego Mindstorms NXT goes further that than so plan on using this in Middle or High School and maybe 5th grade if they are ready for it.

April 25th – Lego Mindstorms NXT

I mention the NXT version here because there are two versions available, and just like the Lego WeDo, the 2nd version (in this case Ev3) has a lot more to expand on.  I’ve worked with the NXT version for a few years and have just started getting my hands on the Ev3 version so I’ll be writing about that a little later.

The Mindstorms NXT kit isn’t cheap, but it’s a great investment.  As an adult, I found that Lego in general aren’t very cheap – so again a big shout out to my parents for buying them for me.  The NXT kit runs about $350 and is being phased out for the EV3 kit on the Lego website.

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Lego Mindstorms NXT set on Amazon

Lego instructions are famous for being clear and to the point, but there are a number of studies that say using the instructions harms creativity – this kit allows for the basics, but hopefully shows how it works and then you conjure up your own ideas.  This kit take about 1 hour to build the base set and run through the sensors included – then the world is yours.  I’ll follow up more with the EV3 kit, only because that’s the one you’ll most likely be purchasing in the future (and it comes with a free software download).

April 24th – MaKey MaKey

The Maker movement is more than just buying kits, it’s also about expanding possibilities. Now, of course I’m not taking shots at Lego, because I love them, but with a set of instructions, it’s harder to think outside the box (and many people toss the instructions out first thing) but when a kit comes with no instructions, it’s a whole new ballgame.

April 24th – MaKey MaKey

MaKey MaKey is another wonderful product from the folks at the MIT Media Lab.  The MaKey MaKey is basically showing students/people how to connect and close circuits and how to find things that conduct electricity (like we do).

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MaKey MaKey Home Page taken April 24th

MaKey MaKey is a very simple circuit board with Inputs and Outputs that you clip to with gator clips.  You can then clip the “up arrow” on the board (as an example) to a banana (seriously) and once you close the connection (holding the other end of a gator clip connected to the “earth” part of the board) the banana becomes an up arrow (seriously).

Watch this video (also found on their website) for proof.  Buy the kit, it’s only $50, and see how your students engage in ways you never would’ve thought of.