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More on the team! [guest post]

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This is the team! I am the girl in the back, 7 people in counting from the left.

The order of people are (From back to front, left to right): Mrs. Haage, Mrs. Eveland, Cory, Kazuki, Collin, Logan, myself, Jeremy, Ben, Mr. Dixon. Front row: Kodi, Nick, Caleb and Adam.

Mrs. Haage is pregnant in this photo! Sadly, she was not able to make it to the World Championship due to her pregnancy. She is filling in for Mrs. Eveland while she is out due to sickness! Mrs. Eveland has been diagnosed with breast cancer so she had to take some time off of school/robotics. She is always there to say goodbye and there to say welcome back. She still comes into robotics. She is doing really well though. :) Cory is a sophomore, Kazuki is a senior – our only one this year! Kazuki is also 1 of 2 drivers for the robot. Next is Collin. Collin does a lot of programming for the robot with Kazuki. He is the “Coach” while the boys are driving the robot and he is a sophomore. Next is Logan. Logan is the other driver and a junior. Then there is me (Molly). I am a junior, and I am community/outreach and I am the group’s PR. Then there is Jeremy. During Pre-Game (before competition) he scouts out. Basically scouting going around to other teams and asking them about their robot and what it can do. Jeremy is also a junior. After Jeremy comes Ben. Ben is a sophomore and does the same thing he does! Then there is Mr. Dixon. He is the only coach we have that is NOT also employed at our school. He works at Paslode and helps us out a lot with the building process and such. First on the bottom is Kodi. She is a junior and she is our team mascot! :D She made the whole thing from scratch and she also helps with what I do. Then there is Nick. He is a sophomore and he fixes the motors, etc. that break on the robot. He is extremely helpful in the process of making sure the robot is kept up. He also helps ease the tension between us and a team! He makes introductions funny and is good at socializing. Then there is Caleb! Caleb is a junior and he does the odds and ends of stuff. He helped make trifolds and stuff like that! And finally there is Adam! He is a sophomore and he helped us with the robot building process also. He helps stay in contact with our sponsors and likes to show off some of our 3-D printed parts. :) So that is the team for you! :D

Team 4443: The Sock Monkeys! [guest post]

Hey guys! My name is Molly Bleything, I am 17, from Oskaloosa Iowa and I am on a robotics team. I don’t know how much all of you guys personally know about us or what we do, but you’re going to find out extremely quick! :D Lets start with top 5 most commonly asked questions:

1. Does your robot shoot lasers and fight? – No. Our team runs through the FTC. FTC stands for First Tech Challenge. The FTC is just a branch for the overall First program. There is also the FRC, FLL, and Jr. FLL!

http://www.usfirst.org/aboutus/vision

Check out the website to get more information on us, and the other teams!

2. Are you guys only in robotics? – No! We are not all “nerds and geeks.” Many of us (including myself) are involved with many other things. A lot of us are in soccer, choir, band, art, cross country, orchestra, etc.

3. Are you guys the only team where you live? – No! There are a lot of no’s here, but that is a-okay! Our team – team 4443 – is the younger of the two. The other team we have is Team 3608 the Ninjaneers. They consist of freshman (9th graders) and younger! Team 3608 was the original team at our school.

4. Do you guys do cool stuff? – A lot of times, everyone has a different example. Yes, we do get to do cool stuff. We build a robot, go visit other engineering companies, meet up with other teams, and spread the word about the FTC program.

5. How many kids are on your team? – 10. There is one senior, four juniors, and 5 sophomores.

I encourage you to check out our website at oskyrobotics.weebly.com. It has a lot of information, updates, and pictures of the team. I also encourage you to follow us on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/4443SockMonkeys.

Now, back to robotics. Every year the FTC sends out a new challenge. This year the challenge is called Block Party. There are rules and regulations for you, your team and, most importantly, your robot. They call it the block party because well… it involves blocks. Your robot should be built and designed mainly to pick up cubed, yellow blocks. You are only allowed to pick up 3-4 blocks per scoop. The blocks are placed in opposite corners of the arena. After you get the blocks picked up, you and another driver steer the robot over to the ramp. The ramp sits in the center of the arena and has a bar across the top of it, and off the sides of it, it has a wooden crate with boxes put on it. You get x amount of points for certain things… anyways, the goal is to put the blocks in the pendulum. This is called Tel-op. Because of tel-op, there is autonomous. Autonomous is when the robot drives itself because the students programmed it to do so. The goal is to take a block, drop it in the box and then the robot will drive itself on the ramp. Some teams do not have autonomous at all… Anyways, after autonomous and tel-op comes the end game. The end game is the last 30 seconds of tel-op. In end game your robot should be able to raise a flag, hang itself. The robot can also keep scooping blocks into the pendulum if it so pleases. That is the Block Party this year! As a bonus we can do all of it! :D

So now that you know everything there is about the block party, lets get blogging!

Replication or empowerment?

Let go

We’ve got to decide if our vision for educational technology is around replication or empowerment. And if it’s about empowerment, then guess what? We’ve got to give up the things that we do that feed replication. We can’t hang on to all of those and get to where we’re trying to go.

What are we going to give up? 

Image credit: Let go, Andrew Mitchell

60 apps in 60 seconds

[In honor of whatever educational technology conference you next attend...]

30 fantastic free apps for pre-readers! 38 of the best elementary learning apps for students! 40 iPad apps for science! 60 APPS IN 60 MINUTES!!!!

60 apps in 60 minutes? Pshaw! WAY too easy. I proudly present… 60 apps in 60 seconds!

How many sessions like these have we seen at educational technology conferences? (fess up: how many have we delivered?!) Teachers attend, they scribble notes madly, they ask for the slides afterward because “they missed some.” The long-term substantive impact of these spray-and-pray workshops on teachers’ day-to-day practice? Zero.

If we want people to start taking instructional technology seriously, we have to stop doing this to ourselves. How about one app – or perhaps a very small handful in combination – presented thoughtfully and deeply, with numerous applications to rich, robust student learning outcomes?

This presentation? I guarantee the same classroom results as all of our other firehose sessions…

Music credits: Rock 12, by dron

Three thoughts that are percolating in my head today

Think Think

Here are a few thoughts that are swirling around in my brain today…

  1. It’s hard for schools to teach kids how to make a dent in the universe when they’re focused so heavily on teaching compliance. It’s very difficult to reconcile ‘go out and change the world’ with ‘we’re going to tell you what to do and how to do it every minute of the day; just go along and don’t make trouble.’
  2. It’s hard for schools to teach kids how to make a dent in the universe when the majority of the people working in them don’t understand how most of the world-changing tools work.
  3. We’re afraid of an awful lot of stuff that never seems to actually happen.

Image credit: Think – Computer History Museum, Scott Loftesness

Instead of an AUP, how about an EUP (Empowered Use Policy)?

Yes

Most school technology acceptable use policies (AUPs) contain these kinds of phrases:

  • “Students shall not use technology unless authorized by appropriate school personnel.”
  • “The use of the Internet is a privilege, not a right, and inappropriate use will result in cancellation of those privileges.”
  • “Students will not access or modify other accounts, data, files, and/or passwords without authorization.”
  • “You will be held responsible at all times for the proper use of district technology resources, and the district may suspend or revoke your access if you violate the rules.”
  • “Users have no right to privacy while using the district’s Internet systems. The district monitors users’ online activities and reserves the right to access, review, copy, store, or delete any electronic communications or files. This includes any items stored on district-provided devices, such as files, e-mails, cookies, and Internet history.”
  • And so on…

That’s a lot of legalistic language. That’s a lot of negativity.

How about an empowered use policy (EUP) instead? In other words, instead of saying NO, NO, NO! all the time, how about saying yes? Here’s one to consider…

[SCHOOL / DISTRICT NAME]

When it comes to digital technologies in our [school / district], please…

  1. Be empowered. Do awesome things. Share with us your ideas and what you can do. Amaze us.
  2. Be nice. Help foster a school community that is respectful and kind.
  3. Be smart and be safe. If you are uncertain, talk with us.
  4. Be careful and gentle. Our resources are limited. Help us take care of our devices and networks.
Thank you and let us know if you have any questions.

Is there anything major that this EUP doesn’t address? Other thoughts or reactions? Help me make it better…

Image credit: YES, Transcend

Personalized learning v. targeted advertising

Arguing that ‘the line between educational and commercial purposes may be somewhat blurry,’ Katherine Varker, Associate General Counsel for McGraw-Hill Education, asks:

Where does targeted advertising end and personalized learning begin?

via http://digital.hechingerreport.org/content/schoolprivacyzone-emerging-best-practices-for-a-contentious-issue_1301

The fact that you don’t know – or don’t care – means that I don’t want your company anywhere near my kids.

Diane Ravitch and technology: Once more into the breach…

I’m trying to see Diane Ravitch’s pro-technology stance. I really am. I thought she was more tempered in Reign of Error. She actually noted some positive affordances of instructional technologies for students and teachers and also appropriately noted concerns about some cyber charter schools. But after yet another derisive statement about how technologies are ‘distracting toys,’ I left the following comment on Diane’s blog:

Diane, lately you have been more tempered with your language regarding educational technology, noting that it has powerful potentials when used correctly and also properly noting the stupidity of some implementation efforts (e.g., L.A. Unified and its iPads). However, you undercut your messaging – and reinforce my earlier concerns about the anti-technology tone of your blogging – when you use phrases like this:

“the ubiquity of distracting electronic toys”

As you know, how we say things is important. I wish you would be more consistent with your nuanced language when it comes to instructional technology. Laptops and iPads and smartphones and other computing devices in schools are not ‘toys’ (as you have stated several times) but instead powerful access vehicles to our increasingly-digital information, economic, and learning landscapes. If a particular implementation is dumb, go ahead and label it as such. But please don’t label all instructional technology efforts as ‘distracting’ or ‘toys.’

Thank you.

That resulted in this Twitter exchange:

Ravitch01

Ravitch02

I’ll let you judge whether Diane’s response addressed my claim that she often uses anti-technology language in her writing. And I’ll keep hoping for more nuanced recognitions from her – like I thought she was doing of late – of both the positives and negatives of the digital tools that are transforming our and our students’ lives…

Previous posts on this topic:

The digital equity concerns of ‘good enough’

Close up

Tim Holt says:

[George] Couros had a really nice statement in his article “… Technology should be at the point of instruction and be as accessible in learning as a pencil; it shouldn’t be an event. How many pencil labs do you have in your school?”

Great point. Tech should be at the point of instruction. He left off a word however: GREAT.

GREAT Technology should be at the point of instruction and be as accessible in learning as a pencil…

Not “adequate”, not “ok,” not “mediocre,” not “the cheapest we could buy,” not “good enough,” not “hand me down,” not “hobbled.”

The technology we provide students should be the best we can provide.

Miguel Guhlin uses the “90% of all tasks can be completed” argument here as a way of implying that good enough is good enough. (He cites a study in the article.)

Again, a terrible argument.

This idea of providing something that ALMOST can do the job is laughable. It is like giving a kid a donkey to run the Kentucky Derby. Okay kid, that donkey will actually make it around the track just like the thoroughbreds can. Never you mind that the race will be over for 30 minutes by the time you finish. The donkey is good enough for your needs.

Here kid, we are giving you a 1975 Chevy Vega to run the Daytona 500. Good luck. It is LIKE a Nascar car, heck, it is 90% of everything that a Nascar car is: It has an engine, it has four wheels, it has a seat a speedometer, a stick shift … Heck, it does 90% of what a Nascar car can do. Be happy.

The kids coming from low SES are the farthest behind. To give them something that is already hobbled is insulting. Here kid, you are behind already, here is something that will make you farther behind, But be glad, because you can do 90%!

via http://holtthink.tumblr.com/post/71642782063/riding-donkeys-in-a-horse-race-digital-equity

I greatly appreciate Tim’s digital equity concerns and passion. We should indeed strive to provide the same for our children that we use as adults if we want their technology usage to be as authentic as possible. I’m struck by his observation that adult educators typically aren’t using cheap computers to do their day-to-day work but we seem to think it’s okay for kids:

Here is the deal: If cheap is the way to go and it is preparing kids for college and the workforce, then everybody in a school district that is IN THE WORKFORCE, every administrator, every clerk, every secretary, and every accountant at every campus all the way up to the district superintendent should be willing to use the cheap devices.

Let’s see the district architects use them.
Let’s see researchers use them.
Let’s see the accountants use them.
Let’s see the principals use them.
Let’s see the IT staff use them to run the servers.

If it is good enough for the least among us, then it should be good enough for the most advanced of us. I wonder how many upper administration would move to cheap devices if they had to use them 100% of the time to do 90% of the work?

All that said, I’m having a hard time reconciling digital equity concerns with the realities of funding during this time of mindset and paradigm shifts. I want the best for kids too, but I’d rather have 90% for them than nothing. Tim might agree with me on that point. However, he’s not framing this as a choice between 90% and 0% but rather as a choice between 90% and 100%, with iPads closing the final gap at a price point similar to Chromebooks. I think that both devices have their limitations. If you forced me to choose personally (I have both), I’d rather have an iPad than a Chromebook, primarily because of its apps and ease of taking photos/videos. I’m not sure if I’m ready yet to pillory schools that make the opposite choice as they go for 90% instead of 0%.

Lots of food for thought in Tim’s post

Image credit: Close Up 0410, Mike Liu

Tech integration fails when it is an add-on

Miguel Guhlin says:

When technology is missing from the equation, both during preparation of an initiative (e.g. Writing Workshop, Problem-Based Learning, whatever), then later when it is shared, adding technology after the fact results in a waste of money. Efforts like mass inclusion of tablets, Bring Your Own Device, Chromebooks fail, not because the devices themselves are insufficient or inadequate to the task, but because they are add-ons to the original recipe … and they were never meant to be included.

via http://www.mguhlin.org/2013/12/plurality-of-diversity-gcouros.html

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