Day 3 and 4: The End.

As Worlds came to end, I realized something: experience is everything. In your life you will feel an endless amount of emotion and all of it will have been caused by the experience. We ended up only winning two matches and loosing the rest. The floor mats were squishy because they were new and so the wheels on our robot would sink into the ground. There was a team (The Pandas) and a group that was there (a sponsor) who let us borrow their wheels so that we could drive a little bit better. The rest was just being paired against teams who were better than us, and that’s completely okay. Robotics and the FIRST program isn’t about winning. Yes, it is nice to get an award for being the best but there is so much more to it.

Aside from the arena, there is also the pit area. Think of it like NASCAR for a minute and you will understand. In between matches, if something really bad happens to the robot (Linda,) she will come to the pit to get fixed…and quickly. The pit area is also a place for judges to come talk to us and a place for us to present ourselves to the general public/other teams. We decorate our pit area pretty heavily like many other teams there. It attracts many little kids and a lot of adults too… our theme is pretty much “any-age-friendly.” Gillian and I decided to mix things up this time and we would dance and sing for teams along with statue standing. We had stamps, buttons, key chains, stickers and pamphlets to give out. The team was interviewed twice while down there. Once by the people of FIRST and another time by Student News Net! The FTC played our interview on the live stream and Student News Net will publish our story tomorrow (Monday!)

At closing cerimonies Dean Kamen, Woodie Flowers, and many others gave speeches, handed out awards and introduced new technology to us. They gave a senior recognition and a small speech to all of us…we got to stand up. In a stadium of thousands it was intimidating. It was exciting and made everyone jittery for the next couple of years. It got me pumped up for the next couple of years. After that, we had the “after party.” We got to hear Christina Grimmie perorm along with BoysLikeGirls a pop punk band. We didn’t end up getting back to the hotel until around 11 PM-ish and I got home about 5 minutes about (6:00 PM.) It’s really nice to be back in Iowa around familiar things…like my bed. It has been a long but extremely successful week for the Sock Monkeys. We hope to do this all over again next year-even though I nor Logan, Caleb, and Giovanni will be there.

A HUGE thank you to Scott McLeod for letting me share the experiences of FIRST again and a HUGE thank you to my community/school for helping us get to where we are now!P1080582 P1080590 P1080581 P1080582 P1080583 P1080584 P1080585 P1080586 P1080587 P1080588 P1080590 P1080589 P1080592fP1080603P1080613P1080616Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 9.08.28 PM P1080626 P1080627 P1080628 P1080629 P1080630

Day 2: The Feeling of Greatness Has Returned

Hey guys (and gals!) As the day began, we did A LOT of exciting things. But…before we begin, lets talk about the bad things that happened first:

1. We lost two of our matches today due to physical problems/changes on the robot and just because we were against a better alliance team. That’s okay though, because we have plenty of matches to go tomorrow to make up for it!

2. We didn’t stay for opening ceremonies tonight…just due to fatigue after a 12 hour day the majority of the team wanted to come back to the hotel and get some sleep. We will for sure be going to closing ceremonies so I will take pictures there!

3. The fatigue is setting in. I think everyone is tired because we aren’t used to sleeping somewhere new for this long, but that’s okay! After about an hour after waking up we are all awake!

NOW FOR THE GOOD:
1. Our gracious professionalism today was on point! We were more talkative and willing to say “Hey” to the community and the people working/competing there! The whole team was pretty awake and alert today, so it was nice to teach them our motivational songs and how to get the public pumped up! We got a lot of “You guys just made my day betters” or “This made my day” from people!

2. We had two groups of judges come and talk to us today! The first group were only two and one of them was our actually judge yesterday in judging. They had questions about our robot during the game and the second set was a larger number..if I recall correctly it was 4-6. They were interested in our autonomous and how it worked.

3. We got to go to the dome today to see FRC and FLL! Their games this year are amazing! The pits were in a giant warehouse-essue area, with both FRC and FLL practice fields. Seeing the FRC teams’ robots made ours seem really small, and the FLL practice fields could be taken up by two of our robots. Going to see the other leagues let us see the other sides of FIRST. But going into the main hall where the FRC had their matches… It was intense. And extremely fast; they had the teams in and out really quickly getting the arena setup with amazing speed! There we a lot of volunteer’s everywhere all of the time more than welcome to help you. The FRC game this year seems to really intense and the FLL kids as always: are super cute and really amazing for being so young and making it into the top 3% of teams around the world.

4. We get to go to the City Museum tomorrow evening! I am really excited for that because I have been there before…a couple of times. Basically what it is, is a giant warehouse FULL of toys. You can touch anything and there are walls, literal walls, made out of bread pans or stamps or old glass soda bottles. There is a 7 story slide, a giant organ, the worlds largest pencil and a food shop! I am SOOOO excited to take the team there and get our heads out of the game for awhile.

The FRC game for this season can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAN1B7oKDXE

The FLL game for this season can be found at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=po9j6vpuW7A

5. I got to meet an inventor today and talk to a lot of colleges who are interested in engineers, and people wanting to go into business.

6. My face was drawn today by an NXT powered lego robot. The inventor who designed these things was: Danny. He is Italian, married, and internet famous! Google him you guys. “Danny from Lego”

7. I got my makeup done by: Jane! Google “Jane Makeup” The woman is amazing!

8. I got to eat liquid nitrogen cookies ‘n cream ice cream and graham crackers dipped in liquid nitrogen! It was awesome. 😀

On another side note: I forget to mention that Gillian and I went to a team social for a little bit yesterday. The founding fathers of the FTC were there and the actual game designers of this years FTC Cascade Effect were there answering any questions that we had. I was the first person to go up and I asked them: “What was that “ah-ha” moment when you both equally said: We HAVE to make this our game?” They both looked at each other for about 30 seconds and then sighed. They looked old in that moment, but it was okay because I would have let them take all the time they needed. Then they answered: “Long nights.” It was a joke but they continued with: “Last year when we announced Block Party we had two games developing at once. We chose to present Block Party to you last year because it seemed like a lot of fun. So when this year rolled around, we wanted to give all of you something harder because of how smart you are. We were visiting a company this year and learning how they manufacture their product and for some reason, that is when we said yes. After a lot of game rules a set up and a show off, it went through successfully and now all of you FTC teams are in the top 3% of all of the FTC….which is saying a lot because the FTC is the largest growing program at FIRST.” I was completely amazed. Just two guys created this idea…it was a spark, which turned to a flame, and ignited the fire.

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1:1 laptop initiatives in Iowa [VIDEOS]

TrappedThree videos worth watching…

In Fall 2008, only 6 school districts in Iowa had a 1:1 student laptop initiative in place. In Fall 2011, as many as 90 to 100 districts (one-fourth of the state total) may be giving laptops to some segment of their student population. This explosive, grass roots growth has completely changed the tenor of many conversations here in the state and has fostered some very rapid innovations in learning and teaching.

Contest winners

Here are the winners of CASTLE’s first-ever Iowa 1:1 Student Video Contest. Congratulations to Matthew (Valley CSD, Elgin, IA) and Janae (Sioux Central CSD, Sioux Rapids, IA)!

Van Meter

The Van Meter Community Schools (Van Meter, IA) recently made a video highlighting its 1:1 learning and teaching initiative. Maybe next year CASTLE should have a school/district video contest too!

Kudos to the creators of all three of these videos. Nicely done!

If you’d like to know more about 1:1 laptop initiatives in Iowa, contact Nick Sauers (and read his blog, 1 to 1 Schools), check out CASTLE’s annual Iowa 1:1 Institute, and/or participate in the 1:1 Laptop Schools Ning. We also have a map showing all currently-known 1:1 schools in the state. If your district’s not on this list, please let Nick know!

HELP WANTED (and CONTEST) – 500 school leadership blogs in 10 days?

Trapped[UPDATE: And the winner is… Suzie Linch, who submitted Nathan Barber’s blog, The Next Generation of Educational Leadership. Congratulations, Suzie!]

Does your local principal or superintendent blog? Do you read the blog of your local, state, or national school administrator association? Know of other blogs that are of interest to school leaders? I’m trying to collect 500 school leadership blogs in the next 10 days. Sure, there are some lists but they all need updating:

I know that many of you will contribute out of the goodness of your heart. But, because 500 blogs is a very ambitious goal, I’ll sweeten the pot a little. The kind folks at Lenovo are going to let me give away a Lenovo m90z all-in-one desktop computer to anyone in the world who submits a school leadership blog using the form below. I’ll choose at random from all of the submissions. You get an extra chance for each blog you submit; the more you enter, the better your chance to win!

FYI, the m90z is a pretty sweet machine (Lenovo sent me one to review first). The huge touch screen is very responsive. It would be a great home or classroom computer; my kids have taken to it like ducks to water. Here are a few pictures so that you can see what you might win and here are the technical specifications. Also, over the next few days check out these blogs for additional opportunities to score a m90z:

The form is below. The deadline is May 16. Thanks in advance for helping out. I’ll clean up the list of contributions and share it back out so that we all can make good use of them!

The Textbook Challenge: Environmental Science (7th grade)

First up in my analysis of my children’s textbooks for The Textbook Challenge: my 7th-grade daughter’s Environmental Science text. The purpose of the challenge is to compare textbook content to what can be found online.

Environmental Science? Sounds like a timely topic indeed…

Profile and interview

The book starts with a profile of - and interview with - a Wildlife Management Biologist. There are 4 pages of text and pictures. I find similar resources on the Web with a quick Google search. Check.

Learning activity - Camouflage

Flipping forward randomly, I find the following activity (click on image for larger size):

EnviroBio

Hmmm… I’m NOT impressed with this activity. This book lists 3 program authors, 3 more book authors, 2 contributing writers, a reading consultant, an interdisciplinary consultant, 2 safety consultants, 13 program reviewers, 27 content reviewers, 26 teacher reviewers, and 25 activity field testers (whew!). Despite all the expertise and Ph.D.s. on the list, this was the best they could come up with for an activity related to camouflage?

I show this to my daughter. She already knows at least as much about camouflage as she would learn from this activity. She responds quickly to the ‘Think It Over’ part. She does NOT learn anything new from this activity. I’m not sure any other 7th-grader will either.

There are a wealth of camouflage activities and lesson plans available via a quick Google search. Check.

Real-world lab - Is paper a renewable resource?

Flipping forward randomly again, I come to a ‘real world lab’ that purports to address whether or not paper is a renewable resource. In this activity, students examine newspapers under microscopes, tear them up into small pieces, and then essentially make them back into paper again by making a rudimentary paper press. Students then extend their learning by answering some questions and designing ‘experiments’ on how to recycle other materials such as glossy magazine paper or cardboard.

Quick Google searches turn up a number of similar resources. Check.

Exploring soil conservation

Flipping forward randomly again brings me to a sidebar on farming practices that help reduce soil erosion. A quick Google search is productive. Check.

Try this - How acid is your rain?

Flipping forward randomly brings me to a little side experiment on rain acidity. A quick Google search is productive. Check.

Chapter review and air pollution concept map

One last random flip forward. I’m at a chapter review. There are lots of multiple choice and true-false questions. There also is a fill-in-the-blank concept map for air pollution that requires students to put in EXACTLY the term expected by the textbook. A quick Google search turns up similar activities. Check.

The chapter review also contains 3 ‘Thinking Critically’ questions:

  • Comparing and Contrasting. How are radon and carbon monoxide alike? How are they different?
  • Predicting. What effect might a sudden increase in the amount of ozone in the ozone layer have?
  • Making generalizations. Would you expect the levels of photochemical smog to be worse in cities or in rural areas? Explain your answer.

I’ll let you decide if these truly measure critical thinking or if they merely require student to parrot back what a teacher, textbook, or web site tells them.

Conclusion

Although I didn’t do an exhaustive examination of the textbook, random searching didn’t turn up much that wasn’t easily findable online. Some of the Web activities appeared more cognitively complex than what was in the text; others were similar.

The Textbook Challenge [CONTEST]

I have been known to say that there’s not much in your children’s textbooks that isn’t available in at least a dozen places online for free.

But, hey, maybe I’m wrong. After all, the textbook publishers think that they’re adding value to the teaching-learning process. And many teachers and school systems appreciate that someone else has curated for them the nearly-infinite range of learning resources that now exist in print and/or digital form.

This week I’ll be looking at my children’s textbooks and comparing them to what I can find online. I invite you to do the same. Let us know what you find and/or think by commenting on this post or any subsequent post in the series. Anyone that leaves a comment (along with a valid e-mail address) will be entered into a drawing to win the following prize pack:

The prizes aren’t really the point, of course. What’s important here is how able (or unable) we are right now to step away from costly printed/electronic textbooks. I agree with Michael Doyle’s statement that

a well-crafted web site with a thoughtful teacher acting as the curator to the links can produce a body of knowledge superior to textbooks.

I also would add that students should be part of the curation process too through use of tools like wikis, social bookmarking, and blogs. Subject-area associations like the National Council of Teachers of English or the National Council for the Social Studies, foundations, museums, libraries, and other entities also could be excellent curators of online content.

So… this week I investigate in more depth my own proposition. I hope you will join me by trying this yourself and also passing this quest along to others. Feel free to use my Textbook Challenge image as desired; like everything else I do, it’s got a Creative Commons license. Thanks!