Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Finally getting my own slice of Raspberry Pi.

July 22, 2012

Raspberry Pi Logo

Naturally, I don’t mean the delicious pastry treat, I mean the little computing device that may change the world of computing.

In the current market, if one wants to learn to program, one must purchase an expensive device (a computer) in order to take the first steps, which can cost hundreds of dollars (which many people, or even schools do not have the funds for). Add on the cost of books, training resources, and other items, as well as the massive time investment, and we have a rather large barrier to overcome.

As discussed in this blog in earlier entries, there are TONS of free resources for one to use to explore your interest, be it programming, mathematics through Khan Academy, or youtube tutorials, helping to clear at least one of those barriers.

The time investment, just as when learning any skill, is a necessary investment – the more you do it, typically the better you get.

For those of you following at home, that’s two out of the three barriers identified in the first part of this post. But what about the expensive devices? (This is where the Raspberry Pi comes in)

The Raspberry Pi is a computer. A tiny, inexpensive computer (running up to $35 plus shipping). With it, one can run a customized version of a linux operating system, create programs, or go through tutorials in order to work with programming languages. 

Image

As you can see, it is quite small, and is the entire computer. All you need to do is supply power (Mini-USB cord, which is widely available for cheap), Keyboard/Mouse (USB only), Display (HDMI), ethernet (for internet access), and an SD card to run whatever OS  you installed. These are the same items one would need for any computer regardless (aside from the SD card. In this instance, it is replacing the Hard Drive).

School districts could purchase a class set of these devices at a fraction of the cost of a classroom set of computers or tablets (Figure $400 per item, computer or tablet x 25 = $10,000 compared to $35 x 25 = $875, a Savings of over $9000). Each student could supply their own SD card ($11 for a 16 GB card on NewEgg) for projects (or, the school could supply each student, at their desecration). 

Currently, there is a waiting list to purchase one. I have been on the list since early Spring, and last month, I received an invite to purchase one. It’s been about 3 weeks since I have, with shipping taking up to 12 (as they are being produced and shipped from overseas). Hopefully soon, I will have the little device in my hands, and be able to experiment and learn.

There is currently a very active community surrounding development for this device, with games being created, programs run, and tutorials on things you can do with it (a popular choice is to create a cheap HTPC, a Home Theater PC).

I will assuredly post more about this when I get it. But for now, I am very excited for a taste of Raspberry Pi.

 

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Final Project for 685

May 7, 2012

Since I did not have an opportunity to share it with the class, I figured I would share it here!

Games, Alternate Reality, Sims

May 7, 2012

While reading one of my colleagues blogs for this class, she brought up the idea of Charter-Schools based on games. A fascinating idea. I was impressed to find that there are, infact, several schools who have tried this approach:

ChicagoQuest – http://www.chicagoquest.org/

QWERTY to Learn in NYC – http://www.q2l.org/

I’ve always been a gamer, I’ve always been interested in trying to learn from games.  Naturally, not all games are made to teach – not all are built based on standards like Science Pirates, but do have the opportunity to build on critical thinking and reasoning skills, as well as develop reaction time. Some surgeons have been known to play games in order to keep their reflexes sharp.

Even more interesting are the numerous angles Games, Simulations, and the like take on educational concepts and learning styles. Some games can present information in such a manner the player explores the content outside of the game (I have personally known some people with no interest in history, after playing Medal of Honor, went back to see what happened during the Invasion of Normandy during WWII, having “experienced” it they wanted to know more). Games spur the imagination, spur creativity, and also spur the desire to mimic and expand upon what is presented. One only has to look to “fan-art” to see how gamers, particularly young gamers, try to mimic the art style of their favorite game, or recreate the music of the game should it have been particularly moving. How many other ways of teaching address so many different types of students at the same time, and allow them to explore the content on their own?

During my previous degree, I had the opportunity to explore games in more detail, working with Dr. Anthony Betrus at SUNY Potsdam on a replication study he had done years past, seeking to find the factors which motivate and engage individuals with games. Long story short, content didn’t seem to matter, nor did graphics, art, story, or music. Gameplay, and how the player felt about the gameplay, was the most important factor in engaging a person within the game. To be honest, it surprised me on one hand, coming from a history background, stories were always very important. On the other hand, I was not surprised – why play a game if it isn’t fun?

Therein lies the challenge to educational game developers – Entertaining WHILE teaching or allowing content to be explored. Make it too much like school, the students will not want to play. Make it too fun (or part of it too fun…the first thing students do in Orgeon Trail is go hunting…over…and over…and over again…) and the content will not be covered.

The only thing they will learn in the latter example is that you can’t carry 5 bison carcasses to the wagon (without being very crafty, anyway).

Mobile, Wireless, and Ubiquitous Learning

May 7, 2012

I’m interested in Mobile and Ubiquitous Learning. Very interested. As a matter of fact, I plan on making it a central part of my persona research while I am here at IU. The idea didn’t hit me until I was sitting on the bus, and looked up how to cook something for dinner that night did I realize I was participating in informal learning through my mobile device. That got me thinking…I hold most of the information in the word in the palm of my hand (so long as I have access to some sort of network to access the internet, anyway).

How cool is that? Almost anything I want to know, I can find out at the touch of a button. Instant communication with anyone I want, and the potential (though not always the ability to) remove myself from the network at whim by just turning the device off (if I did that with my mother, she would kill me, but how many of us have not turned a phone off to avoid an annoying ex?). Combine the access to information with Augmented Reality, and we have a truly powerful learning device – Where not only can I FIND information about what I am interested in, I can See and/or hear it as if it were happening – I can add photos of what downtown Manhattan looked like 100 years ago from a particular spot by using AR.

But what will mobile learning do to education?> I wonder if it will change how and what we teach. When I was sitting as an undergrad in my history class, I thought to myself “this is stupid. I can find this stuff out online or in the book. Why do I need to memorize this information?” Well, now some will say “I have access to it all the time, anywhere. Why memorize formula, dates, people, events?

Will this change instruction?

Will this change how humans process and store information?

Will this change how we interact with each other?

I’m thrilled, and yet I am so very scared as to what could happen.

Adventure and Extreme Learning

May 2, 2012

Allow me to state this first: Adventure Learning and Extreme Learning sound cool. Really cool. Like, “why am I sitting in this classroom typing on a computer when I could be doing Adventure and Extreme Learning?”

And it is cool. It is very cool. The ability to learn everywhere and anywhere, to connect with those in situations I would never get to experience – to explore Antarctica with scientists studying there, learn about creatures of the Deep Oceans  with those diving into the depths, tracking fish and other sea creatures, or climbing to the top of the World at Mount Everest.

Since the industrial model of education took formal learning to the masses in the United States, learning has been construed as one which took place in a four sided room, with a talking head up front (there are exceptions – Dewey, Montessori, and others relied more on experiential learning models where students did things instead of being passive). There was little interaction with the outside world, the teacher was the gatekeeper of knowledge.

Not so any longer. Experts can come in to the classroom. Students can explore habitats, cultures, and ideas they otherwise would not have ever been exposed to.

The term “Non-traditional learning ” fits this context perfectly. We have advanced beyond gatekeeper instruction (although some may claim that not to be), and students can explore. Students can interact. Students can experience.

My only concern is the use of the term “Extreme.” I do not think I am  convinced this is extreme. Well, it may be, based on the fact it is a large deviation from the norm. But when I think Extreme, I think Snowboarders riding down a Olympus Mons (on Mars) while on fire. If we want to add learning to that, perhaps they are conducting a biochemistry experiment while snowboarding down Olympus Mons on fire. Extreme Learning.

Alright, perhaps that takes it a bit too far. Sometimes I just like playing with words. Wordsmithery. In any case, I am not sure if the term Extreme fits – isn’t it just Learning?

Perhaps this is something I need to explore further, and do much more reading. The eXtreme Learning Research team at IU’s website might prove to be fruitful for some summer reading.

I’ll take an Education Smoothie, please.

May 2, 2012

A few weeks ago, we covered blended and online instruction in my W200 class. I began class not in my room, but from the safety of the TTL (which, if you are not familiar with my building, is across the hall from the classroom). I ended up flittering back and forth between classroom and TTL, ensuring audio and video both worked for the Adobe Connect session. It was quite a different feeling than being a student, not really having to worry about these issues.

I have never been a very good purely online student. I’ve done it successfully once, taking a Geography course from a community college in the middle of NY while I was enjoying the warm sunshine of the northern part of the state. The class was broken up into modules, which we could work on at our own pace over the course of the summer (with some deadlines built in). The class was totally asynchronous, and honestly, not engaging at all (and this is coming from someone with some sort of interest in the subject!).

Fast forward a few years, I figured I would take a stab at taking another purely online course (the course I am writing this blog for). The next part will be a bit of reflection on taking a purely online class, and in particular for this class:

Purely online learning is not for everyone. I am not sure it is for me. The synchronous sessions were what made the class for me – being able to talk and listen with experts from around the world, and discuss ideas with colleagues from across the country allowed for a broader spectrum of educational opportunity for me. The ability to instantly share resources, videos, talk, and not have to worry about a question being a “dumb” question were all helpful and liberating for me as a student. The fact the sessions were recorded for later viewing made it even better.

However, the scale does tip the other way – assignments and coursework, and more specifically, the motivation to do them. I found myself pushing the assignments off, saying “Oh, tomorrow.” and “Oh…next week.” Well, here we are, Finals Week, and guess who is playing catch up? (I don’t recommend this method of submitting assignments, by the way). While the assignments were very relevant to the course content, because I was not in a physical building, with peers reminding me constantly about upcoming assignments (“Did you do X yet? What are you covering for Y?”), I found it difficult to remain organized and motivated. A severe drawback, in my opinion, of my own organizational skills, and one which hampers my effectiveness in taking a purely online class.

It may not be for everyone, but online education does offer opportunity for everyone, and that is more important than any drawback I can think of. I cannot explain it any better than how distance education and online learning are being viewed by the Salmon River Central School District in NY. This district is located just off the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation in Hogansburg, NY, and is a location I had my field experience as a pre-service teacher, and part of my student teaching. In analyzing their technology plan and budget, there is a section devoted to Distance Learning – not only where students will be able to take courses they would otherwise not be able to take (certain AP courses, remedial courses, languages), but also where students and teachers can provide classes (Mohawk language, Native Film studies, Native American cultural classes) for students across the state and the world. Having been at the school district, I can only see this helping students, some of whom have little to no interest in school because they do not feel connected to it, either culturally or intellectually. This program will allow them to expand their own cultural exposure, and spread the ideas of their own culture as well.

Personally, I have had much more success with blended classes, where an online component supplemented the instruction of the face-to-face sessions. The History of Music class I took stands out in my mind, where .mp3s were shared on the website, assignments submitted, and lectures and discussions on the music occurred in the face to face sessions.

Much of my experience has been that of a student in blended learning and online learning environments, and with mixed success. W200  can be considered a blended learning environment, with a robust online component to supplement the material covered in class. But I am taking the next step: Summer session II 2012, I will be teaching W200 at IUPUC in a blended environment. While I am still working the details out, it seems that it will have a much larger online component than I am used to teaching with.

Am I completely turned off to Online only instruction? Far from it – I can see the benefits of it, particularly through the Open Courses being offered at many prestigious universities such as MIT, or for those who do not or cannot have access to a traditional school environment (athletes, musicians, travelers, drop-outs, at-risk students, etc.).

But it’s not for me. I need that face-to-face time. (I passed by Kim in the grocery store, and didn’t even realize it was her until she connected the two for me, and that makes me not feel good at all).

So, one Education Smoothie please, extra blended!

 

E-Books, and my increasingly cluttered bookshelves

May 2, 2012

Approximately 3 minutes after informing my wife that I was accepted to IU, my wife began packing. There was still snow on the ground at SUNY Potsdam, the temperature couldn’t have been over 25*F, and it was early March, we wouldn’t be leaving until May 31. That didn’t stop her.

Part of the moving process was the paring down of our book collection. We had both accumulated two large (and three smaller) bookshelves between the two of us, full of history, art history, fantasy, and science fiction books (and a few education, instructional design, and technology “How To” books). Paring down our collection involved carting perhaps 7-10 wine-boxes full of books (graciously donated by the winery that I had been working for). While many of the books did not make the move, all of the bookshelves did.

Those bookshelves now hold many things, few of which are books (projects, collectables, old cameras my grandfather gave me). Coincidentally, just after the move I purchased my Nook Color tablet, with an interest in exploring mobile computing, though I also wanted to have a (much) smaller repository for my book collection.

Looking back over the past 3 years, I have purchased a grand total of 1 physical textbooks, including the duration of my Masters in Ed Tech, and my semester+ of PhD courses. 1 textbook. All of the other resources were found online (articles, chapters of books scanned by professors, or e-book formats of books). The cost savings was significant. The ability to edit, annotate, and perhaps most importantly, SEARCH became invaluable (The minus of this entire thing being that I no longer get a workout carrying books to and from class).

My wife and I also had the opportunity to work on the creation of a Digital Library for the Computer Science, Organizational Leadership and Technology department, of which we were a part of at SUNY Potsdam – a one-stop shop sort of local (departmental only) library with articles and book chapters organized by class for students to “check out” digitally. Fitting that our department took this approach as leaders in educational technology. It’s also what got my wife interested in Library Science (she was just accepted to SLIS at IU for this coming fall).

The e-book revolution has an opportunity to change the world and access to information in a similar manner that Gutenberg did with his printing press, or that Al Gore did with the Internet. The ability to store Libraries of Alexandria in the palm of one’s hand, and have access to view, annotate, and search will have a profound impact on the way we access information.

Not to mention the Trees. The Lorax would be proud too, I would imagine.

But this focus is just on consuming information, reading books. One side of the coin. e-books also allow for much cheaper access to publishing for everyone! Students who have created e-books to demonstrate their knowledge in classes I have observed through many of the e-book publishing sites available. My wife and my Aunt have both published their own books (one a fantasy novel, the other a murder mystery), one which is still being edited (wonder when Beth will finish that…), and one which is published in both e-book form and in physical form. Control is being wrested from the hands of publishers to that of writers. This will only make the sharing of knowledge, ideas, and stories easier and more open.

But it may also make bookshelf makers sad, as their trade become less about the storing of knowledge, and more about the display of trinkets, baubles, and memorabilia. I’m not sure if we should even call them bookshelves in my house anymore, and instead default to “Fishtank stand alpha, Fishtank stand beta, pony shelf, and stuff shelves.”

Because really, that’s what they’ve become.

Beth's 'Bookshelf' which holds part of her My Little Pony Collection

Beth's 'Bookshelf' which holds part of her My Little Pony Collection