While traveling over the holiday break, we stopped at a new gas station that had a peculiar feature in the bathroom.
Most public restrooms have a sign that says “Please notify employee if this bathroom needs servicing.” Of course, that isn’t always convenient, and is sometimes embarrassing. This discreet switch can eliminate all of that.
Imagine if we could duplicate this concept in the classroom. Consider that many kids don’t ask for help because they are afraid of peer judgement – so remove this barrier and students could summon their teacher without ever raising a hand. We don’t even need to install elaborate wiring in the classroom, as students could easily use their smartphones, tablets or laptops to accomplish this.
Last spring, Vernier Software and Technology released the LabQuest2 - a device that collects data from a variety of sensors and has the ability to share this data wirelessly with any device that has a browser. To me, this is a game-changer in science education.
I decided to test it out this year while teaching phase changes.
In the past, I’ve had kids collect data while ice water is being heated over a bunsen burner, with the goal of identifying the melting and boiling point of water. Students often get lost in the data collection process, or tune out until after the data is collected (as if something magical will be revealed upon completion).
As there is significant downtime while waiting for the water to boil, I had them login to Edmodo and respond to a question after I lit the burner:
Students can touch and manipulate the data with the browser as it’s being collected. And they can determine the time and temperature by simply touching the graph (or any X and Y axis variable).
What I really liked about this approach is that I could guide students through the data collection process, and match it to their visual observations. For instance, I was able to ask “when did you first notice bubbles?,” and “at what temperature did that happen?”.
After the lesson, students responded to the Edmodo question again – now with the hindsight of what they actually observed, complete with data.
While in school one day, I caught my son playing with a document camera. I was amazed by his adventurous curiosity; he had no fear playing with the ELMO – trying to figure out what it can do and how it works.
To me, there is no better professional development in learning new technology than to simply get your hands on it and see how it works.
That’s my advice as a technology integrator - go ahead and play with it. Figure it out. See what it can do.
After that, we’ll see what else we can do with it and how it can transform your teaching.
But now I’m becoming greedy. I also want my MacBook Air to mirror its desktop content as well. Why didn’t Apple support AirPlay for Mac OS X when it was released last summer? That would simply be too convenient to connect a computer to a projector, eliminating the need for 25+ feet of plenum-rated cables running through our classroom ceilings.
When the first iPad debuted on the scene, a math teacher asked me if there was any way that students could easily sketch math problems within an email message or chat. Of course, there are some ways – but they require a few steps to get there.
But in December, Google unveiled Scribbles for Gmail, allowing users to add drawings to their electronic messages. I instantly thought of how Google has provided an easy interface for things that can be sketched more easily than typed – like math and science problems.
Here’s how it works:
In the compose view, users click on the scribble button to open the drawing window:
The drawing is limited to the touchscreen sensitivity of the device, but is quite easy to use. Images are inserted as .png attachments.
Scribbles is a compelling reason for school districts to allow student access of Gmail or even setup Google Apps for Education. But I am excited to think about the future of Scribbles in other products; imagine a sketch tool built-in to Moodle, Edmodo or other similar educational products.
Build it, and watch the math and science teachers flock to it.
As meet manager for many swim meets, I know the importance of having instant results displayed on the scoreboard.
But a new iPhone app is starting to make me think differently. At the 2012 FVA Boys Swimming and Diving Meet, we turned on Meet Mobile – a fantastic new feature in Meet Manager 4.0.
Meet Manager Run Menu
Let me explain a little bit of swim meet management. Hy-Tek’s Meet Manager (a part of the Active Network) is the industry standard for running swim meets. Swimmers and teams are entered into the program before the start of the meet, and the computer interfaces with the touchpads (we use both Daktronics and Colorado products in our district) during the meet. At the end of each race, Meet Manager harvests the data, where times are matched to swimmers. The software also scores the meet, and you can print out and email the results to the local paper.
But it gets better. With an internet connection (our district has a guest Wifi network), Meet Manager 4.0 allows you to send your results live to an iPhone app called Meet Mobile. This free download from the Active Network displays each heat’s and event’s results sorted by event or by swimmer. The app even allows you to view splits and places for every swimmer in the meet.
Here’s a sample of what you might see with the app (in three screens):
Select the correct meet when you open the app (sorted by date)
Select swimmer or event
View results (complete results and splits are also available)
It was fascinating to watch the fans trying out this app in the stands – they were mesmerized by the instant results they could find. And coaches loved it even more, as they put down their stopwatches and stopped subtracting splits on the fly.
First of all, I setup a ‘stand’ for the iPad, so that it could project anything underneath it. Being a science teacher, I have access to plenty of lab stands and clamps (I actually wrapped the two metal rods in electrical tape to protect the iPad2 from scratches).
I gently rested the iPad2 on the stand, being careful to center the camera on the lab table below, and secured it with a large rubber-band.
I found that I needed a wide stand so that students could fit their whiteboards underneath without difficulty.
This system is also flexible, as it is wireless. I can carry it back to the lab and showcase individual student work to help direct a laboratory investigation. Taking a picture, I was even able to annotate over a photo by importing it through an app like the Educreactions Interactive Whiteboard app.