A New use for EVIL!

With all the recent press on how bad iPods are, there is a list of 10 of the unexpected uses for the ubiquitous things.

6. Record Flight data: According to a report in Flight Global, a company called LoPresti Speed Merchants has announced plans to use iPods as flight data recorders in light aircraft. The little white box will serve as the “black box” within the airplanes and will have the ability to record over 500 hours of flight time data. Does this mean that iPods can survive plane crashes? Who would have thunk it.

I can’t help but think that the cost of these babies is going to continue down and within 3 years, schools will be using them on a regular basis for all sorts of jobs.

Academic Challenge Event

I am a member of a technology committee which is based around the idea that the world of education is changing and we need to keep up or our kids will be left behind. Our bible is The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. See my previous rant here. We are trying to provide experiences that will engage our students and move them beyond the little box that is “High School Math” or “High School History”. Last week we had our first attempt and needless to say it went off almost without a hitch.

We decided to have our students pretend to purchase land that was for sale within the neighborhood of the school and pretend to build and furnish a house for $220,000. Later, I found out that the average home sells for $230,000 in the US, unfurnished, but that is neither here nor there. The house had to meet all building codes, be environmentally friendly, be handicapped accessible and they had to develop a business plan to sell it to a family of 4 who had an income of $120,000. And we only gave them 2 school days to do it in. Students were encouraged to volunteer. Without a whole lot of PR, we got 84 students out of a total of 350 to sign up. We put all 84 names in hat and picked out 24. 3 from each of the 4 grades, hopefully representing the different levels of students within the grade.

Day -1: The 24 students met after school and were broken up into 2 teams. They began their strategy session and were allowed to play with the software that would help them design the home.

Day 1, Tuesday 4/24: 1 hour strategy session to start the day. They decided who would go and hear/take notes on the 3 different presenters in 3 different rooms. We brought in a Real Estate Broker, a Banker and an Architect. Then we went to 6 different open lots by bus for 1 hour. The kids got out and tested the ground and really saw what was going on with these different lots. Next 1 hour for lunch. Then 3 more presenters in 3 different rooms. We brought in a Real Estate attorney, Code Inspector, & a Builder. Then an hour to wrap up and organize all the data they had accumulated.

Day 2 Wednesday 4/25: Work Day! Both groups got together at opposite ends of the library and went to work. Have you ever seen kids work on a school project for 3 hours, take 5 minutes for lunch, yell at the kids still eating lunch to hurry up, finish and get back to work and work for another 2 hours or so? I hadn’t and was quite surprised when these two groups did it. No one was off task and everyone was working towards a common goal. It was absolutely amazing.

Problems: Obviously not enough time. We had 3 snow days this year and couldn’t justify taking them out of their classes for 3 straight days.  Not enough money to complete the tasks. We thought we were giving them enough, but we had to modify the plan to make it just a touch easier for them. A vertical line for a learning curve on the design software. oops. One team wasn’t able to save their 2+ hrs. of work. oops oops. Twice. oops oops oops.

My reflections: I thought all along that kids would join up for the free lunch the first day and to get out of school for 2 days. I thought we would have to prod them along, “Why would a 9th grader want to work on building, designing, etc. a house?” I thought to myself. But they did. They cared more about the cost of the counter top in their house, than their homework from the night before. But I knew that.

Now I am spending the summer researching and developing authentic assessments and experiences for next school year. I think this could be a great way to bring some of the duller history topics to life and get kids interested.

Here is the resource page that they could use.

When I can, I will post the requirements, rubric, etc. for this project. This has just been a lot to digest.

Weak participation in Web 2.0

A recent study of online surfing habits by Hitwise states that:

Web 2.0, a catchphrase for the latest generation of Web sites where users contribute their own text, pictures and video content, is far less participatory than commonly assumed, a study showed on Tuesday.

But there is some positive news:

But despite relatively low-user involvement, visits to Web 2.0-style sites have spiked 668 percent in two years, Bill Tancer of Hitwise said.

“Web 2.0 and participatory sites (are) really gaining traction,” he told an audience of roughly 3,000 Internet entrepreneurs, developers and financiers attending the Web 2.0 Expo industry conference in San Francisco this week.

What does this mean for education? I think it is one of those situations where you have a few early adopters implementing, but the rest of the world is starting to catch on. I think there is some data in the study that there are more lurkers than there are participators. I think as educators, we need to lead the horse to water and eventually the other horses will be there.

The End of Old Media

I hope that the people involved in today’s horrific shooting at Virginia Tech. will be able to find peace in some way.

I noticed one thing on today’s national news broadcast that illustrated to me the conclusion that blogs/social networking/Web 2.0 will eventually lead to the end of traditional media. ABC spent time showing how Tech students were using Facebook, text messaging, blogs, etc. to check on each other. The journalist _read_ blog and Facebook posts to a national audience. I felt like I was watching old footage of students practicing a nuclear bomb drill by hiding under their desks. 5 -10 years from now, we will look back on broadcasts like this and shake our heads at how primitive this seemed.

Meanwhile I am sitting here, wirelessly, hitting refresh on the wikipedia page of the event learning more in 5 minutes than I learned in 30.

Great Video Series for Global 9 / Ancient History

I found that the Engineering an Empire video series to be a great tool for visually demonstrating to kids the massive public works projects created by all different civilizations.

We have:

ENGINEERING AN EMPIRE: THE SERIES, VOLUME I:

* GREECE: The cradle of Western civilization sustained remarkable technological advancement for over 1,000 years, including such masterpieces as the Tunnel of Samos and the Parthenon.
* GREECE: AGE OF ALEXANDER: After a century of tremendous accomplishment, Greece’s territorial ambitions were stymied by constant warfare – until Alexander ventured abroad and initiated the Hellenistic era.
* THE AZTECS: The Aztecs became one of the greatest civilizations in history through brilliant military campaigns and technological mastery of their harsh environment.ENGINEERING AN EMPIRE: THE SERIES, VOLUME II:

* CARTHAGE: Find out how Carthaginian engineers harnessed their extensive resources and manpower to develop some of the ancient world’s most groundbreaking technology.
* CHINA: Century after century, China’s regal emperors mobilized immense peasant armies to accomplish unfathomable feats – including the most ambitious construction project ever accomplished.
* RUSSIA: From the Moscow Kremlin to St. Petersburg to the Trans-Siberian railroad, examine the architecture and infrastructure that led to the rise and fall of the Russian Empire.

ENGINEERING AN EMPIRE: THE SERIES, VOLUME III:

* GREAT BRITAIN: Through the centuries, the British Empire used extraordinary engineering technology to become an industrial and military titan, giving rise to such inventions as the first locomotive.
* THE PERSIANS: The engineering feats of the mysterious Persian Empire include a water management system, a paved cross-continent roadway, and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
* THE MAYA: By 900 AD, the once-glorious Mayan cities disappeared. Unravel the mystery surrounding this mythic civilization through its spectacular infrastructure and architecture.

ENGINEERING AN EMPIRE: THE SERIES, VOLUME IV:

* NAPOLEON AND BEYOND: When France stood on the precipice of disaster, one of the most legendary military strategists in history arose from its ashes: Napoleon.
* THE BYZANTINES: As much of the world descended into the Dark Ages, the Byzantine Empire emerged with ruthless might and supreme ingenuity, ruling over vast swaths of Europe and Asia.
* AGE OF ARCHITECTS: After the deep sleep of the Dark Ages, it wasn’t until the 11th-century that autonomous city-states emerged in Italy, revitalizing metropolises and paving the way for the Renaissance.

Can’t recommend this enough. The best part of the whole thing: Peter Weller of RoboCop fame is your tour guide and part time narrator. He is like a campy version of John Wayne trying to sound like he is going to kick your butt. He actually has a MA in Renaissance Art from Syracuse. In the “da Vinci’s World/Age of Architects” episode he really gets his inner-Michelangelo on. It is on the History Channel every once in awhile. Catch it if you can.