Category Archives: technology

Integrating Electronics Into Our Lives

As summer begins and kids get out of school, various versions of “summer rules” are floating around the Internet. It’s a way to set expectations for a time of year when it can seem that all rules are off.

This one, from the Thirty Handmade Days blog, is typical. Its purpose, according to the creator, is to keep the kids from spending the whole day glued to a screen so they earn the time with their gadgets  while spending time reading, writing, creating and playing outside. I like the spirit of it but something felt off, based on my own use of electronics.

For instance, I often use my device to read and write. I’m writing this blog post on my laptop. I often carry my phone on a dog walk, partly for safety, but also in case we happen upon something interesting that I want to record like an unusual bird or flower. I imagine that kids might want to do the same: create a video of the rules for a game they created or do some macro photography of bugs or butterflies. As for creating, I often reference the Internet for ideas or directions for things to my projects. I’m participating in the DS106 June 30 Day Daily Create Challenge. The goal is to be digitally creative by providing a new challenge each day and move us away from just “like buttons on Facebook or retweeting other people’s memes.” The tools we carry with us offer almost infinite possibilities for creativity but if we don’t help kids see that, then they will rush through the other items in order to be able to settle into the consumer pull of those same devices.

And, I understand that concern. We certainly don’t want the kids to spend the whole summer playing video games or watching movies, never lifting their heads or hands to interact with the real world. And, as Mique says, every family has to do what makes them comfortable. I would just like to see a more integrative approach to technology, finding ways to use it as part of our other activities. Maybe that is what she meant but this seems a little too much like the classroom where the kids only get to use the computers when they do everything else. Electronics shouldn’t be a reward but a natural part of our daily lives.

I also can’t help but wonder if these rules apply to parents, too?

Pokemon Go? Been There, Done That

Pokemon Go has taken over the world, it seems. Around all the hysteria, I had a flashback to summer 2011, a hot day in Radford, Virginia, with about 20 others who had gathered to learn about this new thing called Augmented Reality. Matt Dunleavy and his graduate students introduced us to FreshAIR, their AR development software and app.

The morning session involved an overview. Then, they handed us an iPod and sent us out to the campus to play the secret agent game. The app alerted us to hot spots, and we were led through a scenario where we watched a video, communicated with another agent and ultimately either solved the mystery, or ended up at a dead end because we followed the wrong information. It was pretty darn amazing!

During the afternoon, we worked with the actual software to develop AR games. It was an early version of the software, but essentially, we set GPS points that linked to video, audio, or text. Despite the heat, we were able to head outside and test our games. Again, pretty amazing!

So, forgive me if I’m a little underwhelmed by Pokemon Go. Really? Five years of AR and this is how we use this amazing technology? Chasing and catching Pokemons? Clearly, people like me have not done a good job getting the word out about the wonders of AR and the opportunity to create our own games rather than  mindlessly following someone else’s creation.

This article gives some ideas for how AR can be used to support authentic student learning. Dunleavy may have been psychic in his comment about the perils of focusing too much on the digital world:

“If we have students staring at their phones the whole time, then I think we’ve missed the point,” he said. “We don’t want to cognitively pull people out of their environment. We want to use text, audio, and video to drive them deeper into it.”

The article highlights Harvard’s ecoMOBILE research and also includes examples of some student-created AR games. They admit it’s not easy: teachers and students aren’t often permitted to leave the classroom and location-based AR requires the ability to move around in the world.

If Pokemon Go is what we need to get the word out, that’s fine: but let’s realize that there has already been work in this area by educators and figure out how this becomes part of authentic, engaging learning.


Speaking With Clarity and Purpose

As I browsed Feedly today, I came across two blog posts about the words we use. Brad Currie pushes back on those who would discourage educators from using buzzwords. Peter DeWitt, meanwhile, names 10 educational words that should be banished. Ironically, I can’t tell you what those words are except that one is technology, because DeWitt’s list is now hidden from me behind the EdWeek paywall.

I come down on the side of letting people speak, and Currie makes an interesting argument around using buzzwords:

Last I checked people have the freedom to say what they want, when they want, and how they want. If educators are committed to taking risks and evolving over time, then they should be allowed to use whatever words, phrases, paragraphs, etc they want.

The important point here is that using buzzwords is acceptable as long as we are using them to move forward. So, if you’re a principal or superintendent who calls yourself a “lead learner” then you should walk the walk of a lead learner.

From what I remember, DeWitt suggests banishing the word “technology” because it continues to make it seem as though technology is an add-on. I don’t disagree, but I think  instead of banishing the word, how about asking educators to be more clear about why and how they are using technology. Are they fostering collaboration through the use of Google docs? Or encouraging creativity by integrating a tool like Animoto? We can use the word to foster clarity about the use of technology as it supports pedagogy.

Also, I think DeWitt is overlooking the fact that, for many of our schools, technology is not so ubiquitous that it can become invisible. Sadly, technology use is often still a novelty, something of comment, as teachers sign out carts to bring into their classrooms or line up their classes to head to computer labs.

So, rather than banishing words, let’s take Currie’s approach and allow their use as long as we are more clear about their meanings for us and how they inform our work as educators.



Ozobot Out of the Box

I finally put “robots” on the top of the to do list for the weekend. Opened up the Ozobot Bit, did a little reading, and started drawing.

I started pretty simple with changing the speed. It slowed down correctly and made the left turn, but the turbo boost color combo didn’t do what I expected:


Exit Instead of Turbo from Karen Richardson on Vimeo.

I was also having trouble getting it to do U turns.

A little troubleshooting and I discovered that the blue marker I was using was too dark so the Ozobot couldn’t distinguish it from the black. Here it is hitting the turbo boost and then doing the Win/Exit dance:

Turbo Plus Win/Exit from Karen Richardson on Vimeo.

Here’s the U turn. The light blue color makes everything work perfectly:

A Working U Turn from Karen Richardson on Vimeo.

Coding Camp with the Kids

I bought a Kano last year and have done a bit of work with it. One of the things I like is the way they emphasize community, very similar to Scratch. Sharing of final products and code is encouraged.

They also encourage creativity by suggesting particular projects, providing some base code, and then offering ideas for how to personalize them that challenge you to write your own code. I find that it’s a nice balance of recipe and personality.  It reminds me a bit of the ds106 Daily Create. You get the germ of an idea to spark your own creations.

The past week, I’ve been participating in the Kano Summer Camp. Each day brings a new challenge  from camp flags to badges to tents. They use the Mark Art app that comes with the Kano and has a web-based version so you don’t need the Kano hardware to participate. The challenges get increasingly difficult. Today, I was able to figure out how to craft a pretty rudimentary star using polygons. It’s mostly trial and error, still, as I don’t completely understand how the code works.

I can’t help wondering the age of my fellow campers but then I decide I don’t really care. It’s a kick when I get a like or comment. And, I’m so impressed with the work they’re doing. I generally do my own challenge first before checking out the shares so I’m not intimidated or overly influenced. The creativity is amazing and I’d encourage to create an account and give it a try…it takes a few minutes a day.

Here’s my star badge:

Shine On Badge