May 13, 2015

Participants #edsymposium - Harry Dickens

(Not sure why this was in drafts, but I am releasing it now!)

Participants creating their own Kahoots - can use for bellringer, etc. Competition/game in a set time limit as well. - make your own Kahoots

Can create questions, adding video or images. Can also create video questions: play a video and then ask questions based on the video, etc.

Can have students create quizzes for their peers!

Use Reflector to show ipad/iphone through a computer already attached to projector, monitor, etc

Touchcast - Record video, built-in teleprompter, chromakey, whiteboarding, titling, sound effects, filters, embed external content (google forms, etc) for quizzes, etc.
Learning to use green screen with TouchCast

iBooks for iPad - Create your own iBooks. Students can publish online and have other students comment on their books.

Book Widgets for iPad - surveys, spreadsheets, image carousel, crossword, switch between images (before/after, compare/contrast); label parts, etc.

iTunesU - Apps for the Classroom, Harry's iTunesU course with handouts, info, etc.

Who Influenced you most?

My friend, musician Shane Howard, posts questions every day.

One day, he asked, "Who in your life has influenced you the most? How did they do it?"

I posted my answer and shared it with my Facebook friends. But, I wanted to get into things a little deeper as I sat thinking of things...
Influenced? That would be my father. He taught me how to find humor in almost everything. He taught me it was okay to cry when my grandfather died. He taught me to take chances, even if you had no idea what the outcome might bring (good, bad or ugly). He taught me "not to spit in the ocean" and to "not take wooden nickels." He also taught me that alcoholism can destroy families and hurt childhoods. He taught me that if you want to break yourself of such habits, you can. He taught me that it was okay to be VERY different from the most of the world. He taught me to enjoy ALL kinds of music and all types of movies. In word, he taught me how to be a man. He died in 2007, and not a day goes by that I don't think of something I wish I could show him or tell him or share with him.
So, who influenced YOU most?

May 12, 2015

#fetc Reflections on the FETC Conference

Notes: This is not a play-by-play, but rather I will provide various thoughts and reflections of certain aspects of FETC overall. I will certainly provide focal details along the way. (This was written in January 2015 and never posted for some reason.)

Attending FETC wasn't exactly a "bucket list" item, but it wasn't NOT one, either. I have long heard about the Florida Educational Technology Conference. I've been in edutech for more than 20 years now, and in recent years, the conference remains a hot topic among my peers in Arkansas.

So, this past Fall, I presented an idea to our board in which I would help take a group of folks from the member districts in our area to FETC. Though the original core group of folks I planned to take was changed, we ended up with a group of seven educators with varying backgrounds, experience, and responsibilities.

As a group, we developed a Google Form in which to collect information about any/all sessions we attended. We chose this format because it allowed us to have uniform format for collection, ensuring everyone was providing the information we needed. I took a slightly different approach to the format because I blogged live during my sessions. Afterward, I entered info into the form with a link to my blog posts. I did this for each session. For me, it's a way to keep session write-ups in the format I prefer, but also forced me to think about those sessions in slightly different ways (because of the questions we had to answer).

Three people in our group (all from one district) attended paid pre-conference sessions. These were day-long or half-day sessions, focused on areas their district approved. The rest of us came a day later since we were attending the main conference only.

Wednesday, for me, started things off. I checked in for registration between 8:30a and 9am. I anticipated long lines, but was surprised to find the lines moving along smoothly. The folks who went the day before told me they had a MUCH longer wait, as a lot of folks had gone early to check-in and staffing seemed short-handed.

When I checked in, I was told to check out the banner table. The table had a variety of ribbons (or banners or badges, depending on what folks called them) that you could attach to your name badge. Initially, I thought the concept was a bit silly. Well, I am a bit silly. So, before long, I was seeking out the ribbons throughout the conference. By the end of the conference, I ended up with a pretty decent collection:

After checking in, I took part in the FETC PhotoWalk. We were SUPPOSED to learn about photography in the classroom, learn a little about the conference area and Orlando, and stop to take pics along the way. Instead, after the group photo of all those taking part, we were led on a 2+ mile hike in and through and around various venues, only stopping as each individual wished to stop. For me, taking photos became secondary to trying to understand what we were doing. Many of those around me were very disappointed in the execution of the PhotoWalk. If I am ever in charge of such a thing, I will be sure to provide the kind of walk where people can take pics, learn a little, and have fun along the way.

FETC certainly offers plenty to see and do. I wish the vendor area had opened earlier than 5pm on Wednesday (for folks attending pre-conference workshops, that is three full days into things). The conference offers limited-seating tickets events, open concurrent sessions, poster sessions, and other sessions. It is a bit overwhelming as a first-timer. The printed schedule was much easier to follow than the online system. My one wish: an actual app for FETC. Instead, we were directed to a website on which we could choose sessions/events and add them to our schedule. While this sounds good in theory, searching for events was cumbersome. Sessions in various formats, presented at various (often overlapping) times, made reading the online schedule a bit of a nightmare. So far as I could tell, there was no way to search for sessions other than to use the boxed-in limitations of the website.

That aside, I cannot imagine anyone going to FETC without finding something to attend. The sessions covered a variety of topics, mostly presented by classroom teachers or administrators. There were plenty of sessions that were superficially led by school personnel but were really thinly veiled vendor presentations. I just wish that was made clearer somehow - one could not glean that info from the title/presenter list.

The vendor area was one of the largest I've seen at an education conference, especially for one that is a "regional" conference. I found the vendors to be friendly and easy-going. I don't recall any of them forcing themselves on me as I walked up and down the various aisles. I know it much be hard to be a vendor at conferences these days. I stopped by many booths just to visit and talk about the programs and/or products they were sharing. What surprised me the most? The sheer number of start-ups. EduTech is a growing market, as evident by several "incubator" areas that featured dozens of companies. In fact, one company seemed to have created itself during the conference. It's a robotics kit company (forgive me that I do not recall the name). The young man at the table had bits and pieces scattered around, assembled quickly into programmable robots. He had a difficult time speaking in and understanding English. He was Asian, and I wondered if he had been hired specifically for the conference. I saw him taking pictures of other robotics kits and maker products as he roamed the venue.

The keynotes were informative and entertaining. I was disappointed that the CEO from Makerbot had to cancel at the last minute due to an "emergency meeting." Kathy Schrock, Leslie Fisher, and others took part in a panel presentation of various apps, software packages, gizmos and gadgets.  We also learned how creating, making, and marketing are affecting children around the country.

Our girls are playing on the "Big Girl" field today! Em walked first at-bat.

via Instagram

#education Workshops/Conferences: Always learn something!

I cannot recall just how I came to be given a bit of advice, but it has stuck with me for more than two decades. It is simply this: if your boss (or company or district or whatever) puts up the money to send you to a conference, you had better learn something. And, you had better tell your boss what you learned.

I don't know if that came from my father or a previous supervisor, but I take it with me every time I attend a workshop or a conference. Remember, someone has put up time and money for you to attend this thing. They want to see a return on that investment. They deserve to see the return. Moreover, by sharing your thoughts and knowledge of what you learned, you help them decide whether or not you are worth the investment.

Granted, sometimes it is extremely difficult to find the positive results of a given session or an entire conference, but you should share those experiences as well. I try to find at least one "Ah ha!" in each session I attend. I look for at least one thing I didn't know - or some new/different way of doing something I've been doing for years.

Regardless of the outcome, you should be detailed and candid about your experience. If you're not sure what or how much information your boss wants, ask.

For me, I have taken to keeping my notes here on the blog. It forces me to pay attention in the session and I share it with anyone who wants to how things went. I am very upfront about the good and the bad in any session. If something falls short, others may benefit from reading the post. Invariably, however, I always walk away with something. Often, I look back and reflect on what I wrote. Sometimes, long after the sessions are over, I need to look up a bit of information I had from a session. Sure, sometimes online notes can be a bit messy or disjointed, but that's all part of the experience.

For me, the biggest advantage to keeping notes online? Proof I went to sessions, sure, but even more important: I can show my boss what I attended. My boss has a record of what I did and approximately when I did it (I always TRY to post my notes immediately after the session). It also creates talking points for when I return to the office.

So, when you go to a conference, be sure take notes. Find your "Ah ha!" And, most of all - give your boss a reason to send you to another one.

May 5, 2015

#fetc Educational Gaming: Make Custom Games without Programming

(Note: This was published earlier on my author blog by mistake. I am reposting here as evidence for my employment grant)

#fetc Educational Gaming: Make Custom Games without Programming

Why I chose this:
Very interested in education gaming, especially in preparation for training/pd.

What we covered:

Make 21st education more interactive, more democratic, more global, more student-tailored, geared toward problem solving in the real world.

Speaker spent several minutes pitching the product he is trying to sell us. I still have no idea what it is. So far as I can tell, it helps teachers create lessons, but also can help students create lessons.

Content entered is delivered in a variety of methods.

Memarden (?) company, I think. Web-based lesson creation. Video, audio, images, text.

Tab-based design layout - content, questions, games.

Presenter trying hard to get audience participation, but this is not going well. He was finally able to get someone to toss out an idea to help generate a lesson.

While I can see where this might be a different way to develop lessons, I am not so sure the program's title matches the perceived expectation of what would be covered. Considering there are many sessions here about coding and gaming, I was expecting something like "Scratch without Scratch" or "BYOND without programming."

Q: What is cost?
A: $1/student/year.

Q: Can you download content?
A: No, content is uploaded.

Q: Can I use this as standalone?
A: Requires internet to use.

Q: Does the content become the company's?
A: Dual copyright. You own your content, company owns their content. There is also a marketplace like TPT and sell to other teachers.

Q: Can you import questions/answers?
A: Yes, you can import those.

Q: Are there discounts for sites as opposed to classes?
A: Yes, terms can be worked out.

They are developing games that use dance pads for more interactivity.

#fetc Game-Based Learning and Next Gen Science Standards

(Note: This was published earlier on my author blog by mistake. I am reposting here as evidence for my employment grant)

#fetc Game-Based Learning and Next Gen Science Standards

Presenter: Ora D Tanner

Why I chose this:
I am very interested in seeing different ways to incorporate gaming into various disciplines. I am hoping to learn some fun ways/games to share with teachers.

What we covered:
Game Development Process
Pilot Study Results

Rationale - Why Games? Big buzzword, but why should we care?
#1 Passive, unmotivated and disengaged (PUD). Lecture-based presentations, reading book, cookbook labs - not working. Causing students to disengage. Students find science boring.

Gaming creates learning environment for problem-solving. Take roles of scientist/engineer.

CHANGE Project. Climate Change Narrative Game

Piloting in 4 HS this year, 25 next year - marine biology high school curriculum.

What features do students find engaging?
What features do students see as helping with learning?

Water Gauge Warrior - game created for project. Tied into school curriculum and also university objectives.

May 3, 2015

#education #edtech Google Trends: Correlation and Causation

I read an article that referenced Google Trends showing that gamers were a fickle bunch. That particular trend showed interest in Angry Birds, Tetris, Farmville, and Candy Crush over time and compared to each other.

This got me thinking: How could we use this with students? Oh, sure, I bet lots of people have come up with lots of ways, and most likely even in the ways I am about to discuss. Well, be that as it may, my brain works a little differently than many folks, so join me on this ride, if you will.

I took the video games idea and decided to focus on one particular franchise: Duke Nukem. Why? Because I'm a guy who grew up playing the originals and waited with baited breath for "Forever," only to be sadly, sorely disappointed.

I started with Duke Nukem 3D. We see there is a spike in 2011. If I point to that in Trends, I see there is a lot of discussion in June 2011. Why?

Let's add another search term and see if we can find a possible connection:

Ah! We see a matching spike. So, what happened in June 2011 that these games would suddenly be of interest to anyone? If we jump over to Google and do a search for "june 2011 Duke Nukem," here is what we find:

Ah! Duke Nukem Forever was released in June 2011, sparking interest in that as well as mention of Duke Nukem 3d.

That's all well and good, but what about seemingly unrelated topics? Let's start with Barak Obama:

First of all, we see interest/news in 2004. What is that about? Students could research and find out. But, that's not why we're here today. Let's add another search term: XBOX. Why? Why not.

Above, we see a couple of things: 1) XBOX is sought after much more than Obama and 2) XBOX has a pattern of ups and downs. So now we ask students, "Is there a correlation between XBOX and Obama?" We follow that up with, "What is a cause for that correlation, if one exists?" But, wait! There's more. Let's add "donuts" to the mix. Again, why not?

What do we see after adding donuts? Well, not much in the way of correlation. Donuts, for whatever reason, have been steadily growing in popularity among searches. Look at that chart again. Donuts have been increasing. What is the trend for XBOX? How about Obama? Is there any correlation to why donuts would be increasing as XBOX and Obama have been decreasing and/or plateauing? Have students speculate on such things. Let them be creative! Have them make up a reason why this is happening through a creative project that involves researching the terms, keying in on certain points of the trends, and then creating a fictional news story (video, article, etc) that ties it altogether.

Now, let's look at a set of terms that could go together:

Here, I chose "baseball players," "performance-enhancing drugs," and "home runs" to see if there any correlations. Of course there are. You will notice, I included the "regional interest" section in the photo. One of the cool things about Trends is that you can show worldwide stats, stats for a particular country, or you could even choose a particular state (in this case). If you chose a state, you would see any cities that are pertinent to the searches. For example, if I choose Missouri, then I am presented with St. Louis, Springfield, and Kansas City. At any point, I can find high/low spots and then research the connections. Students could also make connections where the trends are NOT in line with each other. For example, in Dec 2012-Jan 2013, talk about baseball players falls off but PEDs discussion is high. Why is that?

It is important to point out that Trends uses an "OR" approach. That is, none of the terms are linked so far as Trends in concerned. It is up to the researcher to convert the ORs to ANDs - or at least to attempt to discover if there actually are any ANDs.

May 2, 2015

My new rig

For my birthday, I received money to go toward the purchase of parts, etc to upgrade my computer. I decided to get enough parts that would allow me to pass my now-previous computer on to my daughter. I did quite a bit of shopping and pricing and ultimately came up with this bit of rigging.

The case, motherboard, RAM, CPU, HDD, Windows 8 (blech!) and top DVD burner came as a steeply discounted package deal. It has an i7-4770 and (right now) 8gb RAM. My previous computer had a Dual Core 3.2Ghz something-or-other. As you see in the photo above, I added a second DVD burner and a 3.5-inch media card reader with USB. I had to disconnect the top-mounted USB in order to free up the internal header, but for I what do, it was worth it.

The picture below is a shot of the interior, though I did not take the case out of my desk, so it's not a very good one. Sorry. Inside, though, I upgraded the PSU to a 600W modular and added a Sapphire Dual-X R9 280 graphics card. Let me tell you, the card barely fits in the case. But, with a little care and elbow grease, it's in there and works great!

Right now, the side is off the case. I would like to do something to help the heat. I've played several games on it now (Far Cry 3, Wreckfest, Pay Day 2, to name a few), and though the temps are reading within normal gaming range, I know the case is a little snug for what I've thrown at it.

Since the motherboard is Acer, it has a weird 12-pin ATX header. I ordered a 12-pin to 24-pin adapter (with HD sleeving) from modDIY that arrived in about a week. It snapped right on, and things are humming. Well, not even humming, really.

The amazing thing that this rig has over the other (in addition to the obvious upgrades) is QUIET. You never hear the thing running until you start tossing games at it, and even then the sound level is barely noticeable without headphones. Put on headphones, and you'd never hear it.

What am I planning to do with my new computer? I plan to start "Let's Play" style videos for my YouTube channel, along with other videos that I've been wanting to start making. Why not, right?

Oh, one last thought: though I can now play games better with enhanced visuals, my actual gameplay hasn't improved one iota. Haha, now, I just get killed in better-looking environments.

Sittin at the kids table, watching Veggie Tales

via Instagram

Emily and Sara after the game on Friday

via Instagram