MIT Workshop Day #2

Today, I completed the second and final day of the sewable circuits and accelerometer workshop at the High Low Tech Group at MIT. It was great. I got into programming in Java to make the movement of my decorated glove control the action of an object on my computer screen.

I also spent some time decorating the glove with felt strips. There were two major troubleshooting opportunities; these are where the biggest learning occurs. First, I had a very flaky reading from my glove that was finally diagnosed as a loose connection on the – pin on both the accelerometer and the LilyPad board. After sewing those both tighter with conductive thread, that problem was history.

The next problem arose when I started tweaking the base program given to us to control the object. Of course I wanted to make it my own, but I knew no syntax for Java. I have plenty of mathematical logic and some programming in Pascal and Basic, but I have not really played with Java, C, or any of the modern languages. This was a crash course in coding for me, but the tangible results and workshop atmosphere were perfect conditions for me to dive in.

Overall, this was an amazing experience. I met some very amazing people, I got to play with electronics and coding while also doing crafts, and I spent two days just focusing on learning and playing. It was a much needed mental refresher.

Sewable Circuits

Today was the first of two days at a workshop hosted by the High-Low Tech Group at MIT. The objectives of this event for educators it to explore sewable circuits, accelerometers, and the LilyPad Adrduino controller.

My first project was a simple circuit with a batter holder and an LED. I decorated it to look like a flower.

My next project that will be continued tomorrow is a glove with an accelerometer attached to an arduino processor. I am loving this workshop!

Last MEMSET for the year and perhaps forever!

Well, that is a bit dramatic, but true on one level. The Massachusetts Elementary and Middle School Educators using Technology (or Educational Technologists) met for the last time today at BB&N Middle School. It is amazing to sit in a room of teachers and tech specialists talking about independent elementary and middle school technology topics.

One thing we recently ran up against was that the acronym MEMSET has been taken, so we can not get the com or org domain. We need to rebrand to move forward. Thus, MEMSET will be no more. We will be another group next year–the group formerly known as MEMSET.

Tonight’s discussion covered benchmarks/standards, how they are integrated in the classrooms, how they are reported, and how different constituents are held accountable for them. Then over dinner, we had presentations from different members on tech integration projects. One particular one struck me. A third grade project using conductive thread to create circuits on a quilt echoed the many articles I have been seeing on wearable electronics.

I look forward to this group, under its new name, continuing the great work next year.

The First Shovel

When I was early in my teen years, a neighbor hired me to do some construction which amounted to digging ditches around a house to relay drainage pipes. After the first few shovels of dirt hit the small pile, the immensity of the task ahead of me became glaringly apparent. As a young teen, this was no big deal; in fact, it probably served to blow off some of that excess energy. Where did that stuff go?

Walking away from #edcampbos, I was energized in the way only good professional development can. I haven’t made my way through hardly any of the copious resources put out by that day of collective sharing, learning, and teaching. The one area I have started to make some movement on is the education bloggers group on Facebook. I managed to get two docs in that group organized a bit, to follow all of the Twitter handles, and to subscribe to all of the listed blogs. My goal after this blog and my other is to settle in with my iPad and get some nice reading done while I work on a scanning project that gets amazingly tedious without another task to occupy my mind.

Unlike my youthful experience with shovel and mattock, this project is something of my own choosing, and it excites me. There is a lot of work, none of which is critical, but all of which I want to do. It is just a matter of selecting where to dig in for greatest effect because I cannot do everything I see to do already. I am sure as I get going, the scale of opportunity will only increase.

A Full Meal!

The view from the 11th floor.

Early in the day before these stairs were packed

Today was #edcampbos. I have so much to digest from being there. Literally and figuratively. The food was good and plentiful; the space was amazing. It was hosted at the Microsoft NERD Center overlooking the Charles River on a beautiful day. Sailboats, rowers, and duckboats speckled the water.

Inside, people led a nice array of sessions, and I came away with so many resources, I don’t know where to start. Today, I’ll just list the top ones that jump out at me:

  • The most influential session I went to was on blogging. This blog, along with my Dadding Ideas, have been something of an exercise in writing and creating focus. I have worried less about my audience. That might change with some elbow grease, digital elbow grease. I need to think about how or even if I want to do this, but I amcharged up. Thank you @WorldLillie.
  • The conference was hosted by several sponsors including Evernote. I guess I just have to bite the bullet and do the work to get going on that. I even picked up a month (insignificant value) free card at the sign in table.
  • The Smackdown at the end, in which people quickly shared sites and apps, resulted in a long list of cool things to go back over. There are several lists like this to go through and turn into bookmarks, etc.
  • Made some great connections which I have to nurture through Twitter and Facebook among other places. This means I have to be more active on Twitter

    Setting up a session on the wall

Gearing Up

The classic scene in action films: Batman getting his suit on for the first time, Rambo painting his face before battling unbelievable odds, the hero gearing up. I’m not a hero, and I am certainly not going into battle tomorrow. Yet, I am doing something I have never done before; I am attending Edcamp Boston. Tonight, I’ll lay out my tools: the tablet, the case, the stylus, the chargers. Which bag? What extras? Should I go light or heavy? These things that I put together to be my kit are the familiar tools I will use to help make sense of the experience and to provide a grounding in what I anticipate to be an experience that pushes me outside my comfort zone in a healthy way.

As a teacher, I regularly seek out opportunities to learn and to be well outside my comfort zone. As adults we tend to avoid or judiciously limit our time spent in the discomfort of uncertainty. As educators, however, it is important to reacquaint ourselves with the feelings and emotions that come with the uncertainty of learning.

Getting Something out of a Conference

Today, I attended a conference aimed primarily at CFOs with some sessions for tech people in schools. It was like many conferences in that the best things I got from the experience were the connections I made and the side conversations. I nabbed one of the opening panel speakers and got some info about the BYOD program his school is implementing. I also ended up sitting next to a tech coordinator of another elementary and middle school, so I talked to him about MEMSET, a group for elementary and middle school educational technologists and teachers using technology in the Boston area.

I found the same to be true of this year’s MassCUE conference. The conversations and chance meetings were what I valued most.

For this reason, I am totally pumped for EdcampBoston this weekend. This will be my first edcamp, but from the reviews and the setup, there is such a higher probability that I will get a lot out of it.

Technology and Assessments

Today, my school had a half day professional development session. Teachers were looking at different math assessments as the beginning of a process to identify some to use in different ways in the school. With sixteen years of classroom teaching before switching to the technology educator role, this is a very interesting topic to me. I have also implemented a self-paced, hands-on math lab after working with Dr. Fran Armstrong in St. Louis. In addition, both my father and wife are mathematicians. Math, math, math. It is in my blood (as are writing, social sciences, sciences, art, and much more)

Thus I have much to say about math and assessment and how they combine with technology. However, my role today was to guide teachers through a website that gave examples of open ended questions sorted by grade level and topic. Many of the questions had exemplar student responses. The tool was good in concept, but it was not very deep in resources. I would have expected at least double if not magnitudes more questions.

The questions were jpgs, so educators could copy and paste them into whatever assessment tool they wanted and print them out. The interface was dated. If the goal is to generate a paper copy of selected assessment questions, I would want a tools that could aggregate them for you, allow for text changes, and print the thing from within the application.

Alea iacta est

The die is cast. Though I am not entering my home country at the head of an army, I am experiencing a bit of a rush. My personal Rubicon is my long absence from presenting at conferences. Earlier in my teaching career, I presented and even organized conferences. Today, I filled out the session proposal for MassCUE 2012. Perhaps nothing will come of it; perhaps it will be accepted. Regardless, I have taken the mental steps across this particular boundary. If not this conference, then soon.

Doctor, Is This a Professional Growth?

It sounds like an anti-Spiderman weapon, but actually it can be a good thing. It can also be a deadly, dull thing. I have never presented a webinar, but I imagine that it would be much harder than presenting a conference session. In a live conference setting, one can process a great deal of information from body language to quick check-ins and adjust content and style accordingly. This must be harder for a webinar presenter.

In the past when I have presented, I always try to have my audience walk away with three things. I want them to have time to share with each other, I want them to take something practical that they can implement right away in their classrooms, and I want them to have a nugget to ponder for a while. Hopefully that nugget is a perception changing idea that affects pedagogy and philosophy. I don’t know if I hit on all three each time I present, but those are my goals.

After participating in a webinar today, I don’t feel that I got any of those three¬† things. Coincidentally, I also received an email requesting proposals for a tech conference next year. I might just fill it out. It has been a while since I have delivered a conference presentation. They are a good professional development opportunity and personal growth tool.