Jun 30, 2013

Thrifting with littlebits



Thrifting is something that I have been doing since childhood, although it was never called thrifting, it was just called doing. There are all kinds of projects that my dad would do, that were about using the materials at hand to get something done. One of the other neat things was that we had a lot of materials at hand. He had woodshop, a scrap metal pile, and eventually a garage for metalworking and car repair. Need to change the oil in my car? I did it myself. Lawnmower needs a new engine, I guess I know what I'm doing this summer. Got a new Trac Vac for the lawn mower but they don't make the right vent adapter for it? Take a trip to the scrap pile, get some metal, and break out the blow torch. The store was one of the last places to look for something, and they probably didn't have the right thing anyway.


I've been to the surplus store (not the fancy new one), a few times. There's always some neat little things there to spawn some ideas. Tons of bikes, a fake christmas tree with lights, a mini fridge, and a barbers chair. I originally thought that hooking up the christmas tree lights to the littlebits and having them respond to sound or being controlled by music would be neat. However, the littlebits don't have output that allow it to interact with other things.

The outputs are limited to the few littlebits that they have. There aren't any types of interfaces besides physical ones. So the littlebits are very insular. It was hard to find things that would connect to them. They remind me of defining functions in a program. Each bit is a function and you hook them together in a linear fashion, press start, and see what happens, and then it stops.

I didn't find anything at the Surplus Store that inspired me to make something for my classroom. I thought about my Statistics class and how we use big data sets, and it might be neat to collect data ourselves instead of looking in the back of the book for it. The device I came up with is a barometer, and the data can be read from the bargraph. I think its pretty neat.

Predicting the Rain with Littlebits

Littlebits are electronic modules that fit together with magnets. They have multiple input and outputs and are very easy to rearrange to make for fast prototyping. I wanted to make a barometer that will predict if it going to rain. Let's get started.


What you need

    • From the littlebits kit

      • 9-volt battery

      • power unit

      • dimmer

      • bend sensor

      • bargraph

      • wires (to position the sensor)

    • A glass wide mouth jar

    • A latex balloon

    • A couple rubber bands

    • tape

    • scissors


  1. Cut the neck off the balloon and stretch it over the mouth of the jar. Secure it with the rubber bands. This should be pretty tight.

  2. Connect the littlebits in this order: battery -> power -> dimmer -> bend sensor -> bargraph.

  3. Place the bend sensor to its rests flat against the balloon on the top of the jar. Tape the sensor to the ballon. You can use any of your wires to separate the bend sensor if you cannot balance the bend sensor with everything else attached.

  4. Use the dimmer to calibrate the bargraph. While the balloon is flat, the bargraph should just light up to the third LED.

  5. Place the whole thing in a spot that has a fairly consistent temperature, away from windows, doors, air vents, etc.

  6. Check the barometer every few hours and record your results

Why it works

As the weather changes the air pressure outside changes. Since the jar is sealed the air pressure inside will stay the same. When the air pressure drops outside, the air inside will be higher and push the balloon up. When the air pressure goes up outside, it will push the balloon down. The bend sensor will measure how much the balloon goes up or down.

What's Next

One of the measurement that meteorologists use predict if it is going to rain is air pressure. When the air pressure drops that generally means it is going to rain. Watch your barometer for when it goes down, and it will probably start raining soon. Want to go to the beach? If the barometer is high, that means its going to be sunny all day. What else could you use the barometer for?

Annotated Bibliography

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Having Jill Morningstar come to our class was a great resource. Having her show us which were the best couple of indexes to search through saved a lot of time because I really wouldn't have known where to start. I also started using Mendeley based on the recommendation that we start using some sort of citation software. Already its been helpful just keeping track of things that I have read. To find articles, I used keywords to find a few articles and then I followed though on some of their references. I had a hard time finding articles on flipped classroom. The keywords for each article were very different. This is the best way I know of to search for articles, and I will be using it in the future.

Herreid, C. F., & Schiller, N. A. (2013). Case Studies and the Flipped Classroom. Journal of College Science Teaching, 42(5), 62–66. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu:2047/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eft&AN=86988365&scope=site

The Herreid article describes 13 benefits and 2 drawbacks for using the flipped classroom, both of which he gives solutions for. Two of the benefits which are the most interesting are that class time is used more effectively and creatively, and that achievement, interest, and engagement are increased. He uses the case studies to demonstrate to support where each of the 13 benefits came from. For the future of flipping the classroom, he prescribes finding quality videos and standardizing the format and sharing of the teacher-made videos.

This article gave a few jumping off points for finding interesting studies. The benefits of flipping could have been narrowed down because there was a lot of them. I was attracted to the article because they mentioned Camtasia, but that is all they did: mention it as one of the possible piece of software to edit video. I found it interesting that only two drawbacks were list in the article as there should be a lot more.

I will be using this article as a reference and I will be following through on some of the cited sources to see where they lead.

Parslow, G. R. (2012). Commentary: the Khan academy and the day-night flipped classroom. Biochemistry and molecular biology education : a bimonthly publication of the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 40(5), 337–8. doi:10.1002/bmb.20642

This article talked about how students are leading a change in how they learn. They are starting to gather information outside of the classroom, and teachers that are not following the trend are going to be outdated. KhanAcademy has created a new trend in student learning. Small segments of video that are recorded unscripted allow students to learn at their own pace. The criticisms are that the current system are not broken and KhanAcademy instruction is substandard, only focusing on "naked math" and not connected to anything else. The author prescribes a wait-and-see approach before using KhanAcademy.

The purpose of the article was to start a dialog about how flipping the classroom is an innovative new approach to teaching that is being embraced by students. This article was more personal commentary and dialog starters then an academic paper.

Since I have used KhanAcademy for two years in my classroom I'm familiar with some of the good ways to use it and some of the bad. Many people think it is going to "revolutionize" education. What gets lost in that situation is that teachers still have to be a large part of education. Most students won't use KhanAcademy just for fun. During the time I spend in the computer lab, I do more teaching, than I do when I lecture. The author led me to see KhanAcademy more of a tool than as a revolution.

Ani, K. K. (2013). KHAN ACADEMY: The Hype and the Reality. Education Digest, 78(6), 23–25.

The author for this article tries to separate Khan Academy from the media circus that surrounds it. He quotes Sal Khan as saying "I don't know what I'm going to say." He calls the videos on KhanAcademy "low-res" and not "very good." He also points out that Khan does "two minutes of research on Google" before recording lessons. He recognizes that Khan has created a vast library and given away his work for free.

The goal of this article is to point out that there are a lot of problems with KhanAcademy and the hype and attention of the media has far outweighed the benefits. There are also some major questions about if KhanAcademy is pedagogically sound. There are many good ways to approach teaching, and KhanAcademy is just one of them, and teaching should be left to teachers, who know best how integrate the content, pedagogy, and technology into the Total PACKage.

I feel like this author picked the worst things about KhanAcademy to expose and left many other beneficial aspects out. I found it interesting that he pointed about that KhanAcademy only focuses on isolated skills, instead of connecting math to the real world. That is true, but I do think everyone, and even Khan, expects teachers to be teaching in other ways in class, like doing projects, and knows that the drill-and-kill aspect to KhanAcademy is only one part.

Khan, S., & Slavitt, E. (2013). A Bold New Math Class. Educational Leadership, 70(6), 28–31.

Khan details some of the best ways that KhanAcademy can be used. He details how Summit San Jose, a charter in the Bay Area, uses it to let students learn at their own pace. It encourages students to take responsibility for their learning. Besides KhanAcademy's video, it also has an ever-expanding collection of math practice problems. The data collected from this is used to generate graphs about each student's learning, and each student has access to their data. There are also many different ways to use KhanAcademy. Students can watch videos, do practice problems, get step-by-step hints, remediate or race ahead.

The goal of this article is to show that there are many ways to adapt KhanAcademy to the classroom. The important thing is that it is just another learning tool, and not a replacement for teachers or schools. This source was useful because Sal Khan wrote it and it gave his vision for how KhanAcademy is being used and the work they are doing with schools and teachers.

This article shows that KhanAcademy knows that it is not the silver bullet for education. They see some interesting ideas and are building on them. I did not realize that the goals feature came from classroom experience. I think it is great that they are working so closely with schools and are excited about putting the experiences from those schools to work on their site as fast as they can.

Jun 28, 2013

NLP log, supplemental 2

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I worked on Building a UI tonight. It's also Friday and I feel like I can finally breath a bit with everything we went through the last 5 days of the MAET program. Holy cow, we did a lot!

So what I am understanding is that android apps interfaces are built in xml, and the OS can control the layout. I makes it so you don't have to have everything pixel perfect because there is flow. It borrows a lot from html, which is nice.

Screen shots from tonight

Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 12.04.02 AM

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Quickfire: Through the Window

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1-P6283817 bw 21-P6283817 BW

Jun 27, 2013

TPaCK Wordcloud

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Screen Shot 2013-06-28 at 2.27.11 AM

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge. (T. Bastiaens, J. Dron, & C. Xin, Eds.)Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017–1054. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9620.2006.00684.x

Flip2lrn Poster

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What a great spark session and poster gallery. It was so cool for TechSmith to come out and I had a great time chatting with them. And it was awesome to get some swag from them, like the flipped class brochures, the free t-shirts, and a copy of Camtasia for everyone that attended. Made for a great day. And everyone elses posters were great!

Don't forget to view the website (http://flippedaround.weebly.com) for more on flipping the classroom and tweet at us with the hashtag #flip2lrn.
flip2lrn posters


My Sentence

My sentance

It's not the product but what we learn that moves us

Chopped Reflection


For the first Chopped Quickfire, we remixed pictures found on the web by adding speech bubbles to them with Speechable (speechable.com). For the second Chopped Quickfire we used construction paper to make a hat that represented our social prosthetic system. 9135624650_94d6f38ced

Speechable was picked at random from a website of "cool tools." It is very constrained on what it can do. You import pictures, add a speech bubble, and type in your text. It is not very open ended on what you can do with it and I do not know if I could repurpose it for anything else. P6273794 caption

Using the construction paper for our Quickfire had a big problem-solving aspect to it. We were giving the construction paper, but nothing else. We needed to find other tools to do something with the paper. In a Chopped metaphor, the construction paper was in the mystery box, and the we could use any ingredients we could find in the pantry. We thought we needed glue, we found tape. We needed something to cut with, we borrowed scissors.

esq-alton-brown-081009-lg-2337214The TPACK framework, from Mishra (2012) emphasizes repurposing technology tools to fit learning goal. I found that Speechable a unitasker, something Alton Brown wouldn't be happy with. There was any extra task that it could do besides putting speech bubbles on pictures. For these two activities, I found the construction paper made the most interesting outcome, let us be more creative, and made us problem-solve, all at the same time. When we think about these two technologies, Speechable and construction paper, Speechable was the most high tech. The construction paper is relatively low tech, but in the TPACK framework, it was the best tool for teaching the concept because the technology worked with the content, instead of in separation from it. We see a lot of technology tools that have simple interfaces and do one thing well. We used Animoto (http://animoto.com/) to create a "This I Believe" slideshow the very first day of class. It was very limited on what the structure of these slide shows were, and everyone's slide show was structured  the same way: about 6 slides with some text on them, and some screen swipes in between. However the content within the video varied greatly. Yesterday we started working with Popcorn (https://popcorn.webmaker.org/). This is more like a blank canvas. It is just the tools to put certain types of media in. You have control over how, when, and where elements show up on screen, and it doesn't have to follow a set structure. All of these are great tools, but we need to be mindful of which one enhances the content. Each one of these tools could be used to teach certain content, but some tools are better than others. This is the essential piece of the TPACK, according to Mishra and Koehler (2012), teachers are best suited to blend their knowledge of technology, pedagogy, and content to create an effective learning experience.



Mishra, P. (2012). Rethinking Technology & Creativity in the 21st Century: Crayons are the Future. TechTrends, 56(5), 13–16. doi:10.1007/s11528-012-0594-0

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2012, March 31). Teaching Creatively: Teachers as Designers of Technology, Content and Pedagogy on Vimeo [Video file]. Retrieved from http://vimeo.com/39539571

Jun 26, 2013


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[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/98621378%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-KB9kI" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

Quickfire: Popcorn

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Remixed with picmonkey
P6253755.ORF.jpg remix<

Cooking with TPACK: Cutting the Cheese

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We were tasked with cutting a block of cheese using a random plate, bowl, and kitchen utensil to lay it out for a cheese plate. In our bag we got a small wooden bowl, a kiddie plate, and a whisk, and a block of cheese.

None of the tools were really suited for slicing the cheese. We used the handle of the whisk to saw through the cheese.

As far as educational purpose, this is usually how we are introduced to technology. We are giving a tool like an iPad or a SmartBoard and we aren't exactly sure how we are supposed to use it. We have to gain some insight into  our particular to tool. Mishra and Koehler (2006) argue that learning about technology in this way does not lead teachers to be able to integrate into the content or the pedagogy.

And sometimes we have to shoehorn the technology into what we have to teach because that is all we have available. Other times we are given a tool and we can find new novel uses for tools that no one has thought of before. One example, that Punya (2012) has talked about, is email. It was meant to send electronic text to and from computer. Now we can use to share pictures, send documents back and forth from computers, and lots of other things.

We also need to spend time evaluating the tools that we are given. I would never go to my kitchen drawer looking for a whisk to cut cheese. There are plenty of other tool, and even specialized cheese knives that I have that I would use first. Granted, I don't need the specialized cheese knife, just because it is available. A regular knife does 95% of the job.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge. (T. Bastiaens, J. Dron, & C. Xin, Eds.) Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017–1054. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9620.2006.00684.x

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2012, March 31). Teaching Creatively: Teachers as Designers of Technology, Content and Pedagogy on Vimeo [Video file]. Retrieved from http://vimeo.com/39539571

Jun 23, 2013

NLP log, supplemental 1

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I got a start to my NLP project. I actually have an app running on my phone!

I installed the SDK from android website and followed the first tutorial on getting a Hello World app running on your device.

I messed up a little bit by running the SDK in the download folder, realized what I did and then moved it to its home in the applications folder. Stuff didn't seem quite right, and I couldn't get the app to run on my phone. A few of the help forums said stuff like it should "just work" on the mac. Anyway, I ended up deleting the whole thing and installing it right from the beginning. It worked just fine.

So here's the IDE:
Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 12.27.18 AM

And screenshot from my phone:
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The tutorials I used:




Next lesson: Building an Interface.

Jun 21, 2013

Fish is Fish

Lionni is describing the process of the minnow using his prior knowledge and incorporating the details the frog told him. Since he only knows about fish (and frogs) he adds the details of wings and legs and colors and udders onto a fish. He does not not that they were fundamentally different animals because he does not know of any different animals (except for the frog). I think we resist change because it can be uncomfortable to learn something knew. I means we have to adjust what we think, and re-evaluate some of our past decides or action.

One of the reasons my first jobs was at a middle school is because I love how honest and open the students at that age can be. I was helping out in a science class and they were dissecting muscles, specifically chicken. This wonderful student had an interesting question while cutting into a chicken breast. He asked why we called the animal with feathers and the delicious food the same thing. He whole class broke out in laughter and you could see the realization come across his face that he has been eating animals his entire life and no one told him. I don't think he had the chicken nuggets for lunch that day.

We resist change because if we can add bits and piece of information onto what we already know, it is not as uncomfortable. Changing our world view can leave us shaken a little bit.

Learning: the act of acquiring data about the world
Understanding: using acquired data and prior knowledge to synthesize the intended meaning

Jun 20, 2013

Networked Learning Project #1


For my Networked Learning Project I want to create an app for my phone. I have some programming experience, but mainly in HTML and Python. I don't know how to write for Objective C, which is what Apple uses, or in Java, which is what Android uses. I have an iPad and an Android phone so I could do either one, but the software development kit (SDK) is free for Android, so I will start with that.

I want the outcome for this particular project to be an app I could use in one of my classes next year. I am unfamiliar with the capability of Java so I don't really know what the easy stuff is and what the difficult stuff is, so I'm not going to predict what shape this app takes until I can understand the capabilities more.

My first step is to install the SDK and Eclipse. Google has posted quite a bit on their website (http://developer.android.com/training/), so I will start from there and see what I can do.

Reading 6-21

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  • What is learning?

  • How do the learning processes of experts and novices differ?

  • What teaching methods support learning and its related concepts–understand & conceptual change?

  • Why focus on learning in the first week of a course about technology?

  • What are latest and upcoming trends in educational technology?


Introduction Video

Reflection: For our first visualization, we used a clip in the barbershop from the movie Coming to America. This movie was release in 1988 and helped anchor our thoughts about what life you to be like about 20 years ago. We used this clip to demonstrate what sort of knowledge was important at the time. The major argument in the clip was that Joe Lewis was a ridiculously old age when he fought Rocky, and that why he lost. The punchline is that he is 137 years old, which just cannot happen. Even though no one believed that, they still didn’t come to an answer to the questions. We made a parallel to it by having a (much less funny) conversation in class about how old he was, and all it took was a quick voice search in Google to find the answer.

Process Padlet
Reflection: For the second visualization, I had the idea of brainstorming and putting ideas on sticky notes to compare where the overlap for 1993 learning tasks and 2013 learning tasks was. Renee knew about Padlet, and it worked great. The visualization showed that there a few tasks that we left in 1993, a lot of new tasks that we would have to be comfortable with, and then there was actually quite a few tasks that overlapped and were still useful today.

Word Cloud

Examples: expert and novice

Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 4.07.27 PM Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 4.08.17 PM

Class output: expert processes and novice processes

Screen Shot 2013-06-21 at 10.55.57 AM Screen Shot 2013-06-21 at 10.46.09 AM
For the third visual we wanted to compare the thought processes of an expert and a novice. At first we were comparing the synonyms of novices and experts, and we created the Wordles as examples. Then we realized that really what we wanted to compare was the processes a novice user used and the processes an expert user used.


Overview of the lesson

Tools used for this Presentation



RSS is great peice of technology but is really a niche tool. The interesting tools that have developed from RSS being are around are tools like Flipboard. In Flipboard, you can subscribe to individual feeds. Where it gets interesting is what Flipboard does with your data. As you and other users read, like, follow, tweet, etc., Flipboard learns what content is related to each other and what your preferences are. If you like cats, it will show you more articles about cats, but not about dogs. You can even subscribe to "flips" that focus on single subjects. It also uses its information to curate the best articles, so you do not have to sort through every single article.

PLN Visualization

Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 1.19.58 PM

A visualization of my Personal Learning Network. I used http://popplet.com/ to create it and link everything together. The five main ways I connect with people are around the outside, with smaller categories on the inside.
I like the idea of having my PLN having a permanent home in the cloud. At my school all the math teachers are in the same hallway so there is a lot of hallway chat going. We share assignments on paper , and for tests we email the documents. With the blog I could see myself posting the documents with brief explanations about how I used it. Also getting some feedback from the other teachers that used it would be awesome. Next year, I am going to have hashtags for each of my classes so students can interact with with me and with each other.