Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Month: October 2009

Tell Me a Story!

Kids today have no attention span, we are told — and then devour all seven of the Harry Potter books multiple times.

Joel Achenbach writes about the challenges of keeping readers engaged in an era of links and microblogs. He argues, very effectively, that a good story will prevail, even in the most linkified, tweeted, and fragmented environment.

Can we do the same in our classes? Instead of listing the dates of battles, the stages of a life cycle, and other boring facts, can we tell kids a story?

I’m sure we can. Just ask Ms. Petersen (blog), whose students are learning American history, reading historical fiction and corroborating the events, customs, and fashion with their own research.

Videos and Babies of All Ages

There has been a lot of press coverage of Disney’s admission that the Baby Einstein videos did not enhance baby intellect as advertised, and, in fact, could have delayed speech and reduced the attention span of young children.

When my daughter was born, a coworker gave me one of these videos at my baby shower. This was way back when Julie Aigner-Clark, the founder, still owned the company. I unwrapped the VHS tape and watched the toys move around to the music. At the end of the video, Ms. Aigner-Clark, appeared in a brief segment thanking parents for purchasing the video, and offering guidelines for watching with your baby. I can’t remember the exact words, but she suggested dancing, clapping, pointing out the toys and saying their names.

I did this a few times. I pointed, clapped, danced with my daughter, and eventually, I gave in to the lure: dinner is not ready? Let’s keep the baby busy for a bit. There, I’ll never win Parent of the Year. I didn’t do it often, but I did it at least once.

How is a Baby Einstein video played to a young child at home different from a feature film played to an older child at school? No different at all.

Market Your Business

Over the past few days I’ve been working with Mrs. Ayling at GMS to get her class working on  Google Apps. Starting with their next project, the Market Your Business class will be run like a real business.

Students will get to class, log into their email accounts, get feedback from the previous class, set an agenda with their committees, and get to work. Committees will collaborate by sharing documents online, set deadlines and schedule events with a shared online calendar, and publish order forms online to share with the entire school.

Picture 2

In this class, students work on marketing campaigns to promote school events, such as Family Reading Night, The Eagle Café, band concerts, plays, and fundraisers. Throughout the year, the class also promotes and helps manage the school store, where students and staff can purchase school supplies and novelties. Google Apps will open new avenues for students to share and collaborate as they improve their photography, copy writing, video editing, and time management skills.

Drop Box Changes

Since our upgrade to Leopard over the summer, we’ve found that some things have changed more than we thought they would. One of these things is connecting to teacher drop boxes. The process is the same, but the look is different. Here is a little video to help teachers get their students’ assignments without too much printing.

And remember, iMovie, GarageBand, and iWeb projects must be published or “shared” prior to turning in. ComicLife, Pages, Keynote, and any similar documents should be saved as PDF prior to turning in.

As always, if there are any questions, email or stop by my office.

Google Earth Field Trip

Over the next few weeks, students in Mrs. Berry’s classes will be creating SketchUp models of buildings around our county. When they are finished, the students will submit the images to Google Earth to be used in their 3D layer.

In preparation for this project, they went on a field trip to photograph buildings in downtown Goochland. We spent a perfect, sunny day walking around houses and businesses, with cameras, clip boards, and clinometers. I was supposed to supervise, but the kids were so intent on getting their stuff done, all I did was laugh at their jokes and take pictures right along with them.

Along the way, walking from one end of town to the other, we also scouted out some cool areas for next day’s photography field trip. We saw all sorts of things, from banana plants to horse skulls.

I hope I have the time to be involved in this project all the way.

And, last but not least, thanks to Brad Franklin for lending me the camera.





The Ken Burns Effect

Everyone knows I LOVE iMovie. I’d rather spend a block working with students in iMovie than any other application. And every time I do, I get to the Ken Burns effect and have to ask the kids. “Do you know who he is?”

Here is a great clip of Mr. Burns explaining his thought process behind the idea of giving movement to still photographs, and how his name came to be in iMovie and iPhoto.

Flexible Math With LaTeX Online

Last night I read about the new function editing capabilities that have been added to Google Docs. I created a new document and added a few symbols. It was really easy, but there didn’t seem to be an overabundance of symbols in the palettes, and I could not change the size of the resulting equation.  When I copied and pasted elsewhere, the size became a problem. If I stretched the image to include in a Promethean flipchart, the edges were blurry and the smaller bits and pieces were illegible.

This morning I decided to search for an alternative and landed at the Codecogs Equation Editor, a free (donations accepted) service. I had some fun recreating equations found on a Wikipedia page and created a short video to showcase some of the features. Here it is.

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