Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Going Green in Benin

I have a vested interested in Benin, having traveled there in 1998. Someday I will write my autobiographical piece about my experiences there: I already have a title, "I am George."

BoingBoing's Xeni Jardin did a great little piece, a little light on the technical details unfortunately, about the Songhai Center in Benin, embedded above.

It was such a pleasure "being back" in Benin and seeing the sights and hearing the sounds of the people I grew to know, love, and at times hate. I am very pleased that the resourceful people of Benin are getting on the Green tip and creating substainable futures for the nation.

Monday, September 22, 2008

PicoBoard with Scratch

In anticipation of my Scratch Presentation at the Innovative Learning Conference I purchased a PicoBoard, which used to be called a ScratchBoard. This device allows your Scratch Project to interact with the real world. For instance, there is a light sensor built in, so you can program your Scratch Projects to react as the light increases or decreases in the room.

To that end, I built a Scratch Project called Make the Sun Rise. This Project uses the light sensor on the PicoBoard to animate a sun sprite and the background. When you open the Project, if the light is dim the sun stays in place. As you gradually increase the amount of light the PicoBoard is exposed to, the sun will rise and the backdrop will turn from black to blue. Conversely, once the sun has risen if you cover the light sensor the sun will set and the background will fade to black.

It took me a while to get my head around how to program this Project. After giving it a shot yesterday I came back to it today and got it working the way I wanted it to work. You will have to download the Project and have a ScratchBoard or PicoBoard to make it work. As I say in the Project notes, the effect works best if you gradually expose the light sensor to light, just like how the real sun rises.

I have been hard at work at my presentation for ILC and very much look forward to the experience. To tide you over, here is my JumpBall game, my Scratch port of a Japanese game for the Newton MessagePad. Avoid the ball! Have fun! Click on the image to play!

Scratch Project

Sunday, September 14, 2008

NY Times: Traveling with Autism

photo by Michael Nagel for the New York Times

The New York Times has an interesting multimedia feature produced by Miki Meek about a family's travels with their 16-year-old autistic son.

While travel can be tricky for families grappling with autistic children, Gina Delgiudice-Asch refuses to let that keep her 16-year-old son, Andrew, at home.

Mrs. Delgiudice-Asch emphasizes the need to prepare a routine, leave early in the morning for the airport and the other challenges faced when parents travel with their autistic children. She also equates travel with preparation for life, a powerful lesson. This is an inspiring and educational segment.

Interactive WhiteBoard Presentation at GFA

Last Thursday was Lower School Parent's Night at Greens Farms Academy and I gave a twenty minute presentation about the SmartBoards installed over the summer. I built in part of my Meet Mr. Burker lesson I did with the students to introduce the parents to me, my educational technology philosophy, and how we are going to use the SmartBoards this year.

I invited the parents up to draw on and interact with the board. They helped me locate Seattle and Connecticut on the map and learned to write my name in cursive. Additionally, they helped me identify some shapes and learned how the SmartBoard essentially becomes the computer, as the computer can be manipulated from the board itself.

The parents were very receptive to the presentation and excited to see the technology in action. Their students are excited, too, and the SmartBoards might prove to be a very effective technology for the K-5 group.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My First Lesson at GFA

Today was the first day of school for Lower School students at Greens Farms Academy and my first day in the classroom with the students! Today I taught two first grade classes and a second grade class.

I wanted to showcase the new interactive SmartBoards that were installed over the summer. I also wanted to introduce myself to the students. To that end, I created a Notebook document that the students and I could interact with. The students learned about my drive across country, the people and places we saw and my wife and our dog. Additionally, they each got a chance to use the SmartBoard and experience the myriad technologies that can be used with an interactive white board, such as the Notebook software, Google Earth, and web pages. The students loved the photos of Zoƫ, Cadillac Ranch, and a scorpion under a blacklight.

The SmartBoards are pretty awesome educational tools. It will be exciting to break down the barriers of the classroom and redefine the space as the students use the interactive white boards to demonstrate to their peers and to interact with technology in a tactile, kinesthetic manner.