Off to Google and What You Can Do This Summer

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane!

It is official, I am going to work for Google! The position was brought to my attention by Dan Meyer and after a wonderful interview process at the Googleplex, I am going to be the new Curriculum Fellow.

While many would think this would be a no-brainer, I wrestled with this decision for many days. While the job and the workplace is a dream come true, I love my job and my robotics team and it pained me to think of leaving. I have made the most of the situation by committing myself to be their virtual mentor for the foreseeable future. While we do need someone physically there, I am too intertwined to the process to even think of how I would be able to remove myself (nor do I want to). So that is how I have made my peace with that.

I am so happy that I get every teacher's wish, more time. I have been working for years piece by piece to create a computationally enriched science and math curriculum but between robotics and the daily classes, it has moved at a snails pace. Since that is what I was hired to do by Google, I cannot wait to provide the challenge more focus. No longer do I have to work on the car while it's running so to speak.

My other goal is to bring "the new cool" and amazing experiences that comes from a 21st century STEM program. I hope to be able to support more schools and especially more students have great learning opportunities and adventures.

This post coincides with the beginning of summer for me and like many other bloggers am going to take some time off. Especially with my move to the Mountain View area, ISTE starting this Sunday, and my Graduate Studies, I need to change my posting frequency at least in the short term. I will still post if something important or awesome comes up but at least for a month or so I am going to post less frequently.

I am always around either by Twitter, Facebook or Email just click one of the pictures on the upper right of the blog. (Not the ones here, as it is just a picture). I highly suggest you subscribe to the RSS feed so you will not miss anything. I send my coworkers a digest of what I share with you and many of them keep an archive of them, their request as I was leaving was to somehow keep the emails coming, but you can do this by subscribing via email or rss.

Do not fear, now with summer you may find yourself finally able to try some new things out. Here are a couple of recommendations:

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane for all of the relevant technology and education news/information.

Cyberpatriot Student Competition Teaches IT Skills

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane!

Learning occurs when there is motivation and resources, we prove this every time we get on YouTube. Students have so much competing for their cognitive surplus that many educators drive themselves nuts trying to compete with highly interactive video games, tv, or social networking. This is where the head fake comes in. While not coined by him, Randy Pausch brought this term into the education world when he referred to ALICE as a way for students to make stories and videos while learning Java Programming. While Robotics provides an excellent challenge for builders, programmers, etc, it is not frequent enough throughout the year so I sought out another way my students could get valuable computing skills.

Luckily, the Air Force Association brought it to my attention that they host a competition called CyberPatriot to encourage students to learn about IT, Networking, and Programming skills. This program began a couple of years ago when it was identified that our global community needs users who are aware of how to properly defend their computers and networks against cyber attacks such as viruses, phishing, and identity theft. Furthermore, there is a need for trained professionals to defend our larger infrastructure against cyberwarfare.

CyberPatriot involves groups of 5 or so students defending their computers against simulated attacks. These attacks occur within a virtual machine so they are harmless to the actual computer but students must defend themselves nonetheless and earn points for their team based upon how quickly and capably they do so. Check out the following promotional video for more info:

The registration cost is $350, but assuming you own a computer, that is all that you need to start a team and compete. All of the training resources and software is free and can be found at While programming and engineering are too often neglected in our schools, IT, networking, and hacking have it all the more difficult. Students who learn these valuable skills are far too often labeled as criminals or thwarted by their schools IT department. But, this would be the perfect program to ask your school's IT manager to be a mentor. They would be given the recognition for all of the hard work they deserve, have eager students willing to learn, and be able to perhaps provide resources or practice scenarios. 

Mentors are hard to find for this program and the books explaining it clearly are even more scarce, which is why we need programs like this to flourish. When FIRST Robotics began 25 years ago, it struggled to gain a foothold in schools and gain the interest of companies. Cyberpatriot is just getting started and your students can be in it from the beginning. This is another opportunity for your students to have fun and learn skills that are highly applicable to the real world and translate into a career, please consider starting a Cyberpatriot team!

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane for all of the relevant technology and education news/information.

ISTE 2011 HP EduInnovation

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane!

A couple of years ago, we received a grant from HP. In that time we have used the grant to make a magazine about the Otay Valley Regional Park, a virtual bike ride through the park, and a lot of collaboration across Elementary/Middle/High School Students. HP is looking for votes on what you think was the best use of their grant to see who they would fund again. Check out our video below and then follow the instructions to vote for us or anyone else. There's only one week left and it would ensure we are able to continue to provide amazing opportunities for the students.

Find out more about the contest here

To vote go to the EduInnovation channel on YouTube. Search "mind collisions" in the space on the right like you see in the picture on the right.

Then click on the thumbs up sign to vote. 

Thanks for helping! This grant made a lot of really cool learning happen and students had some wonderful experiences. We will be presenting the Virtual Bike Ride at ISTE 2011 and we would love to see you there!

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane for all of the relevant technology and education news/information. 

Creating Video Tutorials for Your Classroom Version 2.0

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane!

Video tutorials are a tool with the power to do a lot of good for learning. I have believed this for quite sometime in fact it was one of the first posts on BrokenAirplane. There are three main obstacles to overcome in this area and they are: Access to technology and videos, pedagogy and usage of video tutorials in your classroom, and high quality creation of video tutorials.

The first one is quickly diminishing as smartphones become more and more ubiquitous, many more students around the world have a phone rather than a computer. The issue of pedagogy is arising as an issue as some schools are adopting video tutorials or technology based lessons as a replacement for the teacher. Others feel that the video tutorial is not effective at delivering content.

I believe that video tutorials have a time and a place. In Patrick and my experience, they are most effective when they are used for a specific skill or concept as opposed to curriculum. This keeps the video focused and allows students to focus on a concept. When it is something "fuzzy" like Inertia or Gravity (as proven by the Veritasium videos/research) it is difficult to convey it through a video, there are better ways of ensuring that these concepts are understood and that they stick. Video tutorials best work in situations where it is a new skill and has multiple steps.

It is my belief that we are stronger when we work together as a global community of learners and educators. Each of us must have at least one amazing thing that is worth sharing with the world and video tutorials allow us to share all of those wonderful talents with each other and our students. So Patrick and I have worked much this year to refine our instructions on how to make video tutorials. In that time we have discovered some really cool things both technologically and pedagogically and we wanted to share them with you. I hope you will share this around your school, share with us what you are doing with the technology, and provide any feedback to ensure that this is helpful to as many people as possible.

Here is a link to the original PDF for the Video Tutorials.

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane for all of the relevant technology and education news/information. 

Google Doc Discussions for Hybrid Learning

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane

Google Documents rock! Where else can you get a free document editor that you can share and collaborate with others? Recently, Google released Discussions which were an improvement on the comments you could embed within a document. With discussions, you could leave a comment and have it be sent to a recipient, who could in turn reply in conversational form. Now students could work together to refine their work and teachers could give feedback all leading toward beautiful work.

With recent improvements, you can track when the last time a page was accessed and what they said. This was rolled out without much fanfare, but for educators, it makes a big difference! Typically to get this kind of data you would need to use a classroom management software like Moodle or Edmodo, both fine tools but they require you to leave what you are doing and go somewhere else on the web. All of this is within the Google Apps that you are already using.

This summer, Patrick and I are working on a hybrid multimedia/graphic design summer school class. We wanted students to be able to work from all over the city without having to come into town. Plus Patrick wanted to be able work with students while he and his Graphic Novel project students are exhibiting at Comic Con (congratulations to them by the way). A concern with the hybrid class was "seat time", how would the school be able to certify that the students had worked long enough to qualify for the Carnegie Credit Hours

With Discussions, that problem was resolved. With the class a mixture of synchronous face-to-face video conferences, and asynchronous independent work students could demonstrate their mastery as well as seat time with time logs in their Google Doc. We are really excited about the prospect of conducting a full class without a classroom. More on our successes and struggles will appear in the next few weeks I am sure but I figured that many could benefit from this and I wanted to get the tip out as soon as possible. Enjoy!

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane for all of the relevant technology and education news/information. 

Senior Project: Runaway Alarm Clock

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane!

I never experienced Senior Projects in my high school (my wife did) but I wish I had. The opportunity to  receive professional feedback and receive credit for work you have always wanted to do is something I had to wait a long time to do. For a semester, I worked with 2 of my graduating robotics students as their mentor and although I am biased I think their projects are incredibly cool.

In this post, I share Amanda's Run Away Alarm Clock. When I sat through her presentation of her work, it was incredible to see how much she has grown since I met her as a Sophomore. She served as our robotics president for two years and our team will never be the same without her. With this project she took on electronics and programming, two aspects of engineering she had not focused on before.

She was creating no simple project, but what I love most about Amanda is how she has an endless supply of energy and will persevere through all obstacles. Randy Pausch's quote that, "brick walls are there to show us how much we want something," is personified in her. Her math teacher and she both agreed that she is much more capable at courageously approaching any problem she encounters and she continues to be interested in both Business and Engineering. I am so grateful to have women role models like Limor Fried to share with Amanda to inspire her. This project was made possible with Arduino, AdaFruit Industries, SparkFun, and the Arduino Cookbook for parts, resources, and inspiration. So without further ado, here is her project.

Run Away Clock
By Amanda Snyder
Can the new and improved Clocky help students wake up on time for school?
Given the number of students not coming to school on time, students clearly need a more effective way of waking up on time.  The purpose of this project is to improve the already existing Clocky to help students not only wake up on time, but to come to school awake and prepared.  The Run Away Clock will be able to tell time, run away from the user when an alarm goes off, and flash lights as it runs away from the user.  I created a program to implement all these features using an Arduino Uno and an accelerometer.  The accelerometer will cause The Run Away Clock to hit an object and, using a sensor, back up from the object it hits and start running away again.  After completing the clock, I gave three students The Run Away Clock and had them complete a feedback form so I could refine the product.  I have also created a pamphlet for students interested in creating their own Run Away Clock.   

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane for all of the relevant technology and education news/information.

Khan Academy is Our Ally, Lets Work Together

This article is crossposted and in reference to The Time Has Come to Stop Playing Defense and Change Education but is in reference to many posts and tweets over the last few months.

I want to call our attention to a worrisome trend emerging in the online Education world. Our disagreements are leading toward division and preventing us from making effective change. Revolutions are doomed to fail when fear and strongly worded language is used to incite and stir up the masses. 

We do not need to burn someone else at the stake in order to have reform. Nor do we need an enemy. If you dislike that teaching has a bad rap or that students have poor learning opportunities you simply need to share what you do and let it stand on its own. What I am hearing is a lot of anger and frustration, and rather than tweeting and creating inflammatory posts that divide we should find our common ground and work together towards our common mission.

Frankly while I respect all sides on this discussion (and would consider many of you friends and colleagues) I feel like there is a lot of undue ire toward the Khan Academy. In my opinion, this will get us nowhere. From everything I have seen Sal is equally committed to helping change education for the better. If you disagree with it then like he said on HA post your own stuff. To be honest, I have exhaustively read and researched all of the interested parties posts about modeling and instruction as well as the books and resources out there (about 6 months of intensive research) and I agree with them, but they are what most great teachers would agree with anyways. Modeling is not this OMG pedagogy, it is taught in many University science education programs. However even the instructors of modeling pedagogy still suggest worksheets with questions that if they came from anyone else would be considered pseudocontext. If we are willing to promote that program even though it is still in need of refinement and growth then we should do the same for Khan Academy while it is in its early development stages. There is still much work to do and we can do more if we do it together.

We do have our problems. We have a huge population and the “teachers who care and are qualified” to “students” ratio is rather dismaying. There is an exponentially increasing amount of information and we agree there is not enough time to go through it all with students (far less so if you are trying to do any kind of deep and meaningful learning). The idea that we cannot use video technology to support learning flies in the face of everything we have learned about YouTube. Millions go on every day to learn something new and while it may not be deep learning, it was not intended to.
If we wanted Khan Academy to cover every viewpoint or concept, our world's surface would be covered by servers maintaining all of the data. The hope is that teachers will use these videos for students to support or review what is in the classroom and students will use it to take control of their learning. Of course there are those teachers who are going to use it as the primary teaching tool but that is not the fault of the Khan Academy any more than it is Facebook's fault that students get distracted. Tools can be inappropriately used but that does not mean they should be discredited. Some complain that his videos are the same as a lecture and do not change. This is no different than textbooks but textbooks are an incredible reference for students as they are working to understand just not as their primary learning tool. By that standard almost everything on the Internet is static and unfit for reference and instruction but we all know how silly that is. There is no technology that will or should ever replace student - student and student - master interaction.

There is hope, support, vision, and funding behind the Khan Academy, something that education reformers greatly covet. We can find ways to work with their very open development team: from the lead programmer Ben to Sal himself, to create a resource we can all be proud of. Having series of posts and webinars dedicated to tearing down Khan Academy will only lead to a pile of rubble and no progress. The number of us online and actively thinking about our pedagogy is sadly a small percentage of the teaching population, if we cannot support each other as allies then our mission is doomed. If you are going to propose something else, post concrete and specific things to support teachers. My philosophy is to give teachers something to think about but also something they can use tomorrow. Please try do the same and let me know how we can help because you are not alone to do all of the work. 
Having high minded ideals is one thing but when the students come in the next day, what are we going to do that meets the goals of our collective pedagogy while still (as long as we have to) meeting the State/Federal requirements that keep us employed. Khan Academy is not controlled by government organization so in fact they could be one of our best hopes for learning opportunities outside the classroom and for those who do not have access to the great resources that we all enjoy.

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane for all of the relevant technology and education news/information.

Autodesk123D Brings Free CAD to Everyone

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane

As as an educator, I am strongly in favor of free software. Classrooms have a difficult enough time without having to pay for expensive technology. While I personally favor Open Source, I have long been puzzled at why more companies do not provide free education software. It is in their best interests to ensure a continuous cycle of users and how could a company guarantee that better than by providing them an opportunity to learn their software at a young age.

Autodesk, has taken steps to support the maker and STEM community by releasing Autodesk123D for free to the public. Autodesk is famous for its CAD (Computer Aided Design) software which allows for fast and high quality designs of most major products on the market. Many who could have learned this software were unable to because they were unable to afford the high cost for a software licence. Free alternatives exist but they have either a steep learning curve, or were not powerful enough to do effective designing.

Note: Students who are members of the FIRST Robotics Competition have access to free student versions of all Autodesk Software. As if you needed another reason to start a robotics team.

Autodesk 123D's website provides you with the option to download the software (Windows Beta currently), as well as search and find already created models. This can expedite the process when you only need to modify a design as opposed to creating it from scratch. You will also find resources for printing out your model when it is done. Yes, that's right, the 3D Revolution is here and the cost of printing a prototype for fun or marketing has dropped dramatically.

Once you have downloaded the software, you will find introductory videos to get you started. Clicking on Learn More brings up the Support Website which has great videos to take you through the steps to make your first design and beyond. Considering how much Autodesk training usually costs I am happily surprised at their realization of how much this will benefit them in the long run by creating a larger base of users.

Autodesk123D has the feel of Autodesk Inventor with enough features to create a design. It is similar to Google Sketchup in many ways while being oriented towards CAD more than architecture.

Users will be able to get practice working with the workflow and part hierarchy which is critical to good CAD design. This allows the designer to see how parts are connected and see the settings and features of each part and sketch.

The design buttons are similar to Google Sketchup so if you have any experience with that software you should be able to pick up the process faster. It starts with a sketch which is then extruded (pushed/pulled) to the size you want. Like Autodesk and Sketchup you can specify the exact measurements. The other buttons allow for the insertion of Primatives or basic shapes, duplication and reflections, and assembly. The familar view block and zoom/pan tools are there as well.

My other favorite part of this program is the wise decision by Autodesk to not cut off its effectiveness by cutting it off from the rest of the community. Autodesk123D allows for saving and opening in its own special extension but will also work with STEP, Autodesk 2007, DWG, and STEP files. This allows users to access the FIRST and VEX CAD libraries of premade parts. One can also open Google Sketchup files showing they are willing to play nice with others.

This is a great piece of software but also a great decision by a company who is and will likely remain an industry standard for a long time based on decisions like this. This product is capable of inspiring and empowering design and creation and I hope more companies decide to provide free and useful versions of their software for training but also for those businesses and organizations that cannot justify an expensive software licence. There are so many tools out there that make this an exciting time to be apart of STEM. The more people who have access to these creative softwares, the better for us all.

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane for all of the relevant technology and education news/information.

The Computer History Museum and Website Remind Us How We Got Here

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane!

Everyone reading this likely remembers a time without the enormous amount of technology present in our lives. Perhaps some remember a time where there were no personal devices like cell phones and others only remember the massive departure from MySpace to Facebook. An incredible shift has happened in our world and we don't really address it. In fact in the classroom we seem to avoid the topic. Our students who have never known a world without YouTube, ubiquitous cell phones, and Wikipedia are likely to never know what it was like and what was gained or lost with the addition of technology to every part of our lives.

There are few places in the world that have been a part of this shift more so than the Santa Clara Valley, also known as Silicon Valley. The list of companies that started there or moved there encompasses every aspect of the technology revolution. So it is fitting that the Computer History Museum should be there as well.

When I toured this, it was awe inspiring and informative all at once. To see original technology for me was similar to seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. What I found most interesting was how intricate older technology was before small ICs (example: Apollo Guidance Computer) and how large it had to be to accommodate it. Much of these room sized computers and technology could fit inside your pocket in their current forms.

Now, considering many of my readers are not in California, you might consider this interesting but not particularly helpful. However, the museum's website is filled with even more information than the museum itself. The Exhibits page about topics like semiconductors, Pong, ENIAC, Google, Homebrew Computer club, and more brings up a wealth of resources and the timeline page is full of history and innovations woven into our technological story.

As technology becomes more and more a part of our lives, it integrates itself into our science and math, but also our history and humanity. This website and museum are a great way to begin to share that legacy with your students and perhaps come to accept it as a part of our student's education.

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane for all of the relevant technology and education news/information.

What Does Our Music Say About Us? Python Music Experiment Part 2

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane!

Perhaps you tried my class' experiment with their favorite music, finding out the frequency of a word and seeing if there was any significance in the repetition of that word. We did a another experiment where we analyzed the Billboard Top 100 for 2000-2009.

The words that came up most frequently (with a couple of random outliers) were:
Do you see a connection? They did. Especially as they are reading Romeo and Juliet in their Humanities class. Love and possessions is what the students felt was being repeated over and over. While the profitability in increasing desire and hype over possessions is obvious, I posed to them, "Why might a lyricist or company hype up songs about love?" One student's response, "Because when you are in love you will do anything for them or buy them anything."

I then posed to them the challenge of writing a song (a good song!) that does not use any of these words. It was like lyrical Taboo. It would be interesting to see what our culture would be like if we didn't use these songs in all of our most played songs.

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane and keep up with all of the latest education and technology resources!

Google Lit Trips Lets Students Experience Their Books

Subscribe to BrokenAirplane!

This was a tip from a colleague and I am glad I remembered it as I was caught up in some recent traveling. Humanities Teachers at my school have the job of teaching both Literature/Writing and History/Geography. Within the context of a story, one can often bring the history and geography into it and provide a richer experience.

With Google Lit Trips, much of the work has been done for you. Simply look at the top of the page for the level of reader (K-5, 6-8. High School, and Higher Ed) and scroll to find the book you are reading. Then download the file to Google Earth and play the tour for your students. The content has been created by teachers just like yourself and can include a landmarks tour and Sketchup Models of ancient or fictional buildings. You will also find great resources like reader guides and links to interesting websites about the book.

If you have a passion for a particular book, why not add it to the website and share it with the world!

If you have not used Google Earth or Sketchup before, you will be amazed at how easy and fun it is for learning. There are many great tutorials on how to use both: Google Earth Tutorials (Historical Imagery), Getting Started with Sketchup are some examples.

Be sure to check out the BrokenAirplane Humanities Resources page for other resources for English, Social Sciences, Geography, Music, Foreign Language and more!

By the way, this project was created by Jerome Burg, a Google Certified Teacher. If you are interested in becoming one, the deadline for this year's Teacher Academy is June 16th so click the link and apply!