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Category Archives: Education

Could a Bot write a poem? Take the challenge – it’s National Poetry Month

As weird as it seems, there’s is such a thing as Bot Journalism. Reportedly, a bot broke a story of an earthquake in California in 2014. But poetry written by bots? I took the challenge at ‘Bot Or Not’, a site that asks you to guess if a poem could have been written by a real person or a software bot. Have to say I failed!

Consider this – could these lines have been put together by a bot? Or a human?

Mortal my mate, bearing my rock-a-heart
Warm beat with cold beat company, shall I
Earlier or you fail at our force, and lie
The ruins of, rifled, once a world of art?
The telling time our task is; time’s some part,
Not all, but we were framed to fail and die—
One spell and well that one. There, ah thereby
Is comfort’s carol of all or woe’s worst smart.
Field-flown, the departed day no morning brings
Saying ‘This was yours’ with her, but new one, worse,
And then that last and shortest…

To find out, go to Bot Or Not.

As for the lines above: It’s by one of my favorite poets – Gerard Manley Hopkins. I should have known better.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2018 in Communications, Education

 

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Bring out the rockets – It’s S.T.E.A.M. Night!

This will be our 7th annual STEM (or S.T.E.A.M.) event, and it seems like a perfect year to focus on rockets.

Paper, air-propelled rockets, slingshot rockets, and even those that soar nearly 300 feet. Students have already begun designing and building their entries for the competition. Rubber bands create great kinetic energy!

We will have several related S.T.E.A.M. activities:

The Date:  30th April, 2018
Place:       Salt River Elementary
Time:         5 – 7 pm

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2018 in Education, STEM

 

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While some robots handle hernias, others could be invade countries. Are we crossing the line

I’m all for the use of surgical robots, or the emerging field of ‘drone journalism’ for data gathering, and even exoskeletons. But could others go too far?

Two types of robots worth considering this week:

Exhibit A: Robots in the battlefield. The Guardian reported that AI experts have called for a boycott of South Korea’s Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). The arms race for autonomous robots as machines of war is real. The US Military with Lockheed Martin has been developing autonomous armored vehicles.

Exhibit B: Then there’s the more benign use of a robot –in a coffee shop! The Da Vinci surgical robot (which I have written about) was used in a ‘demo’ of sorts in Kullman, Alabama, to give people a chance to see its capability in a friendly setting. This robot typically handles gall bladder and hernia procedures. (No fear, it’s not an autonomous bot.) Nice touch, humanizing this strange-looking refrigerator-sized 4-arm robot.

The point being, teaching robotics ought to come with a layer of ethics. It’s not enough to be develop breakthrough robots just because we can. There is such a thing as the 4 Laws of Robotics, as written up by Science Fiction writer, Isaac Asimov. They are:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
  4. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

The fourth law was added later by Asimov. We may have begun crossing the line, and ignoring it.

Interestingly, the UN this week has addressing the pace of robotics, through the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) agreement, and the UN Institute for Disarmament Research. Lots of semantics in the debate, with regard to ‘autonomous’ and ‘automated’ and what constitutes ‘human control’ of these devices.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2018 in Education, Robotics, Technology

 

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‘Weapon of Mass Instruction’ – Where did a Library lead you?

This week, April 8-14 is National Library Week. It’s a given: libraries have transformed our lives. Whether it was a sparsely equipped school library, or an uncle’s bookshelf, there’s a chance that a ‘library’ or a book that you randomly picked led you to this career.

So how did a library change your life? 

I am asking this question from as many people as possible, and will post responses here. Do send me your mini stories!

 

WEAPON OF MASS INSTRUCTION: Created by a photojournalist, this moving library, a ‘tank,’ is a converted 979 Ford Falcon that holds up to 900 books.

PROJECT GUTENBERGR, an Internet archive of 11 million boks and texts, and 4 million audio recordings of writing. You could find and download for free a book published prior to 1923! Gulliver’s Travels? Hamlet? It’s free!

 

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2018 in Book, Education

 

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Rock, Paper, Scissors, Writer’s Notebook!

There are some sure-fire things that spark creativity in a classroom. And no it’s not always a computer! I say this despite the fact that my class is a computer lab, so bear with me. I keep magnets of all shapes and sizes handy, as it is easy to start a conversation about science with a lump of metal. I also have a box of weird-looking rocks that look like they belong to a Martian landscape.

A few weeks back our reading specialist gave me a book called A Writer’s Notebook by Ralph Fletcher. It seems pretty obvious, that every would-be writer should jot down thoughts and ideas he or she stumbles upon. The book encourages students to consider taking ‘notes’ in different ways: “Seed ideas,” “Mind pictures,” “Digging out crystals” and “Snatches of talk” among others.

When I teach writing, no matter what the task at hand is (a letter, a poem, an essay, a speech) I get the student to start with a blank sheet of paper and use it as a ‘brain dump.’ This could exist on the margin of a hand-drawn graphic organizer. Somewhere in that stockpile, there will suddenly appear a key word or phrase that you can take and run with. Fletcher explains that unearthing ideas is akin to excavation:

“Once you locate the rock you use a heavy tool like a crack hammer to carefully break off pieces of stone ….revealing a ‘gem pocket’ filled with sparkling Herkimer diamonds.”

Writing is a lot like that. Anything can spark an idea, but one must painstakingly mine it to let the words tumble out.

 

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2018 in Education

 

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Still publishing Newsletters? We do!

I’ve often said I still read newsletters. From the quirky Trader Joes’ black-and-white ‘Fearless Flyer,‘ to those that come in the mail, often unsolicited. A good friend, a realtor, publishes and mails us an information-filled newsletter that is a delight to read each month. And there are many more – we just don’t give them enough credit in an everything’s-on-Facebook kind of era.

What’s your favorite newsletter? Does it still get printed or has it turned digital? I’m curious.

The case for newsletters has been debated ad nauseam. Most tend to get into the print vs email debate. But I don’t think it’s an either/or. It could be both. Sure, the reading habit is on life-support in some places. But we’re not going to pull the plug.

And so in school, some of us continue this tradition as a way to communicate with parents and the community as to what goes on in our classes in Music, Art, Library and Media Center, PE, and Computers & Tech. Here’s our latest Specials Newsletter – the March 2018 issue.

 

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Cliches don’t work after this school shooting. Students will put spin doctors out of business!

I came across an observation made by Michael Shammas, who asked us to consider what we would say if Kim Jong-un disputed international arms control treaties by adapting the cliché, “Nukes don’t kill people; people kill people!”

We would dismiss it as deranged thinking, wouldn’t we?

The events following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida have created a different kind of tipping point. One that shows students’ capacity to hold up these tired clichés and talking points for scrutiny. Such as these lines spoken by a senior at that school:

“They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun: We call BS!”

“They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars: We call BS!”

These students are thoughtful, logical, vocal –the kind of non-polarized citizens a country needs. Imagine what they could accomplish when they get to voting age!

 

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