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Category Archives: Ed-Tech

Inside the Classical Education model. Latin, robotics, and…podcasting

In our middle-school years at St. Peter’s College, Latin was a subject. We didn’t know why we had to study a ‘dead language’ or how it fit alongside biology and geometry. But it later transpired when the seeds of a classical language began to sprout. Our love for theater (whether it was Oliver Twist, or Hamlet), our appetite for reading, debating, linguistics, and history could be traced back to learning what seemed like tedious (read: boring) declensions and the likes.

This school year I joined a classical High School, and now see the internal architecture of a classical education. The three-part structure of ‘grammar, rhetoric, and dialectics’ is just the start. Music and the fine arts, science and athletics are key elements. And of course technology.

A few months ago in teaching communication to my college level students, we looked at how rhetoric mattered; the underpinning of public speaking, ‘Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.’ So I was delighted to see how my High School’s monthly themes are structured on classical Roman virtues such as Gravitas, Humanitas, and Comitas.

You’re probably wondering what does this do for learning, and students’ character? I can only say this. After a month of teaching with this model in place (teaching computers and tech, mind you!), students come to class eager and prepped to learn; respectful, inquisitive, thoughtful.  This week, looking at inventors and inventions we did thought experiments (a.k.a. Bell work) on social norms and expectations when Thomas Edison messed around with filaments and early audio. Next week they will see parallels with someone like Douglas Engelbart, the prolific Edison-like chap who gave us the mouse, among other things. They were philosophers in their own time, who embodied, and fit, the classical model.

At the end of the week two students approached me to sponsor clubs. One was a Robotics club, and the other was for Podcasting. I had to catch my breath – podcasting! What would 12-year olds want to do with podcasts? It comes down to the classical model which feeds the need for young people to engage in much, much more than Fortnite, or memes. If we only let them.

 

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Team Lanka at Robotics Olympics in Mexico this week

Last July, our team went to to the kickoff  Robotics tournament in DC.

This year, the team’s expanded to include students from other schools in the country.

  • Students: Cong, Daniel, Felix, Hamza, Lasith, Navod, Sachin, Sherwin, and Syanthan.
  • Coaches: Shankar, Jekhan, Dilum, and Srimali

This is one impressive gathering of 170 nations. It is hosted by the ‘FIRST’ organization, which is the umbrella organization that holds 5 other robotics tournaments around the country, such as FIRST Lego League Jr., FIRST Lego League, FIRST Tech Challenge, and FIRST Robotics for grades K-4, 4-8, 7 – 9, and 9-12 respectively.

I’ve worked with FIRST for the past 6 years, and met Dean Kamen, the founder, who’s one of the biggest STEM promoters I’ve ever known. He puts his money where his mouth is, a serial entrepreneur and educator who inspires youth across all ages. If you like to know how to get your school involved in robotics, or STEM, let me know.

 

 
 

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How did the stylus, SHIFT key and floppy survive?

When teaching students keyboarding, or document creation I can’t help notice how much old tech is embedded in our fancy tech tools and applications.

Consider the stylus, which originated as a reed, to inscribe ‘information’ on tablets made of clay. History tells us that humans used tablets way back too! 

Then there’s the irreplaceable pencil, often the symbol that something could be edited (for instance in LinkedIn). Facebook uses the pencil icon to ‘make a post’, and for editing one’s profile.

Or consider the floppy disc -which none of my 7th grade students could identify. It lives on as an icon on the ribbon of Microsoft Word. Those who designer of the interface must have been hard pressed to find a replacement to the simple icon.

And isn’t it odd that we still use the 144-year-old QWERTY keyboard from the typewriter era? It apparently made its debut on July 1, 1874. Even the SHIFT key is a hold-over from that revolutionary device. It came into being with the Remington model of 1878. The first Remington sold for $125. I picked up a similar-looking typewriter for $50 recently. It sits next to a laptop, fighting for attention!

New tech can’t completely erase old tech. Nor do we seem to be able to replace one with the other, do we? Makes me wonder what else will survive, should touch pads, thumb drives, and the camera (how many use one today?) icon go away.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2018 in Ed-Tech, Technology

 

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Screens or No screens? Battle lines are being drawn

Which side of the fence are you on when it comes to screens in the lives of your children?

We all have stories to tell. So as I regularly pose this question to my friends and colleagues I like to stay armed with evidence, and more importantly, other parents’ findings. You may want to read the story by Anya Kaemnetz on NPR this month. she quotes may different people. From a sleep researcher parent, to a pediatrician, to an obesity doctor.

  • The obesity doctor has this ‘rule’ in the home: The 5- 2- 1- 0 formula. It’s basically servings of fruits and vegetables a day. No more than hours of screens. 1 hour of physical activity, 0 sugary beverages.
  • The sleep researcher doesn’t allow screens to be used before bed time as t impacts sleep quality and of course sleep time.

Meanwhile the cell phone ban in schools has many advocates, including in France. Would it kill the Ed-Tech supporters? And the one-on-one movement?

What’s your take?

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2018 in Ed-Tech, Education, Technology

 

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The best tool for Storytelling or Digital Storytelling

The equivalent to the Google classroom is the Adobe classroom. Later this month, Adobe offers a class ‘called Explanimation.’ An awkward word coined to describe animation to explain, or tell a story.

Too often however, Storytelling is linked to software. From iMovie, to Glogster; from Visme and Animoto to Audacity among many others. Humans told stories around campfires before most technologies were invented. So tools like these should not become a crutch.

Storytelling –be it digital or analog– requires being able to describe something succinctly. Long before firing up the software the ‘story’ needs a structure and focus. There’s the tried and tested Beginning, Middle, and End. Or the Introduction, Conflict, and Denouement, if you will.

Students are natural born storytellers, but they often freeze up when it’s time to sketch things out. The best technology for this? Something invented in the same year that Shakespeare was born – the pencil!

 
 

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Thank you, Orbital!

Every time we have a STEM event, or SPACE Day, one group I always count on is Orbital ATK, a Chandler, Arizona-based company. Rockets and launches are in the news every month. Just this week, Orbital ATK launched the 139-foot rocket, Antares; the 200th mission to the International Space Station.

For STEM Night at Salt River Elementary, Orbital created an amazing demo using a ‘transformer rail gun‘ – basically accelerating magnets that transfer potential energy to kinetic energy. Plus canister ‘pop rockets’ that explained what Newton’s Third Law is all about. Thank you Javier Molina-Moughamian, Shannon Burke, Monique Dalton, Kelly Wallace, and Kimberly Barraza for being part of our team.

 
 

The day rockets flew!

Rockets soared at our school, on April 30th –the same day news broke of China’s plans to test a reusable launch vehicle, the ‘Long March 8.’ STEAM night was quite an experience, six years since we began on this journey.

Ours too were reusable, but they were built by students from Kindergarten upwards. Made of paper, drinking straws, Popsicle sticks, and rubber bands they traveled where no rocket had gone before on the basketball court. (One flew way out of our test range, covering 70 feet!) Most were powered by rubber bands. Some preferred to use wind power – blowing them out of the launch tube! The judges were quite impressed. Said Orbital ATK engineer, Monique Dalton of one model:

While most rockets flew pretty flat and straight, this one showed a curve visible to the naked eye of the sort of trajectory rockets take in space. It was as if this rocket really was on a mission delivering a payload.

This student’s rocket traveled 58 feet, 7 inches.

Meanwhile, SpaceX, is looking for ways to go beyond ‘reusable’ into mass production of rockets, just like GM does cars. Some day one of these kids will be in Mission Control –and I’m going to watch it from my rocking chair!

         

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