Drone, Baby Drone and other Creative Apps at ISTE 2014

“Creative teachers,” said one presenter –whose name I couldn’t jot down because I didn’t have the appropriate app ready to scan his QR code at a 30-foot distance–“know how to sneak the really good stuff into their classroom.”

elementsAs this marathon ISTE conference draws to a close, there were so many sidebars, and concurrent darn-I gotta-skip events, it’s hard to pin-point one big thing. I ran into more creatives (the tablet-wielding types) per square foot than at any event I’ve attended. Students, too. More about that in a moment. And I don’t mean creative types in terms of the iPad-toting app-happy folk. There are teachers who have spent insane number of hours disrupting their lesson plans with science-ish, media-ish, technology-ish, math-ish hands-on work that you’d think they were running non-profit enterprises. (sidenote: I just recalled the afore-mentioned speaker – author of the children’s book, “ish” – Peter Reynolds.) Getting students to produce hand-drawn periodic tables because they work better with Augmented Reality. You get the idea.

This enormous body of work ought to be documented (Ok, Evernoted, Dropboxed, Google docked or Wikiid) for the 18,000 weary souls who will drag themselves to the train station and airport today. So that when we return to our students in August, we could pull up some of these big ideas to implement.

Consider some of the discussions and hands-on sessions. Most people outside of education (that’s where I came from) only hear of Arduino, Aurasma, SkitchReflector, and Qrafter at social media shin digs. Drone Baby droneThe rush (crush) to scan QR codes was so great at one point this morning there were lines of people –smart-phones poised– that rivaled Starbucks. I must’ve been the only tech blogger with an analog device –my notebook.

Most people think Maker Spaces are where wanna-be engineers mess around. One teacher at a small booth tucked away in a corner had practically designed a pinball machine kit for students to experiment with simple machines. No fancy app here, but ‘moving parts’ foraged from Home Depot and her garage: door knobs, furniture screws, bolts, rubber bands and ‘springs’ from spines of spiral-bound notebooks. Creative teachers really know how to sneak in the good stuff, on a budget.

In case you read my post yesterday, yes, this kind of creative pedagogical streak is very different from the cameras, cloud-based tools and Google-glas-ish shiny objects I ran into before.

THEN THERE WERE STUDENTS teaching the grown-ups. Lots of them. One group from Mexico brought a mine-rescue bot controlled by Bluetooth, a piezo-electric floor, a cardboard-model levitation train, and a swimming robot embedded in a large plastic bottle that can take water-samples of a polluted lake. Students! Others were showing off how to turn 2D images into 3D movies –ideal for digital time capsules. That palm-sized quadro-copter (above) is not however a student project, but a company who has STEM-ready drones that I just might use, soon.

One more day to go. I plan to skip the last keynote and go talk to more smart people…

And apps to download before I sleep. And apps to download before I sleep.

Ed Tech surge as educators prep for Common Core and more Science

ISTE_crowd1It’s hard to miss the optimism at the premier Education Technology conference here in Atlanta. Think of ISTE as the SXSW for teachers.

Supposedly attended by 18,000 people, it’s a bit like Disney Land, in some respects, with lines stretching hundreds deep. But the technology on show is extremely good, give and take a few shiny new objects.

For instance:

  • I ran into someone from the University of Penn, who’s got a content curation service that uses natural language processing (or nlp) which uses some kind of artificial intelligence and smart filters that a teacher can adjust to grade level. It made complete sense to someone who gets annoyed to hear ‘search’ referred to as ‘Research’. Google isn’t optimized for education, she said. Google is optimized for advertising and monetization. Duh!

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  • There’s a tech coordinator and science instructor out of Colorado, Kristin Donely, who’s found a neat way to let students produce animated videos using a super-cheap green-screen technique.
  • I met someone using, and sat in a class on Augmented Reality (this app Aurasma is amazing) about bringing science to life.
  • I bumped into a team from New Zealand who has a way to let students improve their reading by a teacher adding drag-and-drop sound tracks of music, ambient sound and sound effects. They will let me try Booktrack for free; I could see a different use of it – to amp up my digital storytelling module.
  • Glass3Then there is the iPad economy – with companies developing apps, attachments, learning/tracking systems, engagement tools. The push to create 1:1 classrooms is huge. Steve Jobs must be smiling up there
  • I did see a few people trying to convince us that Google Glass is God’s greatest gift to pedagogy. This lady, Kathy Schrock told me that she believes Glass would be useful in projects that lets a teacher give new perspective to a lab in progress, and also have her hands free.
  • Speaking of Glass, this very cool camera from EXO Labs is more than a shiny new object –it could double up as a microscope for science projects and also stream images wirelessly. And of course, it works with (only) an iPad.