Friday, October 21, 2016

A Vault of Inquiry...Inspire Exploration

Did you ever had that ONE lesson or that ONE activity in your classroom that clicks so well that you just want to shout it from the rooftops? Last week, for me, was one of those moments and I simply MUST SHARE!

I called it "YOU be the Archaeologist" and through some chance of enthusiasm, digital magic, inquiry based exploration or SOMETHING, my students spent a week exploring hominid fossils like PaleoAnthropologists.  Their little noses were enthusiastically buried in details about Australopithicus, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Neanderthal (and of course, Homo sapiens)....but it was SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT!  They had a mission...a purpose...a puzzle to ponder.  I'd opened a vault of inquiry.

It all centered around Homo Naledi...a National Geographic archaeological find that occurred within the past few years that has revolutionized our understanding of what it means to be human. To my students, Homo Naledi was introduced as mystery fossil, and all they knew was this:

The hook, of course, was digital...I gave them 3D models of fossils to evaluate.  3D models that are publicly available for anyone to use online (PC only) OR you can write Duke University for permission to download the 3D models for printing or for use on iPads (which I did, of course)!!!    

Here's an example of the Homo naledi 3D Model:

On a PC, this model can zoom in, zoom out AND be rotated to any angle for viewing!
Armed with the question, data sheets on each early hominid, and 3D Models of each hominid to explore, the students discussed their findings, and gathered their data together on their field notes.
Their discussions were compelling and their observations were incredibly detailed.  Eleven year old students were considering physical traits of early hominid fossils and how those traits impacted the lives of those hominids.  They were discussing skills and abilities of early hominids, such as ritualized burial ceremonies and how such a skill represented a more or less sophisticated species.  
They discussed, evaluated, synthesized, compared...I could bury DOZENS of other Bloom words into the description, but the one most important to me was they were inspired!

They worked with determination, and to finalize their query, they had to make a decision.  "Where on the evolutionary chart might this mystery fossil fit?"  They used their evidence to support their decision.  This was evidence based writing with a purpose.

After the big reveal of Homo naledi, we watched Lee Berger discuss the discovery of Homo naledi.  We heard his passion as an explorer and we were inspired by the five incredible women who risked their lives crawling through the chamber to retrieve the fossils.  Tom's talk ends with a call to future generations to prepare themselves to make discoveries and use technology to inform themselves.  He continued with a message that can apply to ALL teachers at ALL levels, for it will be the hallmark of successful, engaged, critical thinking classrooms, and when he said the words, it gave me chills.

We need to inspire exploration.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

It's Child's Play.....The Augmented Reality Sandbox!!

One year later and a LOT of patience and I'm finally finished with my Augmented Reality sandbox!!!  Needless to say I can't WAIT to share it with my students and colleagues.  She's all set up in my classroom and ready to go.  Curious what it is?  This blog provides an overview on how I obtained the grant, the resources required to build one yourself and how I got the beast up and running!!

The Grant

Toshiba America Foundation was the GENEROUS supporter of this project.  In December, 2016 I was notified that my request for $1,500 was approved.  Here's a link to the actual grant that I wrote including standards alignment, supplies, budget, rational, etc.

The Materials

The materials I used for the project were:

-Kinect Sensor (1st Generation)
-InFocus IN116a DLPWXGA 3000 Im Projector
-Computer with INVIDIA Graphics processor
-Three Bags of Sand
-Large container of cornstarch
-1 2 x 6 x 8
-Plywood 19/32-in x 4-ft x 8-ft
-1 2 x 4 x 10
-1 container of wood screws (2 inch)
-1 Gallon Paint
-2 shelving brackets
-2 bungee cords
-Package of Zip Strips

Construction of the Sandbox

The design and construction of the actual box was truly up to me as long it followed general dimensional guidelines. The final size of my box was: 40"x30". Here are some specs that I followed.

Construction of Mounted Unit

Constructing the mounted bracket proved to be a BIT more troublesome and it took me a few goes to get the brackets mounted onto the vertical 2 x 4s and the camera aimed at the box correctly.  It was also tricky getting the kinect sensor approximately 40 inches from the surface of the sandbox.   Here is the configuration that worked for me:  
After I had everything in place, I used bungee cords to secure the equipment, and the zip strips to get the electric cords snug and secured out of the way.

Mixing the Medium

Some websites will say you need to buy Sandtastic White Sandbox Sand which is a kinetic sand designed to be very moldable.  I was able to use a 50 lb bag of play sand and mix it with six cups of corn starch and six cups of water.   Once you've added the corn starch and water,  harness your inner child and stir vigorously with your hands.  

Technical Components

Downloading Linux was the next hurdle.  Having NEVER used Linux this step was VERY VERY frustrating.  The key was to have a CLEAN PC with no operating system on it.  I used UBUNTU which guided me through downloading the operating system onto a jump drive and then I did a clean boot from that jump drive to get the operating system onto the new PC.

The directions HERE were fabulous.  They took me STEP BY STEP through the process of installing Ubuntu, calibrating the Kinex, aligning the Kinex, calculating the base plane, measuring the 3D extent of sand surface, positioning the projector, calibrating the sandbox and finally adjusting the sea level.

YES there was some frustration.   Some things INTUITIVE to the writer of the directions were NOT SO INTUITIVE for me.  Here were some of the roughest patches:

#1.  Opening a Terminal WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?!?!?  It was a simple right click on the screen and a blank window popped up in UBUNTU for me to type the code(s) provided in the directions.
#2.  The Kinect is FUSSY!!!   Unplug and replug it often.  It HAS to be a generation one or the plug isn't compatible with the PC.
#4.  Measure. ARE the sensor and projector the right distance from the box?  
#5.  When you are calibrating the sandbox, if the target isn't green, IT ISN'T CALIBRATING!  This took me AWHILE to figure out and caused a lot of teeth gnashing.  

Using the Sandbox

 Honestly, once it's working it's like WOW.


Where to From Here?  What to DO with the Sandbox.

Now that it's in my classroom....just add kids!!

Investigate Elevation Maps
First we will use existing elevation maps re-create and label the maps on the AR sandbox.  They can screen capture their work (or take a picture with an ipad) and upload it to Google Classroom.  The mere process of manipulating the sand to create the elevation and topographical features mimicking an existing map will aid in their learning of elevation maps and the associated scales on the maps.

Recreate Land Forms
Students will be placed in groups and challenged to recreate the area upon which a civilization that we are studying has settled.  For example, they can recreate the subcontinent of India, include the Himalayas, label the Indus River Valley and Mohenjo-Daro and include the significant features of the sub-continent.  A guide map will be provided but students need to have the landform properly labeled and the elevations must be appropriate.

Invent NEW Areas for Settlement
Students will be given an opportunity to create/invent a NEW WORLD within the sandbox.  It will then be their challenge to determine what type of civilization is likely to develop there.  They can compare/contrast that civilization with an existing civilization to determine what types of agriculture that civilization is most likely to engage in, what type of government they'd be likely to create, where invaders are most likely to threaten, etc.  

So many possibilities and only 180 days!!!  So just keep on....

Monday, May 16, 2016

Foldify and a Few FANTASTIC Ideas!!

The Foldify App has been on the market for some time and seems to have stood the test of time.  At $3.99, it's an investment to consider and as an educator are you TRULY willing to invest $3.99 in an app that generates color printed foldable paper??  I say YES!!   Here's why.

Here's my recent videolog providing a summary of this SUPER app.

Try these GREAT ideas to integrate Foldify into YOUR class

#1.  Foldify captures the creative element of Maker Spaces.  Maker Spaces aren't ONLY about technology.  More and more proponents are encouraging craft supplies as a part of the maker movement.  Folidfy fits in nicely with the Maker spirit allowing for ingenuity and creativity.

#2.  Create scenes, settings and backgrounds for your stop-motion animation videos!!  Create a HOST of items that can be used as the key figures or backgrounds in stop motion animation films lending a greater depth of ownership and creativity in the process.

#3.  Educators can create instructional resources for students.  Create a review dodecahedron ball ( Students roll the ball and view a question with a corresponding answers on the opposite panel.

#4.  Create customized story cubes/comprehension cubes for students to use with the novel of YOUR choice OR create open ended story cubes to tap into student's imaginations!

#5.  Have students demonstrate their understanding of a novel by creating a cereal box book report OR a milk carton with an ad for a missing person!

#6.  Recreate a scene in a novel or a concept in Science/social studies by having groups create a foldify diorama.

Hopefully there is something here you can use!  Thanks for