Crucial Thought Rss

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Chris selected as K12OnlineConference keynote speaker Each year the K12OnlineConference provides tremendous professional development for free, and entirely online. This year, they have selected me as one of their keynote speakers. I am thrilled to have been chosen and look forward to participating in the conversation. Read the full post announcing all the keynote speakers here.

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Two quick links on Cognitive Load Theory I've been fielding lots of questions lately about Cognitive Load Theory. Here are two quick links that may be useful. First is an article talking about the practical implications of CLT on the design of learning. The second are some "recent" (as of 2003) developments regarding CLT. Happy reading! Update: I clarified the second...

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Practical advice on kids and Android app development After hearing about my students' success developing an Android app, I've gotten several emails asking for more details as to how I practically worked with my kids. Here are some pointers that I offered to the first person that emailed me, perhaps they are of some use to you. Please note that your mileage may vary. It's ok to not be...

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Publishing an App Inventor app to the Android Market As I mentioned earlier, my students and I published an Android app to the Android Market. See those links for more information on the background. This post is decidedly technical. First, once we finished the coding process, we packaged the app for to download to the computer. This is an option in App Inventor. This downloaded an .apk file....

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Designing and publishing an Android app with kids This post is designed to provide some context around how/why we decided to build this app. The more technical details of the code and how we published it will come in a future post. My students and I recently completed and published an Android app, and here's how we did it. First, the genesis for this goes back to a question I asked...

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Lego NXT 2.0 Light Sensor programming woes EDIT: Fixed

Category : General, Software

I need some help please programming with the light sensor. I am brand new to Lego Robotics, so forgive me if this isn’t the right place.

I am helping my daughter with a science fair project. We are going to put an NXT Robot (a little bumper car) in a big cardboard house with one opening (the door). Our goal is to see whether the robot gets out faster using its touch sensor or by using its light sensor.

We’ve programmed it (touch) to bump into a wall, back up, turn a little bit, and go forward until the same thing happens. It looks and acts much like our Roomba (her inspiration).

We are having real trouble with the light sensor programming. It looks like we have to connect certain “wires” to other wires in the programming software, but I’m lost.

Can anyone help with a program to help make this work?

EDIT: To clarify, the inside of the “house” is dark. She’s going to have a flashlight at the door to the house and hopefully the robot will seek after the light to escape the house. Like a moth to a flame…

EDIT 2: I did it! Thanks to all of you for your help. Here’s how I did it.

Screenshot_1_7_13_7_08_PM

Initial thoughts on Google Course Builder

Category : Google

I suspect by now you’ve heard about Google Course Builder. It’s the course system that powered the Google Power Search course that Dan Russell put on not long ago.

https://code.google.com/p/course-builder/

I spent a few hours figuring it out and seeing how it works. I wanted to share some thoughts with you…

1. It’s complex and requires a good bit of code editing. There’s no nice GUI to change course content, etc. It’s all a pretty big bunch of code.

2. It requires Google App Engine (appspot.google.com) which is not necessarily a bad thing, but could get into $$ if you use too much in the way of computing power for your installation.

3. It’s not terribly robust yet (it’s still in its infancy). It could theoretically work nicely for something like the Google Course, but not sure it’s ready for K-12 (or has much of a use in K-12 unless you were planning a huge MOOC.

It’s fun to play with this stuff, but I’ll likely stick with Haiku for my LMS needs, especially since they recently gave us more users, space. etc.

If you have any questions, let me know.

Chris selected as 20 under 40 honoree

Category : General

Each year The State newspaper chooses 20 local leaders that are younger than 40 years of age. This year I am honored to have been chosen! You can read the entire article in Monday’s (February 20) newspaper or online at www.thestate.com/20under40. I am thrilled to have been nominated by a friend and colleague, and look forward to representing the Midlands of South Carolina well.

Chris selected as K12OnlineConference keynote speaker

Category : Educational Technology, Featured, General

Each year the K12OnlineConference provides tremendous professional development for free, and entirely online. This year, they have selected me as one of their keynote speakers. I am thrilled to have been chosen and look forward to participating in the conversation.

Read the full post announcing all the keynote speakers here.

Abandoning Moodle

Category : Educational Technology, General, Software

I’ve become disillusioned with Moodle lately and this summer I made the decision to abandon it in favor of a new solution. Here is the process that I went through to make the decision.

1. Ever since I upgrade from Moodle 1.9.x to Moodle 2.0, I’ve been displeased. I was hoping for the new release to bring me new features and new ways of extending the learning into cyberspace. All it brought me was pain. The upgrade itself took hours, and required lengthy trips into the user support forum. I don’t mind that kind of work, but I have to wonder if my time isn’t better spent elsewhere.

2. Version 2.0 is a design nightmare. The collabsible menus are awful, and the site still feels like Web 1.0. The more I used it, the more I realized it was time for a new solution.

3. I had issues with the number of concurrent users. I moved from my shared hosting account to a virtual private server and still could not get any more than about 10 concurrent users. That is too few and was very frustrating. I was facing the need to upgrade further, which was not economically feasible.

So I went looking for something new. I looked at Instructure’s Canvas, but quickly figured out that it is not designed for students as young as mine (by their own admission). I also spoke to the kind folks at Schooltown, but by that time I had already settled into my new solution, which I am thus far quite pleased with.

But first, it’s worth noting that I wanted something not free. I want to pay for it. I want the right to call and fuss and get help from the folks who work there.

So let’s talk about my new solution

I’ve been using Haiku Learning for a month or now and have been pleased. It has some limitations that frustrate me but the folks there have been very open about their DNA.

And I’m paying for it. I’m paying a bit less than five US dollars per month and I get what I need. I like the features that it has, including

  • automatically graded quizzes
  • discussion forums (the Latin teacher in me wanted to put fora)
  • snazzy polls
  • easy embedding of outside content (they have something called embed the web which allows me to easily embed most anything)
  • good support

We shall see what the future holds, especially as I begin to use it with kids. After all, they’re the ones who will help me really decide whether to continue to use Haiku or not.

Knowing, Teaching, Expertise, and More

Category : Academics

Recently, Darren Kuropatwa and I got together for an open talk about the role of teaching in learning. Specifically, we wanted to talk about whether a student needs to effectively be able to teach a concept in order to demonstrate that it has been learned.

Here is that conversation, which involved many others. Please feel free to listen along and respond, we welcome your thoughts!

Update: Here is our conversation on YouTube if you prefer.

Two quick links on Cognitive Load Theory

Category : Featured, General

I’ve been fielding lots of questions lately about Cognitive Load Theory.

Here are two quick links that may be useful. First is an article talking about the practical implications of CLT on the design of learning.

The second are some “recent” (as of 2003) developments regarding CLT.

Happy reading!

Update: I clarified the second article, it’s not all that recent.

Practical advice on kids and Android app development

Category : Android, Featured

After hearing about my students’ success developing an Android app, I’ve gotten several emails asking for more details as to how I practically worked with my kids.

Here are some pointers that I offered to the first person that emailed me, perhaps they are of some use to you. Please note that your mileage may vary.

  1. It’s ok to not be the smartest person in the room. These kids now know more than I do about app inventor and the process. That’s ok.
  2. I used a throwaway Gmail account to feel at ease giving them the password so they can develop.
  3. Typically with 3 in a group, you end up with a creative, design-oriented person, one person is programming and using the blocks editor, and the other is the Google jockey, searching for answers to questions that arise. That typically meant they didn’t ask me. And when they did, I let them see how I search for answers, modeling proper searching.
  4. I used Google’s Chrome browser almost exclusively, since it’s made by the same folks that put out the App Inventor software I figured it’s an easy bet.

Is this useful? What other questions do you have?

Publishing an App Inventor app to the Android Market

Category : Android, Featured

As I mentioned earlier, my students and I published an Android app to the Android Market. See those links for more information on the background. This post is decidedly technical.

First, once we finished the coding process, we packaged the app for to download to the computer. This is an option in App Inventor. This downloaded an .apk file. It is possible to install that .apk file directly to the phone, but it is not possible to publish that file directly to the market. Here’s how to put the finishing touches on your app and get it ready for publishing.

First, save yourself LOADS of time and go download the amazing conversion program located here. Then follow these steps.

  1. Start up the app 2 market app by running the batch file in the folder.
  2. Create your security certificate. This is a super important step because all future iterations of the app have to be signed by the very same certificate. In other words, you have to enter the very same information. Once you get it entered, click Save Config. This is a critical step.
  3. Go to the next tab and browse for the file.
  4. Decompile it.
  5. Make any changes you want. If this is the second time you are uploading (in other words, you’re upgrading the app) you need to change the version code and version number.
  6. Make the new apk.
  7. Sign it.
  8. Verify it.
  9. Zipalign it.

Publish it! Just go to http://market.android.com/publish and create a developer account (costs $25) and publish away!

Here is the app2market process in pictures.

 

Designing and publishing an Android app with kids

Category : Android, Featured

This post is designed to provide some context around how/why we decided to build this app. The more technical details of the code and how we published it will come in a future post.

My students and I recently completed and published an Android app, and here’s how we did it.

First, the genesis for this goes back to a question I asked some time ago, regarding what I should teach kids. I then asked for help designing the course.

I developed some thoughts in response and wondered how the course would go. Since I’m such a Google fanatic, I was aware of the App Inventor software Google provides for free. I set it up on three computers and left it prepared if the chance arose to try it out.

When the first class of “media tech” came to me we began chatting about what they wanted to learn. A few kids said the magic words, “we want to learn about developing apps for phones”. Music to my ears. I set them down on the three computers, showed them how to find the tutorials and they went to work.

The first app kids developed was called Meatball Destruction. The goal was for a meatball to destroy different objects, with the difficulty increasing. Truth be told, the game didn’t get too far. It was barely playable by the end of our nine weeks (block schedule, so I see these kids roughly 22 times) course.

So when the new block of kids came in, I decided that the kids needed to have a useful purpose behind the app in order to help sustain interest when the difficulties arose. So the kids decided to make an app about our school for parents and students.

Most of the time, they worked on their own, and sometimes they came to ask questions. Truth be told, they knew more than I did, and it was ok. We spent time Googling answers together and sometimes I had to ask questions in a forum. Thankfully the community was supportive and helpful.

If you have an Android phone, we’d love it if you would download it and rate it!