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.


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.

VLMC – Open Source non-linear video Editing

Category : Software

Warning: Before you read any further you need to know that VLMC is pre-alpha code. This means it’s not even beta. Much of this will not work. Do *not* consider VLMC a replacement for your current video-editing software. This post is designed only to give you a preview of what is to come. I think this is an exciting project but will take some time before it is ready for prime time.

Another note, this software is currently NOT available for Mac OS X. Although if you use a Mac, you’ve already got a great product in iMovie.

With that said…

I’ve been interested in free or open source video-editing software for some time. Years ago I played with a build of Jahshaka, which has been recently reinvented as Cinefx. I found it sorely lacking and very difficult to use.

Given my bent towards all things open source, I have been a big fan of VLC for my media playing and sometimes transcoding needs. VLC aptly handles streaming (both the sending of a stream and the receiving of it) as well as it can rip a DVD with the best of them. This is a preview of the new VLMC video-editing software, put out by the same folks as VLC.

First, download and install the software. Find the most recent release, which is easy to do since they are dated.

When you first run the software, it will warn you, much like I did at the beginning of this post.

Provided you are OK with that, click on I understand.

Most of the time when I open the program (despite my best efforts) it tells me I didn’t close it nicely. Again, it’s pre-alpha code so this stuff is normal.

I click No each time. Not sure what would happen if I clicked Yes. It’d probably eat my car or something drastic.

So then you get the create project screen.

Then you move to the New Project Wizard.

You can then fine tune the settings for your new project.

Once inside the program the main editing window looks like this:

You’ll need to import some video. For the purposes of this demo, I used some footage from

Click Import, then move the files you want to import to the panel next to the file list using the blue arrow.

Once you get them imported, drag one to the timeline on the right side.

To remove a section, simply use the scissors to place two cut marks and then use the mouse button to move the clip around.

I hope you have enjoyed our tour of VLMC. I am thrilled at the possibilites for this application.

Lightscribe troubles

Category : Software

I use a Lightscribe drive on my Windows PC and quite enjoy it for making CD’s and DVD’s with a custom label.

Recently, I’ve been getting an error that says “There are no Lightscribe devices found on this system”. The error seems to be without cause, but prevented my software program from detecting the drive.

The solution? I updated the Lightscribe System Software, which you can download here.

I updated, didn’t even have to reboot, and it works fine. Here’s hoping that if you are having the same trouble this fix will work for you.