Starting a Robotics Program? Check this!

Here’s a video I did with Ruben Gameros, a grad student at State University. It’s about what it takes to start a Robotics program.

This was a hot topic in the STEAM Workshop last December in Colombo and Kandy, Sri Lanka. We know drones are changing the game in many areas. How about ‘Swarm’ robotics? Watch Ruben explain!


Pretending the Internet Died

What is the Internet died?

Before introducing 6th graders to e-mail and blogs, I like to throw a few scenarios at them, one of which is to imagine what it might be to get onto a computer and not have access to anything online.

Last week, soon after that freak flood in the Phoenix metro area, I showed them a ‘story’ how the Internet died, and may never come back.The keyword here is ‘scenario.’ As in a what-if.

I think it’s important to get young people to think of the ‘plumbing’ of this thing we call the Internet. It could start an interesting discussion of things most of us take for granted: hyperlinks, networks, the cloud, and now more than ever, Wi-Fi.

Unlike for many other technologies they use here in the Lab, and in their homes, there is no user-manual for the Internet.

Well, there is one – sort of. It is a cross between a set of best practices and a code of conduct that we need to pass down to young people who assume the Internet will be always on.

Celebrating International Dot Day

I am excited to be participating in an event that grew out of a book – The Dot, by Peter Reynolds.

The DotNever heard of The Dot? It’s a book about believing in yourself and your own ability to create something. Basically, to be able to leave a mark on this world (and on paper) that is truly unique.

International Dot Day is on Mon, 15 Sept.

To get involved, Nancy Yurek and I are encouraging every class to let students take a dot (a circle) and do something creative with it.

Some broad guidelines, if you are taking part:

  • Use your dot as the base of to create something larger than the circle provided- add other pieces to it!
  • Write something creative inside your dot – Your own ‘Dot story’, a poem, or something funny, 
  • Add cut-outs of pictures of yourself and your family
  • Add other ‘media’ to your dot
  • Paint or draw something 
Our plan is to take this into different aspects of school values.

We plan to:

  • Encourage students to read the book – on Tumblebooks, to which we subscibe
  • ‘Connect the dots,’ literally –on the walls in the hallways
  • Photograph them and create QR Codes for each group of class entries
  • Pick the winning Dot-stories, and feature them at our next school assembly

More about this event will follow. 

U.S. Olympian, Sean Smith’s message: “Dream big, and stay in school”


Sean Smith had a lot to share, outside of his favorite Olympic activity, Moguls.

The twists and spins he had to master to be on the U.S. team took a lot of practice, and was hard work. But the truth is, he said, that event just took 20 seconds! To put it another way, you train all your life for those 20 seconds.

Students asked many questions, directly to camera, and via text messaging, and email, while the Olympian was on the big screen – a UStream feed, projected onto a Promethean board in the music room.

James Schaaf, Sean Smith

Using Facetime and UStream to ask a question

Sean’s main message to Salt River Elementary students was to set goals. Saying “I want to fly” is not realistic, he said. Set goals that are achievable. “But you have to dream, and dream really big!”

Sean Smith - Olympic Skier

“Today, my goal is to have fun, to help people, and to smile every day.” Sean Smith

MOOC obsession hits fever pitch

It’s impossible to miss the hot topic in education these days, on the MOOCs –the awful acronym for a fascinating innovation in education known as Massive Open Online Courses.

Massive, in term of how they scale into not just tens of thousands, but millions.

Now that Thomas Friedman has weighed in, its official. The MOOC epidemic is more cause of a state of emergency than the flu virus. However, the contra argument is also worth thinking through: that the political economy of MOOCs is too quick to hail it as the next best thing.

  • I am more interested in how a new generation of tech-ed entrepreneurs (small-scale ones) might hack the model beyond Higher Ed –for introductory classes, and after-school programs, say.
  • I see the value of the MOOC model in its openness, not scale. I like the fact that students use the platform to create their own conversations, and local support to weaker students following the class. Friedman cites this one, and there are plenty of these floating around.

“Agarwal of edX tells of a student in Cairo who was taking the circuits course and was having difficulty. In the class’s online forum, where students help each other with homework, he posted that he was dropping out. In response, other students in Cairo in the same class invited him to meet at a teahouse, where they offered to help him stay in the course.”

That these students feel empowered to move their ‘class’ offline (the tea house in this case), speaks to how much the traditional sage-on-stage model is waiting to be tweaked.

When students don’t need to raise their hand and wait until the instructor notices, when conversations in the class could be switched on, not off, that’s where the learning revolution might lie.

Student outshines Obama as 2012 Person Of The Year

This month, with the spotlight on the attack of innocent children in their classrooms, it is fitting to recognize the other student who was targeted by gunmen, for standing up to her rights to education.

Malala Yousafzai was like any other student, with her Harry Potter bag, love of books, popcorn, and attending after-school tuition classes. She also stood up to the force of evil in her country that attempts to deprive young girls of education. She was shot in the head and survived the attack of October 9th, 2012

Beside Barack Obama, awarded Time magazine’s Person of the Year, she looms larger. In her speeches, amazingly articulate ( no teleprompter in sight!) for a 14 year old at that time, and in her blog, she courageously stood for what so many students take for granted.

Time is good at stirring up controversy over its covers, especially the Person of the Year issues. Having worked with the media, I understand why they do this. But this is a sad, missed opportunity. They barely covered the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary in this issue, probably saving up the material for their next issue.

Shame on Time for eclipsing a student with someone who’s got too much media coverage anyway.