Science and Tech Workshop in Sri Lanka

Just got back from a short trip to Sri Lanka, where I conducted two workshops for teachers.The first was in Maharagama on Dec 15th & 16th. The second workshop was in Kandy on Dec 18th.

Here are some stories about the workshops:

Much thanks to my co-presenters:

  • Dr. Paul Funk – Engineer, US Dept. of Agriculture, New Mexico (Via Skype)
  • Ruben Gameros – Autonomous Collective Systems Laboratory, Arizona State University (Via Skype)
  • Scott Logan – Montessori International School, Mesa, Arizona (Via Skype)
  • Lal Medawattegedera – Lecturer, Open University of Sri Lanka
  • Nalaka Gunewardene – Science writer, author, trustee of the Science and Development Network
  • Nazly Ahmed – Web App Dev at Social Seed Media

Also the two Keynote Speakers:

  • Dr. Ajit Madurapperuma – Dir. Of Information Communication Technology, ICTA
  • Dr. Nalin Samarasinha – Astrophysicist at Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona (Via Skype)

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Hands-On Engneering – Spaghetti Tower Challenge

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Hands-on session on Audio Recording

Scot Logan & Students

Hands-on session on Motors and Electro-magnetism

Scott Logan & students at Montessori International School, teach class – via Skype

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Aaron Fernando facilitates session

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Using audio and video for content creation

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Photography in Science – From SLRs to GoPro

Nazly Ahmed, Social Seed Media explains Depth of Field

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Engineering & Problem Solving – Building a Solar Oven

Paul Funk, US DOA

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Teaching Science Writing

Nalaka Gunewardene

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Future Ready Classroom – Google Cardboard & Augmented Reality

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Future Ready Classroom – Teaching Robotics

Ruben Gameros, ASU, teaches class on robotics – Via Skype

Tomatoes on Mars. Peas on Earth

Ok, bad pun! But growing produce on Mars is quite a work in progress, by the folks at MarsOne. Tomatoes, especially.

Despite the Matt Damon agro project, growing food is not going to be easy, from accounts I have read. I know of a teacher who is germinating plants on moon-like soil.

In this blog post by Natasha Schön, she talks about biomass measurements, and the first tomato that grew in martian-simulated soil. Schön explain the need for more work on this:

One of the follow up experiments will be to investigate if the produced seeds are viable. It would only make sense to cultivate crops on Mars or the Moon if the follow up experiments are a success and the seeds are able to form new plants. If the seeds are not viable, a constant stream of new seeds would have to be flown in, making Mars farmers highly dependent on seed deliveries from Earth. 

And yes, they also tried growing peas.

And to justify the bad pun (in the title of this post), there is a children’s book titled “Peas on Earth.”

I believe it has a sustainability angle!

Cheap camera, free eclipse: Quick Ed-Tech lesson

This week’s Blood Moon and the coincidence of a lunar eclipse was made for science teachers.

DSCN1174Or for an Ed-Tech teacher incorporating a lesson in photography –how to frame a slow-moving event; how to compensate for lighting; using camera shake to your advantage.

The camera was a Nikon Coolpix, less expensive than the lens of my trusty older SLR.

Which brings me to the point about technology. How often does we allow technology get in the way of what we are experiencing in the moment? I’ve been trapped in presentation software just to make a point that would have done just fine with a hand-held device – a sheet of paper.

In Ed-Tech, which is what I teach, I like the focus to be more on the ‘Ed’ and less on the ‘Tech.’

The above image was blurred as you will notice. The ‘shift’ was accidental, but makes the point (simulating an orbital path) about light and shadows. I just used this in a 2nd grade class on editing and manipulating shapes. Nothing like a current event to get ideas – design-related, science-based- flowing.

Education’s Mobile App c. 1906

The ‘Movable Classroom’ of 1906 cost $674.

The Mobile App for learning existed pre-Internet. It was simply called a wagon.
This ‘school on wheels’ known as the Jesup Wagon was an invention of one George Washington Carver, a former slave.

A scientist, better known for the innovation we call ‘crop rotation’ and also peanuts, Carver loaded his ‘horse-drawn classroom’ and laboratory with seeds and travelled to where the need was. His students were former slaves who had become sharecroppers.

We could all use this to get some perspective, especially when we think we need fancy technology to connect knowledge with students.

Bring the robots. Lock up the clocks

So a boy could get handcuffed for bringing an electronic ‘clock’ to school, when it is perfectly OK to bring in, say, a robot? This turned out to be an embarrassing story for the school, and a wonderful one for NASA and robotics.

Are we sending mixed messages here? We urge kids to think outside the proverbial box aka a classroom, but we like them keep their inventions at home.

I’m not sure how to handle this. I’m in half a mind to have a “Bring your clockwork mechanism to school” day. Many students tell me about the experiments they do –from a simple Rube Goldberg contraption, to a Lego robot. Or should I tell them that guess what, you just might be invited to the White House…

Which is what editorial cartoonist, Steve Benson lampooned in today’s Arizona Republic. It’s hilarious.

Who hid ‘Advanced Search’ in Google?

Google does the weirdest things. It’s my favorite Search Engine, but (and perhaps because) it always messes with its algorithm, there are subtle shifts in how we could search.

The only reason I notice this is because I teach a class on Search Engines and Browsers to 4th and 5th grades. And though they use them the time, many are find it hard to tell the difference between a search engine and a browser –as many adults do.

There used to be a feature known as ‘Advanced Search’ – a dashboard on Google’s landing page, and also Yahoo. Now Google has buried it at the bottom of the site, next to ‘Privacy’ and ‘Terms’ – almost a guaranteed spot to be ignored! It is in a menu under Settings.

This dashboard is a very robust tool, letting you filter results by language, and file type etc. I try to break the habit of students type in any phrase or keyword into the search box, and get them to thing through what exactly they are looking for.

  • Is it a set of “Instructions”? O is it a “User Guide”? (For building, say a Solar Oven)
  • Is it the “How tall is the World Trade Center?” Or is it the “Storeys of WTC?”

There are more. The tech terms for these are called Search Operators. But a Dashboard for Advanced Search would simplify things. Over to you, Google!