STEM Awesomeness

Cool STEM Stuff

I recently had the pleasure of peeking into the goings-on of a STEM class at Nimitz Middle School (the class happens to be on the Lee campus), and I walked away amazed at what I saw. The teacher, Sandra Geisbush, is doing some amazing things with her students! Where do I begin?

First

Sandra spoke to me about some of her students who will be aiming for top prize this summer in the national competition known as eCybermission. The competition is sponsored by the US Army, and is held in Washington DC. Here’s a description from the eCybermission web site:

eCYBERMISSION is a web-based Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) competition free for students in grades six through nine where teams can compete for State, Regional and National Awards while working to solve problems in their community.

Our hopes are high for them as they prepare for this wonderful opportunity to represent our district!

Second

So the question arises…”What type of community problem is this group exploring?” The answer is very relevant to our times, and will likely grow in relevance as time passes. The group is interested in exploring the impact of battery disposal on plant growth, and thus the indirect impact on humans.

I was impressed with the lengths to which Sandra and her students have gone to to achieve their goal. They crushed up some batteries, and put them into the dirt surrounding seeds of the plants that they would study. Of course, they also prepared soil untainted by batteries as well. They then used a document camera to take time-lapse photos of the plants while they grew, so they could chart the growth and display the results with media. I am interested in hearing of their findings.

Third

Another thing I enjoyed hearing about was a new tool that Geisbush and her students are using with their microscopes and their iPads. It’s an adapter that replaces the ocular lens on the microscope, and plugs into the iPad to allow for viewing of magnified slides on the iPad. In addition to this, there is an app that accompanies the adapter that allows for taking photos of the magnifications, as well as for measuring each image to scale. Pretty cool! The company who produces the adapter is called Exo Labs.

Fourth

The last thing (I’m sure I’m missing something else, but this is all I saw) is that the class discovered a way to monitor the soil’s moisture level with a sensor that is usually used in conjunction with the NXT brick for a Lego Mindstorms Robot. They are using a humidity sensor to monitor the condition of the soil, so that they will know when to water.

I am amazed with the amount of real-world thinking going on in Geisbush’s class, and how they are using the technology tools that are available to them to get the job done. We wish them well in their competition.

 

Below I have included some points that Sandra wanted me to add to the post:

 

Please acknowledge Lorraine Bratcher and Clarissa Ruiz (NEISD Science Specialists).  They facilitated an engineering session as the kids worked through designing and automating the watering system.  It is programmed not only to sense the moisture levels but also to automatically turn the water off and on, as needed, robotically!
Team I.O.N. stands for Improving Our Nation.  This name is also appropriate because the team is comparing the regular runoff to the contaminated runoff for ionization and also for evidence of various substances that are known carcinogens (causing cancer) and teratogens (causing birth defects).
For winning State, each member of Team I.O.N. won $1,000.  For winning Pacific / Southwest Regionals each team member received an additional $2,000.00 and an all expenses paid trip for a week in Washington DC to compete in the e-Cybermission National Judging and Educational Event. If the team wins Nationals they will each receive an additional $5,000.00!
The National Showcase will be streamed live from the e-Cybermission http://www.ecybermission.com site during the week of June 16th to 21st.

You may download and read the press release here. e-Cybermission Press Release or visit this page for a summary, and to provide the team with valuable data for their research.

Edmodo!

Edmodo is a fantastic tool for the classroom teacher! It brings social learning, collaboration, creativity, and efficiency closer togetheredmodo  for you and for your students. It’s not a new tool for me, but I’ve recently become more interested in it.

Here are a few things you can do with Edmodo:

  • Create classes for your students to join
  • Send notes and alerts, give assignments, quizzes, and polls
  • Create a “library” of resources that may be freely shared with any of your connections
  • Gather ideas from other teachers around the world
  • Link to your Google account so you can have access to your documents

Watch this Getting Started video to find out how you can use Edmodo in the classroom:

 

Edmodo is a wonderful learning management system that I believe you and your students will enjoy using. If you are interested in learning more, let me know. I’ll be glad to help!

Biome Project

The following videos highlight a biome project some students at Nimitz Middle School are doing. We will use Google Drive, Sketchpad 3, and Videolicious to accomplish the task of creating presentations that display student learning of various biomes and food chains.

All work will be completed with iPads.

This series of videos will introduce the project, and show where the links to biome pictures may be accessed through Moodle. Details on how to get those pictures onto an iPad are also addressed.

In short, students will access a Google Drive folder or a Weebly site, where the biome pics are stored. They will take a screen shot of the pics they want (or tap and hold to save the image), so that they are stored on the iPad in the camera roll. Then, they will open the app called Sketchpad 3 and bring in their photos and arrange them in a food chain order. They can add arrows between the pictures to indicate energy flow, and then export their finished chain to the camera roll. Finally…students will bring all their pics/videos together in the Videolicious app to make a video presentation of their learning. Did I say “in short”?

How to use Sketch Pad 3 and Videolicious are topics picked up in the videos that follow.

 

This video will show you how to use the Sketch Pad app to build your food chain.

This video will show you how to take all your creations and put them into Videolicious for the final product.

 

Video of the final product

 

Using Voice Thread in the Classroom

Check out this embedded Voice Thread! I had fun making this example, and I hope you’ll give it a try with your students. If you’d like me to come to your classroom to show how to use this tool, let me know.

Note:

Voice Thread requires you to set up a free account in order to use their service. You may click on the picture while it’s playing in order to zoom in.

Feel free to leave a comment!

Video Conference Victory

2012-10-25 13.28.39

 

 

I recently had the pleasure of learning about the Polycom units that are available for conducting video conferences in our district. Travis Kersten, a teacher at Jackson Middle School, asked me to assist him in the endeavor of participating in a Region 7 videoconference related to Texas History.

Our three participants (shown above) did a super job of explaining the learning acquired during research projects and field trips related to El Camino Real, a name given to the travel route taken by explorers from Mexico to East Texas. The amazing thing about the conference is that approximately 1,200 students across the state participated that day. What a way to collaborate and share information!

This new experience opened my eyes to the various opportunities afforded to the classroom teacher of the future. Making the world smaller is a viable option these days. Classrooms from their respective corners of the world can now be connected with the technology at our fingertips.

I look forward to the educational adventures that could spring from this activity!

 

Polycom Video Conference Unit

Adopt an Element

periodic table

I recently worked with a teacher at Nimitz Middle School who had her students adopt an element from the periodic table for the purpose of making an advertisement for the element. The students were charged with the goal of “selling” their element.

There are many free periodic table apps out there, but my favorite is The Periodic Table Project . Here is the iTunes description of the app:

Always at the forefront of innovation, the University of Waterloo initiated a collaborative student-design project to celebrate 2011 as the International Year of Chemistry. Chem 13 News together with the Chemistry Department and the Faculty of Science encouraged chemistry educators and enthusiasts worldwide to adopt an element and artistically interpret that element to eventually be brought together in a mosaic of science and art. A year later, with the project complete, we have designs by chemistry students from all Canadian provinces and territories, 20 US states and 14 different countries. Each element captures a unique and creative spark but together they ignite a passion for chemistry.

 

Here’s a screen shot of one of the pictures that students designed:

 

So we downloaded a few periodic table apps and made sure we had saved several web links to various periodic table websites as well. We then asked students to spend day one researching for such things as the symbol for their element, the atomic mass, the number of protons, the cost of the element, the person who discovered and named the element, interesting facts, etc.

 

Day two consisted of directing students to compile all their research, screen shots, and saved pics from day one into a presentation using either Pic Collage, Videolicious, or Skitch. Most students chose Pic Collage.

 

Here is an example of one student’s product using Pic Collage:

 

 

 

Using Animoto

Screen Shot 2012-09-18 at 2.09.27 PM

Animoto is an application available on the web or as an app on mobile devices that allows the user to very quickly make a video that includes music, still images, and video. The basic account is free, and those who thirst for more features may upgrade for a small fee.

I have put together some videos that run through the basics of using Animoto – enjoy!

Making a Video with Animoto

 Finalizing the Video

 How to Share the Video

 Animoto Help and FAQ

Upgrading Your Account

Connecting Math and Technology

Using Video to Help with Instruction

Whether you use Khan Academy or some other similar resource, the power of video instruction is huge. Your students are given the power to review your teaching repeatedly until the learning is cemented.

Understand that you may also make your own videos with sites like Educreations or Show Me, and embed these lessons in your teacher web, or share the link through email. Both of these resources are also available as apps for the iPad.

You may also use the SMART recorder in conjunction with your SMART board to make video lessons that can be distributed for student consumption.

A thought that has occurred to me in the past is to have the students use the above-mentioned technology to explain their own learning. The students could just as easily access these technologies and make videos that will explain their thought processes as they solve a math problem. In this way, you could have them submit a paperless assignment.

A Medium for Videos

So once we have some videos made, how do we share them with students? This is a great question. Fortunately, we have several tools at our disposal that help answer this question. Here is a list:

  • Teacher Web – you may upload a video file and link it to a page for student access.
  • Weebly – you may sign up for a free account, and use the site as a host for videos.
  • Edmodo – this is education’s answer to Facebook. This amazing tool really is powerful. Contact me for the school code, so you can start uploading videos today.
  • Edublogs – this blogging platform is essentially the same as WordPress, and there’s much you can do with it. Let me know if you are interested in setting up a blog for your classroom.
  • YouTube – each teacher has an educator’s account with YouTube. Once you are signed in to Google Docs, YouTube appears as one of the apps.
  • TeacherTube and SchoolTube – these are also viable options for hosting videos.

Response Systems

Make raising your hand a lot more fun! Use one of the many response systems that are on the market. Some exist on campus (Turning Point Clickers available for check out in the library) and others are free online.

Some online possibilities are as follows:

Each of the above tools have varied learning curves and features offered. Make it your goal to use a couple of these in the classroom this school year.
 http://www.stanforddaily.com/2011/02/02/something-just-clicks-in-large-lectures/ 
 

Web 2.0

There are free sites out there that will allow us to do some amazing work for free. One that comes to mind is Board800. This site allows the user to create on online whiteboard and invite collaborators. Users can even expand their collaboration across multiple boards! This seems like a powerful tool for learning math.

Another amazing tool is Google Docs. Each teacher and student has an account with Google Docs. All they need is their login credentials. The power of Google Docs is the power of collaboration. Unlike most of the other programs we are used to, Docs allows multiple users to work on a particular doc at the same time. Simultaneous collaboration even allows for greater productivity beyond school hours, since the students would be able to access their Docs accounts from home.

Watch this video that shows how easy it is to make a spreadsheet and a graph in Google Docs.

Another thing Google Docs does well is that it provides an online quiz capability. All you have to do is create a form, ask students to submit their answers, and then run a script called Flubaroo to grade the responses. Really easy.

Here is another list of resources:

SMART Resources

Another very useful resource is found at the SMART Exchange. This online resource allows users who have set up a free account to download ready-made SMART Notebook files that may then be modified to fit the needs of the downloader. Users may search for lessons by TEKS! This is a great resource that should not be ignored.