CoderDojo

Today I went to Albemarle High School to volunteer at CoderDojoCville. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was going to be like but I had a good time. There were two sessions (9-12, 1-4) with students from about 2nd grade to 9th grade were there doing a number of activities, some which were new to me. I was familiar with using 123D Design, Scratch and Arduinos, but some kids were using Kodu and some music program that I can’t remember the name of. There were also kids making wearable circuits out of felt and wire as well as a group of kids who were 3D printing their designs from 123D using two MakerBots that were set up in the library. I enjoyed walking around and talking to some of the kids, and they were more than eager to show me what they were doing. One student evIMG_2142en said “it’s nice to have someone to talk to about what I’m working on.” That made me a little bit sad, but he was having a really great time working with his friends to create a Scratch program where he made a working boom box.

One little girl that I worked with in the morning session on the Arduino and 123D wasn’t able to come back the next day, so I made sure that her little table was printed in the afternoon and will deliver it to her elementary school this fall. I found out that another boy, who is also the 3rd with his name like I am, lives in my neighborhood and plays with my next door neighbors. In the afternoon, I got 4 little 2nd grade ESL students absolutely hooked on Arduino (which I will be buying for my nephew for Christmas). It was a rewarding day watching kids make and create all day with technology that is free to them (save for the Arduino boards and the MakerBots). I’m happy to be a part of a group of educators who provides experiences like these for kids. Hopefully some of these students grow up knowing how to think creatively and problem solve effectively as a result of experiences like this when they were young.

Public Awareness

Last semester, I took a research course on survey design. The course comprised of lectures, readings, a midterm, homework, etc., all the things you’d expect to find in a graduate-level class. But it also employed a project based learning approach to survey design. The class was broken into teams, and each team had a different project to work on. My team had an actual client outside of the course, the Honor Committee at UVA. They wanted us to conduct a survey on the reporting habits and perceptions of the Honor Code at the University. My team worked long and hard on the project, produced a report, and gave a presentation to the full Honor Committee last Sunday night. I felt as though the presentation went well.

Little did we know, there was a reporter there from the Cavalier Daily, Owen Robinson. Owen wrote this article about our presentation. Some (not all) of the major points in our presentation are that most students who observed an honor violation did not report the violation, and that students feel that there is disproportionate reporting based on demographics when there is no data to support that perception.

Two days later, Owen posted this article about the Honor Committee proposing changes to the Honor Code. In the article, it talks about how the proposed changes may eventually lead to the possibility (that sounds pretty weak) of a switch to a multiple-sanction policy. The Honor representatives in the article sort of brush aside our report saying that they were heading towards this proposal anyway, which I thought was a tad unnecessary of him to say, but that is his prerogative. What may have been more accurate for him to say was that our presentation did not make recommendations regarding single-sanctions opposed to multiple-sanctions. We said that students surveyed indicated that the consequence of committing an honor violation is a major deterrent for them to report someone who commits a violation. We also said that it would be interesting to compare our data with data collected at a school with a multiple-sanction policy.

Regardless of what this person thinks or what the people who are making comments on the webpage think, completing this work was a rewarding process. I enjoyed working with my team and we felt like we produced something valuable. It was also an added bonus having it reported in the paper. Hopefully some positive change will come about as a result of our work.

**As an aside, the Cavalier Daily website is not good. When I searched for “honor” to find the articles, Page 1 of more than 12 had 20 articles ranging from the years 2001 to 2014, in no discernible order. When I browse through “News” to “Honor Committee,” which is in the front page header, there are 5 featured stories from 2013, and then another 10 stories listed under “More Honor Committee” that are also from 2013.

No more class

I finished my last class yesterday, taking my final exam in Survey Design. I wish I could have done better, but it was a very hard test. Oh well. I won’t pretend that it’s the last final I’ll ever take. I know that I’ll be back at school again someday, despite having the “terminal degree.” There’s always an Admin endorsement to get. Maybe this will be my last class at UVa… only time will tell.

A consumer, not an engineer

There is a reason that I am not an engineer. Well, I’m sure there are a whole list of reasons, but I’ll focus on one such reason here. Last fall in my previous life, I was tasked at working with a Raspberry Pi. During my adventures, I tried to 3D print IMG_1690a case for the Pi, and I blogged about it. The project went to the back-burner when the person I was interning with went AWOL, but I continued to mess around with the Raspberry Pi without a case, because I wasn’t having much success designing one/finding one that someone else had designed to use. Well, last week, I went to the Ribbon Cutting for the Sigma Lab at Charlottesville High School. While on my self-guided tour of the lab, I saw that they had some Raspberry Pis out on display so that they could show off all the cool engineering stuff they’d be doing in the room. And what did these kids have? A case for the Raspberry Pi.

These high school kids are a lot smarter than I am when it comes to engineering and rapid prototyping. They recognized that someone had already made something that was great, and they just bought it. I probably spent just as much money on plastic making my multiple failed cases as these kids (or their teacher) did to buy the one endorsed by Raspberry Pi. So smart.

 

Sigma Lab at Charlottesville High School

Last night I attended the Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting of the Sigma Lab at Charlottesville High School. The Sigma Lab is the result of a joint partnership through the UVA’s Curry School of Education and the School of Engineering, Piedmont Virginia Community College, Charlottesville City Schools, the City of Charlottesville, and other donor organizations like Lenovo and Battelle. It is a part of the project that I’d been working on with my former advisor, Glen Bull, and an extension of the Lab School that opened at Buford Middle School last fall. The Sigma Lab was beautiful, and a product of both backwards AND intelligent design. Architects based their designs on the designs of students from Charlottesville High School who took engineering classes and were a part of “BACON,” CHS’s Best All-Around Club of Nerds.

I didn’t take a whole lot of photos because there were plenty of other people there doing the same thing, but I’ll share mine here.

 

CBS 19 from the Charlottesville Newsplex was at the opening and they have a small mention of it today on their website.

There were a lot of very important “grown-ups” at the event, as they called themselves. The Mayor of Charlottesville and most of the City Council were in attendance, the Charlottesville Superintendent and School Board, principals from several Charlottesville Schools like Erin Kershner of Venable Elementary and Eric Johnson of Buford Middle School. The head of PVCC was there, as was the Chair of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at UVA.  Representatives from the Virginia DOE were also present, but I didn’t catch their names or titles because I was overwhelmed by the space. All of those grown-ups who spoke did a great job of pointing out that it was the students who were responsible for this lab space– it was their space, they designed it, and they were the ones who were going to benefit from it. It was a nice event and I was happy that I got invited to attend it.

DART Internship

I started a summer internship this week with Albemarle County Public Schools’ Department of Accountability, Research and Technology (DART). There was a paid internship opportunity for six people, but I must have applied too late because I didn’t get it, but they’re still letting me do it for free! How nice of them!

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I applied for this internship because I want to learn more about the technical side of Instructional Technology. Last summer there was a job posting for the Director of Technology in a local district. I printed out the job description and gave it to my former advisor and said “I’d like to learn how to do these things this summer.” He was supposed to be arranging an internship for me at the time, but it never materialized. So here I am learning it now! I’m pretty excited about it.

I only started yesterday, and I am working at one of the high schools this week. CFA rents the building for the summer to grade exams, so all of the computers in the building have to be moved to the wood shop so that the school computer technician can access them for servicing while the rest of the building is off-limits. CFA is moving in on Sunday, so I was helping break down and move all of the computers. We did that all day long yesterday and finished this morning.

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This afternoon I got to do some new things. I switched out a broken hard drive on a laptop, then imaged the drive with the Albemarle stock image. Then I started to disassemble an entire Lenovo laptop to replace the casing and some wires that were broken. As boring as that might seem to some people, I really enjoyed it. It was like a puzzle, taking the computer apart and then putting it back together again. I think that tomorrow I’m going to do the same thing with a MacBook Pro. I don’t know what else I’ll do this week.

Next week I’m going to be at a middle school that is starting a 1:1 laptop program with all students. I’ll probably be doing a lot of inventory stuff, opening boxes and labeling machines. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot and I’m happy to help out.

Coding for Kids

A few years ago at an EdTech conference at Randolph-Macon College, I went to a session by John Hendron on computer programming with kids using Scratch. The program was a lot of fun, and I tried to introduce it to my niece and nephew, but never with my class. But now at UVA, we are working with Scratch regularly, as it comes pre-installed in the Raspberry Pi software that we’re using. It has been fun using the program again, especially with some of the more advanced sensor inputs we’re including.

These sorts of programs are great ways to introduce kids to computer programming and coding. I really enjoy coding, personally. In high school I learned a little bit of HTML so that I could make websites on Geocities for my friends. I also took a class on TrueBasic in high school and C++ in college. This summer when I had a little free time in June, I logged into CodeAcademy.com and worked my way through a few lessons for fun. Code Academy has a popular app out now, “Hour of Code,” that has gotten some decent reviews.

One of my third-grade colleagues, Toni Hoosier, shared this link with me about Coding for Kids from Edutopia, 7 Apps for Teaching Children Coding Skills. It’s a great place to start for teachers (or parents!) who want to introduce their kids to this important skill.

Math Methods

I’m on my second day attending Dr. Robert Berry’s elementary math methods course for the week. I decided that it would be a good idea to see how such an expert is teaching future elementary teachers how to teach fractions, since I am struggling with a paper on issues related to fraction instruction in elementary school classrooms. Monday he didn’t start fractions, but instead finished up multiplication. Today he is focusing on partitioning using Cuisenaire Rods. Similar to my own experience in math methods courses during my pre-service education at William & Mary, it is a completely hands-on lesson, with students learning how to teach using manipulatives. This approach is exactly what I expected to see.

The problem is that these teachers are learning how to do this with manipulatives in their courses, but then getting into the classroom and relying on lecture and drill/practice. I am guilty of it myself, having manipulatives in my classroom and under-utilizing them. A lot of these preservice teachers have been struggling with the multiplication and the fractions, but the manipulatives help them to work through the problems and develop a better sense of proportional reasoning. Teachers need to understand fractions to teach fractions to students. Then the students need to use the manipulatives to understand, just as their teachers did.

Rapid Prototyping

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I finished printing my case, version 1. It has not been too successful. Nigel watched me try to shove the Pi into the base of the case but the holes don’t seem to be big enough. He suggested using a razor blade to make the holes bigger for the HDMI port. In Tadge’s presence, I later tried to put it together with the top of the case first. That seemed promising, but when I tried to put the two pieces together, I ran into the same problem.

Tadge then tried to make some adjustments and broke the case. It just snapped in a little spot by the Ethernet and USB ports, so not a big deal, but it cracked nonetheless. He was busy with his pocket knife trying to shave some edges to make things fit better, but was then directed to build a telegraph key for Courseware tools.

I knew I was going to have to print another case and that this design wasn’t going to be the best thing for me (because I need to have slots for the camera and other sensors), so now I’ll start looking for another design before I try to design my own.

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VNC

Using this website that Tadge sent me, we were able to install a VNC server on my Raspberry Pi. So now I can view it from a PC. The program we’re using doesn’t seem to run on Macintosh though, which I think will be a problem in the long run. But it is progress. Also, we seem to be accessing a different desktop. So for example right now, I have the Pi plugged into our HD-TV and I am also running the VNC viewer on my PC, but the desktops are different, and I cannot control the desktops from the other device.

We are getting there.

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