Category Archives: Research

Musicmap

Musicmap is an incredible interactive website project by Kwinten Crauwels, which endeavors to offer an  encyclopedic collection of music genres and their histories.  When you first visit the site, you will probably be familiar with most of the titles on the home page.  Click on any type of music, however, and you will be able to access many genres that, if they ever crossed the thresh-hold of your eardrums, you would be hard-pressed to identify their names.

Pop music, for example, offered up “Brill Building” and “Shoegaze,” two genres that sound more like commercials for men’s products to me than musical categories.  In case I had any doubt these existed, though, all I had to do was click on either one to get a definition, time context, and a suggested playlist of examples.

I can’t attest to the accuracy or reliability of Musicmap, but I certainly can recommend it to anyone with an interest in the history of music and in learning more about its extensive diversity.

Pop Genres, according to Musicmap
Pop Genres, according to Musicmap

 

 

Google Slides Q & A

My 5th graders are polishing up their Genius Hour presentations, and one of the students was trying to incorporate a poll into his presentation.  He was just going to switch windows in the browser during his presentation, but I was sure there must be a way to actually embed one into Slides.  We did some research and found a Chrome extension for Poll Everywhere that does allow this.  However, there were still a few more hoops to jump through to accomplish it than I thought necessary, including setting up an account.

The very next week, Google announced a new Q&A feature for Slides.  “Exactly what I was looking for!” I declared, and then proceeded to try to use it.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it – and all of the articles I found announcing Q&A’s arrival failed to mention how one could actually activate the feature.  I became more and more frustrated which is taking less and less time lately as the it’s-the-end-of-the-year-you-better-get-it-done-now feeling is currently commandeering more and more of my brain cells each day.

Twitter to the rescue.  Someone quickly responded to my tweet for help that I needed to be in presentation mode to activate Q&A.  And they said it nicely, which was kind of them since I probably should have figured that out in the first place😉

I still don’t think Q&A actually fits what my student and I envisioned, but it does allow you to ask a question and have people respond, with the responses being listed in order of popularity (the audience can “like” each other’s responses).  When you activate Q&A, a link is shown at the top of your slide so the audience can type it in to record their response.  You could also use this as a backchannel where audience members can ask questions or make comments.

This article by Jonathan Wylie gives information about how to use Google Slides with an iPad or iPhone.  You might also want to read this blog post from Google that shows different uses for Google Q&A.  To use Q&A on a desktop or laptop computer, start Presentation mode, and then go to the bottom left of the slide, where you will see a “Presenter View” option.  Click on that, and then choose the tab for Audience Tools. (By the way, there is a new laser pointer tool that’s kind of fun to try, too!)

image from opensource.com on Flickr
image from opensource.com on Flickr

 

A Bird’s Eye View

Located in the southern part of San Antonio, TX, Mitchell Lake Audubon Center is dedicated to the conservation of birds. Though it’s open to the public, the majority of the tourists are the birds who stop in the area during their migrations.  The Center offers field trip and guided tours, and is a must-see destination for local birdwatchers.

When planning a drone demonstration for my gifted students with Justin Moore, @texasbyair, Mr. Moore mentioned that he had done some work with Mitchell Lake.  My 5th graders were researching field trip locations, and I thought it might be the perfect match as they seemed mostly interested in nature and wildlife.  The staff at Mitchell Lake, especially Jake Stush, were very accommodating as we worked with them to customize a unique field trip for the students.  Mr. Moore and Mr. Stush teleconferenced with the 5th graders a couple of times to finalize the plans before the tour.  We wanted to show the benefits of using drones, and give the students the opportunity to learn more about the habitats the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center is trying to preserve.

On the day of our trip, 23 gifted students from 3rd-5th grades visited Mitchell Lake.  We separated the students into two groups. Mr. Stush took one group on a hike of the area near Bird Pond to learn more about the resident birds and how the sanctuary has changed over time.  Mr. Moore took the other group to get some drone footage of the region.

As the students learned about the importance of preserving areas like Mitchell Lake and used their binoculars to see some of the birds and other wildlife up close and personal, they also got to find out how drones can be used for scientific research.  Mr. Moore divided the students up into groups to give them jobs for the drone flight – allowing them to look up weather conditions, keep the launch/landing pad area cordoned off, take pictures and video, and to keep the drone in sight and away from obstacles and predators.

It was incredible to learn about this lesser-known part of San Antonio which actually has a huge impact on the ecosystem, as well as to allow students to see the amazing potential of drone technology to help us to work on improving our environment.

As I watched the drone take off, and saw curious birds circle it from a cautious distance while my students watched from the earth below, I felt that I was witnessing a certain kind of tentative balance among man, machine, and animal as we all try to learn how to exist together.

The next day, Mr. Moore sent us a highlight reel of our trip, using video from the drone, as well as video and pictures taken by the students.  He also sent a digital 3d map that was created from the drone’s footage.  It even included our school bus!  We talked about how the information could help the researchers at Mitchell Lake and how much we enjoyed our trip.

For more information about using Drones for Education, check out this post.  Thanks to Mr. Moore (@texasbyair) and the staff of Mitchell Lake (@MLAudubonCenter) for making our field trip so memorable!

Mitchell Lake

Beau Lotto and Amy O’Toole

While searching for a TED talk for my 5th graders last week, I came across one that I hadn’t seen before.  It was given by Beau Lotto, a neuroscientist, and Amy O’Toole, a 12-year-old published scientist.

scienceisforeveryone

Beau and Amy tell the story of a class of 8 and 9 year-olds and their serious scientific research into the fascinating minds of bees, which eventually became known as the “Blackawton Bees Project.”  During their talk, we learn about the mistaken perceptions that we can have – such as underestimating the abilities of bees to reason and the abilities of young people to make meaningful contributions to our society.  It’s a great video that should inspire adults and children to challenge common assumptions and believe that we can all make a difference in the world.


You can find more inspirational videos for students here.  I also curate inspirational videos for teachers, which are located on this Pinterest Board.

Encouraging Young Entrepreneurs to Change the World

Suzanne Horan and her 5th grade class of gifted and talented students were recently showcased on our district website for an outstanding project they did this year.  They each planned, researched, and developed products that could make a positive difference in the world.  From a 3-d printed model of a staircase that collapses into a ramp for those who are wheelchair bound, to improved fitting for a prosthetic leg, these imaginative and empathetic students created an array of marketable products that could truly be practical and helpful.

The students dressed up for presentation day because they knew their work would be evaluated by an objective panel of judges who would score them based on, among other things,  their research, passion for their topic, uniqueness of their product, and its usefulness.  For the next stage, Mrs. Horan has invited a patent lawyer to speak to the class about the steps to take to market their products.

This is exactly the type of project that students need to be doing.  It is relevant, based on student interests, and incorporates a multitude of thinking skills.  I would like to bet these 5th graders will never forget this experience, and that it will inform many of their later important decisions in life.

To read more about the fabulous inventors in Mrs. Horan’s class, you can visit our district website, or their class blog for some great pictures from the presentation day!

A student in Mrs. Horan's class shows others his idea for collapsible stairs
A student in Mrs. Horan’s class shows others his idea for collapsible stairs

SXSWedu 2016 – Smithsonian Learning Lab

One of the interesting new resources I discovered at SXSWedu this year is the Smithsonian Learning Lab.  This ambitious project spearheaded by The Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access aims to give unprecedented access to the massive collections that have been digitized at the Smithsonian’s network of museums and research centers.  You can learn more about the Learning Lab’s intended mission here.

The Learning Lab offers images, recordings, and texts that you can, as a free registered member, curate into your own collections.  You can then annotate and make notes in your collection.  Adding your own files to the collection is another noteworthy feature. Collections can be shared, and teachers can assign collections to students in their rosters (similar to Google Classroom).  Here is a link to how teachers can use the Learning Lab.

Students under 13 need special permission to create collections of their own.  However, an elementary teacher could certainly benefit from using the images and other resources to supplement lessons. In a way, this Learning Lab is another type of virtual field trip, allowing students to see high resolution images of objects that might not even be on display at the museum any longer.

Here is a picture I found to place in my “Inventions” collection.  Any guesses as to the purpose of this object?

Image from Smithsonian Learning Lab: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Image from Smithsonian Learning Lab: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

 

Drones for Education

I’ve been holding off on purchasing a drone for our classroom.  Quite frankly, I don’t know a lot about them and I haven’t seen a lot of useful applications for education.  I like testing out cool gadgets, but I don’t think it’s fair to spend that much money on something for my students that won’t be used when the novelty wears off.

image courtesy of walterpro on flickr
image courtesy of walterpro on flickr

One of the parents at my school is slowly changing my mind.  He owns a drone and volunteered to demonstrate it at our school.   This seemed like a good way to find out more about drones and the potential for this technology – good and bad.  The parent, Mr. Moore, uses his drone for good. For example, he shows local fire fighters how they can get more information that can save lives without risking more.  But we also know that drones can be used to destroy lives by invading privacy and even killing people.  This is a good conversation to have with 5th graders who will likely one day be living in a world where drones are no longer a novelty.

Mr. Moore pointed me to a new software that is being beta tested in schools called, “DroneBlocks.”  This software allows students to use block programming to instruct a drone where to fly, to simulate the program, and then to actually fly the drone.  You can do something similar with the Tickle app  (free for iOS), but with different drones.

As Mr. Moore and I discussed the possibility of testing out DroneBlocks, I ran across this article by Thomas Frey, suggesting “192 Future Uses for Drones.”  The ideas range from self-serving to life-saving to silly.  I’m glad there are people like Thomas Frey who have far more imagination than I do.  The most compelling part of Frey’s article came in his final thoughts:

“The purpose of composing this rather exhaustive list is not an attempt to cover everything, but rather to show the enormous versatility of this platform.

The complete list of will easily include over 10,000 listings.

Some may think that drones will become the most annoying devices on earth. In many cases that might be true.

Without the proper protections, drones can be dangerous. The same drones that deliver food and water can also deliver bombs and poison. We may very well have drones watching the workers who watch the drones, and even that may not be enough.

Eventually we’ll find the positive uses far outweigh the negative ones, and we’ll develop the right systems to make it all workable.”

You may not be ready to purchase a drone for your classroom, but I do think it is imperative they are discussed.  How can we minimize the harmful impact of this technology while retaining the freedom to take advantage of its benefits?  Is it worth the inevitable tragedies we will face along the way as we try to harness the positive potential and obliterate the negative effects?

Those same questions could have been asked about the automobile.

More Sources for using Drones in Education: