Tuesday, September 27, 2011

When Fish Fly

global forumHow excited am I about the Partners in Learning Global Forum? I’m seriously thinking of taking vacation days and paying my own way to Washington DC to see if I can “crash” it. I had a great time and learned a lot judging the US event (Innovative Education Forum–Judging Day) this summer. I met some great teachers doing a whole lot if interesting things. One of the special things about this year’s event is that the attendees were grouped into teams and asked to create a “learning excursion activity.” The team that created the best activity as judged by their peers would be the “tenth team” that the US sent to the Global Event. Well the winner was announced this week at Flying Fish & Kinect help lead the final U.S. team to the Partners in Learning Global Forum.

The winning team is made up of:

  • Doug Bergman, computer science, Porter-Gaud High School, South Carolina
  • Johnny Kissko, math, Frenship High School, Texas
  • Margaret Noble, media arts, High Tech High, California
  • Donna Thomas, computer science, Sherwood High School, Maryland
  • Lou Zulli Jr., computer science, Lakewood High School, Florida

Some of those names will be familiar to regular readers of this blog. For example Doug and Lou have been congratulated before for their performance at the US IEF event. (Congratulations Louis Zulli Jr. and Doug Bergman) Johnny Kissko and his KinectEducation site have been linked to several times as well. Margaret Noble made a trip to a United Nations conference on Education  in the Middle East that she documented at Guest post: A reflection by a U.S. educator visiting Jordan “…a United Nations conference for education” and which I linked to.

Their project is really interesting and I encourage you to read all about it at Flying Fish & Kinect help lead the final U.S. team to the Partners in Learning Global Forum. But in brief,

The intent of “When Fish Fly” is for students to work in a collaborative design team to create an Xbox Kinect game (using the Kinect SDK among other tools) that replicates the sights, sounds and “sense of place” of this iconic venue within the Pike Place Market (you all have likely seen or heard of the Pike Place Fish Co., it’s the fish market where they throw whole fish when you place an order!). Of course not all students will have a chance to visit this market so the lesson was extended to be applied to any noted venue or location in your community.

Lou Zulli is having his CS students implement the project for real. I look forward to haring more about it in the very near future.

On a separate, but related note on Kinect : On Friday we released new lesson ideas and activities for use in the classroom with Kinect. These resources, aligned to Common Core Standards, were created by a team of educators (including one member from this team – thanks Johnny!). Check out the site and let us know what else you need to bring together gaming and learning in the classroom.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Interesting Links 20 September 2011

I really had to post the information about the new Game development course yesterday (Game Development with XNA Curriculum–Semester Course). I’m pretty excited about that material. Teacher developed and tested and aligned to standards. And it is game development. How cool is that? Closely related to that the opening of the new Imagine Cup US website (Blogged at Imagine Cup 2012–Changing The World For The Better last week). It’s not too soon to think about putting some student teams together for that. Most high school students we’ve seen have competed in the Game Design or IT Challenge.. I’m hoping we see some highly motivated students enter this year though. Of course I ran into more stuff than that last week. This week’ links include a number of opportunities for students and teachers.

Start with the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing for high school girls.

The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing honors young women active and interested in computing and technology. We are looking for next generation of technical talent. Award winners receive cool prizes, gadgets, scholarships and all girls can join a community of fellow technically-inclined young women..

And don’t forget the NFTE World Series of Innovation that I wrote about last week. It’s a really interesting set of challenges for students in a wide range of ages.

Program Call for Participation ISTE 2012 Now open thru Oct. 5 San Diego here we come. Are you doing interesting things in your computer science courses? We really need more CS related presentations at ISTE. There are always a good bunch of CS teachers there looking for new ways to do things.

Do you have things planned for Computer Science Education week? http://www.csedweek.org/December 4-10, 2011 – is a call to action to share information and offer activities that will advocate for computing and elevate computer science education for students at all levels.”


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What is an app?

In the Mobile Game Design and Mobile App Design categories of the NFTE World Series of Innovation students are asked to design an app or a game for a mobile device such as an Windows Phone. But what do an “app” mean in that context?  The meaning of words changes over time. I hear that the word “awful” used to mean the same thing as “awesome” but over time awful was used so often in a sarcastic way that the meaning changed. Seems plausible – true or not. A word today that seems to also be changing meaning is “app.” In general it is a short form of the word “application” as you can see in this partial definition from WikipediaApplication software, also known as an application or an "app", is computer software designed to help the user to perform specific tasks. ” Increasingly though the word app is used as a short form of “mobile application” or “mobile app.” That’s a nuanced meaning to some but I think “app” is starting to have a narrower more specific usage than a short form for the more general term “application.” If I had to define it I might say something like “a small application with a simple to use user interface for performing one or more closely related activities. Generally on a mobile computing device.”

What we are talking about for the NFTE World Series of Innovation are small application not some huge monolithic application like one would add memory to their high powered desktop to run.

NFTE is proud to have Microsoft as the presenting sponsor of the World Series of Innovation. Microsoft is issuing a challenge for students to create mobile phone apps and games that raise awareness and provide solutions for common student and school issues. Microsoft will provide the winning teams with a development partner to take the idea and bring it to market.

The other thing about apps is  that they tend to be personal. By that I mean they are designed to be useful for individuals. Apps help people find their way, help them get information from online sources, and in short help them solve personal problems. Here are some sample ideas for apps from the NFTE World Series Toolkit that teachers receive after registering:

  • Helping new students find their way around a school
  • Making friends and building the school community
  • Managing school and class schedules
  • Dealing with bullying
  • Improving the school grounds (cleaning it, building new features)
  • Improving school safety
  • Helping students and schools protect and improve the environment
  • Help students get and stay healthy
  • Simple learning games—helping students learn subjects (math, geography, science, history)

Here is an example of a simple app that students might want to create (or use themselves!)

Nearly every school publishes a handbook, and most have web sites that contain important information, such as school directory, maps, class information, athletics,
latest news, and other details that are important to students. When people aren’t at a computer, however, it’s often difficult to get this information. In addition,
school administration and faculty need a quick, centralized way to get new information out to students and parents.

MySchoolApp is a Windows Phone app that provides school information to students and parents, such as news, school events, important links, faculty
directory, and school maps. School administrators can publish information and notifications via the app as easily as updating their school web site.
Windows Phone users can download the version for Bentley University here: http://bit.ly/nftebentley

MySchoolApp gives you access to school news, faculty directory, school calendar, maps, sports, alerts, and notifications—right from your smartphone! It’s great
for students and parents, as they can get the information anytime and anyplace, and it’s great for schools as it will help them communicate information quickly
and efficiently.

It’s simple, handy (a lot easier to carry as part of your phone than a hard copy paper book), and useful with timely information. What sorts of apps can your students design? The NFTE World Series of Innovation encourages that with the possibility of having the winning design turned into a real app for use by students everywhere.

Some additional links that may be useful:

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Interesting Links September 6 2011

Labor Day in the US means a three-day weekend and I took advantage of it.  Smile I’d like to make note of a couple of my recent posts that seem to have more in common now that I read all the comments on them than they did initially.

Together I think they form the basis for a long discussion about programming languages, internationalization, ease of learning vs. ease of use and generally what are the philosophical and other social aspects of programming language design. It’s more than just technical questions.

Interested in adding some cloud computing to your mobile device development? From Mark Hindsbo (@mhindsbo) I see that Microsoft has released an Azure toolkit to help bring the cloud to all devices with Android tools just released to join tools for iPhone and Windows Phone.

Stuart Ball (via  @Innovativeteach) announces more great Kinect stuff from the UK Partners in Learning Teachers K Team.

The latest ISTE SIG for Computer Teachers newsletter (PDF) is now available. As always some good information there. I’ve been a member of ISTE and SIGCT for years and find it well worth my time and energy BTW.

Last week marked the 20th anniversary of Microsoft Research (MSFTResearch) where they are doing all sorts of cool stuff. Scott Lum (@scottlum) pointed me at this In-depth look inside Microsoft Research and their nerdy research projects  via Wired Mag

Speaking of Microsoft Research (MSFTResearch ) last week they Tweeted a suggestion that people “Check out .NET Gadgeteer, a rapid prototyping device developed by Microsoft Research, now available commercially.” It’s a great new way to create programmable devices. Lots of good educational possibilities.

The ever creative Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) blogged about “Our Freshman Software Exploration Project (6 Days of Wonder)” Of course I found her discussion of how they use Microsoft OneNote particularly interesting but she has more stuff as well. OneNote is one of Microsoft’s lesser known gems with huge value in education.

CodeCampChris Bowen (@ChrisBowen) is a developer evangelist at Microsoft and a great guy. He recently announced an upcoming New England Code Camp 16 - October 29th, Waltham, MA - Save the date! While most attendees are professional developers the sessions are wide ranging and I suspect a lot of educators and STUDENTS will find value in attending. Check out Chris’ blog post for more information.

Want to become an entrepreneur? Watch @IEEEtv’s  Young Entrepreneurs video sponsored by @Microsoft to learn what you need to make it happen.

A couple of regular links to Microsoft’s Tech Student blog

Interesting post on Ethical hacking on the CSTA blog Follow them on Twitter at @csteachersa

Great article about Serious Play Conference & Microsoft taking the "Productivity Games" approach to Education

Girls Go Geek… Again! - Fog Creek Blog a great reminder that programming was once “women’s work” and that we really need to get women back into software.