Friday, March 8, 2019

Adding Interactivity to the Makerspace with @newlineIDEAMAX

A while ago, I was at FETC checking out the vendor floor when I came across an Interactive Board company. I stopped and watched a demo and my interest was piqued enough to go in and ask some questions. What I found out blew my mind and I had to get a demo for the makerspace. The refresh for our boards in school is around the corner, so testing out boards is a great way to get an idea on what we need for the classroom. I'm super excited about the possibilities of the Newline TRUTOUCH RS Series.



One of things that has been lacking in the Prototyping Space in the Knight's Forge Innovation Lab was access to a screen that allowed students to explore their designs more fully after they have created a prototype. I needed to be able to have students easily connect their device so they can showcase their design work as well. Doing this wireless would be even better. Lastly, I wanted an interactive board that would allow for multiple people to use it at the same time. These were lots of asks from my end, but the RS Series does all of these and more!


One of the cool things about the RS Series is that it can come equipped with a Windows Device. That means you do not even need to connect a computer to have it work. The image above shows that my computer is connected, but that is not the image on the screen. That is the OPS running Windows 10. I can easily switch between the Windows Device and my attached Mac with just a couple of taps on the screen. I like this because it allows for a standard device that can always run and be accessed even if you don't have a device connected. Then, a student can quickly add their device and show their screen. The OPS has a touch screen keyboard that pops up when you need to type, but you can also just connect a keyboard and mouse if you want to work with the OPS that way. 

The OPS has Intel processors that work flawlessly with the Newline board and allow for quick processing speed and minimal lag. This is important to note for the techy people out there because that processing speed needs to be quality. Fast speeds allow for smooth transitions and powerful computing across the board. It is awesome to see Newline invest in quality by going with Intel. If you have used different boards, you will notice the different. If not, the Newline boards will spoil you with their quality. 

Another awesome aspect if the 4K Ultra HD screen. It is bright. That is perfect because I have these windows without shades that let in wonderful natural light, but make it near impossible to project anything on the board. I could cover the windows and turn off the lights, but having the natural light is awesome and the RS board allows me to have the best of both worlds! 


This is the main screen that allows you to choose which screen you want to display. There are multiple options to choose from on this board. 6 total options to be specific and that doesn't even cover the ability to use AirPlay for Macs, Chromecast, or another downloadable app for Windows mirroring. All of these options are great for my school because we are BYOD and the students have a wide variety of devices. The flexibility of the device is key in getting more students to be able to showcase their work seamlessly. 


Another awesome feature is the ability to annotate on the screen directly. The screen is still active and you can annotate write on top of it. Here is a shot of me pointing something out to a student on Minecraft. I was able to click on the menu that runs on the side of the screen to pull up the annotation tool, I chose the color of the pen and started writing. It was so smooth to do. When I was done, I was able to take a screenshot so I could save the annotations and share them as needed. 


The board also allows for multiple users at once. This is great for students trying to work out problems together. Here are a couple of students working on factoring some problems. This is a great example of how a board can be used in a Math class. Multiple students on the board working out a problem and screenshot saved could be shared to the class or students that were out of school that day. It is responsive up to 20 touch points. That is a crazy amount at one time, but perfect if you have multiple students using the board at once.



Below is a tweet where I shared a video of Cospaces and their Quidditch program being Airplayed from my Mac. The quality is amazing! The ability to stream video through Airplay without the lag is huge. For any teacher that connects to the device wirelessly, not having to worry about the lag of videos being played saved tons of stress. 


 The fact that this is on a stand has made it very easy for us to wheel it to our common space to allow for morning meetings to be much nice than trying to project onto a tiny wall space. The picture is vivid and the screen is large enough that all of the students in our large commons area can see the screen.

The build in speakers can be controlled from the remote control and they are loud for a large room. Sometimes speakers on monitors like this can be wimpy, but these are legit.

Final Thoughts:

For schools or districts that are looking to change the way students and teachers interact with screens in the classroom, the newline RS Series is worth exploring more in depth. With multiple connections points, 20 touch point capability, built in OPS, wireless mirroring, 4K Ultra HD, built in annotating tools, built in whiteboard app, and so much more, it would be crazy not check out the board. Oh, did I mention that it is software agnostic? It doesn't matter if you run other whiteboard software. This board works with it all! For more specifics on the specs, check out this download.




Nerdy Disclosure:

Newline Interactive sent me the board to demo for the purposes of this review, but that doesn't make it less awesome. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Self Care And Empathy Are Not Binary Ideas

Watching the Twitter feed and I came across a post that suggested that people need to separate themselves from people that are unhappy. Specifically,

If someone in your life is unhappy, let them be unhappy.
Get over it, let it go and be happy.

This bothers me in a few ways.

First, there is nothing wrong with being unhappy or sad. Sadness is an ok feeling to have. Watch the movie Inside Out if you need more info on this topic. Out brains need to process sadness. It is good to be unhappy at times. Don't bail on people that are unhappy. That is ridiculous.

Second, if the tweet is about people that are perpetually unhappy, why would you bail on them? What if, like me, they deal with depression and can't help but be unhappy for long stretches? I don't know where I'd be if people moved on from me because I was too unhappy.

Or perhaps the second line is for the people that are unhappy? There is nothing worse than telling a depressed person to get over it, let it go, and be happy. Oh, wow! Depression cured! What insight and wisdom in a single tweet! I don't think that is what the second part of the tweet was suggesting, but just in case, I wanted to address it.

Lastly, for those that suggest this is about self care and that people need to take care of themselves before they can help others, I get it. That is not what the tweet says at all. Self care is critical for all people, not just teachers. A part of self care is knowing that there are people around you that you can connect with when things are tough. Being comfortable to talk to others about serious issues is part of self care. We all need to practice self care, but that doesn't mean shutting the door on everyone else.

You can practice self care and be empathetic to people dealing with sadness. They are not binary ideas. There is a reason someone is sad. It could be depression, the feelings of a lost loved one, a feeling a failure, or any other reason. We are allowed to be sad and we need to be there for those that are feeling unhappiness.

I truly hope that if you are reading this, you will take a moment to think about those that are unhappy in your life, or even your classroom, and think about how you can be there for them instead of how you can move on from them.

#WordsMatter and complex ideas are not meant for cute little Twitter cards. Remember that the next time you get ready to tweet.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Just Make It #MakerEd

I've had some conversations about making in the classroom lately and I feel it always comes down to me telling teachers, "just let them make".

Teachers can often overthink certain aspects of the curriculum or instruction when all that needs to happen is getting out of the way fort he students to create. I have found some of the most amazing things done in the classroom is when the teacher removes themselves from the equation in some way.

Some might read this as a shirking of a teacher's responsibility of teaching students, but they teacher is teaching them something by letting them go. That freedom to make brings so much to students that sitting and listening to a lecture cannot do. The freedom to make supports student creativity and drives their engagement.

Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but why don't we let students just make it? What are the reasons that keep us from letting them do just that?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Cool Hardware I Saw at #FETC

I've been meaning to write this post sooner, but I have been so swamped with Snow Days and working with students in ELA classrooms to write their own text based computer game, this got pushed back. I'm excited to show off some cool things I saw while at FETC in Orlando.

Makerbot Method


I had a chance to stop by the Makerbot booth and check out their new printer, the Makerbot Method. This is a beautiful printer. It is fully enclosed and has this awesome feature that circulates warm air all around the print to prevent warping. Traditional printers only have a heated bed. This was an awesome addition to the printer. The dual head extruder is also very important addition to the Makerbot line. Being able to print in multiple colors or use the soluble filament to create items that need support is a big step in the right direction for Makerbot. The full body metal design prevents flexing that can cause issues on fast print jobs.

I watched the printer in action and I was very impressed at the speed and the quality of the prints. In an educational setting, I see the Method being used in advanced design classes and Makerspaces that are being used by people with serious design skills. With a $6500 price tag, this is not your casual purchase for your space. Long term, I think Makerbot has created a high performance desktop printer that can really add a nice option to any school or Makerspace that is in need of quality print jobs for finished products.

HoverCam Pilot 




I was wandering the floor and I was drawn to this podium like a moth to a flame. I am always looking for things that might be able to support the design aspect of the makerspace. I want to make it easy and fluid to share work with students and for them to share their work with others. Having a wireless podium that can share my computer screen, iDevice, or something I'm drawing with their document camera has everything one would need in a single device. I was super excited at the possibilities of the HoverCam Pilot. The mobile podium also allows the user the freedom to move about a space and go to students instead of students having to get up and come to the front of the room. With a distance of 50ft, you can move far away from the screen and still be connected. I like that because it does not force someone to still be stuck to the front of the room.

The Pilot has a Windows computer built into it, but you can add your own device to showcase work. I was thinking about how adding Minecraft to the Windows device would allow me to showcase student work to everyone on the screen very easily. I also love the attached document camera because student designs and sketches take physical forms, not just digital. I like the idea of having a student being able to easily share their work on the podium for the class to see. I think it creates a wonderful environment that supports design and sharing.  You can check out the full specs on the Pilot here.


TRUTOUCH RS Series


Whenever I go to a conference, I seem to notice their are more "screen" companies out there on the expo floor. I tend to get frustrated with some of them because they require specific software to run their screen. I was really excited to talk to the people at Newline-Interactive because their TRUTOUCH monitors are amazing and do NOT require proprietary software to work on your device. The user interface on the screen is one of the most intuitive I have ever come across. You can even personalize objects on the screen to pull up commonly used apps on your device. That is awesome! I have found that some screens and software are super complex to get started and use and teachers do not have the time to explore those hidden menus to get to what they want.

The screen comes in 65", 75", 86", and 98" sizes to suit your visual needs. As I look around the Makerspace, having a board that allows students to connect and share without the need to download specific software is a nice solution to have in any classroom. You want sharing to be seamless and the RS Series allows for that to happen. You can actually connect up to 4 screens to the board and switch between the ones you want to see at any time. You can also instantly annotate on the boards to get ideas out quickly. I love the ability to annotate on boards so the ideation process can be fluid. If you are looking for a simple screen solution that does not make you beholden to software licenses, you need to check out the TRUTOUCH RS Series. I think it will be exactly what you need.

Root



I have to share about Root here because I think it is such a cool tool to support young learners who might be interested in coding. Root is one of the more diverse coding robots I've seen out there and it can do some pretty cool things. It can draw. It has four touch panels on the top. It has touch sensors that enable it to bounce off walls. It has strong magnets that allow it to move around magnetic surfaces, including walls! It can scan for colors and react to what your draw based on your code. It can erase lines you have drawn. A light that you can code and a light sensor that can react to changes in brightness. It can even play music you compose through code.


Through a simple block based app, you can control what the Root does and when it does it. I had a chance to play with the Root and I loved the UI on the app and the ease of adding the marker and having it draw out the coded designs. There are so many different uses for the Root, I think it is a nice addition to any classroom looking to add some code based robotics to the mix. 





Saturday, February 2, 2019

Coding Text-Based Gaming in ELA #NCTEChat

I am always looking for different ways to engage students in ELA classrooms. As a gamer, I've been looking for a fun way to engage student gamers in the classroom and I think I have found a very fun way to do that.

One of the oldest types of computer games were text based Role Playing Games (RPGs). You would be given test based descriptions of what was happening and you would have to type what you wanted to do next. You could travel from one place to another by typing in "go west" or some other direction. You could pick things up and use them as needed as long as you typed the instructions. I thought that creating a text-based RPG would be a great lesson for students for a few reasons;

  • Story-telling - Students need to work on telling stories. Creating a narrative around a game they are creating is a fun way to practice their writing skills. Building a plot, creating a protagonist and antagonist, and working on their descriptive writing are skills that writing for a game can help enhance.
  • Proofreading - Proofreading code to make sure everything is where it needs to be to run properly is crucial. These proofreading skills need to constantly be practiced. The importance of punctuation in coding is the same as the importance of punctuation in standard writing.
  • Interactive - Writing a game and being able to play it and share it with friends to play is a more interactive way to write. Any errors in writing that are found while playing can be shared and debugged later. 
  • Differentiated - Writing the code for this game can become a very complex game or a very simple game depending on the person writing the code. This allows all different skill level writers the chance to explore story-telling through code in ways that meet their skill set. 
  • It's different - Sometimes, it is good to do a bit of writing that is different than just sitting and writing. This offers a nice way to change the pace of the classroom writing students are used to doing. 
The more that you have your students doing this, the more benefits you will find. Below are the steps I took to laying out the lesson. 

Note: You do not have to know how to code to do this lesson. Do not let the code scare you away. 

Day 1:

I introduced the Raspberry Pi RPG tutorial program to the students. This link is shared on Google Classroom so all students can access it. The program is very nice because it does not ask students to understand the bits of code that are provided, it only asks students to fill in some blanks and recopy what is already given to them. The tutorial is really helpful because it allows the students to work ahead if they are quicker in understanding what needs to be done. The tutorials takes students to an online code program called Trinket. You can have students create a free account so they can save their code and come back to it later. 

As a class, we work together to add one room to the program. By the end of one class period, the students should have added one room to their game. They are asked to try and add another room before the next class meeting. 

Day 2: 

For the second class meeting, we will have students learn to add an item to pick up as part of their game and we will add a monster. The tutorial walks the students through all of this and makes it easy for them to copy and paste in the Trinket website. 

For the next class meeting, I ask that the students have an item and a monster added to their game and 5 total rooms. 

Day 3:

For the third class meeting, we will focus on how you can win your game. After finishing their game, we discuss the different types of stories that you could tell with this type of computer game. Mystery, adventure, space adventure, spooky, etc are all possibilities. The students are asked to start brainstorming a story that they would be able to create a maze-based game around. 

Day 4:

Students are asked to start mapping out their maze that will fit in the narrative of their story. By drawing out their maze room by room, it will make it easier to code. I drew out my map to help me and it made the overall design much easier to code. 

Days 5-7:

Students should be coding their game around the narrative they have created. This is where they can have fun and create the game they really want. By Day 7, they should have something that can be tested with other students in the room. 

Days 8 and 9:

Final proofreading and debugging should take place and the games should be ready to share with the class. Trinket allows users to share links to their games so others can remix them and try them out. Posting those links in a Google Doc or in Google Classroom would be helpful. 

Depending on your students, this can be done more quickly or you can spread it out over time. Since the tutorial is self-paced, this could be something you have students work on a little bit each day. 

Here is the game I created. It is far more complex than the ones that students are working on, but I thought I would really have a go at it. [Update: I added a search feature that can allow players to search rooms for extra treasure that is randomly pulled from a list, but there are rooms rigged with traps, so a search of a room with a trap will cause death unless you have found an amulet to protect you. There is so much more I can add and tweak. I'm becoming a little obsessed with it.]


The game is still a work in progress, but if you want to take a look underneath the hood of this code, follow this link.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter or leave a comment below. I have some very excited students working on this lesson and some of them have told me they have over 10 rooms after only a couple of days. I can't wait to see what they come up with and share them out with the community.  

Friday, January 25, 2019

Maker Fun at #FETC2019 #MakerEd

I'm excited to be heading down to Orlando for a few days to share the awesome things that have been happening in the world of MakerEd at my school. Below you will find my schedule for Tuesday and Wednesday. I will be sharing different tools to support reading and writing, maker examples tested by students at my school, and a talk on how MakerEd can make positive changes in a school environment. 

I'd love to see you at any of my sessions if you are at FETC or meeting up in the Convention Center to chat. 


Please reach out to me on Social if you want to connect. @TheNerdyTeacher on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat!

Monday, January 14, 2019

"I Just Don't Know"

Sometimes, it is ok to just tell a student, "I just don't know." That sounds crazy, but in a world where there is pressure to have all of the answers all of the time, we need to model for students the ability to say, "IDK."

In the Makerspace, I find myself telling students I'm unsure how to do something and then sitting with them to figure out how to do it. It allows the teacher to become an active learner alongside the students. When students can see their teacher not know something and be willing to learn something new, it can encourage them to do the same.

MakerEd is nuts because it covers just about anything that anyone can make. It is impossible to know it all. A simple IDK has really helped students see that teachers do not have all of the answers and that is ok. It also showed them that teachers are life long learners. It's what we want for our students, so we need to make sure we show it too.



Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Getting Your Hands Dirty #MakerEd

I have spent the last few days working with 9th grade students in the Makerspace. I was asked to give them a design challenge and go over the Design Thinking process. It is an addition to the 9th grade curriculum that I'm very happy to see take place.

I put together a variation of the Toxic Popcorn Challenge. Students need to use the Design Thinking process to try and transfer corn kernels into another container without entering a 4 foot radius around the toxic container. They are allowed to use anything they can find in the makerspace. Traditionally, this project is given over the course of a class period and the supplies are limited. Part of the project was to have students explore the makerspace and really see what it had to offer. Here are some pictures that showcase what the students worked on so far.



There are so many different approaches to the challenge it has been great to see the students dive into the project. So are making giant scissors, others are focusing on tension strength to hold the containers, and another group has focused on a giant clamp. It is so cool to see the problem solving and design going into their potential solutions. 

The majority of these students have never held a drill or saw for a project. It was so awesome to be able to teach a student how to use Mitre Saw and a Power Drill. Changing bits on a drill and adjusting bit size to get the right size screw through are not skills you just pick up randomly. These students had no problem getting their hands dirty and that is the key. I'm so proud of our school, University Liggett, for working hard to create an environment that focuses on creating makers and learners and not just grade earners. These students worked into their lunch to finish part of their project. They wanted to learn how to do the things to solve their problem. Students need to get their hands dirty to learn sometimes. Do that, teachers need to get their hands dirty as well. 

I can't wait to share the end products with everyone. Keep an eye on Instagram, I post maker work there often.  

Hugs and High Fives, 

NP