Sunday, June 20, 2010

EdCamp NYC Badge

Since returning from EdCamp Philly, I've been working on helping to organize EdCamp NYC. Yesterday, I started working on the official web site: I received a great deal of help from EdCamp Philly organizer extraordinaire, Dan Callahan. My co-web organizer, Sean Freese, purchased and set up the domain name. Dan helped us get WordPress running and I've been playing around with the web site one step at a time.

Moving In To the New Space
Since the domain was live, I wanted to move into the space so that anyone who stumbled upon it would not see a Hello World message. I have never used WordPress, but it's enough like Blogger that it was intuitive to change. The theme was set up for a masthead image, so I went to Flickr to download the logo created by Dr. Timony. Using Gimp, I resized the image so it would fit in the 940x198 pixel space. I placed it on the left side of the image and added the date and location of the event. Using the eye dropper tool, I grabbed the color of the apple and used it as a color for the date.

Next, I borrowed some wording from the EdCamp Philly web site. They have everything licensed as Creative Commons content and I was told to borrow freely. Content on the home page will change, but for now it announces the what, where, when, and cost (free) of the event with a link to the Wikipedia definition of unconference.

As I looked at the default web site I realized I had to add content to the preset About tab. The wording was just right on one of the EdCamp Philly pages. I used that for our About page.

Day Two on the Domain
Now that we had a presence, I wanted to look into how EdCamp Philly took care of tickets and registration for the event. I thought it was very smooth from a participant standpoint. They used TicketLeap. As I looked at their web site, I learned "If you’re hosting a free event, you can still ticket your event through TicketLeap. Our event registration services and marketing tools are free to use, regardless of whether your event is free or not. We only charge service fees on events that cost money to attend." I signed up for a free account and a few clicks later had an event that was accepting registration for free tickets. They have logos that link to the service. Tickets are available now at Now we have a Registration tab on the official web site.

Karen Blumberg set up a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a gmail account for edcampnyc. I thought it would be useful to have a page with all of our connections, so I added a Connect page this afternoon as well. Looking at the Facebook page, I found a tag line of Learn. Unlearn. Relearn. I added it as the tag line on WordPress.

Badges for Everyone

As I end the night, I started thinking about how the K12 Online Conference helps promote their event. One of the things they had was a badge people could post on their web site, blog, wiki, and other web spots. I started hunting around the web for widget and badge creators. I decided to check out the K12 Online page and did a search for badge. I conveniently found the K12 Online Badge - Spread the Word page with HTML. I've been teaching my students HTML for several years. I explain to the students how it can be handy to know some basics. Looking at the code, I realized they had an image hosted on their WordPress page. I downloaded the small version of the EdCamp NYC logo to my computer and uploaded it to the WordPress installation. When I uploaded the file, it conveniently told me the location of the image.

Now, anyone can add a badge to their blog, wiki, or whatever to promote EdCamp NYC by adding the following code:

Blogger wanted to turn the code into the badge, I found a web site [Felgall Internet - Displaying HTML Source Code in Web Pages] that let me paste the code and it turned it into a series of special codes that display the less than and great than signs without allowing the web page to recognize it as HTML. I'm hoping it will let you copy and paste the HTML in what ever web page you wish.

<a href=""><img alt="Register for Edcamp NYC" width="120/" src="" height="56" /></a>

Register for Edcamp NYC

Tomorrow is Another Day
I still want to work on mirroring more of the content from the EdCamp Philly web site. I think it was really well laid out. I wanted to preserve these thoughts for myself and any one else working on the edcamp model. I think we're doing pretty well considering Sean obtained the domain just about 24 hours ago!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Coin Practice in First and Second Grade

I recently had the opportunity to review AARTPACK Interactive's First Grade Interactive Curriculum. The interactive web pages are very nice. One of the ideas led me to explore the concept of coins in a way I never had before.

Why Purchase?
I am lucky in that I have an extensive computer background. I started out taking computer programming classes in college including BASIC, COBOL, FORTRAN, and even helped other students troubleshoot assembly language (without having taken a course it in!). In business, I created multimedia projects using templates created by a consultant in Authorware. I used PageMaker in its infancy and Gimp. So I understand the idea of layers, locking items, and labeling items to make files easier to understand by others. In all, I have a deep comfort level with creating and manipulating objects on a computer. 

I know that many teachers do not have the time and interest to do so. Another reason to make a purchase is that the activities just work. There is something to be said for giving teachers new to technologies activities that work without fail. These activities are clean, teach to an objective, and work. Creating your own project or downloading a pre-made lesson from Promethean Planet requires the teacher to have a certain comfort level with taking detours to fix or modify a flipchart. There is an amazing opportunity for growth in that process. AARTPACK can give the teachers a base of comfort to work from. They can then expand into downloaded flipcharts and finally creating their own in ActivInspire.

I will show the AARTPACK Interactive content to the teachers in my building to see if they would have an interest in asking the school to purchase the content when they end up with an interactive whiteboard in the classroom. Right now only first grade content is available with other grade levels to follow in July 2010.

A Challenge To Myself
I am working hard to learn to use ActivInspire to create my own flipcharts. I took a coin example from AARTPACK and created a version of my own in ActivInspire. As I began writing this blog post, I was concerned that I would be overstepping my terms of agreement for previewing the AARTPACK for grade one. Luckily, I am in contact with @aartpack and via a quick email conversation feel comfortable with sharing my journey through ActivInspire. I have uploaded my vision of what I liked about the AARTPACK pages to Promethean Planet.

The First Pages in the Set
I knew that I wanted to have a variety of examples for the students to try on their own, so the first thing I did was to create some static pages of coins. It was simple to search the ActivInspire resources to find images of the front and back of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. It was odd to see the coins outlined in a magenta color. I had to click on the coin, open the Miscellaneous tab and change the Transparent option to True.

I typed a cent sign (¢) on the page and included a star with the word Answer. The child can use the pen to write the answer, then the arrow to click on the star to reveal the actual answer. The chart could be used as a learning center for students and they could check their work independently.

In the lesson every child had a chance to do one of these types of problems. I used the ActiVotes with the lesson. As the student wrote the answer on the board, the rest voted A for I think the answer is correct or B for I think it is a different answer.

The Last Page in the Set
As with the AARTPACK Interactive page, the last page allowed students to drag a copy of coins on to the page. The students all had a chance to create a problem. Child one dragged three coins on the screen (the same, different, or a mixture). Child two answered the problem and cleared the screen to create the next one.

KidPix Activity Follow-Up
The following week, the first grade students returned to computer class and I had set up a KidPix page with coins. It might be too hard for first graders at the beginning of the year, but most of my students have been using Kid Pix for two years and it worked well as this is the end of their second year of computer class with me.

I had the students work in pairs. I taught them how to use the grabber hand with the scissors to drag around a coin. Next they learned to click the smile face to copy the highlighted coin and the bottle of glue to paste it. They dragged the copy to the top of the page. The partner then copied and pasted a plus sign. They took turns until they had a problem with three coins, two plus signs, and an equal sign. The child dragging the coins added them either mentally or with a pad of paper and pencil in the basket next to the computer and wrote the answer with the pencil. The child dragging the plus and equal signs verified the answer. Afterward, they switched jobs. 

They seemed to enjoy the work and worked pretty independently. I was able to keep up with the questions generated by eight pairs of workers.

Repeating the Activity in Second and Third
The activity worked so well. I did it again in second and third grade making it harder at each level. In the second grade, each student created the KidPix coins and symbols on their own. When they had three coins and symbols on the screen, they stood up at their chair. I rotated the students one computer to the left and they sat down and wrote how much change was on the screen. After they answered the problem, they stood up and I rotated them again. They chose a different color, added up the new set of coins and either wrote the same answer if they agreed or a different answer if they came up with a different total. After they answered the problem, they stood up and I rotated the students again. This time, after they chose a new color, they circled the correct answer(s) or wrote what they thought the amount was on the screen. I went around the room, verified the answers, and sent everyone back to their original seat.

In the third grade, I simply had them place four (instead of three) coins on the screen.

A New Project in the Rotation
I was really happy with the entire process overall and wanted to document it to remember it for next year. I posted the Kid Pix template on my wiki if you want to download it. I will post some samples of the work there soon.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Care and Handling of Laptops

The Apple laptops we have purchased to go with the Promethean Activboards are base model machines with the maximum memory. This is the start of a series of posts about the care and handling of the laptops. The posts will define common terminology and specific details about what to do, what not to do, and why.

Water, and Liquids, and Electricity - Oh My!
First and foremost, the computer is a sensitive electronic device. We purchase a three year Apple Care Protection Plan. This serves as a safety net for parts that break. It does not usually cover accidental damage.

About a week and a half ago, a bottle of water was near one of the new machines and a child bumped the cart and the water spilled on the keyboard. It was toweled off immediately, but the damage was already done. As the water came in contact with the electronics under the keyboard, strange things started happening. The machine started turning on and off. Next the computer wanted a password to turn on, but the password was not being accepted. Finally, the computer refused to charge and turn on.

It was taken to the Apple store. The story was told in full and thankfully - rewarded. Close to $800 in damage occurred due to the water, but they are repairing it under the protection plan. This is not always the case!

Rule Number One
Keep all liquids far from all the electronic equipment. It's so easy to think that you'll just take a sip, but in the classroom there are many distractions. All it takes is one bump and the machine is out of service. This applies at home and at school. It applies to transporting the machine to and from school, as well. Many years ago, a bottle of Windex with a loose top spilled on a laptop. It was no longer under the plan coverage and had to be disposed. It cost more to fix the machine than its value.

Will the Machine Come Back the Same?
The machine is back. Luckily, the hard drive was not damaged. This leads to the question: What is a hard drive, anyway?

A hard drive is a part in the computer that saves your files. In a previous post, I wrote about transparencies that were scanned into the computer. Each transparency becomes a computer file in the scanning process. Each file represents hours of work.

We were lucky, the hard drive is fine. If not, those transparancies would have had to be scanned again.

How Could Those Lost Hours Be Prevented?
In the lessons I've been teaching so far, we have not reviewed the concept of backing up files. When you back up a file, it makes an exact copy in another location. There are a few methods.

1) Save a copy on the school's file server (*more in a future post)
2) Create a CD or DVD with the files
3) Save the files on a memory stick (also called a flash drive - see image above)

I'm sure this will be one of the first new lessons when the machine returns to the school.

Here is a Hard Drive
The photo on the right shows an open hard drive. In its natural state, you would never see a hard drive open like it is in the photo. That is because it is an incredibly sensitive piece of equipment. 

The platter is like an old vinyl record. It is more sensitive in many ways. It is always enclosed to prevent dust from touching the surface. As the arm moves over the surface of the platter, it reads and writes information. A piece of dust is like a boulder under the arm.

How Else Can a Hard Drive Be Damaged
Dropping the computer, even a short distance, can cause the arm to bounce on the surface of the disk and cause damage. Depending upon where the arm hits the platter, it may cause enough damage so that they disk will not work again.

The disk not only holds your files, but the entire set of programs that makes the computer a computer. One program is the operating system. The operating system is what gives us the icons on the desktop and the programs we run, for example, the program that lets us use the Internet (Safari). In short, it makes the computer "the computer". 

When you first power on the computer, it goes to the boot record. Imagine the boot record as a unique spot on the platter that tells the computer what to do next. If the arm falls on the platter on the boot record, you cannot read anything else on the platter. 

Oh My Gosh, I'm Going to Break It're not! All this being said, the computer is not so delicate you should be in constant fear of breaking it. Just realize that it is an electronic device that cost a good bit of money. Keep liquids away. Always place it on a level surface. Keep it away from the edge of the table. Relax and enjoy it! 

Image Citation:
Wood, Gary J. "Disassembled Hard Drive." gary j wood's photostream. 22 Jun 2006. 6 June 2010.

Additional photos by Ann Oro.