Monday, August 26, 2013

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

My time this summer was productive and exciting.  Aside from exploring with my 2 year old son and bouncing my baby daughter around in the back yard, I have managed to get a little work done this summer as well.  This summer for me and my family has centered around food, swimming, and a little bit of professional development.  I owe a big thank you to my lovely wife for taking on the two children while I went to a 3-day long mid-week conference.

Computer Using Educators is a group of teachers who find awesome new ways to use technology in their lessons that make sense for the content and the lesson.  For example, on presenter showed us how he has his history students compose scripts for "news reports from history" and then quickly and easily films them and publishes them within a day.  The students can do most of the work, or just the history side of things, depending on how much tech you want the kids to touch during the lesson (or how much control you want the teacher to have).  I have linked to some of his videos in the posts below:

CUE Conference Day 1
CUE Conference Day 2
CUE Conference Day 3
My Class Website -- thanks to the CUE presenters for showing me some tricks!
Here's a link to my syllabus and,
a link to the rules and first assignments.
On my own, I started some coding at Codecademy (I mostly learned HTML5 and JavaScript). This blog background is Cascading Style Sheets that I learned at Codecademy.  Sadly, my class website and blog have very little on them right now, and may not during this first semester while I get things figured out at my new position.
A beginning programming assignment.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Raspberry Pi


Will it fit in an Altoids tin?

What is Raspberry Pi?
I had to look it up since I had only heard the name in passing and didn't quite remember the context.

Raspberry Pi is a computer the size of a credit card (and almost as cheap!).  It's made to use in education and will do most basic tasks like word processing and spreadsheets and some graphics. It runs at 300MHz (Pentium 2) but can be overclocked to 800.  For $40, were you expecting alienware?

It's made to run Linux booting off of an SD card, but once it's booted you can run off of an external USB drive. So the possibility is to get a huge solid state drive (large capacity, not large size) and put whatever OS and software you need.  I wonder if I could just get Chrome on there for the google apps?

Here's the link to the FAQ page I read.  All those extra possibilities are what would kick the price up, but still not a huge price tag, especially if you hook it to the TV through the onboard HDMI port.

Thanks to @alicekeeler for the tweet on the sweet deal.  I think I might pick one up just to see how it works and how well it works.  I kind of wish +Ken Daniels and I had seen this a year ago when we were budgeting for computers.

This reminds me of building Heath kit radios on the porch with my dad.  This also reminds me of building my own computers in college.  I managed to build one for $400 and it lasted all the way to 2004!  I bet I could beat that price (and probably the age) with the Raspberry Pi.

It seems like there's an endless variety of ways to customize this computer.  There are different cases, you can add stuff using a USB port, people are adding mini keyboards, etc.

In my classroom, I could hook it up to the unused TV (I use the projector) and connect it to the wifi.  Although, I'm not sure if the IT people at school will let me hook it up to the network.

Finally, no, it does not appear to fit in the Altoids tin. :(  At least, not without specialized modification.

I just put together an amazon wish list of some items to build a neat little one, and it totaled well under $300, closer to 250, so possibly competitive with chromebook on price depending on how hard you shop for components.  I'm sure there are better deals out there on specific parts than Amazon offers.  I bet if I spent some time on it, I could squeak under 200 and still have some good functionality.  Now just to learn how to program it and what it could be used for beyond word processing.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Another Round of Room Preparations

More Cleanup

We went in to campus again on Friday to push around the furniture and finish cleaning the messy spots.  By lunch time, I had room 105 looking good enough to hold a class in--although I'd like to do some more work on the walls.  We could at least walk in tomorrow and start a class without too much distraction, which is a huge improvement to where I left it last time.  I also brought in my drill and moved some of the pegboards from wall to wall in order to make more space for a larger white board.  After lunch I went to the local hardware store and picked up an 8' by 4' piece of thin plywood to turn into a whiteboard extension.  I just can't work with that small white board up front--I need more space to work problems and have students work, etc.  We ordered some rolls of the whiteboard paper to stick to the plywood and then mount on the front wall.  It may look slightly "low-cost" but it will at least allow me to post up the required things like objectives and standards.  Then I can use the "real" whiteboard for student work and examples everyday.

The pegboards still need paper and boarders.  That's on order and should arrive Monday.  We'll have an orange and black theme in the room.  I hope the students don't get too bored of seeing every teacher post the orange and black colors all over.

The next task on my list is to really get down to the details on my 12 Angry Men project idea.  I'm going to create a couple just to see where the potential snags are.  Of course, I don't want to take away too much of the fun from the students creating this project themselves.  No spoilers here, I'm going to keep this project a secret for a little while longer so I won't go into any details on it in this post.

Blog Focus

Speaking of this (and previous) blog posts, once school starts I want to use this blog primarily for student work so I'm looking at other teacher's sites and blogs to get some direction on this.  For now, however, you will see posts about the classroom and other posts focused on me.  This is not because I want to be stuck on myself--I do want to get into the habit of posting on a regular basis, so if there is no student work then I will post just to keep the habit up.  Also, if there is no student work, you should contact me and bug me about when I'm going to give the students their assignment for the blog. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Setting up the Room!

This is a room in progress:
Still messy, but getting closer to the final look.
East Wall
Here are some pics of what the room looked like in mid-build.  I went in to campus yesterday to clean a little and move the furniture around so it looked more like a classroom.  As you can see, it still has a long way to go.  It could use some additions to the walls, although I've made the desks look a lot nicer than these pictures show.  Also, I could use some butcher paper on the pegboards.  Following this time-consuming work, I need to go get the pacing guides and curriculum maps for English 10 and Algebra 1.  Hope to see some eager faces on August 15th!  

West Wall
We have a small space and I hope that the way I moved the bookshelves and cabinet around from the last teacher will open up the space, because I really don't like cramped rooms!
Definitely need more white board and some cords for the projector.
North Wall

This setup will be cozy, but there's a lot to work with and I've been promised a few student computers along the side there (West Wall).
I can't wait to get some bulletin boards up and start planning some lessons.
I'm really looking forward to this new year.