Friday, April 27, 2012

Fun On Friday #144: Elegantly Wasted

Im still not sure what I make of this. It is slightly disturbing but strangely fascinating at the same time. Have a look at the 12LVE project and than come back here to tell me what you think.

Research has proven that we often take out our frustrations on the technology we feel has let us down:

While such outburst might feel cathartic at times, I can't help but feel that the 12LVE project has taken a much more creative approach: they are exhibiting photographs of a range of technology that has been hit with a sledgehammer, attacked with a handsaw, set on fire and (my favourite) run over by a train. At one level, seeing technology destroyed like this is unsettling, and yet I think the photographs are beautiful.

So what do you see? Wreckage and ruin or beauty and brilliance?

{Thanks to Gordon McKinlay for drawing this to my attention.}

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Raspberry Pi - Taking Control

One of the things I really love about my job is that I get to visit schools. I get to meet, work with and learn from fellow Computing teachers. And sometimes I learn that, nerdy as I am, I can still be out-nerded by my colleagues!

QR Code from @RaspberryPi
Case in point: today I was interviewing prospective students with a Computing teacher from Hamilton Grammar and we fell to talking about the Raspberry Pi. I have already featured the Raspberry Pi here on a couple of occasions and, although I am skeptical about the size of its impact, I still think it is a fascinating device. But while I am looking forward to playing with one, my colleague is already making plans about exactly how he will use them in school. As we talked about this he said, almost as an aside, how exciting the Gertboard looked. My response was, of couse, "The what board?"

So he talked about the Gertboard is and I was hooked straight away. Essentially, the Gertboard is a General Purpose Input/Output board. If that leaves you none the wiser, it is a board that allows you to plug in sensors and devices to the Raspberry Pi and write software to control them. The Gertboard was introduced on the Raspberry Pi blog in December 2011, and you can read about it there in the Introducing Gertboard post.

I have talked about the Arthur C Clark quote before: "Any technology, when sufficiently developed, is indistinguishable from magic." I've also said that I think it is the job of the computing teacher to show what makes the magic work - to show what's behind the curtain. That is why I like the idea of interfacing and control. It takes stuff out of the virtual world of the computer screen and into the real world. For example, attach a temperature sensor and a motor to the Gertboard and you could write a program to monitor the temperature and turn on the motor to drive a fan when it gets too hot. With interfacing and control applications, the computer can be programmed to react to things happening in the real word and make changes to the environment as a result.

This video, taken from another Raspberry Pi blog post, shows the Gertboard in action:

While interfacing and control has great potential, it tends to be expensive and fiddly to implement in schools. I'm not sure that it is possible to completely eliminate the fiddliness (in fact I think it it is the fiddle factor that makes it fun) but the Raspberry Pi and the Gertboard look like they might make interfacing and control significantly more affordable.

What do you think? And what other Raspberry Pi developments do you think I should know about? Go on, out nerd me!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fun On Friday #143: Dance

Very, very late. A Fun On Friday posted at 11:30 pm on Sunday but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

Daughter Number Two brought this YouTube video to my attention. The title pretty much says it all: Tron Inspired Dance. (Don't panic! The first thirty seconds takes place in complete darkness.)

I especially like the way they create a stop-motion animation effect with live action dancers.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Box Full Of Learning

A box full of learning... and a box full of fun!

Box Full Of Learning by DavidDMuir
Box Full Of Learning, a photo
by DavidDMuir on Flickr.
It is not hard to see the box pictured here as a a box of fun.. but a box of learning? Yet, that's what it is. It is a box with a Playstation, EyePet mames, cameras and controllers - everything you need to have fun with virtual pets. It arrived in my office a few weeks ago - brought by courier from the Consolarium. I got it, so I could explore with one of my students the contribution Games Based Learning could make to social/health and wellbeing education: both from the looking after the health and wellbeing of the EyePets; and from the collaboration, group work and other game associated activities that would take place with the pupils.

I first heard about Game Based Learning from Derek Robertson. At the time, he was the external examiner for our Educational Computing course and he asked me if we were doing anything with computing games. We did have an hypermedia development module where people would often develop simple games as part of the coursework and we talked about the creative writing possibilities of pupil created adventure games but it was clear Derek was meaning something more.

When he talked about Game Based Learning, he meant games consoles and commercial, off the shelf games. He talked enthusiastically about what he was doing with Playstations back in Dundee. (Actually, I realise the word "enthusiastically" is somewhat redundant when talking about Derek. I have rarely had a conversation with him where he has not been enthusiastic, passionate even, about whatever we were talking about.)

It was not long after this that he set up the Consolarium with Education Scotland (or whatever it was called then!) to promote Games Based Learning. And promote it he did! Although many people greeted the idea of games consoles in schools with scepticism and suspicion (see for example Pupils 'made more violent by computer games', where it seems to me the main complaint is about poor parental supervision rather than games per se) Derek kept plugging away: speaking at the Scottish Learning Festival, setting up competitions and demonstrations, presenting at conferences, and (importantly) doing the research to show not just the potential but the value of Games Based Learning.

I think that, largely down to the work of Derek and the team at the Consolarium, Scottish education is at the forefront of developments in Game Based Learning not just in the UK but internationally. I was pleased to see, therefore, that this work was being recognised when Derek was nominated for an award from Naace in the Naace ICT Impact Awards 2012: Adviser or Consultant or Support Service category. Here is a video with some of the evidence that supported the nomination:

I was even more pleased when on award night, Derek was announced as the winner in that category.

Of course, the irony is, that even as Derek wins this award, either through economic necessity, or educational short-sightedness (or possibly both) the seconded teachers that worked with him are back in school and the Consolarium as a physical space is gone. What is left is a loan service, the service I used to borrow the EyePets kit. (I'll try to write more about what was done with this kit soon but in the meantime, you can read what others did on the Consolarium wiki.) Don't get me wrong, the loan service is great but what we had in the Consolarium was so much better; its closure is a great loss to Scottish education.

Anyway, congratulations again to Derek. And if you are a Scottish teacher, check out the loan service and have a go yourself. Seeing is believing.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Fun On Friday #142: Easter Eggs

I've been busy and the blog has been neglected.. so two for the price of one today:

80/365: Muir family eggs by DavidDMuir
80/365: Muir family eggs, a photo
by DavidDMuir on Flickr.
Stuck for ideas on how to decorate your Easter eggs? Then, have a look at the Family Fun Egg Decorating page where you'll find an gallery of eggs to inspire and some instructions. I thought the melted wax eggs was a clever idea but I think my favourite is the Bee egg.

If real eggs doesn't take your fancy, how about a make it yourself giant Creme Egg? Two different methods:

First, a method from the unfortunately named Pimp That Snack! that involves making your own fondant filling. Looks tricky but probably worth the effort.

Second, an how to from Student Beans. This one looks much easier but the site does give the following warning:
Warning: It's a LITTLE sweet, so we advise that you share the GIANT Creme Egg with at least ten other people so as to avoid developing diabetes.
If you have a go at any of the above, I'd love to see photographic evidence.