Ed's Tech Focus

Coding for Kids, Creativity and Critical Thinking

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As one considers the growing importance of coding in our digitally connected global society, there is a growing number of resources and learning opportunities to help support learning at all levels.  What was once a separate or specialized area of study is increasingly blended across the curriculum.  From art and robots, to engineering electronic circuits, building games, websites and apps, opportunities for you to increase critical thinking skills in engaging and even entertaining ways abound.  Check out the resources below and join the transformation to see what you can accomplish.

Encouraging Kids to Code

TransformEd at Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3
Technology In the Arts
Remake Learning as part of the Pittsburgh Kids+Creativity Network
Computer Science Students Network a joint project of CMU and DARPA
CMU Create Lab Many projects including Arts & Bots with Hummingbird kits.
ISTE Computational Thinking resources and National Education Technology Standards for Computer Science Educators
Computer Science Teachers Association - Computational Thinking Task Force and Resources

In addition to all of the exceptional college, university and career programs available, here are some additional ways for you to learn to code or update your existing skill set in a variety of areas:
iTunes University - Search programming, computer science, app development and more
EdX Online Learning
MIT Open Courseware
Even the Khan Academy covers basics of programming and animation

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Learning to Design and Develop Mobile Apps

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http://www.instant.ly/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/innovativelyorganized.jpgThere has been growing interest and discussion around designing and developing mobile apps in K-12 education. As I continue to research and learn about the myriad of ways to approach app development across the various mobile platforms (iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows, Kindle, and others), I am reminded of just how rapidly the field is changing and how interconnected once unimagined services are becoming.  By interconnected services, or platforms if you will, I mean we once had computers and computer applications as the main point of development to consider, but today we have smart phones, e-readers, televisions, media entertainment systems, game consoles, computers, embedded displays, robots, car systems, and even glasses.

Given this, here are a number of the resources for teaching and learning app design and development that I have compiled and thought worthy of sharing.  Keep in mind, that learning the tools is one thing, learning to be creative and innovative is another.

Similar to MIT Scratch or CMU Alice for beginning with programming, the http://www.AppInventor.org/  site which is tied Course-in-a-box and MIT's App Inventor for Android appears to have the lowest learning curve and most readily available curriculum I have seen.
This being said, I think the students background, or if you were building a course around this, the prerequisites and prior learning would be a significant consideration for where it fits relative to other courses you may offer and devices that may be available for example if everyone in your school has an iPhone, iPod or iPad then focusing on Android while it may have some tools that are easier to access and start learning with, it may not be the most relevant for the students.  Also, if they are high school level and already had courses in C and/or Java programming, or if your school has a course that teaches Adobe Flash Professional and Action Script then it might be better to focus on tools that leverage them to build apps, since prior learning could be established.
Here is the list of tools and resources, in the order I would likely go through them.

A good overview of native app development tools, programming languages they leverage and a high level view of creating and publishing an app in the different online stores for Windows Mobile, Android and Apple is available through the Computer Science Teachers Association.  Having this level of understanding of the native development tools, Software Development Kits (SDKs) and languages involved should help with conceptual discussions.

Tools, videos and resources:
Start thinking about Applications for the Web, Desktop and Mobile
(The following video is about 10 minutes and gets into some interesting development considerations at about 7 minutes)
Depending on students knowledge of design and programming, and for additional background and resources on developing for mobile devices, designing for varying screen sizes, making controls touch centric and creating and publishing content, I suggest signing up for a free account at the following sites.  Then explore their guides, tutorials and other resources.

Content examples on these sites:
·         iOS Guides on Human Interface Design and making apps that are touch centric (taps, swipes, gestures) as opposed to click centric.  Start Developing iOS Apps Today with these essential references.
·         Probably begin with the Intro slide show https://developer.apple.com/library/ios/#referencelibrary/GettingStarted/RoadMapiOS/chapters/Introduction.html
·         Android guides on app quality and User Interface design.
·         Their design information is decent, but it quickly gets into the Android SDK http://developer.android.com/design/index.html
If you are knowledgeable about HTML, CSS and Javascript then http://phonegap.com/ is a potential route for packaging web content into a downloadable app.  They also now have an option to leverage Adobe Phonegap build cloud service https://build.phonegap.com/
Corona SDK
Not free, but Corona Labs has a cross platform authoring environment which is cross platform and allows you to build for multiple devices.
Sign Up for:
Free Apple iOS Developer Account
If you have an existing Apple ID for iTunes you can sign in with that.
(If you get to the point of publishing an iOS app you need developer certificates unique to you and I at that point there would be some fees involved).
Android Developer Site
(Note: You may not need an account to get resources and they are transitioning from Android Marketplace to Google Play which introduces some different processes)
If looking at Adobe Flash for apps, or Adobe Indesign for packaging magazines or other publications as interactive apps, create a Free Adobe account and sign into
Adobe Education Exchange
On the Adobe Education Exchange, explore Adobe Lesson plans and other resources such as
"Basic Animation Techniques"
"Introduction to Adobe Flash Professional CS5" although the tools for designing and exporting apps are improved in CS6.
Adobe CS6 Flash and related tools
Looking at Using Adobe Flash Professional to build an app, there are various resources available, but the Against the Clock textbooks covers the entire program, a related teacher community, and includes sections on publishing the app for Android, iOS, or other platforms using the Adobe AIR runtime.
Explore videos available from Adobe TV

See how Flash, Dreamweaver and other Apps such as InDesign used by many Yearbook and student Newspapers can be used together with Photoshop and other tools for Web and App Design as well as Publishing, Illustration, Photo, etc.
Get Started with

Creating Mobile Apps and Websites with Design and Web Premium CS6 on YouTube

Publishing Workflows for AIR for IOS

Related Creative Suite Tools and Technologies:
How To Create iPad Apps Using InDesign CS6

iOS App Icon Design Tutorial in Illustrator and Photoshop CS6

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Kids+Creativity Growing Up in Pittsburgh

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I recently attended the Kids+Creativity Network Remake Learning launch event held at Carnegie Mellon University here in Pittsburgh.  The level of interest, collaboration and engagement across the region and the innovative ideas emerging from everyone involved is simply fantastic.

Take a look for yourself and watch Kids+Creativity: Building a Regional Learning Network

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Watch the PBS News Hour Report


"John Tulenko of Learning Matters, which produces education stories for the NewsHour, reports on a North Carolina school district switching from textbooks to all-digital learning materials."

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

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PBS Digital Media - New Learners Of The 21st Century

PBS Digital Media
A look at the evolving nature of learning.
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Tech Evolution - Motion and Gesture Based Interaction

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I started this post awhile back, but never finished it.  However, as I continue to explore the intersection of art, design and technology, I was reminded of how rapidly human computer interaction technologies are changing and despite the age of these videos, thought they would still be a worthwhile starting point for reflection and conversation.  

The first being the Project Natal Connect a Million Minds Case Study http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6EcgEN2kYA involving the Microsoft Xbox and various levels of motion and speech based recognition and control.

The second level of innovation is in the area of spatial gesture based operating environments conceptualized by John Underkoffler and being developed by the company he founded Oblong Industries. The technology called g-speak provides for a number of advanced device integration and control options.  This technology was demonstrated at the February 2010 TED conference.


g-speak overview 1828121108 from john underkoffler on Vimeo.

Studying these technologies and thinking about the continued evolution of human computer interaction, haptics and other areas of research, I am reminded of a musical device I had the chance to experiment with a number of years ago. The Theremin invented by Professor Leon Theremin and patented in 1928, it provided for motion based control of sound frequency and amplitude.

Looking forward, it would not be much of a stretch to combine these gesture based controls with a virtual Theremin or possibly provide hidden doorways within a game that can only be unlocked when a particular sound oscillation and level is found.
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3D Video and Live Conferencing

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I was recently learning about telepresence bridging capabilities on Internet2 and the National Lambda Rail and began to think about how far we have come with videoconferencing over the past 15 years.  The quality of high definition videoconferencing and the ease of use of full telepresence systems like those offered by Cisco is a considerable communication achievement.  Not unlike the communication screen on the Star Trek bridge or those used in other sci-fi movies and television series.  A related topic of discussion was the blue screen people on content feature of Polycom videoconferencing systems where you can use blue screen technology to insert content behind your live video image. With this I began to think about the next big thing and what another 10 to15 years will bring us for video communications. Recently 3D viewing for television and video has been a hot topic in broadcasting and film. In terms of display technologies, Barco has a variety of immersive stereoscopic displays that are currently being used for entertainment, visualiztion and research.  Barco and Tandberg have already worked together on Telepresence display solutions.  With the pending acquisition of Tandberg by Cisco, I see this partnership continuing into the 3D HD telepresence realm. Reflecting how this technology can be applied to traditional 2D video images to create 3D video in anaglyph, stereoscopic, and autostereoscopic views, or incorporated into specialized cameras to create 3D images from the start, I think we are quickly moving in this direction.  Given the computational power of computer chips and graphics cards, combined with the increasing availability of network bandwidth, how soon might we see wide adoption of 3D videoconferencing?  My guess is it will be cost effective and broadly adopted in 7-10 years.
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Of Boundless Human Limits

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I recently read two stories regarding incredible displays of human strength, willpower and endurance and found myself compelled to share them.  As someone who has participated in relatively short hikes and frequently runs and bikes what I would consider a good number of miles on a regular basis, I find these accomplishments incredible.
The first of which is the story of Wayne P. Kurtz who was the first American to compete in the DECA IronMan World Championship held in Monterrey Mexico from November 9-19th, 2009.  With a total time of 141:28:26 Wayne finished 5th overall in this grueling event that consists of ten Ironman triathlons in ten days resulting in 24 miles swimming, 1112 miles biking, 262 miles running.  For more information on Wayne and his accomplishments check out http://www.ultratriguy.blogspot.com/
For those that are looking for ultra running and triathlon information go to:
International Ultra Triathlon Association, http://www.iutasport.com/ Ultra Running Magazine http://www.ultrarunning.com/
The next story is that of Todd Carmichael the first American to complete a near death 39 day, almost 700 mile solo trek across the ice and snow of Antarctica to the South Pole, with temperatures reaching 35 below zero and 100 mile per hour wind gusts slamming into him while pulling a 250 plus pound sled of supplies and gear. In the end Todd set a new speed record of 39 days 7 hours and 49 minutes for the journey.  For more information on Todd's amazing story and video of his experience, check out his blog and YouTube Channel at:
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Video Learning Objects and Information Access

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With the directory of educational videos at http://www.watchknow.org/ that was launched by Wikipedia co-founder Dr. Larry Sanger in October 2009, I am reminded of the concept of learning objects that has been the topic of repositories such as MERLOT (the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) for many years.  While MERLOT is well known in Higher Education, I have found that it is not readily utilized in K-12 education, despite is value for accelerated learners and advanced placement course materials.  I suspect that this will change as online learning continues to develop and grow throughout K-12 and individualized instruction empowers students to move beyond their primary curriculum. With the wealth of information that is now available through these and other organized sources such as iTunes University, Youtube, National Geographic, Discovery Learning, the Library Video Company, United Streaming, Google Earth, and other content providers.  The ability to have this information organized and available to learners on-demand is beyond what can be found in any individual printed textbook, college or school library.  This brings me to one last thought, the future of textbooks and learning.  Having experimented with content available through the Apple IPod Touch, Tablet PCs, and other portable devices such as the iPad, and content made available by publishers as supplemental resources for textbooks, I believe that we are on the verge of harnessing the power of electronic content for learning.  A dynamic electronic learning resource that can be organized and sequenced according to a college, school or individual course curriculum with embedded remediation, supplemental learning materials and potentially multiple languages could help to harness the ever growing body of historical, literary, and scientific knowledge our global communities are creating.  Given this, learners will need a sound grasp of the fundamentals, combined with a core body of advanced subject knowledge and the ability to research a topic, synthesize the information and learn on their own.  Individuals with this foundation will be in a position to learn and advance beyond any current limitations to create, invent and discover new knowledge breakthroughs which can be fed back into the global repository for the advancement of humankind.
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The Googleverse App

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I was recently reviewing new options in Picasa and Google Earth.  The Explore Earth, Sky, Mars, Moon features in Google Earth reminded me of a product integration idea I had a few years ago when Google first introduced http://moon.google.com and http://mars.google.com  As an individual with a scientific background and continued interest in interactive media and educational technologies, I think it would be cool to see the Googleverse App, which would basically launch as a planetary model where individuals could explore the entire solar system, turn on and off magnetic field layers, learn about gravitational forces, solar flares from the sun, see passing comets, and follow the various NASA space probe missions such as the Casini and Voyager projects. The earth, sky, moon, mars and other planets could still be selected for view from a menu, but in general you could just zoom out and then click the planet or moon that you want to explore. 3D models of orbiting satellites could be loaded in much the way Sketchup lets users add content and then much the way you can design and build virtual worlds in Second Life, users could colonize planets and explore new worlds.  Live videoconferencing could be enabled between users within the virtual worlds, or individuals could continue to learn and interact via their avatars. You could rotate around and between the planets or the rings of Saturn and moons of Jupiter.  Users and astronomers worldwide could contribute images captured from telescopes through tagged photos in Picasa. The product could eventually be developed to the point where it could be integrated with 3D imagery and stereoscopic views, much like the current trend in movies.  This advanced 3D version of the universe could then be tied into new projection technologies for education, guided tours and shows in iMax theaters, Planetariums and other venues around the world.
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