Other posts in this series (will be hyperlinked as written)
- Materials and Dash Button setup
- Setting up the Raspberry Pi Zero
- Triggering actions with the buttons
A few weeks ago, I posted a picture up on Facebook of a few Dash Buttons that I was activating. I had a lot of questions about what the heck I was doing with them all, and I think it’s time to fill you all in.
Essentially, the Dash Button is a product from Amazon. The intended use is that you buy one for $4.99, connect it your wifi through the Amazon App, and choose a product from the brand that is displayed on the button. Whenever you push the button, it let’s Amazon know you want to order that product and it gets shipped out to you usually the next day. We have one for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and it’s kind of awesome.
But what’s also interesting is that if you break it all down, it’s basically just an internet connected trigger. When it gets pushed, it jumps on your network, announces itself, and then sends a command to Amazon to place the order. However, it‘s pretty simple to hijack it and use it for other purposes as well. In order to incentivize people to buy the Dash Button, Amazon will give you a $4.99 credit on a future purchase. That means you can get an internet connected trigger that is highly hackable… for essentially free!
That’s why I bought so many of them. The out of pocket cost is basically zero, and we’re now starting to use them throughout the house. Aiden is currently using them to log his practice time on both piano and trombone, and we have another button that starts a ‘dance party’ in the living room.
I’m going to break down the entire process for all of you, but since there’s several distinct steps, I’m going to separate it into a few posts.
- Introduction (this post)
- Materials and Dash Button setup
- Setting up the Raspberry Pi Zero
- Triggering actions with the buttons
So much more to come. I’ll link up the ‘table of contents’ at the top as each post gets written. And I hope you’ll play along! It’s a fun project to do, and it’ll feel really geeky… but is actually pretty simple.
While at EdCampIllinois on Saturday, I attended a session discussing the influence of Seymour Papert on education. During the conversation, Mitch Resnick was mentioned a few times, and his learning spiral was shared with the group. While I’ve been a huge fan of Mitch and his work, I’d never seen that particular image before.
It reminded me of another image that I had earmarked to explore further, focusing on ways to generate ideas. One of my roles at DiscoveryEd was to chair the Innovation and Strategy team. In that capacity, I spent quite a bit of time in the ‘idea generation’ space. It’s also something we’ve used quite a bit at events, internally and externally. I’ve got a plethora of ideation strategies in my back pocket. However, the majority revolve around a gimmick, or a theme. A construct that let’s people get comfortable and unrestricted.
I think this graphic ties in nicely to that first step of Mitch’s. Step 1: Imagine. Just sit back and let your mind wander. When you have 10 minutes for brainstorming on the schedule, it can really limit the depth of what someone can come up with. It almost guarantees that the ideas will stay on the surface. But to really come up with anything fresh or worth delving into, you need to allow yourself to go deeper right from the outset. And to do that, we often need to break out of the routine we’ve set for ourselves.
- Go for a walk – Lodge McCammon is a big advocate for the Walk and Talk, emphasizing that physical activity stimulates the brain. Adam and I did this during our ISTE session on new models of professional development, and the feedback was incredible. Sometimes just being in motion is enough to create the spark you need.
- Speak to strangers – Maybe not total strangers off the street, but certainly people outside your normal sewing circle. It’s a critical step in the design thinking process too, getting feedback from a wide variety of people. Sometimes asking the thoughts of someone who has no background in the topic will get a more ‘out of the box’ response. After all, they can’t be constrained by the status quo, if they don’t know what the status quo is!
- Write down day dreams and ideas – I think this can be broadened a bit to include sketching things down, or even talking them through in a podcast or vodcast. I know that the act of blogging or podcasting definitely helped me solidify ideas that were percolating. It forces you to take ephemeral ideas and try to make them concrete.
- Listen to music – Music can definitely stimulate creativity, but I’d suggest listening to other people’s music! Ask for people to link up there favorite Pandora or Spotify playlist. Listening to lyrics and musical patterns that are fresh and disruptive compared to your usual choices may shift your thinking into a new direction. One of my personal favorites is this funk/blues playlist on Spotify. Enjoy!
- Explore different places and environments – Ever hold a meeting outside? It totally changes the dynamic. Picking up your laptop and working on a park bench, in a coffee shop, or at a train station can certainly provide new stimulus that may generate that elusive spark.
- Embrace alone time and let your mind wander – Sometimes the best way to focus in on a topic is to step away from it. Put away the laptop, silence the phone, and just unfettter your mind. Call it meditation, call it #napchat, just give your brain a break before it hits the breaking point.
The next time you’re going to be starting a project, or your students will be, begin with Step 1: Imagine. And choose a handful of these strategies to get the creative juices flowing!
While the photos are normal, the girl told her parents that she was uncomfortable with their friends being able to easily access them.
This seems to be less about a teen suing their parents, and more about the parents respecting their child’s right to draw their own privacy line.
We’ve been publishing photos of our kids since they were born, and doing so in accounts under their names on Facebook. The intention is, when they’re ready they’ll take over pre-populated accounts with a history already. That said, we try to be sensitive to not publishing anything that would ‘mortify’ them. And I would sincerely hope we’d be empathetic enough, that if they ever asked to opt out, we would respect their wishes.
That said, I think the issue is equally applicable to any two people, even if they aren’t related. If anyone ever requests that someone take down a pic or video of themself, I would hope that the person who posted it would respect that. Sometimes you don’t realize how other people will see a piece of media when it is taken out of context.
As I try to figure out what post-Discovery life looks like, I went back to my roots and recorded a vodcast in the place where it all began… my former house in Berwyn, IL where I first started podcasting. The topic wanders a bit, as I’m prone to do, but focuses primarily on the degeneration of civil discourse, particularly in online spaces.
Do me a favor, if you enjoy it, leave a comment. I’m curious to know what vibes with people. Do people WANT to subscribe as a podcast? Prefer audio? Video? Live and interactive?
Anyway, enjoy 🙂
It has been quite a while since I’ve participated as myself in a Twitter chat. For the last few years, I’ve been behind the scenes working the DiscoveryEd ones. So I was really excited when Kim Moldofsky (the Maker Mom) and Texas Instruments asked me to participate in one tonight. We’re going to be focusing in on the back end of STEM (math) as well as the evolving meaning and implementation of STEM in education.
Here’s all the information you need to know about it. Hope to see you online at 9pm ET tonight!
Join us on Twitter TONIGHT (Thursday, Sept. 15) from 9-10 pm Eastern.
TI is always looking for new angles on STEM and this year they’ve teamed up with a new spokesperson, pro football player John Urschel! As an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens and an MIT PhD candidate, John is a shining example of an athlete who is also a mathlete.
John is teaming up with Texas Instruments for a couple of initiatives. The first is the Math For the Win Contest. TI is giving away a TI-84 each day until September 17 and all you have to do to enter is post a photo on Twitter or Instagram that shares how you use math in your everyday life and tag it #MathFTW and #TIContest. In addition to the daily random giveaways, John will select his five favorite photos that will be put up for a public vote. The person who submits the photo that garners the most votes will win a $500 Amazon gift card and a classroom Skype session with John.
The TI-84 family is the preferred calculator of many middle and high schools. In addition to the features mentioned above, the TI-84 Plus CE has a bright, color screen, six times more memory and a rechargeable battery. It includes preloaded apps, a charger and a USB cable. And it’s permitted for use on important tests like the SAT, ACT and AP exams.
John Urschel is also teaming up with TI to explore the STEM behind sports in a new series of activities designed to inspire young problem-solvers and critical thinkers. STEM behind sports. The first activity, “Field Goal for the Win!” is a fun, free activity for the TI-84 Plus family of calculators. Click to get in the game today!
Meet the STEMchat Panelists
Texas Instruments Calculators, @TICalculators, is on a mission is to improve achievement for all students in math & science.
Kimberly Gonzales, @kim_gonzales, is a digital content engineer at Texas Instruments who is passionate about getting more women and Latinas interested in STEM. With STEM degrees from MIT and UT Austin, she sees the potential STEM careers have on changing a student’s future. Read more about Kimberly in this STEM Girl Friday feature.
Sarah Kimmel, @FamilyTechZ, is a mom who can fix your blog, your computer, or your server. She has been in the IT industry supporting small businesses for over 10 years, and now offers free computer help and tips on her blog. FamilyTechZone.
David J Lockett, @DavidJLockett, an Aerospace and Engineering Teacher for the Lake Wales Charter School System, a columnist and amateur astronomer.
Win a TI 84 Plus CE Calculator!
Enter to win a limited edition TI-84 Plus CE color graphing calculator in bright white or the blingy golden ratio! We’re giving away two of these light, slim, colorful beauties.
Fill out the Google Doc below to enter. Enter by September 15, 2015 at 9:05 PM CDT. Must be 18 to enter. Open to US residents. Retail value of prize is roughly $130. Winner will be chosen at random and I will notify the winner by email. If the selected winner does not respond within 48 hours of notification, a new winner will be randomly selected.
You may complete one regular entry and an additional entry for sharing a Tweet about this giveaway, but you need to come back and share the Tweet link on the form below in order to get credit for it.
Sample Tweet to cut and paste:
I just entered to win a TI-84 @TICalculators from @TheMakerMom and you can, too!http://tinyurl.com/STEMchatonSept15 #STEMchat
Enter below. Scroll down and enter your information and then hit submit.
Tweet you on TONIGHT at 9 pm Eastern!
Spread the news to your STEM-loving friends and colleagues. Share the #STEMchat joy with these sample tweets!
Join me for #STEMchat on Twitter TONIGHT at 9 PM Eastern to talk #STEM with @TICalculators http://tinyurl.com/STEMchatonSept15
Join me for #STEMchat with @teach42 and @TICalculators on Twitter tonight at 9 PM Eastern! http://tinyurl.com/STEMchatonSept15
Connect to TI before and after #STEMchat:
Both mainstream and social media have been obsessed with the Colin Kaepernick story this past week. At first, it was dominated by surprise and disgust that he sat during the national anthem. The last few days have seen a major swing, as more people are coming out with statements supporting his right to voice a dissenting opinion, whether they agree with him or not.
A few weeks prior, the big story was Ryan Lochte. First, sympathy for him and people railing against the crime that was perceived to be so ‘typical’ for Rio. Then it was disgust at him for the apparent lies and his decision to leave his friends behind to deal with the consequences. Then it was just confusion at the fact that the story wasn’t quite as bad as it sounded, and that the lies may have been either half truths, or just a misunderstanding.
And the truth is somewhere in the middle, if there even IS a truth.
I think my biggest frustration with the internet right now is how quick people are to take a soundbite, and not only run with it but to take it to an extreme. In fact, it seems as though people are almost competing to see how far they can take their response. From people burning his jersey, others demanding that he be cut, to even suggesting that he should be deported, the extremism is alarming. Whatever happened to just saying, “I disagree.” Or even, “He’s an idiot.” In a matter of moments, with little to no further research or questioning, people take the two line summary they read about on social media and break out the pitchforks and torches.
The Kaepernick situation is actually pretty tame compared to the political landscape. Every time I see an article stating, “Hilary/Trump said XXXXX, they’re a terrible person,” I find that when I read the actual statements in context they’re often taken so far to an extreme that it doesn’t even make sense anymore. And that’s both sides. Tim Childers touched on this a few weeks ago, pointing out how both sides took the exact same event and spun it in wildly different ways. Once again, it was pretty evident that the truth was somewhere in the middle… IF you took the time to look for it.
My primary concern is the deterioration of civil discourse, the lack of desire to search for truth beyond soundbites and tweets and the jump to extremism that seems to be increasingly pervasive in the social spaces. It’s somewhat ironic, a major focus of digital literacy used to be questioning what one reads on the internet (see the Tree Octopus) and discerning bias (see MartinLutherKing.org). Those lessons are more important than ever right now, but need to be applied much more broadly than just for research. They need to be applied when reading or watching the news and when browsing through Facebook or Twitter.
I can’t help but wonder, whatever happened to giving someone the benefit of the doubt? Or hearing both sides of the story? Or agreeing to disagree?
Maybe it’s the kindergarten teacher in me, but I’m seriously considering adding #BeNice to every social message going forward.
Alec Couros recently lamented the loss of the social web, pointing to the loss of Google Reader as the day things started to slide downhill. It prompted an interesting discussion, well worth a read. But it also brought back to the forefront this question of whether blogs are even relevant anymore.
Back in the day, your aggregator was your daily reading list. It was a big deal to be added in to somebody’s blogroll. It wasn’t unusual to spend an hour or two just perusing people’s blog posts.
Nowadays, it seems to me like most people find their ‘articles’ via social media. If you put up a new blog post and DON’T share it out through Twitter, Facebook or email, you can pretty much guarantee it’s going to fly under the radar. And even then, it seems like people have less patience than they used to for reading posts of any significant length (ref TL;DR).
Medium is in many ways the antithesis of the shift to brevity, but even then they kick their articles off with an estimate of how long it will take you to read it. So before reading Audrey Watters‘ article on Virtual Reality in Education, you can decide whether you have 9 minutes to devote to the topic. It’s a strange dynamic to say the least.
All that said, assuming your attention span hasn’t waned enough to surf away from this post already, do you even read blog posts anymore? And if you do, what’s your process for finding the ones worth your time? Do you subscribe? Do you want for people to share them via social media? Do you get curated lists via email newsletters? What’s your typical process for finding the stuff worth reading?
This morning a I saw Ginger Lewman share a link to Story Wars, a collaborative storytelling site. The gist of it is, somebody writes chapter one (a few sentences, a few paragraphs or longer), and then shares a link out to it. Then other people can submit drafts to be chapter 2. After the submission period is over (24 hours from when at least two drafts have been submitted), voting begins. The draft that gets the most votes, because the ‘official’ next chapter and submissions for chapter 3 open up. Stories can be 8, 12 or 20 chapters long.
I wrote my first chapter this morning, just to play around. If you want to play, you can read “A funny thing happened on the way to the funeral,” and if the mood strikes you can even submit a follow up chapter.
The interface is ridiculously simple. You type in a title. You type up your story. If you want some advanced formatting, here are your options.
- Asterix * surround a word or phrase create bold text.
- Underscores _ around a section of text will italicize it.
Yeah, that’s about it. Pretty barebones. But sometimes simplicity is a good thing. It prevents people from stressing out over the details that don’t really matter so much when they’re supposed to be focusing strictly on content.
There are some obvious uses for this in education. Creative writing is what it’s designed for, and I think that’s clearly the sweet spot. However, there’s a lot of room in there, from historical fiction to fan fiction, even to narrative based non-fiction. And competition can certainly bring out the best in many students.
Story Wars clearly sees the potential in education, as they have a Classroom version available. You get a custom url (YourURL.storywars.net) and basically your own version of their dashboard and interface. You have admin controls over the stories, so you can moderate them if necessary. Your private URL doesn’t feed into Google so the only people who will be able to access the stories are those that you give the unique URL to. You also choose which stories to promote to the front page and feature. This would be a great way to set up some starter stories for your stories to choose between.
However, the base price for 35 users and 1 admin is $15 per month. Considering the feature set available, I think that’s a bit high. However, if it fills a specific need and you require the privacy, then it could be worth it. Personally, if you’re able to let your stories participate in the public stories, I’d go that route. It’s more organic and authentic, and there’s a huge number that they can participate in already.
Story Wars seems to be a ‘young’ site. You earn ‘gems’ for participating on the site, but there are barely anything to spend them on. You can only create stories that have 8, 12, or 20 chapters. The interface is ridiculously simple. And to be honest, some of the explanatory text could use some improvement. But at the same time, sometimes simplicity is a good thing, and do seem to be getting some traffic. It’s a little too early to see if it will be around in the long haul.
I know there are a ton of other collaborative writing tools out there. If you have a favorite, let me know in the comments.
Today, I spent my morning at the opening inservice for Skokie/Morton Grove District 69. I’ve been to a few inservices over the last few years, but this is the first one that I’ve attended without working in… well, it has probably been about ten years! It was a distinct pleasure getting to start the day with the staff and hearing more about what the district is going to be keying in on in the coming year.
It got me thinking a bit about the commonalities between all these districts around the country, all kicking off around this time. A welcome from the superintendent, a message from the Board, introductions of new staff, breaking bread together and then some sort of ‘keynote’ or opening presentation related to district priorities. If you’ve been teaching for a while, you’ve been through your fair share of them. Test scores don’t get raised that day. The students aren’t in the building, and technically it’s that weird bridge between summer ‘ending’ and ‘work’ beginning. But what I’ve found, more than anything, is that it’s the event that sets the stage for the year, that establishes what the vision is going to be and whether it’s a shared one or not. It’s a time of re-alignment. To re-evaluate old schemas and perhaps replace them with new ideas. And to do it as a team, district-wide.
It most definitely got me thinking about my own journey. Yesterday was my first day waking up and not traveling, going in to the office, or formally taking a vacation day. I have to admit, I woke up and felt a bit… aimless. Do I do chores? Do I start trying to set up the LLC? Do I move furniture around and try to start setting up a home office? Do I start updating presentations? Do I start revamping Teach42? Honestly, it’s all exciting but it also feels very overwhelming. And yet at the same time, you can’t eat a watermelon in one gulp. All a marathon (or triathlon!) is, is putting one foot in front another… and then doing it a few more times.
I’m going to try to keep it simple. Right now, I have four daily goals… Read, Write, Play Music, and Be Healthy.
- Read: I’ve spent far too little time reading blogs, articles and education books over the last several years than I’d like. Every day I’m going to try to make it a point to set aside some time to do some reading, some research, or to catch up on videos of presentations that I’ve missed. Today, I decided to start doing preliminary research on the PiZero. I have one on the table but haven’t used it yet. Not sure what I’m going to build first, but I have to admit the PIrate radio station has great appeal to me. Yes, I loved Pump Up the Volume.
- Write: What I’m doing right now! Writing may also include updating presentations, updating the book or working on a new one, or writing articles. But for now, it will mostly be this blog.
- Play Music: I picked up the guitar a couple of years ago. When I first got started, I played every day and it became one of the greatest joys I had. The guitars have sat up on the wall most of the last year. I could blame it on being busy, but the reality is I just didn’t make it a priority. I want to get back to that.
- Be Healthy: Originally, I was putting ‘exercise’ fourth. But there will be days I don’t work out, and even on those days I need to work harder at making healthy decisions. The plan is to actively try to eat better, and not just less calories. More natural foods, less eating after the sun goes down, and getting a variety of exercise in. I’ll keep running and biking, but I’m also going to start working cross-fit in (have a beginner’s class I’m going to join next week).
That’s not my to do list. That’s not counting what I would consider ‘work’ or family time. But I figure if I can go to sleep saying I did those four things, I feel like I’m going to be in a pretty good place. There’s still a lot to do, but I’ll start with those four steps and see where they lead to.
I’d love to hear what your own goals are for the year? And I don’t mean the big hairy audacious ones… the simple and personal ones. What are you going to make a priority this year?
In case you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the past few days, there’s a new craze that is sweeping the world and it’s called Pokemon Go. It’s an Augmented Reality (AR) game put out by Niantec Labs, the same people who made the wildly popular and yet still underground Ingress.
Ingress was a genius level game in so many ways, but primarily for two reasons: 1) It incentivized people to document the world around them, taking pictures of landmarks, artwork and historical sites along with providing the company metadata about them and 2) it FORCED people to leave their homes to play. Quite simply, without cheating in some way, there was no way to play the game while sitting on a sofa at home. While I wouldn’t bill it as an ‘exercise game’ like the route the Wii wanted to go, it certainly required people to explore their world a little in order to advance.
Personally, I played Ingress quite a bit for a while, primarily because while traveling it pointed out to me all sorts of local flavor that I would have missed otherwise. It was like a gamified local tour guide and gave me something to do while waiting in lines. But Niantec learned a lot from Ingress and really took it to the next level with Pokemon Go.
Pokemon Go is based on the classic Pokemon card game and cartoon. The premise is simple: There are tiny little monsters (POcKEt MONsters if you will) all around us, and as a trainer you need to find them and capture as many as you can. In fact, the tag line is “Gotta catch em all.” As you wander around, ‘wild’ Pokemon will jump out and then by strategically throwing pokeballs at them, you stand a chance to capture them. There are a few other elements, such as joining one of three teams and trying to take over pokegyms from rival teams. But at the heart of the game, you do two things: Wander around trying to capture Pokemon and finding landmarks (called pokestops) to check in at and grab more supplies.
The game itself is simple. But what’s amazing is just how quickly it has gone viral in the mainstream. Ingress was wildly popular for an AR game, but most definitely still relatively unknown. Even geocaching, as popular and long-lived as it has been, hasn’t come close to the mainstream sensation that Pokemon Go is already. According to some sources, it’s already bigger than Tinder and may have overtaken Twitter (at least briefly).
I’ve found the buzz around the game to be fascinating, particular with respects to how it is being subverted and attributed to so many unusual stories. Take for instance, the story about the person who stopped their car in the middle of the highway to capture a Pokemon, causing a massive pilieup. Sound crazy? Of course. Because the story was totally fake. Or the one about the robbers using Lures in the game to get people to come to dark alleys, only to be mugged. This seems like it must be true, considering it was covered by The Guardian, USA Today, CNBC, Engadget, and SO many other credible sources. Of course, if you look it up on Snopes, you find out that the actual victim states, “I am the guy who was robbed at the Pokestop at Feise and K. In the interest of objective truth, everyone is reporting this wrong. There was never any lure. I was walking down a dark street towards a slightly out of the way pokestop and I got robbed by four kids in a black BMW. Everyone is reporting this as cunning teenagers use a lure to capture unsuspecting pokemon players, and that’s not quite correct.” Not as sexy a story, but there is something to be said for the truth. And then of course the story about the app having full permission on iOS to do everything from reading your emails to stealing your silverware. Reeve, the man making the claims, later admitted “he had never built an application that uses Google account permissions, and had never tested the claims he makes in the post.” HUGE security risk? It sure looks that way… if you don’t understand the technology at all. But in reality? The app could “can only read biographical information like email address and phone number.” That’s it. Much ado about nothing.
I find it fascinating that everyone knows to question Nigerian princess that want to give them money, but will immediately jump on the bandwagon when it comes to stories a company infiltrating our lives and stealing all of our personal information through an augmented reality game. Trust me, they’re more concerned with getting their servers to stay up than to read the emails you send to your grandmother.
Beyond all the distractions, I really do find the game fascinating. When walking around in any major city, you can find people playing the game. EVERYWHERE. It’s not hard to see the players. They’re the ones staring at their phone as they walk, barely aware of their surroundings. As if they’re tourists using Google maps, but needing to stare at that map for an uncomfortably long time. While it’s wonderful that the game requires you to get out of your seat and explore the world to play, I was more than a little concerned that it would just create an army of the walking dead, totally oblivious to the world around them as they hunt these little monsters.
However, what I’ve actually found is that while it does appear to be the case when you see somebody in a given moment, on the whole it has created an incredibly social experience. I’ve seen dozens of posts on Facebook from parents who are all of a sudden going for evening walks with their kids. I’ve seen people sharing that they’ve explore their cities more in the past week than in years prior. And from my own personal experience, it has brought people together unlike any other game I’ve ever seen.
Aiden asked to go for an evening Pokewalk before bedtime. Normally we’d walk around the block, but since he wanted to capture a water pokemon, we drove to a path along a creek. It turns out some people had set out some Lures there, which means everybody in the area has a better chance of finding wild pokemon. So a few people sat down to take advantage of it. Then a few more joined them. And before we knew it, there were about 25 of us, all hanging out and playing, but also talking about the game, talking about our town, and enjoying a shared experiences. Ages 9-60, a group of people that would normally pass each other with barely a nod and gathered together spontaneously and made a connection. Powerful stuff. As we walked around the park later, if we saw other people playing we’d give them a wink and say “Go Team Red” (our team), and maybe chat a bit. It created an instant bond.
And the game is certainly getting people moving. While there’s some wonderful satire about people ‘accidentally’ getting exercise while just trying to play a game, the game is rigged to force people to get out and move around. In order to ‘hatch eggs’, people have to walk either 2km, 5km or 10km (depending on the specific egg). Here in America, that has led to quite a few people wondering exactly how far a 5K is in miles. Someone did a Google Trends search to check the frequency of the search “5km to miles” and as you can see from the image, there’s been a SLIGHT uptick in people searching that since the game was released. Coincidence? I think not.
Is it sustainable in the long run? Will it jump the shark and eventually see the public rail against it? It’s entirely possible. But for right now, I’d say that it’s become as disruptive to society as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. And given that it has only been out for barely a week? I’d say the buzz around this game is just beginning.
If you haven’t gotten on board yet, I’d suggest you give it a try. Because it’s most definitely a sign of things to come.