Friday, May 29, 2009

Charting my Geekness

I have been (mostly) pretty proud of the geek that I am. But now I have found that I can chart my geekness. Now this geek chart looks at the socialness of my geektitude and looks at the following:
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • Blog
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
I find it interesting that I only have usernames on about half of these sites, but I'm not surprised by the results. I definitely spend more time on Twitter & Delicious than I do anything else. Mostly because they are fast and easy, while blogging is still a struggle for me.

Bethanyvsmith's Geek Chart

But I don't really think this is a geek chart - this is a social chart. This chart illustrates how much of myself I am willing to put out on the internet. I see this more as an analysis of my Digital Footprint more than anything else. I plan on using this little widget to help demonstrate that in my next workshop!

The Online Social Network of Teens

danah boyd recently did some field research with teens in Atlanta about how they viewed Social Networking and media. I was surprised by a few things, and contentious about even more. Here are some of the highlights that I think impact education:

1) Teenagers don't use e-mail
2) Parental control & privacy concerns
3) They have a severe lack of media literacy skills: (I love this quote)

Media literacy amongst teens is extremely varied, but the short answer is that most don't know what to trust. They know that they are not supposed to trust Wikipedia because it's editable (and they automatically recall Wikipedia when you ask about trustworthy information.. that's so actively hammered down their throat, it's painful). One girl told me that she trusts websites that "look" like they are reputable. When I asked her about this, she told me that she could "just tell" when something was a good source. And besides, it came from Google. Le sigh.

What I find the most interesting is their view of teachers in social networking sites:
This is messy. Many teens have ZERO interest in interacting with teachers on social network sites, but there are also quite a few who are interested in interacting with SOME teachers there. Still, this is primarily a social space and their interactions with teachers are primarily to get more general advice and help. In some ways, its biggest asset in the classroom is the way in which its not a classroom tool and not loaded this way. Given that teens don't Friend all of their classmates, there are major issues in terms of using this for groupwork because of boundary issues.

Most of the research I have seen has found this to be true, but I still struggle and maybe I just want to believe that we can find a happy medium between the two. I mean if students aren't using e-mail, but Facebook & texting to communicate, how can we as educators connect with them if we aren't trying to utilize either the same tools or the same type of tools? Shouldn't we be making an effort to take this new way of communication and see how it can fit in the classroom. I'm not saying we should teach in Facebook, but can we utilizie something like Ning to reach out to our students and connect with them. Or should we just stay out of it?

Why Twitter works for me

I am a big fan of twitter, an avid user for mostly work and a little bit of fun. I have found that I enjoy twittering much more than blogging and feel that I connect to a broader and richer network of people. Twitter has truly been a transformational technology for me. But I have to remember that that is because of a few things:

1) I chose to join Twitter
2) I connect to a group of people on Twitter that use it effectively for sharing information
3) My profession & interests are also connected to the people I follow

These components are at the heart of how a PLN should be and the basis for much research in the communities of practice literature.

So what I struggle with is how do we open this up to our students and fellow teachers? So much of what I see in schools for PLCs (mostly following the Dufour model) makes it mandatory. Can a true learning community be mandatory? How do you encourage people to participate without requiring? How do you make people be part of a community?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Proposed Cuts to Education in NC

Thanks to Chad Ratliff's Twitter, I discover the following proposed cuts from for the State of NC:

• Shorten the school year by 5 days in FY 2009-10 and 5 more days (total of 10) in FY 2010-11.
• Increase class size teacher allotment by 2 per grade (-6,005 Classroom Teachers)
• Eliminate Teacher Assistants in grade 3 (-4,663 Teacher Assistants)
• Reduce Low Wealth Supplemental Funding – Fund counties @ 90% and below. This adjustment
would eliminate funding 13 LEAs (Craven, Cumberland, Davie, Gaston, Lincoln, Madison,
Mitchell, Onslow, Pender, Perquimans, Union, Warren, Yancey).
• Reduce Instructional Support (- 354 counselors, media, social workers)
• Reduction to School Building Administration (-187 Assistant Principals)
• 5% reduction to Non-instructional Support (clerical and custodians)
• Small County Supplemental Funding – a reduction of $4.5 million
• A 10% reduction to More @ 4
• Elimination of Learn and Earn On-Line
• Elimination of application fee payment for National Board
• Elimination of Literacy Coaches
• Central Office (-5.38% or a reduction of $6.5 million)
• DPI – an 11% reduction in FY 2009-10 and an additional 4% (total of 15%) reduction in FY
2010-11. This would eliminate 52 positions in FY 2009-10 and 19 more (71 total) in FY 2010-

Can we really AFFORD to lose this much in education!!!! I understand that we are in a budget crisis, we are all in a budget crisis, but shouldn't we doing more to not only protect education, but help it make transformational changes in our workforce that will help us get out of this financial crisis?

I hate politics, I hate getting wrapped up in it, but this just makes me demand to know WHY?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Teaching in 3D

One of the things that I loved about being a Tech Ed teacher was the freedom to combine science & math concepts with real world applications & a bit of summer camp crafts. Wehn I first came to work at NC State I was on a grant that looked at how students interpret visualizations. One of the outcomes of this work was that I learned a good deal about 3D & how 3D works. I even got a chance to build and program a two projector, linear polarized, rear projection immersion screen (that is in an attic somewhere on campus). But what really stuck with me was how true 3D images were created & how we trick our brain's into seeing them. Now, add to this the opportunities I encounter to do 1-hour sessions with visiting high school or middle school students & I am a one-woman 3D show.

Recently I had the opportunity to work with students through the Satellitte program on campus, on which I would like to speak more on later, but I really want to discuss how 3D works & how easy it is to use it to teach certain principles.

I like to start with a conversation about what 3D is and how we add to the X/Y coordinate plane with Z. Then I discuss One-eyed pirates and why they walk into tables (seriously, you have to be funny). We discuss how depth perception works and how your brain combines the images of your left and right eyes to make a composite. My favorite trick is to have students raise their index finger and alternate closing eyse. "Did your finger move? Did you move your finger?" This starts a dialogue on dominant eyes, etc.

The premise of 3D is that you are sending separate images to each eye. Now the question is - How do you do that?

There are various types of 3D. I find that if you follow the historic time line of 3D progression it is easier for students to understand.

Stereo Pairs

Stereo Pairs are the easiest for students to understand. They have all experienced the ViewMaster of old. The one with the wheels of images. I pass out a few of the slide wheels and ask them to count the number of images.

They will find that there are duplicates of each picture. A stereo pair of each scene. One for each eye. Stereo pairs are slightly off from one another. They are not the same image, but two separate images taken roughly 2 inches apart. Here comes the "Aha" moment. Why 2 inches? Because your eyes are roughly 2 inches apart.

Now how long have stereo pairs been around? The idea was first captured by Charles Wheatstone, but it took Sir David Brewster to actually create the first Stereo Pair Viewing device and exhibited it at the world's fair in 1851. Of which Queen Victoria was a huge fan.

So how do you take Stereo Pairs? Why you take a picture two inches apart. The most effective way of doing this is to have a 3D camera that takes 2 pictures at the same time. Personally I am a fan of using two cameras mounted next to each other and you mechanize the shutters together. Or you could do the good ol' astronaut shuffle. The rumor is that they couldn't afford the weight of the 3D camera so the astronaut's took one picture and then movedr oughly two inches to the right and took another :)

So all 3D effects come down to Stereo Pairs. But how do you get everyone in an audience to see the same image at once, like in a movie? This is where glasses come in. And the first 3D glasses are the icon of the 1950s - Red/Blue

Anaglyph or Red/Blue
I like to use the concept of computer monitors & RGB. All LCD displays are made up of the colors RGB, and thus all images on these displays are a combination of these colors. So to make a Composite 3D image you need to get your eyes to see different images, the Anaglyph method uses color. In one image you take all the Red out of an image (I use Photoshop) so that only the Green & Blue are left (more like Cyan) and in the other you take all the Green & Blue out of the image so only Red is left. It is important that the left image be the Red one and the right image be the Green/Blue one, otherwise you will have to put your glasses on backwards.

I found the USGS site (which hosts a good deal of Anaglyph pictures) to be an invaluable source of creating these 3D images.

Now you can buy glasses at (where I buy mine). Or you can make your own - my personal preference. There are two ways to make glasses. Start with already made frames or create your own frames. I have done it both ways. The cheapest cardboard frames I could find were from Oriental Trading Company. The biggest issue with them is that the eye holes are a bit small, but they are fun & funky shapes. If you make your own glasses, you either need to use 11x17 paper to get the side ear pieces or you create masks and use rubberbands or string to tie around their head. If you have time, letting your students decorate their masks can be a fun art activity.

Once you have your glasses, now you need to add your colors. I use the transparent wrapping paper in shades of red & blue. It is hard to get the right blue & I find I have to double up. I pre-cut squares for my students, so they only have to tape it on. The reason making the glasses is so integral is it makes them think about which eye needs to be red and which needs to be blue. Then we can discuss how colors filter. I like to have an example Anaglyph image before I composite it displaying on the screen so that they can see which images disappear or are blacked out by which eye.

Thanks to a commenter ( luchianken)- I realized the picture I pulled from is completely wrong! I'll look for a new illustration

I then like to show them a few websites that they can use to view 3D photographs.

(On a side note, I don't let students look for 3D pictures - their are some NSFS images out there)

Then you can start talking about how the latest 3D works with light polarization instead of color and your students will have something to explain to their parents next time they are in line at IMAX :)