Thursday, February 24, 2011

Understanding Photoshop Documents

I find that my students often have a superficial understanding of aspects of how computers work that persists even after they've been explained. For example, after giving instructions to 7th graders recently to save cropped screenshots they were taking as jpegs to upload to voicethread, I saw one student navigate to her psd file in Windows Explorer and simply change the file extension from psd to jpeg. No, that won't work! I've been doing a lot of research lately about the need to provide visual representations of concepts, especially for girls, who tend to process information in the language areas of the brain rather than the spatial areas. I left it free of text so people can make their own points with the visuals. The main points are layered information vs. compressed "flat" information, Photoshop-specific platform vs. universal program platform, and large vs. small file size.

Photoshop vs Compressed Image from Erik Nauman on Vimeo.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Technology Connecting People

  • 5th graders together in the Mars sim 
  • one pair of students Skyped in to the class from a different part of the building because one has a broken ankle and can't go up the stairs
  • remote pair also logged into the Mars sim, where the rest of the class can see their astronaut and chat with them
  • technology bringing people together! 

Peaceful Moment On Mars

Our Mars simulation was a big success this week. With the technical glitches and hurdles smoothed out, the students and I could focus on the uniqueness of the experience and enjoy it. At one moment I noticed a team of students had walked their astronaut away from the meteorite field where the other astronauts were gathered and ventured up the crater's side a ways. As they turned around to look over the scene below the screen held a beautifully captured moment with the expanse framed by the crevice in which the astronaut stood. I popped in and got a snapshot on their computer. It's worth looking at the larger version to see the tiny astronauts below.
1024 x 568

1920 x 1065

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Second Annual Mars Sim Journey

 A year ago our school took a giant step for 5th grade girls by sending them into our OpenSimulator Mars crater sim to find meteorite samples and enjoy the low-gravity orange haze of the red planet. That first experience is documented here. This week the same science teacher and I are once again introducing our current 5th graders to the experience and I'm happy to say I've learned from my previous mistakes and made some valuable improvements. Disabling flying and showing the students how to use the mini-map allowed them to stay focused on the goal of working as a team and getting everyone through the mission together, which is really what the experience is about. The other technique they took much greater advantage of is local chat. I wish I had the logs because they reflect so much collaborative problem solving and cooperative negotiation. The one other improvement I made was to specify a different account for each pair of students right on the tutorial handouts I gave them, which prevented the duplicate logins that caused groups to kick each other out of the sim repeatedly last year and had me pulling my hair out until I figured it out. These changes greatly reduced the tendency toward chaos that took over at times last year and undermined the simulation experience. So the result has been that they really get the experience and what it's about. It's a really fun way to practice working as a team and solving complex problems. And hopefully we've captured their imaginations about the world of space flight to boot.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

All Things Great and Small

The hall of small. The hall
itself was designed and built by a
I wrote about kids imagining things so small they can't see when I started this project with my 7th grade students, wondering why it was that some of them created 2D models in a 3D environment. I still don't have an answer to that question, but I'm certain that all of the students learned a lot from this no matter how they ended up visualizing the microscopic things they were studying in science class. Their work is beautiful. They loved creating bright, shiny things and I think the images they conjured from the building tools will stay with them for a lifetime, like Ener's experience making a cell with epoxy resin and paper clips!
There were tears along the way in this project. While some students settled happily into the world of possibilities in the edit panel and prim handles, others were overwhelmed and made careless mistakes, sometimes deleting their work without a clue how they had done so. You can bet that helped them slow down. They came out stronger for the experience. Just today a student jumped up and shouted out so happy she'd figured out how to successfully edit a script without my help.
It took me a while to figure out the exact workflow of this project, but I settled on 1) having them build in open space somewhere outside the exhibit hall, 2) teaching them how to link their prims and take them into their inventory, 3) rezzing their models in the exhibit hall and resizing them to an appropriate size (some started out huge!), 4) receiving a script from a script-giver I made (script me!) that makes hover text with or without rotation on touch (they edited the strings and hover text color) and putting that into their models, and, 5) adding an open URL button near their models that gives people more information about their topic.
That was all a lot to chew on for 7th graders. There were many steps to follow and I found it helpful to make printed tutorials for the major steps. I figured out a good solution for the script givers. At first they were running the scripts to be given when touched, which was confusing. I finally figured out I could uncheck run to stop them from running when they were given.

The students had to experiment. Their
favorite shape seems to be the torus.