Sunday, September 25, 2011

Students Managing Their Own Data

Moodle RSS block

Post on Tumblr

Post pulled into Moodle page
I'm trying an experiment this year with my high school robotics students. I had been wanting them to document their work in a fun and creative way so I thought I would have them set up Tumblr accounts so they could easily post not only their code but videos and photos with their phones. Then I got thinking that I could pull in the RSS feeds from their Tumblrs to our Moodle class site. There's a block, or widget, for just that in Moodle. Then I thought why not just put them in the teacher role and give them an assignment to figure out how to connect up their own feeds. They didn't know what RSS was but I explained the concept and the purpose and gave them a couple hints. A few of them did figure it out and the rest did the next best thing, which was adding a link to their Tumblr on the page.

Why go to all this trouble? I think this exercise is important because they need to have experience making things with web tools for real purposes, not just using the web.

UPDATE on this: So one of my students got re-blogged by a porn site. I had to end the experiment. Fortunately I caught the spam before she could see it. Made me disappointed in the Internet.

Maker Faire NY

I had the great fortune of attending Maker Faire NY for the second time. What a thrill! And this time the highlight was bringing some of my students. I decided to bring a few students from each age division of our school so everyone from young to old could enjoy it. I plan to have the students present pictures and videos to their peers and talk briefly about what they found inspiring and exciting.

What amazed me was that most of the projects on exhibit were different from last year. Of course some things have already become and deserve to be standard fare, such as MakerBots and the Life Size Mouse Trap. But the growth of affordable 3D printer technology was evident with so many more types on exhibit. I'm just amazed at the successful effort to coordinate so many new makers and their work in one place. What an event!

Some highlights were watching my older students attend a 25 minute presentation at the lockpicking booth so determined to learn the secrets inside the average lock, seeing the younger students' delight at 3D printers printing chocolate and cheese, the middle schoolers playing with the robotic drummer, walking into a wacky techno duo set bathed in technicolor patterns with Game Boys and Casios hanging off the musicians, and interacting with so many kinds of robots. Putting Flip cameras in the hands of the students was great because as our groups split up to explore different areas I got to learn about twice as many amazing projects than I would have had we stayed in one group, like the keyboard-on-a-glove.

The best thing about the whole trip was the chance to show girls the huge variety of applied science and technology there was to see. It was a great step in our effort to help them see themselves as makers of technology and not just consumers of it.