GAETC 2018: Stupidest Animated Computer Science Drones

*Don’t judge a post by it’s title!

Day one of the GaETC 2018 conference was a blast. There were four sessions in particular that I’d like to share a little bit about. One was an amazing list of educational technology that was initially thought of as stupid, one was on using animation for education, while the others concentrated on programming and coding.

The Stupidest Trends in EdTech

This session was presented by Steve Dembo, Carl Hooker, Adam Phyall, Andrew Wallace, Leo Brehm, and Wanda Terral, most of whom operate as educational technology directors/coordinators. As expected, various technology tools and platforms were discussed (including the Apple Pen) and how they can actually be useful.

Of particular interest to me was a section of the presentation on effective monitoring of student screen time. This is good information for parents as well. Rather than simply looking for an amount of time that a computer or device is “on,” monitor what type of screen time the student is getting, and use that information to plan how to use it more effectively in lesson planning. For instance, we know that screen time can be used for education or entertainment, but did you consider that screen time can also be categorized into passive or interactive? So, are students using their devices to watch videos for learning or entertainment? Or are they using them to engage with concepts or play video games?

Finally, I appreciated their candid discussion of how 3D printers are not effectively used as learning tools. Before you get upset, think about the fact that 3D printing is usually the last step in creating a product. What if, however, it was used to create separate components that students then use to build a final product. Did the pieces interact as planned? What were the design flaws? How could the final function be improved? This way of using a 3D printer truly supports learning the design process.

Animate Learning with GIFs

Featured speaker, Tony Vincent, walked the audience through finding useful gifs on gify.com, and how to turn a webcam recording into your own gif with andtheniwaslike.co. He explained how gifs can be made out of video clips, a series of drawings or even PowerPoint slides exported to one of several sites that can be used to create gifs. One site he mentioned was gifmaker.me.

His also suggested ezgif.com, which is the one that I tried. I uploaded a video, but it took a while for the site to process it due to the length of the video. Obviously, the shorter the video, the faster it will be processed. Anyway, the fun thing is that it worked! He also mentioned that there is a GIFmaker add-on for Google docs and slides. This is definitely a way to make learning more fun, and get the kids to show their thinking. Image requiring that students find and import or create their own gifs that represent the vocabulary words for a lesson. Yep, that’s pretty cool.

Computer Science for Middle School

This presentation was conducted by Evonne Hackett, a middle school computer science teacher. She shared with the class how coding can be taught “unplugged” as a way to develop the problem solving mindset necessary when writing a program. Her main source of lesson material came from code.org. It’s a great site that I have used with my elementary students and occasionally with my middle school students, but it has so many more resources on its site than I realized. It is most definitely worth checking out, and best of all, it’s free!

Drones + Raspberry Pi + Python = Drone Obstacle Course

This session was all about how to use Raspberry Pi and Python to write programs that can be used to wirelessly control a drone. It was presented by another middle school teacher, Joey Mitchell. He had several points he made clear. First, the use of Python gives students experience with a programming language beyond blockly. Second, it provides them with an opportunity to test out their program when it is run on the drone rather than simply controlling one with a remote. He shared that this type of activity doesn’t have to be expensive. He designed obstacle courses that the students had to program the drones to successfully navigate out of cardboard, hula hoops, and other random supplies. Also, he was able to obtain four to five drones from the website donorschoose. If you’ve never checked it out, you really should. It’s a great way to get supplies for your classroom free of cost.

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