Saturday, July 22, 2017

How is this STEM?

I came home to this package the other night. Two feet by four feet and it weighs seventy-five pounds. If you Google the name you will see it is a mattress, a queen sized one to be exact.

We learned a number of things these past two weeks about how STEM is everywhere and to take what is around us every day to help our students realize that fact.

If you took this modern mattress as an example, what would you say?

Here are a few questions I have when I look at the box:

     How do they compress the whole mattress that small?
     How do the various levels of foam stand up to compression over time?
     How do they measure the level of out gassing?

     How many variables did they need to account for when designing one mattress for everyone?
     How do they calculate shipping costs and times?

     How do they measure the impact of their social media campaign?

By asking these questions it helps me and my own kids start thinking how STEM is everywhere. It helps to focus in on the idea that something as simple as the mattress encompasses many different STEM careers.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Is this the problem or just a symptom of something larger?

There are three things that really hit over the past two weeks. These new ideas have me thinking about how I approach problems and then move to solve them.

For years Mariano has been coaching me along this pathway and now it is all coming together. The big idea he was guiding me towards was to stop jumping towards solutions before fully understanding the whole problem.

    Last week I was in a stream with a biologist studying the issues surrounding stream erosion. He told us a story about New York City. The city had a growing issue of the declining quality of the drinking water. One solution was to spend many billions of dollars building a treatment plant, a solution that would require significant and expensive maintenance every year.
     The solution they deployed was to go way up river and fix a few issues. This greatly improved the water quality making it much easier to fix in the city. This solution was much cheaper and has a lasting impact all along the river.

The Body
     The last two came when we took a trip to St. Louis University. We participated in a demonstration of how certain body parts work together as one. Someone in the audience asked how planter factitious happens and impacts movement. The presenter showed us on the cadaver where the symptoms manifest then pointed to where issue is actually located. These two points where nowhere near each other.
     The final event was during our pig heart dissection. The instructor was showing us three actual human hearts and pointing out the issues in two of them. He mentioned his frustration with school banning things like chocolate milk. While the underlying idea is sound, it misses the larger point which is movement. He is starting to see elementary kids with heart issues due to inactivity. While we ban certain foods it does not solve the underlying issue of inactivity.

These big ideas were a great reminder to me about slowing down and thinking before offering a solution. Sometimes I jump to solve the issue without really determining if what I am seeing is just a symptom or the root of the problem.

I am hopeful I can remember these lessons as the year starts to get busier. I hope to stop and think way up the river to see if the solution is really miles away from where I am.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

What is your plan?

We were driving down the road and experienced some odd electrical issue, the GPS stopped charging. The unit only had enough battery to last until we hit Chicago. I would have been concerned but I had a backup plan. Below the GPS I had my tablet running Waze.

I have been told there are two types of people, those who have lost data and those who will.

Do you have a plan if your laptop suddenly dies? Are there folders that need to be backed up but aren't?

Google just released a totally new Google Drive back up and sync tool. I currently have just over 110 gigs in my Drive which was too big for the older desktop Google Drive tool. What they added was the ability for me to just back up one folder from my desktop without having to download everything on my Drive. It is brilliant.

Download and Get Started
Download Back Up and Sync.
Start the install process.

I started by clicking GOT IT.

1. I deselected all of these options. I wanted to choose the folder that was backing up.

1. The folder I needed was located on my desktop.
2. I selected the folder. 

That is pretty much it. Now everything in my badges folder will automatically back up to Google Drive. When I add a new resource to the folder it will just back up without me doing anything extra.

Check out the official help site for more information.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Crazy idea or crazy smart?

gum on the ground by the Alamo

I have been watching a billion crime shows on Netflix over the past year or so. Mostly because many of the shows have lots of episodes, right now it is Bones. What those shows have taught me was that everything leaves trace evidence behind.

I was strolling by the Alamo and took the image above. Gum. I have noticed there is a lot of gum on the sidewalks. I wonder how much gold and silver could be harvested from that gum. There has to be trace amounts of precious medals in the gum, how might we mine it?

This reminds me of a time during my student teaching. A student exclaimed that ice cream was made of dirt. No one laughed or said anything, the room was quiet for a bit. Slowly others started to figure it out. His connection was that the grass grows in the dirt, cows eat the grass, people take the milk and turn that into ice cream, thus ice cream is made out of dirt. This connection was brilliant and helped the other kids think differently and take intellectual risks. 

What does all this mean? Sometimes I jump too quick to dismiss a good idea. Sometimes I don't remain quiet like those first graders did. Ice cream is made from dirt and maybe, just maybe, we could mine the gum for precious medals. Maybe we don't have the technology to extract the gold today but I'm sure that is just around the corner.

This summer has brought some hard lessons, but one of the benefits has been slowing down and taking life one day at a time. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Sometimes time off isn't a good thing.

Just too much noise!

It is just about July and I have taken a bit of time off. At home things can get all kinds of noisy. Kids talking (yelling)  to Alexa/Google Home to play some great hits like that pen pineapple song, someone else watching random Youtube videos, cell phones dinging, Nerf guns and more. All this noise can drive me nuts. Then there are times when the house is too quiet, so quiet I can't think. This post is how to fix the too quiet issue.

Simply, a way to create soft background noise like you are in a coffee shop or on a college campus.

Navigate to coffitivity and check out the left side.
Select one of the three top options.
Let the concentration begin!

Need more sounds? The premium is only $9! That is less than a trip to the actual coffee shop.

Add it to your mobile device for total portability. So sweet!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

New Ideas for the New Year?

Are you looking for a few new ideas this summer? Maybe something to improve a workshop, parent communication or just something fresh? Starting in a few days there is a HUGE educational technology conference happening in Texas. I believe there are over 16,000+ participants, you can just imagine how many ideas will flow during the conference.

The ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference runs from June 24-28.

So how can you hop on and join in?

Open TweetDeck and start to read.
     Don't have a twitter account? Make one! You will need one to use TweetDeck. I promise it won't disappoint. 
     You can also just click on the hashtags below and follow along. 
          #iste17 - people at the conference use this to tweet out new learning and ideas
          #notatiste17 this hashtag is used by those who are not at ISTE

Tweet Deck
TweetDeck opens with three main columns.
Home - your stream. Everything shared publicly shows up here.
Notifications - anytime your twitter name is mentioned.
Messages - private messages

Adding a new column
1. Click the little magnifying glass on the far left. Type in #iste17.
2. Click on the hashtag.

New column appears. Newest tweet will appear at the top. Once the conference starts this column will move faster than any human can read.
Repeat creating columns with people, ideas or hashtags.

Making It Work
1. I found something that looks interesting. I can click on the link and check out what it is all about.
2. I can also favorite it by click on the heart. This is like a bookmark, saved to look at later on.

Why TweetDeck?
I stared using twitter and TweetDeck a while back for idea generation. I know there could be a ton of junk in the feed, just like watching something on tv. Stuff that might be fun to look at but does not have a long lasting quality to it. By following a few key hashtags and people you can start to access fresh perspectives you did not have access to before. There is a lot of noise, after a while you can tune your feed to increase the quality. 

Share - if you see something please share it. Share with your building, a buddy or anyone you think could benefit. 

Need help bringing something to life? Just reach out, Doug and Colin can help.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Keep: Powerful, Simple and Free

My current note taking application. Not always effective.

I feel pulled in a billion directions all the time. I sometimes forget more in one day than I care to admit. Other times I show up somewhere and can't recall why I am at the store. Like just two days ago I went to Target and bought some stuff, some we even needed, but totally forgot to get the one thing my wife told me to get. She only told me like five times but I still forgot. Ever happen to you?

There are a number of ways that the Google Keep app can help keep you on track. In this post we will show you a few ways on how to do this on your mobile device. It works pretty much the same way on your laptop.

I fell in love with checklists after reading the Checklist Manifesto.

Open the Keep app on your mobile and create a new note.
1. Title your note.
2. Click the little plus symbol in the lower left. Then you will have access for the next step.
3. Click Checkboxes.

1. Click the little ice cream cone in the lower right. (three dots) Then choose a color. I tend to use color to help the more important notes standout. 

1. I checked off this one item. Just like paper, the item remains visible. I could also deselect this item and it would appear back at the top of the list. This deselecting gives the app a slight advantage over paper. You could create a reoccurring checklist for the things you do over and over.

This idea would have saved me at Target. The big idea is to have the note appear once you get near the store, like it magically detects when you get within maybe 100 feet or so and up pops the note.

This example is using a checklist I (should have) created for my recent Target shopping adventure.

1. Click the little finger with the ribbon in the upper right corner.
2. Click Place.
3. Start typing the name of the place you want the note to pop up when you get close.

I started typing the word Target and this appeared. I can now pick the Target that I shop at.

Now at the bottom of my note I can see a little Target icon appear. Once I enter the parking lot a notification will appear on my phone. 

How is this STEM?

I came home to this package the other night. Two feet by four feet and it weighs seventy-five pounds. If you Google the name you will see...