Summer Book Reads and short reviews.

I am so excited to be gearing up for this school year. I have been reading and thinking all summer about things I can do to make my classes more fun and increase the learning of my students. I have already had a few sleepless nights as I just couldn’t get thoughts out of my head from some great books that I have been reading. At a few points I had to get them on paper so I would not forget the next morning.

I would like to share where my head is at so far.

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I started reading the book Invent to Learn and it has completely sold me on the ideas of Constructivist education. Most notably championed (or created) by Seymour Papert. The book is a great overview of tinkering with students and how by allowing them to play with objects and to try new things, they actually end up learning more and it becomes self directed learning. I rented this book from Amazon, but I will need to buy it, I have too many highlights that I will need it for a reference.

Pure Genius: this goes hand in hand with Invent to Learn. Pure genius is about giving students a dedicated time during the week for them to pursue their own projects that they set for themselves. At first I was worried about this idea because I know how much structure students seem to crave at times when introducing a new project. Through reading and a few good  ideas I think it really is possible to pull off! Another one I will have to buy as I am going ot introduce a Genius Hour this year and I really have just this book to go off from. Wish me luck on that one.

Drive: This book has a lot of hype and I did think that it was good to take a look at motivation. Teachers need to teach content, but if we do not motivate our students they will not care about our content. I think this is super important, or else we will sound like the Charlie Brown teacher to our kids! then they  will fail, which means we fail. I have not finished this one, but it reinforces the fact that students are dying to learn about topics that interest them, and when they are able to do so, they will do a lot better job and exceed our expectations!

what have YOU been reading?

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A little more SSH for your Raspberry Pi

So, Once you install your Operating System, you are ALMOST ready to test things out. Let’s go over what SSH can do one more time.

SSH stands for Secure SHell, which allows you to securely connect to other devices, in this case we want to set things up so that we can use a computer to connect to a Raspberry Pi. All that sounds technical, but on a Raspberry Pi it is very simple.

Turning on SSH

in the command line type sudo raspi-config then navigate to the menus below and enable SSH. Save and reboot. 

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When your Pi boots, open up the terminal and type in the command: ifconfig

ifconfig

look for what it says that your inet addr is. In the screen shot above, mine is 10.1.0.149. Write that down!

Downloading PuTTY

Now you got what you need, go to your computer and download a tool called putty. It’s free and allows you to connect to your Pi through SSH. Link to PuTTY Download

enter your IP address into PuTTY and hit Open

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Enter your login which by default is: pi and the default password is: raspberry

putty2

Congratulations! You have just connected to your Raspberry Pi from another computer!

Why is this important?

Well, think of the versatility of the Raspberry Pi, it is small and lightweight which allows you to take it out of the normal computer lab environment and move it into the world as an Internet of Things device(more on what that is later).  So, for example, our school was having issues with a mounted TV in our lobby, we couldn’t send information to it anymore, it was only working with a 10 year old MAC computer. The Raspberry Pi to the rescue! I added a software names Screenly to a Pi and connected it to the TV, I was able to plug it into a network jack and now, from my computer, i can manage that Raspberry Pi and send images and information to that TV in our lobby from any computer in the building. Otherwise, I would need to connect a keyboard and mouse to the Pi in our lobby to control it. Forget that! Pics are below of our lobby Pi, I will create a guide about it in the coming days.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Started with a Raspberry Pi

So, I have had a Raspberry Pi for about a month now and sadly I have not had as much time as I would like to devote to the little guy! I was able to get it fired up and man was that easy!

I’ll go through a bit of what I got/did for setting it up.

I knew that there is more than just having a Raspberry Pi, you need other tools to use it! So, I ordered this kit that looked like it had good reviews on amazon and it has Prime (I’m a Prime addict).
So, I ordered this kit: http://tinyurl.com/nsrratm

it includes: Raspberry Pi B+, case, power plug, heat sinks, 8 gig Micro USB Card (with Linux Pre-Installed) , a HDMI cable and  a USB wifi card.

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This is a pretty great deal for all the extras, you get. If you really think that you want to dig into the Raspberry Pi. I would suggest putting down a bit more money and buying a kit that includes the camera, breadboard and other electrical components as well.

Firing it UP!

No, dont be like me and buy this and just assume that everything will work fine. I quickly found out that I dont have a USB keyboard, so I needed that, then I realized that my computer monitor does not support HDMI, so I had to connect it to a TV for setup. Not the end of the world, but if you are planning on using it at your Desk , make sure that you have a HDMI capable monitor or an adapter. So, I needed an adapter too. I purchased this VGA > HDMI adapter to plug my Pi into the monitor at my desk http://tinyurl.com/mybl8z5.

 

Another issue that I ran into was with the Display: Some people have trouble getting VGA Adapters to work. I know that there is a power issue that can affect some people. I was worried for a minute as I went from using an adapter for a DVI monitor and then went from an adapter for a VGA and the monitor was not recognized. As I agonized over my Pi not showing anything I did some digging and found that there is a bit of linux work you have to do to make sure that you can transition from each type of monitor.

So, in your Pi you need to un-comment the following lines so that they look like this:

# Uncomment if you get no picture on HDMI for a default "safe" mode
hdmi_safe=1

# Uncomment if an HDMI display is not detected and composite is being output.
hdmi_force_hotplug=1

That should resolve any issues with Raspberry Pi Monitors. Hopefully (it did for me). The other option is to use your Pi without a monitor which honestly is the easiest idea. You will want to do that through SSH. I will explain that in a future post! So, buy a Pi and get to Tinkering.

Robotics

 

Robots is something that I really didnt have any experience with growing up. I loved computers and would tinker with it, take it apart and put it back together again, sometimes incorrectly, then I would have to troubleshoot and fix my computers. I would say that is the closest I have been to robotics building. which is not really even the same playing field.

However, I would like to change that! Our school has a few kits of Lego NXT mindstorms as well as Lego WeDO kits. These kits are highly valuable and allow for creativity in the world of engineering and science to solve larger picture problems.

I am going to see what I can learn over the break so I can find ways to get these in the hands of students more often. Teachers use them for a unit and then have to move on, but perhaps there could be a club outside or during some free school blocks to focus on robots and engineering?

I have found competitions that would be a great way to motivate students. The championships were just held this weekend, so I have until next fall to organize our resources and see if we could put a team together. Looks like fun!

First Lego League

 

Make a Radio Show for your Class!

 

I am having my students create a podcast to show off a certain skill that they know about computers. This is my first time using a podcast with the iPads, so feel free to chime in if you know of a better way to go about doing this.

I have four iPads and four rows of students, so I figured that I would divide each row into groups and give them an iPad. I used two apps to get this done.

Rec Pad $2

BossJock $10

Basically, what I had the students do was use Rec Pad to record themselves reading their written script. Then I Sent it to Bossjock and ordered it into a recording.
It was a lot of work, but the payoff was a few great recordings. In hindsight, maybe I would have students investigate more about certain skills, so I wouldn’t hear so many explanations about control shortcuts, but it was a good first run around.

another thing was that Students handled their iPads a lot so the recordings came out scratchy, I would try to do a better job of having them listen to their recordings. This can be tough because if you have an hour of class time, students can do multiple re takes until they are satisfied, leaving your lesson to stretch out over weeks of time.

Overall I think that the podcast idea is a good one.  I spent a lot of time with this combination, but it came out great. Next time I would just move the files over to audacity and do it all at once. but, you live and learn, so take note, because your students will love this assignment!