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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Amazing students

One of our students brought her home project in today. It was a bot that flipped over backwards, like a gymnast on a high bar. The smiley face on the display made the bot look just like a person. Students understood the physics that were involved - centrifugal force and gravity. Kudos, Schuyler! And a girl, yet! I have spoken to several parents about the need to encourage gifted girls in the fields of math and science. My daughter decided by sixth grade that she was not good in math or science and dropped out of AP Physics in high school, against the advice of her teacher. She resisted computer use, since the other three members of the family spent a lot of time on the computer. She used it to check the humidity in order to know whether to put her hair up or not.

We learned today how to record an action, upload it to the computer, save it and run it with the action in the program. Some of the students had to rerun their program over and over to get it to run. They are definitely ready for a career in computer science, where perseverance in the face of adversity is a great strength.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lego Lab Week One

My dear Aunt Maxine died Monday night, June 22, and I have taken a few days to get used to the idea. She was one of my favorite relatives, loving and smart, family historian, beautiful and kind. She lived with my Uncle Jake in Washington, D.C. most of her life, but she told me stories about living in Stanton, Iowa as a child and teen. I will miss her, but it is a blessing that she could go peacefully at age 93.

Lego Lab has been a joy, as usual. I get so involved with the kids, machines and programming that I forget to allow time to clean up! (The story of my life.) I am so amazed at the creativity and resourcefulness of the students. Two students created a machine that takes only minutes to assemble. When I tried to replicate the effort, I had connected a motor incorrectly. A student patiently waited for me to see my error, then suggested courteously that I had it backwards. I guess my Lego-deprived childhood has had its effect.

If any of you have contacts with the Lego Company, I would like to suggest that they create some more feminine projects and bricks. Last May, I went to the Lego store at Woodfield and had a hard time finding a small Lego gift for one of my female students.

I hope you are aware of the Legoland in Schaumburg, IL. I have not been there, but my students recommend it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

First Day of Lego Lab

Brickworld was just hosted in Chicago last weekend. Watch for it next year.

Today was the first day of Lego Lab in Grayslake IL. The classes did not include second graders, and I think that was a helpful decision. Some of those bricks are so small they are hard for me to manipulate. The students were quiet, at first, but soon began using the "Try Me" program on the main brick, called the NXT. Their excitement was infectious and I once again enjoyed the enthusiasm gifted children bring to new learning. A few students had taken the class last year, so I let them work ahead. They created a vehicle that could go over a short wall of tires. The other kids seemed envious, but I told them, "You'll be doing this by the end of next week!" I am more relaxed and flexible this year. I just wish I had a set of these at home so I could play with them on my own time. Tomorrow we will use the firmware built into the NXT "brains."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Overcoming Inertia

One of the great joys in my life is teaching. I am constantly learning all manner of things: ideas, methods, skills, where to find resources, and the nature of personality. This week I am preparing for NXT Mindstorms at the Worlds of Wisdom and Wonder of the Center for Gifted, National-Louis University, as well as preparing for Assistive Technology in the Classroom in Chicago (also NLU). Of course, my Dreamweaver has been disrupted by a computer upgrade, as has my Voyager FTP. It looks like Firefox's free plug-in ftp is gonna work, but two shareware wysiwyg editors are providing a steep learning curve just as I need to be adding web resources, not learning how to edit a page. Thank heavens for wikis! I shall post needed resources to my Assistive Technology Wiki easily. I am also taking Summer Camp from PBWiki to learn how to use a wiki in class. Maybe I will just scrap the whole web site thingy and use this blog for my Lego-Logo classes. Yeah! That's it! Stay tuned for further adventures.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Northwest Washington State and Vancouver

Whenever I travel, I am full of questions. What kind of moss is that hanging from the trees? Where do the people of the area come from? Where's the nearest collection of indigenous peoples' art?

The Northwest Coast of the United States and lower Canada are amazing! There are mountains, ocean, rivers, forests, and lakes. Friendly people are happy to recommend places to see if you will only be here a short time. Seafood is excellent, and I was happy to have some sockeye salmon yesterday in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. The art of the native tribes is fascinating, and hiking is rigorous and beautiful.

This part of the country does not seem to be suffering much from the economy yet, and housing prices remain much higher than the Midwest. Vancouver was preparing for the 2010 Olympics and had a much lower homeless population in the downtown area than Chicago. As the taxes from incomes dwindle, more and more people are being affected. Will there be pockets of the country that are protected from the shock most of us have been through? I certainly hope so. Michigan is being forced to retool itself, which is a good thing. Much like the Quad-Cities (IL-IA) during the farm debt crisis, Michigan will have to diversify in order to survive. Yet the suffering of financial insecurity is so unpleasant I wouldn't wish it on anyone.