Launch Santa Fe High School’s Rocket Club!

Launch Santa Fe High School's Rocket Club!


Math and science teacher Brian Smith is on a mission to use model rocketry as an exciting, hands-on activity to enhance students’ learning in math and physics and encourage students to pursue further STEM education. He recounts some of his earlier successes:

I spent two years as a teacher and science curriculum designer at Harlem Success Academy, a charter school in New York City. We capped off our 6th grade physics unit by building and launching model rockets. Students that had struggled to engage with other labs on force and motion were enthralled with the idea that something they could build would fly hundreds of feet in the air at speeds of more than 100 mph. Every single student built and launched his or her very own rocket from the basketball court behind the school. When I hear from my students, some still talk about this project and how they want to apply to the specialized science high schools.

Now teaching in Santa Fe, Brian is working hard to gather the resources necessary to start an official Rocket Club at his high school and support his students’ entry into the Team America Rocketry Challenge. Brian’s school is underprivileged. He writes that “our school is badly underfunded… Positions for teachers and teaching assistants have been cut, and class sizes are climbing into the high 30s.” In that budgetary climate, it’s impossible for the school to launch the club out of its own funds.

Brian’s fundraising goal of $2,500 covers all of the setup costs of the club, including design software and scientific instruments, as well as a year’s supply of rocket parts, engines, and so on. In addition, $500 of the goal amount is set aside for the registration fee for the four teams of students he hopes to send to the Team America Rocketry Challenge.

Will you join me in supporting the club? Visit the Kickstarter page here!

Opening the Access to Scholarly Research

This guest post by Ken Ronkowitz was previously published in his blog, Serendipity35.

Photo: Kevin Eng, CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo: Kevin Eng, CC BY-SA 2.0

I was listening recently to an episode of The Chronicle‘s Tech Therapy podcast on the “Moral Imperative” for Open Access to scholarly research featuring David Parry. He is an Assistant Professor of emerging media and communications at the University of Texas at Dallas and his main point was that scholars have an obligation to publish their research in journals that make free copies available online.

This is a topic that I am interested in and I agree with Parry. This is also a hot and debatable topic tight now. Unfortunately, it was the suicide of Aaron Swartz after he was being prosecuted for trying to free such research that brought it to many mainstream news outlets.

“Information is power,” Swartz wrote. “But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves.”  He had made unauthorized downloads of more than four million articles from JSTOR and the federal indictment against him said that he did it in order to then upload them to the Internet and make them available for free.

His approach was radical and was compared on news outlets to Wikleaks. The tragedy in his case was that even though the civil complaints against him were dropped and he had returned all the downloaded data, the case was still being pursued.

David Parry calls sites like JSTOR “knowledge cartels.”

The term “open” and open access (OA) has a number of meanings. According to Wikipedia (itself an open site), open access can be defined as “the practice of providing unrestricted access via the Internet to peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles.” There are a growing number of theses, scholarly monographs, articles and book chapters that are provided with open access to all.

There are two degrees of open access: gratis OA meaning no-cost online access, and libre OA which is like gratis but with some additional usage rights.

Similarly, we use the term “open content” with materials available online where the author(s) gives the right to modify the work and reuse it.  Most of us went through school learning to use content intact and to associate it with an author(s).

You might be familiar with Creative Commons licenses that can be used to make content accessible and yet to specify usage rights (such as attribution or non-commercial usage). My blog uses a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons license for the content.

The open access concept was pushed forward at a rapid pace by the Internet, and in education it was pushed by its extension into learning objects and other resources used in online learning.

Scholarly publishing, much like the music and film industry and traditional publishing, has resisted open access, and may very well find that resistance to be why it will disappear.

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Opening the Access to Scholarly Research by Ken Ronkowitz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Android in the classroom? “Google Play for Education” challenges the iPad’s dominance


Just last week, I wrote a teacher’s review of the Nexus 7 tablet. A reader on Reddit commented that it was a shame that the review didn’t talk about the possibility of students using the tablet in a 1:1 deployment, but there are a few reasons for that:

  1. I teach adults at a university—and manage technology in that context—so my expertise is quite different from that of someone coordinating technology for a K-12 school or district.
  2. Historically, Google hasn’t done a very thorough job promoting tablets for educational use.

Yesterday, though, Google launched the Google Play for Education program. Under this program, educational institutions purchase tablets in bulk for classroom deployment, whether for a tablet cart or under a 1:1 program. The tablets come pre-configured for educational use and promise a nearly-automatic setup “fully loaded with student accounts, custom settings, and WiFi.” It looks like all you need to do is use one tablet to log in and select your class information, then physically tap every other tablet against the first one to transfer the settings over via NFC:

For content, there’s a curated “Education” section of the Play Store which includes educational apps and e-books:

Content is sorted by content area, grade level, and Common Core standards:

Google Play for Education also enables teachers and tech administrators purchasing apps to basically “put it on the tab” by using pre-paid credit established through a purchase order. Under this system, purchases aren’t required to handle credit cards:

The device lineup is currently limited to just the Nexus 7, but an as-yet-unreleased 10″ ASUS Transformer Pad and an 8″ HP Slate8 Pro will be added early next year. The ASUS Transformer in particular looks pretty fascinating: it’s the size of a typical iPad and can be paired with a detachable physical keyboard. With the keyboard, it runs $95 more than a Nexus 7, though, which is quite a premium.

Sound exciting? Check out the Google in Education page for more details!

10 Ways to Find and Share Lesson Plans Online

This guest post by Michael Zimmer was previously published in his blog, The Pursuit of Technology Integration Happiness.

Photo: ISKME, CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo: ISKME, CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the great aspects of the Internet, the Web 2.0 craze, and collaboration is the ability to find and share lesson plans through various methods.  Teachers all over the country are doing great things in their classroom and are making these great things available on the Internet for anyway to download.  Some are free, some might cost you a little cash, but in the end, why reinvent the wheel, especially when that wheel has experienced success?

1.) Share My Lesson is a source I have previously written about and provides lessons for all grade levels and subject matter.  There is even a special section for special education teachers.  Create an account and easily find lesson plans or start sharing some of your own.

2.) Google Apps for Education has a lesson plan search option where you can choose what you are looking for, the subject matter and the grade level.  The lesson plans often require the use of Google Apps, but can be modified if necessary for your classroom if you are not able to access Google Apps for Education.

3.) Teachers Pay Teachers is a site that allows users to upload and download lesson plans and other activities created by teachers for teachers.  The prices are often on the low end and there is also an abundance of free lesson plans and resources as well.  There are also complete units available, but those do come at a higher price.  Create an account and upload your own, then you can make money off of the successful lesson plans that you are doing in your classroom.

4.) Federal Resources for Educational Excellence is a lesson plan homepage created by the federal government that has lesson plans by subject matter and grade level.  The lessons are often broken down into subtopics as well that make it easier to find the lesson plans to meet a teachers need.

5.) Better Lesson is an option for finding lesson plans from a data base of over 300,000 resources.  You can search by grade level and subject matter and also view featured lessons for each day/week.  You can also upload your own lessons to share while also getting feedback from other educators on how to improve and build on a lesson.

6.) Claco is a newer option, formally Class Connect, that allows teachers to join what is basically a social network for teachers.  Through this social network, teachers can upload an share lessons and collaborate with other educators as they discuss improvements and successes of those lessons.  To join you must request an invite, but that is just to verify you are an educator and because they are currently in Beta.  I have heard good things about this site.

7.) Read Write Think has a large database of lesson plans that teachers can download and use in their classroom.  You can find lesson plans by grade level and subject matter and it provides the total number for each as well making it easy to know what you are getting into when looking for lesson plans.

8.) Microsoft in Education has a lesson plan and teacher resource database that teachers can look through by selecting age range, subject matter, and even length in time.  Several of the lessons involve the use of technology as well, but could most likely be adapted if necessary.  You might also be interested in the free products for educators that is offered by Microsoft.

9.) The HP Teacher Experience Exchange is another option for teachers looking for lesson plans.  At the same time, it also provides a place for teachers to collaborate and connect with other teachers.  There is currently a large database of lesson plans and resources for teachers to search through.  You can locate by grade level and subject matter as well.

10.) TeachHubScholastic, and Edutopia also provide great options for locating lesson plans.  Many of the lessons on these sites are teacher submitted as well.  Like the other options you can also search by grade level and subject matter.  All these sites also offer many other opportunities and resources that teachers would be interested in taking the time to examine and look through.

Hope that you find a lesson plan of good use.  If you decide to upload your own lesson plans, just remember honesty and copyright and ensure that you are not uploading a lesson that you created using information and activities from other resources you have been provided previously.

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10 Ways to Find and Share Lesson Plans Online by Michael Zimmer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.