Friday, October 28, 2011

Precursors of the Open Hardware movement

The Open Hardware Movement has precedents that might help us to understand how to make the best use of Knowledge Commons:

Note the motivation for improvement and the public sharing of a well defined metric of improvement.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sugar on an iBook

Xubuntu on an ancient iBook supports a vnc remote client that allows me to run Sugar, capture an image, & share to Seamless Services blog. If here, where else, & for whom?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Posting via Trisquel4.5 Sugar

I tried to take a photo and post it here. Captured the photo but lost it in the process of adding it here. Now, I'll try an intermediate save to see whether that helps.

Yes, that worked but getting text input back challenged me briefly. I needed to "Save Now" before I could enter text again. The problem seems to lie in hitting the "Done" button on the image upload tab. The browser seems to interpret that as a message to close the browser session rather than just close the tab and return to the original tab. Submit a bug report?

The photo question comes from the annual world-wide day of service originating in New Haven.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Posting from the Sugar Browser

Sugar TurtleArt: flower from nested repeats of a square.
TurtleArt Flower: nested repeats of a square.

Tony Forster regularly blogs about work he has done using Sugar. He shares that work at His work includes screen shots from Sugar. I wonder whether I am able to do similar work with my current install of Sugar (a Trisquel Virtual Machine running in VirtualBox). So, I am using this entry to test. I am able to add text and Blogger keeps my work.

Then, I tried to upload an image from the Sugar Journal. The browser let me select an image and previewed it. But, when I tried to submit the image to my Blogger picture-base, it threw me out of the Browser Activity and back into the Journal. I needed to sign in again and found that Blogger kept my text but did not add the image.

Now, I see that I have multiple tabs in the Sugar Browser and that I can return to editing my post before indicating that I am "Done." Blogger was able to successfully upload the image and integrate it into my post. Will have to learn what combination steps is required to reliably reproduce this process.

Friday, July 8, 2011

MTA Capstone Video: 11 Pilot Project Abstracts

I finished editing and adding the jazz audio track to the eleven students' presentations for the Capstone Assembly in May. These brief presentations were intended to help students understand the scope of Capstone projects and help them to choose which two of the sessions they wanted to see for the full presentations the following week.

I uploaded it to a personal account at Vimeo. Once things work well, I'll establish an institutional account so that school personnel can manage in the future.

MTA Capstone 2011 Pilot Projects from Stephen Spaeth on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Charter Schools in Maine

After many years resisting the development of charter schools, the Maine Legislature has passed Charter School Legislation and Governor LePage has signed LD 1553 into law. Two features of the legislation are particularly interesting:
7. Teachers – All full-time teachers in charter schools must either hold an appropriate teaching certificate or become certified within three years of the date they are hired, excepting those with an advanced degree, professional certification, or unique expertise and/or experience in the curricular area they teach. ...
9. Virtual Chartered Schools – LD 1553 adopts the language of the national model bill that defines and allows virtual chartered schools.
I'm interested to see how these develop.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Stowe's Brunswick and Bowdoin

The Stowe Society's "Stowe at 200" Conference included a walking tour of sites in Brunswick associated with Stowe. Polly Kaufman lead the tour starting at the Pjepscot Historical Society building. Fifty or more people participated with a small number from the Stowe Society, a few more from the conference and most from the general public in the area.

Dr. Kaufman carried photocopies of some notes and images of interest. I found the following image from collections at the New York Public Library via Wikimedia Commons that shows sites more as Stowe experienced them.

Bowdoin College 1845
By Lane & Scott, FitzHugh Lane [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The most easily identified buildings in the lithograph from the left are: First Parrish Church, Massachusetts Hall, Winthrop Hall, Maine Hall, Bowdoin Chapel, and Appleton Hall. Dr. Kaufman related the story of Harriet Beecher Stowe using her husband's office in Massachusetts Hall to write parts of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Note a confusion in local informal history. The Bowdoin publication "Academic Spotlight" in an article "Tracing Lasting, Local Footprints of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'" relates the story of a student tour guide who incorrectly identifies the site of Calvin Stowe's office as Appleton Hall.
As a student tour guide for Bowdoin's Office of Admissions, Tom Brickler '10 had led dozens of prospective students past Appleton Hall.
Stopping, he would say: "It was here, where Harriet Beecher Stowe sometimes worked on the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin." For full dramatic effect, he might add the words: "writing late into the stormy winter night."
The author of the Spotlight article suggests:
Though it is campus legend, no one knows for sure if Stowe—the wife of a Bowdoin professor—actually worked there during the years that she wrote the novel in Brunswick. But it hardly matters: The compulsion to imagine and re-imagine the daily existence of luminaries connected to Bowdoin—including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Joshua Chamberlain, and Nathaniel Hawthorne—is part of the ambience of being at such a historically significant college.
While it may "hardly matter" to casual visitors and some reporters, it clearly matters to Stowe enthusiasts and scholars. If these kinds of historical resources were more easily accessible, then perhaps we can increase the number of people who care about the historical details.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tracing Lasting, Local Footprints of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'

Tracing Lasting, Local Footprints of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin', Academic Spotlight (Bowdoin)

Bowdoin's Academic Spotlight on Tess Chakkalakal's course on using place-based resources to connect with 21st Century reading of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Includes a brief video clip of a class held in the First Parrish Church:

Can we build digital resources to support asynchronous access to experiences similar to this.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

hReview of MAMS ITeam site

Mentor led documentation

Apr 30, 2004 by SC Spaethphoto of 'Mt. Ararat MS ITeam Site'

Provides a useful overview and activities of the MAMS ITeam. Shows some student work on projects. Needs to provide more complete coverage of activities. Would be helpful to have students more engaged in the creation and management of the site.
Meta: I write this review to test the microformat tools for hReview.

This hReview brought to you by the hReview Creator.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Harriet Beecher Stowe on Child Labor

Harriet Beecher Stowe is most famous for her writing of Uncle Tom's Cabin. But her indignation against slavery seems to be matched by a similar feeling about child labor. A correspondent from England complained about a reference in Uncle Tom's Cabin to labor conditions for children in England. She responded as follows:

Beecher Stowe moved from Brunswick several years before the beginning of the Civil War. So, it seems unlikely that she would have seen this ironic outcome of her advocacy for the abolishment of slavery:

WANTED! 120 Girls and Boys to work in Maine cotton mills for 9 hours per day. L-A Museum and Maine State Archives.

Saturday, April 9, 2011 testing via Crocodoc

I have been testing the editor for Arduino. It works reasonably well in its current form but I need access to some features before I invest a lot more time into it. I have documented some of my work as part of a learning process record and had a screen-shot lying on my desktop that I use here to test Crocodoc:

The Annotation tool did not display when I examined the sample doc that I embedded in yesterday's post. The Annotation tools came as soon as I uploaded a document of my own. This seems like a useful tool for remote collaboration on a broader range of document types than Google supports.

The comments that I make on the screen shot describe my reactions to both current status of the development and features of Crocodoc.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Highlighting and Annotating Collaborative Work

Theron bookmarked (Diigo/Theron_d) a page from Crocodoc, a html5 based document rendering engine, that supports high-lighting and annotation of pdf and other challenging document types. While Google is improving its capacity to support this kind of collaboration on documents, they can use the competition.

The chunk of text below came from a copy and paste of a selection on page 22:

 The longest path is the
shortest and the shortest
path is the longest
The shortest route to learning the craft
of a field is the one that, at first glance,
appears the longest.To really learn
something, you must understand the
basic concepts of your field.If you
try to skip,

I copied and pasted because the tool did not seem to work when I tried it.

Inevitable. But how to get there from here?

Maine ASCD invited Bea McGarvey back for their Spring 2011 conference. She will promote the Mass Customization of Learning. MAMS ITeam and Capstone participants explore this frontier. I try to identify and develop opportunities for students to find a compelling interest and develop it as individuals or small groups. But the approach is so different from most of students' other experiences in school, that many find the transition very challenging. When I see evidence of students getting the idea, I try to have them show-case their accomplishments.

At yesterday's ITeam meeting, I tried to help the whole group look at the Minecraft explorations as an example of what it means to find an engaging creative medium and then spend time outside of school to explore and develop that interest. The Minecraft explorers seemed to appreciate the recognition of their efforts but the robotics crew dismissed the idea because they are not interested in it at all. And, when conferred later, they wanted to know what they should do next because robotics were interesting but didn't sustain their engagement. When I turned the question of what to do next back to them, some waxed nostalgic for last year's student-teacher ratio. I reminded them that we have to find an approach that doesn't rely on favorable ratios.

Erik Kramer share the link to the following video:

Meg and Alex are developing lessons through CREA that they plan to share with elementary school students at Bowdoin Central and Woodside Elementary Schools. Can older students learn Squishy Circuits and similarly share them with young children?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Learning Analogies

SAT Question of the Day:

Redstone Circuits : Minecraft :: ________ : Arduino Robotics
  1. LEDs
  2. AppInventor
  3. Editor
  4. Cellbots and Servers
  5. All of the above and more!
We use a project-based learning approach for ITeam. I want students to engage with the work so that they choose to spend time outside of school to work on their projects. So, I give them latitude in selection and encourage them to shoulder part of the project management responsibilities so that we can customize their learning. Since many have never learned this way in school, we have challenges making the transition to this way of learning. One of the biggest challenges is getting them to document the work they have done in ways that we can share with stakeholders and other interested parties.

Our recent foray into Minecraft originated in student engagement that they used to convince me that I had misinterpreted the genre. I saw the chopping as destructive and did not yet understand the real intent of the activity as gathering raw materials for creating new materials and artifacts.

Now, I am learning that some middle school ITeam members are setting up multi-user Minecraft servers at home and are developing the ability to tune-them to meet specifications that support our learning needs. Coby told me today, that he has shifted his focus from creating objects and structures in Minecraft to understanding and creating tools for others to use. He clearly has established a Pre-Capstone Project that shows potential for transferring what we are learning in the MTA Capstone Project to middle school and beyond. Clearly, we are shifting roles and moving toward authentic co-learning.

How can we help all students at all levels to take more responsibility for helping to manage their own learning?

The answer is clearly 5. All of the above and more!

Now, if I can just keep up with them. But, Coby described getting help from the Minecraft admin community in setting up port-forwarding in his network settings. So, I hope we have reinforcements ready in the wings in the form of mentors in new cultures of learning that David Thomas and John Seeley Brown describe in their book the New Culture of Learning:
In this connected world, mentorship takes on new importance and meaning
Where traditionally mentoring was a means of enculturating members into a community, mentoring in the collective relies more on the sense of learning and developing temporary, peer-to-peer relationships that are fluid and impermanent. Expertise is shared openly and willingly, without regard to an institutional mission. Instead, expertise is shared conditionally and situationally, as a way to enable the agency of other members of the collective.

Learning from students and others

Members of the MAMS ITeam shared their interest, engagement and creativity using Minecraft. But when I ask them to connect their work in Minecraft, with learning in school, they don't provide compelling examples or analysis. I tried to illustrate last week with the high school students' example of creating a model of a cell in Minecraft as a high school biology assignment. I don't know how effective that was.

Paul Soares, Jr. posted this link to a video (that showed up in Joel Levin's blog) of Minecraft project that illustrates more compelling connections to desired learning outcomes:

Does this exemplar help students to understand what we are trying to develop? Last year ITeam members tried to use Alice to meet Mr. Hale's social studies assignment to create a town. They used the libraries of available objects to create responses but the medium seemed to lead them away from his assignment and toward something that it could support. Does Minecraft provide more generic materials that can be used to meet assignments to represent various time-periods and cultures?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

MinecraftTeachr talks about elementary learners

Get Flash

Minecraft FM interviews Joel Levin, Mindcraft Teachr, about his use of Minecraft with elementary school students. Points to Minecraft In School, a PBWorks wiki, as another resource. Using multi-player server otherwise just playing. Wants the collaborative activities. Using Craftbukkit with plug-ins for managing what they can and can't do.

The press continues with an interview at KQED

Levin’s words, “exactly what is so appealing to me about Minecraft as a teaching tool. It’s so open ended and extensible. I really think of it more as a canvas than a game. I’m able to construct these elaborate experiences, settings, and stories for the kids to move through. Rather than having to shoehorn a lesson around a game, I’m able to think about what I’m trying to teach and then design an entire world around that.”

and another at ArsTechnica.

"l chose Minecraft specifically because it's so open-ended," Levin told Ars. "The game presents you with a huge open world and you can do any of a dozen different preset activities. Or you can go off and create your own content. That alone gives me a ton of freedom to invent content for the kids to engage in. I don't let them just play the game however they want. They must follow a path I lay out for them, which allows me to carry out lesson plans."

One of the elements that Levin requires is that students all work in a Multi-user setting and that the challenges he poses strongly encourage collaboration. Would a multi-user environment help to foster communication and collaboration among ITeam members?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Transferring communication from channels to platforms

When services provide web-based support forms, I often wish I had a copy of what I wrote to them because it has value to me and perhaps beyond. So, I copy it here to preserve the text and share in the future.
I read through the FAQs and couldn't find a description of how to transfer a user's account to membership in a class. Students in our class have spread the word to some of their classmates about using GSM. They have signed up at home using free accounts. We'd like to transfer some of those accounts to our classroom/institutional account. For example, one of them has created a Featured Game.

Can I transfer his existing ID to our classroom, do you have to make that change, or do kids who want to join the class have to start again from scratch to build their GSM cred?

Thanks for your assistance.

SC Spaeth, MSAD75 Mentor

I checked one more FAQ in the Institutional sign up area it it seems as if kids can use the link to associate existing accounts with the class:

Q: How do students (and other teachers) join my class/instituion and start using Gamestar?

A: Once your class or institution is set up, you'll receive an email and confirmation page message. This message will contain a friendly link for your students to follow to join your institution/class. When they follow the link, they'll have the opportunity to create a Gamestar Mechanic account. This account will automatically be joined to your class/institution. (If they already have a Gamestar account, they'll be able to use that account to join your class/institution, too). Once they complete this step, they'll enjoy all the features of your subscription.

Let's hope that this community can develop into passionate affinity spaces that James Paul Gee advocates for learning in the 21st Century.

Fifth-grade student at WES creates a featured game in Gamestar Mechanic

A fifth-grader at Woodside Elementary School created a game that Gamestar Mechanic has featured on its Game Alley:

Use this link to Josh's Dark Realm to see the full-size version.
Gamestar Mechanic provides embed codes to make it possible to share student' s work on websites outside of Gamestar's. But the embed code contains Javascript so I suspect that this attempt to share his work will fall short of the intended. He is well on his way to creating his digital portfolio of evidence of 21st Century learning outcomes. I fully expected this embed to fail because of restrictions on Javascript. But it worked! Unfortunately, the dimensions of the game are greater than the layout for this blog will allow. Clicking on the "Play" button opens the game in half a window. Need some work on this to recognize his achievement. Use this link to his Dark Realm in order to see the full size.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

CellBots Remix

In anticipation of the upcoming US Open Robotic Soccer Tournament to be held at Bowdoin College, I shared the work with members of the MAMS ITeam. Tim H. helped to explore this set of tools. Here, I show that other hand-held devices can also access the page. Avery showed that he could also see it on his iPad. We need to find ways to secure and detect these kinds of services in order to ensure safety and decorum.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Uncle Tom's Cabin at ARIS

From Drop Box

Illustration by Hammatt Billings [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The original image is in the public domain and shared at Wikimedia Commons. I added a medium resolution (500px jpeg) photo as display media for an ARIS item. The Harriet Beecher Stowe NPC (non-player character) gives the player a copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin after engaging in a dialog.

ARIS initially displays the full height of the image but supports touch-screen zoom and panning of the image. Here, I zoomed into Billings' illustration but kept Stowe's name and print run (150,000 copies) in view. Then I took the screen capture of the image which includes the ARIS Controls. The 'Detail' button brings up a brief caption and attribution information.

The iPhone's system (iOS 4.2) supports zooming into the image far enough to see pixellation easily for individual words. I suspect that this does not detract much from the quality of the exhibit as iPhone users experience it but may be more of an issue if players are using iPads. If people want to study the image in more detail, then the attribution information will allow them to easily locate and inspect the image at the highest resolution available (1024 px width).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Child slavery, too?

Abolish child slavery
By Bain News Service photograph, c. 1909 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The banners these New York City children wore read, "Abolish Child Slavery."
Were children in Maine also an important part of the labor force in textile mills along the Androscoggin River?

If Waiting for Superman is an accurate representation of the current situation for some students, then we still need to liberate children from intolerable conditions.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Uncle Tom's Cabin (Title page)

This reproduction of the title page for an early edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin is in the public domain and could be used as a resource for ARIS activities.


Note, that Wikimedia Commons assigns credit in this case to Hammatt Billings, the illustrator:
By Hammatt Billings [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
rather than to Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of the book.

Stowe House, Brunswick in ARIS

As I spoke with ITeam members yesterday and with Dennis Edmonson this morning, I wanted to have examples to share rather than just speak about them. So, I took the historic image (from the post-card of the Leighton Company, circa 1905) cropped it to meet the size guidelines for ARIS media and put it into ARIS as a plaque (320X320 px). I added the appropriate citation information to the caption text.

Then, I navigated to the page in ARIS and took this screen shot from the phone. It is difficult to read the text and it did not help to enlarge the photo. After seeing the photo in context, I revised the text to read:
Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in this house. Here, between 1850 and 1852, she wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Photo credit: Hugh C. Leighton Company, c. 1905 (en wiki) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
For this image in the public domain, it is less critical to include the live links: By Hugh C. Leighton Company (en wiki) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. I wonder how we should handle attribution in other cases.

The Quick Travel option in ARIS helps to support this kind of exploration because users can inspect resources irrespective of their proximity to the location:

ARIS and Local History

Whitmore House, Brunswick, ME
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Brunswick, Maine
By Hugh C. Leighton Company (en wiki) [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

ARIS is promoting a Global Jam on April 18-20th to create 50 'games' in 50 hours. I took this occasion as an opportunity to share the idea in more detail with Dennis Edmonson. I wanted to learn whether he knows of students who might be interested in helping to create ARIS exhibits for Topsham and Brunswick as Capstone Projects.

Dennis made the connection with the Museum in the StreetsTM initiatives in several communities in Maine (and beyond). They have a well established and protected concept that they have developed and refined over the last twenty years. Communities pay a fee for the assistance to develop walking tours and then provide free tours (brochures and physical plaques with pictures and short texts) to visitors to their communities.

The ARIS Dow Day and BikeBox approaches reduce the need for physical signage and increase the types of media that can be shared (e. g. video clips of re-enactors). But they increase the need for technology infrastructure (devices and support). Next, I need to visit with Chris Nulle to get his perspective on the degree to which the re-enactors (local and beyond) would be willing to share clips.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Exploring inverted pendulum control

In December, I wrote about finding a Mathemetica notebook that helped me start to understand the classic Inverted Pendulum problem as it relates to the Woodside-One-Wheelers learning to turn themselves into stable inverted pendulums.

With the release of Mathematic 8, Andrew Moylan, a Mathematica employee, has created blog presentations highlighting its new features. He has written Stabilized Inverted Pendulum and Stabilized n-link Pendulum. In the first article, he describes Mathematica's capacity in terms that make sense to me and perhaps to some of our ITeam members:
Using the new control systems features (one of several new application areas integrated into Mathematica 8), I’ve been experimenting with models of stabilized inverted pendulums. I’m no expert in control theory, but you’ll see that one doesn’t need to be.
I'm no expert in unicycling, physics, control theory, or any other arcane elements of this story but I don't need to be to appreciate and explore the connections. And, I suspect that our ITeam students don't need to be experts either to find some age-appropriate insight into something that catches their interest.

The Bowdoin Robotics Team came to Mt. Ararat Middle School last week and inspired several middle school students to think more about balancing on one foot (inverted pendulum with fixed base) to kick a soccer ball. Matt worked in ITeam meetings, CET, at home in the evening to install and start to learn Python because the Bowdoin Team uses it to control their robots!

Moylan include several video clips (generated with Mathematica) in order to illustrate the ideas he discusses. He also includes a link to the notebook that he created. Inside the notebook, he hints at even greater support for explorations by experts-in-training.
In the next article in this series, we'll derive pendulum-and-cart equations programmatically to make it easy to explore more general cases.
Samuel Chen commented on Moylan's post with this observation:
Simply amazing! One single post from Moylan covers the entire mechanics course from college!
The material on Sophia is organized by "learning packets," which are small, bite-sized tutorials focused around a specific learning objective, including thousands of standards-aligned objectives. Each packet includes a question and answer conversation, giving learners the benefit of learning from both the content itself as well as the supplementary discussion.
I'm finishing this post now so that I can go and explore Moylan's notebooks with the new Mathematica CDF player.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 and Creative Commons Licenses

A group of former leaders has created They have a community-based learning and teaching model with checks built in for academic quality. Compare it with with its roots in the not-for-profit Mozilla Foundation. encourages authors to use Creative Commons Licenses to encourage reuse and remixing. I don't understand their business model and can't find much about it on their site or in reviews. Here, I test the OpenAttribute tool to see how their licenses are represented:

Work found at /

It captures institutional information but not authors. Will that provide the necessary incentive to participate?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Harriet Beecher Stowe House- Photo

Wikipedia requests the help of local Wikipedians to help improve the quality of the article about the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Brunswick by providing a photo. Pablo Sanchez, a visitor to Brunswick, took this photo and shared it with the appropriate license but obscured part of the image with an inset of the cover of Uncle Tom's Cabin. I suspect that in this form it is not appropriate for Wikimedia Commons.

Harriet Beecher Stowe's house where Uncle Tom's Cabin was written (1852), Brunswick, Maine

While Wikipedia rates this article's importance as low, I suspect that the interest in the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War will increase interest in it. Where can we get or develop the person power to create work like this? ITeam, Capstone Projects, ... ?

Allie: Ambassador Actors and Bullying

Allie is using her work on the Ambassador Actors Project as the basis for her Capstone Project. For several years, the Ambassador Actors have used playback theater support anti-bullying and restorative justice work in our schools and communities. Seems like the Ambassador Actors have established some important precedents. MSNBC responded to President Obama's recent initiative to control bullying by producing a Dateline NBC show about Bullying:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Seems to me as if we have a reciprocal learning opportunity!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

OpenAttribute - Not at PicassaWeb

From SCSpaeth PicasaWeb

ITeam has been exploring ways to help ourselves, peers, teachers and others to understand issues of digital citizenship associated with Creative Commons and related licences and attribution. We have looked at site-specific tools at Wikimedia Commons and found them to work inconsistently. Flickr has a similar tool. Unfortunately, site-specific tools, add a burden for learning how to use multiple tools.

So, I was excited to learn recently that Mozillians have taken on the challenge of attribution and begun a Drumbeat project, OpenAttribute to improve attribution. The OpenAttribute Project is creating Firefox and Chrome extensions that intend to simplify and unify attribution. This approach might make it easier for ITeam members to encourage and support best practices for this aspect of digital citizenship.

Molly Kleinman writes about the development of the idea in her post Announcing Open Attribute:
Workshops and how-to guides and step by step flowcharts haven’t reduced the confusion, so we thought, “What if we can just create attributions automatically? Like the citation generators in academic databases? Click a button and you can have a properly formatted citation in MLA style, APA style, Chicago style. Technically, there is no reason why we couldn’t do a similar thing for attribution.”
So, I installed both the Firefox and Chrome OpenAttribute extensions and tested in a couple likely sites. I got mixed results from this software that is still under development. As I worked, I thought about Ari's post on the blog about using screencasts to help developers improve their software. He cites Dennis Daniel's substantial effort to give YouTube feedback to the project. Dave Humphrey at Seneca College in Toronto encourages his students to make real contributions to real projects. Could this be our contribution to Open Educational Resources?

It works for this Seamless Services? blog but the generated html can't be put in comments.
The comments tool rejects too much of the html.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Sensors and graphing to support STEM learning

Jan Mokros at the Maine Math and Science Alliance advocates use of charting real-time sensor data to help students develop understanding of charts as symbolic representations of physical phenomena. Unfortunately, at Mt. Ararat Middle School, our sets of probes and sensors are aging and replacements are expensive. So, I have been exploring alternatives that ITeam members could help to implement and in so doing learn and share their learning.

From bottom clockwise: Physical data board, the flex sensor, board application, laptop application and visual display.

Demonstration of visualizing physical computing. A bending sensitive sensor (Piezo) connects to an Arduino Uno input pin. The Arduino Sketch outputs the measured values of bending. The Processing Sketch reads the stream of inputs and changes the location of the dots. The visualization is one that came with the sample code. Its meaning is in demonstrating capacity of these tools for interesting work. I wonder whether the Scratch or html5 crews are up to creating more meaningful charts of displacement v. time.

Credits (Shared via Creative Commons or Public Domain Licences):

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Arduino Merit Badges

Todbot gave a class in using piezo elements to create drumset midi interfaces. He awarded students a merit badge:
Each student in my Spooky Arduino class was awarded one of these badges by Mark from Machine Project.

Arduino class merit badge

I wonder whether Emily or other ITeam members might be interested in work along these lines. Element 14 produced this similar project on the Make Project Site. It includes processing sketches to augment the interface. challenges- Chrome developer tools

I looked a little further into the problem of getting Modkit to program the Arduino. I used Google Chrome's Developer tools to look at the kinds of errors that might be causing the "error programming/compiling" messages. It seems as if several are XMLHttpRequests that cannot load. The Modkit/editor seems to be trying to get information from a local host server ( A localhost server is one that runs on the device on which the browser is running.

XMLHttpRequest cannot load Origin is not allowed by Access-Control-Allow-Origin.
sendFailed to load resource
receive:-1Resource interpreted as script but transferred with MIME type application/json.
XMLHttpRequest cannot load Origin is not allowed by Access-Control-Allow-Origin.
sendFailed to load resource
receive:-1Resource interpreted as script but transferred with MIME type application/json.
getStateNamesFailed to load resource: the server responded with a status of 404 (Not Found)
XMLHttpRequest cannot load Origin is not allowed by Access-Control-Allow-Origin.
registerEventFailed to load resource

For security and control, Apple and MLTI limit the use of MLTI machines as servers. I don't find anything in Modkit's rudimentary documentation (they say it is still under development) about requiring that the Modkit/editor has an active web-server. So, I guess we have to wait for updates and or more documentation at Modkit.

Neither Safari Webkit nor Firefox were any more successful in resolving the issue.

Update 2011-3-15: The latest releases seem to have resolved several of these challenges. I am able to read an analog input (potentiometer) and make the LEDs change in response to the changing input. I'm looking forward to being able to save and load code. These changes come from both improvements in the tools and improvements in my understanding of how to use them. Look for my contributions to the community of learners on the Modkit blog.

Friday, February 25, 2011


The Html5-based Modkit editor for Arduino, excited me because it seems like another gradual step for middle and high school students to learn important science, technology, math, arts and engineering. So far, we have elementary students starting Gamestar Mechanic and continuing with Scratch, or Alice; Modkit or AppInventor; and iOS SDK. They should be ready to start work on Java in high school with much better preparation.

I got an Arduino Uno (~$30 fully assembled and tested) to help evaluate the system over vacation. The Modkit team recently released a public beta associated with the publication of the latest version of Make Magazine. A comment from the Modkit team about the release of the public beta indicates that it should be possible to program other pins, too. But when I try to program it, I only get a "Programming device" followed by "error compiling" messages. Arduino literature says I should choose /dev/tty.usbmodemXXX but I see /dev/cu.usbmodem621. Could that be the problem?

So, I decided to wade into using Arduino programming tools directly. That seemed to me to be a less than optimal solution for students but it would allow me to troubleshoot the failure transfer and run simple programs. I hesitated because I don't have time to learn another language. But I discovered that Arduino developers have created an environment that reminds me of the early days of learning how to code html pages: examine and copy source, modify to get the desired result, and share. When I open the Arduino monitor, it says that it is using /dev/tty.usbmodem621. Could that be the reason it works for Arduino and not for Modkit?

In any event, I suspect that the MAMS ITeam html5 group can easily work at this level. Then when we figure out how to use the Modkit, then the more experienced users can help the new users to get started.


Analog Input
Demonstrates analog input by reading an analog sensor on analog pin 0 and
turning on and off a light emitting diode(LED) connected to digital pin 13.
The amount of time the LED will be on and off depends on
the value obtained by analogRead().

The circuit:
* Potentiometer attached to analog input 0
* center pin of the potentiometer to the analog pin
* one side pin (either one) to ground
* the other side pin to +5V
* LED anode (long leg) attached to digital output 11
* LED cathode (short leg) attached to 110 ohm resistor to ground

* Note: I use the Uno Arduino's built-in LED attached
to pin 13 on the board, as the second LED.

Created by David Cuartielles
Modified 4 Sep 2010
By Tom Igoe
Modified 28 Feb 2011
By SC Spaeth

This example code is in the public domain.



int sensorPin = A0; // select the input pin for the potentiometer
int ledPin13 = 13; // select the pin for the LED
int ledPin11 = 11;
int sensorValue = 0; // variable to store the value coming from the sensor

void setup() {
// declare the ledPin as an OUTPUT:
pinMode(ledPin13, OUTPUT);
pinMode(ledPin11, OUTPUT);
// open the serial port at 9600 bps:

void loop() {
// read the value from the sensor:
sensorValue = analogRead(sensorPin);
// print the value from the sensor:
// turn the ledPin on
digitalWrite(ledPin13, HIGH);
digitalWrite(ledPin11, LOW);
// stop the program for <sensorValue> milliseconds:
// turn the ledPin off:
digitalWrite(ledPin13, LOW);
digitalWrite(ledPin11, HIGH);
// stop the program for for <analogInMax - sensorValue> milliseconds:
delay(1023 - sensorValue);
Now I see a small flaw in this system where the html transfer converts the 'less than' and 'greater than' brackets of the html into ampersands and code in the last few lines. It does however show up in the rendered blog page as written in on the Arduino resource page. That can be fixed with an adjustment to documentation style. Not bad for a few hours of tinkering!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Robotics at MTA and MAMS

Dr. King announced new course offerings in a post on his blog that included an elective on Robotics. This slightly more detailed description from the Program of Studies document provides details about the tools they plan to use. I'd also like to know who is developing the course and planning to teach it.
Prerequisite: Science I
½ Credit;
Recommended level: 10-12
Robotics is the science and technology of the design, manufacture and application of robots in various applications, including space exploration, surgery and everyday living. In this course, students take on the roles of mechanical engineers, computer scientists and electrical engineers. Students research dynamics, kinematics and sensors. Subjects such as motion planning and obstacle avoidance, and velocity and acceleration are covered. Students put the knowledge into practice through lab settings where robots are created with teams. Students will have the opportunity to use VEXX robotics and/or Lego Mindstorm. COURSE #1490
I hope this will get students started in projects that will turn into exciting Capstone Projects. I know some middle school students who are ready to start pre-capstone work.

James Smallwood, a Mt. Ararat alum who owns a small IT business hints at the opportunities for our students:
I grew up in Topsham, Maine and attended Mt.Ararat for a few years and if I had a learning tool such as a robot while I was being taught computers basics in 7th grade, there's no doubt in my mind that learning would've been a lot less complicated and much more interesting.

Another ITeam logo?

Coby spontaneously created a logo for ITeam and then updated it with a revised version. I have been exploring the possibility of helping students to create a participatory logo. AdaFruit's MiniPOV kits seem like an exciting possibility.

Zach Rattner, an undergraduate student at Virginia Tech got aMiniPOV device. He had some time on his hands and some expertise in Javascript, CSS and Html so he created a web-based program that helps people write the code to display messages and images on the MiniPOV devices.

I used his tool to create a draft of another logo for MAMS ITeam. I didn't have enough room for MAMS-ITeam so I used the next best option (ITeam [MSAD]75) that fit within Ratter's scheme. I suspect that ITeam members could find ways to improve the logo. In doing so, they would learn more about digital representation and images, e. g., in the grey area below the controls, you can see the binary codes that his program generated. He opens the code to inspection so it might be possible for ITeam students to modify the Javascript code and get something that works even better for us. The wonders of an open-culture!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Share the road

During winter break, I have been exploring resources to support customization of learning. I found excellent tutorial resources at AdaFruit for a variety of low-cost projects. On one of their tutorial pages for their SpokePOV devices, they included links to documentary photos that people had shared. This one intersects with one of my other interests:

SpokePOV Share the Road
Photo license: Sparr0 - Attribution, Share Alike

This project depends on interesting biological and mathematical concepts. Does work on projects like this transfer to better understanding of important learning outcomes? Could we use bikes as mobile billboards to generate support for the Topsham-Brunswick Trails Project and other regional trail projects: Merrymeeting Trail?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Making stuff smarter- Invisibility cloaks

When this show aired on our local station, I wanted students to see parts of it to compare with our work on MAMS ITeam. I hope that it will show the connection between our activities in ITeam and activities in places outside of school.

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA.

Here, I am testing to see whether it is possible to deep link into the content of strongest connection so that it will draw them in to watch more. Yes, the embed code contains an easily identifiable parameter 'chapter=n' that can be changed (in two places) in order to start the video at the beginning of a section. This strategy is not as precise as deep linking to time-code values but it embeds easily and provides context for what the viewer will see. This illustrates another service that the ITeam Html crew can learn and share.

Developing a culture for Capstone

In our meeting this morning, the Capstone crew reflected on the Capstone Celebration meeting. They appreciated Mr. Ottow's presentation the most because he spoke directly to them. I asked them if they were willing to have me post the clips of their presentations on the Capstone Facebook site. They accepted. I also told them about the response from the School Board that I described in this post and sharing with MAMS ITeam members.

They generally reacted negatively to the idea that principles of Capstone should be extended earlier in high school and to the middle school and beyond. Zach said that while it is great to have more choice in the selection of projects, it still is yet another thing to do and a source of stress for students. Others nodded in agreement. We discussed the issue of whether Capstone will substitute for other graduation requirements. They seem to be waiting for an authoritative answer to this issue rather than seeing the opportunity they have to help influence design.

I told them explicitly that I am writing about our process as part of my contribution to the development of Capstone. I think they were surprised to hear me reflect on their contributions to the discussion. Dan backed off a little on his position regarding time logs. He explained how he had used them extensively in learning to play piano but now doesn't need logging. Allie reiterated her position on design for each student. Since this is consistent with mass customization of learning, it seems like we should try to find a solution to this challenge.

Simulations and Games for STEM

The National Academy Press recently released this review of and plan for research on the use of simulations and games for enhancing the learning of science, technology, engineering and math.

I tried to use the NetLogo simulation of Ants ( ) to help MAMS ITeam members understand our need for more structure and feedback on their work. We had some challenges in getting the right version of NetLogo (the MLTI image contains regular, hubnet, and 3-D versions that students found). The tool did not engage them in the way that I had hoped despite my effort to connect it with an authentic challenge we face together. But maybe it is my challenge rather than one they perceive to be their challenge, too.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Discussing the Plan & Prospects for Capstone

The Capstone Committee met all Fall with the goal of presenting first to the MTA faculty and then to the M.S.A.D. No. 75 School board. Members of the Committee, including student and parent representatives, presented the plan for Board consideration. Members of the Board took the opportunity to give preliminary feedback about the plan. One board member wanted to make sure that students who might not be ready to speak to large audiences would find some accommodation.

Claudette Brassil pointed out that students' access to individual laptops has made it possible for student to find alternatives to rhetorical skill. She says that students can prepare presentations, or videos or other ways to give evidence of their learning.

Board member Kim Totten cautioned against too much reliance on technology as a crutch. She cited the parallels between Capstone Projects and Eagle Scout Projects. She noted that the scouting program helps students to prepare for the presentations of Eagle Projects over an extended period of time, "they are earning all their merit badges to build toward doing their final projects." Several of the merit badges a scout completes (including communication) prepare scout candidates for the presentation. She favors a good measure of face-to-face presentation skills.

Scott McKernan observed,
"That it is really encouraging to see how all the various components and philosophies behind the Capstone Project really mirror all of the 21st Century Learning Skills ... that we, from day-one, were trying to incorporate as part of the Comprehensive Strategic Planning Committee. It is really encouraging to see that and I am really eager to see how these Capstone Projects turn out especially as they roll out to an entire class. ... It will be really encouraging in five to ten years down the pike to see some applications of those concepts rolling down into the middle school and possibly further. With the proving ground being this program."
Craig King elaborated by saying how difficult it is to lift such a project the first year but that eventually it can become a part of the culture of the school. Kids anticipate homecoming and proms, they anticipate AP exams. He hopes they will learn to anticipate Capstone Projects.

Dr. King elaborated further on the theme by pointing out that the design includes having students see presentations of older students so that a culture of anticipation develops. I have advocated an even stronger form of building awareness and anticipation. Scouts developing their Eagle projects actively recruit younger scouts to help with the implementation. Younger scouts develop insights into what it takes to create a successful capstone for their scouting experiences than they would just by listening to presentations. We can learn more from the scout model.

I hope we don't have to wait five to ten years to develop that kind of culture of anticipation. Part of my design for the work of ITeam at the middle school is to establish that culture of anticipation now. We have students who have already started work on their precapstone projects!

I recorded parts of this discussion and used the recording to reconstruct the record here. I tried to upload it as part of the evidence for this post but the Blogger software only gave a spinning wheel of perpetual processing. It may not accept the .amr file type that audio recording app in my phone produces.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Feedback on Draft Capstone Proposal Template

I created a document, MTA Capstone Proposal, to copy and share with individual students for them to have a framework for proposal preparation. Shared the request for feedback via email message to the Capstone Pilot Facebook Group and directly to other students who choose not to use Facebook accounts. Dan said that it looked okay to him but asked when they are 'due' and turned to the group for their opinions. Others nodded and no one objected to the goal of producing a draft immediately after returning from winter break.

We used the remaining time to meet with students individually for updates on their progress. Several students (Nick, Michelle, Haley) are a little frustrated by the lack of responses to their email queries and form submissions to potential mentors or volunteer coordinators. Michelle wants to help resolve this challenge by studying local volunteer opportunities. I told her about starting that process with the Topsham Library last week and that an expansion of that effort would be a great service to peers and the community.

When I copied the Proposal 'template,' I seem to have lost Sinjin's Capstone Logo. It seems as if it should copy over to the individual copies but I'll need to confirm that in subsequent distributions.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Reactions to Time Logs

The Capstone Committee has requested that students keep both a time log and a reflective journal of Capstone process. When I told students about it today, some were outraged. One thought that it made more sense to do rather than keep tedious records of time. Alex said that he understood the motivation to have some kind of record of activity but that differences among projects mean that no one solution would work for everyone. Allie reminded us that the whole point of this is for students to take responsibility.

Can we use a default plan, keep either a time log or a reflective journal or some combination of the two? If participants think that does not work for them, then they are responsible for describing and developing a solution that meets their needs and advisors.

Inspect Sidewiki

Nils started to develop this course course for P2PU in the School of Web Development. He opened the challenge of creating an assessment extension to a nascent community of practice. He describes collaborating by difference.
He refers to a mockup of the assessment tool using Google's Sidewiki. I learned that the code for Google's extentions to Chrome are open for inpection so that it might be easier to morph Sidewiki into an assessment engine than it would be to create one in Firefox.

in reference to:

"We've expanded the idea to "Peer Review the Web" a means for learners to solicit feedback on any webpage. We made a couple mockups for a competition (one uses Google Sidewiki), and are offering this course to co-learn about creating extensions and in particular our application."
- Creating a Firefox Extension | p2pu (view on Google Sidewiki)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jameson Presents His Perspective on Capstone to MTA Faculty

Jameson Bryant and Brooke Smith, juniors at Mt. Ararat High School, have served on the MTA Capstone Committee and provided students' perspective on the design and development of the Capstone Project. Jameson helped present the plan to the MTA faculty during part of a Professional Development day at the end of January. Brooke helped present the plan to the School Board at one of its regular, televised meetings.


In this clip, Jameson describes and reflects on his service on the committee. I hope this is a sign of the culture we develop!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Capstone Pilot: getting the idea of design with students

If we really want students to take ownership of some portion of their learning, then it is essential that we encourage them to take part in the design of that experience. I'm hoping that the Pilot can include a significant amount of design-with rather than just design-for the participants.

Some of the students in our meeting this morning recognized that this is a real opportunity for them. For example, Dan recognized that if the Capstone Committee's documents are still a draft, then the members of the Pilot Project still have an opportunity to influence the design. He wanted to make sure that decisions of the Committee don't get formalized in ways that limit the kinds of project students can choose.

Student also reiterated their desire to be able to use the AST portion of the block schedule for its intended purpose. They have worked out systems to get the assistance that they want and need and don't have good alternatives other than the scheduled Advisory time. I met with Craig, Josh, and Claudette and we agreed to reassign students for both AST and Advisory. So, the Capstone Pilot will not face-off against academic support. Phew!

Capstone Pilot Documentation Dev.

The Capstone Pilot seeks to help develop and share Mt. Ararat High School's approach to capstone projects. Future students will be able to create better capstones if they can see some examples of strong capstone projects. The more we can document both the process and the final presentations, the better will will understand what we need to support all students to be able to learn from their capstone projects.

For example, you gave mini presentations for the video clips. Some describe closely what you plan to do while others indicate that you are still developing your ideas. We appreciate your willingness share developing ideas because that is part of the process. Your work is an important part of developing our understanding of MTA's Capstone!

The Capstone Committee has developed some resources to support Capstone projects and shared those at: . The document is a draft that will improve with your testing and suggestions for improvement. We also need places to develop and share our perspectives. Where would work best for you?

The link to the MTA Capstone 11 site listed above gives this summary of our next steps.

II. Guidelines

A. Each participant will draft a written proposal that addresses the following:

  1. Area of interest
  2. Extent and description of work
  3. Potential community partner(s)
  4. Specific timeline
  5. Goals ( connected to the four standards of the mission statement)

What progress are you making on this part of the Pilot?

The linked document also specifies that we use a shared spreadsheet in order to explore how to manage record keeping:

Time Log of Work:

I. Entered via a Google Spreadsheet which is shared to the school facilitator. This would help school facilitators to easily organize and manage the large amount of information.

This link to a Google form is one approach to collecting these logs. Alternatively each student can get a copy and manage an individual list.

Public version for students who choose not to use social media and others who may be interested in our development process.