Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What is Arduino?

I've come across the Arduino in several of the blogs and websites I frequent. The makers of the Arduino (based in Italy), describe it as:

"an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software...Arduino can sense the environment by receiving input from a variety of sensors and can affect its surroundings by controlling lights, motors, and other actuators."

Intrigued? You can buy an assembled Arduino for as little as $30 and the various buttons, sensors, and LEDs that make your Arduino come to life can also be had for very little money. I finally purchased an Arduino kit from www.adafruit.com. I've spent the last week playing around with my Arduino, learning how to wire LEDs, buttons, and sensors to the Arduino, and programming it to respond to various stimuli. The Arduino site also has a thriving community of users, many of whom were VERY obliging in helping me work through any obstacles I encountered as I played with the Arduino.

So far I have created 2 Arduino-based items: a globe that looks a lot like a crystal ball and a button that resets my home-made Flash Lost Countdown site. I have posted videos of both below. Enjoy.

The Arduino definitely has a lot of potential to be used as a learning tool. Between its low cost, flexibility, and easy to learn programming environment, I can see it being implemented from middle school level and up.

More as it develops...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

2008 Greatest Hits...

Where did the time go? As the year draws to close, it seems only appropriate to look back at the year that was 2008 and ahead to the potential of 2009. What follows is a list of the accomplishments (tech related, at least) that I am most proud of from the last year.

  1. Flash Jeopardy Review Game -Of everything on the list, this has definitely garnered the most attention. By far. This program has gone from a personal goal of mine, to a buggy program posted online for anyone interested, to its current status of over 4,000 user created games and counting. The response to this game has been amazing! Keep that feedback coming!

  2. Who Wants to be a Millionaire Flash Game - Building off of the success of the Jeopardy game, I thought I would try my hand at a similarly customizable Flash version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Although it isn't quite as "group friendly" as the Jeopardy game, I am pretty proud of the way the game came out. It makes a nice way for teachers (or anyone for that matter) to make a review game, then share the link with students to allow them to review on their own.

  3. 2008 Mock Election -My first Mock Election (2004) was a huge success. We invited all of the students in my K-8 school to come and vote for the next President. In 2008, we had another pair of Presidential candidates. However, this time around, we had a lot of new technology to help the process. Students who came to vote this year were treated to a touch-screen voting machine. When the day was done and the smoke had cleared, the machines immediately gave us our winner. This is not a political blog, so I will spare you, the reader, and commentary, but I can tell you the students predicted the national winner this time. As we voted, we used the Textmarks service to submit votes by class, and the results were updated live in the www.mockelection.us website throughout the day. We even made the front page of the Star-Ledger!

  4. Lost Counter - This one was something of a personal obsession. This page has been my php training camp. I learned how to do so many things while getting this to work the way I wanted it to. A php script keeps track of the time that the clock is set to end. When you access the page, a flash file pulls the end time from php and subtracts it from the current time. If the end time has not been reached, it will display the time left. If the time remaining is less than 4 minutes, users can send a text message (again through Textmarks) to the site. Within 5 seconds, the timer is reset.

  5. GPS Phone Tracker -This was created for a course I was taking. I purchased a GPS phone from Mologogo. I was able to tweak the phone so that it will send my position to a Microsoft Live Satellite Map (only when the phone is on).

  6. Random Fact Desk -This is a Flash file I made for use in my classroom. It displays random facts and tivia in my handwriting. Useful if we are taking a quiz, so students who finish early have something to read.

  7. ClassroomUpdate.com -- My super simple teacher website platform has been a big hit at my school. This year I hope to offer the service to other schools.

  8. Joining the Cult of Mac -I finally broke down and bought a Mac last January. It seemed a crime for me to continue to completely overlook and ignore Mac hardware and software. After a year of getting to know the Mac OS and what it can do, I can't believe I waited this long. The machine is great, the operating system is very smooth, and the people at the Mac store are probably the most efficient and friendly bunch I have ever met.
    **Plus now I can really laugh at those Mac vs. PC commercials.**
I've learned a lot this year. The exciting this is that every time I learn something new, I have 5 more questions about how I can take it further. There are so many things I cannot wait to learn and try in and out of the classroom in the year ahead.

It would be great to hear your reflections from the past year.
What are you most proud of from the past year?
What was the most exciting technology of 2008?
What do you think will make the biggest splash in educational technology for the year ahead?