Texting to an iPod Touch

On Mon, Apr 11, 2011 at 2:28 PM, Matthew wrote:

Could you easily get me more information on how to set up a way for kids to text my iPod?  I'd love to get that up and running before we start the projects.

Three options with comment:
  • Google Voice - A lot of really cool features but I had to wait for a number (a couple of weeks at the time) and the iPod touch interface is Google (in other words very practical).
  • TextNow - Awesome iPod Touch interface but costs money to get a number. Kids have to text to an email address (something like mrfalk@textnow.me) instead of a number. They will not like this and not all cell plans support it (notable Net10, a common carrier for kids whose parents do not pay the bills).
  • TextFree with Voice - iPod Touch interface is as good as TextNow, but no iPad interface so it is clunky if you ever get an iPad. Numbers are free although there were not any local numbers when I signed up. Instead mine is a Traverse City number. Free incoming voice calls to your iPod Touch on the number you get which allows kids to call if they need to. If calls are short this works great.
For just trying everything out and making it go smoothly and because you will probably not get an iPad in the next month and a half I would definitely recommend Text Free with Voice.

Matt knows that I tell students in my class to go where they need to to get their work done, but they have to text before they go. Even teachers who do not want to give our their cell number can do this. I tell students my TextFree number and they text me three things in this order.

  1. The name of the student texting
  2. The group members with the students who texted.
  3. The on campus location where they are going to be working.
I then have a handy pocket list of where every student is when we are doing any ind of work that requires being out of the room. About the third day of using this system the principal wanted someone and I looked down at my iPod and in five seconds told him where the student was. The student was right where the text said and everyone was happy.

iPad 2 Review: The New Glass Rocks

I was already convinced that the iPad could be used for writing. Many people will not use it for more than a minute and they call it dead, but I watch students text and think if you can write sentences that quick on a phone you could easily write paragraphs on a iPad. The screen of the iPad 2 is so much better for typing. It has a little give to it which makes it stronger, thinner and lighter. What I had not heard anyone say is how much this would improve the feel of typing. It is spring break and I had a chance to fly with the iPad 2 yesterday. I wrote several pages of notes on it yesterday and hardly noticed I had been typing on glass. It was also much quieter compared to the original. This is the first time my 6'3" frame has been productive on plane flight ever. Simply: it is the travel productivity tool.

Breakfast Before Spring Break

This morning was the last two class periods before spring break. I had assigned a one minute video project on either producing energy for or consuming energy in a house. Today we were to watch the presentations. I got the question already last week, "what if I am gone Wednesday?" The answer: email your video to the class blog and we will watch it without you.

Because of crazy imbalances in the schedule I have one small section with a high number of early vacationers. The seven of us decided to do our presentation sitting around a table at Jackie's Place. We were having a great conversation about energy and our environmental responsibilities when an older couple from the booth next to our tables came up to us. They asked if we were a school or church group. They smiled. And they picked up the tab.

On the way out one of my juniors went to the clerk and gave her five bucks. My student looked her in the eye and said, "put it on the next person's tab." She smiled at me and said, "pay it forward."

I hope you all have (or had) a great spring break.

Video A Problem Being Solved

We had a visit a month and a half ago from Jim Maltas who teaches at the University of Northern Iowa lab school. He showed us a classroom that his team wired with microphones, video cameras, a teacher and math students. We watch the videos and learned from them. It was time well spent on a professional development day.

I wondered to myself if I would gain some insight into my students if I videoed them. Here is what I did.
  1. I taught a new mathematical model in a pretty traditional way.
  2. I gave some simpler example problems.
  3. When it came time to give a problem that put it all together I had the students video their groups solving the problems. 
Here is a link to one of the videos. For the good conversation watch from 0:50 to 2:00. I love that they are arguing about efficiency and referring to their notes to solve the dispute.

Here are some things I did right.
  1. I told them I would not help during the videos, I wanted the conversations, no the right answers.
  2. If you were holding the pen you could not talk.
  3. I did not watch all the videos. I wandered the room listening to the conversations and noted the moments that highlighted missteps I normally would have warned about in a lecture.
  4. The next day I showed just a minute from two videos where groups argued and overcame the common misconceptions on the problem.
Here are some things I did wrong.
  1. I had them use Photo Booth to make the videos. Using the built in Quicktime recorder flips the video so you can read the problems.
  2. I should have had them write the problem on the board or flip chart paper.
  3. A couple of the groups did a Camtasia recording of the process and did the problem in Skitch. I liked this, but I wish they had turned on the camera in Camtasia so we could have seen the group too.
How would you use this strategy? I think it has benefits different from a flipped classroom and it can be used later as professional development. Hope you like the idea, and I would love to know if you have ideas to extend it.

Home Energy Assignment

I have tried a lot of activities over the years to relate the energy in physics class to the energy in homes. Here is this years attempt. What do you think? What do you do? Much credit goes to the two references, which both are go to sites when I am making new experiences. I give this type of assignment in a forum so that students can see every idea that others came up with.

Energy is interchangeable. So what is the relationship between kilowatt hours on an bill and the Joules we measure in class? 

Read this discussion, which will be a lot of review and then study the example problems at the bottom. Use the information you learned there to answer one of the following questions. There needs to be a mathematical component to your analysis. I have a device you may borrow to measure the watts of anything that plugs into a wall, but most stuff is labeled so you should not need it. For example I just walked over to my microwave, looked at its model number and typed, "GE JES1036PWH03 watts" into Google to find out 1100 watts.
  1. Does it cost more to bake a potato in your home's microwave or conventional (the one under the stove) oven?
  2. What time of the day does your family use the most amount of electrical energy? Explain why, using appliances and the wattages to prove your point.
  3. How much difference in cost is there between playing your favorite video game for two hours or your favorite way to watch a two-hour movie?
  4. What costs more to operate during the eight hours you sleep, your alarm clock or a night light? How much does each cost?
  5. How long can you charge your iPod or cellphone for a dollar?

Two Dozen Reasons Your School Should Buy You An iPad 2 In One Feature: The Camera

Reviews about the iPad 2 have said that it is not much of an upgrade. For education this is not the case. Cameras are another input tool, and as soon as you can take more into a computer you can create more with it. Schools need devices with cameras. This week I am presenting at the annual MACUL conference in Detroit. One of my sessions is called, "So Your Laptop Has A Webcam, Now What?" I am excited to show the people at MACUL how webcams have totally changed the opportunities for learning in our school. Hopefully you can use the information to convince your school to give an iPad 2 a whirl. See you in D3-22/23 at 8:30 on Friday morning.

Bots For Cows

This week our school is raising Money for Heifer International. I am not sure how this goes in other schools but when student council has a fundraiser for an organization you collect money in your first hour class and turn that money in at the end of the week. Then the student council takes the dollars raised by your class and divides by the number of students and that first hour class gets breakfast. In seventeen years of teaching my first hour class has never won. The main reason for that is that for about ten years the idea of competition for fund raising repulsed me. I am less hoity toity now, so game on.

When we got the email about the fund raiser I forwarded it to my students with an email saying, we are going to win this. I had no plan. I Wednesday I asked the Holy Spirit into our class here is the result.

Right now we are building simple bots in class. This is inquiry for our DC Circuit unit. As I have been trying standards based grading this year I have looked for ways for students to totally control demonstrations of learning. So the simple bot project has them build a bot, and demonstrate with modifications to the bot any standards that they feel they know but have not gotten credit for. I like quite a bit how this final challenge of a unit has works out.

Wednesday when I looked around and asked the students how we could fund raise, the conversation led to auctioning off our bots to buy cows for people that need them. Here is the very quick Google site that my students put together to show off what they have learned and what their bots can do. Watch the movies, there is at least one funny one. Suggested donation is $100. If you want to give more or less add a comment to the page and I or a student will contact you. The bots are in some sense worth $3. But the learning and excitement in first hour has been priceless. It has been some of the funnest conversations of the year. And the worst thing that could happen is my kids have been excited about the donating and have given deeply out of their own pockets.