Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Easy Offline Lesson Plans

My lesson was on search engines, but the Internet was down. Learn how to have great offline backup plans.

So I had a room full of fifth grade students with a lesson plan on search engines. We were going to compare search results from different engines. We were going to learn how to refine our searches. We were not going anywhere because the Internet connection had gone down.

So I quickly checked with the librarian and moved my lesson offline. We selected books from the reference cart: dictionaries, atlases, encyclopedias and records books. I then gave students the same search queries from the lesson. We still compared results and discussed why some sources provided better results. We even contemplated if other libraries would have better selections or unique resources.

The trick to any offline lesson plan is understanding what concepts digital tools are built upon. Digital search is still the search for and analysis of information. For centuries, people have dug through catalogs of information in analog format. If students can perform the task analog, then transfer the concept to a digital platform, they will have a better understanding of the process.

So the next time the Internet goes down, don't panic. Demonstrate to students it isn't the electronic tool that impacts the quality of the work, but the skill of the person wielding the tool.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Planning and Prepping to Paint

The new muffler arrived this week and I'm prepping it for installation #VWBug

The old muffler rusted through in places and one of the tailpipes fell off somewhere along the way. A replacement kit arrived from California this week. The vendor recommends removing the factory paint and refinishing the muffler with a heat resistant paint.

As you can see in the photo, I started removing the paint with a drill grinder and sand paper. While effective, I think it will take too long and it will be difficult for me to remove the paint in the joints. So I went to the hardware store and picked up a can of indoor rated paint remover and latex gloves.

It's important to read (and follow) the directions on any chemical product, especially something that is eating away a finish. I've sprayed the remover onto one end of the muffler and will wait to see how long it takes before the paint is ready to come off. Once the test area proves successful, I'll move on to the rest of the muffler.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Create A Custom Mobile Experience with Microsoft PowerApps

I recently dabbled with Microsoft PowerApps, creating a custom mobile experience for my own data collection process. PowerApps comes packaged with our Office 365 tenant so there was no additional cost. Overall it was fairly straightforward and easy to get up and running quickly.

Like so many things, the actual interface was quick to construct, most of it pulling from templates. Where most people will struggle is in the construction of the data management tools behind the app. I already had a working Excel spreadsheet for collecting data so that part was already done.

PowerApps quickly pulled together a mobile experience where I could sort, filter and search through spreadsheet data. I can also create additional lines in the spreadsheet using mobile form fields. I liked being able to make two separate apps for different sheets in the same workbook, helping to keep my data organized.

Now I already had the same Excel spreadsheet pinned to the home screen of my Android phone. So the PowerApp did not provide any additional functionality, but the form based fields are much easier to use on a phone than the native spreadsheet mechanisms in the mobile Excel app.

If you have access to Microsoft PowerApps and use your mobile device frequently, I highly recommend exploring the possibilities of streamlining data collection and documentation through custom apps. To learn more or to get started, check out Microsoft's Introduction to PowerApps tutorial.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Book Review: The Crossover

The Crossover The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Crossover uses the rhythm of rap and the visual expression of poetry to tell the story of twin middle school brothers. Their father played professional basketball and while his sons show similar promise on the court, the boys struggle to reconcile other interests.

While the crossover is the family's signature move on the court, the concept carries haunting implications in their lives of the court. Told from the single perspective of one of the twins, the story has passion, depth and heartfelt anguish typical of almost every middle school student.

I liked the way the entire book was written as poetry or lyrics. Each chapter filled only a page or two so it was quick to read. However, while the pace flowed quick like a fast break, the content and meaning was rich and thick. Several times I had to go back and catch the subtle inferences from the previous chapter that blossomed with fuller meaning in the next.

I recommend this book for middle school and up, especially those who might not enjoy poetry. The language can be a bit rough, more indicative of rap and sports smack talk bravado. Underneath is a tenderness and heart for family.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Book Review: Nimona

Nimona Nimona is an enjoyable quick read. Because its origins as a web comic, the overall pace and plot development reminded me of reading serial comics like Alley Oop every day in the newspaper. There are a handful of expletives sprinkled throughout and a couple sexual innuendos which places this graphic novel into the high school category for me.

Nimona's backstory has elements of The Highlander, Dr Who's Ashildr and a few other ancient myths. The modern mix of science, magic, and heraldry gives this tale of friendship a quirky backdrop for familiar themes of morality, prejudice and forgiveness. Noelle's artwork is charming and focused on story development of superfluous details.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

60 Degree Designs with SketchUp

This weekend I used SketchUp to design plans for a three sided, rotating stage scene device called a periaktos. The picture does not include the foam board panels that would be painted and cover the framing.

SketchUp is a great tool for detailed design work. It takes a little practice and non-linear thinking to piece it together. In fact, I prefer to draw the pieces as they would be cut, then convert them to components so they are less likely to become distorted.

This particular design required several "cuts" at 60 degrees so the protractor tool got quite the workout. I also imported two warehouse components, the 5 gal bucket, and the castors - no need to literally reinvent the wheel.

If anyone has experience building a periaktos, please let me know what challenges you faced. I believe this design meets all the requirements but I sometimes wonder what problems I have yet to discover. I have separate designs for lumber cuts and construction of each flat frame.