Monday, August 31, 2009

First Website

Had a great last hour today. Introduced HTML to the web design class, mostly so they understand there is much more going on behind Dreamweaver later. It was priceless when one student exclaimed how cool it was to create their first "web site" from a few lines in Notepad.
Of course they wanted to go from paragraph marks to color and pictures, but we'll get there. I just love those "Oh, I get it" kinda moments.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Daydreaming About Clouds

Wednesday was day one of teacher orientation. I hear that public schools MAYBE get one day of orientation but for us it's usually half a week or more.
The morning was spent hearing PowerPoint bullets read to us (a pet peeve of mine) but the content was meritorious. References were made to Friedman's book The World is Flat with several implications being drawn for education. Sometimes I feel like the bad boy in the room, bearing the brunt of tech blame for social changes. I usually like that feeling.
As I listened though, one thought kept coming to mind: The world ISN'T flat. It's cloud shaped. I think the playing field has not been leveled, it's been obliterated. There is no bottom up or top down, only fringe and mass. Then my next thought was school of fish or flocks of birds. That's what tech has done for society (and on a smaller scale education). The risk takers are on the edges, pushing us in new directions but always the most vulnerable to be eaten, while the majority stick together and follow the crowd.
So what do you think? How would you diagram our global technology and where kids' education fits into it? Can we fashion students who will "come out on top" if there is no top and bottom?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Back in a Flash

I was just directed to a pretty cool beta site that allows users to create flash games with no programming experience. PlayCrafter has an entire library of game pieces but also allows you to create your own.
Another cool aspect is the online community. Gaming is really a social event and the instant chat helps provide a large test base of collaborators to review your work. And with over 30,000 games already crafted, there are plenty of time wasters just waiting for you.
Already I can think of several ways to use the site in the same methodology as Scratch and Gamemaker.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Friend Deploys to Afghanistan

Here's a video from the news last night. Please keep Jeff and Rachel in your prayers. Jeff has always been a great help with the AWANA Grand Prix and is a fellow techie.

Monday, August 3, 2009

One Tank Getaway

Reading maps, telling time, calculating distance traveled, and fire safety - who knew so much education could happen in one trip to the beach!

The kids and I just returned from a one day/ one tank of gas mini-vacation to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Every summer we try to take at least one day and visit Lake Michigan.
My wife's favorite spot is Washington Park in Michigan City, but I suspect it's really the nearby outlet mall that attracts her. Another family favorite is the nearby State Park where the youngest and I went camping one summer. But this year I decided to try a new spot.

View Larger Map
West Beach is part of the national park system and though smaller than the state park beach it was still a very nice facility. Most of the park is open and free to traffic but there is a gatehouse at the entrance to West Beach. We paid $6 for the carload. They did warn that the park closed at dusk and cars left unattended would be towed. The national park's campground is several miles away and removed from the beach.

Indiana Dunes Succession Trail MapOne really nice feature was the stairs up the dunes on the Succession Trail which we hiked. Later on my kids wanted to blaze their own trail over the dunes, merely for the excuse of rolling down the steep inclines.

The beach did have lifeguards who frequently whistled at swimmers who wandered out too far. But they are only employed during the summer so swimming is at your own risk. Rip tides are also a possibility.

Another really cool thing we discovered is the Junior Ranger program. First we stopped by the Visitor Center located right of Highway 49. Several rangers were available and eager to help us, providing several different booklets for each kid. Because most of our day was spent enjoying the beach, the kids opted for the fire safety booklet. It was also the easiest to complete since it didn't require any travel to one of the educational centers.Junior Firefighter Indiana Dunes Patch

On our way home, we stopped back by the office where a ranger reviewed their answers and awarded each them with a patch. The patch is a full 4" tall and reads Junior Firefighter, NPS Wildland, Indiana Dunes. The kids thought the little squirrel was funny with his tail on fire.

My 8 year old daughter was especially excited to get the patch. She said she was just like a friend of hers who was in Girl Scouts. We plan to continue collecting patches and badges from many more national parks and are trying to figure out the best way to showcase them.

One final idea that really seemed to work well was giving each kid their own state map. I showed them how to read the mile marker/exit numbers and showed the route we'd be taking. Then every time one asked "are we there yet" I just referred them back to the map. Eventually they quit asking, either out of depression or because they could find the answer out for themselves.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Trip Planning or Dreaming?

View Big Trip Out West in a larger map
We're starting to talk about taking a big trip to see the West before the kids get too surly (as teenagers) and here's a preliminary route. I'd like to stay a couple days at the major stops and not feel rushed in between. Please weigh in with any suggestions of sites to see or places to visit.

Here are the major stopping spots:
  1. Start at the Gateway to the West (St. Louis Arch) and roughly follow Lewis and Clark's route to the north.
  2. Visit family in Omaha, Nebraska
  3. Yellowstone National Park, WY - need to spend a couple days here
  4. Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
  5. Visit family in Bakersfield, CA
  6. Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge, Arizona
  7. Visit friends in Colorado Springs, Colorado
Possible minor stops along the way:
  1. Arches National Park, Utah
  2. The Badlands, South Dakota
  3. Laura Wilder's homes in Kansas and Missouri
  4. Seattle's Space Needle
Any other MUST SEE places? This is still just talk and money hasn't entered the conversation yet so it's still fun =)

Gen Con Day for Educators

I just discovered that there is an educators' day at Gen Con! Only problem is I've heard rumors that we'll have teacher training that week. How can I convince administration that gaming in the classroom is a better value? Hmm. Here are the details from the website:

For Educators, Librarians, and Hobby Retailers Trade Day 2009 will be held from 12-6 p.m. on Wednesday August 12th

For the third year in a row, Gen Con Indy is hosting trade day to provide hands-on training to educators, librarians, and retailers on using games to increase patronage, develop community, and help children achieve. Events include targeted seminar tracks from 12-2 led by expert presenters in each field. Manufacturer presentations and demonstrations will be held from 2-5 where all attendees have opportunities to win and play games. A closing panel of specialists representing all fields will be held from 5-6 to answer questions.

Registration is $100 and will include a 4-Day badge, free games and gaming supplies from companies such as Out of The Box, and exclusive offers from presenting manufacturers. To Register, visit the Gen Con Kiosk on the first floor of the Westin hotel starting Wednesday August 12th at 9 a.m.

Sunday is also Family Fun Day when a family of four can get in for just $28. What a bargain! I might just have to settle for that though I doubt the Mrs would want to go.