Sunday, December 14, 2014

In An Instant

Decorating the mantel with vintage ornaments. The wreath is made from different sized PVC pipes glued to plywood. My lovely wife has a keen eye for these unique treasures! Most find their way into her booth at Tru-Finds Treasures, but she often saves the best for home. via Instagram

Saturday, December 13, 2014

In An Instant

I'm very thankful that Target has free Wi-Fi and chairs inside a Starbucks. It's not the same as sitting on the couch in flannel pants, watching Netflix, but as close as I can get on this evening of Christmas shopping. via Instagram

Monday, December 8, 2014

Simple Mobi Organizer

Whenever more equipment is added, storage and charging become issues. One teacher at my school has found ways to incorporate multiple input devices with the interactive whiteboard. These Mobis are not flat and don't stack easily.

I love her creative solution: re-purpose a vertical folder holder! As you can see, space is saved on the desk and each can be charged easily. No expensive carts or cabinets, just a simple reuse of items on hand.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

What Are The Odds? Teaching With Farkle

Using simple games to teach computer science can both enhance and ruin a game.

At our school's staff Christmas party we played the game Farkle. It was a fun ice breaker that brought out the competitive nature of some teachers. In fact, every family received their own game to take home.

Since this is CS Ed week, that got me thinking about how this simple game could teach basic math skills. The basic premise of the game is to accumulate points by rolling specific numbers or combinations.

Players may roll until they "farkle" which is failing to roll a 1 or 5. That leads easily to a question of odds. What are my chances to farkle given the number of dice rolling?

I suggest letting students play the game for a few minutes to understand the basic rules and game play structure. Then pose the big question. Depending on students math abilities, this part may need more guidance, or they could look the information up online. What we learn is that it's a fairly safe risk (or low probability) a player will farkle as long as they roll three or more dice. Two dice will not farkle a majority of the time and one die is almost asking to loose points.

That was the math part, now comes the computer science aspect. Mathematical odds are all well and good but do they help us win the game? Have three people play the game, each with an established cutoff point. For example, one player never rolls less than three dice, another less than two and the third player always rolls one die. A fourth student then tracks the results. The goal of tracking is to determine which strategy is better in the long run. Students should determine the kind of data needed, collect it, then analyze the results. Did the experiment confirm their hypothesis?

Of course, very few of us play games with an unalterable game plan. Which leads to the third aspect: game theory. After reducing the game to its mathematical probabilities, it can seem rather boring with all the fun sucked out of it. So in this final stage, students become aware of how others impact their decision to role or not. Every choice is a risk versus rewards decision. That's where players get their thrills and where opponents try to sway others off their game plan.

For Christian schools, there are some major themes here. One question is if events happen by chance or on purpose? Another topic could be the role of personal choice: when should we step out from the "safe plan" and take on larger risk? This could lead into the Holy Spirit's role and God's will. And of course business teachers could jump in with financial principles and the wisdom we need when making risk versus rewards decisions.

But maybe the easiest (and often overlooked) application is dealing with peer pressure, the social aspect of gaming. Using Farkle as a fun context, it can easily teach digital and social skills. Who would have thought that so much could be taught from six little dice!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Finding Indestructible Joy This Christmas

This Advent season we've been reading John Piper's The Dawning of Indestructible Joy. Each day's reading is only a few paragraphs and full of Scripture passages. It's not too late to start! Download the free PDF online.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014

In An Instant

If I'm packing 18 cans of soda, these are not the first questions that come to mind. Why didn't Tate buy a 24 case? The box is easier to pack than a cylinder. Was there a sale on 6 packs? What flavor soda is it? I'm not sure how this question reflects Standard Math practice. via Instagram

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Light Up DC This Christmas

Create a custom light display for the White House lawn this holiday season. Made with Code, a website geared to introducing girls to the wonder of computer science, has a fun holiday online activity called Project Lights.

Using a simple Scratch-style block building mechanism, users create a Christmas tree light display. Once completed, the program will be queued to run at a specific date/time, presumably if you were in the DC are you could go and see your results live.

They also include a downloadable GIF file and the ability to share your work on social media. While not earth shattering computer science, and the programming is rudimentary, this would be a fun introductory project for younger children.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Digital Footprints

Snow on the ground? Perfect illustration for teaching digital footprints. Common Sense Media has a fun, first grade, offline lesson that introduces the right kind of information to share online.

Students enjoyed pretending to be detectives, walking around the room collecting clues. Some struggled at first because the good example gave few clues. But contrasted with the bad example, it became clear who had the smaller digital footprint.

I appreciate that the message does not try to scare kids into avoiding the Internet. Instead, they are directed to think about the impact the information might have.

Move To Learn

Move to Learn offers an exciting way to get kids moving and thinking. I've used their videos a couple times as a typing break. Almost every week someone asks if we can do another one. A word of caution though, students can almost have too much fun! I did have a teacher inform me that a class next door was taking a test and we were a bit distracting.

Monday, December 1, 2014

In An Instant

Making pet care PowerPoints in 2nd grade from flyers picked up at local pet stores! via Instagram