Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2015

Book Review: Leviathan

A steam punk novel where machines battle gene spliced leviathans? Scott Westerfeld's first novel in the Leviathan series was engaging and fanciful without becoming overly technical.

His fictional world blends historic facts surrounding World War I with steam punk science fiction. The spawn of Darwin's legacy (gene spliced fanciful creatures) are pitted against the steam mechanized dreadnoughts of Europe.

Caught in the middle is a prince without a crown and a cockney lass masquerading as a boy so she can fly in the Royal Air Force. There are plenty of secrets left to be revealed in sequels as the whole world boils into war.

Though nodding towards Darwin as the originator of the Leviathan, Westerfeld's creatures are more about DNA than millions of years of evolutionary processes. He has clearly used science fiction to craft these fanciful creatures.

I was also pleased to find that the language was appropriate for preteens and teens. So often authors of young adult literature…

Crazy Shape Quilt

K5 explored shapes, patterns and repetition this week by making quilts.

As part of our TechnoKids curriculum, we looked at how shapes can be repeated to make larger patterns. Of course the programmer in me recognizes that these are fundamental concepts for recursion and loops but four and five year olds are not ready for that big of a jump!

The idea of quilts was especially poignant as we've experienced below zero temperatures this week. I also like how the focus was not on a student's ability to color neatly or stay in the lines. Splashes of color catch the eye and the bulletin board looks even better from a distance. With three different classes all contributing, it also helps them to see how their small contribution becomes an important part of a larger whole.

Sound Design

Did you know that many computer towers have headphone jacks in both the front and back? At the beginning of the year, all my computers had headphones plugged into the front of the tower.

Everyone accepted the arrangement as this was how they were set up in the past. Now it took me a year to figure this out, but if the headphones are plugged into the back of the tower, then kids are not tripping or pulling the cords. And the stations look a lot more neat and organized.

The first day I switched them around, many kids moved the plugs back to the front. Apparently it bothered them! Slowly I'm getting them to accept that the headphone jacks are not where they can fidget with them.

The bottom photo shows the old way while the top photo shows the new arrangement - when the kids haven't moved them back to the front.

App Review: Scratch Jr.

At what age can kids really start programming? Scratch Jr. is an iPad app designed for ages 5-7. Now that's a pretty narrow age range with very short attention spans.

While introducing a few programming concepts like sequencing and loops, the potential outcomes are limited. The programs a child can produce are more like short comic narratives than interactive games. Settings and characters are the most changeable, but cannot interact with each other through coding, nor do programs accept user input.

Designed to expose younger students to features in Scratch, the app may not have a wide appeal to first and second graders. I can see potential for the app in a classroom with teacher guidance and instruction, but it's not a typical entertainment app parents would give to a restless child. Once a child has mastered enough of the tools, and isn't bored, they will be ready to move up to Scratch where the possibilities are much greater.

Ring A Bell Pepper?

Why do peppers have three bumps on the bottom? That was the question posed by my daughter while helping cut up peppers for lunch snacks. We all had our theories but none of us truly knew the answer.

A quick search on the Internet revealed that none of us were right. Apparently the number of lobes (or bumps) on the bottom of a bell pepper is not a genetic trait. Instead, they develop based on environmental factors such as the length of harvest and the number of branches on the plant.

In addition to learning something about plant biology, we practiced top notch researching skills by finding authoritative data. The initial search results were mostly social media responses but a couple led us deeper to the Academic Journals. That is where we located Dharma, Semwal and Uniyal's paper on Genetic Variability and character association analysis in bell peppers.

Citation Journal Of Horticulture And Forestry Vol. 2(3) Pp. 058-065, March, 2010, Available Online Http://…

App Review: Build Programming Skills with Cargo-Bot

I discovered Cargo-Bot during Hour of Code and found it to be a great game to teach programming concepts such as loops and conditional logic. It works a lot like Lightbot.

The only drawback is that it does not support multiple users on a single iPad. This would not be a problem in a 1:1 environment but I have a single device to use with multiple classes.

For those who want a bigger challenge, the entire game was built on the iPad using Codea. Not known for its programmability, Codea unlocks the iPad's potential for budding developers.

Cargo-Bot was a free app, while Codea is paid (which I have not purchased).