Four STEM Tools to Get Kids Learning and Exploring Outdoors

[In this Mindshift article Danny Wagner from Common Sense Education shares four technology tools to take learning outdoors. The tools range from an astronomy app to a 3D app. On August 24 I plan on joining PAEYC, the Early Childhood group in Pittsburgh, for an Unconference at the new Frick Nature Center that will focus on outdoor STEM education. If you’re in the Pittsburgh region, consider this opportunity to learn and explore a sustainable facility for learning at all ages.]

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Getting out of the classroom can benefit everyone — both teachers and students. Fresh air and fresh perspectives combine to allow for new types of creativity, for play, and for a chance to connect learning to life. The best of these apps help harness what kids are learning outside so they can bring it back into the classroom for further study.

Of course, the Pokémon Go craze hasn’t just been dominating the imaginations of monster hunters everywhere, but also sparking debate among educators around the game’s potential for learning. Sure, Pokémon Go has an inherent ability to get kids outside, observing the world in ways they hadn’t before. But, if you’re looking to help students take their hunt for learning beyond the walls of your classroom, there are plenty of other options to consider.

The four STEM apps below all get kids moving in different ways, whether by looking up at the sky, analyzing how their own bodies move, discovering unique objects to photograph, or getting muddy at their local watershed. Sure, they may not be capturing that next rare Pokémon, but these apps will still help students appreciate the diversity of the world they inhabit.

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Student-Source Mobile Apps to Stay Ahead of the Curve

[Crowd-sourcing or “hacking” has become a contemporary way to solve a problem by enlisting a team of programmers to tackle a common problem. In this Edtech article the problem involved Robonaut2, a robotic astronaut assistant. Last year I had a chance to observe from a distance how a colleague with a “crowd” of colleagues developed an app as a byproduct of Startup Weekend EDU.]

RoboAssist

NASA recently occupied the headlines, not for a shuttle launch or moon walk, but for successfully crowdsourcing a test of the Robonaut 2, a robotic astronaut assistant.

NASA was so impressed with the quality of the 3D modeling submitted by the community that the agency has already organized two more challenges — and it’s only the latest group to jump on the crowdsourcing bandwagon. It’s time for higher education to be next.

Of the few pioneer universities that have applied a crowdsourcing — or in this case,student sourcing — model at their institution, all have experienced impressive results.

The model has been especially successful when used to design and implement new mobile applications. Not only is it high time, but it is also a necessity that colleges and universities leverage student sourcing as a means to engage the student body, decrease costs and time, and improve implementation of mobile applications at their institutions.

There are reasons top Fortune 500 companies have begun implementing crowd sourcing: access to a flexible workforce, a variety of creative talent, cost-effectiveness, fast project delivery and reduced time to market. Student sourcing has one key difference from crowd sourcing: a defined network of students.

Students are a university’s consumers. How better to provide consumers with the mobile resources they want than by involving them in the design process? If this student sourcing model is such a success, why not implement it for all university projects?

The key to successful student sourcing is an excited community, eager to volunteer its time. Mobile is the kind of project a student body will get excited about — even the least tech-savvy student dreams of creating the next AngryBirds or Snapchat app.

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Building the Next Great App

[Here’s an interview with Richard Culatta, the Director of the Office of Educational Technology for the US Department of Education. Richard shares his insights in a Games and Learning article that highlights the lessons learned in the new publication, Edtech Developers Guide.]

"We are at a time of real transformation in the education system."

“We are at a time of real transformation in the education system.”

Games and other apps that may improve education have been getting a lot of attention from the U.S. Department of Education this summer. From special day-long meetings at E3 and Games for Change to a dozen regional meetings with game developers, the federal agency has been reaching out to inspire an entire new kind of educational publisher.

Richard Culatta, the director of the Office of Educational Technology at the Department of Ed, said there is an obvious reason for the flurry of visits and actions by the department.

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