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Jobs, Garages, & Time Travel

Jobs I don’t know about you, but nothing I ever made in a garage ever had any hopes of changing anything—ever! But ideas that Jobs and Woz tinkered with helped change our lives, our language, and most certainly our teaching and the way kids learn.

I remember scrounging ancient, manual typewriters for my first graders, well actually for parent volunteers, who listened to elaborate stories by 5-year olds, and through smiles and giggles, turned them into typed masterpieces. I remember questions about why I needed all those typewriters, and answering with—My kids have stories to tell. I still pound the keyboard like it was a manual typewriter.

One day, an administrator at a middle school, where I was teaching language arts, gathered us all into a staff room. “We have computers, and you’re all signing up to use them.” No question or answer period there. His goal was accomplished. There was a whole lot of grumping going on. I remember, like it was yesterday, talking about this to the other language arts teacher. I said something like—computers are impersonal—I’ll never like using them….

I did sign up, drag my kids in, and let them finger peck stories on small greenish black screens—then print what seemed simple passages on perforated paper. That Apple IIe lab was a thorn in my teaching side. Didn’t they know I could be so much more valuable to my students in my own classroom—well away from the hair frizzing electromagnetic fields in that computer lab?

Then, it happened—and it happened on my watch. The buzzing and whirring on a few machines stopped. A few seventh graders had that “Why me?” look. Their computers failed. I don’t care what you say, most seventh graders, like first graders, believe that teachers know stuff and can fix stuff. I think that changes at ninth grade though. ;>) Anyway, the sad eyes, raised hands, and pleads to fix, moved me to do something that change my education, private, and career life.

I unplugged one of those Apples (I knew that much), lifted the small-boxed screen off its base, and removed the top cover. I actually laughed out loud. There appeared to be almost nothing inside it. There didn’t seem too much to fix. So, I grabbed a few parts gently and gave them a wiggle, plugged everything back in, and to my surprise the static chattering start up happened. That’s when I fist-pumped tech for the first time. I actually got applause from seventh-graders, something still rare today, as the others chimed, “Fix mine!” I remember thinking these things will never last.

News spread of my new computer expertise, and my classes were forever interrupted by pleads of help from the computer lab. I kept in pretty good shape running there and back to my room. I knew absolutely nothing, other than pulling the plug, and shaking some parts, but it was more than the principal, or anyone else. I even began taking the computer home for more practice. That required about three trips to the car. I became the expert, and from that point on, the voice of technology in that building, and for that principal and beyond.

For all my initial grumping about tech, those Apples changed the way I taught, and the way my students learned—for the better. And while it sometimes took more time to plan and do it with tech, it made teaching fist-pumping exciting. It brought the world to my classes, and my classes to the world.

I've never met Steve Jobs, but I know him. There’s a guy with passion for his product. “Bring it back when you’ve made it better.” Now, that’s what needs to be said a lot more. Who will say it now? If you’ve never seen the videos of Jobs sharing GarageBand, you need to do a search for them. They are a professional development lessons from a real person, who is learning as he goes, and getting the biggest kick out of sharing. Nothing earth shaking came out of my garage, and most likely yours either, but aren’t we glad that Steve’s garage had picked up the slack—for everyone.

InFoComm Tech Pick: Laser Projection

Pro and Short Throw #10CF5532
I’ve been following bulbless projector technology from the start. I was one of those instructional tech specialists who taught kids and teachers, as well as climbed ladders to change projector bulbs and filters. I also had to allocate a lot of funds for replacements. While the bulbless/filterless idea isn’t new, Family Of Products2 the LASER/LED/hybrid light source technology is new and amazing. With this technology, we’re talking about 20,000 hours of eco-friendly, or short throw projection life without mercury lamps. Casio has embraced this technology in its DLP short-throw (top image) and slim-green (bottom image) projectors.

What’s cool about this new technology is that DLP (Texas Instruments) and 3LCD—two competitive and most-used technologies in education projection—and for that matter, projectors in general—can love this LASER/LED hybrid tech, too. That said, while an extremely cool addition, the technology will be developed further, I’m sure—it can only get better. Speculation is that laser projectors could go to 30,000 hours. You don't have to an engineer to Imagine the cost savings there.

If you’re spending a lot of money on replacement bulbs—even if you’re getting two for the price of one—and having your tech crew climb ladders to frequently replace them— you might be getting nearer to just monitoring all those newly-gained hours of projection life with my InFoComm Tech Pick—Laser/LED hybrid technology.

 “While we are extremely proud of the success around our SLIM line, we knew that we could continue to build on the technology, understanding that different industries face different challenges. Our new family of projectors is built with those needs in mind and will deliver tailored solutions to increase efficiency and streamline costs,” says Frank Romeo, vice president of Casio’s Business Projector Division.

Slim and Signature #10CF54E2

Qumi: InFoComm Pick

InFoComm always gives me a great selection of display, presentation, and audio equipment to consider, but for me, Vivitek's Qumi was just cool. I was in the Vivitek exhibit and commented to the media rep that I thought it was funny to be surrounded by all these bigger presentation choices and I only had eyes for the tiny Qumi.

This small LED-based projector can be hooked up to anything—laptop, iPad, iPhone, and more—with Qumi_6 thumb drive, USB, VGA, or mini SD card. Add simple-to-use functionality to that list. This is pretty much plug it in, push button, point projection.

I was Skeptical of the projection so I ask to see what it could do. The Vivitek rep turned it to the wall, and the Qumi displayed a fairly large a crisp clear image. That's when I said, "I want one."

I believe it is the first pocket projector to be 3-D ready, thanks to DLP (Texas Instruments) technology. It even has mini-HDMI connection.

The Native WXGA (1280x800) resolution, is combined with 300 lumens of brightness
The 1.6 pounds; 6.3-inch (W) x 1.2-inch (H) x 3.9-inch (D) Qumi is priced at $499 out of the blocks. It comes in black or white.

I was so taken with my InFoComm Pick, I told others at the show they needed to talke a look. I think you might like to check it out, too.  Qumi_4

Samsung SUPERHERO: Pushing the Doc Cam Envelope

The Samsung’s Imaging Division
, which includes document cameras, regularly does these SUPERHERO video competitions, where students get to win a nice $500 cash prize, as well as a SAMCAM 860 document camera for their classroom. For the contest, students portray a historical character and are judged on presentation, performance, character and content accuracy, as well as quality.

Austin, a fifth grader from Blissfield, Michigan won the winter contest. He played the part of Leonardo da Vinci. The spring winner will be named on June 17, 2011. Entry information for these and future competitions can be found at www.samsungk-12.com.

Checking out contests and grants for classroom tech is fun, and you never know—you might win.

I like the idea of pushing the envelop with document cameras, whether it’s by teachers or students. Just using doc cams to display documents, today, is call for a faculty brainstorming session. It’s an easy to use, interactive classroom tool that deserves a place in any creative classroom.

Even the simplest document camera models, those without video options, have great still-image capabilities. For example, a simple changing of the slideshow display time to its quickest intervals, using still images in sequence, can create the appearance of animation with objects or clay. Sort of a new-age flip book.

Editor's Note:

I always recommend checking building and district rules to make sure you’re within the guidelines. Samsung’s SUPERHERO contest is safe as well as fun. Having students dress up in what amounts to a disguise should pass any AUP (Acceptable Use Policy). It’s a good idea for everyday classrooms, too. Kids love to dress up to play the part of a scientist or even a mathematician.

KINEO Gets Royal Treatment

The KINEO Slate at FETC. Jeff Cameron talks to Ken Royal for The Royal Treatment. Watch the interview:


3D Education Reality

Glasses12 3D technology is by no means perfected, but I haven't a doubt that it makes education sense. I feel more positive about it this week, after my InFoComm 2010 coverage.

It's at a point where the 3D applications and programs have just begun to be created and designed for education use. That will take this technology from the gimmicky to the classroom useful, and most likely necessary. And a great deal of the work will go into gaming first. I always comment that it took about 19 years for overhead projectors to get into classrooms from bowling alleys, so let's hope that 3D technology gets better faster, and finds its way into classrooms more quickly. It would be a shame to see it get bogged down on gamer's laps rather than education development.

Right now, you can view 3D from a display monitor without glasses, using stereoscopic syncing, but the resolution is not good--yet, and that technology is still experimental from what I've seen. You have to stand in designated spots to see the images best, and viewing for a classroom period would have the nurse's office filled with headache complaints. So, the best way to experience 3D is still with those less than fashion-elegant glasses. 

Glasses5 More About 3D Glasses:

  • Anaglyphic 3D uses glasses with blue and red tinted lenses and they filter color. Most of us have used them.
  • Passive polarized lenses do the same thing as anaglyphic lenses, but they filter light. Remember those light science labs with the two polarized plastic squares?
  • Active shutter, or just Active is the latest. It's about speed. With this technology the lenses "shutter" back and forth between different light filters. Active glasses are more expensive.

Bottom line: When figuring 3D cost today, know what everything costs, you'll pay for the quality you get, and remember that it's not quite perfected yet.

The Technologies Behind 3D:

Glasses11 Beyond the funny glasses, three companies, 3LCD, DLP, and Canon are supplying the technology for 3D projectors, which give them more interesting points to compare. With 3LCD and Canon technology, it seems that two projectors are required, while with DLP technology only one. Interestingly, the 3LCD projectors could be viewed well with the cheapest cardboard-framed glasses, while the DLP projectors seemed to need at least Passive glasses. Note: I didn't have a chance to test glasses with the Canon LCOS. Add these to their continued comparisons of color quality, brightness, and cost.

Epson's BrightLink 450Wi Different

Epson's BrightLink 450Wi is different.

Brightlink1 I had a chance to try out Epson's new BrightLink 450Wi at TCEA 2010. If you don't know what it is, let me make it simple. For $1799 you get a projector that not only projects, but makes any wall interactive. I watched Hall Davidson put a white piece of art board inTCEA0058 the projection areaand write on it. Later, I told Hall that it was the most impressive thing I had seen. We both laugh about the elaborate stand Epson was using, when a sheet of art board worked quite nicely.

I know all the interactive whiteboard solutions, and appreciate their differences. Hall thinks this one is a "game changer". I will agree that it is different. The projector's ultra-close position above the work area avoids shadow, and it can work with just a dry-erase marker, but those things don't make it different. For me, the difference is that the projector does it allit projects and makes whatever it projects oninteractiveit's all contained in that projector housing.

TCEA0053 That said, the reality is that it still has to be installed, not sure what that cost would be, but I know installation and codes are variables to consider in each district. I don't know what further upkeep is required, but looking into that is important—for any technology. I enjoy cool tech, but my technology specialist side keeps me grounded in the real world, too. There are many interactive whiteboard solutions out there, and we're seeing the technology change and improve, so I look for more innovation like Epson's BrightLink. When it comes right down to it, a district's needs determine the solution. Right now, Epson has added one more choice to think about.



Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in The Royal Treatment are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.