Monday, March 29, 2010

Complex Answers for Simple Problems? Thanks, Rube Goldberg

Automatic soup cooler (
Albert Einstein once stated "Everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler." That's nice, but not fun.
I have been a long time fan of Rube Goldberg. It is all about finding a round about solution to a problem. I like that. The Webster's New World Dictionary defines Rube Goldberg as a comically involved complicated invention, laboriously contrived to perform a simple operation.

That's called FUN!!!!

There is a certain charm and challenge in finding complex solutions.
I remember building Revell plastic models of some of these solutions when I was 10 years old. Here's one for giving a baby a bottle.

This can be quite motivating to challenge your students to design these ideas. Purdue University has sponsored a Rube Goldberg Machine Contest since 1949. In 2007, high schools were allowed to join in the competition. These competitions build young engineers which integrates with their STEM program.

The 2010 Rube Goldberg Machine Contest is challenging students to find a way to dispense an appropriate amount of hand sanitizer into a hand.

Here is a video of what some call the most complex Goldberg machine ever made. I don't know about that, but it certainly takes up this person's whole house so I wonder what this developer does for a real life.

Rube Goldberg has even made it big with the rock group OK Go. This video, This Too Shall Pass, is ingenious and more fun!!!

I just found a video about Gerberich's Gadgetry that isn't completely Rube Goldbergish but close enough to share here. Stephen Gerberich (originally from Iowa) posts his stuff on this Gerb - o - Matic website. He has displays in museums all over the country. A good introduction to his work is his motionclip.

Here is a link to his video archives.

Below is a 3-minute interview with the vodcast, Rocketboom.

Are you using Rube Goldberg-like projects with your students?
What have they created?
How are you integrating this with your curriculum?


Saturday, March 20, 2010

6-Word Stories - R Enough

6-word stories could be considered eXtreme short stories. It is said that Ernest Hemmingway once proclaimed his 6-word story, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn.", as his best work.

Wired Magazine asks sci-fi, fantasy and horror writers to write their own 6-word short stories.
Pete Berg launched a Six Word Stories blog in Dec, 2008. This is where he stores thousands of 6-word stories. He has these catagorized by subject and author. It is possible to submit your own and receive comments from the readers.
Visual six-word story group project on Flickr
Writing 6-word stories is not easy. You must first envision an event or tale that you want to tell. Then you whittle away the words it would take to convey your ideas about this story. Finally, you have the true essence of your dissertation.

Here is my first feeble attempt:

Blog posting today: six-word stories. - Dr. Z

What have you, can you, will you write in 6 words?
Have you used this in your classes? I met a teacher at my Google Teacher Certification class, but don't remember his name. He was doing some wonderous things with his students.

Please share your ideas on this.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dr. Z's Creative Cookbook for Collaborative Communication - WEMTA Keynote

Today, from approximately 9:20 - 10:45 CDT, Dr. Z will be giving a keynote presentation, Dr. Z's Creative Cookbook for Collaborative Communication, at the Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association conference in Baraboo, WI.

We will experimenting with some audience involvement tools during this presentation:

Chat: We will also use CoverItLive (an open chat system) to allow those watching the presentation to participate in a backchannel discussion about what they are seeing. These participants will be both at the conference and at distant locations.

Twitter: Comments about the presentation can also be made using Twitter. Include the hashtag, #wemta , in your message and it will be automatically added to the CoverItLive conversation.

Video: We plan to broadcast the presentation through the internet using Ustream. This will allow viewers from around the world to enjoy the presentation.

Below are links to the CoverItLive and Ustream and connections. Just click on them and you should be able to get started in the experience. Share the word with your friends and let's see if we can get people from all over the world involved.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cover It Live discussion for Dr. Z's "Creating a PLN" presentation at WEMTA

Begin by visiting our Presentation Wiki. It is filled with links for PLNs.

Here is a link to the CoverItLive online conversation that we will have during our presentation Using Web 2.0 Tools to Create Your PLN.

Below is the session window for the discussion that will be held during Dr. Z's presentation. You just need to click on the circle in the center of the window and it should open a window where you can enter your name and then enter your comments.

Begin by saying "Hello" to everyone and your city of origin.
Good luck. If you have any problems, turn to your neighbor. Together you can figure it out.


P.S. The presentation will begin at 10:15 but the discussion will officially begin at 10:00 AM

TWITTER FEEDS: We have enabled this discussion to capture Twitter feeds with the HashTags:

As you may know, wemta are the initials for this conference "Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association". Include either of these in your twitter postings and they should appear here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Creating Audio Spelling Tests Using MS Word

I just learned about an incredibly useful tool that is hidden in MS Word 2008 for the Mac. This is the Notebook Layout view. Looking at the image to the left, it doesn't look too special, but looks can be deceiving.

A friend of mine was looking for a way to create an audio recorded spelling list that students could use to test themselves on their spelling words. I thought that Word had this capability but I couldn't find it. Found my answer when I asked my technology guru, Rob Galloway. He suggested that I try the Notebook Layout view.

The Notebook Layout view for Mac Office is designed to work something like OneNote in the Windows world. It's greatest asset is that it includes a recording capability. This means that when you open a page to take notes, you can also turn on an audio recorder. The audio recorder records the speaker and then aligns it with your notes. That means that when you return to your notes, you can click anywhere on the page and it will playback the audio track of what the speaker was saying when you took those notes.

Pretty cool, eh? But that isn't why I am writing this posting.

I did a little experimenting and I realized that I could use this audio tool to create an auditory spelling list. The students would open the page that was designed for this week's spelling list. They would click on the Play button and then the voice would begin saying the spelling words for the student. The student could then type the words on the page and finally check them to see if they are correct. The student has complete control to pause in between words or go back to the beginning.

Another idea:
It would be an interesting idea to use this tool to create one of these pages for each of the spelling lists in a spelling book. You could then distribute these 30-page documents (one for each week's spelling list) to your students at the beginning of the school year and they could use this each week to test themselves. (I know that this is a low-end application for technology but fits into some curricula.)

I could try to explain how this works, but I probably wouldn't be too successful. Here is a Jing video that demonstrates how to do this.

What do you think? Do you use this Word OneNote-like capability? If so, what do you do?

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

. . . and now for something completely different!!!

I used this video by Steve Vai as an example video from YouTube when I was teaching my students how to embed a video into their blog. I fully intended to remove this video at a later time because it didn't really have much to do with educational technology.

After watching the video I realized what an awesome guitarist Vai is and how well he has orchestrated his group to support him. I decided that it has everything to do with educational technology so decided to leave it in.

Besides, this is MY blog and I, Dr. Z, am Reflecting!!!!!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Exceptional Skype Video by Silvia Tolisano

I was just reading Wesley Fryer's blog Moving at the Speed of Creativity when I found his reference to Silvia Tolisano's amazing video, Around the World with Skype.

This 20-minute video is the ultimate instructional Skype video. It begins with introducing Skype and telling you how to get online. She then provides a format for connecting with other classrooms, authors, and experts from around the world. This was enlightening. She wasn't just providing rules, sharing her proven methods along with examples of connections that she and her students had made around the world. AND she has created it in both English and Spanish.

Silvia Tolisano has an international project, Around the World with 80 Schools. I must admit that I don't know much about this yet because I just signed up to join the wiki and learn more about the project. I will definitely blog about this later.

I was most impressed by the quality of the informative and instructional video. Ms. Tolisano appears to have used the digital storytelling process where she recorded the narrative first and then found visuals to accompany them. I especially liked what appeared to be original photos where she posed a wooden doll to illustrate a number of ideas that she was discussing.

I am quite pleased to have found Silvia Tolisano and look forward to following her projects.

What have you found to support using Skype in your classroom?

photo and video: Sylvia Tolisano