Archive for January, 2009

Civil War Blog Project – Check it Out!

January 22, 2009
One of the 15 student blogs in this pilot project

One of the 15 student blogs in this pilot project

As I mentioned in a post several months ago, I visited with our humanities department chair about incorporating technology into the American Studies class that most of our 11th graders take.  Between then and now, we laid out some project requirements, selected 10 focus events, borrowed an awesome student blog rubric, created step-by-step instructions for securing student blogger accounts, and pulled the trigger.  The results are some amazing examples of student research and writing.

We’re running this project for 2 weeks.  Each class day, one of the history teachers lists the focus event on the project blog.  Students then respond to the event in character.  Although we require the posts to be based upon research (cited in the post), the students are to write their own posts rather than pasting lengthy passages from their research.  Posts are due by 9:00 PM.  Additionally, each student is required to comment on two other posts each day.

Sample Blog Comment

Sample Blog Comment

We chose Blogger because of its relative simplicity.  Only after we got the project off the ground did we realize how convenient the built-in following features would be.  Our teaching team consists of the two history teachers who team teach the class and myself (a computer science teacher).  One of the history teachers had never read a blog post (that he knew of), and the other said she had read but never responded to blog posts.  By the third day of the project, both were reading, commenting, and creating posts of their own quite easily.

Once the project comes to an end and we solicit student feedback, we will present our final report at the NCSSSMST Professional Conference in Washington, D.C.  If this sounds like something you’re interested in trying with your students, please do! We were amazed at the quality of the research and writing.  If you need help getting started, contact me for help via email, twitter, skype, or right here using comments.

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At BotBall Training in Norman, OK

January 10, 2009
Students and teachers learn to build and program robots for the upcoming competition.

Students and teachers learn to build and program robots for the upcoming competition.

I’m having an excellent time this weekend working with 3 students from my school at the BotBall Educational Robotics Program training workshop in Norman, Oklahoma.  BotBall is one of the programs offered through the KISS Institute for Practical Robotics.  As stated on their website, “BotBall engages middle and high school aged students in a team-oriented robotics competition based on National Science Education Standards.”

BotBall has been around for more than a decade, and they introduce new technologies each year.  Last year was the first time that the game included the iRobot Create, which is just a stripped down Roomba vacuum that has been optimized for experimentation.  This year, they released a brand new processor and programming set-up.

If you are looking for a way to integrate robotics into your program, seriously consider BotBall.  Without giving away the details of the game (not all regions train on the same day), I’ll just say that BotBall 2009 brings the action into a whole new dimension.