Friday, May 15, 2009

Wolfram Alpha: Computational Knowledge Engine

This morning I saw a twitter post from Karl Fisch, the co-creator of the "Did You Know" video. He linked to a blog post he had just finished talking about a new site being released today called WolframAlpha. This is the latest project by Stephen Wolfram, the creator of Mathematica software.

In a 13 minute video, Wolfram demonstrates what he describes as the early stages of a project to make "all systematic knowledge immediately computable by anyone."

As I watched the video, I couldn't help but think of the computer on "Star Trek" answering questions posed to it!

The implications of a site like this for educators and students is startling! Do we really know what our students need to know anymore? How can we harness the power of something like WolframAlpha and the new search features that Google has just incorporated into our teaching and learning?

As Fisch said in his post:

"I wonder whose problem it is if our students don’t know how to question, ask/search, find, evaluate, synthesize, repurpose, remix, and solve problems using tools like Google and Wolfram Alpha?"

How would you use a tool like WolframAlfa in your classroom?
UPDATE: You can learn more from today's Science Friday on NPR.

UPDATE 2: Apparently there were glitches with the release of Wolfram Alpha tonight! Ah, technology!!

UPDATE 3: Here is e-School New's take on the subject. It appears not everybody is happy about Wolfram Alpha. Is it because they are truly concerned about what students need to know, or because they have some skin in the "knowledge-based" learning paradigm?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

SchoolTube: A Great Alternative!

Recently, I set up an account for our district on SchoolTube, a video sharing site that provides a safe moderated environment for viewing and hosting video.
All I needed was some content to test it with....
That came yesterday, when 8th grade science teacher Beth VonEschen asked about filming a demonstration lab so that her students could view it on a day when she was going to be out of the building for professional development.
Using just our Flip camera and Windows movie maker, I filmed Beth after school, then added some titles to create the movie below.

It took us about a 1/2 hour to set up and shoot, then another 1/2 hour to edit. Not only can she use this with the substitute, but since it's on Schooltube, students who miss class can access it at home via a link on Edline. It also allows students who were in class, the opportunity to view it again, in case they missed something the first time.
After creating the video, I uploaded it to Schooltube. They have a 100 mb limit per file uploaded and also include a "Desktop Uploader" so you can quickly add video.
For those looking for a safe alternative to Youtube, who were frustrated by Teachertube's unreliability and lack of robustness, Schooltube may be your answer!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

From Toy to Tool: Cell Phones in Learning

Today I saw the following Tweet from Jon Tanner, an Oregon, Wisconsin educator:For how many of us, when we see a cell phone in class, is our first reaction to confiscate it?
What if instead, we harnessed the tool to enhance student learning?
That is the motivation behind the Cellphones in Learning Blog, created by Michigan State Graduate Student Liz Kolb.
The site contains examples on using cell phones to enhance learning such as:
  • Poll Everywhere, which turns cell phones into student response systems
  • MuVChat, which allows students to text questions/comments to a screen while watching videos
  • Sending pictures from cell phones to Flickr accounts
  • Yodio-Allows students to call in and create a digital story.
So what do you think? Should we ban them, and not know that students are really texting in their hoody, or should we have students use them as a learning tool? If you think the latter, Kolb's site has a wealth of resources to get started!!

Photo Credit: From Mykl Roventine's photostream on Flickr.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.