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While attending the WSST Annual Spring Conference this last weekend, I made sure to check out the Outstanding Science Trade Books for 2010 session.  Highlighting fantastic science books from Science Books & Films (SB&F) and NSTA’s Outstanding Science Trade Books, the organizers of the session also brought in hundreds of books from the collection housed at UW-LaCrosse.

Watching other people scribbling down book titles on scratch paper, I realized that there must be an easier way to remember these fantastic books (for my kids and kindergarten teacher wife).  I simply opened the Amazon Mobile app on my Blackberry, toggled to the Amazon Remembers tab, and started taking pictures of book covers.  They were instantly sent to my account, which promptly found all 13 book titles and displayed them in “Your Lists” in my Amazon account (see below).  Of course, I also got prices and a way to order each book.

Granted, I was searching for books – an Amazon specialty.  Still, this app has a lot of potential in that it identifies products from a crude smartphone picture.  Think about how Amazon could use this app to simplify our lives in making products that rely on personalized user input.  For instance, Amazon could make its own unviersal remote control.  The user could simply take pictures of all of their devices (TV, DVR, Blu-Ray player, etc), send them to Amazon and could send you a personalized remote – already pre-programmed.


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Just getting home today from our annual Wisconsin Society of Science Teacher’s Convention, I am quite invigorated to get back into the classroom to try out some new ideas. It’s amazing how re-energizing it can be to be around people who are passionate about education, and are willing to share their ideas to everyone (what one of my colleagues calls ‘peer poaching’). But one of the first destinations in the building Monday morning will be to my principal’s office to thank him for allowing me the opportunity to attend this professional development event. I think it’s important for us as educators to show what we’ve learned from these opportunities, and how we’ll share them with our colleagues.

My focus in this convention was to see how other teachers are using technology in the classroom, so I first attended a session where I was able to practice using Windows MovieMaker. The teacher offering the session showed how he uses short clips that his students record in his middle school science classes. Primarily, they used clips from labs and demonstrations to later be edited in MovieMaker. I could easily see how these homegrown clips can be enhanced with ones from United Streaming for students to really get into a topic. As I haven’t used this software much at all, I am eager to incorporate it into my curriculum.

Another session that peaked my interest was done by Vernier Software & Technology. This company is very freindly to education, and are sensitive to the needs and budgets of science and math teachers. Their central software product is Logger Pro 3, which allows for data capture and graphical analysis. This is an extremely useful tool that costs $159 for a site license (allows a school to install Logger Pro on every school computer, all instructor computers, AND the students’ home computers). A few new products, such as the Wireless Dynamic Sensor System, allows a cord-free option for data collection in physics classes. Their new Spectrometer (powered by ocean optics) has a variety of uses in a number of different disciplines – most notably in teaching waves, light and color.

But perhaps the neatest treat of all was the keynote speaker – Sean Carroll. Dr. Carroll teaches in the Genetics and Molecular Biology Department at the University of Wisconsin. Carroll discused the new science of Evo-Devo, as described in his recent book Endless Forms Most Beautiful. Using genetic, embryological and molecular techniques, Carroll eloquently describes the process of body pattern evolution.

Beyond the sheer genius of his work, we were in awe of the technology that’s employed in his research. Stunning videos and pictures were used to illustrate his speech. Some can be found on his website Simply click on Images and Movies to access them.