While in school one day, I caught my son playing with a document camera. I was amazed by his adventurous curiosity; he had no fear playing with the ELMO – trying to figure out what it can do and how it works.
To me, there is no better professional development in learning new technology than to simply get your hands on it and see how it works.
That’s my advice as a technology integrator - go ahead and play with it. Figure it out. See what it can do.
After that, we’ll see what else we can do with it and how it can transform your teaching.
But now I’m becoming greedy. I also want my MacBook Air to mirror its desktop content as well. Why didn’t Apple support AirPlay for Mac OS X when it was released last summer? That would simply be too convenient to connect a computer to a projector, eliminating the need for 25+ feet of plenum-rated cables running through our classroom ceilings.
As meet manager for many swim meets, I know the importance of having instant results displayed on the scoreboard.
But a new iPhone app is starting to make me think differently. At the 2012 FVA Boys Swimming and Diving Meet, we turned on Meet Mobile – a fantastic new feature in Meet Manager 4.0.
Meet Manager Run Menu
Let me explain a little bit of swim meet management. Hy-Tek’s Meet Manager (a part of the Active Network) is the industry standard for running swim meets. Swimmers and teams are entered into the program before the start of the meet, and the computer interfaces with the touchpads (we use both Daktronics and Colorado products in our district) during the meet. At the end of each race, Meet Manager harvests the data, where times are matched to swimmers. The software also scores the meet, and you can print out and email the results to the local paper.
But it gets better. With an internet connection (our district has a guest Wifi network), Meet Manager 4.0 allows you to send your results live to an iPhone app called Meet Mobile. This free download from the Active Network displays each heat’s and event’s results sorted by event or by swimmer. The app even allows you to view splits and places for every swimmer in the meet.
Here’s a sample of what you might see with the app (in three screens):
Select the correct meet when you open the app (sorted by date)
Select swimmer or event
View results (complete results and splits are also available)
It was fascinating to watch the fans trying out this app in the stands – they were mesmerized by the instant results they could find. And coaches loved it even more, as they put down their stopwatches and stopped subtracting splits on the fly.
The camera has an adapter that splits into an RCA video/mono audio cable, which I can easily plug into my classroom television. Switching the input on the TV is a piece of cake, and using the TV doesn’t interfere with the interactive whiteboard.
Here are some of the benefits:
1. I can project demos onto the television above, so the entire class can see every bit of the demonstration.
2. The zoom function is quite impressive; I can easily zoom in on discreet parts of the demonstration not easily seen – even by the person doing the demo. This is made even easier with the use of the remote control.
3. Safety. The demo cam allows me to show demos without the need for the students to come anywhere near it; it also is far enough away from the demo so the camera is not damaged as well.
4. Because I have to use the record function to keep the image on screen, I can easily capture video of the demonstration. As there is a firewire output, I can easily capture the video with a connected laptop, and share it online (below see video demonstration of adding sodium to water).
The use of digital photo frames to show slideshows is nothing new. But while I was setting up our house for Christmas (tree, lights, etc), I noticed the digital photo frame in the family room that has been repeating the same family pictures for the last 11 months (it was a 2006 Christmas gift).
Immediately, I realized that it could easily be used for another Christmas decoration. So I went to Flickr, searched for “Christmas” and found a slew of high quality, general Christmas pictures. After realizing that my frame only recognizes JPEG’s, I selected only those files – and ones that were shot horizontally (they look better in the frame than vertical ones).
Here is the result:
So I was able to create a temporary, yet dynamic Christmas slide show (interspersed with family pictures at Christmas). Beyond using this idea for other holidays and special days, I realized that I could do the same thing in my classroom.
Imagine topic-specific pictures that can showcased to peak curiosity, engage discussion, and generally highlight the topic at hand. These pictures can easily be changed by swapping out memory cards, so it would be fairly easy to get it ready for several lessons over a school year.
As digital photo frames are getting pretty cheap, they can easily be purchased for the classroom. Or, if you are like me, then your old electronics end up in your classroom. I might have to upgrade mine at home and use my old one at school!
My biggest problem is that our district has blocked Google Docs via Websense for fear that students might use it to chat (in a quite convoluted way) and import inappropriate content from outside of their safe little fortress of an intranet. This same mentality has them blocking flickr and slideshare.
And this is also why the district blocks YouTube (I might remind you that Google owns them). But stupefying as it may seem, Google Video is open!
When I question these practices, I usually get this response: “what happens if a student imports porn this way?” To which I mentally reply “yeah, that is a LOT easier that plugging in a USB drive full of porn into any district computer.”