Monday, May 26, 2008

Visual Learners: Phoenix Mars Mission Resources

In August 2007, the Phoenix Mars Mission was launched, led by Peter Smith, a scientist at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetory Laboratory. With the effort of a large team of people, on Mary 25th, the mission was successfully landed in the north polar region of Mars, with the purpose of studying the potential for habiting Mars and also to gain an understanding of the history of water on the planet.

The gallery of the Phoenix Mars Mission is where you can view and download the latest images from Mars. The Phoenix Mars Mission website contains a wealth of resources that would appeal to anyone curious about Mars and the current mission. It will especially appeal to people who are visual learners.

If you are an educator with access to an interactive whiteboard and can integrate a visit to Mars into your lesson plans during the last days of the school year, a trip to the Phoenix Mars Mission website is a must! The website is well designed and user-friendly.

Renderings of the Phoenix Mars Lander

Here are few places to start:

Phoenix Mars Mission News
Web Exhibit -Mars: The Search for Water, the Search for Life
Flash Video Stream (the video has relaxing ambient music, by the way)
Videos and Animations
Just for Kids - this site was designed with content by kids to share with others.

From Mars to Earth: An Interactive Timeline

Friday, May 23, 2008

Link to Top 100 Web 2.0 Tools for Educators & Resources for iPods and iPhones for Learning

If you haven't come across this link, take a look! The Top 100 Web 2.0 Tools list was put together by 155 learning professionals, who were asked to share their top 10 tools for their own learning and productivity as well as for students and others.

This list reflects the ranking as of March 31, 2008, and is posted on the Centre for Learning and Performance website.

Be sure to check out the iTouch Learning resources to see how iPods and iPhones can be used for education.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

OLPC: New Design Includes Dual Touch Screen for Collaboration and Digital Books XO

Photo from One Laptop per Child via MIT Technology Review

"Hundred-dollar laptop, revisited: The next-generation version of the One Laptop per Child machine will dispense with keypads. It can be folded flat to make one larger screen (left); here, two children could play a game, each using the touch-screen capability. Or it can be held on its side and used as an electronic book (right)."

I'm impressed with the new design of the OLPCthe dual touch screen, the support of collaboration and sharing between children, and the flexibility it will provide educators and students. It can even be used as an e-Book! This laptop would be welcomed in UDL classrooms.

For detailed information about the new OLPC laptop, which has not yet been released, read David Talbot's article in the MIT Technology Review.

I want one.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

eSchool News: Response to Intervention (RTI) and related resources and links

If you haven't heard of eSchool News, take a look!

I subscribe to eSchool news and have found it very useful. The resource section includes information about topics such as Response to Intervention for reading and math, student data and information systems, and more.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Games for Health conference audiocast; Game Accessibility in K-12

I recently presented at the Games for Health conference in Baltimore, Maryland. The attendees and presenters at the conference came from a variety of fields- game development, education, occupational and physical therapy, health, bio-mechanical engineering, media arts, and more, all interested in sharing ideas about using game, simulations, and virtual worlds to improve health.

Many of the topics covered during the recent Games for Health conference apply to K-12 settings. If you think about it, many children and teens are at risk for health problems that will adversely impact their lives as adults. If we can provide a means for young people to develop healthy behaviors and attitudes at an early age, we will help to ensure healthy futures, for individuals and communities alike.

If you have a little time, you can listen to the overview provided in an audiocast consisting of interviews with Ben Sawyer and others involved with the conference.

My presentation slides
- Game Accessibility and Health Education in K-12 Settings - from the pre-conference, are posted SlideShare, where you can find slides from other presentations on the Games for Health group section.

You can find more information on the Pioneer Portfolio of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation website, including a section about Games for Health.

(Cross-posted on Interactive Multimedia Technology.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

News: Game Accessibility Preconference in Baltimore at Games for Health Conference

I'm writing this post from the Games for Health pre-conference about games accessibility, listening to a presentation by Eleanor Robinson, from 7-128 Software.

If you are looking for family-friendly games that are accessible, the developers from 7-128 have evaluated a wide range of accessible games, and have listed them all of them on their research. Many games on the list are free:

There are several lists that are useful- where to find the games, what to look for when selecting the games, suggestions for using the games, and who to go for for help.

Alert- Links about accessible games

More to come!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Shneiderman's book, "Leonardo's Laptop" and Don Norman's "The Design of Everyday Things: Must-Reads for Universal Design for Learning Enthusiasts


Don Norman and Ben Scheiderman are well known in the fields of Human-Computer Interaction and Human-Centered Computing, but not as well known by K-12 educators.

Don Norman's Design of Everyday Things (2002) was originally issued as the Psychology of Everyday Things, published in 1988. It is a fun book to read, and the inspiration for my hobby of collecting pictures and video clips for my "usability and interaction hall of shame/fame".

Don has a background in cognitive psychology and computer science, and is the co-founder of the Nielson Norman group, a consulting company that focuses on human-centered services and product development.

Here is a quote from his book:

  • "Before I wrote this book, I was a cognitive scientist, interested in how the mind works. I studied human perception, memory, and attention. I examined how people learned, how they performed skilled activities. Along the way I became interested in human error, hoping that my understanding of error would provide ways to teach people how to avoid mistakes. But then came the nuclear power plant accident at Three Mile Island in the United States, and I was among a group of social and behavioral scientists who were called in to determine why the control-room operators had made such terrible mistakes. To my surprised, we concluded that they were not to blame: the fault lay in the design of the control room. Indeed, the control panel of many power plants looked as if they were deliberately designed to cause errors."

If you think about it, Norman's insights hold true for the way many textbooks, lessons, and tests are designed. School psychologists and educators are interested in how people learn, and gain much information to guide instruction and interventions from the errors students make. This is also holds true during the process of functional behavioral analysis. We look for patterns of "error" behaviors to inform the sorts of behavioral interventions and supports needed for helping the student gain effective coping strategies, social skills, and related positive behaviors.

Take a few steps back, and think about the "things" common to many schools- the layout of the hallways and classrooms, the configuration of furniture and learning materials within the classroom, the organization of the instructional day, curriculum guidelines, method of instructional delivery and student assessment. How might these be elements be similar to the design of the control panels in power plants?

From this vantage point, administrators, teachers, students, and support staff play the role of the power plant operators. They are the humans embedded in this system, and they must interact within its constraints. Without much notice, the system maximizes the "error rate" for many more students than it should. This is the opposite of the intentions of the humans involved in the design. The faulty design of the education control panel may also also unintentionally contribute to the "errors" made by teachers when they make decisions about instruction and behavior management.

Universal Design for Learning principles entice us to look at how our schools are structured and and instructional methods and materials are designed, in ways that are very much akin to Don Norman's observations. From the UDL perspective, up-front design decisions made by educators or teams of educators, can ensure the likelihood that outcomes for students are maximized and errors are minimized.

On a similar note, Ben Shneiderman, in his book, Leonardo's Laptop: Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies , discusses ways that computers and technology can support the participation of all ages, abilities, and levels of literacy , in modern society.

Shneiderman begins his discussion about the concept of universal usability with the following quote from Thomas Jefferson, from a reply to the American Philosophical Society (1808):

  • "I feel... an ardent desire to see knowledge so disseminated through the mass of mankind that it may.. reach even the extremes of society: beggars and kings."
Universal Usability combines the concept of Universal Design with the concepts of accessibility and usability. It is apparent that Shneiderman's thinking is strongly influenced by Jefferson's quote, which in todays terms, can be viewed as a desire for universal knowledge dissemination. This means that we must work towards inclusiveness, and exclude no one.

Shneiderman suggests that it is important to work collaboratively in order to develop methods that bridge the gap between what people know and what people need to know. Although Shneiderman's book has a broad scope,much of what he discusses holds true for K-12 settings.
He proposes that education should provide students with learning opportunities beyond the traditional lecture-discussion format. Below is an outline of the components that should be incorporated into the classroom:

  • Collect: Gather information and acquire resources
  • Relate: Work in collaborative teams
  • Create: Develop ambitious projects
  • Donate: Produce results that are meaningful to someone outside of the classroom
Take the time to read Design of Everyday Things and Leonardo's Laptop. I think they would be great for school-based book studies.