are we sterilizing student minds?

Do you know these terms: microaggressions, trigger warnings, emotional reasoning, fortune-telling, catastrophization, mental filtering? Read The Coddling of the American Mind.It is an essay in the Atlantic written by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, September 2015 Issue. It is about the sterilization of the student mind before leaving college in favor of an absurd level of political correctness that even affects how and what you teach. I cannot imagine it in teaching literature for example – or the humanities in general [political science, anthropology, sociology, history.]

The essay tackles the following questions: What exactly are the effects of this new protectiveness on the students themselves? Does it benefit the people it is supposed to help?

Of course in the Trump-winning world where political correctness is derided, the essay might seem like yet another attack on PC. However the authors are quick to note the difference between PC on the one hand and VP or vindictive protectiveness on the other: Read More …

edX is throwing a 2 year anniversay party

edX is throwing a global birthday party to celebrate edX’s 2nd birthday and you’re invited!
edX party
Please join as we celebrate two years of edX. On Thursday, May 15, 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. EDT, join the party virtually via live stream. We’ll be taking questions live on air via Twitter and Facebook using #edXturns2. Tune in for a chance to ask us your questions, meet your favorite professors and win cool edX prizes.

Tools to interest kids in electronics and programming: arduino, conductive pens, 3D doodlers and lix

Kickstarter has been – well – a kickstarter of many fascinating projects. In looking for ways to engage high-school girls and boys in technology, and besides Raspberry Pi and Kano, here are some reasonably priced products that began as Kickstarter projects and are now in full swing. They may all be used to interest and motivate high school students [and less] to be involved in electronics and programming with some fascinating projects:

  1. Arduino
    Arduino board

    Arduino: Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists and beginner programmers interested in creating real life interactive objects. It uses programming language that can be divided into familiar code such structure, values (variables and constants), and functions. The environment is written in Java and based on Processing, avr-gcc, and other open source software. It is easy to write code and upload  to the i/o board, and runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. The hardware may be bought from the Arduino site or locally in major tech stores [eg. Micro Center in Cambridge or online at Amazon].
    Uses: Unlike Raspberry Pi, Arduino is not a stand-alone computer. It is a board that basically enables one to work in electronics without any prior knowledge of electronics.

    Twitter-enabled Arduino coffee pot
    Twitter-enabled Arduino coffee pot

    Tutorials and projects: The Arduino website has more information on how to install and get started with it and you may view many projects that have been done with Arduino. There is also a tutorials page. Here are some Arduino projects and some here and another page of projects.
    Price: An Arduino kit typically sells for approximately $100 which comes with a how-to projects book. You may buy for less if you want just the board or a starter board.
    Special: There is an International Arduino Day every year on March 29th.

  2. Circuit Scribe
    Circuit Scribe

    Circuit Scribe: another Kickstarter project is the circuit scribe which uses a conductive pen. It was created by Electroninks Incorporated in IL. Circuit Scribe was made for project based learning where kids can build circuits and switches in their notebooks and use those concepts to get creative. Low-Cost High Quality Electronics: You can build a circuit with nothing but a coin battery, paper clip, and LED, or build out complex circuits with multiple components.
    Price: a classroom kit sells for a steep $200, but you can get a basic one with book for $40.

  3. 3ddoodler3D Doodler: 3Doodler is the 3D printing pen you can hold in your hand and lets you draw in the air. It is certainly more affordable than a 3D printer – at least for now. 3Doodler is a brand new way of creating objects and artistic works. The 3Doodler pen is 180mm by 24mm and weighs less than 200 gms or 7 ounces (the weight of a typical apple). It usies a universal power supply, so will work on 110v or 240v.
    Price: you may order the 3D doodler from their website. However there is an exclusive sales company which is located in Dubai. You may order it on Amazon though for asbout $139.
  4. LIX pen
    LIX Pen

    LIX: unlike 3D Doodler which is rather bulky, Lix is thin and sleek. LIX has great potential and can be a perfect tool for stylists, architects, designers and anybody who are interested in 3D printing. Comes in a wide range of colors and levels of attractive glossy translucency. The plant-based origins and desirable semi-sweet smell. Has slightly less strength and flexibility than ABS and is also sensitive to moisture. Begins to melt at 320 °F and works at 356 °F.
    Price: $139.95. May still be bought on kickstarter.

  5. Bare conductive pen and paint
    Bare conductive pen and paint

    Bare Conductive Pen: This is from a company based in the UK which also started on kickstarter. One can get creative with Electronics with Bare’s Electric Paint. Whether you’re a student, artist, designer or engineer, there’s loads of projects waiting to be made. You may buy it with a touchboard or without. The Touch Board is a tool to make your projects interactive, responsive, smart or just fun. You may buy the pen alone or you may buy some fun packs of cards and then create the circuit with it. You may also buy a house set which turns out to be beautiful, colored and all lit up. They have a range of products that provide a variety of tools for teaching students of all ages the fundamentals of electronics.
    Bare conductive pen and paint is not the only one available in the market. There are simple conductive pens and paint that you may buy elsewhere at the same cost.
    Tutorials: There are many online tutorials to help in using the pen and paint for projects. You may also watch a video here.
    Price: prices range depending on the tool. The pen itself is inexpensive but the card activities and other tools are what make it expensive. You can buy the electric pain for about $11

resources for faculty

Sometimes as faculty we just get stuck with finding creative ideas for our classes. Here are some resources that might be helpful:

  1. Merlot’s materials
  2. Tical’s tools and templates
  3. Iowa University’s techniques for creative teaching
  4. SNU’s creative ideas for teaching [pdf]
  5. ideas to inspire

In addition there are prominent organizations that have Teacher resources. Eg.

  1. For pre-college: Discovery Channel’s free teacher resources
  2. Library of Congress’s Teacher Resources
  3. National Geographic Teacher Resources
  4. The Guardian’s Teacher Network
  5. BBC schools for pre-college students

Finally, there is 101 ways for teachers to be more creative and this article as well 22 simple ideas for harnessing creativity in the classroom