Sunday, August 16, 2015

Change Your Classroom Lights

I've had a wide variety of classrooms in my teacher life.

From trailer rooms in Namibia:

To rooms in Guinea that have walls painted with blackboard paint:

and floors painted with human feces

By contrast my past couple of classrooms have been pretty great. My favorite has been my Kathmandu classroom:

Fun Fact: When the big earthquake hit a couple of months ago, those fish in the fish tank in the back left corner flung all the way to the front of the room (where the photo was taken). 

 My classroom now at ISP is pretty cool. It has some nice corner windows. And a loft.

It's a good room. 
The only issue is the fluorescent lighting. That part is gross. And since Prague gets pretty dark in the winter months, the lighting is a big deal. 
I was scratching and stretching about this until I saw this commercial:

The strange, windowless room with drapes

I thought this could be the solution! And it probably is. Through my classroom budget, I bought a few overpriced light strips, blooms, and bulbs. Then I put them in and below the class loft.
It's not the same as the commercial because I have windows and daylight. It's also the summer.
But I think it'll be a big improvement to fluorescents.

Here is the Hue Light system:

The Bridge:

This is what makes everything work. The bridge needs to plug into your internet hub. I have a port in my classroom wall that I plug it into. Without the bridge, the lights would just act as... lights.

The Bulbs

Once you have the bridge, you can buy as many bulbs as you want. Each bulb can be controlled separately from your smart device, or grouped together. At the time of this writing, each bulb costs around $20. 
The only downside is that they aren't super bright. It would be nice if the darker colors would be a little more bold and less soft.
Grade: B+

The Blooms
The blooms are mostly for backlighting. They are way too weak to have any meaningful effect in your classroom. They're meant to be used at night, in the living room, highlighting a photo or changing your TV into a poltergeist-possessed TV. If you use them for that purpose, they look pretty cool.
They have power cords. At least the ones that I bought. And those just add to the clutter too.
Grade: D

The Light Strips

The light strips have the same problems as the blooms; they aren't so bright, and they have that annoying power cord. But they are so, so much cooler!
The first thing that the kids and parents notice in the classroom are the light strips. They really define the classroom atmosphere, even though they don't contribute any meaningful light. At $90 though, their price is crazy stupid. They should be cheaper.
Grade: B

Those are the three types of Hue lights that I have. There's not an "A" grade among them, but that doesn't mean they aren't fantastic. They are. There's just room for improvement.

I haven't used too many iPhone apps with them, but here is what I'm using:
If I want to control individual lights, I use the standard Philips Hue app.

If I want to use a cool color scheme, I use OnSwitch.

I can decide to program each individual light color too. To do this I use "Tickle", a programming app that resembles Scratch. It not only lets me control the color of each bulb but the time as well.

I should talk about Tickle in the near future. 

It's a neat app that does more than just programs light. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Kaleidoscope Fishbowl Episode 3 - Dead Metaphor

I think I'm getting better at this.
My third episode of my podcast is out. It's a story in Guinea-Conakry. I was teaching in Guinea from 2000 to 2002. On the way, I talk about Jonas Savimbi, Angola, Charles Taylor, and mosquitoes.

Episode 3 - Dead Metaphor

You can find it also on iTunes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Kaleidoscope Fishbowl Podcast: Episode 1 - Potassium

I've been a little light on posts this summer because I've been working on a podcast.
Last year I wanted to create an education podcast (based on interviews) because I was frustrated with the existing education podcasts (based on interviews).

And I thought it'd be fun.

But scheduling interviews was nerve-racking. It was both a strange and busy year... not at all conducive to scheduling interviews. 

This summer I decided to jumpstart the education podcast by reformatting it. 
No Interviews. Just Me. 
Talking To Myself.

So no interviews.
Just me.
Telling stories and talking to myself.
But each story has to be something about teaching, or a lesson, or the classroom, or an education system, or an education anomaly. 

Here is episode 1 of "Kaleidoscope Fishbowl". I was teaching math and science at Ombuumbuu Junior Secondary School in Namibia from 1998 to 2000. 

Potassium: A story in Namibia

I definitely want to do the interviews at some point. But in the meantime, I'll tell my stories first. 

You can find the podcast on itunes here. 


Sunday, July 5, 2015

RIP Scratch and Makey Makey

There needed to be some sacrifices. After almost a decade of co-teaching, I had to say goodbye and bury my beloved counterpart:

I've been teaching Scratch since 2007.

But because we're moving to a 1-to-1 iPad program next year, and because MIT Media Lab can't seem to figure out what this guy figured out, or this Kickstarter campaign figured out, it looks like I've said goodbye to my favorite elementary programming tool for a while.

To mourn and celebrate, I decided to pull together several of the things I like to do in Scratch with 4th graders.

Here's the funeral memorial video:

I've talked about most of these projects before. And there is actually a Scratch Guide and Learner Workbook that's worth taking a look at if you still have access to laptops. I've often pulled a few ideas from earlier versions of these documents.

But enough digression! 
There is so much more mourning and wailing to do.  
Because I not only have to say goodbye to Scratch, but to Makey Makey as well.

You bastard

So here's another funeral memorial video:

I know there is a way to connect Makey Makey and iPads, but I probably won't do it. So RIP Scratch and RIP Makey Makey. You were pretty good. 

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