Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hot Apps for Hot Weather?

It's Hot, Hot, Hot!It's official!  We have beaten the record of 69 days in a row of 100 degree or better weather in Austin, Texas. It looks like we will have no problem adding on more days through this weekend to the current streak.

So, how can we take advantage of this authentic learning experience?  One easy way is to use the new All-in-one desktop computers (Manda Pro or 'that really wide black computer) that most campuses received last year.  Each computer comes with a new EXOPC user interface that looks like a bunch of circles on the screen. The user can click the + sign at the top left to add new apps from the AISD EXO app store.

There are many apps already in the store waiting for you to download them.  Today, you can click in the Search box and type 'weather'.  Two apps will show up, one for the Weather Underground and a children's app called Whats the Weather.  Simply click on one and then click the Download button to install.

The Weather Underground site (also found at http://wunderground.com/ ,) has forecasts for almost every inch of the United States and many international sites.  What kind of activities can you do with a live weather site?
  • A class can compare our 104 degree weather today with the weather in a desert town or mountain top town.
  • Use the Local Weather tab to find a link for historical data. Using today's weather as a base, predict what the weather would be like on another day of the year, January 22nd12001  for example.
  • Look at the Resources tab and use the Climate Change link to find information geared to an older student.  How are they graphing temperature anomalies on the map? What do the symbols represent?
  • Pull down data that you can put into a spreadsheet that shows 'change in weather'.  Create a quick graph that shows a historical perspective on rainfall in Central Texas. Can the class make inferences based on the charts?
The district has some training videos available inside the district about the new Manda Pro desktops.  Watch the video "Add Desktop Applications..." to see how easy it is to add apps from the EXO Apps store.

How can you bring the heat into your instruction while we are still breaking records? Do you have a favorite weather app or website?

Monday, August 22, 2011

QR Codes at School?

Over the summer, I met a good number of teachers in workshops that have already been preparing to use QR codes in their classroom.  QR codes are the square bar codes that webcams (with certain software) can read and direct the user to a website, send a text, or perform various other functions.  I posted last year, and felt called to post again, about using the small netbooks that are on every campus, to read and use these special codes.

Creating a QR code is pretty easy.  The are various sites that will do this for you; http://goo.gl and http://qrcode.kaywa.com/   are two good starting points.  You simply type the website address (URL) into the box and click the button to generate the square code. (Goo.gl makes you click the details button afterward to see the code.)

What can you do with codes? Akins High School librarian, Bonnie Hauser, shared a Livebinder collection of links all about QR codes.  I saw a couple of middle schools this summer using QRs scavenger hunt or building tour signs to engage the incoming sixth graders during summer camp.  One of my favorite online resources is an Englishman named Tom Barrett, who encourages teachers to share ideas in Google Docs, (his 28 Ways to Use QR Codes is now up to 40!) Students can support the community by posting codes for informative purposes in public places.

Great ideas, but you still have to have a camera device to read them.  I found that teachers can download and install QuickMark for PC onto the small netbooks that each campus received last year. After installing the software, students can turn it on and point their computer at a QR code. The netbook will read it and preform the action stored within the code.

The following video, despite my repeated reference to Q codes ;( , shows how a large projected QR code can be seen across the room and direct student netbooks to a webpage.
video

QR codes can provide a functional tool that mobile devices and webcams can use to access data and preform some functions without typing complicated web addresses.

How have you used QR codes? What is another way that a QR code could play a unique in the classroom?

Oh, and you can have artistic fun with them as well!  ;)