Friday, January 04, 2008

Document Cameras: Pre-Teaching and Student Sharing

One of the things that is helpful to have if you plan to use GPS, Palms, student response systems or other handheld technologies is a document camera. Document cameras are hooked up to a either a projector or a television and can be used to show the entire class all types of objects--any of the items I mentioned above as well as student work, artifacts, or science experiments.

Pre-Teaching: One example includes using the document camera to pre-teach GPS skills prior to taking kids out into the field. Students are able to follow along visually and try the GPS units as opposed to only having oral instructions in the field.

Sharing Student Work: My friends, in the South Lane School District in Cottage Grove, Oregon use document cameras extensively in math instruction. In this case, while students are working on open ended problems, the teacher is moving about the room observing the students' strategies for solving the problem and is thinking about the level of sophistication of the various solutions. When students have completed the problems, the teacher asks several students to present their work using the document camera. Student work is sequenced from the most basic, trial and error approaches to the algorithmic approaches resulting in student generated formulas.

Other Benefits: The great thing about the document camera that I am currently using (AVerVision300AF) is that it takes pictures which can be accessed from the camera in another class or the next day (up to 80 pictures can be taken which can later be transferred to a computer if desired). This is a great way of comparing and contrasting solutions.

Technical Notes: If you choose to connect this to a television, be sure to use the S-Video cable or the picture will be grainy.

Alternatives: Finally, if you don't have the funds to buy a document camera, you can project your 2- and 3-dimensional objects by putting an old video camera on a tripod, tilting it to point down, and connecting it to the television. Make sure to connect the AC power or it may go to sleep at a crucial moment.

Feedback: If you have a document camera you love, let me know the model, price, and what you love about it.

Labels: , , ,


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Going High Tech: Geocaching Activities with Students

In my last posting, I wrote about selecting GPS models for use with students. Now let's talk a little about Geocaching and how you might use the concept with students. If you've never heard of Geocaching, the short version is that it is a high tech treasure hunt where people all over the world hide items in containers for others to find. They post the latitude and longitude coordinates of the hiding location along with a verbal description and hint to the Geocaching web site. The great part about it is that you often visit places that you would never have gone to or even knew about. For instance, once when I was in Helena, Montana, a Geocaching trek led me to the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts (pictured to the left) and an incredible outdoor art exhibit. To summarize, other people select interesting places to hide stuff for you to find with your GPS and it's pretty fun.

Oh, and I might also mention that sometimes people can be very tricky with the containers that they hide the cache in--as in this modified brick from a cache in California.

The kids that I've worked with generally love using the GPS and get pretty excited when searching for the hidden cache container. In an outdoor school setting, this may be tied in with existing activities or an activity all on its own. The one thing that is pretty important is to construct good clues and to select locations that are not secluded (my goal is to have things hidden in such a way that the adult in charge can generally see where all of the students are from a single vantage point--or to have a couple of other adult helpers available). Below are examples of the directions and some of the clues that I've used in the past. Note that the lat/long coordinates have been omitted for this posting.

Directions: Read the numbers aloud that are displayed on your unit to your partner. Work together to determine when you have arrived at or near the coordinates. When you get close, and you are at the nearest hundredth of a minute, use the clues below. If you are using the GO TO feature of your GPS, use the clues once you get within 20 feet of the cache.

Remember as you go north, your north coordinate increases and as you go west your west number increases.

Waypoint 1 N 43, W 122

I rest at the base of a single tree.

Waypoint 2 N 43, W 122
The number of sides in a pentagon equals the number of trunks I sprout.

Waypoint 3 N 43, W 122

This cache is ‘illuminated’ and near the state flower of Virginia

Waypoint 4 N 43, W 122

Look for box # ___ 100-80 2-2x25+1= (multiply and divide left to right then add and subtract)

Waypoint 5 N 43, W 122

Give a hoot, don’t forget to salute.

Waypoint 6 N 43, W 122

You might have to take a walk around the “blocks” to find this cache.

Waypoint 7 N 43, W 122

How much wood can a woodchuck chuck?

Waypoint 8 N 43, W 122

People may have eaten here long ago, but now I’m a little prickly.

In some of the above examples, you can pretty much tell where the cache might be located (e.g. at a flagpole). But for the most part, the descriptions should be enough to let the finder know that they are in the right area, but not give them enough information to get there without the GPS.

Take a look at a few of these resources that I've put together in the past as well as the Geocaching web site
Happy Caching!