Monday, August 18, 2014

Device Rollout Day 2014 at Discovery Middle School

Today we distributed 680 devices to students at Discovery Middle School - 6th and 7th graders received Chromebooks and 8th graders received MacBook Air laptops.  There were a couple of network issues but overall it went very smoothly due to the hard work of many in the technology department over the past several months.  In addition to handing out the devices, students received a day of training on the new devices and lessons in digital citizenship.

Here are some pictures from an exciting day at Discovery Middle School:

Taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge - That Was Refreshing!

Over the weekend I was challenged by JD Dalrymple of Nebraska along with some other educators on Twitter to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  I accepted the challenge and in addition to donating to the ALS Association I also allowed my wife to drop a bucket of ice water on me Sunday.  

I decided to put a GoPro camera on a selfie stick to record the moment.  My kids thought it was pretty funny too.  Here is the video:

I then challenged two fellow teachers who I consider to be great friends - William Chamberlain of Noel, Missouri and Lance Huebner of Liberty - to the Ice Bucket Challenge. To date the Ice Bucket Challenge has been a huge success for the ALS Association.

The story of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is definitely worth 7 minutes of your day - check out this video from ESPN.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tech Teardown Thursday - Getting Geeky in Technology Class

NOTE : This blog post describes taking apart some electronic devices in class.  I shared with my students, and should note here, that tearing into a computer power supply could have risks as explained in this story.

Groups working on different objects in Teardown Tech Thursday
Taking apart a TV on Tech Teardown Thursday
This week in my 8th grade technology class we tried something that I thought about doing last year but never accomplished.  The vibe this year is all about taking some chances and learning from your attempts.  Yesterday we did "Tech Teardown Thursday" in which we took apart several electronics to see what is inside.

Our technology class is a combination of learning how to use Google Apps, editing video and audio, using MakeyMakey kits, coding, etc.  The more I have researched and studied the maker movement has emphasized that students should know a little more about the nuts and bolts of computers and electronics.  They are not all going to go home and built their own computer but there is a sense of wonder when they see the circuit board inside a TV.

Tech Teardown Thursday - working on a speaker
I didn't want students to just tear into a TV or a radio without a purpose so I created a sheet for the students to complete as they did the teardown.  First recording what the object is, when it was made, etc.  As the take apart the object they are writing down observations about what they see and what questions they have about the things they are discovering. The lab sheet concludes with thoughts on what questions they still have and what they learned during the teardown.

Earlier in the week I had bought several sets of screwdrivers from the Dollar Store (but now know that I also need to bring some pliers and probably some needle-nose pliers as well).  I needed to get some electronics to be torn down and had one old CD player/radio at home that didn't work anymore but wanted to get at least 4 items so that students could break up into groups and work on an object in a small group.  I visited Savers, a local thrift store, and asked if there was any way I could get some electronics that people had donated but didn't work.  They cheerfully said I could come in every couple of weeks and they would save some items for me to pick up and use in class.  If it doesn't work they just throw it away so they seemed happy to help out knowing someone would get good out of it.

Tech Teardown Thursday - taking apart a CD player / radio
The objects we had this first week were a CD/radio, a small TV, a car stereo and a speaker.  The students loved opening them up and seeing what was inside.  They didn't know what most of it was but they were intrigued to find out more later.  Some good topics started in various groups - Why is there a really strong magnet at the center of the speaker? Interest in the how the tuner used gears to move inside the radio.  How the LCD screen on the car stereo is connected to the microchip? There was a lot of interest and the next day one of the students said he went home and took apart an old X-Box because he wanted to see inside after our activity in class.

We have a glass display case in the hallway by our classroom and this year we will be displaying the parts and components of the things we teardown in tech class.  It will help generate an interest among students walking by in the hall and share what we find.

Working with a car stereo on Tech Teardown Thursday
I would like to do this activity in class every couple of weeks and see if we can identify and understand more of the components later in the semester. Lessons learned include having students slow down and observe more as they work on the teardown.  They want to just rip into it.  Also, remind them to be very careful as they use the screwdrivers and work with sharp pieces of metal inside these objects.

If you have experience in doing teardown activities please add a comment to this blog post.  I would love to learn from others doing similar things in their class. Thanks.

Classroom Walkthrough 2014

My friend William Chamberlain this week recorded a video walkthrough of his classroom and shared it on his blog.  It was great to see how he set up his classroom and he challenged other teachers to create and share a video tour of their own classroom.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about space and how to create classroom environments which encourage student learning.  Last year I did a blog post that eventually led to my shift from individual student desks to tables. This year our building will be 1:1 and I have made some slight modifications to my room in order to help facilitate that new opportunity.  

Here is the video walkthrough I took today of my own classroom.  Please let me know if you have any questions or comments via the comments with this post.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

One word that comes to mind when you think "History"

I wanted to gauge my students' feelings about history today on our first day so I asked each of them to write the first word which came to their mind when they heard the word "History".  Here was the white board at the end of the day.

I thought it was interesting we had some "timelines" and "dates" up on the board.  A couple students wrote "boring".  Had several "past" and "long".  One did say "awesome" and "interesting" made it as well.

Opening Day - Let's get started!

Ready for opening day! Let's get this year started!

Room 106 at the start of the day

2nd Period Broadcasting Class Selfie

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My 1:1 Journey - Video #2 - Delivering Content

Today's video in the 1:1 Journey is a somewhat reflective look back at how I have delivered content in my history classroom over the past 20 years - from writing in VisaVia markers to PowerPoint to what will hopefully be a transformation change as we start 1:1 at Discovery Middle School.

Please feel free to add a comment or leave a question. Thanks.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Opportunity to Visit Mount Vernon for Missouri Teachers

Missouri teachers (grades 3-12) have an incredible opportunity to visit Mount Vernon this fall at no expense for outstanding professional development on the life of George Washington.  A Weekend with George Washington will take place September 18 - 21, 2014.  

The deadline for application has recently been moved back to August 22.

You can find the application and additional information at the Mount Vernon site here. 
Mount Vernon - Picture by Eric Langhorst

In the interest of promoting this opportunity to as many Missouri teachers as possible I have also copied and pasted the basic information below from the Mount Vernon site:

Through the generous support of the Paul M. Shatz and Deane Lee Shatz Charitable Foundation, Missouri teachers (grades 3-12) are invited to apply for a FREE residential experience at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon.
A Weekend With George Washington is a four-day, immersive residential program in which accepted teachers participate in an intensive study of George Washington and his world. The curriculum includes discussions led by noted Washington scholars, and hands-on workshops exploring Washington’s life and interests at Mount Vernon. Through study, discussion, tours, and projects, participants will gain a new and deeper understanding of the life and character of George Washington and his unique legacy in creating and shaping the principles of America’s democracy.
Past sessions have included:
•    The Leadership of George Washington
•    Teaching with Place
•    George Washington’s Book Club
•    Teaching Slavery in the Classroom
•    Patron of Learning: The Intellectual George Washington
All teachers accepted into the program will reside on the grounds of Washington’s home. A travel stipend, as well as all lodging, meals, workshops, and materials are included in the program.
Participants are required to perform an in-service session for colleagues in their home district or state, or create an original lesson plan for dissemination to teachers across the nation via the Mount Vernon website.
Please email completed applications to Danie Schallom Herbst at with “MO Residential Weekend” in the subject line.

My 1:1 Journey - Video #1 - What is This?

In one week my classroom will be 1:1 when all of my 8th grade students at Discovery Middle School will be given a MacBook Air.  This year I will be recording short video reflections on everything from philosophy, how it will impact my teaching and miscellaneous thoughts. I predict there will be mix of successes and failures. Come along for the ride and please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.

Here is video #1:

Friday, August 08, 2014

Inspired by a 4th Grader - Take a Risk

Today we had convocation at Liberty Public Schools. This is my 13th year in the district and Liberty always does a great job of getting everyone together and starting off the school year right.  We are a growing district and today we had around 1,200 district employees gather at Liberty North High School for a combination of presentations by administrators, board members and plaques provided for employees celebrating milestone years of service with the district - 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 years, etc. There is plenty of music and energy pumping through the gym.

We started the program with a 4th grader in the district - Gabrielle Frierson from Lewis and Clark Elementary - singing the national anthem.  Pretty daunting task for anyone but I can't even imagine doing it as 4th grader in front of a packed gym.  She started to sing and you could have heard a pin drop.  She was awesome and you could tell right away. After about 15 seconds you could hear people throughout the crowd softly saying "wow" as she sang.

Picture by Susan Maynor :
Gabrielle got to a portion of the anthem, about three quarters of the way through, where she swung for the fences and tried to a hit a note that most of us couldn't reach with a ladder.  I don't know Gabrielle but I image she was probably pushing herself to the limit, going for it all.  She has probably hit it a thousand times but today it kind of missed the mark.  It could have been deflating.  It could have been disappointing. What happened next was the thing I will remember the most from her performance.

She laughed it off and smiled. No problem.

When she laughed it off everyone in the stands followed her lead. Over a thousand teachers, administrators, staff members - started to clap.  She laughed it off with everyone and then started right where she left off. She never missed a beat or a word. She cooly rocked the rest of the anthem.  She received a long standing ovation and everyone there will remember the day she sang the anthem at convocation for a long, long time.

As a district a lot of us are taking some chances this year.  The middle schools and upper elementary grades are going 1:1.  We have many new district administrators, including superintendent Dr. Jeremy Tucker. We are opening a new elementary school with a focus on maker spaces and innovative strategies.  Lots of changes.  Lots of opportunities.  We could play it safe, stay in our comfort zone.  But we also have an amazing opportunity to put ourselves out there and try to stretch it out a little.  Get uncomfortable. Take a risk and know that we might make a mistake, in fact we probably will make a mistake at some point if we take these risks.

Gabrielle took a risk to push the envelope a little.  It didn't turn out exactly as she hoped but she didn't let it get her down.  Everyone in the gym got behind her and she moved on, and finished strong.  I left the convocation ready to start the school year and I hope I have the guts this year to take Gabby's lead when things don't go exactly as I had hoped and finish it half as well as she did today.

Thanks Gabrielle.  You inspired me to take more risks this year and how to react when things don't go exactly as I had planned.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Editing Photos in Snapseed

I love taking digital pictures.  I don't have a DLR camera, just a point and shoot but I do love taking pictures and then editing them in different ways on my laptop and iPad.  Perhaps my favorite photo editing app is Snapseed.  Snapseed in my opinion is the best free app you can put on your iPad.  The number of filters and effects you can add is amazing.  Their newest feature - HDR Scape - is my favorite. You can pull out different shades, colors, shadows, etc.

If you haven't tried Snapseed give it a spin on your iPad.  It is the perfect iPad app because you can manipulate and changed filters by touching the screen and sliding the options. 

Below are some of the images that I have taken and modified in Snapseed over the past couple of days.

Kansas City from World War I Memorial - by Eric Langhorst

Google Campus - by Eric Langhorst

World War I Museum in Kansas City - by Eric Langhorst
Discovery Middle School in Liberty, Missouri - by Eric Langhorst

Computer History Museum Visit - Hey, That's My Commodore 64!

Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California
It had been so long since I saw a Commodore 64 in person and there is was last week in the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.  I worked pulling weeds in Nebraska soybean fields all summer to save enough money to buy one.  I hooked it up to an old 13 inch black and white TV and wrote programs in BASIC that I saved on cassette tapes because I couldn't afford a disk drive. But the old Commodore was only one of the devices from my youth that took me back on my visit to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

Here is a link to my Flickr set of my pictures from the Computer History Museum

Here is a link to 360 degree photosphere from the Computer History Museum

Mainframe at Computer History Museum
Commodore 64 at the Computer History Museum
I was in Mountain View attending a teacher institute at Google and wanted to see a museum in person that I had heard great things about from others.  It did not disappoint.  I was able to spend around 2 hours at the museum and could have easily spend 4 or 5 if catching a flight out of town would not have been an issue.  This is a must stop for anyone who enjoys technology or computers.

Google Driverless Car at Computer History Museum
One part of the museum includes an exhibit on Google's driverless car.  You can sit in the car and see a screen which shows what the car "sees" as it processing all the information around it.  There was a lot of material and description explaining why driverless cars are closer to being a reality than most people think.

It was fun to see the evolution from computers the side of entire rooms, punch cards and mainframes.  One of my favorite items was an authentic German Enigma coding machine from World War II.  The British broke the code of the Enigma and some historians estimate this sped up the end of the war by at least two years.

German Enigma coding machine at Computer History Museum
Other highlights include seeing original Atari game consoles, an original Apple computer signed by Woz, the Apple II that I first used to learn BASIC programing and the Mac that my parents bought in the mid 1980's to modernize the Howells Journal newspaper office.  I spent a lot of time on the weekends printing pages with numerous fonts. It was crazy though seeing items like microfiche and a card catalog in the museum - items that were essential for my work on both my undergrad and masters degree.

Original Apple Computer from 1976, signed by Woz
While in the Bay area I would highly recommend a trip to the Computer History Museum.  It is a beautiful and well organized collection of artifacts that any geek will appreciate. Please note that the museum is closed on both Monday and Tuesday each week.