Teaching and Learning Resources by Peter Pappas

Student Consultants Design Museum Curriculum and Mobile App

Portrait of Seki Hiromura-Ace's mother and one of the Hiromura boys

If you follow my blog, you’re well aware of my advocacy for project-based learning. So when I was asked to teach a social studies methods class at the University of Portland, I naturally looked for a way to integrate a community-based project that would give my graduate and undergraduate pre-service teachers experience in PBL, the chance to work along side professional historians and an opportunity to make a difference in the community. For more on our course approach, see our class blog.

I live in downtown Portland on the edge of what is known as Old Town / Chinatown. Its a very diverse and historic neighborhood and once the center of a thriving Nihonmachi or “Japantown.” It’s now the home of the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center, a small museum dedicated to “Sharing and preserving Japanese-American history and culture in Portland’s Old Town neighborhood, where Japantown once thrived.”

I approached the museum with a simple question – “What could you do with a dozen unpaid curriculum consultants?”

While planning my course, I approached the museum with a simple question – “What could you do with a dozen unpaid curriculum consultants?” And so our partnership began – my pre-service history teachers working with professionals at the museum to develop educational material to support their collection. I wanted my student so experience project-based learning from the perspective of the learner in the hopes that they would someday incorporate that approach into their teaching. I also wanted them to recognize that effective teachers are entrepreneurs, actively fostering external partnerships to support learning in their classrooms.

mobile-app-image

After a number of meetings we decided on three projects – an online lesson using curated videos detailing Japanese incarceration, a series of lessons to support an artifact-filled Museum in a Suitcase for circulation to Portland area schools and a iPhone app “Walking Tour of Japantown PDX.” All three projects would extend the reach of the museum and celebrate a once vibrant community that had fallen victim to wartime hysteria.

The app was going to take some technical assistance, so I reached out the Portland’s app community and was able to partner with GammaPoint LLC, PDX-based mobile app developer. We are worked with them to develop Japantown PDX, a native iPhone app walking tour of the historic Japantown in Portland. It features geo-fenced text, photos, audio and tools for sharing user reaction to the content via social media. We are also working with GammaPoint to make this project replicable in the k-20 space.

gallery-1912 Portrait

More on PDX Japantown: During the 1890s Portland was a hub from which Japanese laborers were sent to work in the railroads, canneries, lumber companies and farms throughout the Pacific Northwest. By the 1920s, a steady stream of Japanese “picture brides” had transformed a rough and tumble twelve-block section north of W Burnside between 2nd and 6th Ave into a more respectable Nihonmachi with over 100 Japanese managed businesses and professional office. Portland’s Japantown thrived until the WWII when Issei and Nisei were rounded up by federal officials and incarnated in inland camps. Portland’s Japantown was decimated. After the war a few returned to the old neighborhood, but many took up new residence in Portland’s postwar single family housing boom. The neighborhood had long been home to African-Americans and various immigrant groups. As Chinese-Americans began to predominate in the neighborhood, it gradually became known as Chinatown. Today, even most Portlanders are unaware of it’s heritage as Japantown.

Get a iPhone 5s Or Switch to Android?

ios-android-war-iphoneindia

My iPhone 4s is coming off contract soon and before I replace it with the iPhone 5s / iOS 7, I thought I should do some research on Android-based smartphones (no interest in Windows mobile, sorry Steve).

My good friend Mike Gwaltney had great idea to end the guesswork – try an Android for awhile before I get caught up in next week’s iPhone launch frenzy. So two days ago, I took his advice and bought a Nexus 7 at Best Buy (two week return policy).

What follows is my initial experience with the Android OS. Keep in mind that I’m a Android newbie and I’m not certain how much of the Nexus 7 experience will carry over to an Android smartphone. Nor am I interested in the Nexus 7 hardware – my real goal is a new smartphone not an Android tablet. The superb audio and video Netflix stream on the Nexus 7, doesn’t tell me much about the Android smartphone experience. Android or not, the Nexus 7 goes back to Best Buy next week. (I enjoy creating multi-touch iBooks – can’t view them on a Nexus 7)

I was already using many Google services – Chrome, Gmail, G Drive – all that content was on the Nexus as soon as I logged into Google. But I’ve never used Google for contacts and calendar – they’re hosted on iCloud and synched between my Mac, iPad, iPhone and MacBook Air. My first goal was to get those over to the Nexus 7. I found a very easy (and free) solution for for moving contacts to Google – the (free) Bump app. I loaded Bump on my iPhone and Nexus 7 and did the bump. Selected all contacts and over they went. Looks like Bump can also move photos and audio files. (Though there must be better ways to do that.)

Moving to Google Calendar was much more challenging. I looked online at discussion groups and searched “Help” at Google and none of the solutions seemed to work. Eventually I found the SmoothSync app ($2.86 at Google Play). It moved my calendar to the Nexus 7, but strangely my appointments don’t show up in the desktop versions of Google Calendar. Haven’t fixed that yet, but my iCloud and Nexus 7 calendar are syncing with new updates in both directions.

I downloaded a bunch of my key apps to the Nexus 7 – Dropbox, Evernote, 1Password, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. For the most part they look and behave like their iOS counterparts. LinkedIn somehow manages to have an equally confusing notification system on both platforms. The only app the varied greatly between platforms was 1Password. The Android version does not support selecting specific sections of text for copying to clipboard in the secure notes or attachments – very challenging if you have any important data stored that way,

Finally I tried my hand at customizing the home screen. I’d been impressed with all cool themes, wallpapers and widgets that I had seen online. So many to choose from, though some customizations didn’t function very well. When I tapped on the cool non-skeuomorphic icon for my calendar, I didn’t see my appointments, I was offered more settings for customizing the calendar icon widget. After wasting a few hours trying to trick out my home screen I ended up creating something that in retrospect looks a lot like my iPhone home screen.

So I’m 48 hours into Android. If I had to make a decision right now, I’d stick with the iPhone. So far I haven’t found any big advantages with Android. And getting my wife and I moved over from iOS and still maintaining synch with our Mac desktops seems like far too much work. But I’ll give it a few more days.

Update Sept 20, 2013
Returned my Nexus 7 to Best Buy a few days ago.
Here’s me waiting in line to get the new iPhone 5s 64GB (Black  - No bling for me).
Note: I’m the only Mac FanBoy reading an actual book.

mac fan boy line

Image credit Flickr: George Thomas/ios-android-war-iphoneindia

Infographic – Six Emerging Educational Technologies

The 2011 Horizon report identified six new technologies that will affect teaching and learning in the K-12 education community over the next five years.  

“Four to five years for Personal Learning Environments to have an impact?”  perhaps the Horizon report predictions on impact is already due for an update.?

Many innovative teachers are already harnessing these tools to to reframe the information landscape of the traditional classroom.

As I noted in Innovations in Teaching and Learning: Top Down or Bottom Up?

Head to the vendor area of an educational conference and you’ll see a “top-down” vision of innovation in schools – expensive stuff that delivers information – lots of flashy equipment like display systems, interactive whiteboards, etc. They might give the illusion of modern, but in fact they’re just a glitzy versions of the old standby – teaching as telling. Does anyone really think there’s an instructional ROI in jazzing up test prep with a “Jeopardy-style game” delivered by “cutting-edge display technology?”

In fact, the best innovation in instructional practice is coming from the “bottom up” – from teachers who find effective ways to harness the creative energy of their students. These teachers don’t simply deliver information to kids, they craft lessons where students can research, collaborate, and reflect on what they’re learning. They harness a flood of new platforms that enable students “see” information in new ways and support a more self-directed style of learning. Unlike the expensive wares being hawked by the convention vendors, most of these web tools are free.

In SmartPhone – Dumb School, I added

While I’ve seen some cutting edge schools / teachers that have effectively embraced mobile technology and social networking, too many educators see smartphones as a distraction from learning. Many schools block Facebook, Twitter and the rest of social web as if it was pornography.

So where’s this put our students? For many it means that they must leave their smartphone at the classroom door and surrender themselves to an information culture controlled by the adults. What’s the mobile context in schools? Not much, it’s banned as subversive to learning.

Every day in school, students must “forget” about the information control and functionally their phone gives them to browse, research, monitor, network, shop and entertain. While they might view a photo just posted to Facebook from a friend’s mobile as the catalyst to a conversation, their teacher considers it a distraction from learning.

…When students do get on a school workstation (laptop or desktop) they quickly realize that it doesn’t “know” them as well as their phone does. Their personal device carries a wealth of information that’s important to them – contacts, photos, data, memories. To the school desktop, students are just a user on the network with a limited range of permissions. The biggest problem with the school computer is that it doesn’t do “place” at all. That’s a stark contrast to students’ mobiles, which geo-browse via the growing number of locational apps and geo-tagged information stream.


Infographic credit: Saint Xavier University
Online Masters in Curriculum and Instruction

Texting While Walking: Video Guide for Safety and Etiquette

Here’s a clever video by Casey Neistat. Using an novel combination of live action and animation, he tell the story of the dangers of texting while walking. Casey notes, 

By mastering the etiquette of texting, I hope we can gain more control over our increasingly electronic lives.  Let’s stop acting like hollowed-out zombies, with BlackBerrys and iPhones replacing eye contact, handshakes and face-to-face conversations.  It’s time to live once again in the present and simply be where we are. More

As someone who lives in downtown Portland Ore (without a car), I’m always trying to improve my pedestrian etiquette. It might be nice if the drivers stopped texting, as well.

This video is part of the New York Times Op-Docs series – short, opinionated documentaries. 

Texting While Walking
Texting While Walking

What Happens as the Cost of Hating Pigs Approaches Zero? Focus, Literacy and Angry Birds

Angrybirds
The Angry Birds app for my iPhone cost me $.99. I just checked my app stats and it appears I’ve won a “medal” for playing the game for more than 15 hours. (Disclosure: I’ve owned the program for about two months.) The next medal comes after 30 hours of play. Thus, my cost of Angry Birds is somewhere between 3 and 6 cents per hour – and dropping. 

Where did I find the 15+ hours to destroy those evil pigs? What’s the opportunity cost of vengeance?

The price of information is rapidly approaching zero. Normally as cost of a commodity drops, we consume more of it. But unlike all the other cheap stuff we buy, and then later discard, cheap information demands our attention. Despite all the claims of multi-tasking, we are stuck with a finite attention span. Thus the ability to selectively filter out unwanted information and stay focussed on a task is emerging as the most significant digital literacy.

And it appears I’m not the only one distracted by green pigs. Peter Verterbacka, of Rovio (makers of Angry Birds) estimates 200 million minutes of play per day across the globe. Expect to see that number grow. Rovio recently surpassed a million downloads a day. 

200 million minutes less to accomplish _________  

…. I can only hope it comes at the expense of lolcats.

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