Free STEM Educator Workshops

To help educators learn about the various ways to integrate data-collection technology into their laboratory experiments, Vernier Software & Technology is offering free workshops this fall. Led by experienced Vernier trainers, each 4-hour, hands-on workshop provides seasoned educators the opportunity to hone their data-collection skills while teachers new to probeware learn and explore the basics. Each workshop will be conducted using Vernier’s award-winning LabQuest 2 technology.

During the workshops, participants will learn important skills and strategies for integrating data-collection technology into their chemistry, biology, physics, middle school science, physical science or Earth science instruction. Participants also have the option of earning two (quarter) graduate science credit hours through the Portland State University Center for Science Education.

“Vernier’s workshops provide educators with a free and valuable professional development opportunity to learn new data-collection skills and techniques that they can bring back to the classroom,” said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier and former physics teacher. “By incorporating data collection into their labs, educators provide students with engaging learning and scientific discovery opportunities.”

For complete details and to register for a Vernier workshop closest to you, visit http://www.vernier.com/workshop.

About Vernier Software & Technology
Vernier Software & Technology has been a leading innovator of scientific data-collection technology for 31 years. Focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), Vernier is dedicated to developing creative ways to teach and learn using hands-on science. Vernier creates easy-to-use and affordable science interfaces, sensors, and graphing/analysis software. With world-wide distribution to over 130 countries, Vernier products are used by educators and students from elementary school to college. Vernier’s technology-based solutions enhance STEM education, increase learning, and build students’ critical thinking skills. Vernier’s business culture is grounded in Earth-friendly policies and practices, and the company provides a family-friendly workplace. For more information, visit www.vernier.com.

Source: Vernier Software & Technology

Learn History with Timeline Eons [App Review]

  Free App Download

Printed timelines can only cover so much history, but the new Timeline Eons app for iOS covers literally billions of years worth of history starting with the Big Bang. And it does it in a really cool way. The Today in History option can help users to keep tabs on important events, though individuals can actually program in anniversary reminders if they purchase the full version. Even the free version has plenty of functionality though. Mobile device users can experiment with three trial events, though they’ll probably be more interested in the fact that they can browse all of Earth’s history for ten days.

Parents seem to think that children rot their brains on the Internet, but Timeline Eons actually has a few functions that could be useful for history projects. Coverage of topics like the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Battle of Britain should provide ample material for anyone cramming for a test. The only real drawback here is that some teachers might be a bit reluctant to accept citations from a mobile phone app, but most students can cite software these days anyhow.

People with an interest in paleontology might get the most out of the app, considering that it covers just about any geological age one can think of. I think students can benefit from this app in a very big way for sure.

Free App Link

Image Credits: manni.us

Why I Love Reading Literature

I love literature. I can never have too much and my library will never be large enough. Literature has impacted my life in countless ways. As I’ve grown older, stories written by individuals long dead (but not forgotten) have stimulated my interest in history and many other subjects, while simultaneously influencing my personal development along the way. Literature is powerful and has the ability to shape who we become throughout our lives. It certainly has shaped the person I’ve become. The focus of today’s post is a short examination of literature – what it is, and why it has the ability to profoundly influence and affect the lives of so many.

Introduction

Mention literature to any average person from any part of the world and more often than not, the first name on his or her lips would perhaps be that of William Shakespeare. The thought that the work of one single individual, who lived so long ago, could create such an impact over time is indicative of the power of literature. More than four hundred years after his death, William Shakespeare lives on in the form of his writings, not only in the country he lived in, but in many parts of the world. Such is the power of literature.

So what is literature?

Most simply explained, it is a body of written work. But do all words that are written get the literature tag? They do not. Does this post count as literature? I think not. Reams of newspapers and magazines may have discussions on literature, but they aren’t literature per se.

Post 19th century, literature has come to be related to written works with imaginative, creative, or artistic value. However, that firmly excludes your TV’s user manual or even the copy of the latest magazine you’re reading (digital or print).

Literature has been around since man invented language and began the rich tradition of story telling. In the absence of the written word, the earliest form of literature must have been poetry that was easy to remember, and drama, that was interesting to watch and reproduce. That was the way stories of memorable hunts and wars were passed from generation to generation. And this early literature had the power to move ancient tribes. It had the power to pass on valuable information helping future generations better their own lives and understand the world around them.

With the advent of writing, literature was preserved better and in its original form.
The power of literature is awesome. It can make you feel and understand things totally alien to your otherwise mundane world. It can make you laugh or move you to tears. You can live every detail of tragedies real or imagined, just as you can forget your every day troubles in a world of happiness and delight. Literature lets you understand the minds of men long gone and gives you the vision to imagine fantastic shapes of our future. It can make you feel the first autumn chill on a sunny June afternoon and to smell a freshly baked mince pie in an aseptic hospital ward. Literature has power. It is power.

To get a feel of the power of literature first hand, pick up a good book from children’s literature. Now read it out loud to a child. No television or video is needed to see the child live each and every scene as fully in his mind as if it was happening in front of him, as if he were a part of the happenings. Who has seen a fairy, an elf, or a goblin? But every one of them dances in front of the child’s eyes. Making him laugh or clap or even maybe frown and look over his shoulder.

If such is the power of literature on a child, consider how it can move the minds of adults. How it can get them to act and change their own lives, and the lives of those around them. It not only catalogs the culture and civilization of different eras, but serves as the starting point of many modern thought processes as well. In the East for example, the vast literary works of the Buddhist and Hindu traditions were first orally passed and later written. Though hundreds of years old, these forms of literature continue to have a profound influence on the lives of many individuals today.

How has literature touched your life or perhaps even shaped the person that you are today? Have a great weekend everyone!

My Trip to the Space Show in NYC

© AMNH\R. Mickens.

When we were in NYC last week I got a chance to see Lockheed Martin’s Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History. A few of the cooler things I saw:

  • A replica of the Mars Rover (shown above and in slideshow) – this was my favorite!
  • A device that lets you smell (yes smell) what air on the moon is like (Hint: It’s not that great)
  • An interactive display that lets you virtually terraform a habitable planet
  • A great display of an orbital elevator prototype
  • Asteroid mining education and exhibit
  • Recreation of a lunar habitat

If you can get away, I HIGHLY recommend it. The exhibit runs until August 12th and I can assure you, you won’t be disappointed. And yes, they have an app for the exhibit. I wanted to buy a replica space suit to wear while walking around NY but my better-half shot that idea down. I got a great coffee mug instead. :/

I got an extra bonus at the end of the day as well. When we were taking the ferry back to NJ I got to see the Enterprise Shuttle being loaded onto the aircraft carrier where it will be on display from now on. That spacecraft is BEAUTIFUL even if it never saw any action in space.

Slideshow
Forgive the bad pics…the lighting in the exhibit was darkened for special effect (that and I’m generally a terrible photographer).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Notable STEM Program: CyberPatriot

As an avid proponent of STEM in education, I like to keep an eye out for innovation happening around the world. For instance, I get really excited when I learn of all the amazing apps being created on the iPad based around STEM. Check out this recent post by OnlineUniversities.com – 50 Best iPad Apps for STEM Education to see what I’m talking about. This type of thing is good for schools and students…we need MUCH MORE!

Another great project I recently learned about is CyberPatriot. Established in 2008, CyberPatriot is the Air Force Association‘s flagship STEM program. It’s a team-based competition, where students learn to defend a computer network from real-life computer threat scenarios.  Thus far, CyberPatriot has had five subcategories in their All Service Division, comprised of Junior ROTC units of the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps, and Civil Air Patrol units. Now, the Naval Sea Cadet Corps joins the division.

The Naval Sea Cadet Corps is a youth development organization supported by both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard that serves to teach individuals 13 to 17 years old about the sea-going military services, U.S. Naval operations and training, community service, citizenship, and an understanding of discipline and teamwork. For more than 50 years, the mission of the Naval Sea Cadet Corps has been to provide American youth with leadership abilities through hands-on training.

“In the decades since our establishment, a prime mission of ours has been to expand the horizons of our sea cadets to help them become mature young adults and prepare them for success,” said CAPT (Ret) Jim Monahan, U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps Executive Director.  “This partnership with AFA and CyberPatriot is another opportunity to foster essential skills to enrich their development — from cyber awareness and basic technological skills to teamwork and critical thinking. We look forward to participating in CyberPatriot V and the many years to follow.”

“We at AFA emphasize education in all we do,” said Mike Dunn, President and CEO of AFA. “This new partnership with the Naval Sea Cadet Corps helps expand the educational outreach of the CyberPatriot program and provides knowledge and training for hundreds of more students on cyber security. We are utterly thrilled to have them involved and look forward to a long partnership.”

CyberPatriot IV saw more than 1,000 teams register, representing all 50 states and Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Europe and the Pacific. Top winners from each division received more than $50,000 in college scholarships from the Northrop Grumman Foundation, CyberPatriot’s presenting sponsor.

Other CyberPatriot sponsors include founding partners SAIC and CIAS at the University of Texas-San Antonio, as well as AT&T, Boeing, General Dynamics, Microsoft, Raytheon, the Air Force Research Laboratory, MIT-Lincoln Laboratory, Cisco, URS and K2Share.

Registration for CyberPatriot V closes on September 30, 2012. Any high school can field a team for the Open Division, while Junior ROTC units from any Service; Civil Air Patrol units; and now Sea Cadets are eligible to field teams in the All Service Division. Coaches can learn more about CyberPatriot and sign up at www.uscyberpatriot.org. Information is also available from the CyberPatriot staff atinfo@uscyberpatriot.org.

The Air Force Association is a non-profit, independent, professional military and aerospace education association and has 200 chapters nationally and internationally representing more than 108,000 members.  You can learn more at www.afa.org.

Image Credit: Columbia News Service

Source: Air Force Association

Additional Learning Resources:

Digital Natives: Learning Styles & Internet Habits

Digital Natives are those people who were born into our current digitally connected, highly technologically advanced environment. One might even go so far as to say that our present crop of Digital Natives has been born into two worlds simultaneously.

First, they’ve entered the literal, physical world – complete with the time and space limitations we all share. Second, they’ve made a grand entrance into the lightning-fast, instant-access, interactive, virtual world of the Internet, video games, cell phones, MP3 players, and other, similar devices. These young people have quite literally never known any other way of interacting with or relating to the wider world than through a variety of totally manipulative digital media. In short, they think, breathe, and act digitally. The intense media focus, innate digital savvy, and natural facility for all things electronic  that define Digital Natives, combine to create a significant difference in learning styles, thought patterns, and problem-solving strategies, between this group and its parents and grandparents.

Though many older people, who have not grown up with digital media (who are known as Digital Immigrants), are making great strides toward acclimating to the newer technology and making fairly competent use of it, the older generations are, on the whole, clearly far less comfortable in a digital environment. Since most teachers fall within this category, the potential for learning difficulties among Digital Natives is great.

Digital Natives process information differently than their elders, which means they both learn and apply what they’ve learned differently, as well. Their learning styles are more interactive and hands-on and less reflective. Digital Natives think differently (less linearly) than their predecessors, they work differently (actively multi-tasking), they access data differently (often randomly and non-sequentially, but always super-fast and with an unwavering preference for graphics over text), they have a much shorter attention span (thanks to the speed of modern technology), and they speak an entirely different language (the language of the Digital Age).

To a great degree, Digital Natives are independent learners, who are totally comfortable using the all-but-unlimited informational resources of the Internet to meet their learning needs. Yet, our schools still face real challenges in adapting outmoded teaching styles and teacher thought patterns to the needs of a new generation of students, whose ways of assimilating knowledge are vastly different from their own – and even from those of the students they may have taught just a few short years ago.

Social Constructs Vanish in the Virtual World

Everything seems to be moving to the Internet these days. Regions of the web don’t necessarily correlate to any real geographical regions and the Internet doesn’t physically exist. It’s interesting to note that virtual reality itself is a social construct.

Virtual philosophies are heavily influenced by science fiction. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Fiction is something that most people can relate with. While it’s unlikely that the present reality actually exists in another virtual universe, virtual philosophies still raise some important questions.

People in a virtual community start to develop the same sorts of social bonds that citizens of physical communities do. Technological innovation is one of the driving forces behind social change. Society itself may very well be moving towards a less concrete reality.

While it seems that human beings are moving towards a technological singularity, individual collective consciousnesses are actually starting to develop. Individuals with special interests are often unable to find people near their homes that share their hobbies.

Forums on the Internet have successfully given people with every interest a place to discuss their hobbies with like-minded folks. Knowledge flows dynamically among people with such interests. A lack of hierarchy has made the flow of knowledge considerably more democratic than it is in the real world. Therefore, it’s safe to conclude that a virtual world already exists today.

Free App: STEM for Education

Americans made 80% of all scientific discoveries from the 1930s to the 1960s. The United States owes its status to its investment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Today, many countries are following suit by offering STEM education programs, improved infrastructure, numerous research opportunities, STEM scholarships, and active government support.

“The United States has been the dominant science superpower since the 1950s. As a result, in the early 1960s, the United States was spending seven times more money on scientific research than Europe,” said Carolina Cabral Murphy, Co-Founder of MicroEmpowering.

In the last three years, while still in the lead, the United States research output has only grown by 30 percent.

Mrs. Cabral Murphy also highlighted: “Investing in STEM education helps nations and individuals enjoy robust growth prospects.” Students completing STEM education programs enjoy:

  • More job opportunities
  • Better remuneration
  • Better growth prospects
  • Long-term stability in their careers

According to data analyzed by the U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration, men and women enjoy a 50% STEM premium compared to the hourly wages of those working in non-STEM areas. Women suffer from a 21% wage gap in non-STEM jobs. This gap falls to 14% for women who have completed STEM programs, and the gap narrows drastically for women who have majored in computers, mathematics, or engineering.

Focusing on college education and offering STEM scholarships to college students will not suffice. Those who obtain STEM degrees typically start to show interest in science by age 11.  This means that interest in science and mathematics must be nurtured and encouraged during childhood.

With this challenge in mind MicroEmpowering.org launched an App called Curiosity School – STEM education series. The app is available for FREE @ the iTunes store:
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/curiosity-school-stem-series/id521507118?mt=8

ABOUT MicroEmpowering:
MicroEmpowering.org provides community organizations, non-profit institutions, and social entrepreneurs with the technology, educational materials, and services they need.

Source: MicroEmpowering.org

Nine Must-Read Dystopian Novels

Call it morbid fascination if you like, but it’s hard to argue with the popularity of dystopian novels. The Hunger Games may be our current obsession, and 1984 the most lastingly famous, but there’s no shortage of gripping, terrifying—even poignant—stories of dark and twisted future societies. The books on this list are not only ingenious spins on the notion of a “world gone mad,” but also first-rate works of literature that will haunt you long after you’ve finished reading them. Read More →

Dehumanization, Dystopia, and Drugs for All

Technology has allowed for advances in the quality of life in many aspects of health and behavior through medicines and innovative treatments. But with the advances of technology, comes the devolving of the essence of being human. Many critics of Orwell’s book 1984 cite the rise of authoritarianism, the loss of human freedoms, and the ability of the media to disseminate propaganda as the central themes of the book, but all of these can be tied together to a more simple term: dehumanization. Read More →