Blog Archives

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 9:37 am

Google Introduces SF Bay Educators to App Inventor for Android

Mobile apps have changed our relationship with information access in the wider world. With mobile devices such as smart phones and tablet computers becoming more powerful and affordable, more people are regularly supplementing their experiences out in the world by calling up services like Google Maps, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Four Square, and Shazam to record what they’re doing, find out what other people thought about whatever restaurant/park/business they’re at, or share their own opinion.

Ten years ago, if I passed a statue of some historic figure and wanted to learn more, I’d have to make a note and then go visit the library. Now, I can just whip out my phone and Google the name. I can also use my phone to take a geo-tagged picture, upload it to Flickr (which will automatically highlight it in my Facebook feed), share a web link about what I learned about the statue on Twitter, and check in on Four Square. What’s that song playing at the café I just passed? Shazam! “Bossa for the Devil” by Dr. Rubberfunk. Apps are changing how we interact with the world.

For youth, using apps to learn more about places as they experience them is second nature, and those apps can be powerful learning tools. What isn’t second nature is app development. Designing and building a working app generally requires some serious programming savvy, but youth are very interested in apps—they see how relevant apps are to daily life and how they’re being used by more people, more frequently—and this motivates those with an interest in tech to take the programming plunge. Learning programming can be a long slog through lots of information to create very simple programs. I remember taking an intro to CS class, which had us learn BASIC. I can’t find my notes, but I’m pretty sure it took us a week to know enough to code the “Hello, world” program that seems to be lesson 1 for just about any programming course, regardless of language. My classmates and I found our interest in programming waning fast. And if motivated college students ten years ago lost their interest so quickly, imagine what happens with the youth of today, living at a mile a minute.
Friday, June 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm

The students from Bouchet Academy are scattered around the Tropical River area at Lincoln Park Zoo's McCormick Bird House taking part in an ethology activity (the study of animal behavior) to sharpen their scientific observation skills. A variety of birds surround them, mostly nestled in small trees or walking on the ground. Occasionally, a bird flies over the students’ heads and someone tries to snap a picture with their smartphone. Each student has selected a bird in the area to watch closely for three minutes. Every ten seconds a zoo staff member directs them to “Look!” and the students quickly make a note on their clipboard about the behavior their particular bird exhibits.
Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Everyone who’s had to make a poster for a class project at one time or another, raise your hand. I’m going to guess that pretty much all of you reading this raised your hands and at some point in your schooling had to wrestle poster boards on the bus or walking down the street, worrying that the glue wouldn’t hold and various attachments would fall off and fly away on the wind. (Okay, maybe that was just me?)

Posters are time-honored methods of sharing information: not only are they still used to communicate important ideas to people all over the world, but of course educators have been using them as assessment products for years. Creating a poster forces students to consider what information to include and how to organize, arrange, and illustrate it. These are still valuable experiences for youth—skills that are no less important today than they were twenty years ago when you could write a computer program with a hole punch. Glogster seeks to bring the poster into the 21st century by allowing users to create a digital poster, or glog, with multimedia and hyperlinked elements to extend and supplement the information it contains. (The initial “g” in “glog” is meant to evoke “graphics.”)

Tuesday, June 07, 2011 at 3:43 pm

One of the most common concerns I hear from educators when we’re discussing using social media tools with youth is the sheer number of sites out there. Using new media for information gathering requires patience. It can be really hard to make sense of how an event or topic is being played out across the major platforms: tracking topics across Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, YouTube, and blogs requires a real desire to see what’s happening in real time. Even if you’re a seasoned web browser tab jockey or use a social media aggregator like FriendFeed, events in a timeline without context or analysis aren’t being displayed to their best advantage.

Storify is an online platform that allows users to bring together disparate entries from various new media platforms and curate a story.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 11:52 am

This post is part of a series of interviews highlighting leaders in the field of New Learning (what we call “NLI at Inquiry”). Recently, we interviewed Chicago Public Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey on subjects including how the library has reshaped the city, new media’s role in the library, and her thoughts on the future of urban libraries. Here, in Part II of the interview, she discusses the ways that CPL’s new media learning center, YOUmedia, meets the needs of youth in Chicago and her thoughts on how urban libraries will evolve to meet students’ needs in the future.

Listen to the full interview here:

Monday, May 02, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Music loops have long been a staple of electronic and experimental music and have since worked their way into rock and roll, hip-hop, techno, and other musical genres. As with so many of the tools we’ve looked at, creating loops from a series of samples — once a painstaking process for all but professional music producers with special equipment — is now easy thanks to applications like Audacity and GarageBand, which make home recording and mixing fairly simple if you want to create your own audio. What if you just want to play in someone else’s musical sandbox? Then Looplabs is for you. In-browser editor? Check. Pre-loaded samples? Check. Easy publishing? Check.

Loop creation just got as easy as drag-and-drop.

Thursday, April 21, 2011 at 9:48 am