Drone Review: Syma X5C Explorer

Drone Review: Syma X5C Explorer

Drone Review: Syma X5C Explorer

Upon the recommendation of some of our 7th Grade students, I purchased a drone for $40 that was delivered surprisingly on Easter Sunday. The Syma X5C Explorer is the perfect drone for beginners and those prone to rooftop crashing. I was amazed to discover the nearly indestructible design of this little drone. After bouncing it off the pavement a dozen times, the Syma drone operates just as well as its first flight.

Lightweight, inexpensive, and still very precise, the Syma is easy to charge through your computer usb port. The remote control requires 4 AA batteries, and it comes with 4 replacement propellors, which I have not yet needed to use. Bottom line: this product makes drone flight accessible to anyone with $40 and a desire to fly.

With today’s perfect sunny weather and clear blue skies, I took the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) outside with my kids and let them take turns flying. Despite the pollen and gusts of wind, the drone performed very well. As I was flying, I took the craft too far down the street and it was swept up into the wind. I tried to steer it back towards my house, but the wind took the dirigible high above my neighbor’s roof. To avoid a crash landing, I pushed the flying machine higher where it was taken captive by the winds.

The sensational drone was last seen flying at an extremely high altitude eastbound on Pitts Road headed towards the Village. Much like history’s famed aviator and female pioneer Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan, the Syma X5C’s current whereabouts are simply unknown. Visibility was lost, but hope is not.

If you see the missing drone, please contact me. 

Drone Review: Syma X5C Explorer Drone Review: Syma X5C Explorer

Update: Drone Found!

After a quick sprint down the sidewalk of the adjoining neighborhood revealed no sign of the missing drone, I flicked the toggle repeatedly until behold; the green and red lights flickered and the blades spun around with a high-pitched humming noise. The drone suddenly appeared from the roof and sputtered down the side of the large, brick house. It landed in the bushes, just at the tip of my reach. The drone has been recovered, tested, and is ready for its next flight.

Drones: Gateway to Learning, Design, and Impact

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Drones: Gateway to Learning, Design, and Impact

Drones provide a gateway to learning many practical and helpful uses for human-centered problem solving, as well as simple fun and curiosity. Here are a few ideas to consider…

Paint Your House

Advertise your product/company with a flying drone billboard

Ambulance Drone for Medical Emergencies

Submarine Periscope

Save the lives of African babies with HIV testing

Drone Racing is the Sport of the Future

Search for Lost Dogs

Monitor Marine Reserves and Spot Illegal Fishing

Droneport for Africa

A Robot That Flies Like A Bird

Find the Best Waves for Surfing Safely

Avoid Traffic by Flying Yourself to School or Work

Deliver to Ships at Sea

Detect Land Mines

Save People From Drowning

What applications can you share?

Maker Wars: 3D Printer Comes to Life Thanks to Students

Maker Wars: 3D Printer Comes to Life Thanks to Students

A few weeks ago, 3 students approached me and asked if they could use our 3D Printer. “Of course!,” I said, not knowing that the printer wasn’t actually working. The students identified the necessary part and purchased it. They repaired the machine and it has been buzzing ever since, cranking out some cool, preliminary calibration products. 

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How might we encourage our students’ passions and create greater access to maker technology and curriculum? 

Resources: 
What is the Maker movement and why should you care?
Mount Vernon students use 3D Printer to make prosthetic hand
Leading change demands living the change…by Bo Adams

Students Want Access

dig medStudents Want Access

The past couple of mornings, I’ve received several unexpected student visitors to my office. My desk is covered in papers, my nose buried in a laptop while diligently working to accomplish a variety of projects, but thankfully I know when to put all of the ‘important stuff’ on hold. What’s more important than taking the time to listen and talk to a passionate and curious learner?

One student came in to show me the BB-8 robot he got for Christmas. He just walked right in, opened up the box, placed the robot on the floor, and showed me how he controlled it with his phone. Cool!

Another pair of students dropped by to ask if they could print a 3D printer using another 3D printer. They want to print a better printer so they can print drones that they can sell through the business they’ve created. What!? That’s the greatest thing I’ve ever heard. Their enthusiasm is so strong that they offered to pay for the part (our current printer is a hand-me-down from the Upper School and it gets jammed after 15 hours of printing – requiring constant replacement). When student engagement occurs naturally – don’t get in the way!

There is a student who is planning to strap a GoPro to his head and film a day in his life, then upload to his e-portfolio. I secured two different devices and he has been stopping the front office to prepare. We ordered a memory card yesterday. We discussed how teachers might use this same technology to capture their lessons for a) self reflection and professional learning or b) posting to their websites for students to review.

Brainstorming Tech Needs

Every year, we have the opportunity to propose a wish list of technology items to be used by students and teachers in our school. What a blessing! I am grateful that we can “say yes” to so many ideas. It seems only fitting to involve a wide range of stakeholders in the conversation as they are the primary users of any emerging technology we purchase. Today, I met with the Digital Media class, as well as a few other students. We brainstormed a great list of ideas.

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Resources: 
Students Invent Thumbprint Scanner Lockers
How a GoPro got my students excited to learn
The best 3D printers of 2016 – reviews
Oculus Rift

How might we give Middle School students greater access to emerging technology, opportunities to start their own businesses, and to make/create/design their wildest ideas?

Hacking ePortfolios

Hacking ePortfolios

(cue sudden, startling music)
There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it?

Our school launched eportfolios a few years ago. Feedback from students and teachers confirms we have not yet cracked the code on how to use them effectively. Why not?

Hacking eporfolios

Lack of clear purpose
Middle School kids don’t have to be coaxed into seeing the relevance of Instagram or Snapchat. It’s social. It’s about them. It’s a way to share and be ‘in the know.’ In fact, not being part of it leads to a desperate feeling of being on the outside. The purpose of eportfolios has the potential to be similarly compelling, but not the way we’ve currently designed it.

From a school’s point of view, eportfolios have multiple purposes. In my opinion, there are two primary reasons to use them: workspace and showcase. Workspace means the portfolio is a tool to increase learning (and reflection of learning). Showcase means it is a way to measure learning (an additional gauge beyond grades). One is formative. The other is summative. Students could care less about either.

To increase student engagement with eportfolios, we must find ways to incorporate more of the elements they love about Instagram and other things on which they obsessively focus. Can teachers somehow ‘jedi mind trick’ them into wanting to use eportfolios for workspaces and showcases? From a student’s perspective, what is the purpose of an eportfolio? And why should they care?

Too school centered
Students have goals and teachers have goals. And never the twain shall meet? Let the students decide what to upload, at least to jumpstart the conversation and active use of eportfolios. They will be more likely to accept some of the learning outcome/learning measure stuff teachers want them to do if we first listen and accept what they care about posting. And show them how to do it in ways they haven’t imagined.
Hacking eportfoliosAudience too small
After all the labor spent, who sees a student’s work? No one really. The teacher may see it, but the teacher sees the student’s work every day. What’s so special about that? Current settings keep the work private. The world has no access. What if we could expand the audience? Like a true blog, the appeal is the potential for the entire globe to have access (at least those with internet access). How can we enable students to see one another’s eportfolios? Let students from other divisions or schools view and comment. External experts or experts in residence could mentor specific students on their posts, providing valuable feedback unique to their field. Pair up with students in another city, state, or country and share out. Create a mini convention like the old social science fair. Invite guests, parents, community members, and others to view, ask questions in person, and give feedback.
Hacking eportfoliosToo many tech steps
Students want it to be easy. So do teachers. Makes sense. Recently, I spoke with a student who explained, “In order to upload a picture to my eportfolio, I have to have my phone, but we’re not supposed to have these. Then, I can’t upload the photo directly to my eportfolio, so I have to email it to myself, but we’re not allowed to receive outside emails (school settings prevent this as a way to protect kids), so I have to login to my personal email (also not allowed during school hours), then upload it to google drive, log back into my school account, and finally upload the picture into my Digication eportfolio. But I don’t like the way it looks, it’s so 2006.”

I was exhausted just listening. I can truly empathize with how they feel. I attempted to download the WordPress app to my phone so I could experiment with instantly uploading my own photos and posts remotely. After an hour or so, and many attempts to retrieve my forgotten password, I was still unsuccessful. It’s more hassle than it’s worth. Who has time to spend trying to figure all of this stuff out?

If we want eportfolios to happen, we have to simplify the steps. We’re trying to make water flow uphill.

Questions:
What is the purpose of an eportfolio? And why should they care?

How do we make eportfolios more student centered? How do we balance student centered and school centered approaches to eportfolios?

How many ways can we expand the audience for students to showcase their learning, not just their best products?

How can we simplify the steps necessary to uploading demonstrations? What platform(s) are best for middle schoolers? upper schoolers? educators?

Resources:
Learning Through Reflection
Sample ePortfolios
ePortfolio Boot Camp
Using Google Photos

#16 Thoughts on Digital Citizenship

Students have the power to make decisions in the realm of social media where the consequences can stick around for a long time. Educators must model and instruct the proper use of these tools. Parents should closely monitor their student’s activity while the student gradually earns trust by their consistent actions. All three stakeholders should discuss and agree on guardrails that allow students to utilize the latest technology while simultaneously maintaining responsible digital citizenship. Not an easy task.

Parents…
1. Be informed and involved with your student’s social media life. They know more than you do in this realm. How will you guard against being green? Trust and verify. Spend time and talk with your children.

2. Partner with educators. Read the resources they share with you. Share resources with them. Participate in offerings such as Parent University where external experts are brought in to discuss specific topics such as social media.

Students…
1. Commit to being a responsible digital citizen. Be trustworthy in all that you do. Online and offline.

2. Make wise choices. Learn this skill at an early age and it will take you far in life. I recommend reading Andy Stanley’s book Principal of the Path and The Best Question Ever.


Professional Educators…
1. Engage the students daily about what digital citizenship means and how to practice it. Infuse lessons on digital citizenship into your regularly scheduled programming. Be intentional.

2. Be the best in your field. Seek out new and innovative technologies to use in the classroom that will prepare students to be globally competitive. Seek out how to develop responsible digital citizens. Lead future leaders.

3. Partner with parents. Equip them. Share with them. Work together for the good of the students.

Here are some excellent resources to get started…
Cybraryman’s Resources

Why Digital Citizenship Must Be Taught in Schools

Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship

6 Must Read Posts on the Importance of Teaching Digital Citizenship

Teaching Integrity in an Age of Cynicism

Search Twitter using hashtag #digcit
What resources have you found to be helpful regarding digital citizenship?

Why ePortfolios? Workspace & Showcase

If you try to follow #eportfolios on twitter, you may be disappointed. When you search and view samples of ePortfolios on the internet, you will find several schools with templates and beginnings. You won’t find many quality ones in the grade levels proceeding college. At least I haven’t yet. Many of them appear more like resumes than an instrument that not only documents learning but accelerates it, too.

This summer, our team is designing an ePortfolio for students spanning Preschool through Grade 12. The team consists of representatives from Preschool, Lower School, Middle School, and Upper School working together to create one cohesive platform. It will look a little different at each level to meet the needs of the students. For example, Preschoolers will require greater teacher assistance to curate, reflect, and upload their demonstrations of learning while Upper School students will possess greater autonomy.

Regardless of age, what is the purpose of student ePortfolios? Why do they exist? Why should they exist?

As a Workspace…

1. Document Student Learning – At a national level (and elsewhere), when we hear about the state of education, we hear about test scores. There are so many better and alternative ways to measure student growth and performance. ePortfolios lend themselves to constructed learning by design. The status quo for assessing student learning is and has been selected response learning (ex: multiple choice questions, give me four choices and I will select one. this tends to require little critical or creative thinking). Schools must employ a comprehensive and balanced approach to assessments. Teachers must design more units and assessments that encourage and require students to construct a unique and original response.

2. Accelerate Student Learning – Students who actively engage in their learning not only retain more knowledge but develop higher order thinking skills. Are we only force feeding content and standards? When do students get to choose their own learning path and pursue unique interests? An ePortfolio must include student reflection. It must include feedback from peers, teachers, parents, and external experts. It is a way to engage the greater community and inspire others to deeper learning or new discoveries.

As a Showcase…

3. Serve as a Discussion Starter for Student Led Parent Conferences – Have you ever wondered why parent teacher conferences often exclude the most important party; the student? Sometimes, it is more appropriate for the adults to meet, but I think we miss an opportunity to not only include the student in the conference, but to ask them to lead it. As they lead, students should leverage their e-portfolio as the starting point to showcase their learning and even highlight their areas of struggle, too.

4. Serve as a Discussion Starter for College Acceptance/Interviews – What does the SAT measure? And why do we care? Why do we put so much weight and emphasis on a limited tool with a narrow frame. How do we measure creativity? Ethical decision making? As a Director of Admissions, I relied on a comprehensive approach that included standardized test scores, but we did not hang our hat on them at the exclusion of other gauges including the required items (transcripts, interviews, application questions, writing samples, recommendations) and the un-required touch points (every interaction was a chance to get to know an applicant, to ask questions, observe behavior, and communicate an expectation. many team members were included in the interactions.) It takes more time to be thorough and relational. It is simply easier to pin it all on a test taken on a Saturday morning. Kinda lazy yet convenient. And a money making machine, too. I’d like to see more authentic measures begin to take over.

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What other purposes can you think of for a student ePortfolio? Also, what questions do you have? Please share.