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Question: What does a 15th Century oil painting have to do with the development of NASA’s Augmented Reality iPad App?
I’m always interested in the connections that today’s digital devices have with history. Take for example, NASA’s Augmented Reality App (http://bit.ly/GA82dS). Imagine printing a simple image from your inkjet printer. Then placing the printed paper on your desk, and then turning on your NASA app and iPad camera to scan the printed image on the desk (fig. 1). Suddenly, as if by magic, up pops up a model of the Mar’s Rover, with the appearance of taking up space and volume, but no weight!? (fig. 2). Finally, you have the ability to pick up the model and view it from 360 degrees, as well as animate many of its functions (activating its’ antenna, or moving it a few degrees.) (see figures 1-3)
Fig 1. Printed paper being scanned by iPad camera
Fig 3: Rover can be turned and viewed in 360 degrees.
As I viewed the image on my iPad and enjoyed the ability to see a 3D image that I could move and maneuver in the palm of my hand I marveled with the science fiction I was playing with. In the palm of my hand was the result of years of science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and yet, one crucial element in history had been overlooked. In order to appreciate the full visual affect I was enjoying with this Augmented Reality App I wondered if this was the same wonderment experienced by the few people who saw Filippo Brunelleschi’s painting of the Baptistry in Florence, Italy, 600 years ago. Brunelleschi was a man who was an engineer, architect, artisan, mathematician, and inventor.
Prior to Brunelleschi’s work, artist’s painted and drew in a flat plane with figures that had no weight and sometimes seemed to float in space. Perspective was not important. For example, the castle in the painting (Left) looks like some child’s doll house with no depth, no perspective. The three figures behind the churchman also seem to have no order of depth–no perspective.
Brunelleschi’s work would literally change history and how people would view the world because of rediscovered geometry called “linear perspective.” Without linear perspective today’s video games, movies, holographic projections, virtual reality, and apps like Augmented Reality would not exist. Brunelleschi was the first to introduced the geometry that would gave way to these discoveries and inventions. Using a mirror, he was able to understand how all lines converged to one point. Mapping this information out on a canvas he painted the Baptistry building in Florence, Italy. People were encouraged to view the painting by looking through a hole made at the bottom of the canvas and placing a half mirror at a distance (see figure below) that would reflect the artists work and then give view to the real building. The whole experience had a wow affect. This new discovery would change how artists would paint, and even how maps were to be made. In effect, our 21st Century GPS also has its history to this same event in history. Art is another form of recording data and information, and yet it is many times over looked and shoved aside due to bias and ignorance.
Leonardo da Vinci said, “There are three classes of people: those who see. Those who see when they are shown Those who do not see.” It’s important to remember we see and think in images not words. Technology won’t motivate, but Art has the power to motivate and create, and in the end, isn’t that what we, as educators, are striving for, ways to motivate and encourage our students?
Would you consider a pencil a tool? If you said yes, then it should have its own rubric along with the rest of the technology requirements being given to students today.
I had some fun putting this rubric quickly together. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but so is the idea that technology will motivate students. The 16mm films didn’t do it, nor the filmstrips, even with sound; and when television and VCR’s were put into the classroom that technology didn’t motivate students. VCR were eventually replaced with DVD’s with the same results. Computers are common place today, students are quite comfortable with iPads and e-books. But, math scores are still low, reading is still average, and students are dropping out of school at all levels.
Bill Ferriter, who runs his own blog, recently did a simple hand drawing on the topic, “What do you want kids to do with technology?”, and posted on the Net (which got a pretty good response.) He pointed out that today’s students are motivated by opportunities created by the students not the technology they are using. I agree, and add that the mighty little pencil is still being used by the top designer, architects, and computer leaders today.
Interesting enough during the 1960’s, NASA spent $12 million dollars to develop a pen that could be used in zero gravity. Those pens were eventually sold by Fisher Pens and called, “Fisher Space Pens.” I remember buying one, it cost $1.98, which was expensive at that time. Meanwhile, our competitor for the space race, Russia, invested in pencils and mechanical pencils, and saved millions of dollars. Considering there is no place on our planet that has zero G, unless you are falling out of an airplane and writing your Will on the way down, there is no way a Space Pen can give you any clear advantages or better grades. But, better grades was one of Fisher’s selling points, along with the ability to close sales, think clearly, and clear up acne (Okay, the last one wasn’t in the original marketing makeup).
So, if you agree that a Space Pen, or any pen or pencil will not help you get better grades, what makes you think buying a computer, iPad, or e-book will? Some might say, “Today’s technology has access to the World Wide Web, Multimedia, it’s interactive, it has the ability to cross communicate with all kinds of digital devices, it’s…it’s…it’s a tool!” In the end, it’s simply a tool. I’m open to comments, send them.
This past Sunday, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune’s front page focused on the New and Improved Core Curriculum story titled, “Raising the bar for education.” The article centers on the release of some sketchy details to the new Core Curriculum. I say some sketchy details because they are all still being worked out as we speak. This is equivalent to preparing a full four course dinner, setting the table, and then sending out the guest invitations. A year from now 44 other states are also planning to launch the Core Curriculum. The goal, the article continues, “is to create new benchmarks for mathematics and sciences”, and in the end, they say, “to better prepare students for college and careers.” Of course, the real underlining objective is to increase low achieving test scores and public opinion.
The story continues that in the new program educators will no longer be at the front of the room lecturing, but interacting with their students. So, how is this to be done you ask? By providing the top schools, students and teachers with iPad technology (600,000 iPads). I guess walking around the classroom hasn’t been thought of yet. The article reports that “The project (that is the iPad purchase) penciled out around $450 million dollars.” Good idea to use low tech to explain high tech pricing. Okay, so we know what the better schools are getting, but what about the poorer schools. Thanks to a $1.25 billion dollar infusion from the State of California, these schools will be able to order tablets, desktops, and other technology.
This whole scenario is being played out across the board in both public and private schools throughout the State of California. I recently interviewed for a position at a private school in Los Angeles where the position was to train both teachers and students on their new iPads and Mac Pro laptops. Buying the technology first and then figuring out how it will be used has been going on for a long time. I admire Apple’s move into the educational world back in the 1980’s. It was a shrewd and intelligent undertaking to line up their product into education. But, lest we forget, the Apple Corporation is not in business to educate, they are in business to make one thing, — larger profits.
For the past twenty years, the United States has invested billions of dollars to upgrade technology infrastructures, hardware, and software programs in its school systems. All of this with the promise that the updated technology would motivate, stimulate student interest, increase learning, and in the end improve student test scores. During this same twenty year period, the Programme for Student Assessment (PISA) has been monitoring 52 countries and their educational programs especially in reading, mathematics, and science. From 2001 to 2012 the United States has consecutively placed AVERAGE in reading, and BELOW AVERAGE in the maths and sciences. So, if technology hasn’t increased motivation, stimulation, and increased test scores in the past 20 years, why do the politicians and educators think putting more money into technology will do the job?
But soon I’m interrupted. The article reports, “The technology will help students on the new California state standardized tests, which will be administered online and will reply on in-depth rather than multiple questions.” So, students will learn how to take state tests by taking similar tests in the classroom. “Another brick in the wall.” That means teachers, who will now be called “facilitators” will be guiding students on how to do the test online. Still teaching to the test! The article ends with “the promise that the funds given by the state will cover the cost for Apple to train teachers on their new technologies.” Well, after all, Apple wants their share of the financial pie.
What will the future report? In the end, the politicians will get their votes, the technology companies will report high earnings for their stockholders, and the educational report will remain mediocre. The technology panacea has already had 20 years to prove itself, it’s time that we put the teacher back in the classroom to fix what the politicians and computer companies have screwed up. It’s time that technology take its proper position as a supporting actor, and develop the real core of our future–our students, who should be the apples of our eyes.
Reference: San Gabriel Valley Tribune. (2013). retrieved from SGVTribune.com
- Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms
- against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.”
- Macbeth, Shakespeare
- Interesting enough when a change occurs it is not the change that causes attention, but the future results because of that change. Back on March 18, 1997, the science and technology committee, assembled by President Clinton, finished their 80 page report (Becker, H.J. et al., 1997) called, “Report to the President on the Use of Technology to Strengthen K-12 Education in the United States.” The report carefully outlined all the issues and problems that would face educators to implement any technology program(s) into their schools. So, I am not sure if it was news pressure or political agenda, but after the report was made public, President Clinton in 1998, increased resources for educational technology by over 3,000 Percent, including training over 600,000 new teachers to use technology effectively in the classroom. The training was at best at the level of ‘computer literacy.’ The edict was given with no instructions on how to implement technology based programs into the classroom, or by what weight success would be measured. Interesting enough, no one seemed to read the last sentence of the report, which read, “The Panel does not, however, recommend that the deployment of technology within America’s schools be deferred pending the completion of such research.”
- With no weights or objectives given to educators from the government other than ‘make it happen,’ the conditions were now set for the Bush Administration on how to find and develop accountability.
- In 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act, and Standardized testing became the benchmark panacea for all Federal programs including STEM. Since then, many of the online STEM software companies have developed either their own benchmarks for STEM or have developed their software programs under NCLB policies. In either case, after 20 years and billions of dollars spent on implementing technology into the classroom arena, the United States report card from PISA² is still showing average readers, and below average test scores in mathematics and the sciences. Back to Hamlet “…or not to be that is the question.”
- Therefore, do we answer the question of “to be” by having our children, our future, suffer the slings and arrows of a political agenda that has had twenty years to prove itself, and hasn’t; or, do we now face the reality of blunders and mismanagement and oppose it by developing new entrepreneur solutions ? The apprentice of Leonardo seeks to develop alternative solutions. Acta non verba!
- Becker, H. J., Shaw, D. E., Bransford, J. D., Davidson, J., Hawkins, J., Malcom, S., … Young, J. (1997, March). Report to the President on the use of technology to strengthen K-12 education in the United States [Scholarly project]. In Technreporttopresident. Retrieved July 10, 2013, from http://tacticalthinkers.com/technology/Teacher %20Resources/technreporttopresident.html
- ² Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/pisa_19963777
On the Today Show, a segment was dedicated to, “The Classroom of the Future.” [see TV segment below] The initial comments pointed out that the “present educational system is impersonal, a factory model.” This is followed by a set of statistics with no sources to verify. Then the background voice of Jose Ferreira, founder and CEO of Knewton, makes this comment, “How many da Vinci’s, Einsteins, and Marie Curie’s, and Michael Jordon’s are we losing every generation because we are not giving them the opportunities that some of us have?” What? How did Michael Jordon fall in the same category of the great scientists? Okay, move on, the broadcast continues, in order to solve this problem of inequity and problems in the status quo, the solution becomes a what if question. What if everyone had access to the Internet?
Lest we forget, Jose Ferreira runs a business. A subtle note focuses that this is a company (.com) versus an educational research group (.org). On his webpage (www.knewton.com) you are faced with a large screen counting the number of sales pitches he is making in the global market. When I viewed the page the count was 270, 952,575 and counting. This is not the number of students that are using his software, not the number of students learning from his program, and not the number of students graduating because of his program, but the number that are being ‘invited.’
In the broadcast, Mr. Ferreira says, “the present system is impersonal, a factory model.” And, what exactly is a software program? It is impersonal and a factory made model. Now, at this point, I should state that I am not against technology. I hold two B.S.I.T. degrees and worked in a secondary technology school for 22 years. I also was the first teacher, documented in 1996, to launch the first global educational program on the Internet. My program, Space Island’s, reached 2.3 million teachers and students in forty nations, and was placed into the Library of Congress as a historical event in 1996.
The Knewton Webpage is full of pictures of adults working one-to-one with young people, however, the software program is designed to work one-to-one with the student. It is a template of problems and clocked timings to match the student’s ability. Where is the challenge for student growth by matching those variables? But that is what his knerds, yes that is what they call themselves, I believe this must be the generation that ate Knudsen products. Anyway, the knerds design standardized templates! Now, where have I heard that term before? I believe that knerds are well educated and excellent programmers and data collectors, but lest we forget where these individuals got their education. It wasn’t from the Knewton factory but from the public or private schools these engineers graduated from.
If you go to the careers tab of Knewton Website you’d think you would find examples of students who have used the Knewton program and what careers (engineers, teachers, scientists, and programmers) they have landed in. No, you find out how lavish the knerd employees are being treated with their own private areas, food services, and perks. This is the selling page for those interested in employment to Knewton! Now, where do you suppose the money comes from to cater to these benefits? There is much hype that this software and program is a pantology that will create a panacea for the present educational system. However, in reality, it is nothing but a set of organized, timed, impersonal-factory templates.
The broadcast also details the work of Khan Academy and its founder, Sal Khan, whose Youtube math tutorials are quite good and free. Mr. Khan’s approach is to tutor in short segments with a lively and entertaining presentation. Adding the good works of Sal Khan’s Academy model to Knewton is comparing apples to oranges.
Knewton is not free, but its founder at the beginning of the broadcast states, “…we (the status quo, which he has now joined) are not giving them (students) the opportunities that some of us have.” Yes, Mr. Ferreira, what opportunities did you have? How is your program giving students in the global arena those same opportunities? The only opportunity I see is Knewton found a nitch to sell its product like Apple Computers did. It will be interesting to see how many Michael Jordon’s make it to the big league by playing a video game instead of one-on-one on the court!
Here a few tidbits I would like to pass on regarding some strategies and methods I researched, implemented, and found successful when teaching boys.
Boys work better in cooler environments. Studies have shown that boys stay more alert and active when the room temperatures is around 68F (20C). In California, our temperatures, even in the Winter, rarely get below the mid 50’s but it is good to prop a window to introduce fresh cool air even in a California Winter.
Using Video in Class?
Showing a video to boys, at the high school level, generally means lights out, heads down. When considering a video as part of the lesson determine if it is a scene or the parts of a movie you want to demonstrate, or use as your point. Videos can be edited in sections and even if you don’t have FinalCut™, AfterEffects™ or some other professional software, there are a host of free video editing softwares available both online and for downloading (I’ll be adding more on this in the EduTech section of this blog). Showing the whole video may be necessary, so in those cases I found it best to create a list of questions on the movie to answer while it was playing. At the end of the movie or class I collected the sheet of questions and answers, and added this to the grade as part of the overall assignment.
Teaching Math to boys? After explaining a lesson on how to complete the answer for a math problem I would generally write three problems on the chalkboard or whiteboard and then call up three students to work the problems out.
Once the student was at the board and working on the problem, I had a visual assessment on the lesson, as well as, being able to help a struggling student. If this procedure is done all the time, the boys tend to pay attention because they know they will be called up. In the end, it becomes a competition with the boys at the board and those still at their desks who are also working to find the math solutions, or maybe even an alternative solution that they can share and boast about. Alternative solutions were given extra credit, which made it more of a game.