Saturday, April 25, 2009

Laboratory Safety Augmented Reality

Yesterday was the unofficial “Senior cut day” at Pelion High. Yes, it was the day before the prom so things were running at a slower pace than normal for me in the tech area. I thought that I would go out and test the laboratory safety augmented reality simulation that I had created earlier. Because this used a drawn map, I used the Google Earth measuring tool to determine three corners of a rectangle located in our open field area that was the approximate aspect ratio of my drawn map. I think my map looks pretty good if I say so myself.
After entering the coordinates, I walked out into the 90o F (wasn’t it just 70o last week?) and tried it out. The QuizGame Flash file from the mscape forum worked well, but I kept finding little things that were wrong or that I wanted to change. Some of the items on the webpage documents that had seemed fine on the computer now were misplaced on the iPAQ screen or hard to read in the bright sunlight. After several trips inside to make changes then testing outside, I think I now have it the way I want it. This behaves more like a video game where the user wanders around the field for clues and questions. The theme is based on Harry Potter and lab safety at Hogwarts. The QuizGame Flash file keeps score of the questions, but I still do not really know how to end the simulation. I guess when I test it with students I will just tell them to come back when they have answered all nine questions. Otherwise I guess I am going to have to learn how to do Flash Actionscripts and modify the program myself.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Augmented Reality at PHS

After a pretty successful augmented reality trial with Frieda and John at WKES, I wanted to try it out at my school. I developed an activity that would lead students through a decision making process about Energy Choices and I was anxious to try it with students. Students would be placed in groups of four and their decision at each step would lead them to a unique set of choices and different results. The scenario starts out ...
"The year is 2020. Last year world petroleum production peaked for the first time in history and production is down this year. Prices are now over $200 dollars per barrel and gasoline is almost $9 per gallon. With petroleum prices so high, many energy options that were once impossible are now available."

The student teams were advising the President as Cabinet Secretaries of Commerce, Defense, Energy, and Transportation. Each student had his or her own unique advisor briefing manual to help in the decision making process. After initially choosing an energy focus from the areas of biomass, fuel cells, nuclear, or solar/wind, this determined the other types of questions that the team must consider. The students used an iPAQ Travel Companion running an mscape simulation that I had created. After very little help, the students were able to follow the GPS and navigate through to each new position.

When we got back to class, the science teacher Deanna Watson was pleased with the overall effort of the students. Many of the students seemed to pick up important ideas and the overall understanding that trying to figure out the U.S. energy policy is very complex. For the most part, the students were very engaged with the activity. The iPAQs and software worked without a hitch. The highest praise came when one student describing the activity said "I thought this was going to be lame, but it was really good."

I Decided It Was Time

I decided it was time to start blogging. For some time I have had blogs for the classes I teach (Intel Teach Essentials and Intel Teach Thinking With Technology). These work well to let participant teachers see how this communication tool might continue the class discussions beyond the school day and give an authentic audience for student ideas. This blog is different; this one is for me. After seeing how much my friend and collegue, Frieda does with her blog (Thinking About Learning), I felt the time was ripe. I am not normally a person who says alot, but hopefully when it is important, I can at least put it down here.