Learner-Shaped Technology

January 19, 2008

Science Projects and the NFL

Filed under: education,football,general,science — Mike W @ 6:47 pm

eyeblack experiment The upcoming NFL matchup between the Packers and the Giants on the frozen tundra of Lambeau field this Sunday helped my youngest daughter design an experiment for her upcoming science fair project. She’s been studying heat, so we’ve been discussing what Green Bay fans can do, if anything, to stay somewhat warm during the game.

I’ll share more details once we have data, but it’s the second NFL-inspired project we’ve undertaken in the last few years. The strange picture above was taken during experiments carried out by my oldest daughter when she was in second grade. We were wrestling with science fair project ideas and took a break to watch football when she asked, “Dad ,why do they wear that black stuff under their eyes?”. A visit to the wig shop (for the styrofoam head) and the sporting goods store, along with a borrowed light meter, provided the raw materials.

indoor eyeblack

We didn’t see a difference indoors or outdoors in the amount of light entering the eye, but she conjectured that the light meter doesn’t have the same kind of peripheral vision that we do. She didn’t use those exact words of course.

While we were experimenting, Ricky Proehl (pictured below), then wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers (and fellow Wake grad, I might add), was signing autographs at a nearby sporting goods store. My daughter took the opportunity to ask him a few questions, since he wears eye black. He admitted that there might be a bit of habit and superstition involved, but he felt it really helped him see better, especially indoors. He was really friendly and patient and seems to be a great a guy. We added the eye black with photoshop.

Ricky Proehl

More formal studies seem to suggest it helps with glare and contrast sensitivity and that the grease is better than the stickers. Plus it looks tough! That’s the real reason I wore it while playing high school baseball, since my hitting wasn’t going to impress any girls. I even remember swiping grime out of the tail pipe of my car before one game because I ran out. Gross.

Go Packers! With wind chills way below zero, light glare is going to be the least of the players’ worries this weekend.

Sustainable Packaging?

Filed under: clickers,general,sustainability,technology — Mike W @ 9:40 am

I know it’s been a long time, but I’m hoping to get back in the blogging groove. I have a list of blog topics in a google doc that I’m hoping will sustain a more regular blog presence. I’ve moved my site over to a new host.  I’m redirecting automatically for now, but please update your bookmarks.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that we’ve been exploring clicker technology in class to promote class discussion (especially around controversial topics), predicting the results of a demo, etc. . We recently received a shipment of 60 clickers, and I was distraught over the packaging. Check it out. Each clicker was individually wrapped in the kind of packaging that leaves one’s fingers bruised and bloodied, and the amount of waste is pretty striking. Below is a pic of the packaging vs. what was inside.


We’re in conversations now with the vendor now to check into alternatives. They may be under the assumption that we’re like many schools where clickers are sold in the bookstore. Instead, we’ve purchased several departmental sets for sharing. The six teacher clickers came with a more reasonable amount of packaging, so it has to be possible to scale back on the waste. We’ve been very pleased with the iClicker brand, but if you decide to go this route, please join in and ask about alternative packaging before they ship.

Some things the iClickers don’t do that we’re trying to find solutions for:

1. Data Formatting – We have a couple of professors interested in analyzing data gathered in class with statistical packages like SPSS. The session data is stored in spreadsheets, but there’s a lot of manual cleanup needed before the stats are run. It shouldn’t be too hard to automate the clean-up process.

2. Limited Choices – A-E works fine for many questions, but if you’re asking students about presidential candidates, important political issues, etc.., 5 choices can be very limiting. We knew that going in, but it would be great if there were a simple alternative. I asked the tech guy at iClicker if they’ve explored hooking into devices with more buttons or allowing a double click to expand choices (like AA, BB, etc.). They haven’t done anything with this yet, but the code is open source, so I’m going to poke around and see what it would take to add this expanded choice mode.

3. Mapping Choices – The flexibility of the software is great. You can pose questions / scenarios in presentation software, ChemDraw, Google Earth, etc.. Because the question is captured as an image, you have to go back and map choice A to Obama, B to Clinton, C to Edwards, etc.. It’s okay if you’re just using the questions as a discussion starter but makes looking at trends in student opinions more difficult.

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