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One of the most exciting ways New Hartford Central School students engage in robotics education is by designing, building, and programming their own robots using interchangeable parts. What’s more, students are empowered to direct their robots to complete useful tasks. Upon visiting the Senior High’s Project Lead the Way (PLTW) "Innovation Zone" located in Room 155, one may see for themselves how robotics education plays a significant role in hands-on, project based learning. Students enrolled in PLTW courses such as Principles of Engineering (POE) taught by Mr. Shawn Nagel (shown in photo below), or Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) led by Mr. Gary Von Dauber are immersed in learning activities that challenge them to build tools to solve problems. The learning experience is enhanced with the use of VEX Robotics, a component building system for learning about robots and automation. An increasingly popular building tool for extracurricular robotics clubs, the VEX system is in fact part of the regular PLTW curriculum at New Hartford Senior High. “Learning about robotics is a great way to get involved in the skills and knowledge needed to be a productive member of society in the 21st century,” Mr. Nagel argues. “Students learn so much when they collaborate as a team to design, build, and program a VEX robot of any kind.” Similar to playing one’s role on the soccer team or as part of a Masque performance, students in robotics education learn the essential aspects of interpersonal skills. While the applied science of POE and CIM courses may be about tools, data, and metal, Nagel tends to emphasize the humanizing aspects of the work. “It's about being part of something bigger, pouring out your passion and pushing through the difficulties, important life skills above and beyond the content you are mastering.” At the national level, VEX robotics is drawing students to STEM education in the primary grades and outside of the classroom. For example, VEX IQ is a STEM education tool designed for elementary teachers and students. With sophisticated sensors, easy snap together components, and simple image based programming, any classroom may become a robotics classroom! Outside of the classroom, students can also find opportunities to explore their interests and passions in robotics within the VEX Robotics Competition Circuit. The VEX Robotics Competition is the largest and fastest growing robotics competition for middle and high school students in the world. Utilizing the VEX robotics component system, students design, build, and program a unique remote controlled robot to compete in an annual challenge. Students compete in local competitions with the goal of advancing to the state and world level competitions in Louisville, Kentucky. Teams from all over the world converge on Louisville in April once a year to compete, learn and grow in the final push for a world robotics championship. This past January, members of the New Hartford Central School STEAM committee were able to explore local and national robotics education opportunities as part of the district’s STEAM initiative. If you are interested in getting involved with robotics in your own classroom, reach out to Tech Department to see what options there might be available now or coming soon. You can also learn more about robotics education in general by checking out the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation’s webpage at www.roboticseducation.org for more information. Of course, best of all, you could also stop by Room 155 at the High School and the students of Mr. Nagel and Mr. Von Dauber can show you what these robots are all about firsthand!

 

While Google Docs offers a tons of features that most other word processors include natively, there are a few features that have not been included yet by Google. Two examples include the ability to quickly change the case sensitive of text as well to sort text. Both of these missing options, as well as a few others, can be easily handled by the Doc Tools Add-on, a third party "mini tool" that you can install and run right within your Google Docs workspace.

To get started with Docs Tools, you have to add it your Google Docs editor using the link above or through the Add-ons menu (located in between Table and Help menus above the formatting toolbar when you have a document open). To add it via the Add-ons menu, choose the Get add-ons… command. An Add-ons “store” will appear and you can search for Doc Tools to find it. Once you locate it, click on the Free button to include it in your Add-ons menu. Because it is coming from a third party, you will also need to allow it access the correct security & privacy credentials that it requires to run. After that, Google Docs will pop up a small message up by the Add-ons menu that you have installed it. From this point forward, it will be available in any other Google Document open.

With the Add-on installed, you run it by first selecting the text you want to work within your document then choosing Add-ons > Doc Tools and selecting the appropriate commands that are displayed in its menu, (see screenshot below).


For example, you can select some text and then change the text to all ALL UPPERCASE, all lowercase, Capitalize Each Word, Sentence case, or tOGGLED cASE by choosing the desired menu command. These can be a real timesaver when you are formatting a document with special letter cases or just want to clean up some text without having to retype it.

In addition to changing case, you will see that Doc Tools also lets you to select several lines of text and choose to sort the text from A to Z or Z to A order alphabetically. This is great for sorting a list of Works Cited in a report, student names, and much, much more. As a bonus, these sort options will also allow you sort rows in a Google Docs table as well! Of course, you can also use Doc Tools menu commands to convert numbers to letters or vice versa on the fly as well.

Finally, if you prefer to run some of the Doc Tools options over and over and for a few other options too, you can access them as buttons rather than as menu commands. To do this, you choose Add Ons > Doc Tools > Start. A Doc Tools panel will load and appear along the right side of your document for quick and handy access, (see screenshot below). You can see that you also increase or decrease text size or highlight/erase text highlights quickly using the Doc Tools panel buttons.


With this powerful, helpful set of tools ready for you to access, there are probably lots of ways you can think of to use it to manipulate text with it within your own documents. Hopefully, it will serve you well the next time you need to work with text in the future beyond the capabilities of the native Google Docs toolset.

 
   
Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers
 
iTunes Content for Your Classroom

Are you looking for a polished, self guiding environment to help your students to improve their writing and grammar skills? If so, Quill is a great tool to consider.
 
Quill is a free web-based tool that provides personalized, interactive writing and grammar activities for students in grades 3-12. The site works
using four writing tools which let students to build writing, grammar, and proofreading skills. All content is aligned to Common Core standards & as students complete activities, Quill highlights the student’s mistakes & provides a follow-up lesson on those particular skill areas to work on. Students receive immediate feedback and can then repeat assignments until they achieve proficiency. In addition, teachers can track which students are struggling with certain concepts & provide individualized instruction to suit their needs. By using Quill, teachers are able to implement research-based expository writing instruction in their classrooms. Plus by automatically grading the writing as they work, students are able to receive instant feedback and personalized instruction. The tailored experience enables students to learn faster, and it saves teachers hundreds of hours spent on grading. For a tool that might be worth using in your classroom to help your students strengthen their English writing skills beyond your regular classroom instruction, Quill is a tool worth a closer look today.
Visit Quill
   
 
STEM Everyday
Remarkable Chatter

The STEM Everyday podcast, is hosted by Chris Woods, a high school Math Teacher and STEM Presenter & Podcaster who works for Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw School District in Calument, MI and syndicated through the Remarkable Chatter podcast network. The weekly audio program focuses on how teachers can infuse STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) into their everyday lessons. In these short, engaging episodes, Mr. Woods invites a variety of guests to on explore, discuss, & share great ideas that can inspire students to want to learn while challenging them in the process. Above all, the content doesn't focus on what subject or grade level is being taught but rather that STEM can be incorporated into all classrooms and at all grade levels. This podcast aims to assist teachers in giving students needed opportunities to learn and take charge of their learning, rather than having them acquiring sequestered bits and pieces of content. For some compelling, useful STEM ideas, take a listen and see what you might bring help to your classroom to support STEM today!
Visit on iTunes
The New Hartford Tech Spotlight is a monthly informational e-mail newsletter published for all faculty and staff of the New Hartford Central School District by Mike Amante & James Davis. If you wish to contribute to or inquire about the newsletter, please visit here.
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