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Within the last year, computer science education has been significantly ramped up at New Hartford Central Schools in response to what many educators anticipate: a future increasingly reliant on technology. While our youngest students have started to gain exposure to programming skills through the Delta STEM program, students at the Senior High School have also been given an opportunity to learn about programming through the school district’s long term involvement with the Project Lead the Way program. This year, a new PLTW course, called Computer Science & Software Engineering (or CSE for short), made its debut at the High School. The course, which has been taught by Mr. Mike Amante (pictured above working with one of his students) teaches programming skills with modern computing languages such as Python and HTML as well as computing skills in areas such mobile app development, database creation, and much more. In addition to technical skills, the activities of the course are designed to get students excited about further areas of study in college, numerous careers in this cutting edge field, as well as give them a keener awareness of how much computing impacts our daily personal lives both directly and indirectly. For example, one unit of the course focuses on Human-Computer Interaction and how closely we interact with and are affect by computing technology. To drive this point home, students have a chance to interact with and program a small robot. The kind of robot we are talking about in this case is a Sphero, a small ball-shaped shatterproof and waterproof droid (seen in the photo above) that can be easily programmed and controlled using ordinary mobile devices. After learning the basics of programming the robot with a mobile app called Macrolab, students were asked to demonstrate mastery of their new programming skills by completing a “Land, Sea, and Air Challenge” where they had to program their Sphero to navigate through various types of terrain and obstacles. Using their own mobile phones or tablets, students had to write programs to get their Spheros to venture across and return a wooden “highwire” beam, complete a slalom course, as well as ‘swim’ in a small pool of water and touch buoys anchored at different points. Through meticulous calculations, carefully written code, as well as good old trial and error, Mr. Amante’s students created programs that were the most efficient means to get their Spheros from point A to B at each component of the challenge course, that involved changing speed, distance travelled, or angle of travel for their robot. In the end, students not only had a lot of fun while furthering their evolving programming skills, but they also has a chance to learn about the kinds interactions that we will all likely have with robots in the future in various everyday contexts, whether it be at the office or at home, in the very near future. The Sphero robots arrived on campus earlier this semester as part of a grant Mr. Amante received with intent of making the CSE course even more hands on for his students. “The CSE curriculum by Project Lead the Way is excellent in that it always has students complete very hands on activities. The entire course in very engaging and interesting in that way by itself so when this opportunity of getting Spheros came along, it was natural fit for the class. It meets the course outcomes perfectly while giving students new, interesting, and fun ways to continue to expand their skills and interests in computing as a whole” states Amante “Ultimately, this experience demonstrates the ways in which hi-tech workers interact with artificial intelligence in the workplace. It is so exciting to give my students opportunities like that appear to them as fun, simple learning activities but have a much deeper meaning than they appear in the long run.” As far as next steps for using the Spheros in his classroom, later this spring Amante intends to expose even more students to the Spheros by having some of his students act as “mentors” for some of the elementary STEM students so they can be introduced to the robots within the DELTA STEM program. If the ideas of using robots in your own classroom seems exciting or you are looking for more ideas on how to integrate STEM projects into your curriculum, contact the Tech Department today. They would happy to work with in supporting their use in your own classroom too.

 

Within Spartan Docs, there are lots of menu commands that are just a few clicks away to do just about anything. However, most users either know right where the correct menu item is or end up poking around until they find the exact one they are looking for. Luckily, in these scenarios, there is one often overlooked shortcut which can save you time in finding the exact feature you want right away without practically any searching!

This magical shortcut is called "Search the Menus" and is accessible in Chrome via the Alt + / on a Windows PC or the Command + / keystrokes on a Mac. This shortcut will instantly open the "Help" dropdown and place the cursor in the search field, (see screenshot below).


From here, you can start typing a keyword for what you want to accomplish, and rather than searching the Google Docs FAQs, it searches all of the menu commands from within Docs itself and lists them! In this way, by just typing what you want to do with keywords, you can accomplish a lot without bothering to access any of the actual menu commands. This makes it very easy to quickly change fonts, apply paragraph formatting, insert special characters, run a spell check, and a ton more!


The next time you are hoping to save time in Docs, remember the "Search the Menu" shortcut and you will be doing much more without clicking around or any extra effort other than explaining what you want to do!

 
   
Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers
 
iTunes Content for Your Classroom

Are you are looking for a creative way to incorporate and engage your students with video? If so, EDpuzzle is a fantastic tool to consider for the job.
 
Once a teacher signs up for this free web service, they can use a simple video editor to edit any video they have access to or can find online. Teachers can add audio-notes and questions to their video and then assign the video to their students to watch. As they watch, students are answer the questions and the teacher can see how they fared. There are even apps for mobile devices to make the service work on the go for students & teachers alike. For a unique video tool to engage your students, EDpuzzle is worth a look!
Visit EDPuzzle
   
 
STEAM Channel (Video)
UCTV

The STEAM Channel is a hub for educators, industry leaders, policy makers and students looking for research and best practices in integrating arts into traditional STEM education.This series of videos features short talks, demonstrations, and documentaries that showcase the value of adding the arts to any STEM curriculum in grades K-12. Take a look today to what STEAM activities you can might want to try in your own classroom!
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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