Wednesday, December 23, 2015

21st Century Real World Robotics: Middle School Robotics Integration Across the Curriculum

The following article was published in NYSUT's journal
"Educator's Voice is NYSUT's journal of best practices in education - a series dedicated to highlighting research-based classroom and school/district-wide strategies that make a difference in student achievement."

Download this chapter (pdf)

Robotics problem challenges are readily applicable to today’s world. For example, robots are being used to search for missing planes and to destroy hidden mines. Students experience real-world seamless science, engineering, and cross-discipline problem-solving as they program the robots. Teachers collaborating from more than one content area to seamlessly model that in their instruction validate the cross discipline 21st century learning opportunities for robotics, which Gura stressed should be part of regular school day interdisciplinary learning (2012)... "
Read the full article at its source (scroll down the page):   

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Back From India and Nepal!

After what seemed like too much time away from Asia, my brother and I finally hit the road again. Below, my photo and written reports.
<table style="width: 194px;"><tbody> <tr><td align="center" style="background: url( no-repeat left; height: 194px;"><a href=""><img height="160" src="" style="margin: 1px 0 0 4px;" width="160" /></a></td></tr> <tr><td style="font-family: arial,sans-serif; font-size: 11px; text-align: center;"><a href="" style="color: #4d4d4d; font-weight: bold; text-decoration: none;">Mark+Abbey/India+Nepal.2015</a></td></tr> </tbody></table>
Click on the photo above for a slideshow of impressions and somnambulant experiences... click middle arrow to begin auto-play

A Very Happy Diwali, Indeed:
My Report on the Status of Magic in India and Nepal

My brother and I were seated high off the ground in a howdah.  Directly in front of us, our mahout was straddling the neck of our elephant for the morning, Kanti Kali (fierce goddess of the dawn). The sweet girl had just carried us out of the thick, liana draped Nepalese jungle and had begun to meander through some of the pristine marshland bordering the Nariyana River. She stopped and scooped up huge wads of grass with her trunk to snack on.  We were puzzled, though, about what the low, rumbling sound we heard behind us was. Finally, Mr. Prasad, our naturalist who was seated right behind us, volunteered an explanation in his formal, British-Indian English stating, “Elephant fart, Sir!” We smiled.

Our mahout resumed kicking Kanti Kali behind the ears to get her moving again.  She obliged, but after just another few minutes stopped again, shuffled her huge feet and lifted her trunk into the air letting out a soft trumpeting sound. Mr. Prasad reached over my shoulder pointing at some low trees bordering the marsh, whispering, “Rhino! Over there, Sir!”

Yes, on our second morning in Chitwan National Park we were a mere 75 feet from an immense female and her equally immense baby feeding under the trees. Their attention was riveted on us as they made their own shuffling and snorting noises to let our elephant know we had intruded into her personal space. The communication was clear, we had better not move any closer or there would be trouble. Instead, we took a good look at our quarry, snapped a few pictures, and let our mahout know that it was OK to move on.

Our mahout seated on Kanti Kali just before we climbed aboard for a
 fine stroll through the Nepalese jungle.

MORE... (Click below for access to the full report)

After opening,adjust size and view...

And a few more that didn't quite belong in the slideshow :)

Monday, December 07, 2015

Daily YouTube Selection

I've moved this project over to a new blog I set up for it:
Posts dated January 1st 2016 and more recently will be posted there...

I'm going to select one YouTube video each day and pass it along to everyone who'll notice or care...


12/31/2015 Cuban Tree Frog Changes Colors
I noticed some movement under may desk yesterday. It turned out to be a Cuban Tree Frog. That it managed to find its way into my South Florida home and into my office was quite a feat. After a few hours I managed to trap it without hurting it (these little guys are very fast and elusive) and put it outside in the garden. It felt good to save the little guy's life. However, Cuban Tree Frogs are an invasive species. The University of Florida website states "
After you capture the frog, we recommend that you euthanize them humanely -- in fact, it is illegal (and irresponsible) to re-release them into our ecosystem." I guess I should have read the website before I helped the little guy out. Life is complicated! 

12/30/2015 India Rich vs. Poor

I recently returned from a 2 week tour of India and Nepal and, of course, Poverty was one of a great many things that I observed and that went into the complex mix of impressions I brought home. It's not on the sight seeing itinerary, but unless you are blinded completely by your own consciousness filter, looking at the reality of India through a haze of romance (the Taj, sari-clad women, the elephants and monkeys and the temples, etc.), something that's very easy to do, you WILL see the poverty through the bus window as you travel from tourist sight to historic point of interest. I find that understanding poverty in places like India is difficult for Americans - we tend to think in terms of "there are 2 types of people: rich OR poor" but the situation is more complex, with varieties of poverty that affect people differently. By the way, India is NOT a country of poor people. There are 1 billion, 200 million souls living there and roughly 25% live below the poverty line - granted, while not the majority, that's a lot of folks living very challenging lives! Another piece of this picture is that the rural poverty I observed (and more than 70% of the country's population still live in the countryside) appeared to me to be much easier to cope with than India's urban poverty. I think that many people living in the agrarian countryside live what might be described as a very simple, rather backward life and not necessarily a life of misery due to poverty. Ironically, the alarming destitution of Indians living under the crushing poverty of its cities' slums is due, in large part, to country people moving to the cities to find work. Everyone wants to advance as well as survive and the wealth that exists in the cities is a lure to country people who see no opportunity for themselves in the fields. This is a situation that plays itself out around the world. The video posted above is something that I stumbled on while spending a little quality time in YouTube. It clarifies the Poverty of India a bit as well as providing some sobering images. India is definitely trying to improve itself and embedded in this video are aspects of the reality of the disparity gap between 'haves' and 'have nots' that we Americans would do well to ponder deeply. See my blog post on visiting India elsewhere in this blog:   


12/29/2015 How to have the Ethiopian Coffee ceremony
Sometimes it's the journey and not the destination. Coffee. Good coffee, properly appreciated. Here's a glimpse of coffee as it's served in Ethiopia, it's place of origin. Imagine having coffee as an expression of fellowship and pleasure in belonging: Coffee as something of a sacrament, the focus of gathering for the sake of celebrating the act of gathering. The Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony involves communing at hearth and home. Much attention is placed on preparing and appreciating the setting and then, much focus on preparing, serving, and enjoying the coffee. I
n front of guests (and for their pleasure) the coffee beans are washed, then roasted over charcoal, then pounded and ground in a mortar, then placed in a kettle and steeped in boiling water. Next, the hostess pours the brew from a height filling the room and guests' hearts with delightful sound and smell. She stirs the coffee with sugar into small cups and hands it to guests... generally 3 rounds of coffee served, each round with its own name, qualities, and significance. There is nothing instant about this, nor should there be.. SEE:

Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories

By accident, I got a copy of Cat's Cradle as a teenager, read it and have been in love with Kurt Vonnegut ever since. My favorite writer of all time... by far! I felt a keen sense of loss when he died (2007), knowing I would never get to meet him. This video shows him revealing one of the sparkling facets of his being: public figure, speaker, reconteur... he was, I feel, the Mark Twain of our age. He left some absolute gems of humor and true wisdom in his advice to writers, items that I take to heart personally and that I pass along to students and colleagues. The video here is one such gem and I'll highly recommend Kurt Vonnegut on how to write a short story,as well, So it goes, Kurt.... and Thank you!

12/26/2015 Sesame Street: Chuck Close And Self Portrait

Chuck Close does amazing things... with paint! You could write books about the 'How' and 'Why' of that... OR you can just get it... he does amazing things... with paint. One of the towering figures in Contemporary Art, Mr. Close makes art that  is easy to apprehend. However, why this is so is somewhat mysterious. His personal story, which is also the story of his art, is both amazing and inspiring. One well done attempt at telling it was accomplished with this short documentary video . For more on Chuck Close check out 

Alex Atala: D.O.M
Mr. Atala is one of those creative forces of nature who defy categorization. One of the world's most accomplished chefs and restaurateurs, he's a gastronomic anthropologist and ecologist/conservation advocate, concerned with the ecological impact of food production and consumption. I recently became aware of his book, D. O.M. Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients which is at once a magnificent cookbook/photo book and the expression of a vision for a more enlightened, more spiritual way of being. Atala's 56 minute Talk at Google is a fascinating sharing of his work and thinking - SEE: Alex Atala: "D.O.M.: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients" | Talks at Google

Christmas Day/2015 - Heavy rain at Casa del Suizo, Ecuador
Turn up your sound! I stumbled across this short video, which was made by someone who obviously had the same experience I did when I stayed at this hotel, Casa del Suizo (The Swiss Man’s House) a little over a year ago. I was there for 3 delightful days. It was a boyhood dream come true to be deep in the Amazon Rainforest. Beyond the touristy things I did, the dugout canoe rides on the mighty Rio Napo, eating roasted Palm Grubs a la Andrew Zimmern, observing wild monkeys and parrots, etc. the flat out best thing I experienced was simply being stuck under the palm thatched roof overhang there in the most persistently torrential rain I’ve ever witnessed. The sense of calm, well being, and of filling a niche in a grand, interlocked, benevolent planetary ecosystem was positively religious… at the very least, deeply spiritual. Play the video a second time, take a deep breath, and simply listen….

12/24/2015 - Winky Dink and You
I remember Winky Dink and You,
(from Wikipedia)"the first interactive TV show", the show's central gimmick was the use of a "magic drawing screen", which was a large piece of vinyl  plastic that stuck to the television screen via static electricity.  A kit containing the screen and various Winky Dink crayons could be purchased for 50 cents. At a climactic scene in every Winky Dink short, Winky would arrive upon a scene that contained a connect the dots picture. He would then prompt the children at home to complete the picture, and the finished result would help him continue the story. Examples include drawing a bridge to cross a river, an axe to chop down a tree, or a cage to trap a dangerous lion."
Alas, getting my parents to buy me the Winky Dink kit at the "Five and Ten" would have been too much to hope for. Still, "Cartoons on Saturday Morning" were a god sent reprieve from the 'Mind and Soul Death' of NYC Public School in the mid 50's. Actually, they WERE my education.

12/23/2015 - Rare clip of Joe pass playing "Blues" IF I ever HAD to select a 'best guitarist ever' it would have to be Joe Pass who was humble, beat, and truly masterful... an inspiration!

12/22/2015 - JACK KEROUAC on THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW with Steve Allen 1959

I'm impressed with how smoothly Kerouac handles himself here. I didn't know that Allen and Kerouac had teamed up to do an album. Apparently, they had a friendship, too. Kerouac's On the Road (a book I've read numerous times over the years) strikes me today as meriting the acknowledgment and popularity it has received. If it has a message, it's to celebrate life and life's high spirits and to live life in pursuit of that. A simple but profound and important thing! 

NOTE: Despite the date stamp on the blog post, I am actually beginning this project on 12/22/2015