Posts Tagged ‘technology for homeschooling’

Dana is starting his second year with 4-H, and although he is starting to get interested in some of the many other projects he can do, he is sticking with just robotics again this year. In his club there are only 2 boys who have chosen robotics projects, and the other is a high school senior. Although they are both working on the Robotics Probe, or level 2, project, they will each work independently. Fortunately, one of his homeschool friends who was in his robotics workgroup last year, is also doing the project this year on his own. He is in a different 4-H group, but will come to our house now and then so they can compare projects and learn from each other.

This level gets into physics and mechanical engineering, especially toward the end of the 14 activities. However, only 7 activities per year are required. Dana will do only the first 7 activities, while the older boy in his group will likely complete the book. This year the building and programming involves the use of a rotational sensor and belts, pulleys and gears. This requires understanding different types of gears and gear assemblies and figuring the ratios, as well as new programming.

Besides the workbook/activity guide, 4-H provides online supports. The “Robotics Project Online” has building guides, information sheets and booklets and worksheets as well as slide presentations. These are all in pdf format and can be downloaded and printed. The “Robotics and You CD” online provides instructional narrated videos. The two activity guides for Robotics Explorer, Level 1 and Robotics Probe, Level 2 can also be downloaded and printed. And there is a guide for project helpers. Links to all these online resources can be found here. (This is the only site I have found with a link to download the project books.)

The projects are designed using the experiential learning model: 1. Experience – do before being told or shown how; 2. Share – describe the experience and their reaction; 3. Process – discuss what was most important about what they did; 4. Generalize – relate to their own everyday experiences; 5. Apply – share how they will use the life skill and robotic skill practiced in other parts of their lives.

With the entire set of materials available free online, the child would not have to belong to 4-H to do the project, if they have their own Lego RCX robotics kit including the required sensors and parts. But they would miss the enjoyment and skills developed as they participate in and accept leadership positions with their 4-H club. Of course, they would also miss the experience of having their project judged. If you cannot find a suitable 4-H club near you, you might consider contacting the extension office and asking if you can start one.

Either way, anyone can purchase any of the 4-H project manuals, and there are many, from their local extension office or order online.


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Here are a few links and resources I found for friends on the All Kinds of Learners list:

For a kid’s book and kit to build 20 electronic projects with the same type of chips used inside a computer and learn how a computer works, check out “Fun With Computer Electronics” by Luann Colombo. 

To download Computer Systems: Gateways To Cyberspace and more advanced books in the “Professor and Pat” series, go to https://mathrider.dev.java.net/alm-process/2-ebooks/Programming%20newbies%20series/
A Google search for “Technology Skills Checklist” or “Technology Skills” will give you many pdf files that can serve as guidelines for different ages on learning to use computers.
For learning to use the computer see:
for videos:

I like this quote from Computer Systems: Gateways To Cyberspace:

“One summer afternoon Teacher and I were installing a sonar system on a boat at the lake. “Teacher,” I said “What is the secret to effective learning?” Teacher looked at me, cocked an eyebrow, paused and then grabbed me by the back of the neck and pushed my head under the water. Teacher’s reaction surprised me so much that I did not have time to take a deep breath before hitting the water and I was soon struggling. Teacher finally pulled me up and, after I had recovered somewhat, asked me what the thing I wanted most was when I was under the water. “Air!” I replied, “The only thing I wanted was Air!” Teacher then said “In order for your learning to be effective, you must want to learn the thing you are learning as much as you wanted air when your head was under the water. That which is learned without desire is soon forgotten. That which is learned with great desire, however, is knowledge that will be remembered forever.” (A modification of an old parable). Computer Technologists Must Be Motivated Self-Learners”

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Building on the bed

Building on the bed

After the County Fair, Dana and Joey decided to continue working on their 4-H robotics project at our house, since Dana has the same “Mindstorms for Schools” RCX robotics kit that the 4-H office uses. Since their interest is up, there is really no reason for them not to continue. They are zipping through the activities, learning about adding on sensors and how to program the robot for using them with the Robolab CD program. Interestingly, Dana has learned that he must do some math to figure out how to program the light sensor correctly. I am glad to see him learning that math is necessary to do science, but learning it in a simple way that doesn’t overwhelm him with some complicated formula. Hooray for hands-on science!
Robot with touch sensor bumper

Robot with touch sensor bumper

Light sensor robot follows the line

Light sensor robot follows the line

Joey’s brother and sister come along, too, and enjoy watching the results. Then they all get to have a play-date or do some other activity together.

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An Early RCX robot design with remote control by Dana

An independent RCX robot design with remote control by Dana

Dana just joined a nearby 4-H club and Tuesday we went to the organization meeting for the new 4-H robotics program in our county. Dana is teamed up with a good friend of his who also homeschools (but is in a different 4-H club) and another boy. Would you believe, the other boy is not only also homeschooled, but also has Asperger’s like Dana! The other two boys are older than Dana, but not too much.

The guide they must follow says they will: 1. Design and build a robot. 2. Use skills in engineering design and research and development to program a robot to accomplish a specific task. 3. Practice the life skills of critical thinking, decision making and communications.

I have high hopes that this program will be a very good learning experience for Dana. Their robot will also be entered in the county fair 4-H judging. The project book gives the basic info and required steps, plus a little bit of workbook-like stuff for each boy to fill out. Each week the boys will meet and work together at the Extension Office, and occasionally they will meet with the other groups in one large group. I hope Dana learns how to open his mouth in a large group! He wouldn’t even tell them his name Tuesday, but he talked fine with his two team mates.

I think Dana and the other AS boy struck everyone as a bit odd and they didn’t really appreciate how much they know. That’s OK, but I would like for Dana to overcome this incredible shyness. The three boys will be meeting weekly at the Extension Office to build and program their robot and watch the short educational videos on disk. I have also located them online, so they can review to improve understanding and help in filling out the project book.

If you have builder-type right brained kids who might like robotics, you might want to check out your local 4-H for some good educational and social experiences related to their passion. Of course, the traditional projects are great, too.

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(Since I got no takers and my free quick download period ended, I have discontinued this program)

I have spent hours over time searching the internet for resources useful (hopefully) for homeschooling. My philosophy has been that if I found it once, I will forget where it was, or even that I saw it, so I save it to my computer even if I know I won’t use it for a while. Of course, this eventually leads to an overly full hard drive, so I have to save things to CD, delete them and start again. Often I have wished that I could share my finds with other homeschoolers. Now I have found the solution!

I found a cool way to share selected files from your hard drive with those you invite to do so. It is a free program called GigaTribe. (Link is fixed!) You only share access to files you select with people you invite or who invite you and you agree. Any type file of any size can be downloaded. I downloaded the Beta version of GigaTribe and like it very much. So far, I am only sharing files with 3 people, but two of them are homeschooling or teaching younger kids, so I haven’t gotten much from them yet except some really cool fonts for my homeschool scrapbook pages.

I have tons of books in pdf format and MP3 files of books and old radio shows, etc, plus all subjects. I just added a folder of science videos I downloaded from NOVA vodcast. If you decide to try out GigaTribe and you are sharing some cool techie files or neat science stuff, or you want to see what I am sharing, invite me and mention my blog. My file name is gmavel. Come and get them while they are still in my hard drive. I have tried not to include any items I purchased or other copyrighted products. Please let me know if you find any that I have overlooked.

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