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How to Rewire Your Burned-Out Brain:

Tips from a Neurologist

Understanding Memory Construction Concept Memory

America’s Next Education Crisis

Franklin P. Schargel

T.W.I.C.E. T.W.I.C.E.

and the

Anamorphoscope

16th Century Science and Art Device Rediscovered

NUMBERS: W.Charles Paulsen

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STEM

Myth April 2014

Multi-tasking......the


No matter what you teach, understanding the brain learns, both yours and your students, is critical. That’s why this issue is for you.

Use it in class. Forward this to your students and their parents. Make this a new connection for curiosity and interaction. Submit an article: wayne@stemmagazine.com


Awareness...one more time How to Rewire Your Burned-Out Brain

Publisher Comments Dr. Judy Willis

America’s Next Education Crisis

Franklin P. Schargel

Understanding Memory Construction

Dr. Judy Willis

T.W.I.C.E.

Multi-tasking.....the Myth

STEM and the Anamorphoscope Programming

in a STEM curriculum

Part II

Dr. Joseph C. Richardson Wayne Carley Myrna Hoffman John Blankenship www.RobotBASIC.org

Reproduction of contents is prohibited without written permission.

Features


You already know this, just be aware and pass it on. You have more to teach than you usually have time for. Requirements…..standards to meet….. testing and performance expectations….. S.T.E.M. Magazine does not expect you to add new curriculum to your plate; that is for others to expect. Our request is awareness; awareness of the science, technology, engineering and math you and your students use every day and are usually unaware of. That awareness is the foundation of S.T.E.M. understanding, followed closely by curiosity. When you connect the two, the path to S.T.E.M. integration into every subject begins without the addition of curriculum, interference with your lesson plans or additional clutter to your plate.

As you and your students read your monthly edition of this magazine, it’s our hope that you, personally, keep this in mind and become more aware, more curious and hungry for un-required knowledge. That hunger is what our students need.

30 seconds a class period is all it

takes to say, “Students, did you know you’re going to use science during this social studies assignment?”, or “Did you know that every time you make a decision you’re using the engineering method?”

That’s it.

Wayne Carley Publisher


S.T.E.M. Magazine Inc. is a non-profit monthly education publication for teachers, students, their parents and administrators. CEO Wayne Carley is the publisher and senior editor for all content in S.T.E.M. Magazine. S.T.E.M. Magazine believes that the key to success in seeing higher graduation rates, improved testing results, student inspiration and a strong work-force rests in the hands of the teacher. The example and inspiration of individual educators carries tremendous weight on a daily basis, greatly impacting the quality and effectiveness of the classroom environment. The atmosphere and tone of the class directly influences the learning and retention process of students. Student curiosity, interest and career considerations are a direct result of educator influence. S.T.E.M. Magazine will focus on issues and resources to support educators and their students. Inspiring and fueling the creative process of curriculum presentation while also addressing the personal needs associated with the relentless pressures of instruction, testing preparation, classroom discipline and school district demands will be a high priority in every issue.

S.T.E.M.

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Publisher

Wayne Carley Subscriptions S.T.E.M. Magazine is provided to individual schools and districts across the nation and customized to include your local education authors to address your regional needs and concerns.

S.T.E.M. Magazine Inc.

www.stemmagazine.com

wayne@stemmagazine.com

Wayne Carley Publisher

All rights reserved. Copyright 2014


S.T.E.M. S.T.E.M. you’ve already used today. Science: Most adults and many students would have had to take a medication this morning in direct response to the psychology; their body requires it; Advil, antacid, vitamins, caffeine, blood pressure meds, and the list goes on. Breakfast....no breakfast, what do you need to get the morning going. That’s science. Technology: Our digital alarm wakes us up. We’ve checked the morning E-mails, watched the news on T.V., used our cars or bus to get to school, perked our digital coffee, made a call on our cell phone or maybe even tweeted already. Engineering: Since this is a “decision making” process, we’ve evaluated what needs to be done this morning, by lunch, before the end of the day, and before bed. It’s been prioritized, evaluated, compensated for, changed and then re-evaluated. That’s engineering.

Math:

It started last night. You had to make mathematical calculations about what time to set your alarm based on the time needed for a shower, hair prep and make up (NOT IN THE CAR), pick out clothes or dryer time, time to eat breakfast or stop for something on the way......so based on all of that, you reverse calculated the estimated time requirement and set your alarm accordingly.

We are S.T.E.M.


Dr. Judy Willis Neurologist


How to Rewire Your

Brain:

Tips from a Neurologist For many of you in the northern hemisphere, the school year is coming to a close, and with it comes a likely drop in the stressors that build up and promote teacher (and administrator) burnout. It therefore may not seem timely to suggest interventions to prevent or reduce burnout. However, it is often not until we are away from a high-stress situation for a while that the brain can move out of reactive survival mode and into a relaxed state where it can ponder the big picture. The burnout interventions I am about to suggest are likely to be ones that you already know. The problem is, when it comes to adding another activity to your schedule, past experiences may have left you with the expectation that there is not enough time -- or you’ve tried things like this before and didn’t

notice any change. So you stopped.


My belief is that when you understand what happened in your brain to build up the hopelessness and frustration of burnout, you’ll connect with the logic of the interventions. Then, with the addition of the video game model to the boost the neurochemical benefits of the activity of your choice, you’ll literally deconstruct the resistance network your brain constructed, and reset your circuits of confidence and motivation. Know It’s Not Your Fault Teachers often blame themselves for problematic student behavior, failure to “cover” every standard, and not differentiating instruction to suit the needs of each student. Know that you are not alone, but part of a growing majority of educators questioning their abilities to continue teaching. You are teaching at a time when it takes profound commitment and creativity to meet expectations. There is pressure to teach excessive quantities of information and differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all students -- yet the supporting resources needed are dwindling. Burnout feelings are not a reflection of your teaching skills. Teachers who question their ability to do their jobs

properly are often among those who hold themselves to the highest standards. They also put in the greatest effort. When they must deal with external forces -- beyond their control -- that limit their ability to attain their goals, self-doubt builds, confidence drops and burnout sets in. If You’re Burned Out, Your Brain Has Rewired to -

Survival Mode What I offer from the nexus of my dual careers as a neurologist and classroom teacher are interpretations and correlations from the neuroscience research to teaching and learning. Neuroimaging studies reveal the metabolic changes in regions of the brain where activity increases or decreases in response to emotional or sensory input. There are specific and reproducible patterns of changing neural activity and brain structures associated with stress. In the high-stress state, subject’s scans reveal less activity in the higher, reflective brain and more activity in the lower, reactive brain that directs involuntary behaviors and emotional responses.


Prolonged stress correlates with structural increases in the density and speed of the neuron-to-neuron connections in the emotion-driven re active networks of the lower brain, and corresponding decreased connections in prefrontal cortex conscious control centers.

The explanation of these changes is generally attributed to the brain’s neuroplasticity of “neurons that fire together, wire together.” The brain literally rewires to be more efficient in conducting information through the circuits that are most frequently activated. As you internalize your thwarted efforts to achieve your goals and interpret them as personal failure, your self-doubt and stress activate and strengthen your brain’s involuntary, reactive neural networks. As these circuits become the automatic go-to networks, the brain is less successful in problem-solving and emotional control. When problems arise that previously would have been evaluated by the higher brain’s reasoning, the dominant networks in the lower brain usurp control.

Reset Your Brain’s Default Neural Network from Retreat to IGNITE! The good news is that you can apply what you now understand about your brain’s survival mode to take back voluntary control of your choices. You can activate the same neuroplasticity that gave dominance to the lower brain networks in the burnout state to construct a new, stronger default response. With more successful experiences achieving goals, you can reset the circuits that will direct your brain to access its highest cognitive resources for creative problem-solving. You can build up new, improved circuitry, switching your responses from retreat to IGNITE! Since a repeated pattern of effort-failure set up the brain’s survival response to withhold effort, you’ll need to strengthen the pattern of effort toward goals can result in success. Your weapon of mass reconstruction can come from your brain’s very powerful drive for its own neurochemistry -dopamine and the pleasure it brings. The plan to guide you comes from the video game model that works because


of three components: buy-in, achievable challenges, and frequent awareness of incremental progress en route to the final goal.

See these resources for a full description of the video game model: • A Neurologist Makes the Case for the Video Game Model as a Learning Tool • How to Plan Instruction Using the Video Game Model The fuel that motivates the brain to persevere through increasing challenge, even through failed attempts, is dopamine. This neurochemical produces the pleasure of intrinsic satisfaction, and increases motivation, curiosity, perseverance and memory. Dopamine is released when the brain makes a prediction or achieves a challenge and gets the feedback that it was correct. This can be in situations from the “Ah, I get it!” of figuring out a joke to the satisfaction of completing a marathon. Just as the video game model can be applied to building a growth mindset in students, the same model can help rewire your mindset regarding your ability to achieve teaching goals at

school. As in the video game model, to get the dopamine-pleasure response from challenges achieved, you’ll need to plan for your brain to experience frequent recognition feedback of incremental progress. You should set your “rewiring” goals by their desirability and by the goals’ suitability to be broken down into clear segments. This way, you can chart your goal progress as you achieve each stepwise challenge. The pleasure burst of intrinsic motivation that will accompany your recognition of each progressive increment achieved in the goal pathway will keep your brain motivated to persevere.

Goal Buy-In for Your Brain’s Neural REWIRING Buy-in and relevance are important in choosing your rewiring goal. Since your goal is to rewire your brain’s expectations that your efforts will yield progress, even through increasing challenge, you need to really want the goal. This is not the time to challenge yourself with something you feel you should do but won’t really look forward to doing, such as dieting, climbing stadium stairs, or flossing after every meal. Select a goal that you would


enjoy en route and at the finish.

Usually goals are tangible. Some are visible, such as planting a garden or making pottery on a wheel. Others are auditory, such as playing an instrument, or physical, such as learning tai chi. But your goal can also be the increased amount of time you sustain an activity such as journaling, practicing yoga or sketching. Sample “Rewiring” Goals You’ll find your own goal for buy-in, but here are some examples to give you a sense for how to structure your new goals. Physical Goals Notice I didn’t say exercise. That’s not as motivating as “training” for a physical goal you want to achieve, even though they often overlap. If you want to run a 10K, and if you enjoy running, the goal for achievable challenge could be first building up to the distance starting with the baseline distance you comfortably run now. Then plot out the increments that you’ll consider progressive successes, such as adding .5K a day or a week. The increments will depend on what you consider both challenging and achievable. Once you reach 10K, speed can become the next


goal, again plotted out in segments of incremental progress before you start.

Archery Possibly after seeing The Hunger Games, archery has new appeal. Again, plan your stepwise achievable challenge increments. Start with a home dartboard (a low initial investment) and throw from a close but challenging distance. As you get better in accuracy, move farther back. Record your results, noting the distance of each improvement you set as an achievable challenge. If you get so good that the dartboard no longer challenges you, try that archery! Learn a Language But try this one only if the buy-in is strong enough, such as definite plans to go to a country where the language is spoken. Videography / Photography If it appeals to you to make high quality videos or PowerPoints using advanced computer software, go for an early success, such as the videos you can make on www.animoto.com Your Rewired Brain’s Default Changes from Defeat to Ignite As you meet your incremental goals and have repeated experiences of dopamine-reward, you will literally change

your brain’s circuitry. Repeated effortreward experiences promote neuroplasticity, and this makes a neural network that expects positive outcomes into your new default network. This is because your “rewiring” goals helped your brain build stronger and more connections into a memory pattern where effort brings pleasure. As with other networks not used, the previous lower brain stress-activated go-to response network you developed, the one that caused you to react to problems, will be pruned away from disuse. You’ll be rewired with optimism and renew your positive expectations. With your higher, reflective brain back in control, you’ll be able to access your perseverance, innovation and creative problem-solving when you return to the classroom. Just be sure you take time to recognize each small success and creative problem-solving opportunity. Keep up the habit of breaking down big challenges into opportunities for recognizing incremental progress and receiving your well-deserved dopamine reward. The brain needs that battery recharge to sustain the positive expectations that motivate continued effort -- so that you can stay engaged and move to the next step toward your teaching goals.

Dr. Judy Willis is an authority on brain research regarding learning and the brain.


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Remember that you have rights to forward this magazine to all your students and their families within your school. It’s a great connection and cool conversation piece....especially over the summer issues.


America’s Next Education Crisis Helping Students Graduate by Franklin P. Schargel

America faces a severe school dropout problem, and students who leave school do not cause it. Far more teachers, by percentage, drop out of school than students. According to a variety of sources, 46 percent of teachers leave the field—drop out—within five years. A conservative national estimate of the cost of replacing public school teachers who have dropped out of the profession is $2.2 billion a year. Let’s look at some data: If the cost of replacing public school teachers who transfer schools is added in, the total cost reaches $9 billion every year (Alliance for Excellent Education, August 2005). For individual states, cost estimates range from $8.5 million in North Dakota to half a billion dollars in Texas. In the next decade, according to the U.S. Department of Education, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association, U.S. schools will need approximately 2 million new teachers.


The large number of teachers who will be retiring are taking with them their knowledge and expertise, which will exacerbate the situation. It is not only the loss of warm bodies that concerns us, but also the difficulty of building an experienced base of teaching and learning techniques that the new, inexperienced and weakly trained staff will need time to accumulate. Some states already faced with the problem are issuing emergency licenses, thereby weakening, rather than strengthening, the teaching cadre of their schools. Some administrators have had to hire teachers with little or no classroom experience, causing classroom management problems, not only for those newly hired but also for the classrooms and teachers nearby. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the federal legislation for standards-based education reform, gives parents the right to know the qualifications of their children’s teachers and paraprofessionals. Teachers are the most essential component in the learning process. Far too many school districts are facing an uphill battle when it comes to recruiting and retaining highly effective teachers, especially those who serve poor students. In fact, students in poor and minority schools are twice as likely to have an inexperienced

teacher and are 61 percent more likely to be assigned an uncertified teacher. Consider the following: 1. “Every school day, nearly a thousand teachers leave the field of teaching. Another thousand teachers change schools, many in pursuit of better working conditions. And the figures do not include the teachers who retire” (National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 2003). 2. That number is dramatically higher in hard-to-staff schools in the inner city and in minority neighborhoods where poverty rules. The rate of attrition is roughly 50 percent higher in poor schools than in wealthier ones (National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 2003). 3. Among teachers who transferred schools, lack of planning time (65 %), too heavy a workload (60 %), problematic student behavior (53 %), and a lack of influence over school policy (52 %) were cited as common sources of dissatisfaction (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2001).

4. “The current teachers’ shortage represents arguably the most imminent threat to the nation’s schools. The U.S. Department of Education estimates


that approximately 2.2 million teachers will be needed over the next decade — an average of more than 200,000 new teachers annually” (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2001). 5. We do not have a teacher shortage. The perceived teaching shortage is, rather, a retention problem. In fact, teachers are leaving the field faster than colleges are preparing new entries (Howard, 2003). 6. New teachers are particularly vulnerable because they are more likely than more experienced teachers to be assigned to low-performing schools in urban areas where the dropout rates reach or exceed 50 percent. It is here that teachers need the most assistance, yet most new teachers are given little professional support or feedback and few are provided with demonstrations of what it takes to help their students succeed (Ingersoll, 2003). 7. We are losing the best and brightest. A study of the North Central Regional Education Laboratory (NCREL) found that a majority of superintendents in the region indicated that 75 percent to 100 percent of the teachers leaving are “effective or “very effective” in the classroom. The loss of talented teachers is also significant in rural schools, which, in addition, face the

problem of lower teacher salaries and the difficulty of recruiting new teachers.

8. Why is teacher turnover so high? In one analysis of teacher turnover, teachers reported that they left because of failure to receive the administrative support they expected (Ingersoll, 2003). 9. Fifty-three percent of today’s teachers are Baby Boomers; in 18 states, more than half of the teachers are already over age 50; and in 17 states, 45 percent of the teaching workforce is over age 50 (Carroll & Foster, 2009). 10. A recent report, “Three Distinct Possibilities,” from Public Agenda and Learning Point Associates (www.publicagenda.org/pages/three-distinct-sensibilities) offers a comprehensive look at how teachers across the country differ in perspectives on their profession. Based on a nationwide survey of nearly 900 teachers, the study of more than 100 questions revealed three broad categories representative of teachers across the nation that the researchers labeled “Disheartened,” “Contented,” and “Idealistic.” The view that teaching is “so demanding, it’s a wonder more people don’t burn out” is pervasive, particularly among the Disheartened. This group, 40 percent of teachers surveyed, tends to have taught longer and be older than the idealists.


More than half teach in low-income schools. By contrast, teachers in the Contented group (37 percent of teachers surveyed) viewed teaching as a lifelong career. These teachers tend to be veterans — 94 percent have been teaching for more than 10 years, the majority has graduate degrees, and about two thirds are teaching in middle-income

or affluent schools. However, it is the Idealists (23 percent of teachers surveyed) who voiced the strongest sense of mission about teaching. More than half are 32 or younger and teach in elementary schools, and 63 percent said that they intend to stay in education, whereas 36 percent said they do plan to leave classroom teaching for other jobs in the field.

“36 percent said they plan to leave the classroom�


What has caused this problem of recruiting and retaining teachers? According to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, part of the problem has been caused by the failure of America’s colleges of education to adequately prepare future teachers for success. “By almost any standard, many if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges, and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st century classroom,” said Duncan speaking at Columbia University in October 2009. More than half of the nation’s teachers graduate from a school of education. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that 220,000 students, or 80 percent of incoming teachers, graduate from a teachers college every year. Noting that America’s schools will need to hire up to 200,000 firsttime teachers annually for the next five years, Duncan said that those new teachers need the knowledge and skill to prepare students for success in the global economy. Secretary Duncan’s words echo the words of Arthur Levine, former president of Teachers College at Columbia University. His report, “Educating School Teachers,’’ released by the Education Schools Project (Levine, 2006), found that

three of five education school alumni said their training failed to prepare them to teach.

‘’Teacher education right now is the Dodge City of education, unruly and chaotic. There is a chasm between what goes on in the university and what goes on in the classroom,’’ said Dr. Levine, who currently serves as the president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. The report goes on to say that most teacher education programs are deeply flawed. The coursework in teacher education programs is in disarray nationwide. Unlike other professions such as law and medicine, there is no common length of study or set of required skills. In order for schools to be eligible for the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top funds, states must remove legal barriers to linking student achievement data to teachers and principals. Grant applications will be scored based on state plans to differentiate teacher and principal effectiveness. Obviously, states and schools within them will now have to gather, interpret, and disseminate that information. Teaching can be a frustrating job. Unlike the idealized pictures of students sitting patiently with their hands


folded, waiting for knowledge to be poured in to empty heads, today’s students come to class bringing with them enormous challenges. Children are expected to deal with divorce, drugs, violence, merged families, and parents who do not speak to them. They come to school with various abilities, needs, and capabilities. For some, parents have made efforts to prepare them for learning. For others, parents have done little. They have not taken the time nor had the energy to train their children in some of the fundamentals such as reading, studying, learning the alphabet, and even how to spell their names.

School administrators need to understand these challenges and create school cultures that allow teachers to reach every child. This means that teachers need to take chances that may not always succeed. In dealing with people, we do not expect every experiment to succeed. Doctors, like teachers, do not have 100 percent success. Teachers are becoming more frustrated than ever in dealing with the problems they face. “A Possible Dream: Retaining California Teachers So All Students Can Learn� (Futernick, 2007) identified challenges to teachers:


• More and more children are coming to school without family support

The study gave six recommendations for retaining teachers:

• Teachers are required to do more and more in a limited period of time

1. School administrators should continuously assess teaching conditions. 2. Education funding should be increased to at least adequate levels. 3. The state should introduce administrative policies that support teachers’ instructional needs. 4. Principals should focus on “high -quality teaching and learning conditions.” 5. The state should establish standards for teaching and learning conditions. 6. Administrators should address specific challenges in retaining special education teachers. (Futernick, 2007)

• Teachers are expected to be experts in all fields • There is too little planning time • There is too much paperwork • Unreliable assistance from the district • Lack of administrative support • Working weekends without pay • Spending summer vacations taking college classes or preparing for the next school year • Undue pressure from parents • Students needing more time and attention

The full report is available at www.calstate. edu/teacherquality/retention/ Clearly, something must be done to deal with the teacher dropout problem. The responsibility for having the best teachers rests with those in the field—what the military calls “on the job training.”

(Material Excerpted from “162 Keys to School Success” by Franklin Schargel) Franklin P. Schargel is the President of The Schargel Consulting Group, an educational and training consulting organization interested in Building World Class Schools. He can be reached at franklin@schargel.com. Franklin P. Schargel has been nominated for the Brock Prize. His latest book “Creating Safe Schools; A Guide for School Leaders, Classroom Teachers, Counselors and Parents” will be published on April 5th by Routledge Press.


as Understanding is Student-Constructed...

...Concept Memory is Brain-Constructed Dr. Judy Willis


Under your guidance and through the opportunities you provide for students to use and transfer learning, their neural circuits expand the range of interconnections. As understanding builds, students’ brains construct concept knowledge networks they will be able to apply to solve problems, adapt to new information, and collaborate successfully beyond the classroom and school itself.

social mindsets and their tolerance for the growing pains they’ll experience along the path to adulthood.

First Response – Limited Perspective Take a look at following examples and see if you can find a mistake in either.

Your support will be needed along the way. Just as learning how to walk, speak, and read does not emerge fully proficient, the construction of understanding and concept networks is not a smooth pathway to perfection. Going from the unknown to the known involves detours through uncertainty and mistakes. Help students understand that setbacks provide opportunities for them to revise their brains’ erroneous circuits and working through periods of confusion strengthens the accurate networks their brains ultimately construct. Help students build their flexibility as a powerful support system for their emerging cognitive, emotional, and

There are mistakes in both! Perhaps you did see them, but most people do not see either the second “the” or the incorrect color of the 4 of hearts until they are pointed out. These are examples of in-attentional blindness.


Although the errors are clearly evident once they are pointed out, they are not initially perceived. In-attentional blindness regarding these examples is well within normal limits. However, the focus on single correct responses and specific “right” ways to solve problems has narrowed the perspectives of a generation of students. When the brain repeatedly uses mental processing geared to rapid efficiency and single responses, it grows increasingly “successful” at this response to information and experiences. Students

Students without more expanded experiences interpreting data and developing solutions will not have adequate preparation for the rapidly expanding information pool in the globalized, technological world awaiting them when they leave school. With accelerating quantities of information today’s students face higher education and career challenges of interpreting, reasoning, communicating, and transfer of knowledge to novel applications. The repetition of facts is no longer adequate for being “smart”.

The repetition of facts is no longer adequate for being “smart” build the cognitive habits of accepting the first retrieved response as correct and the only accurate response. Learning experiences need to go beyond single answers and applications to push students to resist their first response as correct or as the only correct response. Brains that have become habituated to unthinkingly following direct instructions and memorizing single right answers may be restricted beyond in-attentional blindness.

After years of passivity and limited responsibility for evaluating ideas, considering multiple options, or supporting their opinions, students must build the skills of constructing understanding, formulating ideas and clearly supporting their opinions or solutions with reasons.


BUILDING Cognitive Cognitive flexibility is one of the executive functions developing in the prefrontal cortex, especially during the school years. It is the capacity to be open and receptive to considering all aspects of an experience, sources of information, a variety of interpretations, or approaches to problems. With well-developed cognitive flexibility students will have greater capacities to consider alternative points of view, predict a variety of outcomes, and assess changing data or new information from multiple perspectives. Cognitive flexibility could increase the likelihood of being open to multiple interpretations, even when asked to respond with only one – such as finding the two errors in the sample diagrams. Students can be paired with classmate(s) who have the same opinion on comfortable, interest-related topics that do not require formal evidence. They share reasons for their opinions and select one or two that they feel are most convincing. Groups then expand to four to bring together student pairs with their different opinions and reasons to discuss with each other. Topics, depending on student age, could include might include opinions

Flexibility

about the best: bedtime story, breed of dog for a house pet, time to do homework, or Internet search engine. Active listening would be appropriate to include if students are not experienced in supportive and productive ways to exchange different opinions. (Active listening involves listening silently without interrupting, and then repeating back what one thinks the speaker said and inviting corrections of any misinterpretations.) As students build their opinion sharing flexibility, they can extend the discussions by each listener selecting one of the speaker’s support reasons that seemed most convincing or reasonable. Cognitive flexibility can be expanded in regard to media in a number of ways. In literature, students can reflect on reasons that an “evil” character in a story might not be fully to blame or deserves sympathy. Students can develop several different interpretations of art, music, a historical event, or an author’s choice of literary devices. Even cartoons can provide opportunities for students to build cognitive flexibility when they are asked to think of several possibilities for, “Why do you think this cartoonist selected cows to be the talking animals with all the


other animals silent?” Beyond having students develop multiple interpretations, they can be challenged to find more than one solution to a problem. The goal would be for them to build the habit of not stopping at the first “answer” that comes to mind. The problems could include historical disputes, ways to divide odd amounts of supplies equitably, several different endings for a story, improvements in rules for playing or scoring a sport, multiple ways to solve a math

problem, or several ways to test a scientific hypothesis. Teachable moments will become evident when you have cognitive flexibility in mind. When a student, novel character, politician, economist, critic, or analyst acknowledges a change of mind or opinion in response to considering alternative points of view or assessing new information, that can be an opportunity to acknowledge that person’s flexibility, open-mindedness, fairness, or even courage.


Added Bonus Basketball legend, Michael Jordan said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” As students develop cognitive flexibility watch for additional expansions in their habits of mind. Making mistakes will be recognized as an opportunity to increase understanding and not an indication of failure. You’ll see them build increased perseverance figuring out problems, improved skills of collaboration, and greater responsiveness to corrective feedback and making revisions. Best of all, consider the impact your efforts will have on your students’ tolerance, ethics, and citizenship far beyond your classroom.

Dr. Judy Willis is an authority on brain research regarding learning and the brain. With the unique background as both a neurologist and classroom teacher, she writes extensively for professional educational journals and has written six books about applying the mind, brain, and education research to classroom teaching strategies, including an ASCD top seller, Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa as the first woman graduate from Williams College, Willis attended UCLA School of Medicine where she was awarded her medical degree. She remained at UCLA and completed a medical residency and neurology residency, including chief residency. She practiced neurology for 15 years before returning to university to obtain her teaching credential and master’s of education from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She then taught in elementary and middle school for 10 years. Dr. Willis gives neuroeducation presentations, and conducts professional development workshops nationally and internationally about educational strategies correlated with neuroscience research.


MULTI-T In order to tackle the exhaustive list of homework responsibilities, most students attempt to turn to multitasking to get it all done in time. The truth is, effective multitasking is an oxymoron. Research has shown that your brain can only process one activity at a time by effectively and rapidly switching from one task to another.

It’s a myth!

MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller (Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again: John Hamilton, NPR October 2008) says, “Switching from task to task, you think that you’re actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But, you’re not.” You’re really toggling between tasks at amazing speeds. Apparently, we were never multitasking. It’s a myth!


TASKING


To the point, the more we attempt to multi-task, the longer it actually takes to complete our list of tasks. As far back as 2001, scientists at the Center of Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University discovered that when people were driving in traffic and conversing, two tasks most of us consider easy and natural, the area of the brain that managed these functions was overwhelmed. Researchers found that brain activity didn’t double, but rather it decreased, so each task was completed less efficiently and less expertly than when being conducted separately. That’s why texting and driving is so dangerous. On top of that, the rapid swapping between tasks also generates pulses of stress hormones, which contribute to heath issues like memory dysfunction and higher anxiety. The last thing our students need is more anxiety and distractions. The average attention span of an adolescent is one minute per year of age; that’s when they’re trying, had breakfast and a good night’s sleep. We expect a 14 year old (14 minutes of attention span) to sit in a 55 minute class with focus, attention, interest and comprehension ......... then do it again next period.........

and again next period, until the day is done. Why do we get upset at their restlessness after 20 minutes? Maybe we forgot who they are or haven’t evaluated the best way to present today’s material. You can’t blame the student. As educators, let’s reassess our process. Is there a better way? Could a different approach improve class behavior, attention, interest, productivity, quality and results? Are we flexible enough to consider it? Technology in class has so many advantages, but some devices that were designed to make us more productive are now creating a new set of productivity problems. When laptops and cell phones are close by, it’s suddenly a challenge to keep their focus on the teacher or subject. It’s just too compelling and easy to check email, text messages and surf the web. Of course these workers think that they are multitasking. But, when it comes to the brains ability to pay attention, the brain focuses on concepts sequentially and not on two things at once. In fact, the brain must disengage from one activity in order to engage in another. It takes several tenths


Prioritize


of a second for the brain to make this switch. We are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously.”

If you think it makes you look more efficient (or important) to be continually checking your laptop or cell phone for messages, think again. What seems like a harmless activity to the observer

different parts of the brain. But if you listen to music with lyrics, your reading comprehension significantly drops. That’s because both tasks activate the brain’s language center. Similarly, you can talk and watch television at the same time, but you can’t carry on two conversations at once. Everyone who uses mobile devices

“We are biologically incapable of processi sends a nonverbal message of disinterest and dismissal to the rest of the group. That’s why some teachers and educators have installed the “topless” meeting – banning all laptops, phones, Blackberries, etc. The closest thing to multitasking we do involves engaging in two tasks simultaneously that use different parts of the brain, like walking or eating, and two activities involving different types of brain processing, like auditory and visual... like driving and listening to the radio. There is still a disintegration of effectiveness, but to a lesser degree and hopefully not life threatening. Bad news parents….kids can study effectively while listening to classical music, since reading and listening use

have what’s called continuous partial attention. We juggle several tasks partially and poorly. It takes longer to get things done and the consequence is a poor result; poor homework assignment, poor class preparation by the teacher, poor presentation by the speaker. As I write this article, the television is on and I find myself being distracted every few minutes by something that is said, disrupting my focus and train of thought. I turn down the T.V. or switch to another channel that’s of no interest. Why do I behave this way? The background noise is, if not too loud, is a pleasant distraction since my children are grown and gone, I no longer have a pet and the neighbors are amazingly


quiet. I guess other parts of my brain have a need to be entertained while I’m being productive with the other portions.

The problems these distractions and inefficiencies create become a problem in the workplace, classroom and especially during homework. The lack of focus keeps us from being better than we could be and more productive than we should be.

Research shows that if we have 5 things that need done in the next 5 days, the worst thing we can do is work on all of them piecemeal, a little here and a little there. The end result is it takes us 7 or 8 days to get it done. On the other hand, prioritizing and focusing on one thing at a time until completion results in finishing our 5 to-dos in 4 days rather than 7.

ing attention-rich inputs simultaneously.” The added plus is the quality of the work…..it’s superior. If the tasks required memorization, comprehension or retention, we did it better and it lasts longer.


I know this goes against our daily routine and mythical notions that we are accomplishing more, but this multi-tasking merry-go-round isn’t fun, drains our energy and becomes discouraging when the end results are average or worse.

You will find that when you completely focus and concentrate on one deadline task at a time to completion before moving on to number two, the work is more thorough, comprehensive, accurate and done faster. Comprehension will be broader and memory deeper.

Just try it for a month. Whether it’s cleaning the house, writing a paper, preparing classroom presentations or shopping (men get that one) you will get it done faster and better. What does better mean? Higher productivity at work, testing prep, better grades and more free time.

Wayne Carley Publisher


NUMBERS

W. Charles Paulsen

Connecticut College of Technology

At first thought I was not going to talk much about numbers since all of you can count. Yes? But I feel compelled to describe the many “flavors” of numbers so you do not get “blind-sided” later on in life. The fact of the matter is there is a whole body of mathematics called number theory, which dates way back to ancient Greek and Egyptian civilizations. With the increasing need for Internet encryption, number theory has found resurgence at leading universities.


Starting with the lowest flavor of numbers we have the natural numbers which in the early days were called the counting numbers. These numbers are;

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 Some say that it was around the time Christ was born that the number zero was introduced. We take zero for granted today, but early mathematicians struggled with “how nothing, zero, could be something.” Be that as it may;

0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 are called whole numbers, which are natural numbers with zero. If you want to learn more about the “fascinating” number zero read Zero, The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife (Penguin Books). Up to now we have used a number system to the base 10, 10 digits 0 to 9. Going from 9 to 10 means we start over but add a 1 in the 10’s column. Thus, 9 then goes to 10 and so forth. It was not until the invention of the computer that I came to realize that there are number systems other than the base 10. Computers only like an on or off state to do their thing (or logic if you want to be fancy). The binary system, base 2, became the de facto numbering system for computer designers. Counting in binary we get,

0, 1, 10, 11, 100, 101, 110, 111,…….. Now that we can count (of course you can) and accept the fact that zero is a number, we can introduce the concept of negative numbers and real numbers. Real numbers can be thought of as an infinite number of points on an infinitely long number line as shown below,


Positive numbers are to the right of 0 and negative numbers are to the left of 0. The number line shows just integers, which are whole numbers plus negatives. If you take a magnifying glass to the line segment 0 to 1 you would observe that there are an infinite number of numbers that have fractional parts also. For example, 0.1, 0.25, 0.333, etc, fall between 0 and 1.

Assignment: See how many even fraction parts you can fit in between 0 and 1.

Who should read this book? Anyone who for whatever reason wants to learn about Science, Technology, and Engineering (STE) are good candidates to read this book. First and second year community college students were my target readers when I started the book. As I started writing, I decided nearly everyone might benefit. Strictly speaking this book is not geared for college math majors; although I think it would be a good read regardless. If you add Math to STE we call it STEM. My true intention in this book is to relieve any math anxieties you have concerning your pursuits in STEM. Where things get interesting is how “deep� we must go in order to be successful in this pursuit. The laws of nature, be it the laws of physics, laws of chemistry, laws of science, laws of business, you name it, will be included as needed to give math relevance.

sales@stembooks.com


STEM and the Anamorphoscope 16th Century Science and Art Device Rediscovered

by Myrna Hoffman

STEM from Birth From the moment of birth we are learning about the world around us. Our brains are genetically programmed to do so. In fact, our very survival depends upon it. And we’re not just learning by accident; we’re studying things, like little scientists. Dropping peas from a highchair builds our understanding of gravity. Splashing in a bath excites us about hydraulics. Seeing ourselves in a crib mirror introduces us to the magic of reflection.


Of course, babies cannot give a name to any of the new phenomena they are experiencing, but their rapidly developing brains can still absorb and organize empirical data about the world. As toddlers and preschoolers acquire language and expand their experience of cause and effect it only intensifies their curiosity, their need to know: Why? Given that children are naturally curious and that their brains are at the peak of “neuroplasticity,” does it make sense to delay formal training in STEM until the middle or upper grades? Teachers themselves would say no, the earlier you start teaching these concepts, the better. Unfortunately many students arrive in the classroom lacking early exposure to STEM. For these young people just the mention of words like “science, technology, engineering and math”cause real anxieties. The result is a first-day classroom filled with students of the broadest range of experience, and this presents a special challenge for teachers: What STEM activity can they give the entire class - from gifted to garden variety intellects to those on the autism spectrum

- to engage them all instantly? And is there a STEM activity that could also foster group cohesiveness?

Anamorphoscopes:

A new look at an old concept Today there are few non-electronic, non-computerized STEM activities that can instantly captivate a child’s mind. One that teachers will want to know about is the anamorphoscope (an-a-MORPH-o-scope). Anamorphoscopes combine optical physics, math and art in brain-tickling, hand-eye challenges that are gender-neutral, and appeal to all ages and a wide range of interests. What is it? An anamorphoscope is a centuries-old visual illusion device used by Renaissance artists and spies to hide secret images in plain sight. The device has only two parts: the morph (an unrecognizable,twisted picture) and the decoder (a mirrored cylinder). When the decoder is positioned just right within a morph it magically untangles the warped picture, “mirror-aculously” reflecting it as a normal image.


I was smitten by anamorphoscopes many years ago, when I visited a Harvard University exhibit of ancient optical instruments. Among the serious brass sextants and astrolabes, this shiny little device toyed with my perspective and my mind; its reflected image followed me no matter where I stood in the room. I was utterly beguiled, compelled to discover its secrets. My fascination led me to begin studying and collecting anamorphoscopes on my own. Over the years, I acquired images from China, the Middle East, Europe, and America. Eventually I learned how to draw my own. Then I began sharing them with my K-8 art and special education students. To my great delight, the children were as enthralled as I had been when I saw that first exhibit at Harvard. Left-brainers loved figuring out how the anamorphoscope works, right-brainers adored the challenge of drawing and coloring in the twisted images, while looking at their reflections. Of course I was gratified at their delight, but I was even more astonished to discover that some children in both groups – the ones whom you might

hear described as being “wired differently” – could mentally untangle morphs without a mirror decoder, and this allowed them to engage with their peers (and with the lesson) on an entirely new footing. Their natural gift for decoding the morphs won them instant respect from classmates and actually shifted the class dynamic. From that point on, the group as a whole became visibly more inclusive of all students, regardless of apparent ability. After retiring from teaching, I decided to turn my fascination with anamorphosis into a business. First I designed software that could turn any picture into a morph. Then I used flexible mirrored Mylar in place of the old mirrored cylinder device. These innovations allowed me to package the technology into a kit that a parent and child could assemble and start using in minutes. I call my invention the Morph-O-Scope. Interestingly enough, whenever I demonstrate the Morph-O-Scope in public (at stores, conferences or classrooms) I observe the same phenomenon I noticed when I was using it as a teaching aid: about 1 in 7 people can mentally untangle morphs without


the decoder, and this ratio holds true regardless of an audience’s age, race, gender, or cultural background. A behavioral scientist friend suggested that these individuals may be able to visualize spatial patterns and manipulate two- and three-dimensional figures in their heads. In other words, their visual cortex may be doing the same work that the decoder does. This explanation makes sense in the light of my observation that the 1 in 7 – the natural decoders – are able to glance at a morphed image and decode it as effortlessly as if using the mirrored decoding cylinder. (See spatial–temporal reasoning and spatial visualization ability)

Answers Abound... ...to Questions Un-found In recent years specialists from many disciplines, from neurologists to occupational therapists to teachers of developmentally delayed children, have begun experimenting with mental and neuro-motor exercises as a way of challenging the brain and thereby forcing it to reassign “lost” function from one from area of the brain to another. Thus, a woman who has lost her speech to a stroke may regain it by

training a nearby (and undamaged) part of her cortex to step into the breach. And an amputee with “phantom limb syndrome” can teach his brain to stop processing pain signals from a part of his body that’s no longer there. Could anamorphic exercises similarly help people with certain kinds of visual-spatial disorders? Based on my experience in the classroom, I believe that this question bears looking into.


Feedback Requested Child development and toy experts have honored the Morph-O-Scope with dozens of awards. Help us find others who might be served. Now I am asking you to help me conceptualize how this invention might one day be used for therapeutic purposes. If you believe that you or

someone you know might benefit from anamorphic exercises, contact Myrna Hoffman at OOZ & OZ. I would be happy to provide a free concept sample of Morph-O-Scopes along with a brief feedback form that will add your anecdotes to our pool of information.

contact Myrna Hoffman at OOZ & OZ


T.W.I.C.E. T.W.I.C.E. A Plan for Academia-Industry Partnership Success in S.T.E.M. Dr. Joseph C. Richardson College often allow their classrooms to be used as sort of “living laboratories� as gateways to innovation (Feldbaum, 2009, p. 7). Fields that are technical in nature, such as those in the aerospace industry depend upon colleges and universities to provide the education and training students need to prepare them to meet the demands of the workforce (Felix & Pope, 2010). Industry needs for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are continuing to increase across the globe, and the U.S. needs to dedicate necessary resources to develop human capital domestically (NSF, 2010). The McKinsey Center for Government recently reported the results of surveys they compiled from 8,000 employers, students, and educators. They

documented the differing perspectives from each stakeholder on how prepared college graduates are to enter the workforce as a whole. While only 42 percent of employers and 45 percent of students thought students were being adequately prepared, educators were much more confident it the job they were doing as 72 percent thought graduates were ready to enter the workforce (Mourshed, Farrell, & Barton, 2012). Additionally, the survey results also showed that an average of 39 percent of employers across the nine countries surveyed stated that the lack of student preparedness was the leading cause of entry level vacancies (the U.S. average was 45 percent), with 36 percent of employers blaming this lack of pre-


paredness on economic and quality difficulties within their industries. As it pertains specifically to STEM fields, the continuing gap between what industry needs and what colleges are providing creates a leadership opportunity for higher education to work to close the gap (Nair, Patil & Mertova, 2009; Nazzal & Hillsman, 2010). A recent case study conducted on an active academia-industry partnership identified characteristics of the partnership that were important to ensure college students were being adequately prepared to enter the workforce.

The academia-industry partnership was in the southeastern U.S. and pertained to a program at a local technical college used to train students for a paid co-op/internship, and possible full-time employment, with a local aerospace maintenance and repair company. The framework for analyzing the partnership was criteria published by the National Science Board’s National Action Plan (NSB, 2007) for advancing STEM, and consisted of the following criteria: • Student preparation for entry into a STEM field • A written agreement between the college and STEM-related industry • Education/


training program addressed a field currently in demand by the STEM industry Data were collected from the population consisting of educators/ administrators, students, and industry leaders. Collection methods included one-on-one interviews, focus groups, artifact collection, and document analysis.

were spelled out in a written formal agreement. The agreement was signed by the college’s Vice-President of Academic Affairs and the General Manager at the industry site. The roles and responsibilities of the students were also explained in the agreement.

Examination of the collected data yielded the following characteristics that were important to the partnership:

1. Technical Hands-on Education

and Training Responsive to a Local Industry Need.

a. The education and training program

authored by the college had to be specific and technical enough to address an actual local industry need. This required detailed coordination between the college and industry leaders. The hands-on component of the education process was particularly important, and required the college to invest in tools and equipment germane to the industry environment.

Competent Leadership and Oversight.

2. Written Formal Agreement with

a. Faculty members assigned to the

Clear Roles and Responsibilities for Each Stakeholder a. The roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder

3. Involved, Experienced, and

aircraft structural technology program were very hands-on, serving more as mentors than just classroom lecturers.


Many faculty member had decades of real-world experience and were perceived by the students as being very competent. Oversight committees were established on the college and industry sides to quickly resolve issues that might hamper progress or success.

The close proximity of the college to the industry site permitted for professional and personal relationships between educators and industry leaders. The value of handshake agreements and the ability to trust the word of partnership participants also proved to be instrumental in facilitating effective communication.

5. Economy-based Vulnerabilities

and Growing Pains a. It was very apparent that the downturn in the economy had an impact on the partnership. The college, at one time, had over 300 students enrolled in the program, and that number was now under 100. Additionally, the partnership studied had only been in existence for less than a year, and the long-term viability of the partnership was still being assessed.

4. Communication Ease based on

Proximity, Integrity, and Relationships.

a. Communication between the col-

lege and industry leaders was very simple, consisting of emails, phone calls, and personal visits when required.

The T.W.I.C.E. plan for developing a strong partnership between education and STEM- industry leaders is beneficial for educators, students, and the workforce. Educators are able to offer to students a relevant program of study that could potentially lead to a paid coop/internship or full-time employment in the future. Educators are also able to leverage the equipment, tools, and expertise of industry professionals to


aid in the education of the students.

Students are able to gain real-world experience at the industry site using the equipment and tools required to do the job in the actual job environment. Students are also able to develop relationships with industry leaders that might be useful for employment or references later on during their job search. Students could also use the internship money they earned to pay for college costs. STEM- industry leaders benefit from the process by providing direct input into the education and training process of the student to ensure they are competent on workforce requirements. Industry leaders can also develop relationships with educational leaders that could be useful for future employee training/certifications. The partnership in the case studied showed that collaboration between the stakeholders was beneficial to ensuring that each stake-holder’s individual and collective goals were achieved.

References Feldbaum, M. (2009). Going green, The vital role of community colleges in building a sustainable future and green workforce, National Council for Workforce Education and the Academy for Educational Development. Retrieved from http://www.greenforall. org /resources/going-green-the-vital-role-ofcommunity-colleges-in-building-a-sustainable- future-and-a-green-workforce Felix, A., & Pope, A. (2010). The importance of community colleges to the tenth district economy. Economic Review, 95(3), 69-93. Mourshed, M., Farrell, D., & Barton, D. (2012). Education to employment: Designing a system that works. McKinsey and Company, London. Retrieved from http://mckinseyonsociety.com/downloads/reports/Education/Education-to- Employment_FINAL.pdf Nair, C., Patil, A., & Mertova, P. (2009). Re-engineering graduate skills: A case study. European Journal of Engineering Education, 34(2), 131-139. National Science Board (NSB) (2007). A national action plan for addressing the critical needs of the U.S. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education system.(NSB07- 117). Retrieved from http://www.nsf.gov/ nsb/ documents/2007/ stem_action.pdf National Science Foundation (NSF). (2010). Preparing the next generation of STEM innovators: Identifying and developing our nation’s human capital.NSB-10-33. Retrieved from http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/publications/2010/ nsb1033.pdf Nazzal, D., & Hillsman, C. (2010). Better together. Industrial Engineer: IE, 42(9), 26-30.


JOBS


Programming


Programming

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in a S.T.E.M. Curriculum Part II

By John Blankenship

Programming assignments that involve simulation can engage students by allowing them to address meaningful problems that foster a deeper understanding of the subject being addressed while developing problemsolving skills useful not only in students’ educational endeavors, but in their future careers as well. If programming offers so much value, the logical question is why is it seldom used in current pre-college curricula. One reason is that most modern computer languages are designed to provide experienced programmers the power and conciseness needed for solving massive problems – not the intuitive, easy-to-use features needed by young students new to programming. Using a professional language in an introductory course can be very frustrating for students, but starting with an easy-to-use educational language can have its own problems.


Figure 5 shows one variation of a finished program that locates the robot on the left side of the line and moves it to the right side. This program is getting longer, but it is still easy to understand, even for younger students.

LineWidth 10 SetColor RED Line 0,0,400,400 SetColor GREEN Line 400,250,650,300 LineWidth 3 rLocate 200,300 rInvisible LightBlue rPen DOWN rTurn 100 rForward 40 rTurn 40 rForward 200 rTurn -40 rForward 100 rTurn -90 rForward 100 rTurn -50 rForward 100 rTurn -30 rForward 80 rTurn 30 rForward 50 end

Figure 6: The robot has successfully moved to the other side of the line.

Figure 5: This program successfully moves the robot to the opposite side of the line as shown in Figure 6.


This assignment may not be very exciting for adults, but children with no programming experience find it fascinating and they learn far more than you might first suspect. For example, they quickly get a feel for coordinate systems and angles. They also begin to understand that a computer program is just a series of commands carried out in a specific order.

It is easy to create additional assignments to challenge students. You could ask them, for example to create their own environments with additional graphic statements like circle and rectangle. Another variation could be to require that all rForward commands be 50 pixels. This forces them to choose the parameters for their rTurn statements more strategically.


When students reach middle school, they can be introduced to the simulated robot’s sensor capabilities so that the robot can be programmed to make its own decisions on how to accomplish a task. The simulated robot has two levels of perimeter proximity sensors, an electronic compass, a beacon detector, a color detecting camera, and many other sensors making it possible to create meaningful, exciting applications. Let’s look at a simple example to illustrate how the sensors can be used.

Assume that we want to program the robot to follow a line on the floor. The simulated robot has three line sensors mounted at its front edge that can be read with the function rSense(). One very easy approach for making the robot follow the line is to have it turn to the right whenever any of the sensors sees the line, and to turn back to the left when no line is seen. While this is not a sophisticated algorithm, it does work reasonably well as long as the line does not have sharp angles and is not too thin. The program in Figure 7 will create a line and let the robot follow it as shown in Figure 8. Notice that this program uses functional modules called subroutines to teach students

how to better organize a program’s structure. The main program simply executes each of the modules in the order they are need by calling them with a go sub statement. Notice also that the program introduces decision-making structures with the IF statement and to loops created with the WHILE statement. The FollowLine module uses a loop to continually move the robot forward constantly turning it right and left depending on whether the rSense() function detects the line.


Notice that the program causes the robot to follow the line by hugging along the right side of the line. An extension of this assignment would be to ask students to modify the program to make the robot hug along the left side of the line. The students could also vary the line itself to identify situations that can cause the program to fail.

MainProgram: gosub DrawLine gosub InitializeRobot gosub FollowLine end

Figure 7: This program, which allows the robot to follow a line, is organized into functional modules called subroutines.

DrawLine: SetColor green LineWidth 10 Line 400,500,400,450 LineTo 420,400 LineTo 400,350 LineTo 380,300 LineTo 380,250 LineTo 350,200 LineTo 320,150 return

InitializeRobot: rLocate 400,500 rInvisible green return

FollowLine: while true rForward 1 if rSense()=0 rTurn -1 else rTurn 1 endif wend return


Figure 8: Notice that the robot follows the line by staying on its right side. Figure 9: This RB-9 robot has most of the sensors of the simulated robot, allowing it to be controlled by the same programs developed on the simulator.


At the high school level, students can be introduced to additional programming statements and structures that allow the robot to react to individual readings of each of the robot’s line sensors, making it possible to follow curvier and thinner lines. They can also be shown how simulator programs can be used to control real robots such as the RB-9 shown in Figure 9 (available from RobotBASIC). The simulator is a very cost effective solution for schools, because every student can have their own free copy of RobotBASIC for use at home and in the classroom. And, if a school wants the added motivation of using a real robot, only one is needed because once a student’s program is working on the simulator, the teacher can let their program control the real robot. It is important to realize that RobotBASIC is also capable of creating other types of simulations such as the effects of wind and gravity on a bouncing ball for a science or physics class. Students that program simulations of such things have a much better understanding of the principles involved. Such a program may seem complex,

but an entire class of students can be taught to program the bouncing ball in one class period. The details of programming the effects of gravity on a bouncing ball are covered in the book RobotBASIC Projects for Beginners. It and many other books on RobotBASIC are available from Amazon.com (just search Amazon for RobotBASIC).

The important point to remember is that RobotBASIC can be used at every grade level without having to teach a totally new system when more complex features are needed. This minimizes the load on teachers and the frustration of students by ensuring that everything learned at one level is still applicable at the next. Exposure to just a couple programming assignments per year can help develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed for many middle and high school classes. Such skills are also highly valued by technical employers. And, students with aspirations for technical degrees such as engineering and computer science will be far better prepared for college level programming classes than students with no programming experience.

Visit www.RobotBASIC.org to download your free copy of RobotBASIC


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