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What Inspired You?

As the school year rolls around again, what professional development did you participate in that inspired you for the new year? I recently attended a CS4HS session at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and was truly inspired to spice up my teaching with some new hardware and software. I am grateful to CSTA, Google, Lenovo, and CAITE for sponsoring this great workshop.

Tom Lauwers introduced us to Finch Robots, a cool sleek design that includes all the regular motors and sensors you would expect, with an accelerometer and a beak that can light up to any RGB color you wish. Its low price point ($99) makes it a viable option for the classroom. The Finch robots also support a variety of programming languages, so it is an easy fit for any CS curriculum.

In addition to the Finch robots, we spent a morning learning and experimenting with MIT's AppInventor software. Led by UMass Lowell's Fred Martin and Mark Sherman, the forty teachers in the workshop were quickly creating apps and downloading them onto our new Lenovo tablets, a bonus takeaway from the workshop (along with a Finch robot!). I marveled at how quickly we were able to code an app, download it, and have it running on the Android device. What a motivator that will be for students, to write a mobile app to show off to friends and family.

I left this workshop so excited to try out both in my class, and wondering how I will manage to adapt my curriculum to fit them. But I am determined to incorporate these awesome technologies into my teaching. One of my goals in my introductory course is to engage and motivate students to explore the possibilities of computing. I think that Finch robots and AppInventor will help me to achieve that goal.

Links:
http://www.finchrobot.com/
http://appinventor.mit.edu/

Karen Lang
CSTA Board of Directors
9-12 Representative

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