Monday, July 12, 2010

Moonbase Alpha - NASA's New Role Playing Game

Moonbase Alpha is a new online game developed by NASA to be played on the Steam online gaming platform. Moonbase Alpha a simulation/ role playing game in which players assume the role of an astronaut working to repair equipment in order to restore oxygen delivery to a settlement on the moon. The game can be played by up to six players at a time who communicate using voice over communication.

See the trailer for Moonbase Alpha in the video below.

To play Moonbase Alpha you do need to install the Steam gaming platform (it's free) on a Windows-based computer.

Applications for Education
Despite all of my other geeky habits like teaching myself html, I am not a gamer. None-the-less I do recognize that the right games in the right context can be great educational tools. I know Tim Hart will back me up on that statement. One of the aspects that could make Moonbase Alpha a good learning tool is NASA's attention to presenting moon's surface in a truly accurate lunar moonscape.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Interactive Tour of the Hubble Telescope
Star Child - Learning for Young Astronomers
NASA Quests and Challenges

Develop an Android App Without Coding

It's almost as if I wished for something and Google developed it last night. Last night after spending many, many hours experimenting/ hacking the html behind Free Technology for Teachers, I mentioned that next I'm going to tackle developing an Android and iPhone app. I even said to someone on Twitter that I hope there's an Android App Development for Dummies (there is by the way Android Application Development For Dummies). Well this morning Google made an announcement that will make that book a little less valuable.

This morning Google announced the beta launch of App Inventor for Android. App Inventor for Android will allow anyone to design and develop a mobile application for Android. App Inventor for Android does not require you to have any coding skills at all. It's a visually based, drag and drop development tool much like design tools commonly found in blog and website development tools. See the App Inventor for Android in action in the video below.

Right now App Inventor for Android is available on an invitation-only basis. You can apply for access here. A couple of things to note before applying; you must have a gmail address (get one here if you don't have one) and Google seems to be especially interested in the development of apps for education as they do ask if you have an association with a school.

Applications for Education
App Inventor for Android is an exciting development for educators and students. Now teachers will be able to develop mobile applications specifically for their classes. Better yet, students will be able to develop applications that they can use to enhance their own learning experiences. With rumors abounding that the Android OS will be used for tablet devices the App Inventor for Android could really push 1:1 and mobile computing into the hands of more students and teachers than ever before.

I know I'm looking forward to developing apps for my social studies classes. How do you see App Inventor for Android impacting education?

Come See Me at MOREnet MITC in October

I've known about this for quite a while, but I couldn't make any official announcements until today. I am going to be the keynote speaker at MOREnet's MITC conference in Missouri on October 4. The title of my keynote is Everything is Free! Now What? I will also be running a pre-conference session (title: Lesson Plan Rehab) on October 3 and post-keynote session (title: Creating Videos to Demonstrate Learning). If you're within driving distance of Osage Beach, Missouri come on down.

I'm also slated to be the keynote speaker for another conference later in October, but I can't say which conference yet other than it's in New England. I'll also be speaking at ACTEM's annual conference in October and at CECA's conference also in October. Yes, October is a busy month for me. Fortunately, my school is willing to work with me for the time out of my classroom and I've been able to arrange my schedule so that I only miss four days from my classroom.

If you're interested in having me speak at your school or at your conference, please contact me through my Work With Me page where you'll find a list of topics that I'm happy to address as well as a list of some of the other schools and conferences I've worked with. I don't have a lot of room left in my schedule for August through December, but I can probably fit-in three to five dates.

View Pure - View YouTube Without the Clutter

View Pure is a simple little tool that strips YouTube viewing of all of the distractions of related videos, comments, and promoted videos. To use View Pure just copy the link of a video into the "purifier," click purify, and your video will be displayed on a blank white background. You can also install the View Pure bookmarklet to accomplish the same goal.

Applications for Education
If you're lucky enough to work in a school that allows you to access YouTube in your classroom, you know that showing a YouTube video can sometimes lead to "related videos" distractions. View Pure takes away those distractions so that you and your students can focus on the content of one video.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Safe Share TV - Safe YouTube Viewing
Quiet Tube - No Nonsense YouTube Viewing
30+ Alternatives to YouTube

Advice for those attending Google Teacher Academy

This post is part of a requirement for the Google Teacher Academy that I attended. Here's my reflection on my experience and advice for new GTA attendees.

The Google Teacher Academy is taking it's road show to the UK in a couple of weeks. For 50 lucky educators it's going to be a great experience. For those who didn't get in or are just curious about what goes on during a Google Teacher Academy, follow the Twitter hashtag #GTAUK.

Those who are attending GTA, listen up. No really, listen up, don't check your email or your iPhone/Android/ Blackberry during the day. You'll miss something important if you do check those devices. Tweet all you want though. Most importantly, talk to the people that are there with you. I did not do a good job of this during my day at GTA because I was engrossed in trying to churn-out blog posts about what I was learning. I should have tried to write less and connect more. If you got into GTA, you probably already have a pretty good handle on the basics of Google Apps and can, if given the time, on your own discover some hidden gems within Google Apps. What you can't do on your own, is make connections and brainstorm with 50 other really smart educators. So go ahead and play with some of the new technical things you'll learn about Google Apps, but don't let that get in the way of making personal connections. Oh yeah, and don't be late for lunch at Google, it's delicious.

Note, I did make some great connections at GTA, particularly with Kristen Swanson, Tara Seale, and Joyce Valenza, but I could have done more.