Saturday, May 20, 2017

RE@L BLOG REPOST:"Look What I Built With Lego!" & "Look What I Learned From MECC Software's 'Serious Fun!' "- 40 Years Ago!!! Today's Kids Will Learn With RE@L's New STEM Tools!

Almost 40 years ago this young girl posed for a LEGO ad showing what she could do with her newly-designed home and carport…or is it a heliocopter-port? Maybe both!
SeriousFunWe at RE@L like to think she not only knew how to build new designs, but she also liked to play with her MECC science- and math-based software on her computer.The graphic on the right, also 40 years old, shows what it looked like back then when computers sat on a desk instead of being held in your hand.
Nor did we have the word STEM, (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) back in those days. LEGO is what some kids were using to learn with back in those days. Girls, too. Not just boys. 
We’d like to believe this smart and creative young girl became a smart and creative woman and maybe even working in a STEM career. Who knows, she may now be in her prime building space-ports for weary space travelers to get some rest and relaxation. You never know.
RE@L’s new strategies are to embed the various learning activities in K12 STEM, real-world experiments.
As we learned back in our MECC days, it’s imperative to provide the teacher with all the materials needed to properly conduct the learning experiments and have students ready and able to learn. 
Nothing beats “hands-on and heads-on” learning, and that’s what RE@L does.
RE@L’s software relates to the real world. 
STEM-circles1The sky is the limit these days for girls and boys considering STEM careers, whether or not they choose high-tech.
Our RE@L homepage uses three artistic bubbles to show how RE@L embraces three distinct and critical dimensions of Project-Based Learning (PBL):
1. -Classroom activities,
2. -Field experience,
3. -Connecting to the real world experience
RE@L’s new portal, RE@L VIEW™, uses new technologies to bring both content and resources all together for both students and teachers. Moreover, it includes sharing questions and findings with other PBL schools across the nation, and around the globe. If our students can learn together anywhere, perhaps they can work together and relate to each other, too.

The secret to RE@L VIEW™ new learning is the advanced resource-sharing of the virtual world, real-time portal. It allows teachers and learners everywhere to connect and share their work and findings. 

UnknownRE@L has harnessed the power of content and resourcesWe have also added newer tools that take learning to a new dimension. 

Prototypes may begin with toys and building blocks. But they can and have become far more than that. Today’s tools allow virtual realities undreamed of only a few short years ago. 
If the young girl, pictured in the LEGO poster above, had been able to choose new paths for learning and life, think of her options that would be available out there today.
Perhaps, one of those careers awaits a young, probing minds of students you know! The universe awaits their new explorations! So do we!

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Friday, February 24, 2017

"I do not yet have it perfect"....

When I start up my University of St. Thomas  teacher-ed classes
each term, I tell the students stories about great teachers and inspired
teaching, gleaned from my growing number of years in education.

Here's one of them:

Lieselotte Tschesche was a teacher of German to some of our middle
school kids in St. Paul back when I was at Saturn School in the early 90's.

She was celebrating 25 years as a teacher in the district and was so
being honored with a District Longevity pin. The district made a video
interview of her to be shown at the Opening Day convocation that year.
It was the hit of the morning. It wasn't the welcoming words of the
Superintendent that day that re-stoked the fire in the hearts of the
returning teachers. It was Lieselotte's story:

She had come to the US as a young girl after WW2, a survivor and a true believer in the power of learning. Here's the story she told the
audience: After raising her family, she decided to become a German
teacher. Why not, she said, my German was still perfect.

She found a job in St. Paul teaching middle school kids. Why there? Why not highschool?, she was asked.

"Because they are old enough to love to learn,"
she said, "but not so old they think they know everything. They are
fun, they are helpers, they are full of life." They loved the subject
she taught and would converse with her in their broken German even in
the halls, traipsing to the next class. They loved her.

She was an itinerant teacher whose desk was a shopping cart and she
had to haul all her tools from one room to another. The kids argued to
see whose turn it was to push the cart for her. Since she was an older
teacher who came to education later in life, the interviewer asked her
how did she find the energy for such a demanding job."I pace myself,"
she said, "and I let the students teach one another. I do not say very
much in my classes. My students know what to do. But I am tired at the
end of the day," she said, "and when I go home I put my feet up and
drink two cups of my very strong coffee. It refreshes me enough to
correct my papers and prepare for tomorrow."

When will you retire, she was asked. "Oh, I cannot yet
retire," she said, in her lovely German accent, "for I do not yet have
it perfect." That line resonated in the large auditorium where we are
all seated. I do not yet have it perfect. There was nary a stir after
we heard it.

I'm sure that many of the teachers there thought she was closer to
perfect than she knew. She was committed to her craft and her kids, to
the start of this new year of teaching which afforded her and everyone
there another opportunity to do it better.

Mrs. Tschesche passed away this past year at the age of 96. She had touched many lives. That's what teachers do, and that's why we also call our profession a "practice."

I don't know for a fact, but I'd guess she taught until she could no longer teach, and then,
and only then, it was perfect.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

REPRINT: Popular New Movie to IBM and Their Revolutionary New Watson Project, To More STEM-Based Learning for K12 Learners!

stemRE@L has long been committed to promoting STEM learning for our K12 students, irrespective of gender, race, and special needs. Here’s why:
The movie we last mentioned in our RE@L Blog, “Hidden Figures,” is still drawing crowds to the theaters. Many parents are bringing their children to see it, and so are teachers bringing their students. Our first blog in this series tells why this film it’s a must-see. Click here to see that story.
th-3This fascinating movie, which is a contender in the upcoming Academy Awards, is a well-told, true story of how three young, black women engineers at IBM worked with NASA and its emerging program to put a man on the moon.
Their quick wits and STEM-based training actually helped save a young astronaut whose space capsule would have landed in unchartered waters, thanks to a computer failure. Their slide rules and manual calculations located the precise spot! They all were, what we would call today, STEM-educated.
RE@L also noted this excerpted quote in the Philadelphia Daily News by reporter Gary Thompson, reprinted in The Minneapolis Star Tribune: “Schools are taking students to see this movie. It’s becoming part of the curriculum. We just had a free screening at USC for 8,000 inner-city high school students. They love the movie, he said, I think, because it allows them to see what’s possible.
In K12 education, “what’s possible” is what it’s all about. If you’ve followed our RE@L Blog for the last few weeks, you’ve seen how initiatives like putting an astronaut on the moon can also put many well-trained people to work. It’s not just the engineers and mathematicians. It’s all the STEM-trained workers who help make it happen, from clerical staff to engineering assistants. RE@L believes there are many promising options for the many young talents.
As the old saying goes, “High tides float all boats,” encompassing the “boats” of the highly skilled, along with trained technicians, including specialized clerical assistance. There are many satisfying, important careers awaiting those training for the opportunitiesFortunately, more and more of our K12 students are now choosing STEM careers by taking STEM courses in their schools.
Back in 1960, other than dreamers and visionaries, almost no one believed President Kennedy’s promise to put a “man on the moon” was even possible. A little less than 10 years later, there was a man on the moon, and shortly after that, there were women in space, too, including women of color. As the recent movie “Hidden Figures” showed us: these amazing achievements were not tied to race, creed, color, gender, beliefs, or any other fundamentally irrelevant critiera. 
Mae JamesonThese teams of space-workers were driven by a proper education, extensive training, personal commitment and using the many diverse talents. With the right educational choices, the sky and the heavens are the limit. Mae Jameson, the first African American woman in space, was among them! Click on the graphic to the right to see the rest of her story.
Technology today drives our global economy. In our nation there are simply not enough competent employees to fill the needed positions in the many new technology-based jobs today. Well-paying, satisfying careers are available in technology but far too few are prepared to fill them. That’s where STEM comes in: Science, Technology, Environment, Mathematics. More of our students need to be competent in these new skills.
RE@L realizes that our K12 Schools are pressed to supply the training, and our young students are largely unaware of the learning they will need to meet the demand. It’s time for change! We need to put thousands more of our students on the pinnacles of promising career choices, and encourage their commitments to career mastery.
watsonIBM is still hard at work with their recent, innovative Watson Project, including one project that addresses new and highly effective ways for kids to learn. Our recent RE@L Blog told that story.
IBM now has computers with the long-awaited, built-in Artificial Intelligence” which can conversationally “relate” to a learner’s unique needs and provide personalized learning skills. Check out their website for more information: Click on their web graphic at the top-left to learn more.
thEven “Sesame Street”, “Big Bird” and “Elmo” are back to help pre-school kids learning their basic skills. Watch the collaborative video by clicking on the graphic to the right. These new early-ed tools can help all young learners be ready for school, with fewer chances of falling behind, and staying behind.
What RE@L found most moving about IBM’s initiatives was this new initiative that actually helps the blind “see” and learn to  traverse the world at large. Made possible by IBM’s collaborative research with higher-ed, there are now prototypes of newly developed apps and tools that turn an iPhone into a seeing-eye dog that’s able to help a blind person “recognize” a friend in a crowd and also give advice on a sensible snack.
Chieko IBMSee it and believe it! Watch blind IBM researcher Chieko Asakawa tell the audience in a TED Talk how she is able to “see.” Click on their graphic to the left to hear her touching and informative presentation. Yes, it even brought tears to our eyes to see how STEM-based technologies are now helping the blind “see.”
ForbesThere are now more new emerging technologies. One is designed to help the disabled “walk.” Read this fascinating story and view the inspiring video from Forbes Magazine.
There’s now hope for those who are paralyzed, or lost limbs and have been unable to move about on their own. Now there is hope!
Click on the IBM graphic to the right to see this new freedom of mobility.
What a world of possibilities we now live in! With the help of our STEM teachers and learners, now and in the future, those possibities will become realities. RE@L is committed to making these possibilities happen for students everywhere. 
Hey, kids! Want a career that truly can make a difference? Here’s an assignment that will take you far:
  • Take a closer look at STEM! Tell your teachers, your parents and your friends you want more STEM choices. 
  • Ask if some STEM-trained workers can visit your classroom and tell you about their exciting and satisfying careers!
Make STEM happen for your school and for you!
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Sunday, February 5, 2017

REPRINT WITH PERMISSION: Groundhog Day, The Weather and "Hidden Figures": A New Movie & True Story Featuring STEM/Gender/Diversity - Part One

If you haven’t seen that old classic movie “Groundhog Day” we highly recommend it! No, it doesn’t tell the viewer how to get rid of winter quicker. But it does provide a great lesson in life: We can each of us be better than we are.
In the case of Bill Murray, the star of the movie, it comes down to his slowly becoming a better man, learning to play the piano and eventually earning and deserving the love of Andie McDowell, his weather show producer. A happy ending does not come quickly to his Phil Connors in this movie. In the words of that old TV commercial, Murray had to “earn” it.
jea 1020 Grand Day ParadeSo what do movies have to do with winters? On our MN “frozen tundra”, as we like to call it here, being at 45º latitude (that’s halfway to the North Pole!), we either go to or stream a good movie, or we head to downtown St. Paul and watch the Winter Carnival Torchlight Parade.
“If you can’t beat winter, join it!” becomes our motto. Or, you can go to a good movie with a good message. We chose the latter. And that brings us to this blog.
thYour RE@L Blogmeisters have been extolling the future benefits of a STEM/STEAM based-curriculumWe’ve also emphasized the importance of gender in these new Project-Based curricula. It’s imperative for girls and young women to be a part of this new learning. It can lead to a satisfying career, and better tomorrows.
large_large_6cbIDZLfwUTmttXTmNi8Mp3RnmgA few frigid nights ago we chose to go and see a recently-released, feel-good, think-good and do-good movie called, “Hidden Figures.” It’s been praised by none other than the popular website
In the words of their reviewer Odie Henderson: Hopefully, “Hidden Figures” will inspire women and people of color (and … men too) with its gentle assertion that there’s nothing unusual nor odd about people besides White men being good at math. …. It deserves to make as much money as any planet in the Marvel Universe does. This is one of the year’s best films.”
Who says our dreams can’t come true? So true, that they become real and they end up in a movie about making the impossible become possible!
That is what happened to three young black women, back in the early ’60′s. We emphasized the word “black” to emphasize another dimension that we believe STEM needs to address: diversity. We need students of color taking STEM/STEAM too. All our racial groups need to be represented.
we-choose-to-go-to-the-moonHere’s the background story: Back in 1961, then President John F. Kennedy told the world that the USA would put a man on the moon! Those words were almost unheard of before that, being the stuff of dreams and sci-fi authors, some of whom opined the moon was green cheese!
But, first we had to put a man in space. Amazingly, and in less than two years, John Glenn was in space, and 6 years later, in 1968, we had two astronauts on the moon. But first things first.
HF2It all started with a young black girl, Katherine Johnson, who learned how to do her mathematics in school so well that she ended up choosing a mathematics major in college. Soon after graduation she was hired by IBM and assigned to helping NASA meet its moonstruck goals.
Click this movie trailer graphic to the left to view the video that introduces this powerful story.
One of their first tasks was how do we  locate where our slightly used space capsules, occupied not by a dog, but by a young astronaut, which, after an early orbit or two, splashes into the sea. Suffice it to say that it was imperative to find the capsule before it sunk along with one of our new young heroes.
th-1So the IBM program was written to calculate the orbit and find the young astronaut, John Glenn, quickly, thanks to the help of Ms. Johnson. Murphy’s law works there too and sometimes things go terribly wrong with computers and their programs. It’s even worse when the capsule is in its final orbit to the sea.
Katherine and her young black female team whipped out their slide rules, gigantic chalkboard and ladder, and…..well, we’re not saying any more. Go see the movie! Bring your daughter of any age old enough to understand. Talk it up in your schools, especially among girls and young women of color. Yes, it’s wonderful to also bring boys and young men, too.
STEM 3 Bubbles
   We will be back next week with the rest of the story:
We’ve got 3 RE@L Bubbles to share with you. IBM wants to reprise their act with the rest of their story. And more!
They are joined by the NY Times, all of whom are working on an Augmented Reality STEM-Based project. We hope their stories will put all these young learners in a virtual space suit walking on whichever planet is next. It’s Mars, we hope! STEM fun and great career challenges will fill their futures.
By the way, it’s 25º F here today, but the sun is shining. Enter your local temp by clicking on the “Comments to RE@L” below. Oh, and feel free to add any questions, comments or weather reporting you wish.

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Hey, Higher-Ed! Lessons from K12 teachers and kids on the cutting edge of EdTech are worth seeing.

Some good things in our professional life happen when you get an invitation. Here's the one I recently received from Vicki Sell, our local Apple Rep here in the Twin Cities.

I was lucky enough to find one of the sessions only a half mile from home, at the school where I did my student teaching almost 60 years ago. My, have things changed since then. Including the way kids can learn today.

Take Expeditionary (Outdoors) Learning, combined with Project-based Learning and you have what kids need today to learn skills for the new jobs in our changing world.

Here's what the agenda for our Session was, so read on:

Apple Computer is working with many schools and teachers who are part of the recent iPad invasions into classrooms and labs across the country....well, even further than that.

Most of the public nods in favor of these new tool expenditures, but some of us who've been in education awhile are concerned about these expenditures when there isn't a plan in place, nor training for staff in how to use them effectively.

A headline often seen today is: "Local School District Invests Millions in Mobile Devices!" When we read further in the article we find there is no basic plan for what to do with them, other than add another distraction from learning.

The fact is these new tools are a significant addition to enriching learning and enhancing teaching, if.... If you have a plan in place.

  • What are the objectives? Are they reasonable? Do they promise what no one can deliver?
  • What is the Action Plan? How do we measure progress?  
  • How do we adijust our plan when corrections are needed? Is it doable in the time allotted? 
  • How do we train staff, students and parents in the use of this new learning tool? 
  • How do we integrate it into the curriculum? 
  • How do we report our progress? 
  • How do we extend it to other classrooms and schools? 
Here's some photos on what needs to happen to our kids' K12 learning!

We need to keep looking, keep testing and keep trying....and never give up!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy New Year from RE@L!

Holiday greetings to all:

Happy New Year To All Our Readers From RE@L! We, ALL of Us, Have Another Year, And Another Chance To Do It Even Better!

happy-new-year-fireworks-holiday-background-design-65648415RE@L sends greetings to all our readers and followers for a great Holiday and even better New Year!

We’ve all worked hard this past year to make good things happen, no matter what we do. That’s why you’re reading this!
We, your RE@L Bloggers, pledge to keep our focus on “What Works And What Still Needs Working On,” and spreading the  word.
Having been around a few New Year’s greetings ourselves, we know there are many more of the latter questions than the answers!
Our New Year’s RE@L resolution is to continue to bring you: 
  • An array of topical, timely RE@L blogs on EdTech and STEM, 
  • Reviews of other insightful bloggers and pioneering leaders, 
  • Helpful Case Studies and Results from experienced, passionate educators 
Turn Good Ideas Into Action!

Thanks to EACH of YOU for being a follower of our RE@L Blog, our Facebook page and our Twitter feed!

Our promise to our RE@L readers is more of the same, only better.

Happy New and Better Year To All!

From Dale and Tom

Your RE@L Co-Blogmeisters

Tom King and Dale LaFrenz

From RE@L

Monday, October 17, 2016

RE@L Guest Blog: Accessible Technologies For ALL Learners!

Modern Museums Using Virtual Realities & 

Accessible Technologies For ALL Learners!

Reposting of Guest Blog by Dolly Santos Published on RE@L Blog October 17, 2016

Babylonian Museum, 500BC
Babylonian Museum, 500BC
RE@L welcomes Guest Blogger Dolly Santos to our growing list of contributors on cutting-edge EdTech topics. Dolly blogs regularly on her site:, with useful tips and current information for teachers, kids and parents.
Dolly picked a topic dear to our RE@L heart: EdTech Resources for K12 that focus on the latest technologies. Technology makes our many museums more accessible without our actually being thereThese new devices use what’s called Virtual Reality. Many educators see great potential for K12.
Museums have been repositories for useful knowledge since artifacts were first created by those who came before us. What we discover anew today is based on what was discovered and archived in the past.
RE@L thanks Dolly Santos for bringing virtual reality to the attention of our RE@L Blog readers. Here are Ms. Santos’ thoughts on these new Virtual Reality technologies, and the help they bring to ALL learners:
“Museums are a centuries-old method for preserving and displaying information about the world around us. (Click on the graphics or links in this blog to learn more). Dinosaur bones, ancient pottery, and artifacts educate us on unique local histories. These museum collections are informative and available to the public, thanks to the tireless efforts of many museums and their highly-trained staffs.
“As we learn more about education and the human mind, an increasing number of museums are recognizing that not everyone can learn from an exhibit sign. Language barriers, disabilities, and differing learning styles all are potential information blocks for museum guests. Fortunately, modern innovation has allowed museums to alter the way they educate the public.
“Here are just a few of the ways museums are using technology to make their collections more accessible:
1.   Self-Guided Tours:
virtualmuseum1“With the rapid spread of smartphones, many people have access to thousands of unique mobile apps.Many museums now are offering self-guided tours using free apps that can be downloaded directly to your phone. The “apps” link here will take you to a tour of the American Museuem of Natural History. “Virtual tours” can:
  • lead you on the best route in the museum to ensure you don’t miss anything;
  • verbalize the information for people who struggle with vision or word comprehension;
  • offer exclusive background information for people who want to know more about the exhibits.
“Click on the graphic to the right for more information on: “Accessibility and New Technology in the Museum,” – photo courtesy of A&MI.
“Some apps also provide extra resource activities such as quizzes, scavenger hunts, or other stimulating games for children and kinesthetic learners. This type of active learning works to keep museum guests engaged and can be perfect for someone who has difficulty focusing when learning.
2.   Virtual Tours:
virttours“Large-scale museums are beginning to create and publish online virtual tours of their exhibits. 45 Museums here have virtual tour links. Some of these virtual visits are conducted through apps, while others can be found on the museums’ websites.
“These virtual tours can be especially useful for students who cannot attend a field trip as a result of illness or disability. Schools with limited field trip budges use them, as well. Rather than being left out, these students can engage in discussions about the exhibits thanks to the virtual tour they were able to take from their homes or classrooms. This innovation makes all the difference to people who otherwise would be unable to visit the museums.
3.   Customizable Exhibits:
virtmuseums“For many people with disabilities, the standard museum exhibit can pose challenges:
  •    •   Perhaps the font on the signs is too small to read or the chosen font style aggravates a dyslexia issue.
  •    •   Some people may struggle with crowds or excessive noise.
  •    •   Others may need a slower audio rendition of the exhibit information.
“To remedy all of these potential blocks to accessibility, museums have begun developing a customizable museum experience. Exhibits feature interfaces on which visitors can select options like font type and size, audio, volume, etc., to make gathering information easier. While these technological advances still are in the works for some locations, other museums already have implemented interface systems for their guests, such as those shown in this link.
classroom_smiles“Beyond technology, museums have continued to work on more visitors being able to learn from their exhibitsHands-on learning, films, workshops, special events, and other extra activities already are commonplace in most museums. These technology enhancements help learners of all kinds enjoy all of the offerings at museums.
“While these supplemental activities certainly are helpful to all guests, technological advances especially aid people with disabilities. Though accessibility is not yet a standard in all museums, it is a work in progress in the vast majority of them. There will be more help coming to those museum visitors who need it.”
RE@L thanks Dolly Santos for an overview of this new and helpful museum access phenomenon. We hope you enjoyed the virtual tool link she cited as much as we did. We keep clicking on this link for new sites and tours. As the website says, “They never close,” and the virtual visitors can stay as long as they like!
We see the potential of these new Tech-Tools, too. Virtual Reality is the next best thing to being there without going there. That’s one reason why RE@L is exploring affiliations with museums, like The Strong, that feature learning technologies. Last spring, The Strong Museum selected “Oregon Trail™ software as a Hall of Fame product to be featured in their museum in Rochester, NY. Here’s the link to our RE@L Blog on that topic. Oregon Trail was created by MECC back in the 70′s by a team of creative software designers, several of whom are now a major part of Team RE@L. Here’s a link to The Strong Museum site, where you will find information on thousands of game artifacts in addition to Oregon Trail.
RE@L has several new products in various stages of development which bring the same kind of innovation, effectiveness and broad resources that Oregon Trail and 300+ other MECC products did many years ago. We at RE@L see Museums of the future as partners in extending the “reach” of our products to learners everywhere. Museums show us how new artifacts and ideas build on old ones. Whether in school, at a museum, or at home, these new virtual reality tools  can “virtually transport” the learner to the museum displays.
In today’s RE@L world, the right learning resources can be brought directly to the needs of each visitor and make learning far more accessibleFurthermore, it takes Social Media to a new level. We at RE@L like to think of these new tools as the “Cooperative Media,” where each of us can learn with all of us. More powerfully, teachers and students can create our own Virtual Museums to share and show others what we have learned.
What a virtual world we learn in today!
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