Sam Harrelson

Math on the Simpsons

Fun read…

A look into the deep, dark, strangely complicated world of Simpsons mathematics.

via Homer's Last Theorem – Boing Boing.




Taking Flight

Excited to see Blair getting recognition for his initiative to get our flight simulator program going (not to mention all the other things he does for Hammond from our athletic program to hammondschool.tv to keeping me full of ideas for ways for us to be innovative):

Through the generosity of Columbia native Austin Meyer, Hammond is the fortunate recipient of state-of-the-art flight simulation equipment used in the aeronautics industry.  On a recent Friday afternoon, Senior Blair Epting successfully took flight. Along with guidance from physics instructor Hazel Mohammed, Blair has successfully navigated the X-Plane software and tried his hand at everything from helicopter to futuristic plane launches and landings.  Keeping him grounded is going to be a difficult task!

via School News – Hammond School.




Iterative Learning

Using our @makerbot Replicator 5th Generation to study design process involved with making movable parts in a single print here at Hammond…

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Innovation Tools

Have our 3D Printer, drone, and a class set of Sphero’s in my office @hammondschool. Fun afternoon of applied learning with our 5th graders!

Location:Hammond School, Columbia, United States




What is Creativity Without a Keyboard (or Why I Want My Kids to Play Minecraft)?

Tie Fighter

Last night, my six year old daughter started playing Minecraft on my Windows desktop. She was clumsy with the keyboard / mouse combination that a desktop Minecraft experience requires. Telling her that “W” moves your character forward, and “S” backwards while you use your mouse to pan and active click (oh, and spacebar to hop) was interesting to process.

But she did it. And within a few minutes, she was flipping into her inventory (by pressing “E”) and back out with the right door or fence or block that she needed to build her underground home.

I tried to stand back and let her do her thing without acting like I wanted to build for her. But I knew I had to. I want her to learn how to use a keyboard.

Pro-Tip: I learned how to use a keyboard and type in the early 90’s working on my IBM clones and playing classic games like 1993’s Star Wars X-Wing and 94’s Tie Fighter.

These games did more for my keyboarding (and eventual programming) skills than any typing class in school that I had to take.

I want the same for my children, and I hope they realize the inherit power of a keyboard over an onboard software keyboard experience via iPhone, iPad etc.

Of course, I may be wrong. But I don’t think so.

In my mind, Seth Godin nails it…

Many people are quietly giving away one of the most powerful tools ever created—the ability to craft and spread revolutionary ideas. Coding, writing, persuading, calculating—they still matter. Yes, of course the media that’s being created on the spot, the live, the intuitive, this matters. But that doesn’t mean we don’t desperately need people like you to dig in and type.

The trendy thing to do is say that whatever technology and the masses want must be a good thing. But sometimes, what technology wants isn’t what’s going to change our lives for the better.

via Seth’s Blog: Without a keyboard.




Screens in the Classroom

To me, the crux of the issue of using devices in a classroom comes down to the culture of a specific classroom… is there a teacher at the front of the room sharing information and knowledge with an audience of students, or is there a collaborative environment (or something of a hybrid)?

This is written from a college professor’s point of view, but still valuable for k-12 educators and a good read (especially the elephant and elephant driver metaphor):

This is, for me, the biggest change — not a switch in rules, but a switch in how I see my role. Professors are at least as bad at estimating how interesting we are as the students are at estimating their ability to focus. Against oppositional models of teaching and learning, both negative—Concentrate, or lose out!—and positive—Let me attract your attention!—I’m coming to see student focus as a collaborative process. It’s me and them working to create a classroom where the students who want to focus have the best shot at it, in a world increasingly hostile to that goal.

via Why I Just Asked My Students To Put Their Laptops Away… — Medium.




Importance of Crisis for Humanities

We religion majors don’t do so bad, either…

Defying all conventional wisdom and their parents’ warnings, most English majors also secure jobs, and not just at Starbucks. Last week, at the gathering of the Associated Departments of English, it was reported that English majors had 2 percent lower unemployment than the national rate, with an average starting salary of $40,800 and average mid-career salaries of $71,400. According to a 2013–14 study by PayScale.com, English ranks just above business administration as a “major that pays you back.”

via Crisis in the Humanities Has a Long History | New Republic.

Remember, crisis comes to us from the Greek word for “choice.” The humanities will always have a love for crisis / choice and that’s what makes it a remarkable human endeavor.




“What Should I Be When I Grow Up?”

practiceresurrection

Dear Mary Hudson and Laura Cooper,

You’ll inevitably ask “what should I be when I grow up?” when you’re in high school if not before. You might not say it out loud to me, but you’ll whisper it to yourself. I already see it in both of your eyes when I tell you about my clients or you see Merianna preach or you visit Mommy at the hospital. You’ll have plentiful options.

So, here’s my advice (my mom gave me this gift, so I’m passing it on to you)…

Merianna and I were having a long conversation about education and learning on the way back home from a trip to Asheville last weekend when the topic of high school came up. I hadn’t thought much about high school lately, mostly out of embarrassment. My dad always thanks Wofford College for turning me into a young man. It took some time, but I think I realize what he meant in that I was just not a sentient being in high school. I remember glimpses and events, but I was a different person in high school in terms of personality and countenance.

All that to say, I do remember enjoying my classes in high school. As I related to Merianna, I don’t remember doing much homework but I was always interested in what I was learning to the point of taking classes my senior year rather than taking half the day off (yes, I was a dork).

It was during that senior year that I had a teacher I always respected tell me it was time to focus and start figuring out my specialty. Despite going through most of school in a fog, I remember this conversation clearly as it continues to impact me today. He was well meaning, but his advice caught me off guard as I loved the idea of studying physics, world history, art history, computer science, and philosophy all at once.

His advice was sound. I had a great opportunity to go to a prestigious college despite my circumstances. My family made many sacrifices for me to have that possibility and I had seemingly worked hard for the chance. It was time for me to figure out if I was going to be a doctor, a lawyer, perhaps a scientist or businessman.

When I got to college, I started down the path of a chemistry and computer science double major. That seemed logical and allowed me a couple of options in terms of career and life. All of that changed during a class on the Old Testament with Prof Bullard. At Wofford, a college with a strong identity of liberal arts learning for all students, there was a requirement for a number of history, literature, and religion classes. I was enjoying college so much after my freshman year that I decided to stay and take summer classes for those requirements (to get them out of the way, and all) rather than head home.

The first day of Old Testament class, I realized I had made a mistake. I was not going to be a computer science / chemistry major. I wasn’t going to earn a B.S. degree and move to California and start my own “internet cyber-economy company” (hey, it was 1996…we talked like that). Instead, I was going to be a religion major.

I walked to the registrar after the first day of OT class and changed my major. My family was supportive but didn’t seemed thrilled. Even I was confused. However, I knew it was the right path for me. I didn’t want to specialize.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Walt Whitman

Along with my religion classes, I had the chance to take whatever fancied my liking from Shakespeare to more computer science classes to sociology explorations of MLK to ancient art history. I was not following my high school teacher’s advice. I was embracing all that liberal arts had to throw at me, and I loved it.

However, what was I going to do after graduation? Well, graduate school of course!

I had an amazing opportunity to go to Yale and spend two years learning about religion, art, archaeology, and life outside of South Carolina. When I finished my studies there, I moved back to South Carolina and decided to teach (10th Grade English). That led to a series of teaching jobs in middle school (mostly 8th grade Physical Science, American History, Algebra, and English). In the midst of that I worked for a few marketing agencies, started my own, and went to seminary (and taught adjunct Old Testament for grumpy freshpeople at 7am).

I didn’t specialize. I didn’t whittle down my career choices or my specialties. It hasn’t been easy, but I love that my bedside table has books on a number of different subjects.

What prompted this reflection was a comment last week from a follower of mine on Twitter asking if they should follow me if they were only interested in hearing about a given subject. “Nope,” I responded. Life isn’t a content consumption project, and the content I produce ranges from tech to marketing to religion to history to NASCAR to whatever else I like to enjoy and learn about. That’s not some form of ADD or having a “scattered brain.” It’s curiosity. And I embrace it (and encourage you to as well).

Don’t settle, don’t feel like you need to ever narrow yourself down to a certain subject to gain more listeners or followers. Be yourself and embrace knowledge and curiosity.

Or as Wendell Berry put it rightly, practice resurrection:

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

It won’t be easy. You’ll have to make your own “job” but you’ll eventually enjoy it. Our economy in 2014 is already pointing towards a future where your generation will be tasked with doing just that as we transition from industrial to internet revolutions. But you’ll be fine. Study, read, and keep imagining. Look for ways to take what you’ve learned and improve the lives of others. You’ll create your job and live happily.

Love you,
Sam




Greenville’s doing just fine. I’m more concerned about the brain/talent drain in the Pee Dee of SC due to lack of state support for economic development and infrastructure: http://m.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/01/smaller-town-startups-stopping-the-brain-drain-in-south-carolina/283338/




Not Every American Needs to Learn How to Code

Let’s make sure our citizens are literate first and capable of doing basic math before we try to sell the next “American Dream” as being a app maker to our kids.

I love coding. I loved when my students were interested in coding as a middle school teacher. However, I made it clear to them that while hard work will get you halfway there, there’s a lot of persistence, skill and luck involved in developing the next Angry Birds.

While we realize the hard work involved in something insanely complicated like electrical wiring, we tend to gloss over the difficulties involved in computer science careers because “it’s just computers” and not a physical thing that you have “to do” in order to see results.

Code is only the latest in the classic American / Horatio Alger dream that hard work and the right education will by the golden key that ensures everyone has a job. Go west, get a farm. Learn chemistry. Become a mechanic. Learn how to fix computers. So on and so on and so on. Now: Learn to code! It fits very nicely with the current disruption/app/techie focus of the economy and suggests that the companies and donors that comprise it are necessarily the country’s future. They’re not.

via No, Mr. President, Not Everyone Needs to Learn How to Code – The Wire.

Edit: Dave Winer has a great post on this as well:

Bottom-line: In all likelihood, coding will NOT make you rich. So you’d better have another reason for wanting to do it, because it’s not easy.

Like blogging, coding isn’t easy and probably won’t make you rich!