Thursday, July 31, 2014

Pirate Box...

Traditional is subjective. This is a continuation of the last post. Time at school to really try out new stuff is not something that I have in abundance. With less than ideal teaching periods and classroom size, it is hard to keep up. Most of my free time is spent either marking students' work or seeing students. That means whatever I try... it is mostly with 'stolen time'. I need to be fluid too. A lot of the stuff I do are not the norm. And I rely a lot on whatever I pick up from my readings and also intuition. That means I improvise as I go along.

This is my pirate box. It's not something I made on my own. Other Half is constantly trying out stuff and sometimes I am the recipient of what his projects after he is done trying. In the pic is the TP-Link's TL-MR3040. PC Mag reports it as one of the lightest modem routers around. You can read all about it here. A pirate box??? It sounds like there is a romantic notion attached to it.... perhaps even something illegal.

Lol! Mystery, adventure in the air.... But I tell my students that my pirate box is my very own internet. This means I don't have to depend on the world wide web. Firmware required to hack the router is available on the net. Just follow the instructions given and you get your own pirate box. My good friend did just that and now she has a working pirate box too!

The physical setup is rather simple. A modem router (the TP-Link) and a thumb drive. Mine is a 32GB white mini which fits rather snugly into the design of the router. The whole thing is really quaint and being battery powered means freedom from power sockets... well, a short one. But these days, with solar powered battery packs, the possibilities are endless.

I have started using it in my class... In the coming months I will probably be using it to complement my lessons. It will be very useful when you don't want to be bogged down by internet connection issues or if you don't want your students to wander off to other sites in the net during class time. It saves time too as you can put in the guided and selected resources for students as reference. Schools like mine run on very short teaching periods... 35 minutes and if I minus the travelling time to get to the lab.. I have very much less time than the officially prescribed one.

Anyway, I recently went paperless with the pirate box. My first try. I uploaded my listening handout and got my students to view them via their chrome books. There is no need to keep listening exercise printouts. What the students did was basically log into my pirate box network and downloaded the PDF file. They basically read from the screen while the audio texts were being played. My second try was ebooks in pdf format. I had this whole collection of books about the solar system uploaded into my pirate box. I plan to use this as a form of digital library in class for students who finish their work early and have a little extra time on their hands.

I can see quite a number of uses for the pirate box in class... apart from ebooks and digital handouts, there are podcasts, video clips. Even the chat box might find some use.

As for other applications... This would be great as a content provider for camps, meetings and conferences. A small private network, dedicated to a specific purpose, for a specific group of people. A private network can be very useful at times.

It's about time we start BYOT/D. Engagement and relevance. Our textbooks are too static for that. The world is moving and changing so fast. I was just telling my kids today that when I was their age, we learned that creatures who lived in the deepest parts of the oceans were not were evolved... primitive and all that.

I have learned in the past year that there is an amazing diversity of marine life in the deepest oceans. The thing is these creatures have not made themselves available in the past cos the submersibles sent down have been chasing them away with their clunking sounds. And I didn't learn that through the papers or books... I could go on and on about the new things which I have been learning of late... Technology does make a difference.

I taught my boy almost 10 years ago about the rovers on Mars. Then somewhere along the way, I lost touch. I recently took another look at the topic and to my amazement so much has been achieved in less than a decade. We are now knocking at the possibilities of landing humans on Mars... Never dreamt of that happening in my lifetime.

Like I mentioned in my last post. I am luckier than most. I have a supportive head who gives me lots of room to try. And I have a friend who shares my enthusiasm in using technology in the classroom. It is nice to be able to exchange notes... collaborate.

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