Sunday, May 24, 2009

tt4t_087 The power of now learning, adventure style

It’s Sunday, May 24th, 2009 and welcome to episode 87 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Last week I talked a little bit about the power of real-time events for learning and how current events can add value in the classroom. I gave an overview of the website called spacevidcast and how they were using Twitter to add value to their followers. Since that time I have been following Astro_Mike on Twitter who is in real-life NASA Astronaut Mike Massimino, a mission specialist that was aboard the recent STS-125 Space Shuttle Atlantis that just completed a successful mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.

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Following Astro_Mike has given me a different perspective than I would have had otherwise regarding the latest Space Shuttle mission. Here is one of Astro_Mike’s tweets from the mission “From orbit: We see 16 sunrises and sunsets in 24 hrs, each one spectacular as the sun lights up the atmosphere in a spectrum of colors”

Seeing Astro_Mike's tweets throughout the past couple of weeks offered a unique perspective of his life aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis. I was not the only one enjoying his perspective in 140 characters or less these past two weeks as Astro_Mike had 345,767 followers on Twitter the last time I checked.

There was however a bit of a controversy this week as it turns out the Astro_Mike really was not tweeting from Space as was perceived by the general public. I have provided links to a couple of articles in the show notes that explain that Astro_Mike sends an email back to Houston where the tweets are then posted, therefore the tweets are delayed and thus not posted in real-time. I have provided a link to an article in the show notes from the Orlando Sentinel that is titled “Are astronaut's space 'tweets' cheats?”

Are astronaut's space 'tweets' cheats?,0,3193045.story

I also provide a link to an article titled “HOW DOES NASA'S "ASTRO_MIKE" TWEET FROM SPACE?” If you are interested in learning more.


Some people do not consider Astro_Mike to really be tweeting because another human here on Earth is really the one doing the posting therefore claims to the first tweet from space are not true. This has created some controversy and reminds us that there is really no way to verify a virtual digital identity and faking a presence in the digital world can be very easy to do. We need to be careful in qualifying the identity of someone online in order to establish a trusting relationship, given that Astro_Mike was aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis I think we can give him the benefit of the doubt and thank him for sharing his perspective from Space even if they were delayed a bit.

Here is another Twitter story I would like to share with you regarding another NASA Astronaut named Scott Parazynski’s who successfully scaled Mt. Everest this week. Along with Astro_Mike I have also been following the SPOTscott Twitter account for the past couple of weeks. This week I shared in the jubilation that Scott must have felt by successfully standing on top of Mt. Everest on Tuesday of this past week. Here is the Twitter posting from SPOTscott.

“Astronaut Scott Parazynski and his Sherpa Danuru are standing on the summit of Mt. Everest as of 6:15 pm EDT - 4 am Nepal time 5:29 PM May 19th from web”

I have also placed a link in the show notes to an article from Universe Today that has a picture of Scott standing on the summit of Mt. Everest with him holding up a Moon rock that was placed on the summit of Everest along with remembrances of fallen astronauts.

With Moon Rocks in Hand, Parazynski Reaches Mt. Everest Peak

Another worthwhile Twitter experience I had earlier this year was following a participant in the Iditarod dog race in Alaska that provided me real-time race conditions and updates on the various participants and how their dog teams were holding up. I later was able to watch the Discovery Channels documentary on this years Iditarod race and it was much more meaningful to me because I had the behind the scenes stories as background information that supplemented my viewing experience. We teachers can take a lesson from this layering approach of various media formats and time-shifting to reinforce learning and make connections to provide more meaningful learning opportunities for our students.

Iditarod Race 2009 – Discovery Channel

One thing I hope teachers take away from listening to TechTalk4Teachers is the ability to adapt some of the ideas presented here and customize them for your own needs. Teachers can use these adventure style Twitter postings from scientists and explorers to bring real-time and real-world events into the classroom. The power of now learning can be incorporated into any subject area as there are now millions of Twitter users that teachers can work with including scientists, university professors, explorers, community members, and other fascinating people from all walks of life.

Teachers can build classroom lessons that take advantage of instantaneous communications that are now free provided you have Internet access. Internet safety is always a concern and sources need to be vetted but the possibilities of forging appropriate relationships with others is too powerful of a learning opportunity to pass up. If you are currently using technologies in your classroom that incorporate the power of now learning I would love to hear from you so we can share your stories with other teachers.

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a pick that is the beginning of what promises to be many new simulations utilizing the Google Earth API. API stands for Application Programming Interface and is used by software developers to access data and programming routines to support the building of new applications. The name of this weeks tech pick is the free Google Earth Simulation Game called Ships by a company called PlanetinAction. A link is provided in the show notes to the Google Earth Blog with information about the new game and a video demo.

Google Earth Blog: Ships V1.01

In this simulation you are given command of a ship and you use the on-screen controls to navigate your ship around the waterways of the world. The game does require a plug-in that must be downloaded before you can begin. Ships uses the Google Earth API, Flash 8.0, and Javascript. This is a version 1.0 product and there are some bugs in the initial release but it is a very promising start that shows the potential that others in the future will be able to take advantage of. When you pilot your ship you are given a Google Earth view of your location and you can change to whatever view you prefer in Google Earth. You can select the type of Ship you would like to Captain from a river barge to the Queen Mary 2! Give the new simulation game Ships a try and let me know what you think.


That wraps it up for episode 87 of TechTalk4Teachers. Transcripts and show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the Eastern Illinois University Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

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