Our Latest RECON Campaign

RECON-final-logos-4-for-web-v2 It’s been over a year since I last posted about RECON (Research and Education Collaborative Occultation Network). From the project web site:

“Have you ever wondered what’s found in the outer reaches of our solar system? It turns out many, many objects orbit the sun out past Neptune. Called trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), these frozen bodies were formed at the same time as the rest of our solar system – making them close to four and a half billion years old. Determining the sizes of these objects will help us better understand their formation and composition, and could tell us a great deal about the origins of our solar system.”


“To measure the size of a TNO, we use the shadow it casts on Earth as the TNO moves in front of a distant star – an event called an occultation.”

Tonight … well really very early Saturday morning, our network of 14 telescopes at 14 sites that stretch from south of Reno, Nevada, to the California border, will focus our telescopes on a star so faint we probably won’t be able to see it with our eyes … even with a powerful 11 inch wide reflecting telescope. So to even find it we zero in on a field of stars we know the target star will be in the middle of. Then we attach a camera, or in this case a laptop computer and record the image during the window of time that the event is supposed to take place (Early Saturday morning, November 15, from 2:10-2:30AM Pacific Time). Follow the link above to the project web site to learn more about how this works – it includes photos and a video of an occultation (think eclipse – that’s basically what an occultation is).

The project has been so successful that it was just funded to increase the number of sites and telescopes to reach from the Mexican border in the south, to the Canadian border in the north.

Students (mostly middle and high school students) are recruited to be part of the teams of citizen scientists (all of us volunteer) to make the observations, record the data and even help analyze and share the results. Most of the participants are teachers that recruit their own students and community members to be part of the research team.

Here’s a link to a post about tonight’s campaign including photos, maps and charts.

Learning is messy!

RECON – Recruiting citizen scientists to explore the outer solar system!

I’ve been busy of late. This week is the NSTA conference, but last week I was included in a team being trained to be part of a project funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) called RECON – Research and Education Cooperative Occultation Network.

Each of the initial 10 teams (which will expand to 40 during the project) was given a Celestron CPC1100 telescope, a  MallinCam B&W Special video camera and more. We spent 4 days last week training at the WNC Jack C. Davis Observatory in Carson City, Nevada. When we do our assigned/scheduled observations we will include middle and high school students in our teams and train them to set up and use the telescopes, cameras and other equipment, as well as the science behind the project. So the students will help collect the data for the project … sometimes at 2 or 3 in the morning!

Setting up telescopes for a practice observation as part of our training.

So exactly what will we be doing? From the project web site: “Our project will consist of a linked network of 10 telescope sites and eventually 40 sites, across the western United States. Each community participating in RECON will be expected to gather a team of 2-6 members. As a team member, you will be working within your community and collaborating with others in our network to collect astronomical data.”

And: “RECON – the Research and Education Cooperative Occultation Network – is a citizen science research project aimed at exploring the outer solar system. Funded by theNational Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Astronomical Sciences, this project involves teachers, students, amateur astronomers, and community members from across the Western United States to conduct coordinated telescope observations to measure the sizes of objects from a region called the Kuiper Belt. *

Our goal and mission is to measure the size of many trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), while making authentic scientific research more accessible to local communities. We are discovering more about our solar system – and we couldn’t do it without the help of our citizen scientists. We’d love to have you on board – to get involved, please contact us.

*To find out more about the Kuiper Belt and our 500-km long citizen science observation network, visit our Project Description page.”

It will be interesting to see how I do at work the day after an early morning observation! Fortunately the observation site for my team is at an observatory less than a mile from my house. I’ll hopefully report back as we make observations … the first one should happen in May.

The Reno Recon telescope set up and ready to go as soon as it gets dark.

Learning is messy!

Chasing Triton’s Shadow – Neptune’s Moon Will Cast Shadow on Earth

SOFIA can travel where the action is

A few weeks back I travelled with a NASA sponsored team to Idaho to launch high altitude balloons during the recent total eclipse. We sent up various cameras, data recorders and more (even an Idaho potato) to record data and media at high altitude during totality (being up above any possible weather or smoke is an added bonus). We travelled to Idaho from Reno and Las Vegas because that was where totality would occur. We only would have experienced a partial eclipse if we’d stayed home and would have missed out on important data you can only record during totality. Since then we have shared almost all the data and media we recorded and will continue to do so.

Partly because of that experience (and other NASA projects I’ve been allowed to be part of), my experience with the RECON project and because my job requires me to have a social media presence and share resources and experiences via those connections, NASA recruited me to take a flight on SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy). My flight is scheduled for September 25th – here’s the observation plan for that night. Needless to say I’m thrilled and honored to have this opportunity!

SOFIA over the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

I’ve been told we will takeoff about 7:00 PM and not land until 5:00 AM the next morning, so 10 hours in air.

SOFIA’s infrared telescope weighs in at 19 tons (38,000 pounds) and was built in Germany.

SOFIA is a modified Boeing 747SP. Note the large door in it’s side that when open exposes a 2.5 meter (100 inch) wide reflecting infrared telescope to the sky.

So why put a telescope in a 747 and fly all night recording data? Seems expensive for something you can do on the ground from much larger telescopes.

SOFIA generally flies between 12,000 and 13,000 meters (39,000 and 43,000 feet), and that is important. It’s important because at those altitudes you are above most of the Earth’s atmosphere and humidity. The “Twinkling” of the stars in the sky experienced from the ground is caused by the starlight traveling through the atmosphere’s humidity and variations in temperature. You are also above clouds, most air pollution and other factors (like bad weather) that limit grounded telescopes from obtaining a clear view (also why the Hubble space telescope gets such awesome observations even though it is much smaller that many ground based telescopes on Earth).

A huge advantage SOFIA has over ground based telescopes is that it can go where the action is  – like when it travelled to New Zealand to capture Pluto’s occultation of a star




ANNNND it will travel to the US east coast on October 5th to Chase Triton’s Shadow over the Atlantic Ocean.

From SOFIA’s media outlet: “As Neptune’s moon Triton passes in front of a distant star, it will cast a faint shadow on Earth’s surface. The team of researchers will carefully map the path of that shadow and then fly into it to study Triton’s atmosphere, directly, for the first time in 15 years. SOFIA will takeoff from Florida to catch the shadow that will fall over the Atlantic Ocean. The shadow is moving; the plane is moving; and the predicted path may change in flight, making catching the shadow very challenging. Researchers are trying to determine if Triton’s atmosphere is expanding or collapsing and if haze last seen by the Voyager mission is still present.” triton-final[1][1][1] (link to flyer)

I won’t be on the flight chasing Triton’s shadow (it happens over a week later than mine), but that gives me the opportunity to pass on what I learn about SOFIA in preparation for the October 5th flight. I will be presenting about Chasing Triton’s Shadow and SOFIA locally in Reno and I’m available to visit local schools and even video-conference in pretty much anywhere.











I’ll be adding more posts about SOFIA soon and you can follow me on Twitter @bcrosby. I’ll be uploading photos to FLICKR as well, I’ll post the link when I post photos.

Learning is messy!






Take a Virtual Field Trip To the Deserts and Grasslands of Africa

I still work with too many teachers that are reluctant to jump into the online learning world with their students because they don’t know how, don’t know how to make connections with classrooms or experts, and other various reasons.

So here is a chance to  jump in to Google Hangouts or YouTube in your classroom. Nature Works and The Nature Conservancy are offering to take you and your students on a virtual field trip to the Grasslands of Africa on February 5, 2015, at 12 pm ET. The Nature Conservancy’s lead scientist in Africa will be teaching the science behind how people and nature can work together. You can learn more about the virtual field trip and sign up to participate here.

This is the first in a series they are offering aimed at students in grades 3 – 8. You and your students can watch the event live using Google Hangout On Air on the Nature Conservancy’s Google + Channel: https://plus.google.com/+TheNatureConservancy  The host of the Hangout is Tyler DeWitt, science teacher – his TED talk on making science fun.

or live streaming on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7DzF7EQzd8 

or if you can’t make the timing work to see it live, it will be available later to watch on their YouTube Channel:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUJMHqab_uJsqNZiwfNyg8w


Here is the description of the program from Nature Works and the Nature Conservancy:

The Deserts and Grasslands of Africa

Science and geography, grades 3-8

Thursday, February 5, 2015, 12:00 noon Eastern Time, on YouTube (40 minutes)

Join The Nature Conservancy, PBS LearningMedia, and field scientist Charles Oluchina for a live virtual field trip to Africa to learn how people and nature work together. Your students will visit Burkina Faso and learn how one African farmer invented an ingenious method to help restore forestlands that had been lost to desertification. Then they’ll head to Kenya to learn about the importance of grasslands and how ecotourism has benefited both the people and Kenya’s majestic wildlife. Finally, you and your students will get a firsthand look at a PBS LearningMedia collection of videos, digital games and educational resources from the new PBS series EARTH A New Wild.

So if you’ve been looking for a way to utilize powerful online tools like video-conferencing here’s your chance.

Related Resources for teachers:

PBS LearningMedia’s full collection of educational resources for EARTH A New Wild, a television series.

Learning is messy!

Are We “Bridging Differences” Finally?

Based on a comment I left on a post over at Weblogg-ed.

I’ve been following “Bridging Differences” for quite awhile and so have seen how these two women who at first seemed far apart in their theories and experiences in education have been coming more and more to common ground – kind of shows the value of talking … hashing things out, diplomacy … um but I digress. We’ve heard/seen the same when the Stagers’ and the Richardsons’ (and others) who at times seem to be at odds over things get together to “have at it” in person seem to come away realizing they are not so far apart really.

My other take away here is that however we define or identify the members of those pushing for change in education that are not “techies” – those of us that are believers in educational technology should go out of our way to embrace and converse with them as allies in this whole change process. We will not agree on everything, but much more than not, and we will have magnified and enriched our voices.

Also note that Ms. Meier and Ms. Ravitch are blogging … and I note more and more they are linking to other sources and resources … unless they have someone else doing that for them they are making steps, perhaps unknowingly, towards embracing technology as a communicative and educational lever.

Those in power have been casting aspersions on blogging and bloggers as not having value, of being pawns in a conspiracy to undermine democracy, and all that is good. We all know that TV news, newspapers, magazines … the lot … have never been accused of that … they are sacrosanct … umm yeah.

One of the strongest lessons, in my opinion, from the whole Watergate mess was how the Nixon administration and their surrogates attacked Woodward and Bernstein and the Washington Post as being slanted and biased and off the mark wrong … and we know how that turned out. Both Meiers and Ravitch have faced similar attacks.

This country in-particular has been engaged in a raucous debate over education for a long time and that has been enhanced since the “deployment” of NCLB. Perhaps like Meirs and Ravitch we will begin to come to some common ground and bridge some … or a lot of our differences.

Learning is messy!

Blogged with Flock


Announcing K12 Online Keynotes and 2nd Call for Proposals

There’s only 2 days left to submit proposals for K12 Online 2007. I’m late re-posting this, but better late than never I guess.

Preconference Keynote: David Warlick
David Warlick, a 30 year educator,has been a classroom teacher, district administrator, and staff consultant with the North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction. For the past ten years, Mr. Warlick has operated The Landmark Project, a consulting, and innovations firm in Raleigh, North Carolina. His web site, Landmarks for Schools, serves more than ten-million visits a month with some of the most popular teacher tools available on the Net. David is also the author of three books on instructional technology and 21st century literacy, and has spoken to audiences throughout the U.S., Europe, Asia, and South America. David blogs at http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/.

Classroom 2.0: Clarence Fisher
Clarence has been a classroom teacher for the past 13 years. He blogs professionally at remoteaccess.typepad.com,
with his class at mr-fisher.edublogs.org and has spoken at conferences across North America. Clarence has won several awards, including one of Canada’s highest teaching awards, the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching for his integration of technology into daily classroom life. Clarence’s innovative classroom practices have been featured online, in books, magazines, and newspaper articles. He is an advocate of classroom 2.0, learning spaces that take complete advantage of the tools that are available to learners in their quest to learn rather than having school be something that is done to them.

New Tools: The Three Amigos: Alan Levine
Alan Levine Vice President, NMC Community and CTO for the New Media Consortium (NMC), an international consortium of more than 250 world-class universities, colleges, museums, research centers, and technology companies dedicated to using new technologies to inspire, energize, stimulate, and support learning and creative expression. He is widely recognized nationally and internationally for expertise in the application of new technologies to educational environments and was a pioneer on the web going back to 1993. Alan blogs at http://cogdogblog.com.

New Tools: The Three Amigos: Brian Lamb
Brian Lamb is Manager, Emerging Technologies and Digital Content with the Office of Learning Technology at The University of British Columbia. He teaches a course on “Text Technologies” for UBC’s Master of Educational Technology Program. He is also a Research Fellow with Utah State University’s Center for Open and Sustainable Learning. Brian maintains his weblog Abject Learning http://weblogs.elearning.ubc.ca/brian/, where he mutters ll-tempered observations on social learning, open education, disruptive technologies and other such things.

New Tools: The Three Amigos: D’Arcy Norman
D’arcy Norman is a software developer at the Teaching & Learning Centre, a service department at The University of Calgary. In his current primary role, as an educational technology developer, he explores new technologies and works with faculty to implement tools for blended learning. He has also been involved in the open source development of the Pachyderm project, an easy-to-use multimedia authoring tool. D’Arcy spends a fair amount of time thinking (and rethinking) about the concept of control and copyright, and how they might affect academia. D’Arcy blogs at http://www.darcynorman.net.

Personal Learning Networks: Derek Wenmouth
Derek is currently the Director of eLearning at CORE
Education Ltd based in Christchurch, New Zealand. He has a broad background in education, with experience at the primary and secondary school level, and as a teacher educator. He was manager of the eSection at The Correspondence School in Wellington and is currently an adviser to the Ministry of Education. Derek is a regular speaker at conferences and seminars, and maintains a regular blog where he shares his ideas and thinking across a range of areas relating to the use of ICT in teaching and learning. Derek blogs at http://blog.core-ed.net/derek.

Obstacles to Opportunities: Brian Crosby
Brian Crosby, an elementary teacher for 26 years, teaches fifth grade in Sparks, Nevada, and has infused technology into teaching since the 1980’s. While piloting a 1:1 laptop program, students in his class utilizie many Web 2.0 tools including Skype, Fiickr, blogs and wikis. His award winning student produced video about including a classmate that couldn’t attend school using video-conferencing software has been downloaded by thousands. Brian teaches several popular tech classes for teachers in his role as a Nevada Writing Project Consultant. You can try keeping up with him on his blog “Learning Is Messy” at http://www.learningismessy.com/blog/.

We strongly encourage you to join these educators at the conference by sharing your take on “playing with boundaries” in the use of Web 2.0 tools in classrooms and professional practice! It’s time to submit your proposal. The deadline is June 18, only 2 days away!

This call encourages all, experienced and novice, to submit proposals to present at this conference via this link. Take this opportunity to share your successes, strategies, and tips in “playing with boundaries” in one of the four strands as described above.

Deadline for proposal submissions is June 18, 2007. You will be contacted no later than June 30, 2007 regarding your status.

Presentations may be delivered in any web-based medium that is downloadable (including but not limited to podcasts, screencasts, slide shows) and is due one week prior to the date it is published.

Please note that all presentations will be licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

As you draft your proposal, you may wish to consider the presentation topics listed below which were suggested in the comments on the K-12 Online Conference Blog:

special needs education
Creative Commons
Second Life
video games in education
specific ideas, tips, mini lessons centered on pedagogical use of web 2.0 tools
overcoming institutional inertia and resistance
aligning Web 2.0 and other projects to national standards
getting your message across
how web 2.0 can assist those with disabilities
classroom 2.0 activities at the elementary level
creating video for TeacherTube and YouTube
google docs
teacher/peer collaboration

Staying Connected

One of the tough things about teaching at an “At Risk” school is the turnover. In the last 4 weeks we gained a new non-English speaking student and lost 3  (almost 4) students. I’m rolling my current class to fifth grade next year and came to realize yesterday that out of my current 25 students only 14 will be with me next year. A few have already moved out of our attendance area and had to be issued a variance in order to finish out the year here, and 6 more students will be lost to the new boundaries they’ve drawn.

One of the students we lost 2 weeks ago has made a reconnection though. I woke up Saturday morning and checked my email and there was a new blog post waiting for approval and some comments. They were from Maija:

*I Miss You All!*
Hey you guys I’m here on my computer, and I had nothing to do, so I thought, hey I should go on our class blog!!!! So I did, and I started commenting people (if that’s okay Mr. Crosby?)!!! And I decided to write a blog saying I miss the good times we’ve had together!!!! And I really missed that!!! Like Mr.Crosby said “Has any of you gone to a new school?” I have and I know how it feels now!!! I was nervous, and scared! But once you get used to it you’ll be fine!!! Thanks Mr. Crosby!!!!
I’ll talk to you guys soon!!!

I guess it is about the connections.

Connections are messy?

Why Spend The Time To Teach Research, Critical Thinking and Social Networking Skills?

I received the following email today:

“Please pass this along to anyone you know, this needs to get out in the open.

Recently Marines over in Iraq supporting this country in OIF wrote to Starbucks because they wanted to let them know how much they liked their coffee and try to score some free coffee grounds. Starbucks wrote back telling the Marines thanks for their support in their business, but that they don’t support the War and anyone in it and that they won’t send them the Coffee.

So as not to offend them we should not support in buying any Starbucks products. As a War vet and writing to you patriots I feel we should get this out in the open. I know this War might not be very popular with some folks, but that doesn’t mean we don’t support the boys on the ground fighting street to street and house to house for what they and I believe is right. If you feel the same as I do then pass this along, or you can discard it and I’ll never know. Thanks very much for your support to me, and I know you’ll all be there again here soon when I deploy once more.

Semper Fidelis,

Sgt Howard C. Wright
1st Force Recon Co
1st Plt PLT RTO”

Now to most of us this had “RED FLAG” written all over it. But the person who forwarded it to everyone on our staff just saw a seeming injustice and wanted to help spread the word. To me this is a lesson on why we cannot just avoid teaching kids the tools and spaces of the net and how to use them effectively and ethically. This also points out why we must spend more time on teaching critical thinking and analysis – how to question what we see and read and hear – I won’t link to it here, but this is a similar lesson to what many have taught using the MLK web page that is really a white supremacist site in sheeps clothing. Teaching students to be critical thinkers needs to be done anyhow, we leverage that when in doing so we teach students to use powerful tools that will enhance their learning in a myriad of ways.

The end of THIS story is happy by the way, because after getting feedback from a number of us, the sender followed up later in the day with this:

After sending the e-mail this morning, I did some investigation and found the following. Sorry if it upset any of you, as it seems to have
caused a stir. I had received the e-mail several times and simply passed it on, something I will make sure not to do in the future! Always research first…

Comments: It’s unclear whether Starbucks ever actually refused to donate coffee to U.S. Marines in Iraq who requested it, but if they did, it wasn’t because, as the above email claims, “they don’t support the
war and anyone in it.”

Marine Sgt. Howard C. Wright, who authored the email in May 2004, subsequently issued a mea culpa (currently being distributed by Starbucks in answer to queries) in which he said:

Almost 5 months ago I sent an email to you my faithful friends. I did a wrong thing that needs to be cleared up. I heard by word of mouth about how Starbucks said they didn’t support the war and all. I was having enough of that kind of talk and didn’t do my research properly like I should have. This is not true. Starbucks supports men and women in uniform. They have personally contacted me and I have been sent many copies of their company’s policy on this issue. So I apologize for this quick and wrong letter that I sent out to you.

In its own response to the email rumor, Starbucks explains that while the company has “the deepest respect and admiration for U.S. military personnel,” corporate policy prohibits direct donations to U.S. troops because the military doesn’t fall under the strict definition of a public charity. Individual employees are free to donate their weekly pounds of take-home coffee, however, and according to Starbucks’ statement many have done so.

Learning is messy!!!

Blogging Superintendents

3-15 Update – Scott Mcleod pointed to this piece – they really go together.

Found this article today at Eschool News:
Supes use blogs as outreach tool
District CEOs discuss the impact of blogs on stakeholder relations
By Corey Murray, Senior Editor, eSchool News

I wonder how many of the teachers and students do this:

In Pinellas, for example, Wilcox uses his blog to link to video feeds of meetings with building principals. He also reportedly uses Really Simple Syndication (RSS), a technology that automatically pings stakeholders when new features or content have been uploaded to the blog and links to the local television station, so readers can download relevant video footage about the school system. Stock says he’s currently exploring ways to integrate podcasts and other audio-based content that readers can stream or download and listen to at their leisure.

The article also touches on some issues you might recognize:

For one thing, they said, administrators need to decide if the blog is to be a natural extension of the school system, or the property of the superintendent. This distinction is important, because it affects how the blog will be used and what content and issues–political and otherwise–should be addressed, said Stock.
In his case, the district requested that he put a disclaimer on his blog stating that the opinions expressed were his own and that they did not necessarily reflect the beliefs or ideologies of the entire organization.


As the superintendent of a large school district, Wilcox said, his goal was to give stakeholders a chance to voice their opinions about his decisions, “to give them that pressure relief valve.”
But there was problem: “People were just vicious,” he said. As the attacks got more heated and eventually started striking out against administrators and school district employees on a personal level, he said, the district had to shut down the blog temporarily to reconsider its policies.
“I think it’s just one of those things where, when you get out in cyberspace, you’ve got to be a little more careful what you ask for, because you just might get it,” he said.

Interesting article – check it out.

Inclusion Update 2-19-07

This week was the best yet for Skypeing Celest into class. Last week she Skyped-in a total of maybe an hour and a half (there are other issues besides leukemia I can’t share – think poverty and ALL that goes with that). But this week she spent all day Monday with us and almost all day Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday was Valentine’s Day, Celest had sent hers in with her little sister, so as we passed them out students made a pile in front of her on the computer and we turned the camera around so she could see the goings on. A student from her table group read a few of them to her, then we sent the rest home unopened with sis at the end of the day.

Three days a week is going to be our schedule I think – she gets chemo on Thursdays and that wipes her out for Friday, so that’s going to probably be the norm. She hangs in pretty well with us unless she needs extra attention – that is sometimes difficult because of sound issues. I might have to get her headphones with a built in microphone – background noises at her house often lock-up the sound intermittently – that and the inconsistency at times of our connection. Sometimes we lose her about every 20 minutes or so – the students in her table group just seamlessly reconnect (takes about 10 – 30 seconds) and we just keep going. I do sometimes help her with things while the rest are at recess.

I mentioned in an earlier post that local TV news came and did a story about what we are doing – the one day that the connection was horrible of course – I did give them a copy of our vidcast on digital tape, so it will be interesting to see if they use any of the scenes from our video. They are broadcasting the story Tuesday night. They have given me permission to record and stream from our web site so I’ll let you know when that is available.

This week we will only see her Tuesday and Wednesday because of the holiday and next week we have CRT testing all week – but then most of our testing is done.

I shared with the class many of your comments from our video post – I really had to work hard to impress on them just how important and groundbreaking and just generally cool what they are involved in is. They get it to a point, but this is becoming just one of the things we do, kind of a regular part of the day after three weeks – so they’ve “been there done that.” When my class four years ago made such an impact with our “Don’t Laugh At Me” video, that class got tired of the attention they received. Someone would come to give them “another award” and I would have to talk to them for 20 minutes or more before the presentation about being gracious recipients. I guess it’s a fourth grade thing?

Many have asked me to post updates like this one from time to time and I will.