Parallax ActivityBot in the Library Classroom

I finally feel like I have a handle on the robots I use for the “Intro to Robots” Class I have once a month. They are feisty little buggers and I had issues with several of them spinning in circles when they should have gone straight. Turns out, there were some serious issues with the placement of the encoders on the chassis, the servo connectors and the i/o pin configuration, which is just a fancy way of saying that the wires were all messed up and I had to trace the pins and the plugs to make sure left was going left and right was going right. Here is a PSA I made for the next round of classes!

Adventures in teaching when you have no idea how to teach

photoThings I have learned from my students.

Last night’s “Newbie’s Guide to HTML and CSS” class went much better than the first one, which is to say, I didn’t feel like apologizing profusely to the students as they walked, bleary eyed and slack jawed to the door. That was last time, when I fell prey to Librarian Information Expansion Syndrome and kept piling detail upon detail on them. This time, I glossed over details but tried to give a big picture overview of what these 2 languages do. This is a 90 minute class and that is just not enough to make experts out of beginners. So, I tried to impart concepts and then a few important examples, a little time for them to try it on their own and then I gave them resources to help get them started, like my fave, codeacademy.

They seemed to take pretty well when, at the climax of the class, I showed them how to link their CSS stylesheet to their HTML page and VIOLA! The future!…*nothing happens* cough, cough…THE FUTURE!…*still, nothing*. So painful. So, I know to test little things like that even though I’ve made that link a thousand times….

Teaching Beats to New Producers Using FL Studio

Something I’ve noticed since the opening of the library’s audio recording booth is that many people who are very talented rappers have very rudimentary audio production skills. This is a shame because many times I see people recycling the instrumental beds of other, more established recording artists like Drake or Lil Wayne. This is unfortunate because it is limiting to  musical artists who want to claim their songs as their own and post them to social media sites that prohibit posting copyrighted material. Freestyling over mainstream beats is also the sign of amateurism in some circles and it is hard enough to stand out in the music world as an individual with a unique sound without a unique instrument bed.

This is my opinion and I decided to try some programs to address that situation. I have planned a twice monthly program utilizing an inexpensive Digital Audio Workstation that is installed onto 6 of the computers in the library. I have access to an overhead projector that allows me to walk students through the various windows and interfaces that aid in the creation of some phat beats.

At first glance the tool bar is pretty confusing, but I use a Powerpoint that only I can see to guide my students through the step sequencer, playlist and effects windows. (Dj Cafe). I use the Pharell Song “Happy” as an example of the different parts of songs. This song contains easily identifiable Verses, Choruses and Breaks and it is pretty tame content wise.