Welcome

Welcome to my WordPress page. This site is intended to keep various people updated on what I am doing in educational technology, in my career, and in my spare time. You’ll find links and information here on recent projects, my other sites, and maybe even a scuba diving adventure or two.

I work for the Defense Language Institute on Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. While I obviously can’t share a lot about what I do on this site for security and privacy reasons, I will be providing related thoughts on the topic of teaching English as a foreign language in the Work section.

Of course the sub-pages of this site are static, rather than being blogs, so the information posted there won’t change as often. The main page is where most of the action will be, so check back often.

Also, don’t forget to check out the side panels of this site where you will find my Flickr album with pictures from my travels in Asia and Europe, My Diigo Digs, and links to my other sites.

Controller Rack – Weekend Project

Flying in Style

I finally ran out of space for my flight controls on the desktop, so it was time to break out the PVC and get building. The rack is freestanding and the chair just rolls up to it. It would normally be turned in toward the computer, of course, and I still need to tie up the cables.

Breaking it Down

The rack breaks down for storage. (Controller platforms not shown).

Here’s cool bit of Ed Tech!

I’ve been working with the Raspberry Pi 3 (on the left), the Orange Pi, and a Raspberry Pi Zero (not pictured) recently and love them. These computers are about the size of a business card and run Linux. The Raspberry Pi was designed by the folks at https://www.raspberrypi.org/ as an educational tool. The idea was that if kids couldn’t afford a computer to experiment with robotics, IOT, and programming then maybe they could make one cheaply enough that schools could afford a lot of them for the classroom. These devices can share peripherals and be used en-mass on a PiNet (http://pinet.org.uk/), where the teacher can see and monitor each device over a network and students can display their work on a smart board or other display for the entire class to see.

The Pi Zero is just a hair less powerful, but it’s only about the size of a pack of chewing gum. The Pi computers can be connected to any HDMI display and wireless keyboard and mouse, though they needn’t be as they are headless, meaning you can log into them remotely from any other electronic device once they have been properly set up.

The Orange Pi (http://www.orangepi.org/) is a Chinese knockoff of the Raspberry Pi that includes a few features the Raspberry Pi doesn’t, like a WiFi antenna, built-in microphone, and 8 GB on-board MMC storage chip. The Orange Pi came with the MMC chip pre-programmed with an Android based media server set to the Chinese language and no instructions on how to otherwise configure it. Once I figured out the specifics on this unit I was able to strip it down, install Linux properly and everything was good. You have to choose your battles, one works right out of the box, the other works a little better with a bit of coercion.

All of these devices have a 40 pin GPIO connector that allows you to connect sensors and other devices to the board and control them programmatically, usually with programs written in PHP or some in Ruby.

The Raspberry Pi 3 runs around $50, the Orange Pi is about half as much, and the Raspberry Pi zero was intended to be sold for $5, though you are generally still going to shell out around $20 once you buy some of the necessary adapters for it. Well worth the money in any case in my opinion.

Why Blog?

The discussion of whether a teacher should have his or her own blog comes up often in discussions with my peers. Most often I hear teachers justify not having a blog due for various reasons. My favorites are:

  • My organization doesn’t allow it because of privacy issues. They don’t want me talking about my students publicly.
  • I don’t want people to know that much about me.
  • It takes too much time.
  • I don’t know how to do it.

I work for the US government and you won’t find many more restrictive organizations than that. I know you have seen or heard in the press that the military often cracks down on soldiers posting to blogs from the field because they don’t want them to jeapordize their units or their missions. If you teach in public schools your administration may very well have placed restrictions on what you can post. Most of the time, though, if you follow some basic guidelines even the most restrictive of organizations will allow blogs.

A concept you hear discussed often in the military is OPSEC, or operational security. OPSEC is a simple set of guidelines that discuss what you should and shouldn’t say publicly, how to represent yourself in public, and how not to become a target. OPSEC applied to blogs is a matter of never discussing locations, time frames, or directly naming participants if doing so could possibly endanger individuals or mission. The military looks at it as if there is someone spying on you 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

So, what it boils down to really is exercising caution when posting to your blog. Protect the privacy of individuals and advise others who post comments to your blog to be wary as well. On occassion students may slip up and say too much, in which case it’s your responsibility to censor private information as necessary. In most cases you’ll find yourself discussing concepts or ideas on your blog, not so much about people anyway.

As for blogging taking too much time, I suppose this may be true for some, but for most of us blogging is really just an extension of thinking. Most of us have little discussions in our minds all day long and much of the time there is no one there to share these thoughts with. Bloggers are simply thinking aloud in most cases and have the benefit of sometimes getting feedback from the peanut gallery (ahem, public). I find this a refreshing change personally.

As I have said in a previous post, if you can put you fingers to a keyboard you can blog. There’s really nothing to it technically, so there goes that excuse too.

Enough about why not to blog; let’s shift the discussion to why you should. And because this is a discussion I’ll leave this up to the comments after simply saying I blog because students and peers have better access to me when needed and I like receiving input from others in a less structured environment. So why do you blog, or if you don’t what would be some good reasons for you to start one?

Creative Commons License
Why Blog? by Charles T. Rich is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.