Letter From The Executive Director

Dr. Robert M. Panoff

Interactivate: The Not-So-Silent Silent Rollout!

We are now well into our 20th year of service to science, math, engineering, and technology education (yes, we have been working since STEM was called SMET!!). To celebrate that occasion, we have decided for our "birthday" that we would give a gift to the world. This summer we quietly rolled out the new version of Interactivate that our staff, interns, and apprentices have worked on for almost two years. Interactivate will now will run on any device, from smartphone to tablet to computer! In addition to getting rid of the "Java is a risk" warnings, the new version of Interactivate allows the same version to run on the teacher's computer connected to a smartboard as the student's computer, iPad or tablet that some schools have given to students or that kids bring to class.

A truly dedicated and talented staff led this effort, with much of the work done by cadres of interns and apprentices over the last couple of years. Now we are asking all of you to help get the word out so that schools and districts will know that this award-winning courseware for computers is now available on all devices. As many schools switch to tablets or iPads and stop updating Java because of hyped security warnings, long-time users of Shodor's materials fell away. We need your help to get them back to using the best materials for math and science!

I'll share with you the picture of the birthday cake the kids gave me last month. Since the kids think I am a dinosaur, and in many ways I am, I need your help to get the word out. Let's go viral! Tweet, blog, update your status on Linkedin, take a video of someone using Interactivate and post it. Spread the news on all social media platforms that you can think of! We have even had more than one person suggest that what we needed was to have a video of a cat using Interactivate! If possible, use @Shodor and #Interactivate and #STEM in your postings to magnify the power of your message.

In this issue of the newsletter, you'll get a chance to read about many aspects of how this project came from a rough idea in the summer of 2011 to a full rollout in 2013.

It goes without saying -and yet here I am saying it- that none of this would have been possible without the help of the Rust Foundation, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, SunTrust, the National Science Foundation, and personal contributions from so many of you. I hope you will see the value of your continued support for Shodor.

All the best,

Bob Panoff

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Interactivate Conversion

BY Eric Horton, Shodor Intern

Project Interactivate started in 1998 as a collection of Java applets used for teaching math and science concepts to students ranging from elementary to high school to college. Since then, Interactivate has blossomed into an award-winning online set of curricula, globally serving students and educators. During the summer of 2011, we began converting Interactivate from Java-based applets to JavaScript activities. Our intent was and is to provide a new version of Interactivate capable of running seamlessly on PC and Mac computers as well as running on mobile devices, such as iPads, which have recently become more common in education, yet which are unable to run Java.

To assist in the conversion, Shodor staff and interns have been using a tool called Google Web Toolkit (GWT), which compiles Java code directly into JavaScript. This capability prevents the need to write individual activities in JavaScript by hand.

Since the Shodor team began using GWT, the conversion project has focused on three major parts: rewriting parts of activities to work with GWT, testing individual converted activities on a variety of platforms, and then finding and fixing any problems existing in any of the converted activities.

As conversion on individual applets has wrapped up, many have undergone real-world testing in various offsite Shodor workshops. One such site is the school, W.G. Pearson, where second through fifth graders have been exposed to a variety of STEM concepts through iPads running the converted applets. Such hands-on experiences through touch-enabled devices allows students to easily experiment with advanced concepts, leading to a better and more complete understanding.

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Learn, Explore, and Enjoy: My Experience at Shodor

BY Megha Gupta, Shodor Intern

I have learned a lot through my experience as an Intern at Shodor. Last summer I moved from India in search of an opportunity to hone my skills in programming and development. Currently, I am pursuing my Master's in Computer Science at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. Shodor was recommended to me and has been a great fit.

During my time at Shodor, I worked on the Interactivate conversion team editing Java code and converting it into JavaScript. I would test the converted JavaScript activities, finding bugs, fixing them, and making sure that applications worked effectively across many platforms and browsers. This taught me further concepts in Java applet design and how systems work together.

Initially, it seemed quite difficult for me, but my mentors, Shodor staff members Phil, Aaron, and Mobeen, really helped me understand how these systems work together in different environments. The entire staff is extremely knowledgeable in such areas. The best part of the project was the great feeling I would get after struggling to fix a bug.

As a software developer, working at Shodor was an amazing learning experience. The environment fosters creativity and learning. Being a student, it is very important for me to learn the practical aspects of the professional world so that I can be an asset for companies. Also, I have learned how to be a professional and a hard worker through my time at Shodor.

Working at Shodor has developed my programming skills and encouraged community learning, which are not easy to learn in college. The way Shodor teaches science and math concepts is great, because students get pertinent knowledge and in-depth understanding unique to every student.

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W.G. Pearson Elementary: Interactivate Elective

BY Kristen Ross, Shodor Staff

This September, Shodor interns, Paris Fears and Cameron Aviles, will teach an iPad-based, STEM elective at W.G. Pearson Elementary School. They will teach fourth and fifth grade students math and science concepts using Shodor's newly released, mobile-ready Interactivate applets and models.

W.G. Pearson is a one-to-one iPad initiative school, which means each student is issued an iPad to be used throughout the course of their elementary school experience. Last year, Shodor participated in the pilot program at W.G. Pearson, testing newly converted Interactivate applets and teaching 2nd through 5th grade students a wide variety of concepts from histograms to predator-prey relationships. Now that Interactivate is available in full to the public, students will have access to more applets and models than before.

Shodor interns will lead students through activities and explore concepts from probability and statistics to how diseases spread. Each student will have access to and will be able to explore and manipulate each of the applets and models to gain a better, deeper understanding.

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A Special Thanks to VoiceThread

BY Kara King, Shodor Intern

Thank you very much to VoiceThread for the donation of eight servers and various other equipment! Our team was having a hard time updating our system with the amount of equipment we currently have. Initially, we were only expecting to retire one or two machines with the donation, but now all of them can be replaced and new services could be added. Even though the networking equipment was unexpected, it will come into great use because we needed to redesign our network along with the upgrades we're going through. Again, on behalf of all Shodor staff, interns, and the greater educational community, thank you very much for the donation! We are extremely grateful for the pleasant surprise!

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Shodor Seeking Corporate Partners

Shodor is currently working with Education and Workforce Development Consultant, Kathy Hoffmeier, to generate new partnerships with local companies or organizations in the Triangle region. Want to learn more about how your team can become a Shodor Partner? Contact Kathy at: khoffmeier@shodor.org

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Shodor is now on Wikipedia! Check us out at, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shodor_Education_Foundation

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