05 April 2013

DIY Weather Stations

Do you teach weather in the classroom? Do you wish you had more accurate weather data for you or your students to use? Are you a weather junkie who loves to have the latest super-local weather information at your fingertips?

If you answered "Yes!" to any of the above questions then I have just the idea for you, build a DIY Weather Kit! I have recently found two of the most amazing new tools for gathering hyper-local weather data for your classroom (or yourself if you're a closet meteorologist), but you may need to act kind of fast. Both of the items are on Kickstarter, I think I may have a new obsession/problem, and they both finish their backing periods this month. They are both fully funded and are guaranteed to fulfill their orders so you don't have to worry, you have nothing to loose. I have already backed both and am now just waiting patiently for my loot to arrive.

First up is Thermodo, a "Tiny Thermometer for Mobile Devices." This is a device you plug into your mobile device and will then have access to hyper-local temperature readings. How hyper-local? Stand in your house and it will give you the inside temperature. Walk outside and it will change to give you the outside temperature. Do you have a giant walk-in freezer? Go in there and it will give you the temperature of that location as well!

This is going to be such an amazing tool for teaching about temperature and having students gather data. No more wondering if the closest weather station is actually accurate for where you are physically located. You can send a couple of students outside with a mobile device (I'll be using iPads) and Thermodo and they'll come back with hyper-local temperature data for your exact location. I haven't even gone into ideas of using it to compare temperatures inside the building verses outside. Or how about when you know your classroom is hotter than the district mandated 75 degrees your thermostat is pre-programmed to? You can actually have proof without having to call the district maintenance crew to come out and check. This device is worth it's weight in gold.

Great, but what's it cost? As long as you back the project before Tuesday, April 9th at 12:00pm MDT, you can pick one up for as low as $25 and choose either a black, white or red Thermodo device. If you would prefer a premium anodized aluminum one, it'll cost you $39. After that you can select any number of combinations of Thermodo devices and other accessories. My advice, get what I selected and go for the Thermodo set where you get 1 black, white or red device AND 1 premium anodized aluminum device for $64, so I for sure have two devices right around the start of next school year.

What if you either don't want to back the Kickstarter campaign or you miss the chance because you are reading this after the project has ended? Seeing the popularity of this product, 818% funded as of writing this, I am pretty sure the Robocat, the makers of Thermodo, will offer it for sale after they have caught up on fulfilling their Kickstarter campaign. Keep an eye out for it, and I will try to let you know if I hear of anything.

For the second part of the DIY Weather Station, how about a Wireless Wind Meter that plugs into your mobile device's headphone jack, yet contains no electronics? I am really excited for this product from Vaavud (read the story about their name because it's a pretty cool story) because I teach in an incredibly windy area of town that is always more windy than any weather station shows. There are times when recording weather data from the Internet and it shows 0 mph, yet if you look out the window it's near hurricane winds out there. I am excited for my students to have a chance to have accurate wind speeds for their data collection. This will also come in handy as we are on field trips away from the school to compare different areas of town against our windy neck of the woods.

I'm also excited for the ability to use this device when I vacation and travel. They talk about the desire to track wind speeds for wind surfing, but what about flying kites with your kids? You don't want to be out there if it's too windy, so now you don't have to worry about it. This is going to be one handy little tool.

How does it work without electronics? One word, magnets! You just found another area to use this great device in the classroom when you study about magnets and what they are used for in the world.

Have I sold you yet? If so, this project isn't as much of a rush as the Thermodo is because the Vaavud Wind Meter has until Monday, April 22nd @ 4:40pm MDT to be fulfilled. It is currently sitting pretty with 112% funding as of this writing, so it too will also be completed. Whats the cost of this one? They have limited their number of pieces to be built to make sure they don't end up back-ordered, so they have about 250 left at a price of £30 (about $46) and then about 100 left of a special edition "Kickstarter Green" Wind Meter for £40 (about $61). A little expensive, but the cost includes the Wind Meter and a practical carrying case. The estimated ship date is June 2013, just in time for next school year!

Again, I have backed the standard edition and am considering getting a second one so I could have 2 DIY Weather Stations for my students to go out with a Thermodo temperature device and a Vaavud Wind Meter device with their iPads and return with actual local weather. I am so excited for these two projects I can hardly wait for next year to begin!

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and back a few amazing projects on Kickstarter and start building your very own DIY Weather Station. If you decide to back either project, let me know how you plan to use them in your classroom.

** An interesting side note **
Both companies are located in Denmark. Interesting that the Danish people are so into weather devices. I personally love it, but it's pretty interesting.

03 April 2013

Welcome to the Future of Shopping

I'm not sure how new this idea is, but I recently discovered it and have been blown away. Have you ever tried to redeem and iTunes Gift Card and been annoyed with the different letters and numbers involved? I know I have, but I thought that was the only way. I recently discovered that if you are on a Mac you can redeem an iTunes Gift Card via your built in camera. Not sure what I mean, here are some screen shots I took while redeeming a couple of gift cards last night.

Step 1: Open iTunes and click on the "Store Button" in the top left corner.

Step 2: Click on "Redeem" over to the left of the screen below the "Quick Links" section.

Step 3: On the "Redeem Code" screen, click the "Use Camera" button in the center of the screen.

Step 4: Get your iTunes Gift Card ready by removing the sticker on the back and exposing the redemption code. Once the sticker is removed, align the Gift Card so you can see it on the image in the center of the screen. You will see a "lighted" box appear around the redemption code and it will start to glow. You should then also see your redemption code auto-fill in the box below. This is where it started to get real "futuristic" to me!

Step 5: You will see a message that says it is "Checking Code…" Holy cow, we are living in the future!

Step 6: You should see the reception code, the box around it, and wording glow in green. This is the step where your Apple ID has actually been credited with the funds from the Gift Card.

Step 7: "You've successfully redeemed your code." This is where you choose whether or not you are done redeeming gift cards or if you would like to "Redeem Another Code." Both the buttons are located on the left side of the screen below the pictures of the iTunes Gift Cards.

And that is how you redeem an iTunes Gift Card without typing a single redemption code. I'm sure Apple isn't the only company to do this, but this was my first experience with it. Welcome to the future of shopping!

** Note: I used a great app called Skitch, which is owned by Evernote, to edit my screenshots. It's a great app, especially if you are already an Evernote user. One of the best features of Skitch and Evernote are that both are available on most platforms and are based on the Freemium model, meaning they are $FREE to use, but you can pay for additional functions. I was able to add the arrows and boxes as well as edit out my Apple ID information using the scrambler tool. It was super easy to use and I think it turned out quite nicely. Go check them both out and let me know what you think.

02 April 2013

Easter & World Backup Day

Image Source: LDS.org

Two very important things happened on Sunday and I was too busy enjoying them to post about them, so here is the recap.

Sunday, March 31st was one of my favorite and most important holidays ever, Easter. As a Christian I am forever grateful for what Easter represents to me and the fact that I am able to celebrate it is perfect. I am loved by Jesus Christ and I am thankful for Easter to help me remember His atoning sacrifice for me.

Image Source: World Backup Day

The other major thing to happen on Sunday, March 31st was World Backup Day. According to the events official website,
You might think your computer, phone or tablet is pretty reliable, but in reality, it's not. Everything (yes, everything) fails, and once it does, all the important information you've stored on that device can be destroyed. In fact, it's not a question of if a piece of technology will fail - it's when. 
More than 60 million computers will fail worldwide in 2013. Only 1 in 4 people back up their information regularly - that's roughly 45 million times this year where files will be lost forever. Even worse - 113 cell phones are lost or stolen every minute in the United States alone. That's hundreds of photos, conversations, calendars and more, gone in an instant.
It is so incredibly important that we remember to backup because as it says, "it's not a matter of if … it's when." We are becoming more and more reliant on our technology and yet many of us are playing "russian roulette" with our data by not backing it up. I could go on and on about the merits of backing up, but I feel that's not the point, instead, I will send you to The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW for short) and editor Steve Sande's coverage of how to back up your different devices in his article Don't Be an April Fool. Take a few minutes and read through their tips and tricks. You might enjoy it enough you may add it to your regular reading list, I know I have.

One last thing about backing up, it doesn't have to be difficult or expensive. Some of you, hopefully all of you, are using the service Dropbox to store files in the cloud. By using Dropbox you are actually creating a backup of whatever you choose to store there. If you aren't already using it, use this link to sign up and you will get an additional amount of free space. If you already have Dropbox, consider looking into SugarSync or Box for additional online storage of your files, both of those links are also referral codes where you will get additional free storage. The way I see it, the more places you are storing your files the better chance you have to not lose them.

Even though World Backup Day is gone and over for 2013, it's never too late to find a backup solution. If you look on their site you will find additional suggestions for how to backup your data. Please take a few minutes this week and read over their site and find a backup solution that works for you. Be safe out there and guard your data!

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