The Tech Bandits

Here be robots! 

This is the official site for The Tech Bandits…a makerspace/breakerspace, drone building, assistive tech teaching, 3d printing, robot ruling, YouTubing chaotic adventure in Science, Technology, Engineering Arts and Mathematics, STEAM inspiration.

Now… the first thing you should do to really get in on all the fun, is to sign up for my Tech Bandit’s ‘Techletts’ mailing list!

A Treasure Trove of Tech Banditry

Check out our past TECHLETTs here!

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”
― Socrates

David Hewlett and his EZ Robotlett, Marvin…fuelling up for another Tech Bandits club meeting!

Not So Fantastic Ocean Plastics!

Raccoon (Procyon lotor) foraging on beach for food left behind by tourists. Akumal, Riviera Maya, Yucatan, Mexico. September.

 
Ocean Plastic may not be Fantastic, but Candy Medusa sure as heck is!

  • Take a deep breath in and out
  • Take another deep breath and out

That second breath of life-sustaining oxygen you just filled your lungs with… comes from the ocean! When Candy shared that with me I was Breathless!? 😉

We had a truly fabulous TechBandits session talking with Candy about her Ocean faring ecco warrior plastic grappling adventures!

A little background on the Magnificent Candy Medusa…

Candy Medusa is an artist, illustrator, marine biologist whose inspiration comes from nature and her passion for the environment. I strongly recommend that you check out her amazing Website https://www.candymedusa.com/ to see more about her amazing art and her planet saving outreach!


Here are some of the facts about plastic that Candy told us that stood out to me! By the year 2050 there will be more plastic per weight than fish in our oceans!?

Recycling is a lie we want to believe. We create over 368 million metric tons of plastic produced every year.

Only 2% of plastic is “closed loop” that is, a plastic bottle being recycled into a plastic bottle.

It is still cheaper for companies to make new plastic than recycle existing plastics.


Even so called biodegradable plastics break down into micro plastics that end up in our environment, our food and our water… in fact thanks to all the plastic polluting our environment, we consume the equivalent of a Credit card of plastic every week!

Only 8.7 % of produced plastics are actually recycled.

I’m a huge fan of OurWorldInData.org and so, wanting more numbers to get my head around, I looked at their site to find that they had a whole section dedicated to plastic pollution! Have a look: https://ourworldindata.org/plastic-pollution

Check our their site for all the gory plastic details:


Candy also recommended The John Oliver show’s recent episode on Plastics…but that’s probably going to be more for the grown ups. It’s not kid friendly, but our Bandits can ignore thebut the message is clear…we’re in big trouble if we don’t rethink how we use plastics!

This is the amazing eXXpedition that Candy Medusa took part in. It’s an on-going voyage of rotating, all-female sailing teams exploring the impact of and solutions to plastic and toxic pollution in our ocean….what do you think Noodles, you in? :https://exxpedition.com/

There’s even a short documentary detailing the very voyage that Candy was involved in and as an added bonus you get to see her getting really sea sick! 😉 She also hates the title, so made sure I didn’t let anyone blame her for that!

 https://youtu.be/k1xGscsiJ3g

She’s also recommended a few other sites:

Surfers Against Sewage which began with UK surfers disgusted by having to surf in sewage water!

The Marine Conservation Society that’s been focus on protecting seas, shores and wildlife in the UK for over 30 years.

From my birthplace to my current home, here’s a TedTalk by one of Candy’s eXXpedition friends who is speaking out about the need to love, appreciate and protect your local rivers, lakes and streams!

Here’s an article covering her work sampling plastics in the Great Lakes

https://www.watercanada.net/feature/all-female-sailing-expedition-to-survey-microplastics-in-the-great-lakes-basin/


Other things that came up…

This EVERYTHING IS not AWESOME Greenpeace video that forced LEGO to end their partnership with Oil and Gas giant Shell:

And a little detour with a piece on Almonds and declining Bee populations:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/07/honeybees-deaths-almonds-hives-aoe

If you’ve got stories or links to add, then be sure to sign up to our Discord and join the discussion!

Cheers,

D!

Operation Chicken Drumstick, Cheats, Roblox big bucks and Esports with real bullets?!

Tree disguised as Raccoon…or Raccoon as Tree?

Here’s a few show notes for our GameBandits session

Busted by “Chicken Drumstick”!? Big time cheat selling empire that included cheats for Overwatch and call of duty just got taken down by operation “Chicken drumstick”! Yep, that’s what this joint operation, between Chinese police and tech giant Tencent, was called. And how much were the 17 cheats they discovered worth…how about a cool $76 million!?
Just how bad has cheating in online games become? Have you run into cheats similar to the ones created and sold by these folks? Would you consider using game cheats?
https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-56579449

Dodging a Real Bullet for Esports!? A professional League of Legends player can make $400,000 a year…but how do you train if you’re living on $1.90 a day, dodging bullets, police raids and gang turf wars and using slow and constantly interrupted Wi-Fi from your neighbour!? Zero gravity (you can get google to translate it for you) is an esports team that “only hires young slum dwellers and those of low income,” and they are part of an amazing move to change Brazilian lives with video games!Here’s the great article from Wired.com: https://www.wired.com/story/brazilian-favelas-esports/

$45 billion in Roblox stock anyone? Game company, Robolox just went public…which means it has launched on the stock market and shares of the company can now be bought and sold like other companies. After it’s first day of trading it was worth a whopping $45 billion! But Roblox is not just a game for the 9-12 year old crowd it’s also a hotbed for earning us kids some serious game development money too! It’s even spawned a couple of full game development studios like Stylis, creator of the impressive Phantom Forces Roblox game!
NYTimes.com article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/10/technology/roblox-stock-price.html

And a few things that came up while we talked!

See you all at 4pm EST!

Stream: https://www.twitch.tv/techbanditry

All the best,

D!

An Educator’s eye on TechBanditry

What I Learned from Tech Bandits With Nathaniel Philip by Moyra Hewlett

One of the most challenging aspects of teaching during a pandemic is connecting to children so that they want to listen and choose to learn more.  Boredom (particularly when teaching online) is the teacher’s nemesis.  So what works when teaching remotely?  Tech Bandits has a format that seems to keep students engaged and learning for an extended period of time.  What are they doing right?  I explored how this podcast format relates to the Ontario Grade 8 Language Curriculum Expectations and sparks the children’s sense of engagement and belonging.

An interview with musician Nathanial Philip (a grade 12 student)  https://nathanielphilip.bandcamp.com/album/hello-molly-and-correctivism  kept me (and the students) engaged and the conversation flowing, but I suspect that I learned more than the students.  This is not, in my opinion, detrimental.  Quite the opposite.  When the students become the teachers (because their knowledge and vocabulary around a certain topic, in this case gaming and music, is more advanced than the teacher’s) this gives students the opportunity to reach their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).  Defined as “the relation between instruction and development” (Vygotsky, as cited in Chaiklin,  2003), students learn by expanding on what they know, from a source who has more experience.  This means that rather than “learning” concepts that they already understand (which is boring) or trying to understand how a lesson truly connects to their life (which is frustrating), the students use conversations to establish goals for learning.  Nate had the experience to build upon the Tech Bandits’ prior knowledge, and most importantly, he made it interesting to the students (and me!)  Teachers should not be afraid of handing the spotlight over to students as a means of directing them towards questions that expand on their knowledge of topics that relate to their lives now. “Children learn best when they can identify themselves and their own experience in the material they read and study”(Ministry of Education, Ontario Curriculum Grades 1 – 8, 2006, p. 5)

Here are some of the topics discussed and some thoughtful critical questions that emerged during this “classroom conversation”:

While taking notes, I had to create a list of vocabulary. (Here’s an interesting discovery: Spell check “corrects” many of these words when typed. Are the students smarter than SpellCheck??) Are gamers creating their own language? Should this “new” vocabulary be considered legitimate and accepted by educators as a means of communicating more effectively with students?

I challenge teachers to define these terms that rolled off the tongues of the students:

  • Gaming-based streaming
  • Pog, poggers, PogChamp, 
  • Pepe (?)
  • Dead meme
  • Pentakill
  • Prepandemic
  • Discord
  • Mod the game
  • Stems
  • Shazam it
  • command blocks
  • red stone chains
  • Simpson wave
  • Rabbit hole

Extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation in learning

Nate made evident the power of independent learning based on interest versus extrinsic motivation.  He spent time in a “Charter school” but is now home-schooled.  His inspiration to learn music and gaming seemed to come from his father, Seth Fling & Minecraft.  He recalls programming at age 8 years, making his own “claw machine”, and talks about the “spatial memory” of his “first Minecraft place”.  He used geometry for his own purposes to create his projects and mentions staying up until 4 a.m. to figure out how to “mod the game” (intrinsic motivation).  This is a math teacher’s dream. Flinging out vocabulary such as “command blocks” and “red stone chains” Nate talked about how he created a “cows with Heelys” volleyball game called BattleCattle. At age 11 years,  Nate wanted to make video games, so he taught himself the programming and mathematical concepts  (specifically variables) that he needed.  His interest in variables was infectious.  “School has never introduced a topic that I have then stuck with” (N. Phillip, 2021).  Nate educated himself on a need-to-know basis, using programs such as GameJammer and Scratch. He talks about creating a never ending game that starts in his lifetime and ends when he passes away. Nate is currently finishing his album and has put gaming on the backburner for the time being. 

What struck me about his conversation with the students were the moral and philosophical questions that arose.  What programs have students turned to during quarantine and why? Is it possible to “monetize quality of life”_measure happiness the way we measure financial value?  How can teachers present mathematics and geometry in a way that triggers deep curiosity and makes a student want to stay up until 4 a.m. figuring out a problem?

Music Copyright and Stewardship

The students integrated the topic of copyright on social media, and explained how it is “important to credit” their musical sources. Nate posed complex questions that arise when trying to build a career in music.  “I’ve really gone back and forth on music and advertising,” says Nate. He goes on to explain how he publishes his music on “Bandcamp” and poses moral questions about advertising and being connected to certain advertisements. What are the moral implications of using advertisers to fund music? Nate ponders,  “Do I risk exposure but a deep hatred through association?” and his slogan reads, “making a dystopian, coming of age, art pop album about the constant uncertainty that comes with trying to figure out how to be happy.” (Philip as cited in Bandcamp, 2021).

Nate introduced the concept of “stems” (“submixes of a larger mix” [Bullen, 2020]), in a sense, separating instrument tracks to study the guitar or drums, etc. of a song as a means of “studying” the music. This was then related by the Tech Bandits to copyright issues and aligns with The Grade 8 Ontario Curriculum: “demonstrate an understanding of a variety of media texts“ (Ministry of Education, 2006, p.146).  Nate feels that when a person “steals” or reposts his music, this gives him exposure, which is positive.  Students are “sharing” knowledge, rather than hoarding it.  One of the students declares, “The music I listen to, I think it’s important to credit.”  Nate and the students talked about the morality of posting unedited streams, using strategies such as speeding up or slowing down music clips to get past copyright, and how AI (artificial intelligence) can detect “stolen” music using bit rate. They pose critical questions such as whether “Fan Edits”, “Meme Rap” (clips of animes behind songs) should be subject to copyright. This discussion also aligns with the Ontario Curriculum’s “Active Listening Strategies” (demonstrate an understanding of appropriate listening behaviour by adapting active listening strategies to suit a wide variety of situations, including work in groups” [2006, p. 138]).  As an educator, these types of conversations lead to critical questions that can be used to inspire group learning.  For example, I came away wondering, “What is bit rate and how does it affect detection for copyright of music?”

Participants also demonstrated stewardship by giving “shout outs” to various companies who had contributed to their knowledge.  For example, one of the Tech Bandit exclaims, “Thank you Harclay!”  

Giving credit where credit is due is an example of using “language to interact and connect with individuals and communities, for personal growth, and for active participation as world citizens” (2006, p. 4-5)

Children’s Voices in Media

“Motivating students and instilling positive habits of mind, such as a willingness and determination to persist, to think and communicate with clarity and precision, to take responsible risks, and to question and pose problems, are integral parts of high-quality language instruction.” (2006, p.23)

As the conversation led to children’s programming in the media, the Tech Bandits considered how youth are depicted in the media.  The students spoke passionately about the simplification of bullying in television programs, and how students’ experiences are depicted as simplistic.  One of the Tech Bandits expressed frustration with teenage characters being portrayed as “stupid”, and how the language used by characters in media does not accurately represent how this generation speaks/behaves.  

Critical Question:  Should media use more young writers to build authenticity into media entertainment?

The conversation then led to the relationship between knowledge and age.  Does your age relate to your experience/knowledge?  How does experience differ from knowledge?

Overall there were many complex questions asked and answered by the students throughout this podcast that relate to the Overall Expectations in the Ontario Grade 8 Curriculum.  Here are just a few examples:

 Oral Communication: 

1. listen in order to understand and respond appropriately in a variety of situations for a variety of purposes; 

2. use speaking skills and strategies appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes; 

Media Literacy:

1. demonstrate an understanding of a variety of media texts; 

2. identify some media forms and explain how the conventions and techniques associated with them are used to create meaning; 

3. create a variety of media texts for different purposes and audiences, using appropriate forms, conventions, and techniques; 

Curiosity is Contagious

This Tech Bandits “chat” seems to be an engaging and effective means of teaching Media Literacy and encouraging Oral Communication_two of the underlying principles in the Ontario Curriculum (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2006, p. 4-5).  Educators or parents/caregivers might consider how to strengthen reading and writing skills on this platform by asking students to research a question that sparked their curiosity and share at the next group. Lastly, Nate spoke openly about the lack of socialization that occurs in homeschooling and online learning.  Tech Bandits seemed to give him a platform for sharing and left me hopeful that online classrooms can keep students connected and social during a pandemic.

Moyra Hewlett is a visionary Early Childhood Educator and Ontario Certified Primary Teacher who nurtures and values the diverse talents of children in order to realize innovative educational projects.

Let’s Welcome some Magic to our Gathering!

Since we’ve had the pleasure of having Liam Kane’s presence and Magic The Gathering (MTG) prowess…I thought I’d better put together an MTG introduction…there’s some amazing stuff out there, but here’s a few videos and guides to get you started!

First off…what is Magic the Gathering?

Magic The Gathering (MTG) was, I believe, the first trading card game way back in 1993. According to wikipedia there are approximately thirty-five million players (that’s 35,000,000!?) as of December 2018,[2][3][4] and over twenty billion Magic cards produced in the period from 2008 to 2016, during which time it grew in popularity.[5][6]

But how many is that… these videos might help put those crazy huge numbers in perspective:

https://magic.wizards.com/

https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2016/07/an-absolute-beginners-guide-to-magic-the-gathering/

The Great Tolarian Community College!

TechBandits Education Takedown!?

What did you think of school?  Was it a good experience for you? How is school working for you and your own kids?

I had great friends and some good teachers, but I still hated just about every second of my school days.

…and yet it was a bit of a surprise to me when the TechBandits launched into an impromptu, Education Takedown?!

School Hating TechBandits?!

I like to let our TechBandits sessions wander where they will.  There’s a lot going on in our live sessions, but it’s a way of communicating that the Bandits seem very at home with and they seem to enjoy the variety of topics that the platform inspires. There’s a ton of text comments from our fabulous and highly active, Twitch viewers and almost as much back and forth between the Bandits on our accompanying discord channel, where they can share thoughts, links and pictures and the like amongst themselves.  But every so often a Bandit comes in with something that they want to talk about…and those are my favourite, especially when that topic resonates with the other Bandits!   

This week a few of our Bandits complained about school.  It’s no surprise to hear kids complaining about school, but this was different.  The thing that struck me was how consistent the series of complaints were.  The issues the Bandits had with their schooling were not just coming from what I’d say are probably non-neuro-typical learners, but also from those who seem to be doing very well in the existing system!?  And these weren’t just about the current state of education with all the COVID pandemic disruptions. 

I started TechBandits because I was worried that kids weren’t equating learning with fun…they seemed to start their school days (certainly in The UK, US and Canada…from my experience) full of wonder and curiosity and full of passion to learn everything they can about anything they could…but just a few years later, these same kids were bored, uninspired and desperate to escape school any chance they get!?  This week I was being told the same thing from my TechBandits…and not only that, they had a video rallying cry that they feel backs them up!

Wikipedia and YouTube seem to be the predominant sources of information for our Bandits… and the amazing power of YouTube to shape and inform, educate and entertain our kids is both terrifying and wonderful.  I like to remind the Bandits about is to check the facts…research multiple sources and look out for misleading or flat out untruths. The Bandits presented me with the following video from Prince EA.  This is a YouTuber who all the Bandits seem to be familiar with…I’d never heard of him! And I have pointed out that it was funded in some way shape or form by an almost 16 billion Euro a year oil refining and marketing company based out of Finland.

If you are a parent, a teacher, or have even a passing interest in education, or education reform I really think you should watch this video because it resonates so much with kids. It’s well made…possibly because of that big oil corporation?!   There was some heated pushback in the Twitch chat about the validity of Prince EA’s claims that there hasn’t been changes in education for over 150 years.  But this guy’s message obviously resonates with the Bandits and they were really passionate about it:

I’m trying to find out what works and what doesn’t with kids and learning…in the hopes of turning them all into life long learners.  My assumption, based on what works for me, is inspiration over education. I feel that if you’re not inspired, then no amount of education is going to teach you what you need to know…but if you’re inspired then nothing will stop you!

Be Safe, Be Kind, Be Brilliant!

Cheers,

D!

PS.  We’ll be talking with a Magic The Gathering gaming expert on Wednesday February 17th at 4pm EST…please feel free to join us and let your trading card gaming friends or family know!

TechBandits: Self Learning, Recording Albums & Coding games that never end with Nathaniel Philip.

So What do we have in store!? I’m really excited to have Nathaniel join us for Today’s TechBandits (Monday Jan 4th) to talk about games as art and using game systems to tell stories and making games as a tween, as that’s when he started making games. Games that he’s got as inspirations include The Sims, Hitman, Middle Earth:Shadow of Mordor.

But it’s not just games, I’d also like to chat about his music and how he’s been approaching that. Here’s a couple of his creations on BandCamp (A platform we might want to ask him about too!):

He’s also curious about what the TechBandits think about a band called  black midi. They’re his favorite band right now, but as he puts it “they are pretty insane” and he doesn’t expect you to like them!? Have a listen and look forward to hearing what you think of what’s been called experimental rock, math rock, noise rock, and post-punk!?

See you all 4pm EST Monday Jan 4th 2021!

https://www.twitch.tv/techbanditry

Meme Stocks, Superbowl to superhero, making money with gamer sites, and the crazy future of brain controlled VR!

Welcome back GameBandits!

GameBandit on Alert!

https://marker.medium.com/gamestop-proves-were-in-a-meme-stock-bubble-b3f39163a77f

Are any of you using Reddit to send stock prices up…be sure to let me know in advance? If not, what are you using reddit for. What is it that appeals to you and what subreddits should we be reading?

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif – Super hero!

I generally prefer e-sports, but Tuesday morning I heard a CBC: The Current interview with American Football player Laurent Duvernay-Tardif who despite having just won the superbowl, heard Quebec needed volunteers to help with COVID, so decided to work as a nurse and orderly at a long term care home in Montreal… instead of returning to this years football season! It’s an incredible interview with a real hero of a Doctor in training, that really made me think about my own priorities during this pandemic!

https://www.si.com/nfl/2020/04/27/chiefs-ol-laurent-duvernay-tardif-medical-doctor-works-on-covid-19-front-lines

Need to know which PS4 games are going to work on that new PS5 system… well, a group of dedicated fans have put together the most comprehensive list on the subject themselves!

https://www.backwards-compatible.com/

Can you think of any other Game related resources that people might find interesting or of use to gamers like us? I found a neat site run by a university student in Calgary that takes old consoles, cleans and fixes them up and then donates them to kids who can’t afford their own…https://www.yycconsoledrive.com/donations

Here’s an interview with David Tanhelson that CBC did recently.

What do you think us GameBandits could be doing to help less fortunate gamers?

What’s new in VR…could it be Brain controlled?… Gabe Newell the head of Valve Corporation has some pretty crazy great ideas about where his company’s VR system can take us! And you know what’s even cooler? We’ve already been playing with some of this tech…

Valve is using a slightly newer version of the OpenBCI headset that we were playing with at the beginning of last year! How do you think they could use this kind of technology with VR…are we headed for The Matrix?

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/gabe-newell-says-brain-computer-interface-tech-allow-video-games-far-beyond-human-meat-peripherals-can-comprehend

What news or Game related information do you have to share with us today…let’s hear from our Bandits!

The inaugural #WritingBandits!

I had the pleasure of chatting with the ever brilliant, reclusive & hilarious Jame @crowscratch Kee, Film & TV writer and now self publishing entrepreneur, for our inaugural #writingbandits session. Have a look and I think you’ll find it’s chock full of great tips, tricks and insights into writing, whether that be for work or just “weaving the true”! And if you want to pick up any of the recommended books on writing then please use our affiliate links below…that way you can help the TechBandits out at the same time!

Get Crowscratch’s amazing Tales From The Haunted Library <—– with this affiliate link and help out our TechBandits at the same time!

Tales From The Haunted Library

And check out Crowscratch’s online lair: https://www.crowscratch.com/

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/crowscratch

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kikejJCOleM

Some of the recommended books on writing (again affiliate links to help the bandits!)

Save The Cat: https://amzn.to/3plXc0C

Story: https://amzn.to/2NCR321

Steven King On Writing: https://amzn.to/3cpNaYy

Virtual Holiday anyone?…haunted armour and cursed die in GameBandits D&D!

Hello again Bandit Fans!

The GoogleNoodles portion of the DStat sponsored PC Build sounds like it was a great success…and was up and running in time for her to use it on our amazing Dungeons and Dragons Stream. The only issue was a lack of sufficient cables to power all the unicorn vomit (LED) fans in the case …I dropped off a splitter cable Friday… so she should have all four fans a-whirring in no time too!

ImIronHam is still fully immersed (Dad pun!) in this whole VR thing. We are currently using an old development HTC Vive developers kit, but are definitely in the market for an upgrade!

Having been stuck in lockdown with two geeks and a crazed wiley coyote, queen of a mutt, Huzzah! Jane is understandably dying to be able to get out and start travelling again. So I thought why not combine VR with the travel bug and I started hunting for some suitably impressive virtual tours…here’s what I found:

www.digitaltrends.com best travel VR was a great starting point that led me to the following standout VR destinations

While Google Earth VR was exciting and new to me…turns out it was old news to the TechBandits, many of whom have had a chance to try it out at school events..though they all agreed it was kinda cool…so check it out:

https://arvr.google.com/earth/

What the Bandits might not know is that there’s also a Random street view generator that can instantly teleport you anywhere! Here’s a few places that came up when I started clicking…and clicking…and clicking…I love this thing!!!

Where will it send you? Take a random trip and let me know what, where and why they’re your favourite! https://randomstreetview.com/

https://www.airpano.com/ has some stunning footage of truly breathtaking parts of this amazing planets which reminded me just how breathtakingly diverse and beautiful the landscape of this little blue planet can be…definitely worth saving, I’d say! 😉

Or maybe this glorious globe trotting is all too local?

How about something a little further out…like exoplanets . The NASA folks estimate that there is at least one planet for every star in the galaxy…meaning there are billions of planets in our galaxy alone! Why not explore some of those in the process?

NASA’s Eyes on Exoplanets

The Eyes on Exoplanets project reminded me of our past chats about robots being used to explore space for us. When those robots are combined with VR technology do you think we’ll be able to truly see these planets for ourselves…through their robotic eyes?

https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/eyes-on-exoplanets/#/

MotorTV shows off Toyota’s T-HR3 VR controlled Humanoid

For the complete list here’s the link:

Cheers,

D!