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Infrared sounds good, but I don't have time or money for an elaborate project at this point in the semester...

So, a colleague was describing a technique using digital cameras to capture infrared imaging. "Interesting," I thought, but he was rambling and we needed to get the theater set done in our after hours free time, so my mind was on other things. Later on, he brought it up again, intent on making sure I knew how to come across the information about this technique. "All you need is a television remote control to test if the camera can do it," he said. All you need to know is on this website, and it even has a video. My interest was finally piqued and I tagged the site he pulled up, to look at it later.

When I read and viewed the info on the Instructables website regarding Infrared photography, I realized that this was neither elaborate nor costly. If you haven't seen it before, let me put in a quick plug for Instructables. Here is a collaborative community on how to make whatever you can think of... It is like an educational listserve or chat room, but in 3-D. No, you don't get to see your little friends like in Second Life, but the meat of what you are talking about is illustrated in pictures and/or videos, and then people discuss it in comments below, critiquing or giving additional tips.

I was sold, but how to communicate this info to my students in an engaging, effective, authentic manner? How about quickly? I recorded some additional web research onto Google docs and within about 45 minutes, I had all the info I needed for a track on TrackStar. (316442, once you've hit the link). I actually started the research about 10 minutes before lunch, and I was getting so excited I worked right through lunch. After school, I had plugged everything into TrackStar within another 40 minutes or so. (If you aren't familiar with the technology, check out the link above. Basically, it allows you to walk students through a series of websites, step by step. On the left of the website, the student can keep track of where they are in the "track." On the top, you can provide notes, questions, thoughts, etc. that they are to read as they look at the site.)

My hopes for the lesson were varied. I wanted the students to have a background in what infrared photography looks like, what the word even means, how this kind of photography has been used historically, and finally how to make the filter. The way I saw it, all these things could be explained quickly, authentically, and time-effectively through a track. This technology did exactly what I wanted to do with the class. Without this technology, I would have either regurgitated the information in low-tech fashion, or given the access to the computer lab, I would have made a handout with all the urls and annotations, but the kids would have had to type the links in by hand and had to track themselves. TrackStar provides some nice scaffolding that would provide them with a very smooth browsing experience.

Ultimately, TrackStar helped me provide the background information, foundational facts, and motivational video in a very sharp, user friendly manner. In the end, I wanted to have the track be the source of instruction and interaction for the first class period, then be able to move on to making the filter, and taking the pictures... referring back as needed.