Monday, May 19, 2014

Who needs an Hour of Code --- Let's do a Summer of Code!!

We are in the midst of the last few days of school in my district.  Projects are being completed, final assessments are given,...and, let's be honest, the kids are starting to shut down.  Right?  During the last rotation of Computer classes, I always give my kids the chance to put the finishing touches on any project that needs to be completed.  If they happen to be finished with everything they get the chance to free choice!  Usually this means that kids are tunnel-visioned on Super DX Ball or messing around on some of the fun websites I've curated on our school website -- especially the last week of school.

Not this year.  They are coding!

We, like many around the country, participated in the Hour of Code in December 2013.  We were even privileged with the opportunity to participate in a Tech Titan web chat with Susan Wojcicki, one of the senior VP's of Google.    We have done coding before, but I was amazed at how quickly the kids took to the tutorials and lessons on the website.  Even after our lessons ended and we loved in to other skills, my students continued to go back to those activities whenever they had a free moment....even during the last few days of school.

So,'s your summer assignment!  Show me what you can do with the following Code-centric apps and sites.  If you create something cool and amazing...share it with me!   I'll be checking my email from beside the pool!  Happy Summer!


Cargo-Bot (Free)
Tynker (Free and Paid)
Kodable (Free and Paid)
Daisy the Dinosaur (Free)
Move the Turtle (2.99)
Hopscotch (Free)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Romero Britto meets Photoshop

One of my favorite programs to work with is Photoshop Elements (PSE).  I usually start teaching the program to my students when they are in 3rd grade.  They get the concept of the paintbrush and how to drop color into a section using the paint bucket -- but some of the other tools are little trickier to explain.

A few years ago, the art teacher at my school was doing a project based on the work of Romero Britto. His work is colorful and vibrant -- and the kids LOVED the project inspired by his work.  As I was looking at some of their creations -- I thought about how simple it would be to recreate the style of his work using PSE and the Magic Wand tool.

First I started out by having all the kids complete a guided tutorial.  We each opened up a black and white drawing that I copied out to all of the lab computers.  We discussed what we saw and how Romero Britto uses line to divide the space.  Some of my students compared this to a stained glass window.

We then used our paint bucket tool and filled in the space.  We reminded each other that Romero Britto's work is very colorful and vibrant.  We also remembered that he uses non-traditional colors in paintings.

The next steps is where the fun begins.  I teach the kids that the Magic Wand tool creates a "force field" around the color that is selected.  By choosing the Magic Wand and then clicking on the yellow area under the purple sun -- that area gets selected.  I tell the kids the moving lines remind me of marching ants.  After an area is selected using the Magic Wand tool, I then select the paint brush tool and change the brush tip, size, and color.  Then I start drawing my pattern or design.  

Students then repeat the process until all the colored areas are filled with interesting patterns, polka dots, or stripes.  Romero's work is very happy.  I encourage children to create images that bring them joy and happiness.  Check out some of our students work!!

Monday, May 5, 2014

If I knew then what I know now....

The life of a teacher is hard to explain to people outside of the educational realm.  Everyone has their thoughts and opinions on how easy or hard this career can be.  Not until you have gone through that first YEAR (or first FEW years) of teaching can you ever really know how challenging -- and rewarding -- this profession is.  I'm finishing my 20th year of teaching this May.  As long as my career has been -- I can still remember the first day of my first year.  I can remember the excitement and the fear I had when those children walked into my room for the first time.  I was their leader.  I recall the lessons that I thought would be so great and engaging ended up being complete messes.  The eye rolls and the heavy sighs of boredom can still be seen and heard in my mind.  I remember the kids that pushed me to my limit and tested every ounce of patience that I had....but I also remember watching them grow and mature while they were in my classes.   I was surprised to discover the times when the simplest lesson became the greatest learning experience for me and the kids.  I learned over the years to let the students help guide the learning process.  I learned to facilitate -- and not just lead.  I learned how to be a teacher....not from a text book or a course in college...but by my students.  They taught me to expect the unexpected, to see genius in the little things, and to believe that anything is possible if you just keep trying.

To my friends in the teaching profession during Teacher Appreciation Week -- I say thank you!!   Think back through your years of teaching all the way back to that first year and congratulate yourself!  Think about the difference you are making each and every day in the lives of your students.  Be proud!


Friday, May 2, 2014

You are a genius...

Recently, at the NETA (Nebraska Educational Technology Association) Spring Conference, I had the privilege of hearing Angela Maiers present her Keynote entitled "Liberating Genius".  She defines genius as "ordinary people that have chosen to not hold back -- to lead -- and to share their contributions with the world".  She mentioned that we have been taught to hold back our genius and to just go with the flow, so to speak.  We, as educators need to fix this!!  Our students need us to RECOGNIZE their genius...ENCOURAGE it...and to let them know that we EXPECT it!

She is such an amazing speaker and inspired me to start recognizing the genius in each of my students.  I was inspired to create some desktop patterns based on some of the slides in her presentation.  Here is the one that I am using as the desktop on my teacher computer.

Recognize the genius in others -- 


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Money, Money, Money!

The last few weeks of school are upon us and teachers trying to cram in all the lessons as best they can.  My Kindergarten teachers recently asked me if I had any good sites up my sleeve that dealt with money so that I could help the kiddos get a better handle on counting currency.  We have had a great time with these lessons that I am sharing via Symbaloo.  Enjoy!
Money Symbaloo by Jason Rushing

By the way --- if you aren't familiar with Symbaloo, it's a fantastically easy way to curate and manage multiple sites relating to a topic of interest or theme.