Monday, October 5, 2015

Scratch Idioms

One of the favorite things my kiddos love to work with is Scratch - the coding and programming application by wonderful folks at the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab.  They LOVE learning about all the possible ways to create and code using this program.  

As I was looking through some curriculum connections, I ran across a lesson I used to do with Idioms using Photoshop Elements.  Students would use the tools to draw an image that was a literal interpretation of the idiom.  If the student had the idiom, "Painting the town red" -- they would draw a city scene and have a little figure painting everything red.  Pretty fun!  However, I realized that it would be even MORE fun to try and have the kids use the tools and commands in Scratch to create a mini animation of an idiom.  

I spent some time talking about what an idiom is ... and that it could have a literal meaning ... as well as the more appropriate figurative meaning.  Everyone agreed that the literal meaning is very funny when you stop and think about it.  After I explained the concept of our assignment and reviewed some of the basic commands they may need to use -- the kids "took off like a jet plane".  

We are having such a great time trying to make our idioms come to life with coding.  Below are a couple of examples....hope you find this "easy as pie".  

When Pigs Fly  
To see the Scratch Animation, click the link -

Butterflies in my stomach
To see the Scratch Animation, click the link -

Get Scratchin' Friends!  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Fun with FotoJet

I was recently asked to check out and review a fun new photo site called FotoJet.  There are a lot of collage creators and sites that allow the user to mash up their favorite photos -- many of which I have used -- but I really enjoyed checking out all of the templates and features that FotoJet has to offer.  

One thing that I noticed right away is that it's all FREE!  Everything from creating covers or posts for Facebook to Baby Announcements to Anniversary or Thank You cards.  FREE!  They even have sample pages and tutorials on how to make certain types of pages.  

First -- Choose your design!

There are tons of great designs to choose from.  Classic designs like many of the other sites out there are available, as well as some really fabulous templates (modern, art, 3D, etc).  Pick one and get started -- or do like I do and play around with LOTS of them to find just the right one!

 Second -- Add your photos!

FotoJet allows you to add photos directly from your computer or Facebook account.  I found that adding from my Albums in Facebook was very easy -- and I could also grab my images from folders on my computer or DropBox just as quickly.  

Pictures are brought in to a gallery space on the left of the screen and you can import them where you want by dragging and dropping them onto the template that you chose.  You could also click the autofill button to have them placed for you.

If the template you chose has text -- you can use the text tools to change font, size, and color!!
I was also pleased to a photo editor/filter in FotoJet.  After you bring an image into the template, you can apply filters (similar to iPhoto, Instagram, etc), zoom in, flip it horizontally or vertically, even get into the nitty gritty and change exposure, hue and saturation, contrast, and brightness.  

Third -- Share and Save your collage!

After you have made your beautiful new collage, you can save it directly to Facebook or download as a .jpg or .png with a quick click of your mouse.  Simple!

Check out some of the great FotoJet SAMPLES -- or better yet -- check it out for yourself and make your own.  I am adding this to my bag of tricks and will be using it with my students at school.  I can see them making me some great new Class Expectation posters, vocabulary posters for Computer Science, as well as using it for their own projects in other classes!  

I would love to hear if you like FotoJet -- and how you are going to use it in your classroom!

Friday, April 24, 2015

NETA 2015 - Tech Treasures

WOW!  What a great turnout for the NETA 2015 edition of Technology Treasures!  Check out my friend and co-presentor Susan's webpage that highlights this session.

I am linking to the slideshare of the full session below -- but you can find the full presentation as well as a Symbaloo page with links to all of our 2015 Treasures on Susan's blog, "The Digital Scoop".

We both had a great time presenting at NETA and hope you keep in contact with us.  If you have a great treasure -- let us know!  We would LOVE to see it.

Check out the full post of NETA 2015 Technology Treasures
courtesy of "The Digital Scoop"

NETA 2015 - Getting Creative with Google Drive

NETA 2015 was a great success.  The new venue was amazing!  The keynotes were phenomenal -- Adam Bellow and George Couros are inspiring and motivational speakers.  More on them in a future post.

My great friend and colleague, Susan, and I shared "Getting Creative with Google Drive" and really enjoyed sharing our ideas and lessons.  I have attached the slides below.  If you would like to view the templates and lessons, you can check them out here.

Shoot me an email, or tweet me (@jrushing72) if you have any questions or would like more information about our session.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

10 Free Kindle Books for Kids

I subscribe to the Smart Apps for Kids list that highlights great educational and FUN apps when they are on sale or FREE!  Every day I get an email telling me about some great apps to use with my students.  If you aren't familiar with this site and list, check it out here!

Today they highlighted 10 Kindle books for kids that are completely Free!  An amazing deal!  I always have kiddos that finish their projects or assignments a little early and need something to do.  I have a couple of older iPads that are reserved for situations like this -- and adding these books to the list of items from which they can choose will be GREAT!




Happy Reading!

Monday, April 20, 2015

NETA 2015 Preview

The Nebraska Educational Technology Association (NETA) Spring Conference is this week (Thursday and Friday).  I am SO excited!  I have been an attendee, a workshop leader, a presenter, and I even served on the Board of Directors.   I LOVE NETA!  I have the privilege this year of presenting a few sessions with my good friend and colleague Susan Prabulos.

One of our sessions is on Google Apps for Education (GAFE) and how we use it with our students.  GAFE is integral in what we do each day in our classrooms -- planning, projects, and assessment.

As a small preview -- I'm sharing a couple of the items we have on our "short list" for our NETA presentation.  If you are attending NETA -- I hope that you plan on attending our session on Friday.

Google Drawing is one of my favorite tools to use.  The possibilities are endless!  One way I use it is to get student feedback about lessons and concepts we are learning about in class.  I use this during instruction and as an exit ticket at the end of a lesson.  I will type in a question ( Yes/No, True/False, or A/B) and students will either move their name marker (or an anonymous dot) to the box they feel is the answer.  Many times I will have them put their name in the red box if they need more time to work on a lesson/project, or in the green one if they are finished and ready to move on.

Susan is going to be sharing an idea that uses both Google Drawing and Google Docs.  She creates a "story starter" using Drawing and includes images and words that will help inspire and guide students during a creative writing activity.  Students are are required to use each of the items in some way in their stories.

For more ideas and some great resources, be sure to stop by our NETA presentation on Friday, April 24, 2015.  We will be in the Junior Ballroom 2014 from 12:30-1:15.

I will also be blogging about the Conference and include the full presentation, complete with all examples, after the Conference has finished.  

If you are there -- I would love to connect with you!  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Creating with Canva

I'm all about free online creation tools.  One of my favorites is Canva.  I've used it in the past to create signs or posters for various school events or to even create something new for my Facebook or Twitter profile.

Using Canva is totally easy -- you just create a free online account and start using backgrounds, text options, colors and styles to make a really attractive image that can be downloaded for printing or shared online.  There are tons of free fonts, colors, textures, and layouts -- but there are also a ton that you can pay a small fee to use.  Honestly, I have never done that -- and have never really felt that I was limited in what I could create by only using the free stuff.

We are working on some small group coding lessons, and I need to have some easy-to-learn (and fun) lessons for kids to do when they aren't with me doing the programming lessons.  I was looking around my room for inspiration on what to have them do -- and I actually saw it.  A poster.  An INSPIRATIONAL poster.  You know what I mean -- we all have them in our classrooms.  FYI - Pinterest is full of them!  I grabbed a couple of screen shots of some really nice ones to give the kids an idea of what I was looking for and threw them into a Google presentation.  I knew right away that using Canva to create some inspirational posters would be a fun activity for kids to do while they are waiting to move into the programming/coding group.

During class, I shared how to use Canva and really emphasized that they can ONLY use the free options.  I then shared the inspirational pieces I found on Pinterest and encouraged them to do a little online research of their own for some "inspirational quotes." They were off and running before I could finish the sentence, "Get to work!" The students really picked up using Canva quite quickly and turned out some nice work.  Many of them are hanging in my classroom!!  I know that I will be using Canva again soon with students.

Have you used Canva?  I would love to hear about how and see some examples!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pop Art President

A few weeks ago I posted a webmix from Symbaloo on my Webmix page.  The Symaboo team compiled a great set of links on each of the 44 US Presidents.  They also provided extra sources for kids to look through in case they needed to find more information.  

(By the way -- If you aren't familiar with Symbaloo -- you SHOULD be!  Check out the post I did a few weeks ago on the presentation my great friend and colleague Susan, from The Digital Scoop, and I did on Symbaloo at the Florida Educational Technology Conference - FETC.  Click here)

After finding the webmix on the Presidents, I decided to have my fourth graders do a research project on one of our great leaders.  To make it fun, I tied in the idea of Pop Art that they are learning about in their art classes.  They were learning about Andy Warhol and his beautiful contributions to the pop art scene.  

After the students collected their information on a Google Doc, I then showed them how to use the website  Pixlr is a great free online tool that is very similar to Photoshop Elements.  Pixar Editor has many of the same feature, bells, and whistles as PSE.  Pixlr also has a section called Pixlr Express similar to many of the collage maker apps in the App store, as well as a section that focuses on Instagram-like filters and effects.  That last section, Pixlr-o-matic, is where we spent our photo-editing time.  

Students reviewed the process of finding an image online and downloading it to the desktop.  We then followed the on-screen directions and created a pop-art inspired version of our Presidential portrait by changing the Effects, Overlays, and Borders.  We had to search for just the right Effect (we used Artfunkle in the Creative group of Effects) and activate it so that we could use it.  We then played with the Overlays and Borders until we found the perfect one for our popart portrait.
Effects - Artfunkle

Once we saved our newly edited portrait to the desktop, we drag copied it onto our Google Drawing page and started using our research to create a mini-poster highlighting the life of our President.  Students were encouraged to use good desktop publishing skills and make good choices in regard to color and font.  A minimum of ten facts were required -- and most students provided many more.  We also made sure that we had ZERO spelling errors and that we provided our source somewhere on the page.  It was a great project and the students had a great time!  

Have you used Pixlr at all?  I would love to hear how you have incorporated it into your classrooms!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Seedball and Coding?

This week I was trying to figure out a couple more activities for my Littles (Kindergarteners).  I was looking through my bag of tricks and came across a site from TVOKids that I have used for a few years.  It's called SeedBall.  I posted on this little gem about a year or so ago.  The premise of the activity is to create a viable path from the top of the Seed Silo to the trailer attached to the car at the bottom of the screen using simple and advanced (i.e.  wacky) parts.  I compare it to designing a waterslide or roller coaster.  

The Littles have always loved this activity and it's been very popular with the older kids when they earn free time or finish assignments early.  I guess that's why it has stayed in my above-mentioned bag of tricks.  

Today, however, I was impressed with how the kids were using our coding vocabulary while creating their paths.  They were applying CODING principles outside of our and programming lessons!  Color me PROUD!  

"It's like we are creating an algorithm for the seedball to follow!  Each thingy is like a command!"

"Something isn't working, Mr. Rushing!  We have to debug it!"

"These parts are cool!  They are like variables, right?  If I put that one there, I have to put this one here!"

So I decided to step it up.  I challenged the Littles to get creative! I challenged them to try and make the longest path, the shortest path, the most creative path....I encouraged them to help their neighbors debug problem paths and help find a solution....

I was amazed at how in to this they were.  I really think it has to do with the Coding lessons we have been doing.  It's empowered them to be creative, to take risks, to problem solve.  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

FETC 2015, Part 4 - You, Too, Can Symbaloo

For my last post on my FETC 2015 experience, I am going to showcase the Poster Session on which I collaborated with my good friend, Susan (@fabprab).  The session is titled "You, Too, Can Symbaloo".  Symbaloo is one of our favorite tools to collect, curate, and share web resources to our students and colleagues.  

Symbaloo allows you to create a board on a topic and then collect websites on it in the form of small picture squares.  You can move the squares around, rename them, or even delete them if you want.  The boards can be shared via web link or embedded on a website or blog.  They are all searchable from within the Symbaloo search bar as well.  

I have a link to some of my other Symbaloo pages in the menu above.  Just click on Webmixes! 

Check out the webpage that Susan set up as part of the session.  Lots of great resources and "how-to's" if you are interested in creating your own Symbaloo boards.  


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Harlem Renaissance Project

My students are currently working on researching the Harlem Renaissance.  In honor of African American History Month, we are learning about the fascinating people who helped shape the arts in our country during the 1920's.

We started the unit by watching a short video from Brain Pop on the Harlem Renaissance and then discussing some of the vocabulary words presented.  I had them first try and fill in the worksheet on their own, but had a collaborative follow up so that all students had the same information.  It was a great conversation and the kids really did a great job.  Here is the worksheet that we used -- we typed in the definitions using Google Drive -- but you could do pencil/paper if you aren't a Google Apps for Education school.

Next, each student will be researching a major player of the Harlem Renaissance and then creating a presentation highlighting what they learned.  Students will have the option of creating a Comic Life document, a Google Drawing or Slides presentation, or perhaps even a short podcast.  They can use the Research Tool in Google Drive, or use the Symbaloo Webmix below.

I'll be sure to post some student examples in the future when the kids are wrapping up the unit.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what they create.

I love, love, LOVE Symbaloo!!  It's super simple to use and I love the ease in collection, sharing, and curating links for my students to use.  Each image is a link to a resource and each resource opens in a new tab on your web browser.  If you haven't tried making your own web mix -- check out my friend Susan's blog post on everything Symbaloo.  We presented this at the #FETC conference a week ago.  It's a great resource!

Monday, January 26, 2015

FETC 2015, Part 3 - 50 Technology Treasures, 2015 edition

My great friend Susan Prabulos (@fabprab) from The Digital Scoop and I presented our 2015 edition of 50 Technology Treasures.  We originally started presenting a session like this about three years ago -- but we only highlighted 25 "treasures".  We've upped the game the last couple of years and shared FIFTY free or inexpensive technology treasures.  These are kid-tested and teacher-approved apps, sites, and gizmos.  

This year we were scheduled to present in a "featured speaker" room.  We were thrilled to have it packed very soon after the doors opened.  Our friends who helped manage the crowd and pass out our business cards with our information and link to the presentation said they even had to turn away about 50 people.  The room we were in was a "featured speaker" room -- meaning they video recorded our session.  Word on the street is that the #FETC folks will be putting links on their website for each of the recorded sessions.  So if you missed it -- check it out.

Here is the slideshare of our presentation.  I hope you can find a few treasures of your own.

PS -- we are always on the lookout for a new treasure.  If you have one you love -- I would love to have you share it with me!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

FETC 2015, Part 2 - Two Guys with some iPads

One of my favorite sessions that I attended was by Two Guys with some iPads -- aka Brad Waid (@TechBradWaid) and Drew Minock (@TechMinock). 

Their session was titled "Bring a New Dimension to Learning with Augmented Reality".  I had seen and heard of AR, but never had time to really process it.  Basically, AR is taking a two dimensional image, or target, and making it 3D or 4D, turning it into a movie, or adding sound by using an app and your devices camera.  Brad and Drew did an amazing job of getting the VERY full room of attendees excited about learning with AR.  They shared tons of great apps and ideas -- below are some of my favorites.

AR Flashcards -- Great for early childhood or ESL students.  Fun for kids (or adults) of any age!
  1. Animals and Dinosaurs
  2. Space

FETCH! Lunch Rush -- This fun little game has you working on a movie set and it's lunch time for the actors.  Your job is to solve math problems and use the AR cards to answer and collect food the hungry cast members.

Anatomy 4D -- Through this app and the printed image, students can get an interactive view of the human body and all of its systems -- including the heart!  This app truly is amazing -- however it's also VERY anatomically correct.  If you are using with little kids there is a slider that allows the epidermal layer to be invisible.

Spacecraft 3D --  NASA's app lets you learn about (and interact) with quite a few of their spacecrafts that are used to explore the solar system.  There are options to animate the AR image within the app.  VERY cool!

I've had a lot of fun on this lazy Sunday playing with a lot of these apps and I can't wait to incorporate them into some lessons with my students.  They are going to love it!  If you haven't ever played with AR -- head to the app store and check some of them out -- search for AR or Augmented Reality.  There are lots of free apps as well as paid.  All of the apps I have played with today have an option to download or email the printable targets.  

Have fun!