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!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

FETC 2015, Part 1 - Jane McGonigal - Learning is an Epic Win

I just attended FETC 2015 -- The Florida Educational Technology Conference held in Orlando, Florida at the Orange County Convention Center.  I had the honor of being accepted to present a workshop, concurrent session, and poster session with my great friend and colleague Susan Prabulos (@fabprab) from The Digital Scoop.  We love FETC and were honored to be asked to be presenters for a second year in a row.  There is so much to learn at this conference and so many great presenters and leaders willing to share some amazing things.  Over the next few posts, I am planning on sharing some highlights of some of the sessions I attended and of the ones that Susan and I led.  


The first keynote that I attended was Jane McGonigal.  Ms. McGonigal is a designer of alternate reality games who believes game designers are on a humanitarian mission.  She is the also the author of "Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and Why They Can Change the World.  

During her presentation, she mentioned that 92% of two-year olds are active game players on some sort of digital device.  92%!!  She also said that 81% of global workers do not feel engaged at work.  How can this be translated into the schools of today?  She shares that eight out of ten elementary school students, six out of ten middle school students, and four out of ten high school students feel engaged and that their strengths are valued at school.  She suggests that by harnessing the power of gaming we can change this.  

She presented the 10 Positive Emotions from Game Play:
  1. Joy
  2. Relief
  3. Love
  4. Surprise
  5. Pride
  6. Curiosity
  7. Excitement
  8. Awe / Wonder
  9. Contentment
  10. Creativity
Imagine if we could experience these emotions each day...every the classroom!  

I encourage you to check out her TED talk on this topic.  It's a quick view and really well done.

Check it here:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Teacher's Perspective

A few weeks ago I was asked to be part of an ongoing video series in my school district.  The series focuses on a teacher's "perspective" and highlights what goes on during one day in their classroom.  There are a multitude of exceptional teachers in my district ... so I was honored to be asked.

The district representative who did the filming came out to my school during Computer Science Education week while were celebrating the Hour of Code in every grade.  I had fun activities planned and the kids LOVED the process of coding and programming -- so it was a perfect day to be filmed.  We had unplugged activities, magic tricks, great lessons from the people, and tons of other hands-on activities.  It was a great day!

I share this video not to give myself props or accolades -- but because I'm proud of the work that my kids are doing.  I'm proud of the work my school district is doing to make technology and computer science accessible for all students.  I am proud to be a teacher in Lincoln Public Schools.