Friday, April 22, 2016

Code Like A Boss - NETA 2016

Another presentation at NETA 2016 in the books!!  My great friend Susan Prabulos (if you haven't checked out her blog, The Digital Scoop - go and do it NOW!) and I had a great time sharing some of our favorite Computer Science lessons with our friends and colleagues at the Nebraska Educational Technology Association Spring Conference.

If you want to go beyond the Hour of Code and do more coding and programming with your students -- check out some of these fun projects and lessons!


Thursday, April 21, 2016

NETA 2016 Technology Treasures Presentation

I had the privilege of presenting yet another session with my good friend Susan Prabulos today at the NETA (Nebraska Educational Technology Association) Spring Conference.

Our session today highlighted some of our favorite apps, web 2.0 tools, and other "treasures".  Susan has posted our session on Slideshare, as well as providing a link to the slides on her blog The Digital Scoop!  Check it out!

Neta Technology Treasures 2016 Presenation from sprabul

Have fun -- reach out if you have some other great tools to share!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

My Adventures with BreakoutEDU

It was right around January 2016 that I first heard about BreakoutEDU.  As a fan of the Escape Room, I was intrigued but didn't really think about adopting it into my bag of tricks at school.  My friend Lynne (my own personal BreakoutEDU goddess), however, convinced me after a time to give it a try and so I purchased some of the needed items to make it happen.  I was excited to have them arrive.   I took the locks out and opened them, turned the black light flash light on and off, unlocked and locked the 3 digit combo box.... but then, they sat.  Waiting to be used..... waiting for me to find my inspiration...and the courage to try.

Then, a few weeks later, the BreakoutEDU goddess (aka Lynne) invited me over to her home for a Breakout party.  After three or four games, I was hooked.  More importantly, I was ready to try it with my students.

BreakoutEDU games focus on collaboration, teamwork, critical thinking, persistence, and logic.  Teams work together to solve complex puzzles that will provide them a code or combination of letters, numbers, or directions to open a various number of locks.  The goal is to break IN to a box (or series of boxes) to win the game.  Any content area can be adapted and made into a BreakoutEDU game.  There is a BreakoutEDU movement going on and there are some really creative educators who are willing to share their exciting and innovative games.  FOR FREE!!!  You can learn more about how to purchase an "official" kit from or get them via Amazon -- and view all the lessons that have been created using this link. There is also a very active Facebook group that you can join.  I have learned so many wonderful tricks from that group of educators.  

So far, we have tried a Digital Citizenship Breakout and one called Break the Code!  The Digital Citizenship Breakout covers cyberbullying, understanding your digital footprint, copyright and fair use, and determining relevancy and accuracy of a website.  All of these topics are the subject of discussions and activities I have led in previous years -- but NEVER have I seen such active participation and attention given to these topics.  The students were totally invested.  We did this Breakout as a full class activity.  We discussed not only the content of the lessons -- but how we could use the information as clues to the locks.  We discussed the process of looking for clues and how to use them to our advantage.  The students, at the end of the class, were begging for another Breakout the next time we met....but they wanted to try it without my help!  They were hooked!

The following week, we did Break the Code.  Students needed to solve some puzzles, translate a binary number into decimal, and learn about coding in schools around the world. I divided the kids into two groups (about 9-10 kids in each) and also divided the room into two halves.  I had two sets of everything on each side of the room.  I explained the concept of the game and went over the rules again.  I also told them the boundaries of their area and told them to collaborate with their team to be the first to break into all of the boxes.  

At first, the kids were running amok.  It was like Black Friday at Target!  I was a little frightened that I had made a mistake -- but then -- miraculously, the volume settled and they started to really find their groove.  There were a couple of hiccups along the way, a few exasperated LOUD sighs from students who weren't being heard the first time, and a handful of snarky remarks -- but the did it.  They worked together and overcame the challenges.  EVERY group broke into the boxes within the 45 minute time frame.  

At the end of the class, we debriefed and talked through the activity -- what went well vs. what needed work.  They gave a great amount of consideration into what they were telling me.  Some of my favorite take-aways from our conversations are:

  • We learned that it isn't always easy to be willing to listen to another persons ideas -- especially when we "always think we know better".  
  • Collaboration can be "exciting -- but really hard.  You have to notice how other people are feeling and if they are being included".  
  • "Sometimes the answer is right in front of your face.  You just have to being willing to see it."

BreakoutEDU is one of my new favorite things.  I can't wait to try out some more of the fun games and activities that my colleagues around the world are creating -- and I can't wait to try and and create my OWN games to share with them.  I encourage you to investigate BreakoutEDU.  Give it a try.