Saturday, May 31, 2014

Every Thing I know about Minecraft I stole from. . . .

This blog post is a Hat Tip to all the awesome educators who are building and sharing great resources for Minecraft in Education.

I am still learning about minecraft, right now we are working to get minecraftEDU to work with our roaming profiles. #noteasy

Add your favorite resources in the comments

John Miller

Kevin Jarret,0,7546869.story

he shared this article from Mashable, though this is really just eye candy

Mojave Phonebooth

Elissa Elliott Malespina  Minecraft in Schools article 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Coding with Kindergartners

Last year at this time, I was trying not to think about Kindergarteners.  I was still teaching 9th grade English and I had just accepted a job teaching technology to K-5.  I was excited about the challenge, and I knew I had bitten off more than I could chew.  
As I was developing the tech curriculum, I had the challenge of teaching programming or at least computational thinking at each grade level K-5.  Our school is mid pivot in technology.  We are in our second year of a 1:2 iPad program in the middle school, this is our first year of having a cart of iPads available for elementary, and this is our last year of having 2 labs of PC's for the students to use, next year we will only have one lab.  Knowing this, I wanted to design a programming scope and sequence that mostly used tablet-based tools.  I was really excited when I was introduced to Daisy the Dinosaur and Hopscotch, both from Hopscotch technologies, a great app company.  
Daisy the Dinosaur and Hopscotch both use visual blocks to represent commands.  I first saw this programming interface with MITs App Inventor and Scratch.  
This approach to syntax is physical, like puzzle pieces.  The commands fit together if they work together.  The commands are also grouped into color coded families.  This approach to programming is great for kids, color helps them navigate, and the physical syntax guides them towards success.  From a teacher perspective, it is much easier to find the errors in this physical syntax, I don't know how many missing semicolons I could find in a class period.  With these apps, I was confident I had a good entry point for grades 1 and 2.  I was working with a kindergartner during coding club and I asked her to find the block that ended with the word "up."  Now in my defense, I thought it was a likely sight word and chances were pretty good she knew it.  She was incredulous, "I can't read!"  So here was my challenge, can you teach programming to students who do not yet read?  Of course, I look beyond this challenge and see the next: Can you use programming to support and deliver literacy instruction?  
I am happy to report that, much to my own surprise, the first challenge has been met.  There are many ways to get pre reading students to engage in meaningful coding challenges that develop computational thinking.  My short list includes Kodable, Lego Fix the Factory, and Bee Bots.  With the Tynker app and the planned release of Scratch Jr, it seems like there are new platforms to support young coding all the time.  As a critical and reflective teacher, I know any of these tools is only as good as the lesson it supports.
As a push-in tech teacher, I work closely with the classroom teachers to create lessons which dovetail with and support their lessons.  Real world programming with students or with robots can create great opportunities for content integration.  My first graders program a robot to fly to the planets in order .  I use the content as the surface the robot operates on.  This format also creates a social learning opportunities.  It is challenging for a group of 6 students to work on a robot, I plan for four on a robot.  So in many ways technology class is a communication workshop and a crash course in ninja level sharing.  I am grateful my teachers stay to help me out.  We often have three adults in the room with 24 kids and six robots .  

Elements of programming that support pre readers

  1. Sequence
  2. The concept of code (written language)
  3. Cause and effect
  4. Counting
  5. Planning
  6. Left to right reading
  7. Problem solving
How Programming Supports Social Learning

My school values social and emotional growth, and it is an important part of all classes, tech included.  It you have never handed out devices to students, you may not know the almost universal body language of pulling the device close in and turning away from other students.  
The Power of Pairs
Until my students really understand an app, I like to have them share an iPad.  We always have to talk about how to talk to your partner about sharing and offering help.   This is also a point I really appreciate my classroom teacher's knowledge of the students and ask them to pair the kids up.  I have heard one teacher refer to these partners as elbow to elbow and knee to knee.  The IPad shifts left and right of center for the whole period.  While it is hard to share devices like this, I see a real learning benefit in sharing.  Most students will stay tuned in to what their partner is doing  when they are waiting for their turn.  As they watch, they mentally rehearse and problem solve, building their understanding for their next turn.  
When we program robots we work in groups of four students to each robot.  This can be challenging and a little chaotic. When we take the time to model and rehearse some group communication skills and sentence stems the students seem to be more successful.  When we give each student a specific role (programmer, input engineer, debugger, recorder) some of the students are more successful.  In these roles the programmer is in charge of writing the program to do this she lays out the programming command cards left to right, the input engineer presses the buttons on the robot to input the program from the cards, the debugger watches the robot execute the program to check for errors or locate any mistakes in the program.  
From Pairs to Parallel Play
The first time we explore an app we do so in pairs, but once the students seem comfortable with the app we graduate them to working individually.  One delightful surprise this year was students asking if they could move their chairs together to work side by side even though they had their own iPad.  
Keeping Learning at the Center
One of the challenges of programming with robots and apps is that they are designed to look like toys and games.  My goal is to structure an interaction that is thoughtful enough that the students really build their understanding of programming and robotics.  With the robots we have you program directly onto the robot using the buttons on the top.  I ask my students to use command cards to plan out their programs.  The students want to physically steer the bot around and input commands as needed.  They object, "but I can do all that in my head."  Without a physical record of the commands, there is no way to debug, edit, or even audit the program as it runs.  In this case the cards are the critical difference between learning and play.
To App or to Bot, that is the question
Whether it is nobler in the mind to work in groups or alone, to take to desks or abandon them into a sea of learning, these are the choices that wake teachers up at night.  When bringing programming to young students should you use an app or a robot?  This decision might be based on what you have available to your class.  In a tablet rich environment it makes sense to focus on apps, but if you are going to buy some tech which will give you the most return?  Here is a quick side by side.  I like Kodable because it is another great learning resource I have lodged on my cart of iPads.  I like the Bee bots as I can make some great connections to content.  

  • Structured interaction
  • Built in tutorials
  • Graduating complexity
  • Isolated from class content
  • Cost per unit 6.99 per license (can be installed on up to 10 devices)
  • Strong content integration
  • Stand alone unit, no device needed
  • Simple interface
  • Limited complexity
  • Cost per unit $90.
It seems like the bee bots could be(e) shared effectively between several classes.  A good lesson with the robots requires a good deal of prep.  This can mean laminating goal cards, creating command cards, building maps for the bots to navigate and even downloading custom jackets to turn the bees into rockets when needed.  There is an amazing resource site for this called Primary Treasure chest, thanks to Vicky Sedgwick for sending me that link.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

Programming in Hopscotch 2.0, an example of video augmented instruction

When I talk to people about "flipped" learning in primary grades I usually talk about video augmented instruction.  I do not expect or require my students to do homework.  I do like using Raz Kids to support reading at home, but I don't have a pedagogical need for my students to pre-process a large block of content, and that is the goal best served by traditional flipping. (Think college general ed classes)
What I advocate is helping our students develop the literacies needed to learn with video.
The page below the break is my lesson support for 3rd grade grandparents day activity.  Students will be creating a game with their grandparents.  I will be actively teaching in the room, but this page links back to prior lesson and has all the resources I am presenting today.
How do you use video to support instruction?  Let's share ideas in the comments.

Page as the students viewed it below this line

Hopscotch got a great upgrade!  Today we are going to learn about it and help our class guests to program a game in hopscotch.  This lesson builds on the previous lesson on programming a game in Hopscotch  (That is a link to the post, so if you can't remember how to do it, read that post)
The big changes in Hopscotch are that you can save an ability.  This means if you create the ability "run around" and code move and rotate blocks in a repeat loop, you can quickly add that complex ability to many characters without rewriting the code.
The second change is that it is easy to create a variable to keep score or change the performance of the game.  You can make all the characters speed up every time you score a point, or touch the edge, or step on the chicken.  Here is a short video we will watch together once and then you can re-watch if you need to.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

PLN: Power of Play Edition

So I was editing a video and listening to Pandora.  I heard the song "Thrift Shop" was taken by many of the lines like "Ima take your grandpa's style, no for real, can you ask him if I can have has hand me down."  I have alot of grandpa style in my own closet, perhaps less ironicly than before.  I sent one of the lines out to William Chamberlain, a teacher on twitter who is also a pretty talented musician with awesome taste in music.
I used the hashtag "#TwitterSingAlong to indicate that this was a line from a song, the hashtag also indicates an invitation to play.  It is kind of like name that tune, but you are rooting for the person. If you view your twitter as all business than you might want to skip this.  I view my twitter as "all business", but my all-business business isn't all business
I know that in my classroom community, games are important and I enjoy them.  I have been reading about games and gamification this week and I keep coming back to play.  It isn't the game, it is the playing. Everyone playing is engaged in the same game.  Play builds relationships and shapes communities.
William is a very playful guy on twitter and will often play the devil's advocate in twitter chats.
He tweeted back at me a link to the Postmodern JukeBox version of the song I was quoting.  It was so good I played it 3 times before diving into the other videos on that same channel.  They use several different styles, a fun approach to music.
I was so amazed, I sent it on to Andrew.  Andrew has given me some great tips on music over time and I thought he would appreciate it.
 He brought it back with a contemporary cover by Bruce Springsteen

Friday, May 16, 2014

Listening is your Superpower

by Kathy Kimpel
This week has been challenging because I am working with almost no voice.  As a teacher this is terrifying and debilitating, seriously I use my voice all the time.  I was only half joking when I told a friend that when the puppet man loses his voice it gets real lonely.
I have gotten alot of advice and support from friends and colleagues and even some from the kids, but it has been hard.  
The silver linings of this experience have been few but significant.
1. I can use as much honey as I want in my tea without others judging me.
2. I have been listening much more to colleagues.
When I am excited about what I am learning I like to talk about it and this year I have been really excited about the learning I am doing.  As I have listened to colleagues this week I can really see that many of them are having a tough time with the end of the year.  
As they share their stories or challenges there is little I can do other than to listen and nod, perhaps email a response later.  This is fine as I don't have to solve their challenges or really be a part of them, just to be a witness and acknowledge their reality.  
This is something I don't do enough of.  I try to avoid school site drama and politics, but I need to be careful not to avoid the other people who are struggling with some of these issues.
So today I get ready to lead without a voice again.  I have my bag with throat drops, sprays, allergy pills and honey.  I also have my awareness that this challenge can help me to become a better person and team member.   My strength today is in listening and I am thankful for the team I have as they are always willing to step in and help.
Thanks for listening.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Epic Based Learning

Or Scaffolding for Evidence-Based Writing in Literature

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app
The Challenge: Teaching academic writing to 9th graders at a very small private high school.  Almost 1/3 of the 100 students were on the learning specialists caseload for one reason or another.  The school did not track students, or have an English placement test.  The classes were small (12-20) and the parents were supportive and invested in their students education.  
At back to school night I would warn the parents that reading The Odyssey would be challenging and I would share the reading schedule and notes format with them. When a parent asked why I wanted the kids to struggle I answered "Most of my students walk in the door knowing they can amazing and capable people and their experience in school is that they can do well enough just by giving half of their attention to something.  They see me at a barrier between them and what they want to be doing.  I heap Homer on them until they need me and I become a valuable partner in the learning.

It already is challenging, we use community to make it rewarding.

Scaffolding is about creating resources that make support easy to get.  I love videos or recordings for this.

Supply NoteTaking Templates You can make your own from any number of online sources.

Create a Reading Schedule, if you are in a tech-rich environment, get these on a calendar with notifications.  Consider using Remind 101 to send assignment notifications to students and parents.  This is a long book and clear expectations are important, as is flexibility.  Falling behind is hard so I learned to work closely with my school's learning specialist.
Create Clear Expectations on Reading quizzes with Presentations

Make sure to vary the format and format of the quizzes, this DIY quiz takes longer than the normal quiz, but students really connected with the content.  I let them use their notes so they have a short-term motivation to create good notes.  This quiz uses some of the graphic novel version of The Odyssey I share with them in class.

Record Lectures Book 5 preread

Find Fun ways to share and build comprehension, like this Odyssey Puppet Show

or this game of Human Tableau or this 

Odyssey EarWorm Challenge

Or team up with the Greek/ Latin teacher for an cross curricular connection

Help students be successful on the final writing by having them write a mini-version half way there, like this Hero Mini Essay

Have students gather information and then share it using Socratic Seminar

Socratic Seminar Forms:
Hero Evidence Collection 
Disguise Evidence Collection

A recording of my class doing a Socratic Seminar

The Odyssey Essay Prompt  Why do I have 2 Copies?  Maybe this one is better

Screencast response to student writing
Odyssey Essay Response 

Help with the reading if you have students that are dyslexic, using a livescribe pen like this matches it up with line numbers
Read to your students.
Odyssey Book 8 complete
brought to you by Livescribe

Overall, stretch yourself to create and connect as many resources as you can, and teach everything you expect.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

When Change is your Currency, You are Never Broke

Teachers love surprises, and Google's update of their iOs app suite was a favorite on Friday, just in time for teacher appreciation week.  Any teachers who had been using the Drive app on iOs for creating documents discovered that the app had broken up with itself and compose didn't live here any more.  It was as though I went to my flashlight and when I turned it on it didn't light up, instead it produced a terms of service agreement that seems to say that light isn't made on the flashlight anymore.  
This is bad news to get about your go-to word processor app.  The previous day I had seen some "news" posts about documents and sheets, the 2 new google drive apps.  The Google apps for education community is excited about these apps because they seem to be easier to add users and switch profiles.  This is great in a shared device environment.  I added these apps to our shared iPads as soon as I got the news.  If I had also understood that drive was going to become a storage and sharing app, I would have asked all the students in the 1:1 iPad program to download these apps also.  
I don't know if this was a huge issue on my campus, we use noteability a great deal (BTW: it is free this week).
In my tech committee meetings we are discussing if we need student Box accounts in addittion to GAfE and the simple fact is that it is hard to trust a service you use for free that is subject to change.  I know change happens, but no one likes it.  My teachers and my tech director want a single awesome workflow that is dependable.  
Workflows change because we work in a world of change.  On many of my devices I have set the apps to update automatically because I am responsible for so many device the update time really begins to add up.  Researching every update is another investment of time.  Even then, I think the idea that I could keep the students from updating apps is foolhardly.
While I might rage against an app that catches me unprepared in the classroom, I understand that updates must happen and often improve performance.  I understand I cannot shape how apps change.  I can also appreciate that it would be a powerful technology that limited instead of expanded the number of variables in my classroom.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Using Video Conference for K-1 Weather

Using Video Conference for K-1 Weather This is a lesson plan to engage in weather study with another classroom in another location. I prepared this lesson as an example assignment for my IEASC class

Using Google Hangouts in Class

Here is my presentation about a good use of Google Hangout in K-1 weather study

Here are some of the resources I found in my journey

Resources Search

Google Hangouts in EDU Google Plus community

About this community

This a community for educators who are using Google Hangouts in their classrooms. My hope is that this becomes a hub for teachers to connect, collaborate, and discuss how they are using Google Hangouts to enrich the learning experiences of their students.
using Google Hangouts for Virtual Field Trips

Google Hangouts for Educators Edutopia
A teachers guide to Google Hangout, Hey this is my show!