Tuesday, May 12, 2015

WE Have Moved!

MyPaperlessClassroom has moved into the Teachercast.net media family.  All the new posts are http://www.teachercast.net/my-paperless-classroom-sam-patterson/.   The posts on this blog will be migrated over, leaving a jump link.  My apologies for links broken in the move.

the new RSS is http://www.teachercast.net/my-paperless-classroom-sam-patterson/?feed=rss.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Review of "The Tech Savvy Administrator"

At 45 pages and approximately 30 minutes to read, I am embarrassed how long I have carried Steven Anderson's "The Tech Savvy Administrator" around in my book bag waiting to get a chance to read and review it.
I settled into the coffee shop this morning, closed my laptop and started reading.  I timed myself.  The whole book cover to cover in 30 minutes with at least 5 minutes playing games and refilling coffee.  It is not a long book, but it might be just long enough to change the way an administrator imagine technology usage in schools.
Like other texts in the Aria series, Anderson aims to level up his audience's holistic understanding while giving clear direction for their learning.
On some level I was thinking of not only my principal, but all of the non-teaching staff at my school while reading this text. Anderson writes for the administrator that does not know what they do not know.  He focuses on general tasks and talks in broad terms about how to use some popular tools to move that task into a context of modern connected tools.

For example, his discussion of social media will not turn the reader into a Twitter superstar, or demystify hashtags, but it will help someone who believes Twitter is silly begin to understand how social media can support a school’s communication and community.

ACSD provided a copy of The Tech Savvy Administrator for review.  The whole series can be found here

Review of Pure Genius by Don Wettrick

Pure Genius from Don Wettrick is a great orientation text for anyone new to Innovation time in the middle to high school classroom.  I love the fact that he mentions important factors, but doesn’t write a step by step guide. Pure Genius talks about what innovation is and why if is a great learning context, but Wettrick leaves the heavy lifting to Daniel Pink, encouraging the reader to watch the
video referenced in the text. This type of learning and teaching requires customization.  Wettrick trusts his readers to find outside information, infact he provides a great guide to social media in the mid chapters of the book.  This is another awesome book for teachers written by a teacher and published by Dave Burgess Consulting.
Don writes from his own experience and shares his best practices.  Personally, I would lift up the knowledge that many small projects work better than one big project.  The text holds a great deal of context, Wettrick reveals his own missteps, like inadvertently alienating other teachers when he started teaching innovation class.
Don Wettrick’s Pure Genius (Dave Burgess Consulting 2014) is a great balance of inspiration and best practices for supporting a community of innovation at your school.Wettrick’s honest evaluation of his own learning models the process honestly, and makes this work accessible even for teachers who have not yet begun to dream about a choice based learning environment.

Friday, April 17, 2015

ThinkWrite Headphones Review

If you want to know what my number one ed tech wish is, close your eyes and listen to second grade learning, and then tell me how to support video creation in that room.
If my former supervisors are reading this they are laughing.  I LOVE noise in the classroom.  I believe it is generated by the friction of learning, like heat from a light.  But even loving the noise, I am challenged when I want them all to make a video.  They ask if they can go some where quiet, but there simply are not enough quiet spaces.
I first tried to solve this problem with REALLY CHEAP ear buds.  Seriously I think we paid 3 dollars per pair.  The mics were ok, but my first grade kids cannot use earbuds, their ears are too small and the ear buds fell out.
At CUE I got a chance to talk with ThinkWrite, and I like the quality of the headphones. This week I had a chance to test them against no mic and the inline earbuds mic.  Check out the 40 second video below and judge for yourself.

I think we will be ordering a "cart set" of the ThinkWrite headphones, while they don't cut the background noise, they do amplify the foreground much more than the other set ups.

I have to admit this video about how tough the headphones are made me laugh!

ThinkWrite did provide the sample headphone for this review

Quit Raising Hands!

Raising hands is a waste of time!  There it has been said.  Nothing brews boredom faster than the time it takes to get quiet and listen.  Do you want to support literacy skills, typing instruction, and student voice?  If you do, and you teach in a 1:1 environment, I want you to consider the possibility of text-supported discussions.  Teaching your kids to type their discussion increases the depth of learning as well as finding time for applied typing practice.

Looking for a controlled way to have kids show what they know?  Want a snappy formative assessment?  Try Kahoot. 

Want to get a full on chat room going?  Use Today's Meet to make sure you can control the content and the archive of the chat.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sketching for #STEAM in Second Grade

Checking in with my second grade team, I discovered they are on the cusp of 3 long experiments about stages of life.  They will be growing beans, hatching chicks, and watching caterpillars become butterflies.
In class, they record daily observations in a science notebook writing a description as well as sketching what they see.
In tech class we got started with Paper and Skitch.  The kids were creating detailed and annotated digital sketch in under 30 minutes.
To prep for this I loaded Paper on the ipads, and gave thanks that all the drawing tools are free now, and made sure Skitch was also in place.
Then I grabbed 4 mostly dead plants from the staff lounge.  Thankfully each 2nd grade classroom also had a few plants or silt plants to sketch.  I did have to talk about the difference between representational drawing and imaginative drawing.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Scratch Jr, Now Free for Android!

There is something beautiful that happens when great apps are no longer locked into one platform.  I am super excited that all my android wielding friends will now get to use Scratch Jr with their students.
Why is Scratch JR awesome?
This brings the power of content supporting programming to grades K and 1.  The camera import function means you can transform seat work style worksheets into interactive programming lessons.  Once you get your students creating presentations, dialogues, and skits in Scratch JR, you will be amazed at the power of programming as a formative assessment tool.

Still not convinced?  Check out these videos about Scratch JR and lesson ideas.  If you have been lamenting your device and feeling left out of the most exciting thing to hit coding for the pre-reading crowd, get off your apps and install this amazing tool!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Meet Codie, a New Robot

From the perspective of a K-5 tech teacher, this is an exciting time.  Everyday new tools come to market.  The newest robot I know of is Codie.

Codie looks like it will be easy for kids to program and one of the first functions they highlight is the ability to program it to dance.  
Overall, I am pretty excited to see how Codie can support learning in technology and other classes.  With the accelerometer and gyroscope I wonder if the data is exportable.  If it is I could see using Codie in science and math class.

The coding interface looks like a flow chart, and I wonder how quickly my kids will take to it.  

Checkout their Indiegogo campaign and be the first to get your hands on the wood-trimmed robot!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tickle App Brings Blockly to Sphero!

If you have an Ipad and a Sphero, download this free app now.

Tickle brings the power of block-based programming to the world of connected toys and this is great news for teachers.  As a K-5 programming teacher, I want my students to study programming in a variety of contexts and Tickle puts programming in the middle of my classroom, flying through the air, rolling on the floor, even controlling the lights in the room.
Tickle is a powerful programming studio that lets students control robots using a visual language that is familiar to them.  Resembling Scratch, Hopscotch, and Blockly, Tickle is a quick start app for my students.    
I really enjoy seeing students develop a greater understanding of programming and the world around us as they experiment with robots, discover variables, or learn about the "magical" use of broadcast to launch a quad copter.
Tickle is brand new on the app store, so please give them some love, write a review, and connect with the Tickle team on social media.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Join me at CUE in Palm Springs

I am excited to be presenting at the annual CUE conference in Palm Springs.  I have a pretty full speaking schedule, with 4 great group presentations.  If you are at the conference, join the conversation about creativity, learn how making puppets changes lessons, or just stop by to get some hands-on time with robots.
Whether you are looking to add new tools to your tool kit, or a sure fire way to avoid Burnout and boredom find time to talk with us, we will get you making more than a difference.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Digital Learning Day March 13 AND BEYOND!

Wokka, my dear friend from the Edupuppets was hard at work this week while I worked on my rank in Star Wars Commander.  He wants everybody to dream big for Digital Learning Day!  Get off you Apps and do something spectacular!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Programming in Primary

This post is in support of a workshop I am presenting at the Head Royce School in Oakland as part of the NAIS Regional Conference.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Progressive Programming In Primary

I am so excited to be presenting at SVCUE this weekend.  We are talking about progressive pedagogy and programming.  We are also playing with Robots.
Why progressive? We are cutting with both edges of that one.  We will talk about building skills year over year with spiraling skill based lessons.  We will also be talking about how coding as a mode of expression can empower students to become creators, not just consumers of digital texts.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

App Smashing STEM in 3rd Grade

Here is a lesson we did in 3rd grade.  WE have made puppet pals movies before and used Skitch before, so I am hoping this is a smooth experience focused on science and not tech!

Today we think about FORCE.  We are going to use these photos to make diagrams of force using SKITCH.    


1. Choose one of the below images and save your image by clicking and holding on the image.
2. Open Skitch
3. Select image
4. Put arrows on the image to show where forces are
5. Save image to your camera role
6. Create a short Puppet Pals movie explaining the forces 
      Import your image as a background and use a character as narrator
7. Upload it to the blog.

Here is a sample 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Programming a History Simulation in Scratch

This is a challenge we are working on in fourth grade.

The gold rush was an exciting and dangerous time.  Fortunes as well as lives were made and lost. Your challenge is to design a simple 2-3 screen game that captures the drama of the real history of the gold rush.
You will be programming in Scratch and you will share your final game in our class studio.

The game should be some sort of a historical simulation.  Let's consider a game that was first produced in 1974.  (The was the year Sam was born).  Spend a LITTLE time and play the game below.  While you play I want you to think about what the game is asking you to do and how it is teaching you things about the Oregon Trail.

You can create or design backgrounds or characters in other programs if needs be.  Be mindful of the time you have and make it a priority to finish a playable game.

If you think you could successfully remix another Scratch game, you may.

Do I have Low Expectations?

I know the adage about students rising to our expectations.  I also know that the hard thing about expectations is that they can be culturally based.  My biases, which I believe I am aware of, shape my behavior more often than I know.
So I am not doubting myself, but checking myself.  Have I once again acted on bias unknowingly?  What I am thinking about this morning wasn't big deal.  Yesterday's lesson was quicker and better than I could have guessed or planned.
Before you warn me about looking a gift horse in the mouth, and I acknowledge a good lesson is something to be grateful for, I was surprised in my lesson yesterday and I want to know more about that.
This is the lesson.  When I started class I honestly had no idea how long it would take.  I knew I had just UNDER 45 minutes.  (being a specials teacher is really the high hurdles of teaching, when I taught high school that was century running) So I told the teachers that this could take 2 class sessions.
I walked the kids through my expectations.  We had used Hopscotch before so I did no instruction about the platform.  There were a couple students who complained we were not using scratch.  I love this because the next lesson is modeling 2 systems interacting and we will be doing that in Scratch.  I asked the kids to sketch what they were doing to make as a rough draft on paper. This helps get students moving on the program because they know what they are trying to do.
It wasn't 10  TEN   minutes before I had kids telling me they were done.  So we checked the functionality, I suggested improvements and they went back to work.  For the record, they nailed it the first time. They WERE done.
Some students needed 40 minutes and others needed 30, and everybody got something done.

I am still not sure if I set the bar too low.  I was impressed by what they were able to do.  I want success to be within reach of everyone and I want all kids to be engaged and challenged.  Almost all of the done early kids went on to improve and revise or completely corrupt their program.
How do you hold yourself accountable?  How do you check your expectations?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Modeling Photosynthesis with Hopscotch in 5th grade

I have talked with some teachers recently about using programming to model systems.  This is great and super duper common core thinking as a way to demonstrate understanding. This is the text I am putting in front of my fifth graders today in STEM class.  I will update with pictures after class. 
______________________________________ _______
One of the ways we can demonstrate how well we understand a system is to create a simulation of that system.

Our Guiding Question
What are the significant parts of the system of photosynthesis?  How do they relate?

Getting Started
Begin by sketching the system you want to animate.  Think about which pieces need to move and change and which will stay motionless?

Take it to the Tablet
You will be using Hopscotch to animate a model of photosynthesis.  I suggest you investigate the emoji keyboard for the sun, rain, plants, flowers and arrows.

Your model needs to clearly show how photosynthesis works.  Be sure to get your basic functionality down first, and then make it more complex.

Let's see what they came up with:

How to Rock your ADE Application

March 2 is the deadline to apply for this cohort of Apple distinguished Ediucators.  The awesome crew at the TechEducator Podcast interviews Jon Corippo, a distinguished ADE, about the process and how to be successful.  (spoiler, it comes down to doing awesome work, creating an application that answers the prompt, and having the courage to apply)

So get your links in order and share your tech journey with the great folks at Apple.  for more information and the link to apply, click here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Blogging Changes Classrooms

Blogging in the classroom was a watershed discovery for me.  I had such an acute need for a better way to manage my student’s writing.  I was wary of blogging.  There are challenges to helping student learn in an online community.  Until I met Matt Hardy from KidBlog, I viewed these risks as too big to manage on my own.  I believe that as a teacher I have to both innovate and protect my own professional reputation.  When I heard Matt talk about how he created KidBlog to support exactly the kind of connected learning I want to happen in my classroom.  In fact it is the type of learning I want to see in every classroom.
Learning that students are invested in; learning that students want to share. If I had a magic wand I would make writing its own subject at the high school level, and even lower.  
So often we ask kids to write about literature and literature only.  We confine writing to English class, and we don’t capitalize on the metacognitive power of writing.  Since I don’t have a magic wand, I am thankful for all the great teachers who have helped me along the way.  Blogs are becoming more popular than ever, and now you can get started on Kidblog through this great step by step guide by Jeff Bradbury.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

OzoBot, a Robot that Follows Written Commands

When I first heard of the Ozobot, I had trouble figuring out where I could use it in my coding curriculum.  The robot uses 2 different programming modes, one follows just written lines on paper.  There is also an app for ios and Android uses flashing dots to send programs to the robot through it's optical sensors.
I set up a small station to explore the Ozobot during my K-3 robots and programming after school club.  I was nervous just because the robot is small and little kids make a huge mess with markers.  At the end of the class, my robot was still awesome and the kids had marker on their arms clear up to their elbows.
My biggest challenge with tech is to make sure the activity remains social.  I was surprised with how quickly the kids when from sharing the robot to working together.  They asked for tape so they could connect the maps they were drawing.
I will be the first to admit that my kids left some of the higher level functionality of the robot untouched, but this was their first session.  In later sessions they explored the apps and started trying to draw the commands on paper.  This is a little challenging for the youngest ones, they don't have the motor control needed. 

I am excited about the Ozobot because it is a fun way to really get into thinking about robots and programming.  Can I imagine how they might develop this robot overtime?  Yes.  I think that adding a tab;let-based visual programming interface would make it easier to further integrate this robot into some amazing STEAM lessons.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Math and Differentiation in Kindergarten

The first thing I was struck by when I moved from teaching high school English to elementary tech was how many learning tools are used in a kindergarten classroom.  Learning is truly multisensory and touch is leading the charge.  This week I got to see math manipulatives in action. In technology class I have been working with the kindergarten students on making good movies about learning and reflection.  The plan for the day was to continue making "Letter Movies" where they are assigned a letter and they have to find things in the room that begin with that letter.
When I got to class, Tali, the teacher, asked if we could do some math practice at the end of the lesson.  I told her that if she had math that we could film we could make it the focus of the lesson.  In no time she had the kids circled up and was walking them through the math film and learn activity.  in groups of 3 they were adding using plastic spiders, plastic bears, bingo chips, and more.  The students had a number chart they referenced to know how to write the numbers correctly and they were grouped in like-ability groups. What really surprised me was how wide their skills ranged.  One group on the floor was adding 4 and 5 digit numbers.  In addition to the math rods they had a couple of thousands blocks!.
So in the room we have kids that can add 4 digit numbers, as well as those that cannot write a 5 facing the right direction.  
In each group there are 3 roles:
1. Doing the math: writes the problem and gets the correct math manipulatives out
2. Checking the math, watches #1 closely and helps if needed
3. Filming the math, as they work the camera person records them.  The camera focuses on the paper and the manipulatives.
In the end we have differentiated math practice groups and we could review the movies and see how they are doing independantly.  We had 8 groups and 2 adults working in the room, so each group got intermittent attention during the lesson.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Why Schools Need Specialists and Coaches

Click and wait, is that on the standards?  There is something going on with the router, or the WAP.  It is bad.  This is the opposite of the work I love to post.  This is me prepping for an hour before a forty minute class because the iPads are taking a minute and a half each to set up.  All I am doing is opening a browser, navigating to a page, and logging them into a profile.
If the students were older I could ask them to log in, but with my 3rd grade class this would mean losing 10 minutes of the all too short 45 minute class.
There isn’t much to do about the slowness of the internet.  The router will be replaced in the coming weeks, and if past performance is any indication, the problem piece of equipment will change.  This is the daily struggle of interdependent factors that make the position of tech integration specialist necessary.  Someone has to be available to do all of the extra prep and recovery from all of these great technology related assignments.
If I want the 3rd grade to use the website Storyboardthat.com, I need to set up accounts several days before class and on the morning of class I need to get each iPad signed in to the right account.  Following the class I have to work with the teacher to make a selection of the work visible on their public blog.  This is not an extraordinary amount of work to do for one tech rich lesson.  Accounted out, it might be as much as 10 minutes per student overall, start to finish.  (10 min x 48 students = 480min= 8 hours).
As a trained English teacher I am very good at noticing how many minutes per student a lesson requires in prep and recovery/ response.  Honestly it is a metric that sometimes kills assignments.  Often it is not the class time that is lacking, but the out of class prep time.
This prep and recovery time is often invisible to anyone not in the classroom daily, and it is the very reason we need tech integration specialists and STEM coaches.  Teachers need a partner that can not only inspire them to try new modes of learning, but a pedagogical partner to take on part of the load.
The "prep metrics" even encourages specialists to teach a limited number of tools and interfaces over the course of the year as each one requires different enrollments and support.  When I am evaluating tools I want ones that work in a 3 year age range, so I can build lessons over time from one year to the next.
Great teaching requires budgeting time like this and when something takes longer than we thought it would, we have to re-budget time.  This is when I start feeling stress, it is 8 in the morning and I might not have enough time to get the tech ready before the kids walk in the door for tech class.

This makes me think about all the teachers out there doing tech integration alone, the teachers making bold changes to their instruction without a support network of specialists in their school.  What it comes down to is that if schools want teachers to innovate, they have to provide the support needed to make that happen.  More often than not this support isn't training, it is time.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Writing and the California Common Core K-5

We have been talking standards recently on my K-8 private school campus.  We are trying to figure out where we are hitting the mark and if we are neglecting any fundamentals.  This is especially challenging in the lower grades where all of the standards are the responsibility of the classroom teacher. 
So much of working with the standards involves understanding the work we are doing in class in terms of the language used in the standards. In our staff discussion we came to the question, are we covering the needed standards in terms of writing and technology?
So I sat down with the Common Core as adopted by California and looked at the K-5 standards.  Here is what I noticed.
Technology is mentioned under “production of writing” as early as Kindergarten.  “ With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing”  This standard is the same for grade K-3.  This standard is met in many ways in grades K-3, from making videos, to composing labelled pictures, to creating an interactive scene in Scratch Jr.   When we use tools like Google docs or Drive we are meeting this standard.  Even messaging each other in Minecraft can meet this standard.
Image by Wes Fryer PhD
In fourth grade the standard expands to include “Using the internet” and typing a full page at a single seating. (appx 6.25 words per minute) In fifth grade the typing standard rises to 12 wpm.
Collaboration with peers and digital publishing are both met through our use of Google docs and when we ask students to read each other’s work and respond or contribute.

My take away is that writing needs to be able to connect to multiple audiences in the class and even beyond class.  When we use Google docs, we are using collaborative writing tools.  The greater challenge in the standards seems to be the one that asks us to “write routinely over extended time frames”

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Programming a Parrot Mini Drone with @TickleApp

Minidrones in the classroom? Does anyone else hear the "Christmas Story" refrain? Well, despite the fact that I am a little afraid that we might put an eye out, we are hitting the "Take Off" button and launching our robotics and programming work into the air. 

I don't want you to think I rushed into this.  I have been avoiding drones for months.  But suddenly, as a beta tester of the Tickle App, I have access to a platform that lets me program the drone with a block-based programming language.  The Tickle app works with both Sphero and Parrot Rolling Spider Drones, to bring the connected toy potential to it's highest point yet.
What does this look like?  We are adding a programmable tool to our toolbox.  Using the drone-specific programming blocks I was able to quickly launch the drone and land it, which was more success than I had the first time I manually flew it.
I was able to set the program up in 2 parts using the broadcast and receive event tags.  Once I understood how this worked I moved the broadcast event trigger to a collision sensor on a Sphero.  I was about to send a signal from the Sphero to the drone, causing it to launch, flip over, and land.  
I will be using the drones in my after school programming and robotics club (grade 4-6)  I don't plan on using these with the k-3 kids yet, if I do it will be very guided.  Seriously, you will put your eye out.

Here is the first drone pic of the K-3 club, they loved it

Global School Playday #GSPD

Learning in a playful community makes it easier for our brain to create new connections and process information. The trust needed and built in play pays huge dividends in learning.
Are you brave enough to play?  Looking to celebrate your students and have a day of community building learning?  You should check out the Global School Play Day.  Make a commitment to play based learning on Feb 4.
I am a big fan of play, but I am nervous about the no devices rules, I wonder if there is a robot exception?