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, 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.