Category Archives: Tech Tools

Using Tech to Ground & Engage Your Classroom

Often times, technology is touted as either a solution to the problems in education or a growing concern we need to address as students spend more and more time in front of a screen. I want to touch on the idea of tech as neither a solution or a concern, but simply a tool, and a great one to have in your classroom when you want to create a positive environment.

I have found technology to be invaluable tool in helping me keep track of tasks,  organize my schedule, and maintain a good work-life balance as an educator and a professional. Apps like Lift, Headspace, Wunderlist and Supercal, provide support in building new habits, meeting goals, being more mindful and keeping track of everything that’s involved with coordinating technology at my school. I think it’s important to introduce similar, developmentally appropriate, tools to our students to help them see how they can use technology as a tool in their school and home lives to stay healthy and organized.

GoNoodle Brain Breaks

Hurdle Stretch

Stretching Before the 100M Hurdles

I recently learned about a new tool called GoNoodle that offers a variety of free brain breaks that you can use in the classroom. It’s ideal for elementary students but I think some of the activities could be used with middle or even high school classes that need a break or some exercise. One of the things I love about the tool is that it provides different types of breaks (e.g., calming, energizing, focusing) and most of the activities range between 2-5 minutes long. This means that I can easily squeeze a GoNoodle activity into my Maker Club agenda after school or even during a short thirty-minute tech time with students.

Since GoNoodle is web-based, I can access it from any computer, regardless of what classroom I’m in and it really seems to help students get ready for work, especially after recess, when they’re a bit wound up, or at the end of the day when they’re starting to feel tired.

GoNoodle allows you to set up a classroom (or multiple classes if you teach more than one) and choose a Champ to act as your class character/avatar. The champs grow as your class completes more activities, motivating students to participate and try new brain breaks.

Champ_1

GoNoodle has been particularly helpful with my Maker Club students because at ages 5-8, they’ve already had a long day when they come to see me after school and as much as they want to dive into making, they’re often feeling restless, wiggly, and tired. We often do activities with Maximo, who guides the students through yoga poses and helps them focus, or we do one of the Zumba activities to get everyone up and moving! If you have a longer block of time or indoor recess (we have had a lot of them this winter!), you could easily combine a few activities together and get closer to increasing your class champ level.

Using GoNoodle Video

Since I have also been exploring mindfulness for the past year, I really appreciate the “Airtime” break because it helps my students gain an awareness of their breath and take time to just breathe. A number of classes at my school have started using GoNoodle for brain breaks and I’m excited to see each class grow their own champ and begin to develop their favorite brain breaks, just like they have favorite greetings for morning meeting.

GoNoodle is also running a fun contest this month on Pinterest where every week, a teacher will win a GoNoodle Madness classroom pack! To enter, you can pin an image in this post or anything from GoNoodle.com and then tag your pins with @GoNoodleBreaks and #GoNoodleMadness!

Stop, Breathe & Think

If you want to go deeper into mindfulness with your classroom, the Stop, Breathe & Think app is another wonderful (and free!) app that you can use. It prompts students to first stop and assess how they’re feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally. This is something older students could do independently or younger ones could do with the guidance of a teacher.

You can choose up to five emotions from an extensive list, organized on a spectrum from happy to angry, and then the app provides a list of suggested mediations in response to those emotions. Each meditation is between 3-9 minutes so if you’re short on time, you can always choose a quick one from the list.

The app provides an audio-guided meditation that eases the listener into and out of the meditation with student-friendly language. Similar to leveling up with the GoNoodle champs, you can earn stickers as you complete more meditations in the app. If you can sense a certain mood with a specific student or among your class, you can also go into the app and choose any of the meditations from the list without filling out the self-assessment.

I think the app could be great to use as a whole class in the morning or after lunch and it could also be nice as a center or even for individual use, if you have devices available that a child could take to a corner to find some “headspace” if they’re feeling unsettled.

What kind of brain breaks and activities do you use in your classroom?

Do you have a favorite tech tool you can share to help teachers engage their classroom and create a positive learning environment? 

Why it’s Awesome to Be Hacked … in #TeachTheWeb

The second week of the Teach the Web MOOC focused on remixing. I was excited about this topic because it’s an area I’ve just begun to explore and engage with on the web. It’s interesting how infused remixing is into our daily work as children (e.g., re-making someone’s Lego creation or making  variations of a local building as a fort) or even adults (e.g., remixing a marketing approach to work for your brand) and yet how foreign it can feel when addressed head-on as the focus of an activity or lesson.

When I first thought about what type of project I would remix, I thought it would probably have to be a Popcorn video because the Thimble projects were all personal profiles/bios and they couldn’t really be changed – right?

Then, I joined the the weekly Twitter chat, which began with a focus on remixing. Kevin Hodgson (@dogtrax) asked a great question, “Can (should) we remix anything?” A number of participants discussed the nuances between remixing something with permission and remixing as a form of collaboration versus remixing as appropriation (with and without permission). When someone remixes your work that you’ve asked not to be changed using a Creative Commons license or when someone hacks in and makes changes for their own enjoyment at your loss, remix become a much less friendly word.

In contrast, @dogtrax took a direct request from me about wanting to be remixed and in true #TeachTheWeb spirit, created something awesome and inspiring. He even sent out a tweet and G+ message encouraging other MOOC participants to remix and hack my Thimble introduction. He created the page below using Mozilla’s X-Ray Goggles from the Hackasaurus Toolkit.

thimble-hack-1

And then Doug Waters remixed that remix!

thimble-hack-2

So of course, now inspired, I had to hack a Thimble page of my own! I chose someone from our #MiniMaker G+ Study Group. Here’s my update to Karen Young’s Thimble Intro:

karen_thimble_hack

After being hacked myself, I had a better understanding of the process and how creative I could be in doing it using someone else’s profile. I had a chance to consider how remixing could help me get to know a person better and how it can be an entry point for using a new tool. Similar to my experience remixing a project in Scratch for the #MediaLabCourse I learned more about the X-Ray Googles and what they’re capable of as well as more about Thimble, by remixing. I’m excited to try Popcorn for my next remixing project and to continue thinking about hacking as we move into week 3 of #TeachTheWeb and discussions of the Open Web.