Tag Archives: #edtech

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? 

New Goals for a New School Year!

The start of school has been extremely busy this year! Before we get too far into September, I wanted to record some of my goals for the 2013-2014 school year.

After finally finishing my room setup, I realized that I actually have visual representations of all six of my goals displayed around my room. The first, on-going goal I have is to continue creating and facilitating global learning opportunities for my students.

global ed

Last year, I was able to set up a few different Skype exchanges with New Zealand, Alaska, and Minnesota as well as some collaborations through projects around social studies and science explorations. I hope to expand those projects this year and introduce more tools to students that they can use for global collaboration. I really want to help establish the idea that technology can be used as a tool for meaningful learning and exchange across the globe.

Related to that goal, I hope to use my Google Glass (won via the #IfIHadGlass competition) to connect my students with other students around the world. I recently launched The Global Google Glass Project, inviting teachers to sign their classes up to participate in a variety of projects that would take advantage of the first-person perspective of Glass. Additionally, I want to push myself to use Glass consistently throughout the year as a tool for documentation to capture moments of student learning and discovery each day. You can check out more of my exploration with Glass on my Tumblr.

google glass bulletin board

Of course, if I’m asking my students to use the Internet to connect and collaborate with others around the world, I need to be talking with them about digital citizenship. I used parts of the Commonsense Media curriculum last year but this year I want to spend a lot more time discussing topics like: staying safe online, how to search the web effectively, and understanding the Creative Commons. To help with this, I’ll be using the Commonsense Media elementary school digital citizenship poster, who we have named Danielle the Digital Citizen, to personify the qualities of a good digital citizen and make these ideas more relatable for my young students.

digital citizenship bulletin board

In addition to being digital citizens, I’m hoping my students will become Makers, who Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager define as “confident, competent, curious citizens in a new world of possibility.” I’m starting an afterschool Maker Club for my Kindergarten – 2nd Grade students to provide them with more opportunities to be exposed to tools, projects, and ideas that encourage creating, tinkering, and making. I’m excited to have this time to introduce materials like Makedo and Little Bits and also let students guide me in designing new projects and researching new tools. Outside of the club, when possible, I hope to also integrate making into the classroom when it connects to the curriculum or the technology projects we’re engaged in this year.

Maker Bulletin Board

I’m also striving to increase my knowledge of iPad deployment, integration, management, and training this year, as we introduce twelve iPads in our Pre-K class and one in each of our kindergarten classes. I had a few iPads to share last year across all of the classes I work with but I think having them in these classes full-time will create a different experience. I want to continue exploring quality app review sites and rubrics and learning more about how to adapt the SAMR model as a framework for iPad integration in early childhood. My goal is to help the iPads become a seamless addition to each classroom as a tool for creation, collaboration, and communicating new ideas or reflecting on things that were just learned.

Maker Bulletin Board

Finally, although this is probably a guaranteed outcome if I work towards the five goals above, I want to make professional growth an ongoing goal this year. Last year I participated in a few MOOCs for the first time and attended or presented at some new conferences. I want to make sure that in all of the busyness of the school year and my new projects, that I still carve out time to develop professionally and stay current with new tools and approaches to tech integration.

I think one of the most valuable things you can do as an educator is participate in groups or activities that inspire and push you to grow and continue learning and doing/making. With that in mind, I hope to attend at least one new conference this year, submit some presentation proposals, read at least one new book in my field, and participate in some online communities and/or MOOCs around my goals.

I think that’s enough for one school year! Now, it’s time to get busy with the actual implementation piece.

inspiration to grow

What are your goals for this school year?

Do you have any tips or resources to help me meet mine?

The CMK Series – Part 1

After taking a hiatus to facilitate a PD institute at my school, start exploring my Google Glass, attend Constructing Modern Knowledge (CMK) and most recently have my wisdom teeth removed – I’m finally taking time to publish my blog posts!

July has been jam packed, primarily because it began with me heading off to new adventures in New Hampshire for the CMK Institute. If you haven’t heard of it before, CMK is an amazing professional development opportunity for anyone interested in making, electronics, Project-Based Learning and Reggio-inspired classrooms … or simply anyone looking for a new learning experience that will push you to think outside the box!

robot_poster

There are too many takeaways from #CMK13 for me to fit them all into one post so I’m going to break them into a couple of reflections. To start, I want to focus on time.

Time was a unique variable at #CMK13 because it was both a constraint and a mobilizer. Time was specifically scaffold to support discovery, meaning that “project development” was a core part of the institute program. Instead of spending time sitting in sessions, waiting for things to begin, or listening to lectures, time was dedicated to learning through doing. With this freedom, we were inspired to let go of our worries about making every minute productive and soaking up as much knowledge as possible from other experts. Instead, we were able to construct our own knowledge by inviting experts to engage with us when we needed their support and utilizing a plethora of resources and materials available for everyone to use.

Time became a mobilizer, that empowered us to use it as we wanted. We could start and stop our work as needed, taking time to pause and reflect, to furiously scour the web for ideas, to “gossip” with new friends or old colleagues, and to play with burgeoning ideas that we hadn’t yet fully formed or understood. Having the opportunity to decide and schedule things as simple as meals made time feel more flexible at #CMK13, it was something that we could mold and shape in the same ways we were molding and shaping the new projects we would create.

Interestingly enough, we were also constrained by time. The looming Friday deadline, when we would need to present our project and ideally have something concrete to show for all of our work and time spent on project development, put a certain amount of strain on everyone. There was concern and worry about having something meaningful to show and being successful in producing what we had set out to make. As most of us work in education, things like grades and assessing achievement came to mind.

Luckily, I think CMK achieves a delicate time balance. Time is enough of a constraint to push participants to actively engage and dive into something they might have otherwise avoided or put off (e.g., learning to program an Arduino or make a cardboard robot). Yet it’s flexible enough that participants begin to realize they can actually redefine success and that while it can be nice to have a “finished project” for the last day, the project can be something that’s completely different than what was originally envisioned. For example, a group that started out thinking about how 9 month old babies could complete circuits ended up creating an interactive crib with a possible build-in camera, light up (zombie) doll, and other awesome features!

Reflecting on my #CMK13 experience, I want to consider how this delicate time balance can be achieved in the classroom and other makerspaces with young children. With constraints like grades and deadlines, how can we make students comfortable enough to try something new and empowered enough to take risks? My school works on a 12 day cycle which makes scheduling a challenge and consistency difficult for both students and teachers. Is the best workaround to have a Maker Club after school that works outside those time boundaries and can allow for the time constraint (club meeting) yet mobilizing (freedom to make and try anything, week after week) balance?

What Most Schools Don’t Teach … And I’m Determined to Learn

At the beginning of both 2012 and 2013, I named learning to code as one of my goals for the year. Recently, I have been exploring new ways to accomplish that goal and I wanted to share them in case others would find them useful too!

In the past, I have explored parts of Codeacademy and TryRuby. Unfortunately, my participation on both of those sites was too sporadic to really teach me very much, so I have been looking into other ways to learn coding.

This spring, I spent more time engaging with Scratch because I hope to introduce it to my students next year. As I mentioned in January, I have been using the Super Scratch Programming Adventure book to guide my learning. Participating in the MIT Learning Creative Learning MOOC has also helped me to try new projects and actually publish one of my own on the Scratch website. I think having a resource like the Scratch book that I can carry around and explore at my own pace, one that’s engaging and asks me to create something with a purpose (e.g., a functioning game) has helped me to learn more of the program. Having the MOOC community has also made a difference because I have been exposed to a group of people engaged in similar work and willing to post their own work and share ideas. Finally, the hope of using this with my students has been a big motivator in helping me persevere with Scratch.

But what if you’re not looking to learn Scratch? Luckily, I’ve also found some other great resources recently to learn coding that have similar supports. One of them is joining local Meetup groups that supports tech learning and offer coding classes. There are actually a couple of groups in my area and they seem to collaborate together or at least announce events for one another so that I have an opportunity to learn almost any coding language I’d like by attending one of their classes. Unfortunately, some of them are pricey (at least for coding newbies on a tight budget) and they are also often on weekends, which can be a challenge sometimes.

Still, I recently attended a Python class and really loved it! I had no previous experience with Python and after a day long session on a Saturday plus a few hours Friday night, I really felt like I had a foundation for working with the language. I still need to work on learning all of the syntax rules but the logic makes much more sense and I was exposed to some great, free resources, like CodingBat and OpenHatch Wiki. Being in a room full of other learners and facilitators (who were very willing to help and problem-solve!) and having such a large block of time dedicated to learning Python, really made it manageable to dive into the language. Now, I need to get back to Codeacademy to practice and start trying to apply my knowledge!

After winning a contest on Twitter for a free class on Codagogy.com, I also took a two week course with them on the basics of HTML. As they define them it, Codagogy offers “Online collaborative web development courses.” where you can “Learn to code in a small group of like-minded women.

codagogy html image

I have picked up bits and pieces of HTML over the years working on my own websites and projects but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I still learned a lot from the basics course. There were answers to little questions that I had always wondered about and wonderfully clear yet concise screencasts about the how-to’s and why’s about things like getting your own domain, finding a server, and adding alt tags to images.

Codagogy in 60 seconds from Susan Buck on Vimeo.

My favorite part of Codagogy courses is how they are structured. You join a two week course but assignments/exercises are only distributed on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, so the work is not overwhelming and is gently introduced. There are also deadlines and points you can gain from completing exercises to help keep you motivated and on-track. This is something I found I struggle with on more free-form sites like Codeacademy. Plus, there are little quizzes at the end of each exercise where you’re asked to check your understanding and also apply your knowledge, so you can walk away feeling confident about what you’ve learned and your ability to use your new skills.

Finally, you are in the course with a limited number of other participants and you have access to a course forum where you can meet/greet those other women, ask questions, and share ideas or resources. This community aspect really brings it all together and makes Codagogy a great  but flexible space to learn new coding skills. Best of all, their courses are very affordable and if you refer friends, both you and they, get $17 off!

codagogy css basics logo

I’m excited to start my next Codagogy course, CSS Basics! In an effort to get more women coding, Codagogy has kindly offered two codes to give away for a free Codagogy class. Even if you’re not looking to code right now, you can sign up for their class on SEO or get notified when Photoshop for the Web is ready.

Enter to win a free class!