Monday, May 26, 2014

Coding for Fun and Critical Learning

There are so much talk and so many options out there to get students interested in coding.  Why should students learn to code?  Simple - it builds critical thinking functions. As a former junior high teacher, I would have loved students come into my classroom with the ability to make independent decisions and feel they had the ability to step "outside the box."  I always believed that ability was there, the students just didn't understand the functions to access it.  Coding is one way to build that necessary thinking.

Here are two coding apps that students will really enjoy.  One is for younger students, the other is geared for high school.  Adults of any age who want to see what coding is all about would enjoy both.  Both were introduced through Imagine K12, an education start-up incubator located here in Silicon Valley.

Kodable: Programming geared for little ones (5 years and up, and adults like me).  It's currently iPad only, but should be web-based and Android by Fall.  There is a teacher dashboard with 105 self-guided levels for kids to enjoy. Basic is free, upgrades will cost.


CodeHS: Full computer programming curriculum for high school students. Students should be designing their own games within a year. They even have tutors available.  Free to try, with a basic individual subscription of $25/mo.

These are just two worth looking at.  If you use others, please let us know!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Creativity Apps for iPads that Primary Teachers Love

I had fun working with teachers this week at an iPad workshop.  The focus was creativity, including a discussion of ways to integrate technology with CCSS.  Both elementary and primary teachers were engaged in learning about the apps and how to use them in their classrooms, but it was the primary teachers who really got into the process.  

Below are the four apps that primary teachers loved.  They used all in building "student samples" and teacher presentations.  Their focus were science related (life cycle of the Painted Lady butterfly, for example). Check out these tools - as you can see, the theme here is simple and fun...

Tellagami - short animated videos
Haiku Deck - simple fun presentations (web-based too!)
Adobe Voice - storytelling that is fun and easy
Story Creator - create beautiful storybooks

All these apps allow for emailing links and copy of URL as forms of sharing.  Haiku Deck and Adobe Voice have thousands of beautiful images available for you to use.  My teacher test-sample loved that feature.  All allow you to pull in your own images.

Use these apps to...
  • have a character tell their story
  • have a person from history share their claim to fame
  • have a cell, plant or planet in the background and discuss its features
  • recite a famous poem or speech
  • write own poem to share
  • discuss a period in history
  • show proficiency in a foreign language
  • share geometric shapes in real life
 All these apps are free,  If you have a creativity app you just love, let us know!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Google Cultural Institute - Global Teaching at Your Fingertips

My job affords me the opportunity to speak to parents about raising good digital citizens. My goal is to highlight what's positive about their children being "online". Young people can learn more about their interests, develop better communication skills, and become more familiar with new and developing technologies. They also have the awesome opportunity to learn about other cultures and viewpoints. One site they can use for that is Google Cultural Institute.

Check out this video for a quick look at what GCI can do.

As a teacher, this site has unlimited uses in your classroom.  Your students can tour some of the most respected art and history museums in the world.  They can compare works side-by-side, zoom into art pieces so close you can see brushstrokes, and tour the museums as if you were there.  

Art instructors can use this site for virtual tours, analysis of works, and studies of artists. Other teachers should consider visiting this site when studying the Holocaust, women, Greek culture, wars, industry or specific time periods.  There are exhibits featuring Anne Frank and Nelson Mandela.  After a few minutes scrolling through the galleries, any teacher should find something to use in lessons.

I appreciate Google using their powerful resources to bring students opportunities to learn more about the world around them.  The Google Cultural Institute and the Google Art Project are two ways we can better understand the issues that frame our world, and the cultures that make our society so diverse and rich.  

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Comic Creation using Google Slides

While researching fun, creative strategies for a Chromebook integration presentation, I ran across this informative video by Eric Curts.  Eric demonstrates how to use Google Slides to create comic strips.  

Once you see how simple it is to create comic strips, your students won’t need to use more costly comics applications. Just watch the first 20 minutes or so of the video to get the gist of the process, check out his resources, share key steps with your students, then turn them loose. 

Use copyright-friendly scenes for background, clipart images for characters (use the png format for a transparent background), and callout shapes for dialogue.  Add the “slide to right” transition between slides to simulate reading an actual comic. Of course, they can ratchet up the creativity with student-created characters that they draw, cut out, take pictures, then insert.

Using Comics in Class to:
  • illustrate a concept from class.
  • retell a story
  • reenact a famous scene
  • create an autobiography
  • explain vocabulary

This is one of those strategies that give students opportunities for choice, creativity and to work with others.  It’s one of those “show what you know” activities that pushes them to higher levels of learning.  In addition to your subject matter standards, comic creation also meets your common core writing standards.

Think about how you can use comic strips in your classroom. I think your students will have fun creating comics to share with classmates and their families. Consider posting them on your class website or blog to share with a broader audience.

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