Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Coding in a Winter Wonderland

This post first appeared on FTISEdtech

I was thrilled to get the chance to work on some coding centers with a second grade class, and so impressed with their persistence and hard work.

The kids got a lot of practice with addition, measurement, algorithmic thinking and even a little storytelling.  

These would be great centers to try out any time this winter.


For the centers, you'll need: 
  • At least 6 sets of Dash and Dot Robots
    • Launcher accessories
    • Plow accessories
    • Ping Pong Balls
    • Bunny ears accessories (for Dot)
  • 4-5 Ozobots
  • Large sheets of paper
  • Black, Red, Green and Blue markers
  • Cotton balls
  • Painter's or Masking Tape

The Centers

Center 1: Winter Activities with Scratch JR

In this center students create a winter scene in Scratch JR and then write about their favorite activity using the speech bubble or audio record feature in the program.

I like this basic tutorial from Paul Hamilton about how to use Scratch JR:

Here's an example of a program a student wrote about being in school:

Center 2: Santa's Village

For this simple center, students explore many of the different coding activities on Google's Santa Tracker site.  Here they can check into art, games, and basic block coding activities.

Center 3: Snowball Throw

For this challenge, students code Dash to launch "snowballs" (ping pong balls) through Dot's bunny ears.  They should work in partners with one partner acting as a timer and score keeper while the other partner gets 1 minute to try to get as many points as possible.  Each time a ball goes through or over Dot's ears, they earn 2 points.  Once they get the hang out of how the launcher works, encourage students to try to use the automatic reload feature and to program Dash to "sneak" up on Dot by moving in from different directions and turning. 

Center 4: Winter Scene

With this center you will need Ozobots, markers and paper. Students should draw a simple winter scene for the Ozobot to "explore" and use the different colors to achieve different effects like speeding up and slowing down.

Center 5: Snow Plow

For this center it's nice to have at least two simple mazes made up of straightaways and right angles.  If you have groups of four, it's also nice for each student to have their own Dash to test their program ideas. Explain to students that Dash is automatically set to go 50 cm for each move forward block.  Then show them how they can change that variable. Encourage students to measure the straights so they know how far they should program Dash to go for each distance. 

Check out the directions here:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Design Thinking and 3D Printing

Post used for 3D Printing PD as a resource page.

Have you heard the story about the middle school teacher in Wisconsin who helped to save the life of a duck by making it prosthetic feet or maybe you've heard about the 6th grade students making prosthetic hand a classmate.  

While printing prosthetics may seem unusual, there is no doubt that 3D printing technology can revolutionize problem solving for teachers and students of any age. For example, consider how this Assistive Technology Specialist in Sonoma used 3D printing to design solution specifics to the needs of a student he was helping:
By using Design Thinking strategies and guiding students to empathize with end users and define problems, teachers can turn things over to students to problem solve.  With a simple design process like ICE (Imagine, Create, Evaluate), even elementary aged students can successfully imagine and design solutions.

How can you organize student work?

Consider guiding students through an exercise in 3D printing using tools like Digital Interactive Notebooks built using tools like PowerPoint or Google Slides.  Interactive notebooks, depending on the age of the students, allow you to structure learning so that students can develop a sense of empathy as they work towards defining the problem or need and the constraints that go along with that need. It also provides time for checkpoints and evaluation.  

Check out the examples below:

Design Thinking/3D printing Workshop Notebook


4th Grade Design Wars Project Template

Need more?

Hover over the Thinglink below to see resources.

Friday, November 10, 2017

PBL: Planning for Success ECET2CNKY 2017

What do you think when you hear the word project?  

Top Google search results for "School Projects" returns Pinterest pages of 25 best projects and plenty of science fair projects. Image searches are full of planet models, tri-fold boards, and dioramas. In contrast, ask someone in the business world what they think of when they think of the word project, and you might get a much different answer.

With the rise of Project Based Learning (PBL), we often see much confusion about what it is, and what it isn't.  PBL, Genius Hour, Projects, Service Learning - these are all terms that might be discussed during PLCs, conferences, on Twitter chats, and explored through countless professional readings in the form of books, research papers and blogs.

Designing PBL? Check out some of the Basics:

From format, to planning, to collaboration, to integrating technology in a mindful way, there's a lot to consider before the project begins. 

When designing a PBL experience for your students, it is important to plan ahead, develop your assessments, project calendar and expectations ahead of the project.  BIE has a number of incredible planning tools to help you do that, and you can find excellent ideas at Teach Thought and Edutopia.

A simple planner I have had success with can be found as a Google Slides file.  Choose to copy the document to your Google Drive, and you will be able to add text boxes and information where appropriate. 

Managing the Project in Progress

When it comes to extended inquiry, having a plan for how students will conduct the research, and how they will synthesize it into a project can be aided by formats such as the: Super 3 (appropriate for grades K-2), Big 6 Research (appropriate for grades 3-6), and Guided Inquiry Design (grades 6 and up).  You can encourage students to design their projects using design thinking.  Check out resources from Stanford's d.School or I have developed a model that can be used with elementary students called ICE  -Imagine, Create, Evaluate.

You might consider setting up a self serve area in your classroom that has research sheets, graphic organizers and project materials available.

I have found that using these models is often best supported by putting together a project website, or providing steps and resources on an LMS or using a Digital Interactive Notebook. You can check out this "generic" project notebook by clicking [here] and saving a copy to your Google Drive.

What technology tools or tips and tricks do you have for keeping a project organized and moving forward?

Need Ideas?

There are some great resource out there if you need ideas for projects.  Be sure to see BIE's searchable database or Teach Thought's "A Better List of Ideas for Project Based Learning".

For elementary teachers, you can find ideas that I've tested by searching PBL on this blog or the PBL posts on FTISEdTEch Blog

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Pd While You.... October

Second in my "PD While You..." series.  The image is hung in "strategic" places around schools:)  Originally shared here.

Links to Get You Right Where You Need to Go

  • Make Learning POP! Check out the resources for My BrainPOP.  You will need the code from the print flyer to set up your account.  But you can have your kids making movies just like the real deal BrainPOP videos in no time! Check out this playlist to get you started:

  • Learn how to make a BrainPOP movie here - perfect for letter writing!

  • Gettin Appy With It - Solve Me Mobiles get your students thinking in algebraic terms with fun puzzles
  • Do This Tomorrow! Toontastic 3D is an amazing storytelling tool for kids to use - check out this example my 3 year old made:)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Focused on the Future with Future Ready Libraries #KLAConf17


These materials were for a collaborative presentation built by librarians in Fort Thomas Schools to show the progress we are beginning to make towards supporting students in a future ready way.

Check out our slide deck for Future Ready Libraries to see images of how we are working towards supporting a focused on the future vision.


What ideas do you have or are you doing that fit in each of the areas of a Future Ready Library?  Insert your thoughts on the padlet
Made with Padlet


Hover over the ThingLink below to see links to tools and web pages you might find useful

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Quest to Personalize Professional Learning Begins... #SYD17

From the first day I stepped into my very first library assignment, after 10 years in education, I realized that a million things had prepared me for the moment, but if I was going to leap beyond that moment, I was going to have to take full control of my own learning. 

This was a novel idea to me, as up until this point, I had always been told professionally what to learn based on what initiatives were important to a district and a school. But here I was, the only person in my building in my role, and I had a full school of children ready for something - anything.  

To hold myself accountable and to push my learning in new ways, I began this blog. The Work in Progress page, written in July of 2012, explains that premise, and I took my own learning to heart.  At the beginning of each school year I chose topics and dove in deep to learn everything I could.  I read books, found blogs, and began to connect with people on Twitter.  From topics like using centers in Elementary libraries, to genre-fying a library, to Flipping learning, Makerspaces, PBL and lately Design Thinking, I have expanded my professional toolkit in ways I didn't expect. I learned everything I could about the topic, put it into practice for myself, reflected on my failure here, adjusted my practice, and intentionally signed up to present on these topics to really hold myself accountable in public ways.

Identifying the Problem

Last year I took on a new role as a Digital Learning Coach in my district, with a focus on elementary schools and iPads, and I found that I had to not only invent my position based on the needs of the elementary schools I was working with, but I also had to figure out a way to help other teachers connect to their own learning.  I tried a number of strategies from PLCs, PD in your PJs using Schoology, to morning Tech Tip sessions, to face to face after school PDs, and even newsletters.  But I never really felt like I was helping teachers discover what they needed to improve instructional practice in the 21st Century.

When my district began to explore ways that we were supporting our district vision of fostering an experience that allowed students to be creative, curious, innovative, global leaders, I began to realize that it would help if teachers felt like they were experiencing that themselves.  I spoke with Ginger Webb, our Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction at the time, and said it might help to encourage teachers to identify needs and create more personalized goals that aligned with our vision. She came up with the idea to work with a teacher cohort to try out some different methods.

With this I was off and running.  

Formulating a Pre-Plan
I attended ISTE this year with the idea in mind that I would seek out all I could about edtech coaching and  working towards developing strategies for personalized professional learning. I attended sessions where I learned about ideas that used Pineapple Charts, Sandbox Classrooms that included flexible seating and technology tools that teachers could reserve to try out concepts, PD in your PJs and different models of short PD similar to the 20 minute sessions I was already providing. 

When I got back from ISTE, I had made a few new mental connections and had a reading list as long as my arm to read with Personalized PD in mind, but I knew I was going to need something more. Through some brainstorming and sharing ideas with others, I settled on calling the cohort The Polaris Project.  Our District motto is "Rich in Tradition, and Focused on the Future".  In my mind, Polaris, meaning North Star, traditionally helps provide direction to travelers, and there's also the connotation that to think big we should 'shoot for the stars'.   To me there was no better combination of tradition and forward thinking. I began fleshing out the cohort expectations and put together a flyer for approval.  The idea would be that teachers in the cohort would take a chance at my own model of learning: dive deep into a topic of choice related to the district vision, test it out with their class, and share it.  They would also be working towards Google Level 1 certification and Apple Teacher badges. 

Jumping Into Google

Realizing that I needed a bigger push, I reached out to Donnie Piercey  to ask him about the Google Innovator program.  Donnie had been encouraging me to apply for a while, but the timing just always seemed bad.  I knew I needed to take a leap and just go for it with this problem of personalized professional development in my mind.  After a bit of talking through, with one day left before the due date, I decided to submit my application, believing that I would likely need to apply a number of times before I was accepted.

Innovator Application

In my application I really tried to highlight the idea that I wanted to help teachers develop ideas that would support our district vision.

Application Slide Deck

Application Video

On July 7, 2017 I found out that I was selected to be part of the August Google Innovator Cohort in Sydney, Australia.  My own personal journey in this quest to find ways to personalize professional learning was getting ready to take a new direction.

This is the beginning...