App of the Week – Litsy

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Cost: Free

Size 26.2MB

Version: 1.4.1

Type: like Instagram for books

Litsy is an app discovered by my co-worker that is very much like Instagram for Books. A Book Riot review of the app is called, “If Goodreads and Instagram had a Perfect Baby…” And you would have to agree this app is a great combination of both of these sites.

Litsy speaks to our creative side by allowing us to pose books for photographs.  Using kits and materials in the library (or from home) we feature books in great environments.  If you would like to follow us our name is Open Sesame – Portals to Teaching Resources.  We thought it was very catchy.  Search us by Doucette_Library as well.

Users have a Litfluence score that appeals to students who are gamers to begin with.  Your litfluence score is based on how many people are following you, how much you post and if people are liking what you post.  Although we are not competitive, some students may find an appeal in this aspect of the app.

We are using the app to feature great resources we would love to see in classrooms and to talk about how we can creatively use books to connect to curriculum or to create a great classroom atmosphere.  We get to pick icons that suggest a good pick, so-so, pan or bail.  Ours are mostly picks since we want you to see the resources we really like.  We also get 451 characters to tell you everything you need to know about this book.  That is sometimes a challenge.

The app would also play well in a classroom for students to use to feature what they are reading, if they like it and if they would suggest it to classmates.  So our use of the app is showing you how you could use the app.  A win-win in my opinion.

Read some reviews about the app and join us to see what we are featuring.  The first books I posted were the ones I reviewed recently in a blog post on creating wonder in the elementary classroom. My co-worker has been busy posting back to school finds and some other great resources.

Join us or do some posting yourself or use it in your classroom.  Get the word out about what you are reading or follow us and see what you great resources to pick up for your classroom or practicum.

The app creators are responsive still to feedback on what you would like to change or see added to the app.

Join the fun and visit us on this book-loving social media app.

 

 

The Horizon Report K-12, 2016 (Preview)

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Horizon Report K-12, 2016 Preview

The Horizon Report compiled by the National Media Consortium is the report that names the trends in education that are most important to pay attention to in the coming year, 5 years and 10 years.  It will be published on September 14, 2016 in its entirety but the advance sample or preview is available today.  NMC also collects information for the coming report in a comprehensive wiki and you can join to view the background information.

This Horizon Report will focus again on the adoption of the makerspace model of learning and teaching into classrooms.  It has moved to the “one year or less” category and teaching students seem to be adopting this model through their studies.  Many workshops and ideas are introduced during their time in the teaching program.

The second trend to on-line learning also remains on track for adoption in the next year or so with the continual changes in the open-source resource market.  Many contributing trends are also affected like blended learning where students are responsible for the background work of watching videos and reading resources in non-class time.

Long term trends in education are generally accepted as more evolutionary than revolutionary, happening gradually over time in schools that are creating new spaces for students to learn in.  Because re-designing spaces takes huge budgets, “re-arranging” of learning spaces in more the norm in most school districts. Here, screen installation for collaborative learning areas, and more flexible work spaces are technology use and general group work adaptations schools can make without a large investment of cash.

Another long term trend in education is the “rethinking how schools work”  and this trend addresses the move to a more authentic, multidisciplinary environment for learning. Teacher education is also meshing with the mid-term trends focused on collaborative learning approaches  based on the four principles: “placing the learner at the center, emphasizing interaction and doing, working in groups, and developing solutions to real-world problems.” And the other mid-term student-centered trend delving into deeper learning approaches in the classroom.

It is exciting to see the acknowledgement that coding is a new literacy to be addressed by educators in the short-term and the notion that students are becoming the creators of their learning rather than consumers.  These two notions are coming to the forefront of education practice especially from a teacher education viewpoint.

The report is rich in topics that are so important to our students as they enter or continue their education to become teachers and to practicing teachers who provide mentoring for our students.  More news when the complete report is released next on September 14, 2016.

App of the Week – Osmo Coding

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Cost: Free*

Size: 83.2 MB

Version: 1.1.0

Updated: August 23, 2016

*Keep in mind that because it is an OSMO product, the app is free but you must purchase the initial OSMO genius kit for $129.99Cdn with the base camera deflection equipment and the OSMO coding manipulatives for $69.99Cdn.

I am a real fan of this product.   The genius kit, as mentioned in an earlier blogpost, contains the camera deflection equipment and base for your ipad as well as the tangram, and word set.  The number set is purchased separately.

And, although I love a free app, the continually innovative products that are coming since the OSMO base kit are good value for the 5-12 age group.

For a quick how-to video, my favourite is Antonio’s World, even though the OSMO CEO has also had a kick at the can with a YouTube video on the subject.  Antonio’s script and editing is much tighter than Pramod Sharma’s video and he gets you the information you need to start using your kit fast with a “just the facts” approach.

Now for the app and manipulatives.  I’ve included pictures in order for you to see them rather than have to describe them to you.  Each magnetic instruction card directs Awbie, a strawberry munching monster, to move in a direction at the turn of a dial, walk, jump or grab and pause for second sober thought.  As your directions help him gulp up strawberries singly or from various treasure chests, you gain strength and rewards to acquire items to make the levels easier.  It is very fun to play and I’m sure most 5 year olds would concentrate on the game aspect and not the coding knowledge they are acquiring.  Once you or your students are ten and up, I think the logic of coding languages would be hard to miss.

I am considerably older than the intended audience and the play was fun and engaging even for me.  My coding age is probably six and I am no digital native.  The trial and error way of moving Awbie around is very fun.  It has a very “try again” sense about it without any negative screens  even if Awbie is going in the wrong direction.  If you allow him to step on a  lily pad he does dunk in the water and pop up, unharmed, so you can try again.

I would recommend the whole package of Osmo again as I did in this blogpost.  It is a great investment for a learning centre in your classroom.  There are lots of different processes to work through that focus on a variety of skills.  Learning coding is becoming a new literacy for students and this kit balances learning and fun, especially for the K-6 crowd.

 

 

 

Classrooms in Utopia

It’s late August. Even though I don’t have kids in school anymore or even work in a K-12 school, I still feel the change in the air at this time of year.  Teachers are beginning to, not just dream of what this year will look like, but to implement within their classrooms what “it” will look like.  The definition of “it” differs from teacher to teacher.

I’m hoping teachers are looking at a utopian view of the classroom as laboratory.  A place where students are free to discover learning, sometimes, on their own terms.

I see books and browsing corners to promote curiosity and discovery.  Materials and tools that allow for invention and wonder.  Spaces that honor the hard work of learning and imagination.

Here’s the more difficult part to implement: I also dream of embedded technology.  Educational technology within the classroom that is not “taught” as a separate or unique subject area but is a natural tool that students gravitate to for recording and continuing their learning.  What a great idea! Using what is within your classroom and having enough foundation skills to use an appropriate bit of technology to further each student’s learning.

Using embedded educational technology also assumes that students have enough foundation skills to make good decisions about their learning. For example, using a voice app on an iPad to record a podcast about their research or a digital story.  Creating iMovie snippets to show a process.  Creating a reflection on their learning to include as part of an eportfolio.

Embedding educational technology into a classroom means the collaboration among the whole school community to train and help teachers make good decisions about the technology in their classrooms and to model how to embed technology in their learning.

Administrators may consider some professional development time spent to support teachers or a mentoring model for those with more experience to assist those with less experience.

If you are an education student, consider learning one pivotal educational technology or a few apps that can be used by students to create or document their learning.  Take a step up from being a digital native to being a digital facilitator.

Start now to look at what this utopian classroom looks like for before the on slot in September of all kinds of students.

Picture Books that Promote Curiosity, Imagination and General Wondering

In a departure from the usual technology analysis, I will spend today looking at some new picture books that can be resources and browsers in a K-4 classroom to get kids wondering about the world around them.  These picks are from some recent arrivals in the library and are chosen for high interest and engagement.

What Do You Do With an Idea? and What Do You Do With a Problem? Both by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom.  Interesting juxtaposition of two great concepts – things you need to wonder about. An idea looks like an egg with a crown.  A problem looks like a big swirly, dark cloud.  Is an idea good? Does a problem present an opportunity?

Ideas Are All Around? by Philip C. Stead. How do you begin to write something? Taking a walk with your dog gives you many experiences. Are they worth writing about? What do you notice? Stop War – now there is a good idea.

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The Knowing Book by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Matthew Cordell.  “Know this: there is magic around but it hides.” “Be open to it.” Hone your powers of observation, around you, above you, near you.  Allow your feet to determine where you may journey and notice all there is to explore.

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City Shapes by Diana Murray, illustrated by Bryan Collier.  Notice all that is around you and tie it to some of your knowledge.  Recognize shapes in your environment as a beginning understanding of your world. This book would be a great provocation for a grade 1 photography project.  A way for students to study their community through the lens of a camera or an iPad.

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Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes by Tim Wynne-Jones, illustrated by Brian Won.  S.A.M. (get it?) has a unique view of the world and all the adventures that are to be had.  Discover a unique perspective on shoe shopping by one imaginative boy.

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Use Your Imagination (but be careful what you wish for!) by Nicola O’Bryne.  A typical fairy tale re-telling becomes a whole new story with a little imagination.  Can you change other stories? What would be a more unexpected twist or turn in the stories you are reading?

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Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell and illustrated by Rafael Lopez.  True to life, people in a grey neighbourhood re-imagine it with colourful murals and paintings.  The entire neighbourhood joins in and life is forever changed.  Art changes people.  One person can change a neighbourhood or their school or city or country or the world.

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These are a few picks to invigorate your current classroom library and to engage students in a deeper thinking process.  Igniting curiosity is a game changer.

 

Explaining Empathy

In the process that is Design Thinking, students are asked, initially, to empathize with the problem at hand.  Articulate the problem.  Look at it from different angles. Gain new perspective on the problem.

Empathy is not an easy point of view to take on so, while reading the news the other day, I found an example that really stands out for me.  It so happens that my first cousin is CEO of the Ottawa Hospital and in his position feels that he is responsible to oversee 21st century medical care for those patients and families who are served by the Ottawa Hospital service.  Jack is also married to an amazing cook!  This information will be important soon.  In the Ottawa Citizen article dated July 17, 2016, the managers and CEO of the hospital announced sweeping changes to the food served.  “Interesting,” you may say, “What would prompt these changes?”

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Top level managers including Jack, were given hospital food to live on for a week.  Talk about empathy.  Imagine the distress when you are regulated to eat at 8am, noon and 5pm with no snacks or other treats.  And the food is …less than palatable.  Eggs were referred to by one patient as “a yellow puck of sadness.”  Here, managers experienced exactly what patients see, smell and taste at the hospital.  Now that’s empathy.

No amount of statistical analysis of product vs. waste or photos of suggested meals would have had the same effect that this 5-day experiment had on the outcome.

In many design thinking challenges, students must put themselves in the shoes of the person experiencing the problem to really empathize with the situation at hand.  Tasks that are authentic problems encountered by students are the best fodder for each step in the design thinking process. Students who are close to the problem and can “get in touch” with the experience will have a deeper learning outcome in each phase of the design thinking process.

 

 

Pokemon Go and Students

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Gotta catch ’em all! This blog post is purely an opinion piece because I feel compelled to weigh in on the number of Pokemon Go education related articles that populated my inbox this morning.  And I’m sure some of you will agree with me and some of you will not but that is the risk in having opinions on pop culture.

I, vicariously, experienced all the excitement of Pokemon Go through my son, one of the first generation Pokemon card owners when it was first introduced in North America.  This makes his access to Pokemon Go very interesting.  He owns and pays for his own Smart Phone and I no longer need to know his whereabouts and he is at the age when he can decide to stay out all night to chase Pokemon is he so chooses.  In fact, he lives several miles away in another quadrant of the city.  That makes a huge difference to my opinion.  I can enjoy seeing him search and show me where Pokemon are but I no longer have to accompany him on the journey from gym to gym.

Having said that, he did 14 levels and 18,000 steps in 24 hours during which he also held down a full time job for 8 of those hours.

Please do not make Pokemon Go into an “educational tool!” It doesn’t need to be.  Use other things to create great experiences in school like Geocaching or Nature Walk Journals but leave Pokemon Go for kids in the summer when they are off and can do (sometimes) what they want to do.  Not every app or tech innovation needs to be an educational tool.  Some need to be left to pop culture.

Now there is a public library in the States, dropping lures so that people chasing Pokemon will also enter their library and, perhaps, browse or become patrons but that is another story.

There were also Pokemon at church this weekend.  In fact the church was a Pokemon gym.

So, teachers, leave it alone.  While you are planning to work with it during the school year it is busy whooshing past you giving way to the next cool app.  Leave it for kids to enjoy and those who loved Pokemon the first time around.

As one 20-something mentioned in a news interview, “All of us 10 year old boys were thinking: if this game could be real life…”  I agree, we are all having fun with it so, teachers, don’t touch.

Practicing Design Thinking

Masters and PhD education students are on campus for the next week.  Today they are celebrating the completion of their first week of classes.  In addition to these compact classes, the library tries to offer some PD for them.  This year’s PD is in the form of a three-lunch- hour workshop entitled Think.Design.Make.  Based on the Design Thinking Process and hoping to (in a hurried way) help educators work through an authentic process.

Day 1 – Empathize. Define. Cluster Ideas. Begin to ideate.  Okay that is in one hour with introductions.  Yikes.  As is all workshops, time is a friend and an enemy.  Here’s what we found.

  • Bringing your own problem to solve it much better than working from one chosen from the hat.
  • Empathy is really hard work and it can take more than an hour to empathize with your problem.
  • Working in a group to collaborate and share ideas allows the process to move more quickly and tasks to be done more thoroughly.
  • Sometimes Design Thinking is not a linear process.  Empathy. Define. Clustering of Ideas. And Ideating sometimes happen in a different order or all at one time.

 

Day 2 – We began with the IDEO news story showing the group going through the Design Thinking process to re-invent the shopping cart.

  • We should have shown this on the first day – many people could see the process happening and could relate to the steps.
  • For those who were unfamiliar with the process the video showed the actions associated with the particular vocabulary used in design thinking.

Then participants were asked to re-think their problem and use the information they now knew to change or continue to work on their problem.  Unfortunately, this is where the hard work begins so we had one student who tenaciously pursued his problem but others bailed.

Fortunately, we had a special guest who brought a 3D printer.  Many people talked with him about the benefits of having one at their own school so the time was not wasted.

Workshops are tricky things.  Time, in this case, was our enemy.  We needed to meet people where they were in the process and invest some time with them.  Participants were in the middle of an 8 hour class and this 50 or so minutes was, in essence, their only time “off” during the day.

On the positive side, many of the people who attended tried various kits and were mostly attentive to the process.  Many will take away more of a lesson on Making and Maker Spaces.  That’s okay. It is also time well spent.

Day 3 – ????? Remains to be seen.  Catch up next week with what happens.  I think it will be a big conversation about designing and making in various different school settings but then again, I could be wrong.  My workshop spidey sense is not working at all.

P.S. Later on Day 2, I was invited to a very successful presentation about Maker Spaces by 4 Doctor of Education students.  Their presentation, “Building Knowledge: Maker Spaces” made my heart sing.  These professionals are invested in having educational spaces and content that speaks to every student.  Great job.

Classroom Blogs

Creating a classroom blog is a great way to include students in feedback writing and response journaling.

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You can begin by following other blogs to show examples of content that is of interest to students.  Perhaps get them to share or investigate bloggers that would be of interest to them.  Perhaps model your own blog that shares classroom content and receives comments on various topics that come up in class.

Educblogs and kidblogs websites both allow for educational blogs with a dedicated audience.

Is a blog just a blog?  A blog is not just a blog in the classroom.  It is a forum to voice differing opinions and to model responsible digital citizenship in a curated environment.  It is tempting to say that it provides an arena to learn to fight fair.  Not only to voice your opinion but to authentically listen and respond to others’ viewpoints.  Feedback from the blog will allow for classroom discussion for students in a relatively safe space.  Try not to correct spelling and grammar but look for interesting content to spark discussions.  Allow groups to contribute blog posts during their discussion of various topics.  Although many topics can be open for discussion, one of the most important lessons you are teaching is about the power of words.

Blogging is a tool to teach so much more than using this social media vehicle.  Blogging is literacy, digital literacy, responsible digital citizenship and debate club all in one.

Over the summer or before the beginning of school, start following a few blogs and get a taste for the content.  Notice what works and the presentation of the content.  Show these examples to your students or use what you are seeing to develop a blog for your classroom.

Ms. Cassidy’s Blog and Learning is Messy are two great examples or, dare I say it, google the top blogs in your interest area and see what you find.

 

App of the Week – Lightbot Jr.

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Name: Lightbot Jr.

Price: $3.99

Size: 51.8 MB

Version: 1.6.7

Age: 6-8

Although I am not in the age group suggested for this coding app, I must admit I did enjoy it.  I am also not a gamer but a technology user for education, work and social purposes.  I never thought I really needed to know how to code and I’m not sure Lightbot Jr. will get me coding in any real sense but it does have value.

It is a very highly recommended app for introducing early grade levels to the logic of coding.  It took me a little more than an hour to work through the first of 5 levels of lighting up various squares with increasing complexity and I will admit that my only coding experience is with Daisy the Dinosaur. Lightbot Jr. seemed to be easier. Not as much reading was necessary and trial and error was the name of the game.

In a classroom, this app would be a great addition for all students but I can see it especially attracting the student who is very logical and can whip through each stage successfully.  The kind of student (more like me) that is not all about linear thinking and logic would also enjoy this game. There are no wrong answers just chances to try again.  And the logic of coding is built into the fun.

Download and try it on your own and share it with your class.  Make it a Friday afternoon option for some of your students to work in groups.  It would be a fun activity and it will build the capacity for the logical thinking so critical in coding.

Also included in a more expensive app package is Lightbot.  I’ll let you know how I do…