Hopscotch: Learn to Code

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ONLY for iOS 9.0 and later

Version: 3.21.1

Size: 119 MB

Cost: Free

Target Audience: Ages 9-13

Create, Play, Learn.

The Hopscotch: Learn to Code app is a great addition to the technology (apps and websites) used to teach coding in the elementary and middle school classroom.

Students can sample what other kids are designing and play, from the screen, games that are designed by other app users.

Given the short video tutorials that appear in the upper right hand corner of the screen, allowing students to follow the step-by-step directions to create their own games or pause the video and catch up, designing games is really only a video away.

Students can also save their games so others have a chance to play.

Hopscotch follows from Daisy the Dinosaur, as another step in the coding process by Hopscotch Technologies.

The iTunes link says this app has been downloaded over 10 million times and I can see why.  Download the free app and see how many games your students can design.

 

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Campus Collisions-Beakerhead

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How much fun can a banana-piano be?  Well if you are in the right place with the right people – it can be amazing.

The TFDL (Taylor Family Digital Library) on the campus of the University of Calgary hosted “Campus Collisions” as part of the 2017 edition of Beakerhead.  It was suggested I join in the fun with a table in the front foyer of the main library.  And join in the fun I did!

First, the banana piano with the help of the Makey-Makey kit, attracted many, many students who were, clearly, trying to get from one place to another through the foyer.  The same as it is an attraction for K-12 students, the visual presentation of having a dozen bananas attached by alligator clips to a Makey-Makey in turn hooked up to a MacBook was irresistible for most passersby.

There were people waiting patiently for their chance to play the banana piano.  It was wonderful to see the reaction of students of all ages.  Many had me SnapChat a video for them to send to friends.  “Look what I did at university today!”

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I also introduced many students to the blue-tooth enabled robot, Sphero 2.0   that rolled on the floor, controlled by various people using my ipad.

Just goes to show, science can be fun and interactive.  One student went away and came back later to tell me that he had figured out that the bananas were not really the most important part of the banana-piano.

Pull out some fun makerspace activities and have students experience and talk about the magic.  Look for great Beakerhead events around Calgary.

Apps of Interest – June 2017

anxietyhelper and Verena by Amanda Southworth

I’ve discontinued App of the Week because, let’s face it, although I look at apps every week, actually reviewing one put a ton of pressure on this blogger.

Now, apps of interest will be reviewed and connected to curriculum when possible.  Overall, reader, you will get a sense of what is out there with a focus on uses in the classroom.

Having said that, the two apps in the article today are here because of a few unique qualities they possess.  The designer and creator of anxietyhelper and Verena is 15-year-old Amanda Southworth.  She came to the attention of Apple and recently attended her first developer conference.

Both of these apps are aimed at the middle and high school grade range and do not, in fact, address specific curriculum outcomes.   They are very timely in that they address the health and well being of this age group.  anxietyhelper addresses mental health including depression and anxiety disorders and how to access help for these illnesses.  Verena focuses on resources for the LGBTQ community.

A recent article in Mashable features Amanda’s story and her amazing capacity to code. As various school boards put an emphasis on coding in the classroom, Amanda is an example of how individuals come to coding on their own and follow their own path. While it is a great skill to introduce to all students, some will excel and some with be satisfied with the basic skills.

Take a look at these apps.  While they are not as sophisticated as some, they have an amazing capacity to reach out to students the same age as Amanda, trying to get guidance and answers to some difficult questions.

Google Expeditions

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Here we go – into the world of Virtual Reality. The  Google Expeditions app and website is getting great press lately in education circles by partnering with various corporations like National Geographic, the National Parks Service and the American Museum of Natural History to collect more than 500 virtual field trips (including the National Space Station, so not your average field trip) in one place.

The app is free and field trips appear in 3D as long as you provide a pair of 3D goggles like these to your students to view the field trip on and a Smartphone or Android in a recent generation.  This would cost about $400 for a class set of 20 goggles and you can ask parents to donate used iphones and androids, add the app and use with the class.

Or, you can invest in the Google Expedition Best Buy set of goggles, devices and a hand held teacher device for more money.  The Canadian prices are available upon request from BestBuy.ca but the American pricing is in the $3,000 to $9,000 range.

Yes, it is all in one place and can be used for a class of 10 or 20 students and it is hardware that will be obsolete over time.  The concern is that it will be obsolete in a very short time.

The idea is wonderful.  Have your students stay in class and experience other geographical or historical places without actually going there.  Consider what you want to invest in this idea.  Ask yourself some pretty thought provoking questions like:

  1. How many times a term will we use this technology?
  2. Will the field trips be “embedded” in the curriculum?
  3. Is this technology an add on?
  4. How do I see this technology increasing the engagement and learning in my students?

Once you honestly answer these questions then decide on a plan of action and consider looking for blogposts from teachers who have successfully used the technology.

And make a decision about how much you would like to invest in the technology and how far into the future before another shiny new technology catches your eye.

The expensive kit would be a wonderful addition to any school edtech collection but not all schools are ready to commit thousands of dollars to one technology.  Look for a way to try it out without a big price tag.

 

App of the Week: Bedtime Math

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Cost: Free

Updated: January 23, 2017

Version: 3.2

Size: 95.5 MB

Language:  English (or Spanish)

Rated: Age 4+

Bedtime Math would appeal to kids, parents and educators that love fun facts and are interested in doing some mental math in the meantime.  For example, today’s Bedtime Math question begins with a picture of a Platypus and some weird and wacky facts about the animal.  Did you know: The platypus is so weird-looking that when English scientists first found it in Australia, they had to bring a few back to England because no one believed any animal could look like that?  That is a very cool fact that many, say, 3rd graders could work into a conversation easily.

Once a student or a family has read the interesting introduction to the day’s math problem, users can pick from a variety of leveled math questions: Wee Ones, Little Kids, Big Kids and the Sky’s the Limit.  Today’s Little Kids problem was “a platypus eats 1/2 its own weight every night! If it weighs 4 pounds, how much does it eat?”  Okay there is a problem with the measurement use of the imperial system but that could be another conversation with your child or student.  It is evident that the development of the app’s content is done mainly in the United States.

Explore the app and the website to find a very fun way to engage students in real world math problems and funky facts.  Recommended for students up to grade 6.

Coding in an Elementary Classroom

Is coding the new literacy? Even if you are not sure of the answer to that big question, you can begin to introduce your elementary classroom students to programming.  Some of the resources listed need technology and some just need your time to set up some centers to spark interest from your students.

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Scratch Jr. as a website or an app is a great way for students to start to understand the “if you program this, then that happens” type of logic that is necessary for programming.  Some may not even catch on that they are learning actual programming due to the game atmosphere of this app.

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Kids Get Coding is a series of books aimed at the K-3 grade level.  Each book explains one aspect of computer programming that will provide a foundation for students to begin to code. They also include tips about being a good digital citizen and how sites collect information about your identity to tailor sites to your needs.  It also cautions students about the importance of privacy and what information sites are looking for that you may not want to give out.  Although each book is only 24 pages long, each has a table of contents, and index and clear definitions of terms that are used in each book.  A website gives access to further content by book title to help educators further work with each subject area covered in each book.

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Robot Turtles and Code Master are both board games that don’t need any technology to run them. Robot Turtles is for very beginning programmers and teaches logic as a introduction to the steps needed for good coders.  Code Master is a one player game and will challenge you students to code instructions on the board rather than into an app or website.  Both good options in a classroom to spark an interest.

Introducing the notion of coding and computer programming into your classroom is not as daunting as it may seem.  There are many books out now to challenge students to learn the rudiments of coding by playing games or working through actions of a robot or character.  Start with these resources and work through this next level thinking with your students.

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.

 

 

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.

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…