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.

 

Maker Mindset

The Maker Movement is much more than just a space to provide students in the K-20 environment with a tricked-out place to “do” what they are learning.  A Maker Space without the mindset is just another static museum installation.  The pressure on schools, currently, to install a Maker Space complete with 3D printers and technology to rival NASA does not address the making at all.  The space is just a place before you gather the people with the maker mindset to facilitate within the space.

What does that look like? In most schools, it means looking around for staff who are “makers” and are naturally curious about the space and tools and match them with the space and students to see how the relationship works out.  Before teachers adopt making into curriculum teaching, they may need a chance to see what it looks like in an after school or lunch time club setting. The road to adoption for many staff may be in seeing the learning that goes on in the space before they imagine it working in a particular unit.

I am currently reading and working through the ideas in Creative Development by Robert Kelly.

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In a series of 5 workshops held here on campus by the author, we are learning about creativity, innovation, design thinking and collaboration and what each concept looks like in the future of education.  It is an exciting time to think what is possible if the learning is experienced by students at the hands of creative facilitators.  Although these notions won’t be adopted immediately into K-20 classrooms, the more we know about each concept and how to recognize it in teaching and learning, the better chance we have to be moving towards adoption.  More on these key concepts in upcoming blog posts.

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.

 

 

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.

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 – First Nations Language

Before I review two apps this week, I have to admit that language is essential to my existence.  I love to read and, coworkers would concur, I love to talk.  Language and communication is my currency.  When I hear that grandparents in First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities are struggling to pass their language and traditions to younger generations, I have great empathy for them.  The traditions and especially language is unique and crucial to identity.  Passing on language and oral traditions surrounds youth with a foundation on which they can build their lives.  They know from where they came and can plan better where they are going.

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First Voices

Cost: Free

Released: June 18, 2012

Social Media and Social Networking

Size: 2.4 MB

Seller: First People’s Heritage Language and Culture Challenge

This app is a very simple but great idea for many dialects from First Nations language.  Individual communities within various regions are searchable.  Once you find the language you are looking for, you are provided with a provisional keyboard to communicate on social media sites using the language.  Combining the appeal of social media with the traditional language is a brilliant marriage for young and old.  Since putting out the initial list of translation keyboards more have been added.  Check the First Voices website for additional options.

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Ninastako Cultural Centre

Cost: $6.99

Version: 1.3

Size: 53.5MB

Released: March 10, 2016

Seller: Gloria Wells

On a more local level, the Ninastako Cultural Centre app allows non-speakers to learn some conversational Blackfoot.  After learning a few greetings or other categories of the Blackfoot language and users are up for a challenge they can access a few games to practice their new language.  A listing of Blackfoot surnames is another category of interest.

The Calendar entry from the main menu also allows students and members of the Blackfoot community in Southern Alberta to access information about upcoming events and classes.

In both cases, these apps speak to learning and continuing to use First Nations’ languages.  These languages are essential to these communities and bringing them to social media, smartphones and tablets may be the best way to connect with younger learners.

Give them a try or introduce them to First Nations’ students in your classroom.

 

The Maker Movement – Not only kits…

What if I told you the Maker Movement in classrooms is not just about the ingenious kits that you can purchase to introduce to students?  It is not only about the unique prototyping and creativity that comes from students.

What if I told you the making is about great citizenship?  What?  Not about the kits?  “Surely you jest!”  In a K-12 classroom there are learning opportunities that change from day to day (or in some classrooms stay the same from day to day) but in a maker class set up to appeal to K-12 students something else happens.

In an elementary maker classroom, students are gaining foundation skills other than how to complete a circuit or video and edit an iMovie.  Students are learning to co-operate, collaborate, take turns and negotiate with fellow classmates and other mentors in the room.  They are learning, sometimes most importantly, to listen carefully to someone else in order to solve a problem. They are learning to effectively communicate their own ideas to their peers and facilitators.  Some are learning to slow down and enjoy the process and others are learning how to observe, learn and apply their learning to new situations.

In middle school, challenges are beginning to show leaders in various fields and peer groups are, sometimes, the most important people in a student’s life.  In a maker classroom, we see new experts coming forth, peers learning to respect others and unusual groupings getting together to solve challenges.  Engagement in a middle school classroom looks like elementary in the noisy, active way but with more technology based solutions coming forth.

In high school, more sophisticated ideas are emerging in classroom maker spaces.  Students are using and learning foundation skills to solve authentic problems that they have invested time and energy in.  Engagement and investment from students comes from their brainstorming of solutions that address current problems they are aware of in the world at large.  Groups are formed with the solution in mind and students are focused on collaborating with a group that can further their goals.

Gaining these skills throughout each student’s experience in the K-12 classroom prepares them for life after their formal education.  Workplaces and post-secondary institutions value these “soft skills” that are acquired in classrooms that are innovative, student-centred and contain “making” as a focus of curriculum learning.

Start including hands-on making with the available materials in your classroom and see the evolution of a more caring, respectful classroom.

Also, one more practical tip, check out this link to an interview of Gary Stager of Invent to Learn given by the ATA.  He discusses all the most practical reasons why a Maker Space in your classroom makes sense.

Quick Note about Mix on Pix

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Our favourite person who comments on this blog, Francois Robert  has agreed to make the Mix on Pix app available for free for a little while longer for you students or teachers who would like to get it on the iPads in your school.  Again, it is a great way to have students capture the process of their learning and to comment on it.  Or for you to comment on it for them.  A fun and useful app.

You Better Get Used to It!

Classrooms can no longer be technology-free zones.  Students are immersed in technology. It probably wakes them up in the morning and is the last thing they check before they go to bed.

Embedding technology into your classroom gives teachers and students opportunities that they would never have imagined.  Having tablets, phones and other technology as classroom constants opens doors to many learning options we simply didn’t have even five years ago.

Students learn by doing and not always by listening. Having technology that they are familiar with in your classroom allows them to experiment with gathering knowledge and using it.  Using phones and tablets, laptops and apps, leads to some deeper learning given the right learning and teaching environment.

Teachers are in the most privileged position to model and monitor proper digital etiquette.  Making sure students understand what their own digital footprint looks like is a pivotal skill to acquire in today’s learning environment.

Creating projects that embrace the current technology acknowledges the easy access to information that students have and challenges teachers to guide them to deeper learning experiences.  Taking and curating information is a lifelong skill and added to the ability to use that information to create new learning is essential to every student.

Digital literacy is as important as the other literacies in a classroom.  It is relevant, present and changing but essential to include in today’s classroom.

So…you better get used to it!

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