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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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.

Virtual Reality and Empathy

A recent article in The Star entitled, “Virtual reality project takes student through time at black orphanage in Nova Scotia,”  begins to open up the connection between students and history in a whole new way.  Imagine donning a pair of VR goggles and visiting the inside of the black orphanage while listening to the first person memories of adults who were there as children.  This experience will be piloted in four Grade 11 classes in Nova Scotia this fall with the help of Oculus Rift headsets. A few safeguards will be put in place like advance warnings that the content is graphic and may be disturbing to some students.  The authentic voice given to the reconstruction of this time and place will be a valuable tool in the deep learning of these students.

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In a similar vein, students can use Google Maps to visit Vimy Ridge  using 2D technology or VR.  And Google Expeditions  makes many more global locations a click away for many classrooms.

The Herchinger Report weighed in on the subject of virtual reality with a column entitled, “Can Virtual Reality Teach Empathy?”  And the conclusion of the column was “yes” virtual reality can help students develop empathy and self efficacy when they “experience” various VR scenarios.  The New York Times 360 virtual reality series focuses on the refugee experience in various hot spots throughout the world.  Students become more empathetic to these refugees through a VR lens.  Imagine the learning that is possible as students virtually visit many scenarios that, until now, have seemed a half a planet away.

As learning to solve problems through Design Thinking become more workable in the K-12 environment, VR meets the needs of many students to allow them to experience real empathy for many situations.

 

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(Website) of the Week – GoNoodle

I admit it – doing the Dinosaur Stomp with a number of grade three students mid-morning is an excellent way hit the reset button on your day.  These “movement breaks” in elementary school (as in every sedentary environment) are good for bodies and brains and the body-brain connection.   Remember brain gym.

I think we are past the time to recognize that the health of our students is partly our responsibility as educators because we see them for so many of their waking hours.  Elementary school is a natural place to see the positive rewards of extra movement in your classroom.

Instead of an app this week, I would like to suggest the website  GoNoodle.com. A site where you can incorporate movement into your class while not skipping a beat teaching curriculum.

GoNoodle begins with a video entitled GoNoodle 101 but I don’t think you really need the guidance.  Preview a few videos and choose something to your liking.  Strategically place the video during your teaching and voila – movement and learning.

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Lots of math songs and some American content but I still think you can bookmark the site for a quick change of pace in your classroom.

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 – 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…

 

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.