Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Intentional Life

Photo by Megan Black
This may sound weird but all my life I have regularly given myself assignments. OK. Maybe not so weird for someone who ended up becoming a teacher but when I say assignments, I am not talking about the traditional kind. I’ve assigned myself tasks like, get to know every tree in my neighborhood. What are their names? What have they witnessed? Who lives in them? What about them is edible? This has been an ongoing assignment from the age of seven actually.

Vivian and Ray Kell are sandwiched by my Mom and Dad.
Another mission I gave myself was to make friends with an elder in my community. I chose Ray Kell and by proxy his wife Vivian. Ray is 90 years old now. Vivian is 89.  I have called them my friends since they were in their early 70’s. Ray and Vivian have ten children, 33 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren and counting. Ray is a veteran of World War 2. He and Vivian are activists for peace, justice, and equality. He plays the piano and sings at least an hour every day. Preferably more. Sometimes you have to beg him to stop. He still plays 18 holes of golf and carries his own clubs. When he was 84, Ray raced me up five flights of stairs and beat me. The Kell's vegetable garden is spectacular and feeds many in their neighborhood. They work every Monday from 6:00AM until 1:00PM in the Manna Meal Soup kitchen. Every year for the past 20, he and Vivian pack up their car and travel the country for six weeks visiting all their kids and grand kids while camping, in a tent. On Ray’s 90th birthday earlier this year, he challenged himself to do a freestanding headstand and hold it. He achieved his goal in the middle of his daughter’s backyard while his grandson played a three minute waltz on the violin. I guess you could say Ray also gives himself assignments. He certainly lives a life of meaning, purpose, and intention and I aspire to be more like him.

An Excellent Read for an Intentional Life.
Which might be why I regularly assign myself reading. This summer I read How to Be an Explorer of the World  by Keri Smith. And guess what?! The book is filled with interesting assignments, only she calls them explorations. I highly recommend it. The author challenges you to collect tiny things and make a mini museum in an Altoids tin. She suggests making sculptures out of ten things you find in a drawer. There are 59 different explorations. Most of them involve field work. Keri Smith offers 5 field work tips. I would like to add a sixth one based on personal experience and follow it up with ten explorations, not in the book, that I found made my life, and occasionally the lives of those around me, better.

Field Work Tips:
  1. Never leave home without a notebook and pen.
  2. When practicing deep looking or deep listening, it is best to work alone.
  3. Respect the community in which you explore. This applies to all aspects of nature, human or otherwise and also includes property, public or private
  4. If you find yourself being questioned as to the reasons for your activities, the phrase, “I’m conducting research” usually satisfies the nosiest interloper.
  5. Expect the unexpected and you will find it.

My 6th Tip: You can never have too many pockets when exploring. Be sure to bring scissors, zip lock bags, looking glasses, a camera, a snack and water bottle, some tissue, and plan to stay out a long time.  

10 Recommended explorations not listed in the book. This is interactive, folks, please do the counting. (I’ll hold up my fingers you say the numbers.) Ready? 1

  1. Never pass up an opportunity to dip, dive, slide, swing, glide, skip, twirl, rock, or dunk.

2. Look for the color purple everywhere you go. Then, when you are old enough, read The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Pay Attention to what Shug says. “Shug a beautiful something.”

3. For an entire day, if anyone asks you a question, sing the answer. Make note of the questioner’s reaction.

4. Discover your favorite apple. They don’t all taste the same. Mine is a Fuji. Try one with some extra sharp Pinconning cheese. Seriously. Try that.

5. Listen only to the voice of love inside your head for a whole morning, or a whole day. Keep practicing until you can do it for longer and longer times.  If the mean voice starts talking, sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to yourself until it goes away.

6. Every once in awhile, make yourself an omelet.

7. Find an interesting elder in your community. Get to know them. Ask them questions. Listen to their stories.

8. Make your worst enemy a kindness salad...or a batch of yummy cookies. Again, make note of their reaction.

9. Dance in the grocery store.
10. For one moment each day, stand still where you are. Breathe into your belly. Be mindful that every day, every single day, even the heart crushing ones, we are surrounded by the mighty love of God.

Every Monday Morning at The Grosse Pointe Academy we begin the week with Chapel. The faculty rotates giving a short inspirational talk. This was mine for the 2015-2016 school year.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Why Aren't You Using Google Classroom

Seriously folks, Google Classroom really makes life simpler. If you are a Google Apps for Education School Educator, you really should be using it. It only takes about ten minutes to set everything up and will save you hours of organizing, searching, and explaining. 

Your first stop is the Google for Education Training Center

Amy Mayer has a sweet introduction here. Fried Classroom Introduction to Google Classroom

Also, check out Alice Keeler's 20 Things You Can Do with Google Classroom

And, if you want a site that will guide you step by step through the process Grossmont Union High School District  put together a fabulous site for their educators. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

I Need Help!

Photo and Doodle by Megan Black
We all have that kid. You know the one who hasn't had the assignment for more than a fraction of a second and they are yelling, "I need help!" Well, if you were one of the brave souls who tried to implement my Summer Teeth recommendations, you might have found yourself just like one of those kids. Especially, if you wanted to try to assign MathGames.

MathGames is a worthwhile endeavor. I still recommend it. However there is a glitch they are still working on.  If you forewarn students and provide these handy instructions, it will help mitigate most of your issues. It will, at the very least, provide them with less of an excuse for not doing the work. 

Math Games Teacher Instructions

Math Games Student Help

I wish you all a restful and peaceful summer. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Summer Teeth

These cuties have summer teeth
I recently learned the term "Summer Teeth." What are Summer Teeth, you ask? Summer here. Summer gone. Hat Tip: Bridgette Murray. 

The same can be said for academic skills in the actual season of sun. Summer here. Summer gone. Most educators look for ways to keep their students engaged, learning, and practicing key skills during the off season to minimize the learning loss. Below are a few options to help students grow their chops and fill the gaps. (Apologies to the pun haters.)

Reading Practice

Teach Your Monster to Read, simply put is an invaluable gift to primary teachers everywhere and any students learning to read. Kids adore it. How could you not love earning underpants and fancy hats for a lovable monster of your own design? The folks at Teach Your Monster  have made it incredibly easy for teachers to set up and manage accounts and keep students safe. They also have provided teachers with letters for parents so that they can log in and monitor progress and track data. Seriously, if you teach Pre-K through grade 3 you simply must check it out. Their new level: Teach Your Monster to Read 3: Champion Reader launches June 1st. 

ReadWorks.org is an exceptional reading comprehension resource. Again, it is free, aligned to the standards, interactive, and research based. Students can be assigned lessons and passages from every genre and based on their current reading level. ReadWorks.org is almost too good to be true. 

StoryShares is aimed at older struggling readers. They are an online hub of stories that are interesting and relevant for young adult readers. With an  interactive design based on best practices, they help support and hopefully inspire students who otherwise would not pick up a book during the summer months. 

Finer minds than mine are always at work at Edutopia. If you want even more Summer reading resources for all age groups please visit Edutopia News Summer Reading Suggestions

You might also wish to ruminate using one of these Seven Slick Current Event Resources for your summer reading practice. Most offer online interactive tools to help students comprehend and dig deeper. 

Math Practice

TenMarks offers free summer math programs teachers can easily manage and assign by standard. They have also created a letter to distribute to parents with log in codes so that parents can monitor their child's data and progress. I am a huge fan of TenMarks and use it with the middle school math class I teach. A word of caution though, most of TenMarks problems are of the word variety and demand multiple steps and mastery of previous concepts. I recommend it more as an enrichment program than a skill practice program. 

Prodigy Math is another free service that is easily managed by teachers. You can assign standards to classes as well as individual students. The program is built into a gaming platform of a virtual, magical realm where novitiates earn spells to counterattack their enemies by correctly solving problems. They can play the game regardless of whether or not you assign problems and the program will send them problems based on grade level. The problems assigned by the teacher get fed into the game. Every K-8 Math standard is covered. The assigned problems are straight forward. Not only do I recommend it for the summer, you may want to add it to next year's math routine. 

MathGames is a new and promising free skill practice service. Again, it is set up so that teachers can assign standards and monitor progress on both a class and individual level. I highly recommend using MathGames but I also recommend testing it out before you assign it over the summer by making a different email account you own as a student and seeing the process from both sides.  This will help you direct students on how to find and complete their assignments. They may require some guidance before they are set loose this summer. I would make a screencast and text directions with pictures. In fact, I may do that later and post. 


You can find lots of STEAMY resources in past posts of Eminent Tech. Try one of these on for size:
Fabulous Five Free Apps for STEM

CK-12 BrainFlex A more recent site I've come across that is very worthy of offering your families is CK-12 BrainFlex program which is a combination of math and science. CK-12 has created tutorials, flyers, letters, and basically thought of most everything you can imagine to help make their program a success. They also have a free app in iOS and Android so kids can get their learning on the go.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Academy App Additions

We've added a few new Apps to our Grades 1-5 iPads recently. Hopefully, the middle school teachers will see the value and introduce the ones they find appropriate to their students as well. Four of these apps were featured in our Professional Learning Maker's Fair Day back in April. They also follow up coding skills taught in the computer lab. We start them young here at GPA. Our first graders started learning how to code with Tynker's free online options in the Hour of Code. They moved on to the basics of Scratch programming. Each year students develop greater and great proficiency coding in Scratch which they later apply to programing Lego Robotics and EVO3's.  Now they can practice these skills on their iPads by programming Daisy the Dinosaur, Tynker, CargoBot, or HopScotch. 

Daisy the Dinosaur
This app is suitable for very young programmers. It guides students through various steps that tell Daisy what to do. It is utterly adorkable and a great first step in learning to code. 

If you want your students to receive step by step guidance learning to code, Tynker has a subscription service. We are not going that route here at GPA. Nonetheless, I installed the Tynker App on the iPads in Grades 3-5 because it includes a canvas to create with code blocks similar to Scratch. This will give students a great way to practice their coding kung fu when they do not have access to a computer. 

Another option to develop ninja-like code is Hopscotch . In fact, this is the most appealing to me personally because it is character driven and coders can create and tell stories. They can also make games. That said, the tutorial is limited and some kids may find that frustrating. If they are willing to work through frustration and like creating stories and games, this is a fantastic app.

This is the last of the new coding apps added. It also develops programming skill but does so in a puzzle-like format. What is nice about Cargo-Bot is that while a solution to a problem might work, it isn't always the best option. (The same can be said for code. This is why I wait to update programs.) Often times, things need to be tested over and over again in many situations before time tells if it was best solution. Cargo-Bot assigns points based on the simplest, yet most rigorous solution. 

Masterpiece for OSMO
I cannot say enough good things about OSMO. Even our fifth graders love the hands on learning and applications of this device. All of the OSMO games build a natural bridge from our Early School Montessori base to effective technology integration. Masterpiece uses the iPad and OSMO gadget to help students recreate artistic masterpieces on paper with the real world media of their choosing. 

Ignite Teaching
Ignite Teaching is an app that promotes collaboration and project based learning. teachers can create and assign groups through the App. Students can then use the app to create multimedia projects on a canvas using images from their iPad or Google Drive. They can add text, graphics, and import videos. It is yet another tool that fits our philosophy that technology is best utilized to create rather than consume. In other words, Ignite Teaching Redefines learning. 

Sushi Monster
We also added one Substitution/Augmentation app called Sushi Monster. Teachers were looking for a more engaging way for students to practice their math computation skills. Sushi Monster by Scholastic was a crowd pleaser at all grade levels. An even bigger bonus is that this app and all of the above are free! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wonder Talk

Photo by Megan Black

We meet for chapel every Monday at the Grosse Pointe Academy and faculty take turns giving the talk. The following post was the talk I gave on April 13, 2015.

I would like to share with you two stories, three wishes, and an important secret.

  I have always been a wonderer. I wonder about stuff. Constantly. Curiosity led me into many embarrassing predicaments. For example, when I was little I wondered if mothers to be got that way because they swallowed a watermelon seed. I wondered what would happen if I tried it. I knew seeds needed dirt so I ate some of that too. Then I sat in a sunny spot until I threw up. But this didn’t stop me from wondering if I could make my own gum. That brought the fire department to my house which is a longer story for a different day. I wondered what was in the glove compartment of people’s cars parked on our street. I was driven to examine the items the doctor’s cabinets and try to figure out what they did. Let’s face it, who doesn’t wonder about that?! I became obsessed with the idea that there were hidden rooms in every house and wondered what I needed to do to reveal them. Twist a knob on a mantlepiece, play a few notes on their piano, pull out just the right book from a shelf, and I was hopeful the floor would open up to a descending staircase leading to a chamber filled with magical samurai swords and dusty potions. I admit that I was influenced by the story of Anne Frank, my favorite book, The Secret Garden, and a fair share of Scoby Doo cartoons. Even though my nosey-ness often led to trouble, and I was almost always caught in the act, I never stopped wondering. I wonder about the word wonder. It can be a synonym for questioning or curiosity but also for awe, astonishment, luminous enchantment, and speechless reverence.

Recently scientists have studied the phenomenon of wonder, the speechless reverence awesome kind, the moments when we are stunned by the elegance of something in nature or life that humbles us and makes us realize that we are part of something grander than we ever imagined. What the scientists have discovered is that these moments change our lives in profound ways. The more often we experience astonishment, the less likely we are to suffer disease, the greater our personal happiness, and the more likely we are to want to contribute to the betterment of the world.

Rachel Carson wrote, “If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.” I wish this gift for each of you. That’s my first wish. 

The first time I truly recall feeling a sense of wonder or awe was when I drove across the country by myself to start a new life in Los Angeles. I had everything I owned in a cruddy little hatchback and I was driving to the second largest city in the US where I didn’t know a soul. I had no job or place to live. It was risky but also thrilling. When I got to Arizona I came down with a terrible cold and the reality that I was headed into a very uncertain future alone began to take hold. Nevertheless, I decided to drive the two hours out of my way to see the Grand Canyon. I got there late in the afternoon. When you drive in the park you don’t see the Canyon. You have to walk to the edge. I will never forget it. As I got closer and the sublime immensity of what I was looking at opened up, my legs gave out. I fell to my knees. And I stayed that way for what seemed like hours because time stopped. My life was different after that. I can’t tell you about it in words really but Annie Dillard wrote, “We wake, if ever at all, to mystery.” And that moment and others I’ve been lucky enough to experience, mostly in nature, have felt like waking up...in a good way, not like with the alarm clock, but after a long, delicious sleep. So, that was the second story. And my second wish is that life presents you with mysteries that bring you to your knees. Many of them.

Socrates tell us that wonder is the beginning of wisdom. 

Einstein said, The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science.” 

Rilke wrote, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” And, that is my third wish, that you learn to love and live the questions and when you find an answer, realize that this is not the end of mystery. Mystery is infinite.

I believe wonder and awe are a form of prayer. Wonder lets us see with new eyes. It

connects us to the consciousness of the cosmos. Which leads me to the all important secret….Are you ready? You are the greatest wonder of the universe. Yes, you, human, sitting here in this particular body, with this unique mind and heart, in this moment in history are the greatest wonder of all the galaxies because you get to behold it all. There never was and there never will be another you who notices and feels and appreciates and hopefully loves the other wonders in quite the same way. So, open up and let it all in! Even the stuff that hurts or confuses you. Live the questions! Love the Mysteries! Or, as Dr. Suess says, “Think and wonder. Wonder and think.”

Monday, April 6, 2015

Beneath the Cherry Blossoms

What a strange thing

to be alive

beneath cherry blossoms

~Kobayashi Issa

It is National Poetry Month people! Here are some offerings to help celebrate language and the return of Spring to the Northern Hemisphere.

Apps for Poetry

Check out last year's Post on Poetic Apps. It included several free apps from ReadWriteThink to create and publish beautiful poems. I especially love their Haiku maker.

I've come across several more excellent free Poetry Month Apps more recently. For starters, try Poetry from the Poetry Foundation. This is an app for older students as some of the poetic themes require a mature vocabulary and mind. Poetry Daily offers free poems by theme and I would keep this one for students ages 12 or older as well. Heck, I might even wait until 14 or 15. A middle schooler with an ear for limericks might make for some sketchy situations.

Poems by Heart from Penguin Classics is a cool tool to help students memorize classic poems. Again, there are some mature themes and a few saucy words here and there.

If you really don't mind bawdy talk in your poetry or you wish to relate poetry to rap, "keeping it real," try Poetry Creator. It is free and brings in lyrics from Rap songs and mashes them with Shakespeare's sonnets and monologues creating word magnets to reassemble into original works.

Poetreat bills itself as a tool to "Write quick and simple bites of Poetry." It is a poetry editor that suggests rhymes as you write.  This one would be good for budding poets with raging hormones or anyone who needs a little rhyming help.

Teacher Resources

Richard Byrne of Free Technology for Teachers has published a nice list of 5 Resources for National Poetry Month  He includes Scholastic's list of resources but it is worth a special mention here as well. They have everything nicely laid out by grade level.

ReadWriteThink is always one of my first stops for anything literary. They have excellent student interactives to get poets from K-12 composing. They also have Lesson Plans galore organized by theme, grade level, or form.

The 30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month is really nifty with some terrific ideas and resources.

Reading Rockets has excellent poetry resources for all ages, not just the wee mongrels.

Edutopia always has something to offer that is beyond worthy. Their National Poetry Month Resources by Matt Davis is no exception.

Listening to the World

Perhaps my favorite poet, Mary Oliver recently sat down with On Being's Krista Tippett. She reads some of her illuminating poems and discusses life, habits, and grief with Krista. I love On Being and I adore Mary Oliver. Listening to the World is just for you to enjoy, dear reader. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Super Sharing with Playlists

Did you know that YouTube lets you create and share unlimited Playlists? What a time saver this is for teachers who want to offer several videos on a topic or lesson. You can even create a playlist of student videos to represent a class project. This Playlist holds all of the Student Produced PSA's from our REAL Electives.

Below I have given your written and video directions of how to create, curate, and share playlists in YouTube. Give it a whirl!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Near Space Storehouse BlogSmash

Screenshot of Storehouse website
Storehouse is a free iOS and Android app that has been around just barely over a year. Storehouse publishes gorgeous looking stories with pictures, video, and text. National Geographic's contributors often post to Storehouse. That is what first attracted me to the site and why I often return.

I shared Storehouse with my staff in the hopes that it might serve as a new way to present learning. We are a 1:1 iPad school. Composing on an iPad often entails more than a teacher bargains for in adjustments. After working with Storehouse to tell the world about our Near Space Weather Balloon Launch,  I realized the same came be said for the Storehouse app. With some planning and preparation, you can make your Storehouse experience far more fun and successful.

I recommend having students compose all of their text in a Google Doc or other text editor first so that they can copy and paste it into Storehouse. This is much easier than having them compose in the app. They can take advantage of spelling and grammar checking services and other formatting features that do not yet seem to be present in Storehouse.

Additionally, it helps to have all of the photos and video in the Camera Roll or Dropbox to upload into Storehouse. Video needs to be less than 30 seconds in length and the quality should be medium. I am not sure what the maximum file size is because I couldn't find the specifications but I know that I had to keep making the 27 second clip I tried to load smaller and smaller before it worked. If you need to tell the story in longer video, break them up into 30 seconds or less clips and then upload separately.

Once all of your content is uploaded, you can easily drag and drop each element where you want it for your published product. This is where Storehouse shines. The final product is sleek and professional looking which is why I choose Storehouse to tell about the Near Space Exploration some of our middle school students conducted. I think it is a pretty nifty story and worth a look see.

In the meantime, my wish list would be that Storehouse allow for uploads or embeds from major video sites like YouTube or Vimeo. Even better, if it would connect with Google Apps for Education so that students can load from their Drive. It would be nice to compose on a computer from the website as well as an app. And, I don't think it too much to ask that longer videos could be shared.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Beautiful Dreams Made Real

"Airplanes are beautiful dreams. Engineers turn dreams into reality."  from The Wind Rises by Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki's final film, he's retired, is an enchanting meditation on science, art, and the impermanence of life. While I prefer his films that are not based in reality, like Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, The Wind Rises is a fitting end to a brilliant career.  The scenery is always stunning in his animations. You feel as if you are inside of a painting. There are many great allegories within this film and I would like to see it again, just to write some of the quotes. It is a marvelous film for STEAM with the exception of the fact that the main character smokes on par with Dom Draper. 

The Wind Rises demonstrated within the story that every great scientist requires the imagination and heart of an artist. The telling of it proved the opposite, every great artist depends upon the mind and mastery of a scientist. The birth of visions comes from the marriage of both. 

At one point in the film, Caproni tells young Jiro Horikoshi that "Inspiration unlocks the future. Technology catches up." I humbly offer these resources in the hopes that they spark the imagination of your scientists, the mastery of your artists. 

Art Integration Padlet ( GPA's own resource and lesson plan sharing board)

Most helpful Weblinks I've come across so far:

If you are looking for research to support Art Integration Check out ArtsEdSearch

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Mooring 2-23-15

The Monday Moorings were developed as a way to distribute some of the best educational resources recently discovered that would benefit my current faculty and teacher friends. 

Great Google Gifts

15 Google Drawing Graphic Organizers Matt Miller of Ditch that Textbook generously posted 15 excellent graphic organizers made in Google Draw for students in Google Apps for Education (GAFE) schools to use in a variety of subjects. Teachers can make copies of the organizers and then share them with students who can then, make their own copies.

Another helpful GAFE resource I learned of recently is The GOORU. The GOORU offers tips, tricks, and tools for all things Google. Their tutorials are well done and I learned several time saving tricks. The Gooru has features for educators, administrators, managers, as well as good stuff for your average Gmail user.

A Menagerie of Chrome Extensions is a fabulous Thinklink created by Julie Ann Hopp with oodles of links to super awesome Chrome Extensions that will help students and teachers alike.

Super SAMR Swag

EdSurge published a fascinating article on how to effectively bring the SAMR Model into iPad Integration. This is a must read for educators who want to get the most out of iPads and move beyond using it as a device for consumption and souped up skill drill.

If you find you are still confused about skillful technology integration, Alan November of November Learning published Six questions to Clear the Confusion Between Technology Rich and Innovative Poor. These questions will keep you on the right track.

Guess what?! Julie Ann Hopp has a nifty ThinkLink of Remix Apps for the SAMR Model too. Bookmark it, You won't regret it.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Create Coding Beasts

Get them started young!
Learn to code and help the world with Code CampCode Camp is a remarkable resource that helps you learn code while you help build things, like apps, sites, games, and resources for non-profits. You get to start right off by creating something meaningful with what you are learning. What more inspiration can you ask for?

Computer Science Education Week is over but the resources posted on the site are still available for teaching code in a variety of engaging ways. One such resources is Studio Code  where characters from Frozen teach kids to code. I highly recommend spending some time on this well done and generous site. 

Made With Code was made by Google to get girls geeked about writing code to create things. Girls and boys too, can try the projects or get inspired by the ideas. The site will also put coders in touch with makers, mentors, events in their area, and other nifty resources. 

Code Kingdoms teaches Javascript. The service bills itself as being similar to Minecraft in appeal. Students get to build kingdoms, creatures, and games.

CodeCombat also uses gaming to teach code. Your World of Warcraft crowd will have epiphany sweats from this site. 

Code Maven and Game Maven will expertly guide students in creating code in a step by step format.

Middle School to High School teachers should try taking Code Academy for a spin.  It is a bit more dry and technical but word has it, the site can make you an award winning coder. Full disclosure, I didn't try this one. 

And Then There's SCRATCH

Last but not least, Scratch. Actually, one could say Scratch was first and remains the best.  If you are intimidated by using Scratch, the resources below will guide your students into creating and inventing.

Creative Computing is a guide for Scratch made by MIT. 
Scratch 2.0 Starter Kit  Trust me on this, if you want to teach Scratch, this resource is your sherpa. 
LearnScratch I got this site from Scratch 2.0 Starter Kit. Your students will make fun of the voice over work on this but they will also listen, watch, and learn so you can sit back and hack on your own. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The 411 on Infographics

Infographics are a doozie of a way to access the upper echelon of Bloom's Taxonomy. They get students to create while integrating informational literacy, visual literacy, digital literacy, and plain old literacy literacy (AKA reading and writing). Below I've posted a gateway, of sorts, into using and creating data visualizations in your classroom.

Once again, Google Apps for Education provides a wonderful way for you to not only access data but select your own visualization of it. All in one place! Simply search Public Data on Google. When you find the data you want to learn about you can see different graphs of it by selecting the symbols at the top.  When you're happy and you know it, save the image.  You can also create infographics of other stats not listed in the Public Data for free through Google Charts by Google Developers.

Another tool you can use if you are GAFE school is the Google AddOn LucidChart for Education. There are thousands of options for chart creation through this tool. Just be certain you are comfortable with their privacy policies. The same can be said for all these tools. Especially if you are using them to create personal or school specific data.

The Social Media Hat offers step by step directions on how to create infographics on Canva. Canva is a snazzy, free graphic design tool that will create stellar infographics. Easel.ly is easily one of the simplest infographic makers. It requires registration. Other marvelous data visualization creators that are free, at least initially, but require registration are: visual.ly, Picktochart,  and infogr.am.

Learning with Infographics on Scoop it was created by yours truly has loads of resources. Even more than highlighted here so be sure to check it out.

Tops on my list is a stop on Kathy Schrock's Infographics Resource page. She's got examples,
integration ideas, tutorials, lesson plans, you name it.

Personally, I have had students create infographics on data we collected comparing literacy rates and life expectancy, among other happiness indicators, on The World Factbook site. In our computer class we created flow charts for decision making with regards to digital citizenship, "To Post or Not to Post?" We also created infographics on social media usage at different ages and risky online behaviors. Data visualization makes for an excellent integration strategy, mixing not only technology, but social studies, science, math, character development, art, design, you name it. Try going to Kathy's Infographic Guide to Everything, finding a lesson, and diving in.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Olly Olly Oxen Free

Photo by: Megan Black
"You can discover more about a person from an hour of play then you can from a year of conversation." Plato

Come out, come out, wherever you are! February 4, 2015 marks the first Global School Play Day.  This initiative was inspired by the TEDx talk by Dr. Peter Gray where he documents the decline in play we have seen over the past 60 years and correlates that with the decline in creativity and the blossoming of mental disorders, especially anxiety, in children. I have a hunch that the lack of play time in our chickabiddy's lives also contributes to a fixed mindset.

My favorite quote from Dr. Gray's Talk comes at the end where he causally says, "We don't need more school, maybe we need better school, but we don't need more." I always get a queasy feeling when I hear dedicated teachers that have been enslaved by their curriculum bemoan their lack of time. Educators will always need more time as long as bureaucracies keep piling on the mandates.

However, schools aren't the only reason kids fall on the skids. (Sorry, I confess a weakness for rhyming.) Our entire culture of fear and the almighty need for safety has prevented the lessons that can only be learned through merry exploration. As Tolkien said, "It is dangerous business going out your door..." It is also vital.

Think about life as a grown human. Do you really have a lot of free time? As much as you want? My guess is the answer is no for 95% of us. Yet, most youngsters have far more loaded schedules than adults. It is crazy making. Literally.

Admittedly, recess duty, as the adult in charge, can be anxiety provoking. All the noise. The chaos. The opportunities for a kid to be physically or emotionally damaged. Yikes. However, every time, without fail, there is at least one occasion, where I witness that this unstructured time, is perhaps the best moment in a kid's day. And by best, I mean best learning, best feeling, significant, best.

photo by: Megan Black
So, why not dedicate an entire school day to play? Around the world! Yes, somebody might get hurt but many more somebodies might have their minds and hearts expanded. They may learn lessons about how to be in this world with others that would never have happened if we planned it or imposed our agenda. Perhaps, we are the ones who should learn from them. Rilke said, "We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For the holding on comes easily. We do not need to learn it."

So, please join the Global School Play Day on February 4, 2015. I triple dog dare you!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Seven Slick Current Event Resources

Even though as teachers we aren't supposed to play favorites, I will confess a special fondness for this ad free, current events resource. When you register for a free account you have access to daily articles where students can self select reading levels or you can assign them. Teachers and classes get daily articles emailed if they wish. There are also free follow up quizzes with student access to results.

The affordable pro version allows teachers to track common core standards, class progress, and much more.

Smithsonian Tween Tribune
I just recently learned of the Smithsonian's Tween Tribute Current Events resource. It may replace my favorite. Teachers can select articles based on grade level and assign them by reading level. They also have self scoring quizzes, lesson plans, and critical thinking questions. As far as I can tell, the whole enchilada is gratis.

News-O-Matic is both an online service and an iPad App with regularly updated content for an affordable fee. It is highly engaging for younger students and a wonderful gateway to learning to love the news.  

Our Little Earth is an International e-Newspaper delivered to your email every two weeks. The articles are well written and I recommend enrolling your students, or yourself and then forwarding the newsletter. It helps build a bridge to global citizenship. 

GoGoNewsYoungzineThe Whiz Times
Looking for something more fun? GoGoNewsYoungzine, or The Whiz Times might be the ticket. These are fun and safe, high interest news articles aimed at kids. Because lets face it, it is a guilty pleasure to read certain magazines at the dentist and hairdressers. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

iPad Band

Screenshot of
We are about to start our REAL (Real World Experiences and Applied Learning) elective classes that focus on areas of interest and passion. REAL is an important part of our STEAM program. One of the classes offered this year is iPad Band. Where students will work in groups to form bands using iPad App instruments. To help out our very busy music teachers, I put together a graphic of instrument and music making Apps with embedded links. All of them are free and most of them have no in app purchases. It is embedded below for your listening/downloading pleasure.

If the idea of an iPad Band floats your boat, you will love the adorkable Ge Wang. He has a wonderful Ted Talk on how he creates computer generated music and The Orchestra of the Future. Ge also formed the Stanford Laptop Orchestra and the Stanford Mobile Orchestra. Mr Wang took his creations and turned them into fantastic iPad Apps under his company name Smule. Check out Smule. Not only do you get the instruments, you get a community with which to jam.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Monday Mooring 1-5-15

About the Mooring: Welcome to the New Year! I've moved my weekly EdTech email update for my staff to this blog. We are a Montessori Pre-K through Grade 8 Independent School. Most resources are aimed at Kindergarten through Grade 8. Although, many will be useful for those who teach high school as well. We are also a 1:1 iPad school with a strong emphasis on STEAM integration. 

FrostBite Theater 
Frostbite Theater is a collection of physics and chemistry experiments on video by Jefferson Labs. The first section are super cool liquid nitrogen experiments. There are many others on the page, including experiments that can be done at home. The Jefferson Labs site itself is outstanding and worth wandering through.  Hat tip Richard Byrne Free Technology for Teachers

Try Engineering
Not only does Try Engineering offer hundreds of Lesson Plans to incorporate Engineering principals, it also offers games with real world applications that students will challenge students. Again, hat tip Richard Byrne Free Technology for Teachers

Get The Math
Get The Math asks real world leaders in various occupations to talk about and present the math challenges that they face on the job. There are follow up lessons to each video where students have to solve the challenge. It is an excellent anecdote to the age old question of those artistic souls, "When am I ever going to use this in real life?"Again, hat tip Richard Byrne Free Technology for Teachers Honestly, I don't get all my resources from Richard, but he is the best. 

Cultural Museums Sharing Through Creative Commons
Jane Park posted a SlideShare titled Creative Commons and Cultural Heritage recently that not only explains Creative Commons Codes for students but also cultural museums around the globe that are now sharing photos and other forms of media through creative commons. This is manna from Jane for producing ethical Video mashups and slideshows with students.

Plotly for Educators
Educators can post graphing and infographic assignments and share them with classes easily with Plotly. And, in turn classes can share with each other and collaborate. Better yet, Plotly is gratis. Hattip to Fred Delventhal.

ThinkLink App Smash Challenge
Thinglink is a cross platform service and App where you can tag pictures with text, links, video, and audio. It makes for a fantastic platform/launch spot for other Apps, websites, and media. On the Thinklink Blog by Susan Oxnevad posted a challenge to educators to App smash with Thinglink. She also posted some fabulous examples of ways that other educators have smashed successfully. (And they didn't even get in trouble.)