November 18, 2015

Hour of Code - Computer Science Week - December 7-11, 2015

For the third year our students will participate in the Computer Science Week "Hour of Code" in early December. The materials and resources that are posted on the HOC website support learning by tens of millions of students worldwide.

Our plan is for first graders to use the iPad App Kodable, gathering all the iPads so that each student has one for the class time that day. The 2nd graders will use the web version of The Foos to explore planning steps, repeating and building some programming loops. Third grade students will use the Lightbot Hour of Code site to move into the next levels of logical thinking and programming. By fourth grade students have a wider range of experience with coding and programming so they can learn to program the Frozen characters, create in Scratch, solve puzzles in a Minecraft game, build a Star Wars Galaxy and more. Students enjoy revisiting the Blockly Angry Birds Puzzles, coding a Flappy Birds game and many other activities that introduce the concepts of programming and game development.

October 28, 2015

Why Teach Google Earth: what are 2nd graders learning?

Second graders study communities, with one focus being our school garden and observing plants and animals. To help with learning about butterflies the technology connections include using the Journey North materials on the migration of monarch butterflies.

The teacher uses a classroom projector to show students the maps that show the path of the butterflies as they migrate to Mexico. After students have seen the maps they can use Google Earth to visit the states that they have seen pictured on the maps. As a literacy skill they learn that there are two letter post office abbreviations that they can enter in the search box to "fly to" a new state (e.g. MA, NH, MN, TX) and then zoom in and out to view the overall colors and features of the landscapes that give them visual cues as to the topography. What can they see when they travel? (Questions: Does the state of Minnesota look like the state of Texas? What do you see? What do you think the land looks like there?) What is going on in their minds as they change the view to go closer and then zoom back out to view the state boundaries and country borders? Is there a mathematical-spatial learning process going on?

Recently I've been reading about "partner learning" and the power of having students talk out loud about their explorations and questions. For this session using Google Earth we paired the students and had a "navigator" enter the search text and a "pilot" who pressed Return or clicked on Search to "fly" to a new destination.

What are students learning as they "fly", "zoom" and explore a virtual earth? The engagement in the room is full of, "What ifs?" and wondering as they talk about going N, S, E, W, look at the geographic features like lakes, mountain ranges and deserts. They are talking about countries, continents, oceans and more as they move around and explore. They are asking basic questions about typing on the laptops, finding letters, the space bar, delete key, etc.

A classroom teacher wrote a blog post about the session and the inclusion of a follow up activity where students went to see their own homes and explored the town. Part of the power of this lesson was the collaboration between the classroom teacher and my role as instructional integrator.

July 28, 2015

EdCamp OOB

July 28th was the first Edcamp launched by a team of Old Orchard Beach educators. Over 100 area instructional technology, media/library and classroom teachers gathered to share ideas and learn from each other. The structure of this Edcamp was the usual plan of an open board that becomes a set of sessions when teachers put stickies up and organizers move them around to combine ideas and place sessions.
I attended sessions on "Genius Hour", Makerspaces and apps for early learning. I have a new set of resources to share from each of the sessions. Alice and I both attended the Makerspaces session, the notes on this shared doc.  Mike and I went to the session on implementing the Genius Hour concept. I would like to work with teachers on the possibility of implementing a spring fourth grade unit, Billy Corcoran share his doc that describes what his 4th grade classroom did last year along these lines. He used his literacy block on Friday mornings. 

I spent the 3rd session with Libby Corcoran who is a special educator who is also an app developer. I will be reviewing her app The Reading Train with our Kindergarten team. The app allows for individual logins and is organized into leveled books. Students can hear the books, read on their own or record themselves reading. Libby also has .pdfs of the Level 1 books that can be printed and sent home with students. I was very impressed by her story of becoming an app developer and I think this app may well be just what we have been looking for as a way to support literacy learning with the K iPads. Libby also shared a list of apps that she thinks are of value; this will be helpful as well in getting started with our second year of iPads in K and our third year in first grade.

July 17, 2015

Teaching and Learning with iPads - USM 2015

USM EPC 576 Teaching and Learning with the iPad

This summer there were fifteen K-12 educators who spent the middle week of July working toward new ways to use iPads in their classrooms. The collaborative and individual projects shared on the last day of the course were the highlights of the week. My goal in teaching the course is to give teachers enough of a start to bring about something significant as the school year unfolds.