A Friendly message from the good folks at the the National Day of Unplugging website: Do you have multiple cell phones? Take your ipad to the beach on vacation? Ever find it hard to get through a conversation without posting an update to Facebook? Is your computer always on? We increasingly miss out on the important moments of our lives as we pass the hours with our noses buried in our iPhones and BlackBerry’s, chronicling our every move through Facebook and Twitter and shielding ourselves from the outside world with the bubble of “silence” that our earphones create.
If you recognize that in yourself – or your friends, families or colleagues— join us for the National Day of Unplugging, sign the Unplug pledge and start living a different life: connect with the people in your street, neighborhood and city, have an uninterrupted meal or read a book to your child.
The National Day of Unplugging is a 24 hour period – running from sundown to sundown – and starts on the first Friday in March.
Here are three neat resources for using STEM resources in early grades. Thanks EDsurge for the information!
- Tynker is a visual-based coding platform teaches kids computational thinking and programming skills. With colorful graphics and a self-guided curriculum system, students can use Tynker in the classroom, or learn to code on their own at home.
- SparkFun brings together tools and STEM curriculum. Using things like paper circuits and conductive thread, SparkFun’s retail store projects and products promote experiential learning and self-led exploration.
- Surprise! ELA teachers, we didn’t want to leave you out. Power Poetry is the world’s first digital poetry community for youth. Power Poetry stands behind its message that “poetry has the potential to close the literacy gap.”
A NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE: Did you catch the big film festival this weekend? Not the Oscars, but the 16 student-made films that debuted at the White House. More than a hundred students, teachers and parents gathered on Friday afternoon to watch the films–and, yes, meet the President. The students, who ranged in age from elementary school through high school seniors, shared films that were not so much about the technology–but what the technology allowed them to do.
Here’s what the website says: A couple months ago, we asked students all across the country to tell us about the technology in their classrooms. We asked them to tell us why technology is so important, and how it will change the educational experience for kids in the future. They stepped up to the challenge in a big way: We received more than 2,500 official entries. These students brought us into their classrooms, homes, and backyards. They introduced us to their teachers, to their robots, and to imaginary characters that they dreamed up. They showed us how they learn.
This blog is a huge fans of EDUTOPIA, the education think tank/foundation funded by George Lucas. (I’m glad all that money my parents spent for Star Wars action figures in the 80s is doing good today.) Edutopia focuses on their Core Strategies for Innovation and Reform in Learning: Comprehensive Assessment, Integrated Studies, Project-Based Learning, Social and Emotional Learning, Teacher Development, and Technology Integration.
Well, now they have a new project called the Made With Play Video Series. Here’s how they describe it: Intrigued by game-based learning, but not sure where to begin? Edutopia’s new series takes a look at game-like learning principles in action and commercial games in real classrooms — and offers tips and tools for bringing them into your own practice. Made With Play is a co-production with Institute of Play. Get more resources for game-based learning.
The one MADE WITH PLAY project I am most interested in deals with a social studies online game dealing with the history of civilization. Learn more about that below and by clicking on this link.
Historia Resources on the Web
Histrionix Learning Company: Website for the creators of Historia
Historia Guidebook (PDF): Guidebook used by students to research history prior to game play
Historia Civilization Builder (PDF): Worksheets students use to build their own civilizations
Historia Interactive Presentation (PPTX): Presentation given by teacher to guide game play
”Designing a Classroom Game That Can Get Kids Excited About History,” by Brian Waniewski: How social studies teachers Rick Brennan and Jason Darnell developed Historia to make history come alive for their middle-school students (from The Atlantic)
Well, here’s a great blog post, Elements4D – Exploring Chemistry with Augmented Reality, by Samantha Morra of EdTechTeacher.org about a wonderful new app.
Students point the iPad camera at a cube, and it will reveal additional information about that element.
With 6 cubes, students have 36 naturally-occurring elements. Through AR, they will learn their names, what they look like, and their atomic weights. Here are gold and carbon. (If a student clicks on element, they will get more facts about it.)
The best part, though, is when students put two cubes together, then they can see how they react and get the resulting compound and chemical equation. Notice, when they are not touching, Hydrogen and Oxygen are gasses. Put them together and, you guessed it, they turn into water.
One of the big benefits of these cubes is that students can “play” with elements that they could never handle in a classroom. In fact, students can even “play” with Plutonium. Here are the cubes for Plutonium and Bromine separately. Notice that Bromine is a liquid and Plutonium is a solid.
The really wonderful thing about this AR app is that it stimulates inquiry. After showing this app to students and teachers of different ages, the reaction has all been the same. They want to manipulate the cubes and see what happens. They are excited about chemistry.
Using Elements4D students could do a variety of these activities:
- Create a log of different chemical interactions. Draw how each element looks individually and then how they look together. Take note of the state of matter, color, etc.
- Pick one or two elements and see how all of the other element react with them.
- View each element and create a chart sorting them by state of matter: solid, liquid or gas.
- Try just putting gasses together, or liquids or solid. What kinds of conclusions can students make after observing what reacts to another element.
AR can make the 21st century digital classroom a dynamic place to teach and learn. We are just beginning to see apps and programs that are harnessing the potential that AR can have in the classroom. If you have not played with any augmented reality apps yet, check out Elements4D. You are in for a treat. This app works great and fosters inquiry and experimentation with chemical elements in a safe environment.
Speaking with our building principal and our new online academy specialist, I learned that MLHS is the only high school in America that is issuing digital badges to students through the Mozilla OpenBadges platform!
So, what are digital badges? Mozilla posts on their site that “A digital badge is an online representation of a skill you’ve earned. Open Badges take that concept one step further, and allows you to verify your skills, interests and achievements through credible organizations. And because the system is based on an open standard, you can combine multiple badges from different issuers to tell the complete story of your achievements — both online and off. Display your badges wherever you want them on the web, and share them for employment, education or lifelong learning.”
If you are interested in another option, check out Class Badges, a free achievement tracking service that launched late last year.
On Class Badges teachers create goals for their students. When students reach their goals teachers give them a badge to them to keep in their student profiles. Teachers can create goals for things like completing a large research project, for perfect attendance, or for completing an informal learning activity with their parents while visiting a local museum. This month they have added the option to create your own custom badges for anything that you would like to track and reward your students for doing.
As a big fan of the social media site A PLATFORM FOR GOOD, I hope to share some of the best posts from them of this past month.
Here are a few from the past couple weeks that I think you’ll want to see:
I’m a huge fan of the EDsurge blog. Here is a great “end of the year” blog post of the top ten most popular S’Cool Tools from last year–based on reader clicks. (We began the countdown last week with the #11-20 most popular S’Cool Tools). Just to whet your appetite, we’ll offer you a couple of nuggets here. And, yes, once again, they’re all free.
Free! #1: Brilliant is one way to keep your science and math whiz kids regularly engaged and challenged. Students receive challenge problems each week that they complete and then compare against their peers all over the world. They can see where they match up against others based on country and age, and share strategies with others students. The site also hosts competitions involving game theory, writing algorithms, and other fun shenanigans.
Free! #5: Google Treks is a comprehensive set of web 2.0 lessons built primarily on top of Google Maps. Created by Dr. Alice Christie and a core team of collaborators, Google Treks offers lessons in science, mathematics, social studies, language arts, art, music, and health– all in the context of geographic locations. Curious about the history of famous earthquakes? There’s a map for that. Need to convey the scope and complexity of the Underground Railroad? There’s a map for that, too. Looking to demonstrate good accounting practices by planning a vacation? Yup, in fact… well, you get the picture.
Free! #9: Now, we just find this downright cool. Aurasma is getting a lot of attention from educators these days. Available in the iOS and Google Play store, this app brings the magic of augmented reality to learners. Add a layer of video to an existing image, and voila! Learning comes alive. Aurasma is being used in classrooms to expand vocabulary, deepen conceptual understanding, and engage learners.
Boom Writer is a free tool that turns readers into writers. Teachers upload a “starter chapter” of a book onto the platform and students write additional chapters to continue the story. A fun, creative, and helpful tool for teaching writing–even with the most reluctant student writers. It’s also flexible enough that students in 2nd-8th grade can use Boom Writer.
BoomWriter lets you easily incorporate and experience the benefits of technology as your students are engaged in standards-based learning activities. Here’s how BOOMwriter incorporates just some of the Common Core Standards:
- Grade 3 CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.3 - Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
Using BoomWriter’s feature allowing teachers to create their own story start, students collaboratively create imagined multi-paragraph personal narratives using a teacher generated prompt (e.g. “When I woke up on Saturday morning, I had no idea I was in for the craziest day of my entire life…”).
- Grade 5 CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.2 - Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
Utilizing a well-crafted first chapter from BoomWriter’s collection of story starts, the teacher can prepare students for their writing exercise by identifying and discussing with the class the piece’s fictional elements (setting, characters, methods of characterization, plot, point of view, theme, symbolism). As the piece develops the teacher can then revisit these elements using the content generated by the students.
- Grade 6 CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.1 - Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
Teacher creates two separate groups within the class and assigns opposing positions on a controversial topic. Each group then has the charge to collaboratively construct their piece supporting the claim with reasons and relevant evidence.
- Grade 7 CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.7.2 - Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
Students demonstrate narrative skills while conducting unit of study summary of Ancient Rome. Teacher uses BoomWriter’s Guidance Notes feature to convey each individual chapter’s area of focus (Geographic Influence, Government, Culture, Expansion, Slavery, Christianity’s role, Fall of, etc.).
I saw this great post today on the PLATFORM FOR GOOD website. It is perfectly timed for this holiday season:
Gadgets are all the rage this year, but is online safety on your radar this holiday season? Before giving kids any technology – like a new gaming system or their first smartphone – it’s important to establish clear ground rules and build skills.