An edublog about integrating technology into the classroom.
What it is: Another web 2.o tool, Sketchcast is a new way for you to communicate with your students and for your students to communicate with one another. A Sketchcast is a recorded online sketch. Think an online whiteboard recording. Sketchcast offers the ability to record a sketchcast with or...
What it is: Find Your Pi Day is a simple site from Wolfram where students can type in any number (like a birth date) and the site will tell you where that number falls within the Pi sequence. All dates fall somewhere within the first 10 million digits in the sequence. The place in the sequence is depicted by a spiral that goes in and out to display the beginnings and ends of such long digit sequences.
How to integrate Find Your Pi Day in your classroom:Find Your Pi Day is a neat site to generate conversation and inquiry into Pi. This is a fantastic place to begin exploration of Pi. Students can learn about the mathematical sequence and the science of Pi in this background Wolfram blog post.
What it is:Hello Ruby began as a whimsical children’s book by Linda Liuka meant to help kids learn about computers, technology, and programming. Hello Ruby has since escaped the pages of the book, and now Ruby continues all of her adventures in exercises, games, and apps. It is well suited for primary kids, but truly anyone (adults included!) can learn something from Ruby. The story of Ruby is beautiful, it begins with a unique, different girl who is surrounded by her unique and different friends-all with different abilities. Ruby loves learning new things, and hates giving up. She shares her opinions boldly, and is funny. Her secret superpower is being able to imagine impossible things. Her interests include maps, secret codes, and small talk (she should offer a class…I hate small talk!). Each of her friends is equally interesting and dynamic! Beyond the Hello Ruby book, the website is packed full of goodness. There are downloads for your students where they can print their own blank game boards to create unique games, an opportunity to help Ruby organize her wardrobe for dress code, practice building a universal remote control, a ‘what is a computer’ activity, and My First Computer where students can design their own computer!
Watch the TED talk above for the passion behind Hello Ruby!
How to integrate Hello Ruby into your classroom: The Hello Ruby site has a special educator page to get started with Hello Ruby in your classroom. You’ll find lesson plans, educator stories, and resources to help you get started with learning and teaching programming yourself. All necessary components are included on the Hello Ruby site! The lesson plans and ideas included are brilliant and go beyond most lesson plans you’ll find for programming. This is immersive programming that puts students in the middle of the action and has them discovering and acting as inquirers. Hello Ruby is a wonderfully whimsical way to teach students about computers and programming. If you are new to the world of programming, this is the place to start. The ground work for learning to code is all here. Hello Ruby introduces your students to programming but also beautifully engages them in logical thinking, problem solving, and critical thinking exercises. It is genuinely brilliant!
Beyond the introduction to technology and coding, I love the Ruby character and all of her friends. Each is unique and different, and that is celebrated! Hello Ruby celebrates identity and the uniqueness of everyone. Use it as part of your classroom character development. At Anastasis, we’ll use it as part of the Who We Are inquiry block and Detox week.
Tips: The Hello Ruby book comes in English, Finnish, and Swedish. Soon it will be available in Dutch, Hungarian, French, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, and Polish as well.
What it is:INVICTA Challenge combines technology (in the form of an action-packed video game), a graphic novel, maps, an operation packet and an action figure that inspires kids to read and problem solve. Each INVICTA Challenge collection builds problem solving and leadership skills for students 8-14. Part story, part game, students are placed in historical situations where they get to make the decisions that will determine success or failure. The first challenge, Flash & Thunder lets students walk in the shoes of an American Hero.
How to Integrate INVICTA Challenge in your classroom: These challenges are a fun and new way to foster literacy, history, and leadership skills in your classrooms. Stories are highly visual and have enough action and adventure to keep even your reluctant readers engaged. The game component of the challenge almost takes on a choose your own adventure feel as it pairs with the graphic novel, maps, and missions. The first challenge, Flash & Thunder tells the true story of a Native American paratrooper’s D-Day leadership. The way that this combination puts students in the middle of the story is fantastic. Students aren’t passive readers…it is impossible! With Flash and Thunder, students are in the middle of the action, analyzing options, making decisions, evaluating the decisions and building comprehension and understanding of history all the way.
The INVICTA challenge is like a smart recombination of the things I enjoyed most from my own childhood: American Girl dolls/Books, Oregon Trail…only with a major upgrade.
At Anastasis, we’ve been working on an inquiry unit about change makers and the power of one. The INVICTA challenge has been a fantastic launching off point for students as they consider what it means to be a change maker, and what characteristics make up a change maker. This interactive challenge/book/game put students in the middle of thinking like a change maker, building leadership traits like integrity, nobility, valor, initiative, curiosity, tenacity, and accountability.
This challenge would be an excellent addition to your classroom library. You might want a few copies so that students can read together and work through the game and missions together in a book group. The video game component will be available on iOS, Android, and online here. Take a look!
Tips: The INVICTA Challenges can be purchased at Barnes and Noble for $34.99. For all that is included in this kit, it is truly a great value! I’m so excited for the other challenges to come out, some very exciting stories and characters are on their way!
Full disclosure: INVICTA sent me the Flash and Thunder challenge so that I could review it for you all here. But…
You can win your own Flash and Thunder challenge at the 5Sigma Education Conference in February! If you register for the conference today, you can save 20% using the code: CYBERMONDAY at check out. Not only will you get the opportunity to win one of these great challenge kits for your classroom, you also get a conference experience like no other!
What it is:123D Design is a free super powerful, but simple to use, 3D creation and editing tool. As if that wasn’t great enough, it also supports many new 3D printers! The 3D creation tool is available for PC, Mac, and iPad download ensuring that no matter what devices you have at your disposal, you can take advantage of this awesome tool. The 123D app is incredibly intuitive, within just a few minutes, you can be creating like a pro (really!). Not feeling like a pro? There is also a quick start guide and a library of video tutorials that will explain how the different tools within the app work. The app has lots of 3D designs to start with that can be altered, but it also gives students complete creative license to create all on their own. So cool!
How to integrate 123D Design into your classroom:123D Design is a fantastic tool that brings the principles of geometry to life while giving students an outlet for creative design and invention. The app is easy enough to use that even young primary students can use it successfully to create.
I introduced this app to some of our students who have been learning the basics about coordinate planes. They quickly were able to identify the coordinate planes and were able to understand x, y, and z! This is the type of creation tool that helps students understand the application possibilities of the math they are learning (math in context, what a novel idea!)
At Anastasis, we’ve been playing with the iPad version of 123D Design. In the app version, students begin by choosing a basic shape and then can edit it to be exactly what they want it to be. They can easily connect shapes to make really detailed creations. Example projects help them to play with the tools in the app until they understand and can start from scratch on their own. When students are finished, they save it to “My Projects” which is accessible in the 123D Design web and desktop app. If you are lucky enough to have access to a 3D printer, the kids can even print out their creations!
This is a great addition to any maker space/prototype lab/design thinking routine. Don’t have any of that fanciness at your school? No problem! Adding this app to your classroom gives students an outlet to do some design thinking and work through ideas and inventions right in your classroom. Instant prototype lab!
Our students often engage in design thinking as they engage inquiry. Right now one of our 4th grade students is inquiring into how much water is wasted in our daily activities. One area of waste is when we brush our teeth. This student is designing and creating a toothbrush with the water built-in so that the faucet doesn’t have to be turned on to wet the toothbrush. She’s been experimenting to find out how much waste there is in this activity in our prototype lab. Next, she’ll begin to bring her designs to life with 123D Design and we’re hopeful that she’ll be able to print out a prototype on our Printrbot (still experimenting with how to do that!).
Tips: Sign up to become a member of Autodesk 123D. This gives you access to 3D models, tutorials, 10 free premium models each month, ability to send the 3D model directly to your own 3D printer (or if you don’t have one, to a printing service), unlimited cloud storage of your student designs, and access to the Autodesk forums.
In November, I wrote a post about the book/PBS documentary series “How We Got to Now” by Steven Johnson. If you haven’t read this book or watched the series, it is a must! Truly, this is one of those books that has stayed with me. I’m not the only one. Students from 1st-8th grade at Anastasis have become fascinated with Steven Johnson’s journey through the six innovations that made the modern world. The way that Steven weaves the story is remarkable. It reminds us just how interconnected the world is and that innovation doesn’t happen in isolation, but as a result of connection. This book, perhaps more than any we’ve read as a school, has reminded us of the beauty of inquiry. What happens when hunches collide and people pursue those hunches.
I love the way that Johnson explores innovation through these 6 lenses. Instead of offering up the typical “heroes” of invention, Johnson introduces students to concepts that span hundreds of years of invention and many of the unsung heroes. The six innovations include: glass, time, clean, light, sound, and cold. I’m telling you, the way that Johnson helps kids see connections in innovation and invention is brilliant! So much the way that inquiry works.
In my first post, I wrote about how our students had imagined these innovations as a series of dominoes. Each new discovery leads to the next. Much like dominoes creating a chain reaction. The students have spent the last months exploring each of the 6 innovations in-depth. In addition to the PBS series, they’ve spent time really digging into each innovation that led to the next.
@dweissmo really took on this project with her students. The process wasn’t without it’s frustrations (for teacher and students) but the end result was absolutely incredible! Honestly, I couldn’t have imagined a better outcome than what I saw today when Deb’s class unveiled their mini museum. Before I get to that, let me lead you through the process of how this project came together.
First, Deb’s class watched each of the How We Got to Now @PBS documentary series. The students took notes (in Evernote, through sketchnotes, etc.) about each innovation. The class would also debrief after each video and talk about what surprised them, encouraged them about the invention process, the key players, and the timeline. @dweissmo is a master at leading these conversations. Her enthusiasm is infectious and the students caught her passion. Steven Johnson also has a way of presenting the unfolding of each innovation in a way that hooks your interests and keeps you marveling and making connections long after the video is over. After watching the documentary series, Deb put each of the six innovations up on her wall and asked students to write their names on a sticky note and choose which innovation that they were most excited to learn more about.
Students chose which innovation they wanted to do a more in-depth study of and would, ultimately, create dominoes based on.
For the dominoes, we snagged a bunch of the flat-rate shipping boxes from USPS. The students painted them different colors according to the innovation they were studying (a different color for each innovation). Next they took all of their notes and research and started creating their “dominoes” with information about that innovation. They quickly realized that there was SO much to say about each innovation, that it didn’t fit on their domino. The kids decided to create websites where they could add a little more in-depth information about the innovation. To make it easier for the museum audience, they connected the websites and webpages they built to QR codes for each domino. You guys, these are 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students!!! I’m so proud of them I could burst. They built their websites using Wix (a wonderful and amazing WYSIWYG editor). The QR codes were built using Google’s URL shortener which also happens to include a QR code. On the back of each domino, the kids affixed their QR codes. Some of the kids also created videos that were included on their website. (If you are interested in seeing these websites, all are linked here.) All of this was done over the course of a few months as the kids continued on their inquiry journey of How We Express Ourselves, and How the World Works.
Then came the full moon. Any teacher will tell you that the full moon does something to children. Perfectly wonderful, reasonable children are suddenly unrecognizable and cannot make a decision or work together to save their lives. This is a real thing! This full moon coincided with class decisions about how to set up their museum. And much chaos ensued. Despite the full moon, the kids were able to come to a decision about how they would set up their museum for the rest of Team Anastasis and families to enjoy. For all of the trouble they had coming to a decision, they did a remarkable job in the end! They created a sort of maze/labyrinth to walk through with dominoes along the journey. They decided to organize the dominoes not by innovation, but instead as a timeline so that you could see the interconnectedness of innovation. They had a station set up with clips from the How We Got to Now PBS series, a station where kids/parents could download a QR code scanner and learn how to use it before going through the museum, the actual domino mini-museum, and a place to reflect on the museum afterward. It was incredible!!
What was truly inspiring was watching the other classes (and parents) journey through the museum. Kids of all ages were SO engaged and impressed with what Team Weissman had put on. They spent time sitting at each domino and learning more about the innovations. They asked questions. They told Team Weissman what a neat website they had built. They connected with each other and learned together. Seriously, I couldn’t have dreamed up a better scenario. As the 1st-3rd grade class was leaving, they stopped and asked some of Team Weissman, “could you show us how to do QR codes and websites for our Body Tracings?” This is what learning looks like!
After all their hard work, the kids sat down and reflected on what could have gone better. What they would like to do differently for their next museum. They congratulated each other for a job well done. They talked about how hard the project felt at times and how very proud of themselves they were when they persevered through the hard parts. They made plans for the next opportunity to share it.
And now for our next trick, Team Weissman is creating their own inventions…How We Get to Next! These are so brilliant, I can’t wait to share them!
If you are joining us for the 5sigma Education Conference (and I hope you are!!), you will get a first hand look at the How We Got to Now mini domino museum and hear from the students who created it.
Every morning Anastasis Academy students start with a mile walk. Together. We don’t walk by class, or by age. We walk together in community. Sometimes (when the weather is nicer) whole families join us, dogs included. It is a great way to start off the day. Directly following the walk, our students come together for a morning meeting. We call it “Metanoia” which is an ancient Greek word meaning: the journey to change one’s mind. Again, we do this as a community, not separated by age, grade, or class. They all sit together. Sometimes we bring in guest speakers, sometimes we watch a video together, and sometimes different staff members lead Metanoia. We share stories and take time to do life together. We do a lot of awesome things at Anastasis, but the Metanoia time together in the morning is among the most awesome.
The Metanoia tends to be tied up with the current inquiry block. This block, our students have been intentional about being thankful. Having an attitude of gratitude every day as part of our How We Express Ourselves inquiry block. Early in the week, we had @thewesroberts as our guest speaker. He gave each student a quarter and challenged them to multiply it and then give it away. Wes talked to the kids about the power they have to make an impact on each other’s lives and on our community. Incidentally as Wes was talking to our students, one of my friends lost their house and dogs in a fire. Devastating. I mentioned this to some of the Anastasis staff and before I knew it, our students had determined that they were going to multiply the quarters they were given to help my friend. Wow.
Today during Metanoia, @lancefinkbeiner called up students to the front one at a time and then asked the other students to say something that they appreciated about the student at the front. As a community, our kids told each other why they matter. This was a neat exercise, but what made it extra special was the way that kids of all ages gave input. They know each other. It matters not if they are the same age, or if they are in the same class. They know each other well enough that they can speak to what they appreciate about in each other. The love and grace that they offered each other through their comments was outstanding. “I like the way that you are friends with everyone.” “You are so creative!” “You include people.” “You have a great heart.” “You are really funny.” It was seriously so much awesome. Every student got to hear what others appreciated about them. Happiness.
So much of the time when we talk about education we focus on policy, politics, technology integration, curriculum. I’m learning that the most important thing is often the one that no one talks about. Community. Doing life together. Our kids are really good at thinking deeply, they are creative and innovative, they are incredibly articulate, they are confident, they are smart. I’m convinced that none of this would look the way that it does if we hadn’t been so intentional about building up our community. When kids feel supported by others; when they know that kids who are older and younger than they are care about them; when they can be vulnerable together, this is what leads to all of the rest being possible.
Many of my friends have been having discussions about #FutureReady. I think #FutureReady starts with Metanoia, doing life together in the journey to change one’s mind.
What it is:Post-it Notes are among my very favorite office supplies. I use them for brainstorming, my calendar, to jot down reminders, and to collect the brilliant ideas that happen in the middle of the night. At Anastasis, we use Post It Notes constantly to help organize brainstorm sessions and lines of inquiry during an inquiry block. As you might imagine, we use TONS of Post-it Notes during any given week! They are hard not to love, brightly colored squares just waiting to collect brilliance and post it for the world to see. Recently, I stumbled on an app, Post-it Plus, that takes my love of sticky notes to a whole new level! Post-it Plus is an app that lets you snap pictures of a Post-it note brainstorm session, and then arrange, refine, and organize the notes on a virtual board. The newly organized digital board can then be shared out. Students can capture 50 Post-it notes at a time and collect and combine ideas from multiple categories. Notes can be organized on a grid, or free form any way that you would like. Boards can be shared via email, PowerPoint, Excel, Dropbox, by PDF, etc. After the work has been shared, anyone can help contribute and arrange the notes to create a great idea! The app is free and optimized for iOS 8.
How to integrate Post-it Plus in your classroom: Post-it Plus is a great way for students to capture their brainstorms and group work so that they can take it with them.
Collaboratively brainstorm with your class or explore some different lines of inquiry and record each new thought on a sticky note. Students can then take a picture of the group on their iOS devices and arrange and group in a way that best makes sense to them. Now all of your students can manipulate the sticky notes individually and bring their learning with them.
As students are writing (either creative or informational), they can write each new idea or paragraph on a different sticky note. Then they can arrange their notes and take a picture. As they create different arrangements, they can use the digital version to compare with the original to make decisions about the flow of their writing.
Teach young students? Write down the different parts of a story (beginning, middle, supporting details, end) on several sticky notes. Students can snap a picture of the notes and practice sequencing the story. Each student has the digital version, so each can practice ordering and you can quickly assess their understanding.
Post-it Plus could also be used for phonics work. Write phonemes on individual sticky notes and ask students to take pictures of each phoneme with the app. Then call out words that students can create with their phonemes in the app.
Post-it Plus is also fantastic for students learning math processes (order of operations anyone?) and algebraic thinking. Write each part of an equation down and students can manipulate the digital sticky notes to show process.
Students can also use Post-it Plus to categorize and organize ideas and events in history, science, government, etc. How We Got to Now anyone?
Tips: I can’t tell you how many conferences I’ve been to that we used Sticky notes to brainstorm ideas. Post-it Plus makes it easy to take that thinking and learning with you in a very practical form that you can interact with later! Speaking of conferences, the 5 Sigma Edu Conference is a great one to test out this app!
At Anastasis Academy, we are in the middle of the inquiry block “Where We Are in Place and Time.” During this block our students are exploring orientation in place and time, personal histories, explorations and migrations of humankind, and the relationships between the interconnectedness of individuals and civilizations from local and global perspectives. Serendipitously, Steven Johnson’s new book “How We Got to Now” just came out along with a PBS documentary. The timing could not have been better!! Steven looks at 6 innovations that made the modern world. In his telling about these 6 innovations, he demonstrates the inquiry approach in really brilliant ways. The interdisciplinary nature of this series is fantastic! I’ve been reading “How We Got to Now” (I highly recommend it!) and the students have been watching the new PBS documentary series by the same name as part of the inquiry unit. In addition to the book and documentary series, PBS has a brilliant How We Got to Now website for the classroom!
What it is:How We Got to Now with Steven Johnson is a website from PBS. The resources on the site are meant to support the documentary series (or book) and recommended for 6th-12th grade. At Anastasis, we are using it with students as young as 3rd grade and they are all getting something out of it and loving the connections of history and these innovations.
How to use How We Got to Now in the classroom: I love the way that Johnson explores innovation through these 6 lenses. Instead of offering up the typical “heroes” of invention, Johnson introduces students to concepts that span hundreds of years of invention and many of the unsung heroes. The six innovations include: glass, time, clean, light, sound, and cold. I’m telling you, the way that Johnson helps kids see connections in innovation and invention is brilliant! So much the way that inquiry works.
The How We Got to Now site has a great “Big Ideas” section that leads students to dig deeper into the six innovations and has provocations for students to continue making connections, learning, asking questions, and even coming up with their own innovations.
Students can explore and discuss how change happens and think about how we get to “next.”
As I mentioned, our students at Anastasis are really loving this block. They are enjoying exploring Where We Are in Place and Time with the help of Steven Johnson and through the lens of these six innovations. It has led to a lot of additional lines of inquiry and has also prompted our students to create their own innovations and inventions for the “next.”
As I was reading “How We Got to Now,” I couldn’t help but imagine a set of dominoes. Each innovation connects to something prior that sets off a chain reaction like the domino effect. I suggested to our classes that the students choose one of the six innovations to illustrate this way. The students will create a mini museum for our families to go through that is full of large cardboard dominoes with the inventions and catalysts of the chain reaction. The last domino will be their invention. I’m excited to see this come together!
I haven’t been a regular watcher of America’s Got Talent, but one of our families recently forwarded on this video of their friend Abigail Baird who is on the current season. Abigail is incredible. Her talent is Aerial Animation, digital story telling mixed with aerial dancing and acrobatics. You have got to see it!
As I said, she is incredible! This clip reminds me of a chapter in Sir Ken Robinson’s The Element. In it, he talks about the way that body movement and manipulation (the kinesthetic and rhythmic/musical multiple intelligences) are often overlooked in schools. What a shame! I love the creativity that Abigail uses to marry her talent and multiple intelligence gifting with story telling. This goes beyond just entertainment, it is a new method of communicating story. This is a fantastic video to share with your students. It is inspirational to see someone use their talent so creatively. We often think of storytelling very linearly and through paper/pencil and occasionally digital media, this is a great example of how to think outside of the box, create something new and think about all of the ways we can communicate.
If you are in an inquiry based school using the PYP, this would be the perfect video to share during the inquiry unit on How We Express Ourselves!
America’s Got Talent is on TONIGHT, you can vote for Abigail! I hope that you will vote for this incredible talent and creativity! Find Abigail on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
At Anastasis Academy, we don’t have boxed curriculum. This can be both incredibly freeing, and terrifying. If you don’t have curriculum that tells you what to do, what do you DO?! We engage students in inquiry. Inquiry gives students parameters of learning, but allows them to discover and explore within those parameters. Teaching students to properly manage their freedom.
Each 5 weeks, our students engage a new line of inquiry. We follow the PYP inquiry questions (Who we are, Where we are in place and time, How we organize ourselves, How the world works, Sharing the planet). These questions give us good parameters to work within. Each 5 weeks, I send our teachers resources for the inquiry block. Within these big inquiry questions, I provide our primary, intermediate, and Jr. High with different key concept lines of inquiry to explore. These are aligned to the social studies, science, language, and math standards for that age group. Every year I change-up the key concept lines of inquiry just a bit (keeps things interesting and fresh for all of us!).
I create Pinterest boards for our teachers that have a variety of resources for each inquiry block. These resources include ideas, videos, lessons, books, apps, etc. that are related to the inquiry block. They are not prescriptive, but rather offer a launching point for teachers. Then, I create QR code posters that look like this:
These get posted all over the school so that teachers and students always have access to the resources (note: we are a 1:1 iPad school).
This has worked REALLY well for sharing resources, as I notice students connect with a line of questioning/inquiry, I can add resources during the inquiry block that the students can use. This creates a whole community that is discovering and learning together. The curriculum is fluid, it is constantly growing and adapting. Teachers often send me links and ideas through Pinterest (I don’t add teachers as collaborators for the boards-even though I could- because I don’t want them to feel obligated to spend their free time the way that I do). Students have begun to send ideas through Pinterest as well…way cool!!
Here is the problem, each year I create 18 inquiry boards. I use the same Pinterest account for personal use as I do for education (you never know when a non-education idea will spark the perfect education idea). As I was getting ready to create boards for this school year, I realized how MANY boards I was going to have to sort through to find this years boards. It is starting to get ridiculous! I needed a good way to archive boards. Enter Evernote. We already use Evernote as a school for ePortfolios, archiving boards using Evernote is the perfect solution!
I used the Firefox web browser to do this, I’m sure this plugin exists for all major web browsers. First, go to “Tools” in your Firefox menu bar and choose “Add Ons.” In the search bar, type “Evernote web clipper” and download the Evernote Web Clipper add-on. After you restart Firefox, this will put the Evernote Web Clipper button in your Firefox tools.
Navigate to the Pinterest board that you want to save. Select all by going to “Edit” in the menu bar, and choose “Select All.” You could also just navigate to the board you want to archive and hold down the command key and letter “a.” Then click on the Evernote Web Clipper button in your address bar. Add any tags that you want to be associated with the board and a note to yourself about the board.
That is it! The board is saved to Evernote with all of the images, and the web link is live as well! Verify that the board saved to Evernote correctly and then delete the board. Now you have room for a new year’s worth of boards.
This is a seriously great way to archive any boards that you need to save but don’t need in your Pinterest list right now. I’ve just archived all of last year’s inquiry boards and am ready to pin another year! This is also a great way to create a back-up of your boards or to save and send entire boards to colleagues.
If you just need to save the images from a pinterest board, use that-boy-I-love, (@jtenkely)‘s awesome creation, Pinswiper. This tool will save just the images from a Pinterest board as jpgs on your desktop. Great if you need images that you saved for classroom presentations, writing prompts, etc.