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Ollie’s World

What it is: Earth Day is April 22nd, Ollie’s World is a fantastic place to begin the celebration early.  Here students will learn about the 4 R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle, rethink as they apply to the 5 action issues of waste, water, energy, air, and biodiversity.  The site is packed full...

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Prodigy: Virtual world of math

Posted by admin | Posted in Knowledge (remember), Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 18-12-2014

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Prodigy: Math virtual world

What it is: Prodigy is a fantastic way to differentiate math in your classroom. Prodigy is a game-like fantasy world where students engage in math along their adventures. Prodigy is a virtual world where students can play together with classmates. In the virtual world, students are wizards who learn magic and spells to defeat over 100 monsters. To learn a new spell or add powers (or adopt pets), students must complete different math challenges. As students play the game, they will learn over 300 math skills in 1st-8th grade. Prodigy is adaptive, so it constantly adjusts to challenge them and keep them learning at their own pace. Gaps are automatically identified and the math challenges scaffold accordingly. As a teacher, you can get real-time feedback on the skills students have been working on and identify challenges at a glance.

How to integrate Prodigy into your classroom: Prodigy is aligned to the Common Core Math standards and has over 300 math skills for students to master. It moves beyond simple number sense and also covers geometry, spatial sense, probability, and other crucial skills. Because Prodigy is aligned to the Common Core, it is easy to navigate.  The teacher dashboard is really intuitive, you can get in and have your class signed up and ready to roll in no time! From the teacher dashboard, you can use the assessment feature to diagnose where students are, and align math content to what you are teaching in class. In a 1:1 classroom setting, where each child has their own device, using Prodigy in your math class is a no brainer. Kids will love it! If you don’t have the luxury of a 1:1 environment, but you do have classroom computers, your kids can still benefit from Prodigy. Use Prodigy as a math center and in the course of a week, make sure that all of your students have the opportunity to filter through to practice the skills they have learned that week.

My guess is, if your students are like ours, that just being exposed to Prodigy in class will have your kids asking, “can we play this at home?” Umm, yes! I love when they get so into learning that they want to carry on all on their own. This is one of those games that they will want to come back to voluntarily!

Tips: Prodigy is completely free for you to use as an educator with your students. All of the educational skills and teacher features are completely free with no time limits that some sites have. The only thing that Prodigy charges for are kids’ game features where families can purchase special wands, hats, robes, etc.

Curious about how we use technology at Anastasis? You do not want to miss our conference in February! Registration is now open!

Pixel Press Floors: draw a video game on paper, snap a picture and play it!

Posted by admin | Posted in Art, Create, Foreign Language, Fun & Games, Geography, Government, History, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Spelling, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Websites | Posted on 18-06-2014

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What it is: Pixel Press Floors is a seriously magical (currently free) app that brings a child’s imagination to life. With the Pixel Press Floors creation platform, students can literally dream up and draw their own video game without any coding. Students draw their ideas out on paper, and the Floors app turns the drawing into an actual video game that can be played. Print out the special paper so that the app can recognize the shapes “glyphs” that are drawn, or use the in app drawing tools. The drawing is instantly turned into a game that can be tested, designed, played, and even published to the “Arcade” where others can play it.

How to integrate Pixel Press Floors into learning: The first step of creation is to download the Pixel Press Floors app on the iPad. Next, go to projectpixelpress.com to download and print the free sketch guide. Students draw up the game of their dreams and then take a picture of what they drew from the Pixel Press Floors app.

The glyphs (shapes) that students draw are magically transformed into game play objects. After glyphs have been created, students can apply a design to the element, test it, and play it. Within the app, students can create games with:

  • Run and jump game play (Mario-style)
  • Create with 14 creator glyphs: terrain, moving blocks, ladders, portals, monkey bars, power-ups, coins, super coins, falling blocks, spikes, exploding blocks, start and end positions, pits and fireballs, keys.
  • Two original themes to get the creativity jump-started: “Save the Parents” and “Fiddleheads: Stones of Eden”
  • Publishing and sharing in the Arcade

Pixel Press Floors is a fantastic “maker space” element to add to your classroom. This app is perfect for prototyping ideas, design thinking (ideation and prototyping), teamwork and collaboration, and to build creativity. In designing games, students learn systems thinking, creative problem solving, art and aesthetics, writing and storytelling, and creates a motivation for further STEM exploration.

There is so much to learn from digital games.  As a player, students learn to think strategically, persist through failure and experience epic wins that can translate to what they do and are willing to try out in real life. As a designer students learn systems thinking, creative problem solving, digital art and aesthetics, and storytelling and writing. Students love being able to bring their creations and ideas to life in the form of a game. Video game creation could be the key to unlocking the storytelling genius in your reluctant writers. It has been my experience that a student faced with a blank paper and a writing assignment can be daunting. Introduce the idea of designing their own game and suddenly a storyline pours forth. It is pretty neat to watch!

Draw your own video games- no coding necessary! Draw your own video games- no coding necessary! Draw your own video games- no coding necessary! Draw your own video games- no coding necessary!

Students can create games that help them build skills. Instead of simply playing those drill/skill games on other websites/apps, they can create their own! This is visual notes 3.0. Instead of simply practicing math facts, students can create a customized game to help them learn and remember those facts! This type of game is perfect for creating games to practice: math facts, spelling, vocabulary, foreign languages, letter recognition, geography, history facts, etc.

Instead of passively playing games in their free time, students can create their own! The blend of the hand-drawn and technology is seamless and brilliant. Kids will have such fun creating their own games and bringing their imagination to life.

Tips: Game Star Mechanic would be an outstanding place to start, here kids can learn the thinking process behind designing their own video games.

Are you using Pixel Press Floors in your classroom? Leave a comment below and share the ways that you use it with students!

Rodan + Fields Consultant

Tynker: Computer programming for kids

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Create, Evaluate, Foreign Language, History, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Technology, web tools, Websites | Posted on 22-11-2013

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iLearn Technology Tynker: programming for kidsiLearn Technology Tynker: programming for kids

What it is: Tynker is about the coolest way for kids to learn how to computer program- absolutely NO prior programming experience is needed!  Tynker leads kids through design thinking through interactive courses where kids can learn how to program at their own pace.

Anyone can teach kids how to program (no really!) because with Tynker, you don’t need any prior knowledge or understanding.  Tynker provides teachers with tools, curriculum and project ideas that will have your kids programming in no time!  The Tynker curriculum pack starts with 6 lessons.  Each one is appropriate for a 45 minute work period. Through the teacher dashboard, you can assign lessons to your students.  A built-in tutor provides step-by-step instructions that guides students toward creating a working project.  The teacher dashboard also helps you track student progress as they learn and master concepts.  No data entry is required, students login and the teacher dashboard auto-magically populates.

When students have completed projects, they can publish them to the class showcase and be shared with family and friends through email, Google+, Twitter or Facebook.

Happily, Tynker works entirely in your web browser.  There is nothing to install or setup.  It is good to go right away!  Equally happily, Tynker is FREE for your school!  Woot!

How to integrate Tynker into your classroom: Not only will students learn the basics of programming with Tynker, they can use it to demonstrate their learning through their creations.  Students can compose stories and comics that retell a story, historical event, recent field trip, fiction or non-fiction.  Using the physics features, students can learn some basics about physics and cause the games they create to be more realistic.  They can also demonstrate understanding of physics principles through their creations.

Students can use Tynker to create their own apps to show off their understanding of new math/science/social studies vocabulary, math or science concepts, retell stories, character sketches, games, animations and more. In addition to being able to create stories, games, and  slideshow- students can also program original music and create computer art.

Don’t think you have time in your curriculum?  Take a look around Tynker and think about natural ways you could use it to enhance your curriculum.  Instead of asking your students to create a book report, have them program a retell using Tynker.  This will take some additional background knowledge (they will need to go through a Tynker tutorial or two) BUT the outcome is well worth it.  You will have asked your students to learn something new semi-independently, beefed up logical/mathematical thinking skills through programming, and invited students to think critically about what they read to tell the story to others through a program.  Worth the additional 45 min!  Students could demonstrate a math concept, show the steps in a science experiment, retell an event in history, and even compose their own music through program.  When you start thinking like a maker as you play with Tynker, you will realize there are infinite opportunities for including Tynker in your curriculum.  If you are still convinced that you can’t find the time in your heavily scheduled (sometimes scripted-sad) day, why not start a before or after school program, summer camp, lunch club, etc.?

At Anastasis, we have Crave classes every Wednesday.  These classes are offered by our teachers every 5 weeks.  Teachers choose an area of learning that they crave and create a class based on that (we have everything from programming, to cooking, to forensic science, hockey history, junk orchestra, iPad rock band, to chess and da Vinci art).  Students get a list of classes at the beginning of a new block, and get to choose a class that they crave.  The result is a wonderful mixed age (k-8) class of passions colliding.  The kids LOVE Wednesdays for this awesome hour of our day.  I’m excited to offer a Tynker class for our next block of classes (along with playing with our new Romo robot!), I think this is going to be a popular class!

iLearn Technology- Romotive robot

Tips: If your school uses Google apps for education like we do, your students can log in with their Google information.

What do you think of Tynker?  How do you plan to use it in your classroom?

Playfic: create, play and remix text-based games

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, History, Interactive book, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 08-01-2013

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What it is: Playfic is a site that let’s users create, play and remix online text-based games.  I may have lost some of you already…but don’t leave yet! A text-based game is a genre of game that uses no graphics or sound, but instead, uses text to tell a story in an interactive world.  Think of a choose your own adventure tech-style.  Students can create a story that others can interact with by directing the story using words and phrases.  As an example, the story might be about a forest, describing what you can see East, West, North and South.  The player would type in a direction “East”, hit the return key, and the story progresses.  You can try out a sample text-based game here.

How to integrate Playfic into the classroom: Playfic has all kinds of good stuff for classrooms.  To create a story, students must first learn a little bit of coding.  Tutorials are included on the Playfic site, and are easy enough to get your students up and running in no time.  There is even a link to an Inform 7 (coding language) recipe book that will have your students dreaming up new scenarios and actively researching how to make them come to life.  Students can create games for each other while strengthening their writing and grammar skills.  This is wonderful for fictitious writing, but could also be used for students to explore “what ifs” in history and science.  Students can take a moment in time and dream up what might have been different about the world if the event hadn’t happened the way that it had.  As they are researching and learning about the actual event, they will also be analyzing why the event is important and critically thinking about it’s impact on the world we live in.  Similarly, students could explore a science experiment, hypothesizing what will happen and the different outcomes that might occur.

Teachers could create these choose your own adventure stories for students for new learning or review of a topic.  Wouldn’t it be cool to have a story using sight word vocabulary that prompted practice with the sight words?

I know a handful of students who really struggle with writing…it is PAINFUL.  These students are brilliant. They have great ideas to share. One of the students I have in mind came up to me today and said, “over break I taught myself Lua (programming language).”  Students like these will be all over this type of writing.  What a cool way to engage them and excite them about the writing process in a new way.

One of the things that I really like about Playfic is that it takes a lot of planning, organizing, and thought to create this type of story.  For some students the planning/organizing portion of writing is a real struggle.  This site would be so useful in teaching students the importance of those steps.  I also love that it will have them researching and looking up solutions for how to make their ideas come to life.  Just like we do every day in the “real world.”

Tips: The Inform 7 Recipe book can be found here. 

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Playfic in your classroom.

Moglue: Create interactive ebooks and release as apps!

Posted by admin | Posted in Art, Create, Download, Geography, History, Interactive book, iPod, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Software, Teacher Resources | Posted on 26-10-2011

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What it is:  Moglue is an interactive ebook builder that helps students create and share their stories on mobile devices as an app.  This download desktop platform makes it a snap for students to create interactive ebooks and release them as apps for iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), Android tablets and Android phones.  Students only need to build the content once and Moglue makes it compatible with each user interface seamlessly.  No programming is required, this is a great creation platform for all classrooms!  Using a simple drag and drop interface, students can make their stories come to life.  Every child is enabled to be an artist now.

How to integrate Moglue into the classroom:  I think tools that make content creation simple are absolute genius.  As much as I would love for every student (and myself) to know how to program, it takes quite a bit of know-how before students can make their stories and ideas come to life.  The intuitive interface of tools like Moglue let students focus on breathing life into their creations and not on the technology tools used to build them.  Tools like Moglue are wonderful for the classroom where students are often short on time and resources (someone to teach them programming).  Because the interface is so easy to use, students can focus on telling a story, releasing their inner artist, and letting their creativity shine.

Students (or classes) can use Moglue to:

  • Tell a fractured fairy tale
  • Create a choose your own adventure story
  • Demonstrate science concepts in an interactive “glossary”
  • Create a class dictionary of math, science, economics or geography words
  • Write creatively
  • Create an interactive “textbook”
  • Create an illustrated dictionary for a second language
  • Create an interactive “travel-the-world” geography book
This is a neat way for students to publish their work and share with others!

Tips: The Moglue builder can be downloaded on Mac or Windows computers and has a great tutorial to get your students started!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Moglue in  your classroom!

Felicity from Thin Air: Inviting creativity, imagination, and play in the classroom

Posted by admin | Posted in Art, Character Education, Create, Fun & Games, inspiration, iPod, Language Arts, Math, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 17-12-2010

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The following is a re-post from my other blog: iPad Curriculum.  I shared Send Felicity a few weeks ago as part of my advent collection but thought I would give everyone a little more information about this incredible site and invitation for play.  Even though Send Felicity has an iPhone/iPod Touch app, the app isn’t necessary to engage in the creative play which is also available on the Send Felicity website and Facebook page.  I encourage you to offer your students opportunities for play.  I deeply believe that play is a strong catalyst for learning.

Application/website: Send Felicity

What it is: Everyone could use a little more magic and enchantment in their lives and Send Felicity brings students (and teachers/families) just that.  Take a look at the video below to watch some of that magic unfold.

Felicity is six and three-quarters years old.  She loves imagination, making things, and magic.  She comes from a magical place called Thin Air. Felicity invites children everywhere to join her in play.  Every day there is a new special surprise waiting for children.  Each surprise invites students to engage in creativity, play, imagination, and learning.  It is an enchanting-ongoing place that involves technology, imagination, and the real world in new ways.  The artists, geeks, and minds behind Felicity are deeply committed to keeping the childhood experience one of magic, imagination, and exploration.  They bring these values to life beautifully as an application, website, and social experience.  What I love about the Send Felicity experience is the storyline behind Felicity, and the invitation to be part of something that is engaging, meaningful, and magical.  The combination of the three makes Send Felicity a unique learning and interactive experience.  So, how does Send Felicity work?  Children can visit the application or website to learn of a new craft (adventure) to take with Felicity.  Felicity takes every day objects like paper plates and makes them magical.  Children follow the adventures and create and pretend along with Felicity.  Children can take pictures of their finished masterpieces and upload them to the Send Felicity website, sharing the creative experience with others.  The application is truly unique and takes what is real and adds a bit of magic (as you saw in the video).

How Send Felicity can enrich learning: Play is an important part of learning. It provides the building blocks for self-regulation and executive functions, promotes creativity, imagination, and divergent thinking.  Unfortunately play is often stripped from the classroom.  Send Felicity weaves together a wonderful tapestry of play and learning in the form of an application, a website, and a social movement.  Felicity uses open-ended play and experimentation that leads to an attitude of fun learning.  Felicity helps your students turn ordinary objects into creative works of magic.  Use Felicity’s daily dose of magic to spark your students imaginations.  Set aside some time for your students to do a little creative play.  The benefits that play has on the rest of the learning day will be well worth the time invested.   Go beyond the crafts and invite your students to write stories, poems, or secret letters in connection with the imaginative play of the day.   Activities for Felicity are open-ended and include art, language arts, literacy, and even math and physics.   Send Felicity marries technology and real life in new fun ways.  The application is just a piece of the bigger picture.  The application takes students physical creation and adds a little magic to it.

Send Felicity is really an app all about engagement of the mind.  As an example, one of my personal favorite Sending Felicity projects Beautiful Oops:

Today we are boldly making mistakes.Today, our children will make a small mess.

Today, we’ll set out on an adventure and begin with an “oops” and end up in a place where we can look and wonder. Together, we can do something mistaken and wrong; and audacious and wonderful to surprise everyone.

This project shows children that it is okay to make mistakes, and that, in fact, those mistakes can be turned into something wonderful, new, and meaningful.  Students don’t hear often enough that it is okay to make mistakes and that it is indeed an important part of the learning process.  Take a look at what these beautiful oops turn into:

The Send Felicity App has not yet been released to the iTunes store, but don’t let that stop you from using Felicity in your classroom right now, the Send Felicity website is full of fun activities, instructions, and even a bit of magic.  You can also check Felicity out on Facebook where she shares creations made by children from around the world!  Send your students home with a wonderful gift this holiday season and point them toward the Send Felicity website. Students will love the opportunities for play and imaginations, parents will love the ideas to keep their kids learning and playing.  Let parents know about Send Felicity along with this article from Geek Mom for a little explanation.

The wonderful people over at Send Felicity are so passionate about creating a world of wonder and imagination for children to play in that they have made the technology that Send Felicity is based on open source.  Interested parents, educators, and developers are invited to sign up to play along with them.

Devices: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch iOS 3.1.3 or later

Price: Free!

The Goal of Education

Posted by admin | Posted in Blogs, Character Education, collaboration, education reform, Fun & Games, inspiration, Internet Safety, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Web2.0 | Posted on 20-07-2010

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Tonight’s #edchat topic on Twitter was: Can we agree on a common goal of education?

My response:

The goal of education is to provide the conditions for learning.  I think that it is a broad enough goal for everything else to fall into place.  I engaged in some discussion about how current conditions keep us from that goal.  While I agree to some extent, I think that excuses are an easy way to stay where we are.  We can create conditions for learning without administrative support, without funding for technology, without the best conditions.  How do I know this?  Because I had teachers who did it for me.  They used what they had, within the system they were in, to provide us with the conditions for learning.  And guess what?  We learned.

Now, this is not to say that the goal wouldn’t be more attainable if we weren’t mired in a system that is run by testing and policies.  It is better to have ubiquitous use of technology and freedom within our classrooms.   I believe that those things will come.  But right now we are working within this system.  For now we can create conditions of learning for our students using what we have available to us.  Is it ideal?  No.  Is it possible?  Of course.  All it takes is some creativity.

I want to be clear, creating conditions for learning does not mean that every classroom looks the same.  It means that the conditions created match that unique student population.  The conditions that I learn best in may look different from the conditions that you learn best in.  This means that teachers have to know and understand the needs of their students.  The conditions of learning may change every year, every month, every day, and even every hour.  We are human, our needs are constantly changing.

Someone mentioned during the #edchat, that it would be great to see how students answered this question.  I actually know how my students answered this question, because I asked my 3rd-5th grade students to answer it last year.  My students answered something like this: the goal of education is to get good grades and pass tests so you can go to college.   Not the answer most of us would like to hear but there it is.  Did we really expect differently?  This is what our school system breaths.  This is the current goal of education, to move students through so that they graduate and go to college.

Being the computer teacher has some major advantages, one of which is that there is no curriculum to follow.  I write my own curriculum every year.  I have a scope and sequence of skills that I want my students to gain and I use a different path to get there each and every year.  I didn’t originally intend for this to be a year-long project, but that is what it became because it made my students think differently, creatively.  It made them question, discuss, and debate.  It was brilliant.

We had just finished learning the Internet safety rules, and were practicing netiquette.  I wanted my students to have an authentic place to practice their newly acquired skills so I sent them on their way to write their first blog entry.  The topic: Write about your dream school.  If you could make a school look like whatever you wanted it to, what would it look like?  How would learning happen there?

After the students had a chance to blog their dreams, I asked them to pick their favorite idea and add it to our class Wallwisher.  I cannot tell you how disappointed I was with the answers.  They were the most unimaginative answers I had ever seen.  I’m talking zero in the creativity department.  It was as if they were writing what they thought I wanted to hear.  Then it hit me, they were writing what they thought I wanted to hear.  Isn’t that what their education has primed them for?  Guess what the teacher is thinking.  There is only one right answer and then we move on to the next thing.

Not willing to let the project go, the next week I sat all of my students down and asked them again what their dream schools would look like.  They hadn’t gotten more creative with their answers in the week they had to think about them.  The look of utter confusion on their faces was obvious.  They couldn’t figure out what the right answer was, the one that I wanted to hear that would move us on to the next topic.  I showed my students pictures of the inside of Googleplex and Pixar.  You have never heard so many “oohs” and “awwws”.  By the end of the slide show, every kid was declaring that they were going to work at Google or Pixar some day.  I asked them why they would want to work there?

“Because it is SO cool!”

“Did you see the Lego room?”

“They get to play all day!”

“It is so colorful.”

“It looks like a playground.”

“They have a chef that cooks lunch for them.”

We talked about why Googleplex and Pixar look the way they do and the philosophy that each company has.  We talked about what it means to be creative and the things that help us get in that creative element.  Then I showed them some pictures of schools,  one had a slide in the building, another had students singing and dancing on top of desks, another of students sitting on exercise balls instead of chairs.  The common phrase uttered was “they are so lucky!”  I also showed them the YouTube video of the piano stairs.

I asked them to go back to their seats and blog about their dream school again.   I told them that there was no right answer.  The right answer was their answer.  The sky was the limit.  This time the ideas were infinitely more exciting.  Some students still played it safe and stuck to what was possible in the confines of the school system they knew.  Others wanted anti-gravity classrooms.  There were common threads in every one of my students blog posts: they all wanted flexible learning spaces, they all wanted more hands on/active learning, they wanted school to feel like play, and they all wanted animals to be involved in some fashion.

You can see some of their answers on these Wallwishers:

3rd Grade1

4th Grade1

4th Grade2

5th Grade 1

My students got so excited about this little blogging activity that they continued to post about what their dream schools would look like (even though I hadn’t assigned it).  I had students stop by my classroom and tell me another idea they had for a dream school.  Then I had students start asking if I would ask the administration to make our school a dream school.  I can only imagine how that would go, so instead I expanded the project.

I asked my students to imagine that they actually got the go ahead for their school, and now they had to advertise for it.  They had to convince me to send my imaginary children to their imaginary school.  They had to make a convincing case for why their school made the best place to learn.  Each student made a brochure advertising their school.  They highlighted the features of their school, promised amazing things, and sold it!  I am telling you, I have never seen such amazing work out of my students!  I would have sent my imaginary kids to any one of their schools.  Boy did they sell it!  The brochures looked amazing.  I brought them into the teacher’s lounge to pass around.  The teachers couldn’t believe what their students were capable of.  It was great!  A few of the kids brought the brochure they created to the administration to show off.

The kids hadn’t had enough, they wanted to explore the idea further.  I had them create commercials for their school.  I showed them the Kaplan University commercials and told them they could be inspiring like Kaplan, factual, funny, or any combination of the three.  They set to work using their method of choice.  Some used Keynote, others recorded in Photobooth and edited in iMovie, some used Xtranormal, some GoAnimate, and others used the ZimmerTwins.  The commercials were fabulous.

Toward the end of the year I had the kids create websites for their imaginary dream schools.  They used Weebly to create the websites.  I cannot tell you how impressed I was with the level of creativity, innovation, and fun that showed up on those sites.  The kids were convincing, but more than that, they were right.  They may have started with every student having a laptop, pony, and anti-gravity rooms, but where they ended was with rich learning experiences.  At the core what our students want is an opportunity to discover, play, and experiment with their learning.  They want to feel safe.  They want to be active.  I wish I could share the finished sites and commercials with you, I can’t because they contain pictures of students and other identifying information.

I learned a lot from my students as a result of the project, at the heart of it is this: provide conditions where we can learn.

Stage’d

Posted by admin | Posted in Foreign Language, Fun & Games, History, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools, Websites | Posted on 04-05-2010

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Picture 1

What it is: I am constantly learning about cool new website tools for the classroom from my PLN (Personal Learning Network), today I learned about an animated comic creator called Stage’d from fellow Blogging Alliance member @MrR0gersStage’d is a tool that helps students to tell digital stories in a new 3-d way.  Students can create a stage full of characters and dialogue as if they are directing their own digital play.  They can choose characters, costumes, animations, set design and provide characters with dialog.  When the 3-d comic has been saved, it can be emailed or linked to with a unique url.   Stage’d is perfect for use in any classroom, to save a comic requires no personal identifying information or even an email address.  All students have to do is type in the name of the director (first name only or a pseudonym).  

How to integrate Stage’d into the classroom: Stage’d is a seriously fun creation tool, students are going to love directing their own 3-d comic plays.  Stage’d makes a great digital story telling tool.

Students can:

  • Publish their own fiction (or non-fiction) writing pieces as a 3-d play
  • Re-tell a story to demonstrate comprehension
  • Illustrate vocabulary words
  • Illustrate historical events
  • Create mock public service announcements
  • Create mocumentaries
  • “Interview” an important person of interest
  • Create short persuasive video commercials
  • Illustrate story problems in math
  • Practice a foreign language dialogue and vocabulary

Picture 2

Stage’d is very easy to use and the results are absolutely fantastic.  Create your own Stage’d creations to introduce a new topic or concept to your students.  This is a fun introduction that will grab their attention in a hurry.

Tips: The creators of Stage’d are constantly adding new features and options so check back often.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Stage’d in your classroom.

Webspiration Wednesday: Stuart Brown says play is more fun

Posted by admin | Posted in inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, video | Posted on 24-03-2010

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A few weeks ago, I instituted Webspiration Wednesday at CHC.  To find out what exactly Webspiration Wednesday is, check out my original post here.

Continuing the play theme from last week’s Webspiration Wednesday, this is Stuart Brown’s take on the importance of play.

TED Talk “Stuart Brown says play is more fun”

Stuart Brown suggests that play is much more than just being a fun and joyful experience, it is intricately connected with intelligence.  So, why then, do we feel the need to strip it from education?  If play is such an important piece of learning and intelligence, then we should be taking every opportunity to connect learning with play.  Students should enter our classrooms every day, not with a sense of dread, but with a sense of adventure and excitement at what acts of play will happen there.  Play doesn’t have to stop in the early childhood classroom, play can, and should, continue into adulthood.  As Stuart rightly points out, play is necessary at every point in our lives.  It offers opportunities to experiment, and grow, and find new solutions.  Companies like Google and Pixar are keying into the necessity of play and if the work that comes out of those companies is any indication, play works.

How do you introduce opportunities for play into your classroom?  If you have a great story of play, I would love to post it on my other blog, Stories of Learning.

Webspiration Wednesday

Posted by admin | Posted in Character Education, collaboration, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, video | Posted on 17-03-2010

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Last week, I instituted Webspiration Wednesday at CHC.  To find out what exactly Webspiration Wednesday is, check out my original post here.

Today we gathered over a TED Talk by Tim Brown on Creativity and Play.

Tim reminded me of something very important, there comes a point in schooling where we begin discouraging play.  We ask students to sit in their seats, to fill in the circles completely with a number two pencil, and to stay on task.  There is very little time in schools for play.  I think that by making schools void of play, we harm our students.  There is a lot of important learning that happens during play and discovery.

In the video, Tim shows some pictures inside some major design firms (Pixar and Google).  At the beginning of the year, I asked students to describe what their dream school would look like.  I was very sad to learn that most of them couldn’t conceive of a school that looked different.  In our first brainstorming session, most of them talked about having more recess or a longer lunch and that was the extent of their wishes.  I really tried to impress on them that their school could look and be structured any way they wanted.  I was met with blank stares and confused looks.  The problem in the first brainstorming session was that students were doing what they do all day long in school.  They were trying to guess what I was thinking.  They wanted to give me the right answer.  But in this instance, there wasn’t a right answer, every answer was right.  I showed my students pictures of Googleplex and Pixar and explained that there was a lot of work and creativity that came out of both companies.  What they saw was a playland.  Nearly all of my students declared that they would work at Google or Pixar when they got out of school.  One of my students asked if I would help her write a resume so that Google would have it on file when she was ready to work there (she is 9).  We brainstormed a dream school again.  This time the students understood that there wasn’t a right answer, that the sky was the limit.  Few of them included desks in their dream school, nearly all of them included animals of some kind, and most of them wanted slides and piano stairs to get from one floor to another.  We collaborated on Wallwisher and dreamed together.  At the beginning of the project, I told the kids the school could look like, and operate, any way that they wanted, but there were two restrictions: 1. it had to be a place of learning, and 2. they had to justify why they included everything in their school.  Most of them cited an increase in creativity and innovation (we learned that word as we looked at pictures of Googleplex).   One of my students wanted  a huge cylinder tropical fish tank in the lobby with clear pipes branching out and winding around the school and through the classroom.  She thought the fish would be interesting to study and an inspiration for learning.  Another student wished for swing chairs hanging from the ceiling so that they could move while they learned.  Several kids wanted dogs in the school that they could read to because, “dogs won’t make fun of you when you make a mistake reading out loud.”  Once the students felt comfortable with not having one right answer, they let their imaginations run wild and came up with excellent ideas and suggestions.

We need to help kids understand that there usually isn’t only one right answer.  They have been so primed to believe that every problem has one correct answer because we overload them with tests and worksheets that tell them that it is so.  We squash creativity.  Pretty soon they become adults who don’t know how to play and as a result, aren’t creative.  How do you encourage creativity and outside the box thinking in your classroom?