Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Guest Post: Computer Science Clubs

Hello Friends,

Today I am very fortunate to have Christine Perkins as my guest blogger. Check out what she has to say about Computer Science Clubs for elementary students!

Start a Computer Science Club at your Elementary School TODAY!

IMG_0850.JPG Google CS First
Imagine this: 25 fourth and fifth grade students using block coding to develop their own video games, creating 360 images of your school, developing digital yearbooks, and inventing things using their imagination.  After eight months of planning and integrating new technology, this stands as my last experience at the Computer Science Club in my elementary school.  After setting up challenges for students to solve, technology exploration time, opportunities for students to use their creativity and imagination for one hour each week I felt that I needed to share this success.  With the right resources and some inspiration, I truly believe anyone can start a Computer Science Club at their elementary school and see the amazing impact of young students learning more about coding, technology, and problem-solving!

I had a crazy idea to start a Computer Science Club that would meet once a week for an hour after school. It was shortly after I received an email about the Google CS First curriculum that Google was sending out for students in 4-8th grade.  I explored the program and thought it would be a perfect fit for my students based on their passion for technology and creative thinking.  That day I set up a Google CS Club and marked myself as a volunteer/guru.  Though the setup process, I was able to explore the Google CS curriculum themes and found there are enough themes to fit the interests of any of my students. I was even able to have Google print and send me the materials for my first theme: Storytelling. Google originally suggests starting at the Storytelling theme so that students can begin at a place where they are learning together and can help each other through programming struggles. This also gave me a chance to complete the lessons within the Storytelling theme and gain a basic understanding of the CS First curriculum and program. As soon as we transitioned from the Storytelling unit to the Video Game theme, my students went absolutely crazy for the video game design lessons!

Find Your Team
Two of my equally passionate and tech-savvy coworkers joined my train towards the creation of a Computer Science after school club.  If you can find coworkers that will jump on this idea and see the possible benefits of a Computer Club that can let students explore technology for an hour each week it can make everyone’s life a lot easier!  These two co workers are also my teaching partners and amazing advocates of technology.  They spread the word about the club and jumped right on board the CS Club train!

Projects: Get Students Moving and Collaborating!
After implementing our Google CS curriculum we were overwhelmed by the amazing Scratch stories the students created through the Storytelling theme in the Google CS curriculum.  For some of my fourth graders, watching videos and coding was a lot of brain work for an entire hour, I quickly realized we were going to have to create side projects for my students in Computer Science Club. We wanted projects that would get students up and moving around when they were restless.  (They did come to us after an entire day of learning in school!)

Digital Yearbooks
Through my connections to Google Certified Trainers, I was able to reach out to Jennifer Scott and her innovator project of students creating Digital Yearbooks.  These yearbooks were made from pictures inserted onto a template on a Google Slide Presentation.   I shared with a small group of my students a Google Drive folder filled with pictures I have taken of my students throughout the school year.  I showed them how to “replace image” and add a picture from the folder I shared and the template provided to use by Jennifer Scott.  This became a new project for some of my Computer Science Club members. We hope to release this Digital Yearbook for students who don’t get a school issued yearbook at the end of the school year.

360o Photos
IMG_1692.JPGShortly after our school introduced virtual reality goggles my students gained interested in 360o photographs and Google Maps.  One of our side projects became putting our school on the map and uploading some 360o photographs.  We downloaded the app Google Street View and uploaded several photos of rooms within our school. Our end goal is to create some type of Google Expedition tour of our elementary school for students who are interested in coming to our school.

High School CS Club Motivation
One of the best experiences we had in our Computer Science Club was having members of our Fort Atkinson High School come in and present to our fourth and fifth grade members about computer coding.  A high school student who was a part of the CS Club at Fort Atkinson High School reached out to me and suggested the idea. This presentation connected the learning we were doing in Computer Science Club to work done at the high school and even a future profession in a STEM related field!

Makey Makey
IMG_1979.JPGAbout halfway through our school year we purchased several Makey Makeys.  These tools really helped my students blossom in their creative thinking and invention literacy.  For some students, their Scratch creations to life.  For other students, we had to push them to inspire some more creative thinking.  I created a Hyperdoc filled with resources for students to explore to get their minds flowing in different ways the Makey Makey could be used. Now, we have students playing instruments, creating songs, writing stories, and drawing digital stories using these invention kits.


Later in the year we also purchased two Spheros. The Sphero caught the attention of every student in the club. We had to make a station outside of the classroom for students who were using this tool because they were so enamored by the way it worked.  We created mazes for students to get through using the Sphero and especially enjoy using the SPRK Lightning Lab app, where students code functions and hit “Play” to have the Sphero work through a maze.  

With the integration of new technology our Computer Science club has transitioned from a place of creation on a computer- to a place of invention and technology exploration.  Computer Science Club is the perfect way for projects to continue throughout the school year outside of the curriculum restrictions in a classroom/school day setting.  Through this platform students can learn new skills, create inventions, and explore technology all year long!  


Christine Perkins
Purdy Elementary School
Fort Atkinson, WI

Sunday, July 10, 2016

ISTE 2016 Recap

Hello Friends,

I'm happy to report that once again, ISTE did not disappoint.  This conference is by far my favorite of any conference I have ever attended anywhere.  It's also the BIGGEST conference I have ever attended anywhere.  I don't know the actual count but I heard that there were over 20,000 educators in attendance.  That's 20,000 people that love what they do, love technology, and love to take what they learn back to their districts, classrooms, colleagues, and students.  That's just amazing to me!
My favorite sessions are the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) workshops.  Being a very visual learner, these workshops allow you to learn by seeing and master by doing - that's right up my alley. So I thought I would highlight a few that I REALLY loved.

First up is a workshop called Tech Infused Writer's Workshop.  It was taught by a phenomenal teacher called Jake Lee.  I'm telling you, I think I would've paid money to have my own children in his class. Except he's from Hawaii, I'm from may have been tough.  :)

Jake's session didn't start until 4:30.  It had already been a mentally exhausting kind of day and I didn't have time to grab dinner.  I was hungry and tired...not a good combination.  I confess that I had already planned my escape before the session even started but I was willing to at least give it a chance.  After all, I did pay extra money to attend.  Friends, it took less than 5 minutes and I was hooked.  He had us write a really quick 'first grade' writing piece and then showed us four ways to use it with tech integration.  His first graders do this stuff. - FIRST GRADE!  If you ever get the chance to attend one of Jake's workshops, you must jump at it.  In the meantime, click on one of the links to his blog and check out his stuff.

Next is another BYOD session called Pear Deck: Sweet Student Engagement  presented by Alyssa Davidson (aka - Mrs. Geology). This 9th grade science teacher is truly passionate about what she does.  Although she was sharing a tool, it was much more than that. I had been struggling with a Pear Deck vs. Near Pod decision.  Both tools are similar.  Both tools offer something that the other does not. Both tools are a subscription.  I had to pick one.  After Alyssa's session, I was convinced that Pear Deck was it.  She showed us the potential of taking your lessons way beyond substitution with tech (SAMR). She showed us the huge impact Pear Deck has on student engagement.  She showed us the HOW to use it and more importantly, the WHY use it.  Alyssa's passion and excitement was contagious and I can't wait to get my students excited about learning.

Finally, I'd like to end with some google updates that got me really excited to be a teacher.  Google has added a quiz function to google forms.  Yay! While it's not quite up to par with Flubaroo (after all, it is still just a baby), this feature will definitely simplify my teacher life and I am ALL for that!  I'll write a separate post on this later.

Google also announced the release of Google Cast for EDU.  This is a game changer, my friends.  A follow up post will be coming on this as well but basically, it's a way for students to wirelessly share their screens while the teacher maintains control over who is sharing.  Simply amazing!

If ever you have the chance to attend an ISTE conference, please take it.  It's huge.  It's overwhelming.  It's incredible.  You will not be disappointed - I promise!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Scheduling Assignments in Classroom

Hello Friends,
    Have you heard the GREAT news?  It is now possible to schedule assignments, questions and announcements in Google Classroom.  Gone are the days of students getting a head start on an assignment from a lesson that hasn't even been taught yet.  Gone are the days of creating a draft assignment and then having to go back in just to click assign at the appropriate time.  Even worse...forgetting to move the assignment from draft to assigned!

    Scheduling an assignment, question or announcement is as simple as clicking on the drop down arrow next to the Assign button.  Choose schedule, then your date and/or time and - voila!  Your work is done.

   This is definitely a time saver for educators and nothing's better than getting our work done as efficiently as possible.

   Have a great day!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Melonheadz! name is Dianne...and I'm an addict.

Click the image to see Nikki's work.

      A Melonheadz addict!  It's official and I love it!  If you are not familiar with Nikki's work, you simply must click on the image above and check out her site.  She makes the cutest graphics...I just LOVE her style.

     Thanks, Nikki, for sharing your wonderful talent with us.  You are an amazing artist and a wonderful person!

ISTE 2016!

Hi Friends!

    I'm super excited to be attending the ISTE conference once again.  I went for the first time in 2014 when it was in Atlanta, GA.  ISTE is by far the best conference I have ever attended...and the biggest.  Someone told me there were about 20, 000 participants in 2014.  I couldn't believe it but it didn't take long to figure out why it was so popular.

     This year, ISTE (which stands for International Society for Technology in Education) is being held in Denver, CO.  I've never been there but I am very glad the conference is in June.  :)  To make it even better, my district has paid my registration fee this year - yay!  It really can't get any better than that.

    If you are thinking about attending, click on the badge above.  You will be taken to the ISTE site where there's a LOT more information.  It's quite clear how I feel about it, so my recommendation is JUST DO IT!  You will not regret it, I promise.  :)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Technology Word Wall

Hello Friends,
    One of the tools that I've been lacking in my classroom is a set of word wall cards that are specific to technology.  Let's face it, most school departments are trying to give us what we need in terms of technology and the students are definitely exposed to technology everywhere they go.  So even though I no longer have my own classroom, I decided it was time to make a set of cards with kid-friendly language and visuals to support their understanding.

Click either image to get to my TpT store.
     The set includes 30 technology based vocabulary cards.  They can be added to your classroom word wall, a separate technology word wall, or even to a literacy center.  I've printed mine on card stock for durability and I wouldn't be able to call myself a teacher if I didn't laminate them as well.  :)

     Have a great day!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Flipping for Screencasting!

Hi Friends,
    I'm back to tell you about another fabulous tech tool that I was introduced to at the Summer Institute of Digital Literacy.  It's called Screencastify and it's so much fun to use!

     As students of the Institute, we had to put our project reflection into a screencast.  We were given a quick tutorial and sent on our merry way.  The shocking part is that we were actually successful!  At first, I thought we were going to fail the assignment but Screencastify is VERY user-friendly.  In fact, check out my screencast on screencasting by clicking on the presentation below.

   Why should you start screencasting?  It's the perfect tool to flip your classroom.  Imagine the possibilities when you give your students the tools they need to reteach themselves when concepts may be difficult or the ease of which an absent student can get caught up on missed concepts.  For these reasons, and so many more, it is definitely worth your time to start making your own screencasts.

    Why Screencastify?  Screencastify is a free chrome extension that lives to the right of your omnibox (URL box).  The paid version removes the watermark and allows for videos longer than 10 minutes.  I was very happy with the free version for a couple of reasons.  First, I know that I quickly lose interest when watching tutorials that are way too long.  So when I''m making videos for my students, I keep them short and sweet.  I've read several times that video tutorials should be less than two minutes with under a minute being the ideal length.  Trying to keep to that rule of thumb has really improved my screencasting skills.  Second, I didn't mind the Screencastify watermark on my videos.  In fact, it motivated my students to go to the website and create their own screencasts!

     I did, however, feel the need to upgrade when I became a technology coach.  I did not want the watermark on all of my screencasts which were now being created for my colleagues.  And I was worried that I would need more than 10 minutes for a video length.  I was definitely wrong on the length so I basically upgraded to remove a watermark...oh well.  :)

    A big part of my life now is professional development and training.  This is both terrifying and exciting at the same time.  I LOVE it!  Click on the presentation below for more information on screencasting.  More importantly, have fun with it!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Do You Popplet?

Hi Friends,
    As promised, I'm back with a review of a new tech tool that I was introduced to at the Summer Institute of Digital Literacy in late July.

Popplet is a free online web tool that allows the user to create mind maps and brainstorming diagrams.  The free version enables the user to save up to five popplets at a time.
Benefits of using Popplet:
  1. It has a very easy to use interface.
  2. You can add content from Vimeo, YouTube, or simply by uploading from your computer.
  3. Popplets can be shared via Facebook, Twitter, or by emailing a link.
  4. Collaborators can be added to a Popplet which makes this extremely versatile for teaching.
  5. Popplets can be embedded into your website, blog, wiki, etc.
  6. There is also an easy to use presentation mode.
Constraints of Popplet:
  1. You can not customize text (other than size).
  2. You can not edit images once inside a popple.

As an elementary technology coach, I feel that this tool is an invaluable addition to any teacher’s or administrator’s toolbox.  Besides Popplet’s obvious uses of mind mapping and brainstorming, Popplet can be used in a multitude of ways, making this tool one of the fastest growing in popularity. In addition to Popplet’s wide range of use, there are several more reasons to check it out.  First, Popplet takes only a couple of minutes  to get registered.  Registration is clear and concise.  Next, Popplet has a very small learning curve.  It’s ease of use alone (for any novice) is enticing to today’s very busy educators.  Finally, this tool is appealing to a variety of learners.  The visual learner is the most obvious but because one can insert video, audio, and text, it is appealing to these learning styles as well. 

Popplet has many valuable uses some of which are listed below:
  1. Teacher/Student Uses -
    1. Create a graphic organizer for prewriting purposes during a writers workshop mini lesson.
      1. The popplet can be shared with students so that they can complete the graphic organizer with their own ideas.
      2. The popplet can be displayed while students refer to it to complete their own graphic organizer.
    2. Create a blank timeline for a Social Studies lesson.
    3. Create a popplet that will demonstrate the system in town administration for a rules and laws lesson.
  2. Administrative Uses:
    1. Make a visual plan of the school’s upcoming year.
    2. Map out the goal’s for the year.
    3. Introduce the staff (with images) to everyone.

This is just a small sampling of how Popplet can be used in a classroom or school. Click on the video below to see just how easy it is to create a popplet.

Now check it out for yourself and let me know how you used Popplet in your classroom.

Have a great school year!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Summer Institute in Digital Literacy

"You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  There is no other like you." ~ Angela Cooke-Jackson

     Wow!  What a week!  A team of teachers from my district just spent an entire week at URI's Digital Literacy Institute.  It was absolutely amazing. I am inspired but overwhelmed, encouraged but fearful.  I have learned so much at one of the best conferences I have ever attended.  The quote above was my favorite quote from the week.  It really hit home with me as I embark on a new journey in my district.  At the time it was spoken, I was feeling much anxiety about expectations - from admins, from colleagues, even from myself.  These words caused me to step back and take a breath.  I truly believe that everything in life happens for a reason.  I believe there's a plan that was created for me but not by me.  These words reminded me of just that and just when I needed to hear them.  Funny how that always seems to happen...

   Getting back to the conference ~ Like most teachers (if not all) I had goals for this week.  After all, I was spending nine hours a day with these people.  It was going to be worth my time if it killed me.  So here's what I was looking for:

  1. To learn some new tech tools that I could bring back to my colleagues.
  2. To begin thinking deeply about my new position and how I could be my very best at it.
    That was it.  Not too lofty, right?  After the first day, it was clear that I did not shoot high enough.  I knew right away that I was going to meet and surpass my goals.  I even participated in an unconference as a presenter! There were only five participants but I didn't know that when I threw my name in the hat.  I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and I did.  It was great! 

I'm sure you've heard of the SAMR Model.  It's illustrated below.

   Fluency in digital literacy will move teachers and students through this model until proficiency is reached.  It is critical that digital literacy become a natural part of the classroom - just like literacy itself.  

   In order to accomplish this, we need to move beyond the cool tool excitement and into a mindset that understands that the tool of choice is considered last in planning.  It was such a relief to hear this and at a TECH conference, no less!  The learner, the standards, the outcomes all need to be considered first.  Only then should we be deciding which tool will best meet our needs as educators of the digital natives.

    I'll be back later to highlight some of the 'cool tools' we learned about this week.  In the meantime, consider will you encourage digital literacy among your students?