It’s time for the third 25 of the top 100 people to follow. Remember, before we get into these awesome folks that there are a couple of caveats that go with it. To start, this list is not comprehensive. There are still so many other educators on Twitter doing amazing things. This is the group that I love, and I think they are all worth the follow. I may have also left off a few obvious ones for various reasons. You can access the first and second 25 at bigguyinabowtie.com/the-blog
51. Ken Shelton: Ken is always an enjoyable listen, and his account is full of his great insights. I have seen him do excellent work with video creation, search, digital equity, and more. You can’t not learn from Ken
52. Andy Plemmons: If you're a media specialist, Andy is a must follow. He is continuously doing creative things in his media center, and he shares all of them on his feed. If you, not a media specialist, he is still a great follow because he is such a leader in the school-based maker movement
53. Micah Shippee: I might like following Micah on Facebook more just so I can see all the ways Starbucks spells his name wrong, but he is also a great follow on Twitter. He is a real expert in the AR and VR field, and you can learn a whole lot from him
54. Ingvi Omarrson: Ingvi is just awesome to be around. I have had the pleasure of getting to know him through several ambassador programs, and he is always sharing his expertise in student creativity on his accounts
55. Mary Ellen West: Mary Ellen is someone I can truly call a friend. We knew each other before Google Innovator but became tight through the program. Mary Ellen is always doing creative things with the Google suite, and she fills her account with some of that vast knowledge
56. Kristen Brooks: Kristen is a great friend who used to run this excellent iPad lab in her school district. From that experience, she found all kinds of ways to create with iPad, and she now shares them both through her accounts and with the teachers she now coaches
57. Jess Boyce: Jess Boyce was an incredible teacher from Florida who now works for Flipgird. If you need a Microsoft expert, she is a great person to turn to. She is just a super fun person to know
58. Michelle Moore: Michelle is another buddy from Florida. She works at the district level in the Tampa area, and she posts both some of the awesome things her district is doing in STEM and other EdTech insights
59. Bryan Miller: I have known Bryan for several years now, and he is always a great follow to learn more about all of the educational toys that are out there. He works for Wonder Workshop, but he also runs a site called top tech toys that has great insight in the field
60. Mason Mason: When you meet Mason, you can’t help but notice the positive vibe that comes off him. He is just that kind of guy. While I knew him before he worked for Apple, that’s where he is now at, and his account is full of insights on what you can do with Apple EDU.
61. Tim the Traveling Teacher: While his Twitter account is not his most active social media account, it will connect you to his fantastic story mom his travels around the world. I had the pleasure of meeting Tim at the Nearpod Pioneer summit last year, and his story is just fascinating. He travels the world teaching and learning about education in many different cultures, and he can be an excellent connection for global education.
62. Megan Endicott: Megan is a great friend of mine, but she is also an excellent connection to learn more about using technology in music education. She does amazing things with her music class all while also leading a massive district in metro Atlanta’s tech team.
63. Casey Hall: Casey is also a fantastic music teacher who uses technology in his music class, and it’s crazy to think him and Megan are in the same district. Casey often does videos from his class, and you just can’t help but admire the innovative practices he uses. I watch those videos, and I wish he taught my children.
64. Cutia Blunt: Cutia is a fantastic tech director from a private school in the Atlanta area, and she has also become a prime speaker for Ed Tech Team. She has significant expertise when it comes to Goole Apps, and I am always amazed by the team she leads at the Galloway School.
65. Chris Tenbarge: Chris is a buddy of mine from Nashville who is just an awesome guy. He has expertise in so many areas, and his account reflects that through his curation of resources from many of his friends.
66. Nicholas Clayton: Nic is an awesome educator from California that i have been fortunate enough to hang out with at events like ISTE. He is an ambassador for a ton of companies, but he is currently specializing in AR and VR.
67. Michelle Armstrong: Michelle is another one you just get a great vibe off of. I was fortunate enough to do Google Innovator in Toronto, and Michelle was one of the main coaches there. She works for EdTech Team in Canada, and her account is a mix of those events, Google tips, and promoting the awesome stuff the teachers in Canada are doing.
68. Chris Webb: Chris is another remarkable Canadian educator that I had the pleasure of meeting as part of my Google Innovator cohort. Chris’s account is full of ideas and insights that he finds in his travels and interactions which can be incredibly helpful to almost any educator.
69. Sandra Chow: When I think of Sandra, the word kindness always comes to mind. She is just straight up one of the nicest people I have ever met. She is also one heck of an educator. I met her as part of the Google Innovator cohort when she was living in Canada, but now she lives in China. Her account is full of Google insights and other interesting little tidbits.
70. Fran Siracusa: Fran is one of the leaders in global education. She works with the UN to advance the cause of the Global Development Goals, and she is continuously involved with projects around the world. If you want to know how to give students a global perspective, she is a great place to start.
71. Sean Gallard: I want to be part of Sean’s school. Sean is just such a joyous leader that it permeates everything that he does. Seeing the stuff out of his school just makes you feel that school could be something different
72. Allyson Apsey: I have never had the privilege of meeting Allyson, but she is one of those people who I am connected to on all my social media platforms. She is also just a joyful leader. She is an elementary school principal, and her account is full of highlights from her school, thoughts on leadership, and ideas of what school can be
73. Jimmy Casas: Many people provide their own personal insights on education through Twitter, and to be honest, I roll my eyes at many of them. It’s not that they have bad insights. They are just many times pretty self-serving. Dr. Jimmy is very different. His insights are usually spot on, and they are always a joy to read. He is an excellent retweet!
74. Brian Aspinall: Another guy that I have never met, but I admire him from afar through all of my social media feeds. Brian is a great author who has written amazing books on both coding and Minecraft, and his account is full of tips and tricks to get them into a regular classroom.
75. Kyle Pace: Kyle is yet another Google expert, and his account is full of some excellent tips to get the most out of the Google suite in your classroom. He is also a tech director in the Midwest, so you get to see some of the fantastic things his teachers are doing.
It’s time for the second 25 of the top 100 people to follow. Remember, before we get into these awesome folks that there are a couple of caveats that go with it. To start, this list is not comprehensive. There are still so many other educators on Twitter doing amazing things. This is the group that I love, and I think they are all worth the follow. I may have also left off a few obvious ones for various reasons. Just go to bigguyinabowtie.com/the-blog to access the previous entry
26. Andrew Collins: Andrew is the education lead in the US for the Raspberry Pi foundation, and if you are into making, he is a must follow. In my mind, the Pi gives you such an incredibly wide range of possibilities that other boards just don’t, and Andrew’s account is filled with opportunities to learn and ideas for the Pi
27. Richard Culatta: Richard is the man charged with bringing ISTE into a new space. He previously led the Department of Education’s Ed Tech division and was just a clear, dynamic choice to lead ISTE. He has started to transition to a newer way of doing things, and it includes some exciting bets like the new events they did around coding and making this year.
28. Carl Hooker: Carl is both a great speaker and one of the most innovative district leaders you will find. Carl is the tech leader in Eanes ISD, and it is so creative that you will see several other folks from that district on this list. You can use Carl to learn those innovative practices, but you can also learn about ed tech as a whole through his pop culture references
29. Richard Byrne: Richard is one of the longest termed educational bloggers out there. Richard has run Free Tech for Teachers for several years, and it is filled with excellent tech tips. He also has great videos on YouTube, and all of it curated on his Twitter account.
30. Russ Schwartz: I love when principals push for innovation, and Russ definitely fits in that category. He is an Elementary School Principal in Broward County Florida, and his twitter account is just a great place to see what an elementary school can be.
31. Jornea Erwin: Every time I see Jornea she has a smile on her face. Jornea is a fantastic educator from the New Orleans area who know works for Flipgrid. She has excellent insight into how to add student voice into almost anything
32. Amanda Fox: I have known Amanda for several years now, and I have always been incredibly impressed with her creativity. She has done things with film festivals, STEM, and now she is doing incredible things with VR.
33. Steven Sato: I had the privilege of being Steven’s Google mentor, and he is also a mentor to me. When I have a VR question, I turn to Steven. He is a genius in the field who has even come up with some incredibly creative ways to bring it to more students. It also helps that he is just a great guy.
34. Mandy Froehlich: Mandy is just one of those people I run into all the time, and I have been fortunate to get to know her better every time I see her. She is a great advocate for teacher and student support, and she posts excellent insight with both
35. Daniel Rezac: Dan is my colleague at Tynker, but first and foremost he is an educator. He has loads of experience with computer science and making, and his account always has great tips to teach kids coding.
36. Cat Flippen: Cat is someone I have always looked up to. When I first started in the EdTech fired, she was the person in Georgia that I strived to be like. She is personable, a great speaker, and an expert in all things Google. As I grew in the field, I was lucky to get to know her.
37. Rushton Hurley: Rushton is a fascinating education researcher who has vast experience with both all things Google and video. He is a great follow to see his insight about both what school and teaching can be.
38. Steven Isaacs: Steven is someone I connected with through Twitter chats. He used to run a Twitter chat focused around education and developers, and he continues to do fantastic work around gaming in school with a particular focus in Minecraft.
39. Carla Jefferson: Carla and I end up in the same place a whole lot. We even ended up in the same Google Innovator cohort. Carla is a fantastic tech director from South Carolina. She is an expert in both Google and Apple, and she has great insight in speaking to the total child.
40. Kurt Klynen: When I think Apple EDU, Kurt is one of the first people that comes to mind. He does fantastic things with the Apple creativity suite, and he is an excellent resource in that space. He is also just a plain great resource in all EdTech.
41. Brad Gustafson: Brad is simply one of my favorite leadership follows. He is an acclaimed author and speaks on the positivity that school can be. He is also not afraid to post some of his favorite learning activities, so you can learn something new no matter if you are in leadership or not.
42. Chris Lehmann: I have always admired the work Chris does, and I just plain wanted to be part of his school. Chris runs the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia which is a completely Project Driven High School that regularly has students doing projects that change the world. His accounts are driven with first-hand accounts of those projects and thoughts on what school should be
43. Jesse Lubinsky: I think the best way to describe Jesse is tech guy with a mix of pop culture. He is one of EdTechTeam’s go to speakers, so you know he is excellent with Google, but you are also just as likely to see Star Wars references in his feed.
44. Tara Linney: When I think of Tara, I just think of joy. Every time I see Tara she is just filled with it. She is currently teaching abroad, and she can be a great place to find innovative practices for your classroom. It’s also just fun to see her travels!
45. Matt Miller: Matt is the Ditch that Homework/Textbook guy, but he is also so much more. Just this year he ran his own summit with some great speakers on innovative practice. His account is always full of great advice
46. Adam Phyall: Adam just has awesome energy about him. He is a tech director in one of the metro Atlanta districts, and his account is full of some of the awesome things his district is doing. He is also a great speaker who I heard way back when doing a session on video production.
47. Rachelle Dene Poth: Rachelle is another one of those people who we just often end up in the same place. Her account is full of little tidbits that she finds, and she is definitely one of my go tos when I have questions about AR and VR in Edu.
48. Janet Corder / Joan Gore: I put these two together because they have been a team for so long. I have had the pleasure of getting to know them through Nearpod and other events, and they are always one of my favorite sessions to attend because they play so well off each other.
49. Nicholas Provenzano: Nic is an expert in so many things, but he has definitely gone all in on the maker movement in the past few years. You can always find fantastic insight on bringing making into your school, and his account is especially full with some of the tremendous projects both him and his students are doing using things like Raspberry Pi and Make Makey.
50. Brett Salakas: Brett is a fantastic educator from Down Under that could give you a great start in building a global PLN. Brett is a leader in the Australian/New Zeland side of the world, and his account is full of the things his kids are doing to create and make
Who do you follow? If you are new to Twitter, it's always a tough question to answer. Twitter can be both such a toxic place and a positive place, so following the right people can be one of your biggest challenges. The educator community is usually one of Twitters most positive situations, but it's still tough to get started. Hopefully, this list (split over 4 posts) will help you get going.
Before we get into whose on the list, I think it's important to lay out a few things. To start, this is my list. Your list could be very different. My strengths are in the ed tech community, and that's where this lists strength lies. I feel like there is a whole other community of educational leaders, but this lists only has the ones that have either crossed over into EdTech, are so prolific that they are hard to ignore, or are awesome folks that I know. I also tried to make this list a mix of super well-known people and lesser-known folks that I know are worth it. There may also be some well-known folks that I left off for various reasons.
These are the first 25. I am going to stretch it out over four posts. The list is in no specific order because they are all awesome
1. Adam Bellow: I first saw Adam speak way back at ISTE 2011, and he instantly became one of my favorite speakers to listen to. Adam is always insightful on topics ranging from student creativity to making. He also happens to be one of the founders of Breakout Edu and is one of the main reasons it has become such a force to be reckoned with in the classroom. Above all, Adam is just a terrific guy, and you can't ask much more from one of the EdTech rockstars.
2. Leslie Fisher: When I think of Leslie, I think of entertaining. I have heard some of her sessions multiple times, but I still like sitting in them because I knew I would get one new nugget and at least be entertained. I highly recommend her as a follow because she has very good relationships with several big EdTech startups, and because of that relationship she often announces product updates first.
3. Steve Dembo: Steve is a just a straight up character. His sessions and content are always fast-paced and filled with humor which puts him them right up my alley. He also posts on creativity, making, and robotics on a regular basis.
4. Eric Sheninger: This formal digital principal is what everyone wishes they could have as a leader. He is the one who gave Laura Fleming enough space and support to become a leader in maker spaces, and he spends his days helping others get to the same place. He is a great speaker, and his posts are filled with insight into how education should change and how educational leaders should be.
5. Kevin Honeycutt: Kevin is eclectic, and it makes his live sessions almost a show as well as great post. He had been in the EdTech game for years and is an excellent voice on things like student privacy, digital citizenship, and student creativity
6. Sarah Thomas: I have been incredibly fortunate to know Sarah for a few years, and I have just been amazed at the empire she is building. Sarah is the founder of EduMatch which is one of the best PLNs you can be a part of, she is incredibly knowledgeable, and she is also just as lovely as she can be.
7. Tony Vincent: Tony is another person that I have been fortunate to get to know, and he is also just a good human being. I will never forget the time I followed him at GAETC early on in my presentation days, and he stayed for my whole session. Tony recently went back in the classroom, but he still finds the time to post an incredible amount of helpful tips, tricks, and ideas all in easy to understand graphics
8. Eric Curts: Eric is my go-to Google guru. It seems like he comes up with creative ways to use Google tools almost every day. He is not the only Google specific person out there, but he is usually the only one I will use in my sessions. His content is just that good.
9. Jennifer Williams: I am just plain lucky to call Jenn a friend. Jenn is just a fantastic person who truly wants education to be what's best for kids. She had incredible insights on literacy, global education, and building a PLN, and you would be crazy not to click that follow button for her
10. Stephanee Stephens: Steph is my former boss, and me moving on certainly had nothing to do with her. She is like a sister to me, and she has amazon insights into making, personalized learning, and much more. She also operates a maker bus.
11. Monica Burns: Monica is someone I have gotten to know recently, and I can't say enough good things about her. She has incredible insight on student creativity, tech and pedagogy, and creating a brand. I have taken several little tidbits from her over the years and applied them to what I do with bigguyinabowtie. She is another one who is just a great person!
12. Courtney Kofeldt: I am just lucky to call Courtney a friend. I met Courtney several years ago at the first Nearpod summit, and I don't think there is a sweeter person in EdTech. She is a tech director in Pennsylvania and does some amazing things around empathy and blended learning
13. Billy Spicer: Billy and I just seemed to end up in the same ambassador program over and over again, and we also consistently ended up with the same friends. He is a unique guy who is always trying to find things to make learning better for the kids in his district outside of Chicago
14. Katrina Keene: Katrina is someone that I ran in similar circles with for at least a year, and then when we finally met we became fast friends. I have seen her grow and move to a couple of different places, but I think she has now found her home at Wonder Workshop. If you have questions about coding and especially coding robots, she is a great resource to have.
15. Julie Davis: When I think of Julie, I can’t help but think sweet southern charm. Julie is a tech coach at a small Christian school outside of Chattanooga, TN, and she is continually finding creative ways to do creative things with her teachers. I always love her insight into things like digital citizenship, and she is becoming my go to to find things about Amazon Alexa in the classroom.
16. Mark Wagner: Mark is the CEO of EdTech Team, and he is the epitome of California cool. EdTech team is always doing incredible things to improve the educational experience, and their insights on Google Education are always spot on. If you are fortunate enough to be part of Google Innovator, you will get the privilege of meeting Mark
17. Donnie Piercey: The king of EduSnark seems always to be doing something amazing. He is a Google expert who specializes in everything Google Geo. The former social studies teacher in me always learns something great from Donnie. He even got to go to Antarctica as part of his relationship with National Geographic
18. Sylvia Duckworth: The queen of Edu Sketch Noting is an excellent follow just to get to see her new ones. I, however, got to know Sylvia when I did Google Innovator because I was lucky enough to have her as a coach. She is as kind a person as I know, and I love running into her at ISTE every year.
19. Rabbi Michael Cohen: The Tech Rabbi is all about creativity. He is regularly posting on the topic on his accounts, and his kids in California are doing a host of awesome creative things. I got the privilege of meeting him this summer, and he just so inspired me that I went and started redoing my slides to try to get to a place that he was.
20. Jennie Magiera: Jennie is another one of the EdTech Team crew, but I have been following what she has done since her days leading in the Chicago school system. She is a master at getting the best out of kids and has always had amazing ideas to change professional development for the better
21. Susan Bearden: I have never formally met Susan, but we have been around each other a handful of times. Susan has been the voice behind #digcit chat sharing the importance on that topic even before it was widely shared, and she has done a ton of work advocating for better technology leadership
22. Amber McCormick: To start, I know Amber is going to say she is not worthy to be on this list, but she totally is. She is an incredible teacher from Florida who is always doing creative things around coding and making. She is fantastic and awesome sketch note artist, and I am privileged to have one of her sketch notes on my site
23. Kasey Bell: Kasey Bell is an incredible Google Guru. She always has excellent content teaching folks how to get the most out of Google Tools, and she is continually adding new things to her site Shake Up Learning.
24. Patricia Brown: I have seen Patricia speak at both ISTE and GAETC, and I am always impressed. She has incredible insights into EdTech and does fantastic things around digital equity.
25. Tom Murray: The leader behind Future Ready schools is doing work every day that is all about making a school better, and his insights are on school leadership are always great. He is a great follow for anyone, but if your an administrator he is a must follow
In the past couple of years, I have done my coding session multiple times, and the thing I am always surprised with is the shock that comes to some attendees faces when I mention pre-reader coding. You can tell that have not thought of children as young as Pre-K learning coding concepts. They have always thought of coding as an older kids concept. They have just never considered what coding is and the benefit that comes through it, and it's all about setting our kids up for success.
I think when you look at the need for pre-reader coding, you have to look at two things. The first is that coding is just like a world language. The younger you start, the better off you will be. In a world where computers are everywhere and in everything, we need to do everything we can to prepare our kids, and that means starting them young. Even if they don't end up programming the understanding of the concepts will help them in any role that works with developers
The other thing that is great about starting kids early is the concepts that they learn. They start to build computational thinking. They learn to put stuff in order, count, work with angles, and problem solve. In fact, I would venture to say that a tremendous pre-reader coding tool is one of the first real tangible things you can use to get children thinking critically.
There are a few tools out there that let kids do this, but I have not been incredibly impressed with any of them until now. My 6-year-old son just tried out the Tynker JR app, and it is easily the most complete experience I have seen. Most of the other ones seem to be missing something, whereas the Tynker Jr app constantly hits the mark.
From a pre-reader perspective, the coding usually goes down one of two paths. The child either draws a path or they use icon based blocks (arrows) to simulate a coding experience without text. I have seen several of the robots use the line drawing experience, and I think it is lacking. Most of the times kids see how the robot reacts. You have to have some excellent teacher instruction for kids to get concepts out of them, and that's not what it should be.
It means I prefer the icon-based, and that's what Tynker JR is. Kids basically do block coding, and they switch out the text with icons such as arrows. Where I think Tynker got it right though, is in the experience. It can be incredibly hard to build something that a six-year-old can just pick up and go with, yet I think Tynker JR has done just that.
The app consists of three different leveled pathways you can take. All of them are really fun concepts like Animals, the Ocean, and Robots. There will be some more in the future, but those three will give you plenty of coding time. Once a child starts, they are put on a leveled path that builds on the concepts they learned in the previous level. Kids who are used to being on a tablet or smartphone will have no problems navigating it. Once they open up a level, there is some excellent voice-over work that tells them what to do which usually comes down to moving bricks in order to move a character on a path. When they are finished, the character does a cute dance, the child gets stars, and possibly a badge. It becomes a full experience, which is super rare for apps that cater to the pre-reader age group.
I can't say enough good things about it, and that's directly after testing it with my son. To start, I did not have to give him any directions, and I have never felt like that's the case with the other pre-reader tools. Now I will confess that my son has had other opportunities to do pre-reader coding so he may be ahead of the curve, but I think the voice-overs in the app will make it easy on most. I was also super impressed with the animation. The characters are fun, and my son loved the little dances that they did when they finished a level. It was straightforward to move bricks around which can be hard at his age.
The best thing about it by far though was thinking that my son had to do with it. He would pull bricks in, and then he would have to count that steps that were needed. He would have to figure out what direction the character needed to go, and he immediately wanted to solve the problems when his code was just not right. My son is not known for his focus, but the attention he put into the levels just astounded me. I want more things that do that for him.
If you want to get Tynker JR, it is currently available for iPad, but I would be shocked not to see it in other forms later in the year and in 2020. If you have young kids, or you teach young kids, you can't go wrong. I think it all comes back to my first principle?" of coding tools which are, "What's the ceiling?", and on this one, the ceiling is very high
A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post right after I got the Oculus Go, and I concluded that it was just not fully ready for schools yet. For those that read that post or know what the Go is, bear with me. I want to dive back into what the Go is and why I concluded, but I also want to tell you why that view is changing.
To start, the go is virtual reality. It's a fully immersive environment as opposed to augmented which is digital images overlaid on to the real world. The Go is the first attempt to hit what many thought was a sweet spot. It's not the overly expensive headset that the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are, but it is also a standalone headset unlike many of the smaller virtual reality designs which require to use a phone and a viewer. From that standpoint, it has a whole lot of benefits for the classroom. It was the content that I came down on as being lacking in my first impressions post.
The content was just not there for schools. To get content for the Go, you need to go through the go store, and understandably it's best selling apps are mostly games. Unfortunately, there is just not educational value in those. From an education standpoint, there are tons of experiences in the store, but most of them are standalone experiences that are going to require you to download that one app just to do that one thing. This includes explorations of space, natural parks, and other areas around the world. It's the biggest issue is that Google wasn't on board, and that has been the best place to go for these fuller experiences for a while.
Realistically, in schools we want VR to explore some concept that is real. It could be a real place, or it could be a model of a place we can't get to (like inside the human body), but for it has to have an educational value of learning something that will benefit the person in the real world. Google naturally has an advantage in that space because they have both millions of people feeding data to them and they have the scope to do things like street view and earth. Others don't, and that's why Oculus has to have them as a partner for Oculus Edu.
That partnership is incredibly hard though because Oculus is Facebook. It was a startup that was purchased by Facebook in its early day, and it remains a subsidiary of the company. So, to get Google products on Oculus you have to have two of the biggest companies play nice, and that becomes even less likely considering that Facebook and Google are each other's biggest competitors. It all comes down to where both companies make the bulk of their revenue: advertisements.
Thankfully, there was a HUGE change on this front recently. There is now a YouTube app on the Go! This is huge for two reasons. To start, it is a tremendous addition for the Oculus Go's EDU content. YouTube distributes a mass amount of 360 videos, and they are all free. YouTube gives you the ability to search for content that fits your needs rather than having to buy that very one specific app. It brings a mass amount of EDU particular content in one tool, and just like on other devices it's massively beneficial.
The other thing that is great about YouTube being there is that it is hopefully a great sign for other Google products. Google Earth VR has been on the Oculus Rift (the Go's expensive brother) for some time, and it makes complete sense for it to come to the Go. As the community of educators using Go grows, I think it also makes sense to bring Expeditions to the party. Using Expeditions on the Go could even eliminate some of the massive issues that come with it networking wise.
Ever since I have had a Go, I have always felt that the hardware experience is the best fit for schools. The ease of use and ability to move with the controller make it a no-brainer. It's always been the content that has been the issue. YouTube's addition means Google is paying attention, and that will help drive the content offerings.
Tech has always been able to take us into a new reality, and we are living in a time where that is never truer. We are living in the time of both virtual and augmented reality, and there are so many applications that could apply to the classroom. We now can take kids anywhere, but it can also be much more than that. This blog explores one way to make it great for kids.
To start, we are looking at two different things. Virtual Reality is putting a student in an immersive environment where they can see 3D images, but none of it is real. It is also the easier one to do, and in the long run less valuable. If a person has to take time out to interact with that piece of machinery, it can be good to take someone somewhere else and play games, but it’s not going to have any real practical uses. That’s where augmented reality comes in.
Augmented Reality is overlaying digital images on to the real world. It’s meant to add to the environment you already have. The use of the situation you are in means it can add all sorts of information to power through daily tasks, but of course, it is also harder to get that digital image overlay right. Up until very recently, there wasn't much augmented reality that was useful. Yes, Pokemon go has been around in for a long time, but is that that useful in the classroom?
The new apps that have come out especially since Apple leaned heavily into the Augmented world are what brings augmented to the classroom level. I have seen apps where you could create with geometric shapes, geocache with historical places, and more. With the focus in IOS, there are more and more every day, but what if kids could create them?
Thankfully, Tynker is letting kids do it. It's a newer course on the platform so it's always one of those things that can surprise people. It shouldn't though. Letting kids create with a future-ready skill is what Tynker is all about.
The augmented course teaches students the three main principles of augmented reality: color calibration, motion sensing, and gesture detection. It allows students to take those concepts open the camera feed and apply them. The beauty of it all is that once they create augmented it actually makes their experience more interactive because they can also get in front of the camera, and interact with them. It's truly an experience that you can't recreate anywhere else
Making and STEM have become GIANT buzzwords in education, and it’s rightfully so. It all goes back to the fundamental question of, “What is Education For?” If you said anything other than some form of, “preparing for the future,” I would argue you are wrong. No matter what state standards, test, and all the other BS out there say, the classroom is ALL about preparing kids for the future, and STEM/Making do just that.
STEM/Making is just something that is entirely natural for humans. From the beginning of time, we have been engineering ideas and making things to solve the problems that we encounter. There was always a sense of figuring out your needs through math, and a natural progression of solving those problems is trying to figure out how things work to make them better (science). The tech part of STEM has always been there (while primitive, the wheel was tech), but it has become such a need in today’s world where computers run everything. STEM and making are not new concepts; it’s just taken the computer age to show their importance.
The beauty of STEM and making is that there are tech pieces that make it easy to give something “an electronic brain,” and my favorite happens to be Raspberry Pi. Don’t get me wrong there are some other good ones out there. Microbit, Hyperduino, and Arduino all come to mind. I think Raspberry Pi is just the right mix of compatibility, relative ease of use, depth of function, and mission.
The key to PI though is the customization, and that’s what this blog is all about. There are tons and tons of things out there that let you customize a Pi. These just happen to be my five favorite ones, and of course, they have an education bend to them.
You know what often gets lost in a school district's adoption process? It's easily what is the ceiling of a given product. Just like anything in the world, schools are often overtaken by flash. They don't consider that a product may not be much of anything past that one flashy thing. This is especially prevalent in the emerging field of computer science instruction. It's a whole lot of flash, but the key is what the substance is? It's the question that should always come first.
Flash in computer science instruction starts with robots. You see schools purchasing loads of them at a breakneck pace. There are some that are good, but there are also some that will lose their substance after just a few uses because they really only do one thing well. If you know me well, I have one in particular that I will rail against all day, but this is not the place for that.
No matter what the tool is, the question should always be, "What can you create with it or for it?" If you start with a robot, that usually lies in the shape. Can you create stuff for it to interact with it? Can you design things to put on it where it still has functions? Those are all questions you should ask from the start.
They are also a significant reason why you should consider software first. In the end, robots all have limitations. They are great for hands-on hardware experience, and I am not saying don't buy them. What I am saying is have them supplement the software experience because in the end coding is software based.
It's one of the main reasons I joined the team at Tynker. The ceiling is just so high. Our founder likes to say it's "soup to nuts," and what he means by that is you can cover almost anything you want to do in one platform. You can have students create animations, presentations, book reports, games, apps, and a whole lot more to show what they know, and yes that does mean in a CORE class. You can have them use Block, Java, Python, and Swift to get there, and this is all while making it super easy on the teacher.
There is also hardware support. You can have students stay in the same platform to both fly drones and work with Lego WeDo. They can get that total coding experience without having to learn a new user interface, and in the end that saves time in instruction.
The ceiling matters, so always ask that question. Don't get thrown by the flash. If you want to learn more about Tynker just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Making is fundamental to the human spirit. It's something humans have done for thousands of years, and without that spirit, we don't have things as fundamental as fire, the lightbulb, cars, computers, and other countless inventions that have changed how humans interact with the world around them. The issue is that for centuries, this was something that was only taught on the fringes of school even though it's been proven time and time again that a making experience brings about more in-depth learning. We need to make making part of every kid's learning experience, and hopefully, these resources will help!
Many schools are bringing making into a specific space such as a maker space, but the real challenge is bringing making into your core content classes. Core content classes are the place where making can make a difference because they give kids a more in-depth learning experience in that content and because it's where most kids spend the majority of their time. Basically, if they can build or make something in that content, they are much more likely to remember it.
It can be tough though to come up with ways to include making. What kinds of projects can you do? Where do you get ideas from? The five resources below all have tons of projects you can do. You may need to come up with some scenario to adapt them to your content, but usually, that means coming up with a final audience or group that will use whatever they make. You need to be creative to do that! For example, if I were teaching the industrial revolution, I would have kids make a commercial for one of the new products that came out of the era. The audience would be those that they were getting to purchase it. You could also do things like novel engineering where they design something that would aid a literary character on their journey. It's all about creativity.
Now on to the places to find projects
1. Instructables: Instructables is a great place to start! This is a site run by our friends at AutoDesk that's mission is to give you directions on how to make anything. There are projects ranging from cooking, construction, sewing, electronics, to just basic small maker activities. You will have to adapt them to fit your standards, but it only takes that right creative scenario.
2. Makezine: Makezine is the resource site of the organization that puts on MakerFaire's across the United States. It has a bunch of project ideas, but it is not as fully formed as Instructables is. What it does have though is a connection to the community. You can both connect to other makers and find events near you. The number of things that are included in the maker movement is unbelievable, and this site will give you incredible insight into them.
3. Maker Ed: Maker ed is a non-profit organization whose entire goal is to bring Maker Education to kids. The key to this one is that it is geared toward education. There are some great project ideas and resources to choose from here although the amount of project ideas is not as in-depth as other sites. What is helpful though is that it contains ideas about the things that go along with making such as redesigning spaces. It also has an educator community that you can be part of
4. Novel Engineering: I used to work with on maker activities with a former elementary school librarian, and this site was a favorite of hers. The idea is that you take a novel, and you build a project that solves some issue for the characters in the story. Think of something like building shelters for a survival story. It gives you a basis to input making into the curriculum, and this site helps you get there.
5. Pinterest: Pinterest is the ultimate DIY site on the internet. It has thousands of ideas and projects, and it even has plenty of education-oriented maker projects. It's all just a matter of getting the right search term. Try searching making to start!
Coding can be a great way to make! If you're interested in learning more, click HERE.
If your reading this post, I would imagine you have an interest in programming, and you would probably agree with me that it is one of the few skills that we can teach kids that is "future proof." It doesn't take much to find all the open positions that currently go unfilled, and it doesn't take much to see that those numbers are just going to grow unless we do something about it. The issue is how do we teach it?
It might be a bit easier to teach if every teacher had a programming background, but that's just not the case. We are a long way off from any era that looks like that, and in the end, we may not ever get there. So, what do we do? We need to teach computer science, but we only have a precious few teachers who actually know how to do that.
There are tons of companies out there that are trying to change that, but many make a critical mistake. Many companies have computer science experts build their platform, and they create it for what they needed. They don't think of the student, and they especially don't think of the teacher. The platform should be centered on students and teacher first, and if it's not it just plain won't stick.
You have to have a platform with a user experience that makes sense for both teachers and students. I think that's what Tynker does exceptionally well. It's incredibly easy for students to get straight on the platform and know immediately what to do, but the best part is that it is also that way for teachers.
From the student side, I have seen more coding interfaces then I can count, and the thing that drives me craziest is the number of clicks it takes for students to find what they need. The idea that comes in second is the number of platforms that throw students into the deep end and end up like Nike by saying "Just do it." Tynker doesn't do that. As kids start learning the platform, they are greeted by a command box where they can see all the commands. The clicks are incredibly limited. They also have tutorials and lessons for almost anything a student wants to do. Kids can then remix those projects, or they can take what they learned and make something new. The best part is they can do this starting at kindergarten and stay on the same platform all the way through 12th grade, and that's all while using whatever device they have.
Where Tynker really excels though is with teachers. Coding and computer science should not be a just sometimes thing, but for it to go wide it has to be easy to start, and it has to drive towards curriculum goals. Tynker is the only platform that does that. Tynker has an interface that makes it easy to pick lessons, assign, and give feedback on that student work. My favorite part is that it is also incredibly easy to show them off and get peer feedback. The best part though is that this can easily be a platform to let kids create for content. There are tons of lessons in Math, Science, Social Studies, and ELA already built into the platform, but you can always make your own to connect it to almost any topic you want. Everything is created with the teacher in mind, and you just can't find that elsewhere.
Coding is like a world language. The earlier you start, the better off you will be. It also can get you to the ideal in the classroom: teaching content while also teaching a "future proof skill." If your interested in learning more, just fill out the form HERE.