So, to start, this is my experience. I know others approach things differently, and it's ok that I don't understand that approach. With that out of the way, let's talk about summer. Schools are off, and so are teachers, right? I know that in my time in the classroom that certainly wasn't the case, and I am going to use this blog to convince you that it isn't. If you're a teacher, summer should be a time for work, but it's finally time to work at your own pace. If you use summer correctly, it also means that some of the garbage that you have to do during the school year is worthless. Maybe if we change the perception, we can change that.
In all my year's in the classroom, I only came into one where I was not a coach. I coached football, wrestling, and one fateful year of lacrosse. I also wanted to be a good teacher, though. It means that if I did not plan in the summer, I was pretty much screwed. There was no chance I could plan effectively during the school year and put in the time that I needed as a coach. It meant summer was work, and I accepted that. I could finally make my own schedule.
I don't understand the teachers that take the whole summer off, and I think the number of ones that do who are also good at what they do is limited. Summer absolutely needs to be a time to decompress, but if I can take some of that time to create original experiences for my students, I am going to do that. I want to do that. I want to get ahead, so I am not scrambling during the school year. It doesn't mean I won't have to make some adjustments, and it doesn't mean I will finish my lesson planning. It just means I will have a great head start.
If everyone took the summer planning approach, though, it means administration and leadership teams would need to look at things differently. PLC's have some value, but they also take away creativity. Forcing teachers to "co-plan" in them means they could lay out the best-laid plans in the summer to just have them thrown out. Why are we forcing them to do that? Teachers have different strengths, and they should be able to use them to get the most out of their students.
It doesn't mean PLC's don't have value though. To start, they should be almost entirely virtual. Why are we wasting teacher valuable time during the year when we could set them up in a great virtual way that lets them share with each other even in the summer months. Yes, it takes training for folks to do it effectively, but it would also make them better using virtual platforms which every school now has with Learning Mangement systems.
I also think PLC's need to do a better job of getting together like-minded teachers. Just because teachers teach the same subject, it does not mean they teach the same way. I know I had a PLC one year where I was having students create with video, and I had to partner with a teacher who had just gotten their first cellphone....in 2010. I would have benefited much more from being with a teacher who thought the same way I did about student creation. It could have even been a teacher of a different subject. With all the practical methods of connecting, why aren't we letting teachers do that?
I also think we need to have a renewed emphasis on teacher PD in the summer. Guess what? Most teachers aren't going to give two thoughts about PD that comes in and tries to happen during their regular school process. There just isn't enough time, and they have too many other cares (I don't include coaching in this as it's a different kind of support.) You have to be able to pull out of the environment and focus on your own learning.
What better way to do it than the summer? We need to provide teachers the opportunity to do it. It could be as severe as finding the money to send them to a big conference like ISTE, or as easy as setting up ways for the best teachers to show off what they are doing. It's really up to you.
With all that I am trying to say make the most of your summer. Use it to be less crazy during the year, and to make yourself better. If your admin doesn't support that, then you need to tell them why they should.
So, I meant to write this blog last week, but I think the message is still a good one, so better late than never. It all stems from my 5th-grade daughters, "moving up ceremony." I think ceremonies like this are inherently silly, but I am also the one who has only walked in 1 graduation ceremony ever. I was there for my daughter, but there was something before the ceremony that stood out to me. It was a simple slide show.
Before the kids walked in (again, it's 5th grade, so a procession is silly), someone had put together a simple slide show with pictures of the kids and of the year. The thing that stood out to me, though was that each kid held up a sign that said what they wanted to be when they grew, and the answers were pretty astonishing.
There were the usual pro athlete answers, but there was also a considerable portion that was for the sake of this blog, "high-end educated professions" Those included things like neurosurgeons, engineers, lawyers, and others. I could not help but wonder if that was a product of the area I live in, and I think the answer is almost certainly yes.
I live in the suburbs. It's an area with high-end professionals and filled with adults who are doctors, lawyers, and engineers. It's easy for kids to see those professions. It might be their parents. It might be their friends' parents. It might just be something their parents are setting them up to strive to. Whatever it is, I think it means that it's easier for kids to dream based on their location. It made me think, "How do we break that cycle?"
I would be very curious to see the answers from children in a school with a high poverty percentage. Are their dreams the same, or are they things that simply come down to are you blessed with a certain level of talent like athletics, music, and movies? Are their dreams things that can be obtained with hard work and education, or are they things that are just a bit more out of reach?
It makes me think that we almost have to have a focus on bringing those types of professionals into high-risk schools and letting them show those kids what their profession is all about. If kids can take field trips to see their profession in action, it's even better. Schools could do something like weekly career Mystery Skypes. It's all about bringing options to kids, and with them, maybe we can break the cycles of poverty that persist in both our country and the world.
The goal should be to turn a few. If we can help a few kids break that cycle, they can be the professionals that you bring into the schools for the next wave. Think about how compelling that story is. It gives them an example. It gives them the confidence that it's possible, and if you can continue on that, you might just have a movement.
Well, it's another week and another school shooting. Actually, there were two this week. I have written extensively on my blog about how I think we have to do something, we can't make schools armed fortresses, and the toll this takes on educators in the classroom. If you want to read some of those, look back to the time around the school shooting in South Florida that sparked waves of protest around the country. If anything those protests prove we still have a long way to go to get lawmakers to do something because this terrible version of groundhogs day continues to happen.
I instead want to make this blog a little different and focus on the students that became heroes to their classmates by making the ultimate sacrifice. Both at the University of North Carolina Charlotte and the STEM school in Colorado, students ran at and tackled the shooter. They prevented further loss of life, and both Riley Howell and Kendrick Castillo lost their lives in the process. The STEM school actually had multiple students assist including a future Marine.
What does it tell me? It tells me that all hope isn't lost, and it drives the point home that kids can do anything. We can complain and moan about what the new generation is, about the problems they face, and about where the world is headed, but as long as we are raising and teaching kids like Riley, Kendrick, and the others involved things will still be ok.
It also tells me that kids can change the world, and we need to do everything in our power to give them those opportunities. Just think of all the students that went home to their parents because of the bravery these students showed. It changed their world.
Kids really can do anything. We need to give them opportunities and projects that connect with the global community. We need to let them solve world problems. Almost any class can include projects that let students get there. Kids might be the group that changes things for the better.
Let's remember Riley and Kendrick, and let's put the power of change in the hands of our students. At this point, we sure aren't going to get the change we need from our government entities. So why not try the group that showed an incredible will and bravery.
Student creation is ideal. It's what we want kids to do. We want kids to be able to show what they know by creating something new. No matter how you slice it any other way, it's the only form of learning that is not a pure regurgitation of material. It's the place where kids can actually think.
What's one of the lowest hanging fruit for creation? It's presentations. There is software everywhere, and it's incredibly accessible. Kids learn about PowerPoint, Slides, and in some places Keynote from a very young age. The problem is that most teachers don't get creative with it. They just want to use it as a regurgitation of information, and that doesn't even really scratch the surface of what a presentation software can do.
When you think about presentations, don't think in the style of just having kids tell you about something. Just doing a presentation about George Washington limits what kids can actually learn. It also limits their critical thinking skills
So, what should you do? It's straightforward. Start with a scenario. Give kids an audience that they are creating the presentation for. Take the United Nations as an example. It's a group that has an interest in environmental, economic, and political issues. All of which makes it a group that can apply to almost any subject area. It means you can use it in nearly every classroom as an audience to build your presentation for. Kids are going to think more critically when they have to convince or inform a particular group, and it just makes the learning deeper.
The scenario is a great place to start, but you can also use presentation software to create a host of things that aren't really presentations. The addition of easy collaboration makes it easy, and there are loads of possibilities. It's just a matter of getting creative with it.
To start, the ability to automatically start a Google Slides presentation just with a link means it has all kinds of alternative use cases. You can do things like apps, books, comic strips, and more. You just need to use need to craft what the slides look like by adding shapes and adjusting the aspect ratio of the slide. You can make it look like almost anything. Then just get a publish to web link from the file menu, and you can choose the option to have it start as soon as a viewer goes to the link.
There are also a couple of ways to use things like PowerPoint and Keynote. You could use shapes to create Infographics, and then you could use something like the Thinglink to make it interactive. You could also use something like Magic Move in Keynote to make what looks similar to a stop motion video.
It all comes down to your imagination. Presentation software can be almost anything you want. You just need to design the scenario that goes around them.
Let's talk about social media. It's a tool almost everyone uses, but it's also a tool that can be filled with hate and bile that you just don't want your students near. What if we could use it for good though? What if we could use it for learning?
One of my favorite things that I ever did in my social studies class was to have kids create social media accounts for their favorite historical figures. The whole point was to have kids create with one of their favorite tools. It also just happened to be perfect for what I wanted a creative activity to be.
Having kids create social media profiles forced them to get in the minds of the historical figure. They had to think and post like they were them, and it forced them to go deeper than just telling me about the person. I think that's easily what makes history more than just stories.
You could get really creative with it though if you teach science and math. ELA is easy because stories are built in. Just have them be a literary character. In math, what if they treated a math concept like they were a person? You could do a social media account for the subtraction monster. I have also seen science teachers do similar things such as making certain minerals characters that they could post as.
The key is having ways to fake it. You don't necessarily want kids on the real platform because of all the problems that it could create, so you want to have tools to fake it, and that's what this post does.
Padlet is like the OG of online digital corkboards. It's been around forever and has a heck of a lot of uses. The idea is that you can create a webpage where you can create digital posts that look similar to post it notes. You can add text and images easily.
It is perfect for a fake social media board. You can create a board and have kids post as a character like they were on Instagram or Twitter. It really doesn't matter. They can add pictures, video, and text. The only downside is that kids have to create an account to create their own, so you would need to create the board for younger kids, and they would most likely need to do it together.
Nearpod is in the same boat. They have what is similar to a Padlet clone as part of their presentation software. It's a collaborative board where kids can post photos, videos, and text in a post-it note format. It's just part of a whole other software to do interactive presentations.
The idea is that you put a Collaborate board into a presentation and the kids respond to it as if they were posting on a social media wall. The first way to use it might be to talk about the person in some of the content you are presenting to kids before the collaborate board, and then have the board to have kids collaborate on for the social media post. Really though, it's up to you on how you would structure it.
3. Class Tools
Class Tools is an excellent little site that has a host of small tools and templates to use in the classroom. It looks like it was made in the late '90s, but the little tools in it work incredibly well. Two of those go to the idea of faking social media post: Fakebook and Twister.
Fakebook and Twister are precisely what they sound like. It's a place to fake a Facebook and Twitter profile. Fakebook works incredibly well, and it allows you to save the profile. Twister is a little tougher to use, but it still gives you that ability to create social media for the classroom.
4. Google Slides
Yes, I know what your thinking. A presentation tool, really? A tool like Google slides actually gives you a lot of options because of the multitude of ways that you can share it. It also becomes a good option because of the ability to deliver it via Google Classroom quickly. It's all just a matter of how you set things up.
The basic idea would be to do a slide or set of slides that has tweets of Instagram posts on them. You could change the size of the slide to correspond with a format that makes more sense for a post, and you can set the slide show to present when you click on the link. It takes some creativity, but you can definitely make it work
5. Tons of Templates
Of course, the easiest way to fake social media post is to go back to a somewhat analog world. There are tons of templates out there that allow teachers to use things like Microsoft Word and Google Docs to create social media post. Students can use them digitally, but they can also be printed out. If you want the easiest route to go, this may be it.
Don't buy what's flashy. Buy what works. If you're trying to start a coding program and want to get kids into code, it should be the mantra you live by. The overall goal has to be learning, and I think it's so important that you start with that concept because there is a whole lot of flash out there. It's almost like we need a change of mindset already.
We are in such an interesting place when it comes to Education Technology. It's almost a transitional phase. It feels like the instructional materials and tools market has all but died with only a few startups surviving through the inevitable culling down to the big boys. Just look at your own school for a second. I can almost guarantee the dominant player either starts with a G, M, or an A. You probably even have more than one.
If G, M, and A are there, it becomes incredibly difficult to compete, and that has a direct effect on where startup innovation goes. It means it goes to more fringe categories and coding falls into that category. It's something we all know is essential, but it's not mandated yet. That lack of mandate also means there is a flash, but only a few provide substance. Don't get fooled. These five tips will help you pick something great, and I might be able to help with that...just saying.
1) CORE connection
A core connection is the place you have to start, yet most people don't. Unless your school has a dedicated STEM program or innovative teacher, it's coding curriculum is more than likely done in special times (like the Hour of Code) or a specialized class. Neither is necessarily bad, but neither will get the world to where we need it to be.
How do we change that? We have to get down to what code is: a CREATIVE tool. We have to let kids use code to tell stories, build games, create websites, and much much more. There is tons of research out there that proves student creation is one of the most significant ways to learn. Why not combine it with a future-ready skill?
I think some teachers would tell me that it's just not possible. They may not understand coding, or they don't like the extra factors that come with student creation like the time it takes and the grading that comes with it. All of those concerns are things we can overcome! Some tools make the coding easy, and the hard teaching parts that go with it can be overcome through some automation. In the end, it's all about doing what's best for kids.
This is the one that drives me the craziest. Deciding the ceiling is absolutely critical to choosing hardware on a limited budget, but it also applies to software. It's all about seeing how many applications you can use with a particular product and unfortunately, the flash of today's world is getting in the way of seeing the ceiling.
When you start with a particular coding product, you should always be asking, "What can I do past the base function?" and "What can a kid build?" It's easy to see where this an issue with robots. There are super popular robots out there that do a basic function well, but once you get past that, things fall off a cliff. When you buy hardware, ask yourself, "What can the kids build to go with it?" Software has a similar question: "How many DIFFERENT things can kids build in a platform?"
If you ask those questions, things began to come into focus. Coding platforms, robots, and hardware should never be purchased for the pre-built stuff and functions to get you started. You should buy them because they have that stuff to make it easier on the teacher, but they ALSO have a whole world that can let kids make.
Play is good, but at some point, a teacher is going to have to show some mastery from the student. They need to be able to measure the student's performance and adjust the instruction accordingly. They also need to be able to intervene if there is an issue. Coding platforms and software need to be able to do that, and it's almost more important that it's there than in a standard CORE (like Math) concept tool.
The importance of using data to adjust instruction is just good teaching. It lets teachers find those problems areas and help students through them, and it enables them to personalize the instruction to fit students needs. With code, mastery becomes even more critical because issues may not be immediately apparent to a teacher through observation.
4) A Progression
Coding is such an important skill that the natural progression has been to bring it to children as young as pre-schoolers. Of course, that doesn't mean that these kids are coding C++ and HTML yet. It's more about the skills of coding. It's the way coding teaches you to problem solve and think. It's teaching that skill of creation. Starting kids early allow them to progress just like they would with a language. There are no preconceived notions!
While there are A LOT of tools out there that teach basic computation skills, the key is finding one that allows for a progression to real text code. Not every kid is going to be a programmer but making that connection to it is so important. You want kids to be able to see what the overarching goal of learning code is, and where they can go with it. You never know...you might have the next Steve Jobs in your room.
What does this mean you are looking for? To start, many places begin with block code, but not many convert that block to text. Block code is supposed to simulate text commands in a more straightforward format, but the conversion is not exact. Many companies out there have just run with it and said that's ok. They have not taken the time to translate it. Find the right one that lets kids see that translation, let's kids see where they are going, and it gives them the overall why of coding. It's a great way to connect it to the real world.
The other thing to look for is a real progression of skill. There are tons of apps an tools that just put you in a workshop, and say go. They don't outline a sequence of skill that builds on what you previously learned. Just like reading, kids aren't going to start being experts. They are going to learn a little, and then a little more, and a little more. Having a clear delineation of that path makes it less likely they will get lost. If you can have that clear path, kids can quickly build into coding Java, Python, HTML, and other languages
Think back to a time you started using new technology in your class. What's the hardest part? From my perspective, it was never the actual content. It was always getting folks started with new technology, and I think that coding products tend to be especially tough because some engineers build them in a way that would help them learn.
The first thing I always look for in a coding product is simplicity, and one of the main places to start looking is how many clicks does it take for kids to be able to find stuff. This becomes especially noticeable when doing block coding. Students need to be able to see and sort through blocks with ease. Depending on how many blocks there are, you may have to have some menus, but if a kid always has to click to find things, it loses a lot of the focus.
The other thing to consider with UI is how much you can do in one place. There are so many coding products out there that do one thing well, but it just stays in that one thing. The apps that come with robots tend to be an excellent example of this. They do that one thing well, and then you have to go to another app to do anything else. If you think about it from a classroom perspective, that's a significant time suck. If you can do a bunch of stuff in one place, you eliminate that time suck.
Good teachers are experts. To be a good teacher, you have to have some passion about your content. You might be an expert in early childhood education, or you might be an expert in a specific subject. What is difficult though is being an expert in one specific topic, Teachers have to be broad, so that's why it’s always good to have ways to bring other experts into your class. It's also always good to have different viewpoints.
That's the whole point of this post. Below you will find my top 5 ways to being other experts into your class. Some of them are easy, but others might require you to step out of your comfort zone to ask. If it's all about what’s best for kids, isn't that something we should be doing anyway?
Skype in the Classroom site is great. You can find experts, authors, and even other classrooms to connect and work with. You can also put your name put there to see if you can get someone specific. It even has plans and guides to get you started. There are of course other video conferencing platforms out there, but Skype is the one that gives you the runway to get started quickly.
2. Your Local University:
No matter where you are, there is usually a local university that is within a mornings drive from you. Yes, if you are super rural it might be a long drive, but it's doable. These universities can be great places to find experts. You just have to be careful who you get though..
University lecturers typically aren't best folks for kids, but some of the researchers and others around the University can be. They can have an expertise in a topic that a regular teacher just can't. I am thinking of folks like the head of the engineering design lab who can talk about their prototyping process and the machines they use. Folks like that can just add to the classroom, and they should be pretty easy to connect with.
3. Your Community Members and Parents
Schools and community should go hand in hand. It becomes a different mindset to think about schools as community centers, but if we can shift that way it will do more for improving poor-performing schools than any initiative we may come up with. Using the communities expertise is a great way to bring in experts.
I think sometimes finding the right experts here is obvious, but I think there are other solutions you may not even be thinking of. Schools in rural areas could bring in people like local farmers to talk about technique with FFA kids. There are just so many options. It's just a matter of finding them.
Brining experts into your class is kind of a common sense thing right? Well, it would make sense that there would be a company that does it for profit, and that company is called Nepris. The whole point of Nepris is to make things as easy as possible. The best thing about it is they do all the work.
Nepris tends to be very STEM-focused, but that definition can almost apply to anything. It has ways to request a specific topic and person, but it also has some pre-setup talks and videos you can use. If you need something that is just easy and you have the budget, this might be the way to go.
5. Social Media
Social Media has its ups and down but where it can have a significant impact in the classroom is its ability to bring experts in. Instagram and Twitter especially tend to be the actual person responding, and even if you are scared of the kids being there you can always ask that person to be part of your class. It could even start pretty simply.
You could start by simply tagging an expert in some of your existing classroom activities. Many times experts feel great about being tagged in school activities, and they will respond accordingly. I have seen a high school ELA teacher get an author this way, and I actually had the former head of Google HR respond when someone tagged him in a post after one of my sessions.
This blog is written by David Lockhart who is all about coding. If you want to chat about your school's coding and STEM goals. Schedule a time HERE.
This week was one of those weeks that you could say just gave me a swift kick. I didn't have the best week sales wise, but what was worse if my MacBook Pro started a boot loop where after a few minutes it would just boot up again, it meant I had to take my laptop in, and what was worse is that I had a ton of presentations to prepare for. I was preparing g for a long week.
Why is losing my MacBook such a big deal? It’s because at this point I can't imagine using anything other than Keynote to make my presentation go. Keynote is just that big of a deal to me. I think it had great features to tell a story, and it's one of the main reasons I won't give up a Mac anytime soon.
My love for Keynote is just one that's developed over time. I started as a PowerPoint user, but as I got into the EdTech game, it became pretty apparent that all the big names were using. I began experimenting with it, and I eventually moved all my presentations to it. I, however, was only getting started.
To quote a Star Wars line, “I had an awakening in January of 2016.” That’s the year I saw Adam Bellow do a “Hacking Keynote” presentation at FETC. From that, I became committed to using Keynote to tell a story, and the two main features that pushed me to it were Magic Move and Instant Alpha. I started using both, but it would still take me a couple of years to move into a favorite format. In fact, I am still working on that.
Let's start with Instant Alpha because it's the easier of the two. The basic concept of this is that you remove the background for pictures you add into Keynote. Seems like a simple concept right? Well, it is, but Keynote is the only one that I know that does it quickly and natively. Instant Alpha becomes a great way to add to the look of your presentation, but it is also a killer storytelling feature. Being able to remove the backgrounds, lets you put those objects in a scene and make them look like they are part of it. You can then move them with Magic Move.
Magic Move is the real killer feature though. The basic idea of it is that you can use a slide animation to move objects around a scene. To give you an idea, let’s start with a circle. You can put the circle in the top left corner, copy the slide and add magic move to it, and then move the circle to the right corner on the second slide. When you play the presentation, it will like the circle moves from left to right. It’s just a flat out fantastic storytelling tool.
Magic Move basically gives you the power to make slides similar to stop motion animation movies. One of the best ways I have seen it used was to imitate the flight of a drone over an audience, and of course, it was one of Adam Bellow’s slides. All he did to do it, was use some screen grabs to create blocks over the background, hide some of the pictures behind them, and use Magic Move to get the flight. I know that might sound like a lot, but the hardest thing is coming up with the creative idea to do it. Once you have that, you're golden
My Keynote love wasn’t done with Magic Move and Instant Alpha though. In the summer of 2018, I got started talking with my good friend Jennifer Williams, and she showed me the beautiful slides from the Ed Tech Rabbi Michael Cohen. What I saw was beautiful slides that had a hand-drawn look to them, and it made me think both, “How did he do it?” and “How can I make my slides better?” What it made me realize is that I could quickly move my Keynotes to my Ipad and experiment with sketching using my Apple pencil. It has brought me to a whole different place with slide design, and I have a long way to go.
The Rabbi’s slides have put mine in a design redo. I am not anywhere near where he is with the hand-drawn look, but I have started to add a few pieces of my own. I think if you ask anyone about slide design and presentations, it’s always a process. Mine is still ongoing.
If you want to learn how you can get you kids coding, CLICK HERE
Are you trying to develop an EdTech Brand? I meet people all the time who are trying to create a brand that they can both speak and write from, and I thought it might be helpful to some to write my story with "Big Guy in a Bow Tie." I am no expert in branding, and I think there are some better experts in EdTech out there, but I have made some good and bad decisions along the way that lessons can be taken from.
How did Big Guy in a Bow Tie Start? Well, I think it started with me getting the speaking bug. I went to my first ISTE in 2011, and I just thought folks like Adam Bellow and Leslie Fisher were incredible. I wanted to be like them so, in 2012, I applied to GAETC as a presenter for the first time. I started with a 60 apps in 60 minutes presentation (I still do an updated version of it today), and the presentation went over great. I did try and print out resource sheets though, and soon after that conference, I thought it was time to start my website.
With my presentation being a 60 apps in 60 minutes presentation, I thought "Ed Tech Speed Dating" would be good and memorable. I got the domain name, and I started the build. Around the same time, I also started building my PLN with my Twitter account, but I used "ld112265" which I would later come to know wasn't a great tag. It all was a start, but it just wasn't good enough to make a difference. That would come later.
Fast forward to GAETC in 2014, and my friend Heather Cox gave me the kick to start "Big Guy in a Bow Tie." I had been speaking for a while, but I still had that crappy Twitter tag. After the conference, she had the guts to come up to me and tell me my Twitter sucked. As I sat there, I thought "Yes, Yes it does." I started to think of what could be unique, and I recently picked up wearing bow ties, so why not combine my large size with a bow tie. I shared what I was thinking with Heather and Stephanee Stephens, and their reaction made me feel I hit on something. Big Guy in a Bow Tie was born. It brings me to my first lesson.
Making is natural to human nature. It's also an excellent way for kids to learn. Kids can build almost anything for content all while learning problem solving, engineering, and creativity skills that are unmatched when come to preparing our kids for the future. Making should be a part of every class, but unfortunately, we just aren't there yet. Many teachers only see it as having too many pain points but aren't pain point part of everything teachers do? Let's do what's best for kids, instead of what's best for us
One of the pain points that has come painfully obvious in the last few years is the lack of budgets. There are so many great robots, boards, and other electronics out there, but they all cost money. Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of those tools, but not everyone has the funding to truly make them work. What most don't think about is that you can still be a great making out of just the everyday things that are laying around. Below you will find my five favorite tech projects that just need some creativity and some everyday items to make things awesome.
1. The Caine's Arcade Challenge
If you have not seen the Caine's Arcade video, you really should. It can be found HERE. This a video we had been using for several years as maker inspiration when I was at KSU iTeach, and it all the sudden hit me that this should be something we actually do. It helped that I was prepping for a 75 kid maker camp, and I needed activities.
The basic premise of the challenge is to create an arcade game out of cardboard. I have seen some incredibly creative ones over the years including golf (that used an old coat rack as a club), air hockey, and all kinds of rollerball games. It teaches all sorts of problem-solving, design, and math skills. It also takes a ton of creativity to do. If you really wanted to drill down to content all you would have to do is make the games about content concepts.
2. The Homeless Shoe Challenge
One of the things making is great for is making for service. I genuinely believe that one of the unintended consequences of our testing culture is that we have lost a focus on empathy, character, and service. If education held those principles the highest, this world would have a lot fewer problems.
One of the ways you could teach your kids this is by having them design a shoe for the homeless. It does not have to be something that is instantly ready for production, and it can be done out of just straight craft materials. The goal is to study an inherent problem in our society and come up with a solution. It's a tremendous problem-solving challenge, and there are all kinds of skills that go into the actual design.
3. The Tin Foil Boat Challenge
Sometimes old ones are still good ones. I love the tin foil challenge because of how easy and accessible it is, but it does create a bit of a mess because it also involves water. The value is there though.
The concept is super simple. You get a big bucket of water, and you have the kids design boats that hold coins out of aluminum foil. The vessel that contains the most coins wins. It teaches some tremendous problem-solving, engineering, and math skills
4. Anything with Pipe Cleaners
Sometimes the most basic craft tool gives you infinite possibilities, and really pipe cleaners can be the basis or part of multiple other projects. There is almost nothing better to craft characters simply. With that storytelling, possibilities open up.
One of my favorite projects to do with them is just to have kids create animals. They can twist and combine them to come up with something creative, and you can extend that project by adding eyes and lights. You could then take those animals (or other characters) and make them into a pretty compelling story. That storytelling can be included in almost any content.
5. Marble Run Challenge
This is another one that is super simple, but it just brings creativity out in droves. Do you remember those old tiny metal ball games where you had to move the plastic to different angles to get the ball in the hole? This is just that. You are just doing them with arts and craft supplies and paper plates.
The whole idea is to use things like construction paper, pipe cleaners, and toilet paper rolls to make a maze and obstacles that a marble has to get through to reach a goal. These can be as simple as a kid would want, but they can also be pretty complicated. One of my favorites was two levels. The student cut a hole in the paper plate and added stuff underneath it to make it work.