One of my favorite tools is getting a significant upgrade. At its core, Symbaloo is great, social, digital bookmarking. It gives you a tile-based system to save all of your essential sites on one wall. From a school standpoint, this is great from the start because it gives younger teachers a place to have their littles easily access where they need to go.
Where it comes up a notch is when you realize that you can embed Google tools into it. This means it can be a fantastic avenue to things like choice boards and differentiated workflows. All you have to do is write the directions in a Google Doc then pop in the Google Doc link. It also means you can use it for things like curating Youtube walls
In recent years, Symbaloo has been basically three different platforms. They have had the regular Symbaloo I talked about above, a pro version which gives some control over domains, and a system called learning paths which uses the tiles to make a game board with learning activities. Would it make sense to combine all of these? Well, yes, and that’s what they are doing. By the end of the summer, all three will be combined!
Check them out at symbaloo.com.
Oh, SNAP! My good buddies at Osmo are running an awesome summer sale! They are giving teachers an opportunity to get the creative kit for 20% off. I am going to be honest and tell you that I was a bit skeptical of this Osmo product before I got it, but after I did, I should have known that the awesome folks at Osmo were doing something great.
If you have not seen an Osmo, it is a kit that gives you a base with a red piece that you can put over the camera of the device to mirror what you are doing in front of the device. They then give you interactive pieces to play with in front of the device that the device then reads and provides feedback through an app.
The Creative kit is being advertised as the pieces for the Monster app, but it also works with Newton app and the Masterpiece app. The kit includes a whiteboard, markers, and erasers specifically built to fit in front of the Ipad. You can take the Monster app and draw things for Mo the Monster to use in the app (he pulls them up on screen, you can draw lines to get a ball in Newton, or you can take a picture and then get trace lines in Masterpiece. It is a great way to bring out kids creativity!
If your hesitating on the creative kit…don’t. Getting another whiteboard to fit perfectly in the space for the iPad to read is next to impossible, and it is WAY better than having kids use 1000 sheets of paper to do just a few things.
You can find the SALE HERE
One thing we aren't doing enough in schools is connecting kids with the real world. This is a world full of problems and we have to prep kids to really tackle them. One of those problems is access to affordable, clean energy, and my friends at Participate have a course to help you teach kids just that.
What is Participate? It's a platform for learning. There are options for students (through using resource collections) and there are options for teachers (through using their chats, resource collections, and courses). It's just a matter of finding the best option for you! If it's teaching about clean and affordable energy you can see that HERE.
I am a big fan of what Little Bits are doing. I think they keep getting better and better, and their specific apps are helping students walk through the process of building electronics. The options for creativity and building with future skills are endless.
One of the coolest things about Little Bits is that the founder and CEO is a woman who has built a company that most would see as a leader in the STEM and Maker movements. What’s incredible is she still does webinars for educators! There is another one on Tuesday, June 12 from 1-2.
Here from her by clicking this LINK
As someone who is starting to travel a good deal, you learn there are certain tricks that help you get around. One trick is to use rideshare services like Uber and Lyft to get you to the airport. They are typically just a hair more expensive than a shuttle service and by using them you can go straight to the airport rather than waiting for the shuttle to pick up other passengers.
Where Uber and Lyft can really be cool though is using them as opportunities to learn. Every person who drives for those companies has some sort of story to tell, and the conversations you can have can often times be amazing experiences to learn about a time or a place you did not know about. Don't get me wrong, they can be off the wall (I have had plenty of those), but if we stop and listen we can become better just from that small interaction.
Today, I had the pleasure of an Uber named Richard on my way to the Tampa Airport. We started talking about Florida, and eventually, we got onto how he ended up in Florida. He mentions casually that he moved to Florida from New York to Kennedy Space Center. I, of course, asked the obvious question, "Did you work for NASA?" Not only did he work for NASA, he was an engineer in the 60's. Yes were are talking man on the moon, Neil Armstrong age. He then proceeded to tell me stories of how once Neil landed, NASA shrunk. From there he got into running a Hess gas station where he could tell me stories of the gas crisis in the 70's, but it got even better when he moved into stories of the bar business in the 80's where he ran the bar the Tampa Buccaneers hung out it. As a former history teacher, I was mesmerized.
To me, this small interaction just proves that everyone has a story to tell. It may be small and crazy, but it is still their story. Think about how much better the world would be if focused in on this. By focusing in on these little moments and interactions we have every day we can learn and above all, we can focus in on the fact we are all human beings. We might disagree with one another on specific issues, but if we can see that human being in people maybe we can make that compromise that makes the world better.
As school leaders, I think we have to make opportunities for students to have those moments. It could be as big as talking one to one to someone who is an expert in their field of interest, or it can be as small as giving that small opportunity for kids from different backgrounds to connect. Whatever it may be, getting students to students to see everyone as people and see their story may be our most important job.
One of my biggest takeaways from the FETC conference in January was seeing the Root robot live. I wrote about it at the time, and you can find that post at this LINK. Basically, Root is everything I was looking for in a coding robot, and I could not wait to try it out.
Fast forward to the beginning of summer, and I have tried them out. After FETC, I wrote the company and asked them if there was any way we could partner. Kennesaw State iTeach (where I work) was getting ready to roll out a maker bus and maker camps, so I saw plenty of opportunity for a partnership, and thankfully the awesome folks at Root did as well. They added us to their initial pilot program, and they worked with us to get us a few loaner Root robots before their first production units were out. Every interaction I have had with the Root team has been excellent, and it just shows a company with a commitment to working with educators. There are many education companies where that commitment can be hard to see.
What you want to know is my first impressions of the robot, right? Well, let's say its good, REALLY GOOD. We started off with a preproduction Root and a beta version of the app that only gave us Level 1 one coding (meant for pre-readers). The company was still working on the final version of the app (which has both blocks and text), but having level 1 allowed us to get Root out to some of the bus events we were hosting,
The activity we chose to do with Root was to have it write on the whiteboard style wrap on the bus. Root is magnetic, so he sticks to the side. The bus has a few quirks in it, so occasionally we would have to pick Root up and reset him, but other than that it worked incredibly well. Kids were able to use an arrow based pre-reader coding to draw shapes, letters, and whatever other abstract art they wanted to mural our bus with.
Root also hit some of the little things that go into coding robots out of the park as well. Pre-reader arrow based coding is often very childish so older elementary and middle fill like they get little out of it. That wasn't the case here. Root's pre-reader program is merely pulling arrow commands into a code field, and we used it successfully even with 8th graders. Just like others, Root also works through connection to Bluetooth, but unlike others I found that connection to be incredibly easy. You just open a programming field, click on the picture of the robot, and you're done.
One of the best things though had to be Root's battery life. I was curious if this would be longer considering it's flat form factor would make it easier to put a larger battery in, and thankfully it was! Root's battery life outperforms other well-known coding robots by a whole lot. We had Root, and these other companies robot's on our bus all day for events, and I did not have to recharge Root once. It beat others by almost double. To me, the simple connection and battery life are significant factors in purchasing, and the Root team has hit that out of the park.
What really makes Root great though is all the things you can do with it. You would think the shape of a robot is not a factor, but it becomes a HUGE factor when you think about building other things for it. Root's flat shape allows you to attach almost anything to it. This opens up the possibilities of having trailers, chariots, and more. It also makes it easy to build obstacle courses and cities for it. On top of that, I can envision doing an engineering challenge with it where you ask the Root to complete a coding task with the tallest building made out of something like straws on top.
I know in many ways I am gushing about this product, but after testing it, I think it's the first robot you should buy for your school. I think what gets lost on many when considering robots is what is the ceiling and what is the floor. There are several robots on the market that do cool things, but the ceiling is incredibly low. Root's ceiling is incredibly high. It's a robot that gives you multiple options right out of the box, and it's one of the only robots that is genuinely k-12. Check it out for yourself at codewithroot.com
Let's talk about VR for a quick sec. It can be incredible fun, and it can also be a great source of learning through the immersive experience students get in it. It's also a brand new technology that we don't know the full effective. Common Sense Media has started the research into just that, and now you can read the report.
The Common Sense report basically theorizes that we need to treat VR in a similar way to a real-world experience. The immersion makes it seem real, and so children might think it is. It also states something that most should already know: just like any other technology it should be used in moderation. Letting kids on it consistently could have negative affects on their development.
There is much more in the research, so be sure to check it out HERE!
Oh boy! Insert Learning just recently added the ability for a teacher to join classes! This is awesome news as it brings interactivity to Reading articles for PD
Insert Learning is basically a chrome extension that allows you to make anything on the web an assessment or a discussion. You can highlight, add sticky notes, start discussions, and add questions. What they did recently was the ability for teachers to join classes. Through that teachers can use it for PD. It's now an awesome tool for teachers to use in the classroom and to learn.
Check out Insert Learning HERE
My friends at Merge VR are at it again! A couple of weeks ago they added two new VR experiences that are awesome for schools. They are: Penguins Sunbathing and the Atomic Bomb at Hiroshima
The history teacher in me is, of course, geeking out over the atomic bomb. I know that's a weird thing to say, but any opportunity to put kids in the history is awesome! The penguins VR is a great opportunity for kids to see animals in their natural habitat. It's perfect for all kinds of science classes.
Check them out HERE
Let's talk about computer science. It's an area where we need more and more people that know what they are doing. To get those people, we are going to have to teach it in schools, and thankfully many schools and states are moving that way.
I think coding is best taught as we would teach a world language. The younger we start students, the better off they will be. There are tools out there that allow students to code with arrows and with lines, but eventually, students are going to have to move into block coding. That's where this post focuses on!
I just got one of these coding robots, and it may already be my favorite. That's without even being able to get the full functionality of the app as I got one before the actual release with an Alpha version of the app.
I like this as a starting place for late elementary because there is so much I can do with it. I see many folks buying coding robots to fit specific needs, and I think this robot eliminates much of that. You can get this, and then purchase others more just to be varied.
Root's functionality for late elementary starts with the app. It allows me to start students who have never done anything off with an arrow based coding that is both functional and not overly childish where it turns off older elementary students. It then progresses to a block coding to fit most of your students, and you can also move your high flyers to text-based code.
What you can do with the robot adds to the experience. To start, it has a marker holster in the middle which can be raised and lowered to make drawing easy. It's size and shape also can come in handy as it allows you to build stuff both for it and to attach it. It climbs walls, and it has tons of sensors to set and play with. It truly is one of the first robot's I have seen that can fit more than one need.
This seems like a no-brainer, but Code.org is a great place to start with late elementary coding because it's free. They also have some great partners that both provide content and characters that late elementary students would be interested in.
Code.org is known for there Hour of Code games. They are especially known for games like Star Wars, Frozen, and Angry Birds. Those games are almost perfect to introduce young elementary students to block coding, but code.org is definitely much more than that. They have tons of courses, materials, and other activities for students to do, and they have all the curriculum a teacher might want. They indeed are a good starting place for anyone starting off with learning coding.
Tynker's strength lies in its broad use. Tynker is a block-based coding tool that is on almost every device, and it allows for several devices (like Drones and Spheros) to access it as a coding platform. It also has a classroom setup which allows the teacher the ability to set up classes. It means that there is a little something for everyone!
Scratch's open source feel and interface mean that like Tynker it can be used in a multitude of situations. At its core, Scratch is a block-based coding platform that lets you build animation which are many times oriented around their cat mascot. It can take off though by connecting other things to it and creating your own commands. Both Hummingbird Robots and Raspberry Pi's connect to it, and through them you can build robots and almost any other electronic piece you might want
5. Sphero Sprk
Sphero Sprk's strength lies directly in its shape. The round shape of a Sphero Sprk means that you can build almost anything for it. You can build chariots, obstacle courses, boats, and much more. You can then code them all. It makes Sphero a great way to add coding to almost any curriculum.