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.
Teachers have to be a whole lot of things to their students. Sometimes they have to be a counselor. Sometimes they have to be an advocate. Sometimes they even have to be a de-facto parent. A teacher fills any role that's needed, and I think our digital age has brought one to the forefront: PR person.
Showing what's happening in your classroom has become an expectation. Parents require it, and even most schools require it. So, how can we do it simply with coding projects? Thankfully, Tynker has an answer for that called the "Showcase," and it's a lot more useful than you might think.
The premise of the showcase is simple. The teacher sees the project, presses a button, and it's shared to a public page. This is a fully functional version of the project that a user can play and use, and if they want to see the code they simply pull it down as a remix. It is indeed a way for anyone to see the awesome things that kids are doing in class. It gives parents a bird's eye view, and it can even be an avenue for administrators to see the value of coding.
Sharing is easy. Your students can see all of the projects shared to the "Showcase," and parents can easily be added by merely sharing a link. Having that link also allows a school to add the projects to the home page, and for a teacher to add the projects to their learning management system.
The "Showcase" can be more though. To start, it can be a great avenue into peer review. All a student would have to do is open up another student project from the showcase, and then they could provide valuable feedback on how to make that students project better.
The "Showcase" could even be used more creatively. You could assign every student a chapter of a story, and they then have to create that aspect in video game format. Once every project is done, you should be able to play your way through the story.
I think where the "Showcase" really stands out all comes back to its central principle: making kids authentic creators. The showcase gives them the ability to find an audience. They can easily share where their project is, and get others to use it. Once they have users, you never where it could go. Just imagine a kid getting a job or scholarship based on the project that's easily accessible. While it seems unlikely, it could be possible with the Tynker showcase!
It’s time for the last 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 other 75 at bigguyinabowtie.com/the-blog
76. Will Richardson: I have only seen Will speak once, but his talk stuck with me. That’s hard to do. The most significant insight I remember is that robots won’t take over teaching because we have to be able to send kids somewhere. Will is all about how we change school, and his account is full of those insights.
77. Cathy Yenca: If you are a math teacher, Cathy is a must follow. Her creativity in the math class and use of technology amazes me every time I see her stuff, and I can’t help but think I might have liked math is I had Cathy as a teacher.
78. Lisa Johnson: I had the pleasure of being on a panel with Lisa many years ago at Tech Forum, and I have always enjoyed what she is doing in the EdTech space. She is all about creativity, and she has some fantastic tips on how to bring it into the classroom.
79. Brianna Hodges: I have never met Brianna in person, but I know her by her social media accounts and her association with one of my favorite districts (Eanes ISD in Texas.) Brianna is Eanes coordinator of Innovative Learning, so her account is full of reflections on personalized learning and other innovative practices
80. Amanda Haughs: Amanda is another person who just amazes me through her creativity. I met Amanda as part of the Raspberry PiCademy, and her work with elementary kids and Raspberry Pi makes her worth the follow. She also posts lots of ideas on how to implement design thinking, so if you want to bring design and creativity to your class, she is an excellent place to start.
81. Joe Marquez: Joe is a friend of mine who I have had the pleasure of getting to know through the Nearpod Pionears. Joe is an innovative educator from California, who now works for the Edu team at CDW where he gets to share his amazing insights about what school should be on a regular basis
82. Shannon Miller: If there was a lead media specialist in the country, I think it might be Shannon. Her account is full of what a library can be with projects of students, maker space insights, and a host of other things that make libraries future ready
83. Jaime Casap: Jaimes is Google’s education evangelist, and through that work, he gets to talk about what school can be. His talks usually head that way, and his account is full of those type of insights
84. Jennifer Casa Todd: Jennifer is a remarkable educator from Canada who has a load of expertise. Her account is full of a host of things including teaching the sustainable development goals, Google, and just general EdTech knowledge.
85. Laura Fleming: Can I call her the goddess of making? I am sure she would say no, but she is a huge part of the maker movement becoming a thing in schools. Her library was one of the first to do it, and she literally wrote the book on it. Her account is full of making insights, and it’s also always good to see what her kids are up to
86. Amy Vitala: Amy is one of my oldest friends in the EdTech space, and in many ways, her Instagram account is a more fun follow today. She is currently in the midst of traveling the country in a tiny house van, and she shares her travels through Instagram. On Twitter, she fills her account with EdTech insights and what her vast network of friends are up to.
87. Clara Galan: Clara is the education community manager with Adobe, and because Adobe is the leader in creativity, you know her account will be full of those insights. She is also a great contact to have just for her vast experience on the vendor side.
88. Dr. Amy Fast: When you read Amy’s account, the thing that becomes very obvious is how much she cares. She is an assistant principal in a high school who regularly post insight on how we can better care for and prepare kids.
89. Emily Carle Hafer: If you a vendor and you want to see how to run an ambassador program, this is the lady to copy. I have been part of so many ambassador programs, and I have never found one a leader that is more caring than Emily. Even though she runs the ambassador program at Squirrels, you always get the sense that she just wants you to be successful. She is also a master of small touches that make you feel welcomed
90. Josh Stumpenhorst: I got to know Josh a little bit better this summer after seeing him keynote a few conferences through Sphero Heros. Josh is a fantastic speaker, but he is also an incredible media specialist who specializes in making. His account is full of the incredible projects his kids are doing, and it is definitely worth a look
91. Jeffrey Humphries: Jeff is another Canadian and another Google expert, but he is also a great guy that is definitely worth the follow. I got to know Jeff through Google Innovator, and I follow him to see the great tips he posts on the Google Suite and Breakout Edu
92. Tom Vander Ark: Tom is the primary author and founder of the Getting Smart blog. It’s a great place to see some of the innovative practices that others are doing, and his Twitter account can be a great place to start.
93. Audrey O’Clair: When I think of Audrey, I can’t help but think of how sweet she is. There may not be a kinder person on the vendor side, and she is also just an excellent educator in her own right. Audrey now works for Soundtrap which is owned by Spotify, and she spends her days helping teachers bring audio creation to their classroom, promoting literacy, and working for accessibility.
94. Dave Burgess: Dave is an incredible educator/ speaker with his Teach Like a Pirate series, but he is also building a publishing empire. If you're looking for a book to read, his account is a great place to start as he promotes his author's books on a variety of topics. His authors include several people that are a part of this list.
95. Jeff Bradbury: Jeff is the podcast master. For years, he has been running the TeacherCast podcast network, and you can always get great information from it. His Twitter account is a definite follow to keep up with it
96. Sir Ken Robinson: If there is a no-brainer on this list, it’s this one. Sir Ken has been speaking about what needs to change in education for years, and his insight is always spot on and incredibly valuable.
97. Steven Anderson: The master of #edchat has been adding valuable insight into the education space for many years. His account is full of ideas on curation, modern learning, and using Social Media
98. Erin Klein: Erin is the elementary school teacher that I wish my own children had. Her creativity with younger students and the design of learning spaces is unparalleled. If you are looking for ideas for younger students, she is a great place to start
99. Jeff Utecht: Jeff is a fantastic speaker that I have had the pleasure of hearing several times. He has a vast interest in the education space, and his account reflects that with a host of tidbits from different areas.
100. Drew Minock: Drew is what I would consider one of the leaders in the VR and Augmented reality field. He was speaking on the topic before it was a thing, and he is a great place to start if you want to know what the future holds
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.