Thursday, February 26, 2015

Makerspace Club: All Hands on Deck!


One of the things that I was most concerned about when starting the Makerspace Club was making sure that all students could be active participants the entire time. I wanted students to have choice, explore different items, and most of all, to have fun. I knew that I needed to create a bit of structure, without it feeling like there was too much structure.

One of the ways that I have been able to ensure that all of the kids in the club can be hands-on the whole time is by creating 'stations' and taking the time at the beginning of each club to have a group meeting about all of the options available to them. At the group meeting I introduce new materials, review what we already have and what we've already done, and share Maker videos for a little inspiration.

We then make stations with all of the different supplies and students are free to roam from one to another. The stations have been split up as follows:

The Creation Station-

Here we use Lego bricks, wheels, car parts, and people to build whatever their hearts desire! Vehicles are definitely the most popular item to build, and they sure have been creative with them. I also highly recommend purchasing the Lego Education Community Set. The kids love all of the different people and accessories that they can mix and match. I've heard some very funny and clever stories about their Lego scenes, usually beginning with the Lego people. There was a chef who only cooks with bananas and lives in a tree and an 'undead race car driver'- to name a few. We also pull out the K'nex in this area. I will say the Legos have definitely trumped the K'nex in popularity so far. I also purchased the Lego Play book for this station and I've seen a number of kids flipping through it for inspiration. Other creation items include cardboard building pieces and origami.


The Breakerspace-

This station is a student favorite! I first read about having a take-apart station on Twitter from Media Specialist Laura Fleming and I thought it would be so interesting to actually get to tear apart technology! Here students have the opportunity to completely disassemble old, obsolete desktop computers, laptops, CD players, phones, and other old tech items donated by staff. Our first time incorporating the Breakerspace, there were four very determined girls who managed to take the entire computer apart and rebuild it within an hour! Listening to the kids talk through what each part does and why it was installed a certain way is so interesting. The critical thinking skills that they use while taking apart the old technology are really incredible! This was the easiest station to build. I just put out a request for old, unused technology, and the supplies started pouring in! Just make sure to remove any batteries before letting the kids go to town taking apart the technology.


The Makey-Makey Station-

Yes, the Makey-Makey gets a station all by itself, because it's that special! Seriously, the Makey-Makey is a must for a Makerspace. We have kids gathering around the kids who are using the Makey-Makey totally in awe.

Makey Makey Dance Dance Revolution
is a favorite activity!

They experiment with various conductive materials to create game controllers and play a variety of games online.
 We now have three Makey Makeys and they are always in high demand!




The Circuit Station-
We have a great snap circuit kit and it is one the favorite things to experiment with. The kids have made solar-powered circuits, circuits that buzz, and circuits that make a fan fly into the air and spin around! It's been fun to see all the variations of circuits that they create! We also have a Little Bits kit that the kids have had fun with developing circuits that spin or buzz or have a variety of different effects. We'd like to get a few more pieces added to this kit eventually so we can use them with the Lego creations. At our last meeting, a student had tons of fun making a buzzer that attached to your arm so you could surprise people when you shook their hand.

The Computer Station-

Coding, online Legos, exploring Google Earth, the sky is the limit for the kids who go here. When I asked if they preferred to build with Legos online, a few students said yes because they aren't limited to a certain number/type of blocks. They also showed me all the neat things you could do with Legos online. For coding, a few of the students have decided to continue past the hour of code event or past what we did in coding club. Some are completing the multi-level course from Code.org while others have moved to sites like Codecademy.com to try their hand at writing code.


The Virtual Reality Station-

Here we experiment with 4-D apps, both educational and the just for fun ones. We use many of the apps that I posted about here. I just love hearing the excited reactions as the images pop off the screen!

The Movie Making Station-

This is our newest station that we just added last week. I had been interested in what we could do with stop motion animation, and it turns out, so were many of the kids! A few were already very experienced with stop motion animation, while others were brand new to it. I was so impressed (I find myself feeling that way a lot with this group!) with the great stop motion videos that they made in a very short time! A few kids have been asking if they could keep working on them at lunch even!


Check one of the cool stop motion videos below:

Check out more of our stop motion videos here and here.

The Sphero Station-

The latest addition to the Makerspace has been a Sphero station. I'm planning a whole post dedicated to the amazing Sphero and the great things my Makerspace kids did with it. A Sphero is a great tool for learning about programming and robotics- or just a really fun way to control and drive the robot all around your school and experiment with apps and new ideas. We did a little of both!

Our Sphero Maze Challenge
Painting with a Sphero was a messy, but successful experiment!



And On and On We Go!

Having a variety of options and encouraging experimentation in different stations has really helped to make our Makerspace successful. I love that each week it grows and changes. I really believe that a Makerspace shouldn't be a stagnant thing. It should always be adapting, growing, and changing just as our students are!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tech Tools: PowToon


Last week I was presented with an opportunity to share information about our March is Reading Month events at our school with teachers at a number of meetings that would take place throughout the day. Given the nature of my position, I knew I might be in and out of the meetings some, which would make it difficult to share the same information with everyone. I wanted to offer them a presentation that wasn't actually dependent on me being there to present it. I also wanted to use a form of technology that could be useful to all of  my fellow teachers for their own classrooms. With that I decided it was time to try my hand at making my first PowToon.

What is a PowToon? It's a great animated site that lets you combine animated characters, images, text, graphics, music, voice recordings, transitions, and more to create videos. Here is a quick overview from the PowToon website explaining just what you can do with PowToon.




I used the PowToon for Education site specifically. PowToon is easy and fun to use once you've identified what each element does and play around with it a bit. I definitely recommend that teachers try making a PowToon of their own before assigning it to students. It's not that students couldn't figure how to use it, because let's be honest, they could probably figure it out faster than many adults, but as a teacher, it will help to understand all of the great features of this site. It may even help to expand the assignment to include more of the features. They have great tutorial videos that explain how to use the site (like the one above), but if you're like me, you like to jump right in and get started! (Just like the kids, right?)

The one thing that made a big difference for me in ease of use was when I realized that you can control the timing that the different elements enter the screen by choosing the element and then using the sliding scale at the bottom to choose when that element will be added to the screen. Before I found that I could control that timing, I had words and characters overlapping at incorrect times. You can also adjust the length of each slide using the + and - on this same blue bar.


There are a huge variety of characters and backgrounds to choose from, many of which come with the free account. These can help you create presentations that range from serious to funny depending on what you are looking for. There is also a great variety of background music to choose from. When you first log in, you are given the option to create animated presentations or professional slideshows, both with access to a variety of elements and templates to choose from.

I love this site for teachers and students. I think there are a huge number of ways that this could be used in the classroom. This would be great for flipped learning, a student presentation, a student tutorial, a book review, introducing a new topic, or many other purposes. It's fun to watch, easy to share, and allows for a great amount of creative freedom. This is all just my own opinion from using it myself-I highly recommend checking it out.

Here's my first PowToon. Now that I've made one, I'm already thinking of great uses I have for others and ways to make it better. This is a great educational tool that really has endless uses for the classroom!



Sunday, February 15, 2015

Makerspace Club Reflections

This past Monday we had Makerspace Club and WOW, did we have fun! For the entire hour, the 20 kids were excited, engaged, and inquisitive. Some kids jumped from one activity to the next, while others were so focused on what they were doing that they never left their initial activity.

In my research on Makerspaces I learned all about the materials to buy and the reasoning behind having one, but I still had to figure out how to design a club that would work for us with 20 kids and only a certain amount of materials.

Our club meets every Monday, and as of this post we've had two meetings. I decided to start each club meeting out with a group meeting. In our group meeting we go over the different resources available, watch a neat Maker video or two, and I introduce them to a new Maker material. Then the kids get to decide what it is that they want to experiment with. They often split off in groups of three or four and dive right in.

For Maker resources I received major guidance from Diana Rendina's site about Makerspaces. It is a great site to help you get started! I wrote about the current resources in our Makerspace here. At the first club meeting we went over all of the different resources that we have. About half of the kids in the club are kids who have been using the Makerspace regularly at lunch. These kids acted like guides in helping the other begin to experiment with things like the Makey Makey and the Little Bits Kit. By the second meeting, all of the kids were helping each other and jumping in without fear. It was such a great thing to see!

This past week we added in two more fun resources to our Makerspace club! I was able to get an old, broken computer tower for the kids to tear apart. For an extra fun challenge, they had to put it back together at the end. That made for some laughs as we all tried to remember what went where. By the end of the hour, they were able to completely take apart and put back together a computer (with the exception of a wire or two)! That is a pretty amazing accomplishment!

The second resource we added this week were many of the augmented reality apps that I wrote about in a previous post. They took turns watching the universe in 4-D and playing the fun Enchantium games! We talked about the variety of AR apps and I encouraged them to continue with them at home!

I've noticed that since starting the club, the Makerspace has gradually become more and more popular at lunch time too. It's been a great place for the kids to play around, build, and experiment. The best part is when they come to me with ideas for things they want to build next or tell me about what they've been making at home. I love seeing how the Makerspace grows and changes and all of the ways that the kids interact with it. I hope to be constantly adapting it to meet their interests and needs. One thing's for sure, I can't wait until our next Makerspace Club meeting!






Sunday, February 8, 2015

#LoveTeaching

On Twitter this week, I came across #LoveTeaching. Educators are encouraged to write why they love teaching, why they became a teacher, or what keeps them teaching, and to share the love by sending it out on a social media platform this week. Now that sounded like a challenge for me! What better way to kick off Valentine's Day then reflecting on my love of teaching?

Infographic found at: http://goo.gl/bHZNNn

The Past

I was one of those kids who knew that they would grow up to be a teacher. I come from a family of teachers, going back three generations. When I played 'pretend' as a kid, I always played 'School' and you can guess who the teacher was. My Barbie dolls were not fashion icons, but students heading to school in their Jazzercize outfits and ball gowns (naturally). My elementary teachers confirmed my goal. The care and attention they paid to each one of us never went unnoticed. They made us feel special and taught us to work hard and be proud of our accomplishments. While a few teachers certainly stand out in my mind, my entire elementary school experience really propelled me to follow my dream of becoming a teacher.

The Present

I've worked in a few different roles as an educator, and my reason for loving teaching always, always, always comes back to the students. Teaching is a hard job, not too many people would argue that, but the students make every late night or weekend work session worth it. 

Although I am no longer an English teacher, it was in that role that I first connected with my students the most. Reading their reflections, connections, and inquiries, listening as they participated in class discussions to form and justify opinions, watching as they took leadership roles in literature circles, group projects, and presentations, and learning as I watched them find themselves through each of these activities. 

Today, in my work as a 6-8 Media Specialist, I've found that it is still always the students that advance me forward as an educator. I am constantly looking for what are things that the students would like to read, how can I help the students to use technology safely and creatively, and what activities will help the students to grow. It is my on-going mission to continue to grow and adapt to meet their needs and to ensure that they always have a comfortable, engaging, active learning experience when they step into the Media Center. Our Makerspace is just one example of how I've tried to create such an environment and experience.


The Future

"The only way to do great work is to love what you do."
-Steve Jobs

This year, as an educator, I have tried to step outside my comfort zone more and expand my PLN in an effort to become a better educator. Blogging and Twitter have been incredible sources of reflection, inspiration, and growth for me in that journey. It is through these platforms that I learned about Makerspaces, Genius Hour, GAFE tips, useful apps, new books, conferences, and more. I have ventured into this world truly so I could continue to grow as an educator to meet the needs of the students. I want to continue to find new ways to connect them, help them to feel engaged, inspired, free to explore, and to find a love of learning in their own way. In making choices for the Media Center, Makerspace, and other activities, I will continue to make sure that it is always with the students' best interests in mind. I will talk with them and learn from them to see what they need and what they want. I want them to #lovelearning as much as I #loveteaching. 

When it comes down to it, I bet when you ask most educators why they #loveteaching, the answer is really always going to be the students. In what other job do you get to spend so much time with people who challenge you to be your best, and get to watch them grow right before your eyes? 




How could you not love working with students who write a rhyming poem about you during a poetry unit? 



Sunday, February 1, 2015

Tech Tools: Augmented Reality


The first time I saw augmented reality being demonstrated in a workshop, I can remember audibly saying "Wow!" The first time I showed an augmented reality app to students, that same word was repeated, along with many other exclamations about how amazing it was.

In the past year it seems that the number of AR apps has really increased creating some great potential for learning and fun! Best of all, all of the apps featured here are completely free!

colAR Mix

The first AR app I was ever introduced to is called colAR Mix. After downloading, you go to their website and print out any of a number of black and white pictures. After coloring the picture in, open the app and watch that very same picture come to life! They seem to be regularly updating the pictures that they offer, which is great. They have everything from a cute little sheep that kicks a soccer ball, to a cell where students can color in and label each of the different parts. Check out their video below to see just how amazing this app is!


ColAR Mix certainly isn't the only AR app out there. DAQRI has created a number of great AR apps that are educational and free as well.

Apps by DAQRI

Elements 4D is an app created by DAQRI that allows you to see chemical reactions take place in 4D. After printing out and assembling the cubes from their website, you can use the app to view what various chemicals actually look like in 4D. By placing two cubes together, you can actually see what the chemical reaction looks like! What an amazing way to help students actually visualize what happens when two chemicals mix.

Photo Credit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/daqri/elements-4d-interactive-blocks

Another amazing app created by DAQRI is Anatomy 4D. Students can view all different systems at work in the human body to learn about anatomy and how the different systems fuction. Check out this video by DAQRI to see this incredible app.


DAQRI also has apps to view the human heart in 4D and the solar system. You can access these printables with the DAQRI app. I showed both to students at my school and they were truly amazed. They also had great ideas for different ways to explore the 4D images further. With the heart you can again view different One fun thing about the solar system 4D printable is that the closer you get to earth, the more you hear people talking and kids laughing. As you go further and further away, you start seeing planets, comets, and how things change at different views. It is truly incredible.


Photo credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITEsxjnmvow


Another AR app that I've had fun with recently is called Enchantium by DAQRI. This app has options for three games, a 4D fairy tale story, musical strings- where you can watch as the sound travels (sound waves lesson!), or a game that looks live a 4D version of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots,which can be played by two people. 
Photo credit: http://www.edutech.nodak.edu/ar/enchantium/
Photo credit: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/enchantium/id811753948?mt=8


If you're interested in creating your own augmented reality, DAQRI even has an Educator's Studio that educators can sign up with for free. I have just recently done this, so I'm sure there will be a future post about how this works.

Aurasma

Yet another AR app that has great reviews is Aurasma. With this app you can create markers that trigger "auras" to play. An aura is a video, image, or sound file that will play on loop when the marker is detected by this app. This video provides a great tutorial on how to create an Aurasma for a students project.



These are by no means the only AR apps out there. It is amazing what has been created with augmented reality. Just typing augmented reality into the app store pulls up a large number of great AR apps.

Here are a few sites to check out if you are interested in learning more about augmented reality apps to use in the classroom.

Two Guys and Some iPads


If you haven't explored augmented reality yet, you will be wowed! It is truly an amazing classroom tool and I highly recommend all educators take a look at the ways AR might be useful in their classrooms.