Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Makerspace Showcase: Stop Motion Video



You know how sometimes your students just do something so neat that you want the whole world to see it? One of my Makerspace Club students did just that at our club meeting this week!

The truth is, they are all always doing such cool things that I wish we could show off all the time. However, most of the time, they are engaged in activities, like playing with the Makey Makey, which we can share in pictures, but you really have to be there to get the full effect of how neat it is.

Stop motion videos are a little easier to share though, so, without further ado, here is a stop motion video that one student made in under 30 minutes yesterday.



I was so impressed with his great video and just had to share it with everyone!

He used the Lego Movie Maker app to create this "video game" stop motion video.

To see some of the earlier stop motion videos that students made and the apps they are using, check out my earlier post on stop motion animation.



If you have any feedback for him, I'm sure he would appreciate it. :)



Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tech Tools: Pocket



It's been a while since I shared a tech tool, so I thought I'd share an app that I've been using all the time lately. I thought it would be fun to try my first link up too! So I'm linking up with the Teaching Trio blog this week to share technology tips with other educators!


I first heard about this app in a Twitter chat a few months ago, and I've been hooked ever since.
Image Credit: itunes.apple.com

The app is called Pocket. It's a free app that lets you easily and quickly save images, video, websites, and other text all in one place. You can also view it online at https://getpocket.com/.


When I get involved in Twitter chats with other educators, I notice that great websites and articles are mentioned frequently. However, I want to stay engaged with the chat, so I always feel like there's no time to check the sites out. Pocket lets me conveniently save these links, videos, and more all in one place. Then, when I have a little extra time, I can go back and read these resources. If I like them, I can star them to make them easy to find, or share them out through social media links within Pocket. If I've decided I've read the article and I'm done with it, I can click the check mark and it moves out of 'My List' and into the 'Archives'. I can also decide to delete it completely.

Even better- once the items are saved to Pocket, you can view them even if you are offline!

Image credit: itunes.apple.com
I almost exclusively use Pocket through the app on my phone, however, I am easily able to access it on my computer and view all of the same items that I had saved to my Pocket app. I love that I can save items from my phone and access them from my computer or iPad later.

One of my favorite features of Pocket has been how neat and readable the screen looks. In 'My List' it shows the item title and a picture from the item, as well as a short description or introduction. With all of the different articles I have saved, these little thumbnail images are great visual reminders for me. When I first heard about Pocket, I wondered what the advantage was over just bookmarking the items. I have to say, besides the huge advantage of being able to read the articles when offline, the format makes it so much easier to find articles and star your favorites. When viewing it in your browser, the articles are set up like tiles, similar to Pinterest, which still makes it very readable.

As an educator, I am constantly coming across ideas that I want to use later, articles that I am interested in but just don't have the time for, or videos that I want to share with students later. This really is a great tool for busy educators who are constantly finding information online that they will want to access later. It's easy to access, easy to find content, and easy to share the information with others. What educator doesn't need a tool to make their life a little easier?


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Makerspace Club: Visiting the Robot Garage



Our Makerspace Club had our last meeting for the winter session last week. After such a great club, I wanted to make sure we went out with a bang!

I had heard about a great business in our town called The Robot Garage. The word robot was enough to draw me in of course, but one look at the activities offered on their website, and I was sold. Robots, Legos, plenty of space to explore-what more could we ask for? I contacted the store and was thrilled to hear back from them that they would be happy to host our club for a session.
The Robot Garage logo
from http://therobotgarage.com/

The owner of The Robot Garage, Sarah, came to explain to our group all about how and why she began the store. She then took the time to ask every single student what their favorite activity in the Makerspace Club has been. I loved hearing these answers because they were varied and showed that each student was able to find their niche within the club. The favorite club activities that were said the most were the Makey Makey (no surprise there!), taking apart computers, and creating videos using stop motion animation or green screen. 

As opposed to having the kids do a structured activity, which The Robot Garage does offer, Sarah encouraged them to just take the time to explore-something this group does very well!

In the drop-in room there were tables set up with different activities. The group took turns moving from table to table and exploring.

There were five tables and plenty of pieces for everyone to get their hands on something. The tables were:

  • Lego Table
  • LaQ Table
  • Robot Table
  • Plus Plus Table
  • Lego Duplo Table (our group was too old for these, but my son would love this table!)
A LaQ creation made by a
VHMS student 
There was no doubt that battling robots was the most popular choice. In fact, Sarah kept bringing more robots to the table so more kids could join in the fun. They did great with taking turns so that everyone had a chance to try to flip robots. Our school has an awesome Robotics Team and some of the members of the team are also in this club, so they had great insight to share with the group about robotics too.


The LaQ, Lego, and the Plus Plus Table were all so much fun for the kids too. They created all sorts of colorful items that they shared with each other. Some kids worked together to build their creations and others worked independently, but by the end of our time at The Robot Garage, they all had created something new. 

LaQ pieces from http://www.laq.co.jp/

It was neat to see items we had never heard of before. The kids all had spent plenty of time building with Legos, but seeing what they could make with LaQ and Plus Plus was really neat! The LaQ blocks advertise that there are an "infinite possibility of creation from just 7 types of block parts", while Plus Plus, a Danish company, advertises that there are "endless possibilities" for design with just one plus shape that comes in many colors. The kids put these claims of endless design possibilities to the test and built some pretty neat things during our one hour visit!

The LaQ allowed them to build intricate designs, while the Plus Plus were easy to manipulate, allowing for everything from stacking towers to writing out words. Both of these items were developed in other countries, so it was also great to get a different view of the different types of things that we could build with.

Here are a few pictures of our trip to The Robot Garage so you can see all of the fun that we had!





Sarah and Laurie also shared with our kids about all of the awesome robotics camps they offer and that kids can attend drop-in sessions where they can explore some more! I thought that was great information for our Makerspace Club students, as it gives them another avenue for making. It was an awesome experience and I'm looking forward to working with The Robot Garage again soon!




Thursday, April 9, 2015

Makerspace Challenge: Paper Airplane Catapults



As I mentioned in a previous post, I try to go into each club meeting by introducing the students to a new item we can use in our Makerspace, or concept to consider, or video to watch. At this point, we have plenty of materials and plenty of stations to explore, and I certainly don't want to keep adding 'stuff' just for the sake of having lots of 'stuff' in our Makerspace.

 From what I've read and from my own experiences, a Makerspace really shouldn't be all about the stuff. Much like technology use in schools really shouldn't be about obtaining all the latest technology without a learning need to support it, a Makerspace shouldn't just focus on the collection of item after item. Both should really focus on enhancing learning and critical thinking skills, the fun gadgets should always come secondary to that. I'm not saying that we won't ever try to get more or different materials, but it's impractical and takes away from the purpose of a Makerspace if we're just adding new things to play with every single week. I want students to explore what we already have and if they're very familiar with an item, I want them to either find new ways to make use of those items, or to dabble in something else. Our Makerspace Club is all about exploring and experimenting. In order for the students to grow as thinkers and tinkerers, they need to challenge themselves to try new approaches and try new things. 

With that said, I decided it was time for a challenge!

I follow some amazing Media Specialists and educators online who have been kind enough to share their Makerspace journeys. In Twitter posts I read by Colleen Graves and Diana Rendina, I learned that they were collaborating on a Makerspace catapult challenge where students created all different kinds of catapults. From the pictures and videos they shared, it looked like they had a lot of fun in the process. 

Middle school students actually being encouraged to fling things across a room in a competitive (and collaborative) manner? Now that sounded like fun!

The same day that I read about their catapult challenge, a fellow teacher gave me an old book he had about how to make paper airplanes...and so the VHMS Paper Airplane Catapult Challenge was born! The kids were given two club sessions to create their catapults and airplanes. They could work in teams or by themselves. At the end of the challenge, whichever team could successfully create a catapult that launched a paper airplane the furthest would win!




The challenges I've read about online have largely been with two different schools, which I  hope to do in the future, but just doing it within our club really worked great too. The spirit of friendly competition was in the air as the kids hid their catapult designs from each other and tried to test them out in secret! Humorously enough, they found that the catapults really limited how far a paper airplane could go when compared to throwing it, but that just made for more of a challenge! They used Legos, rubber bands, paper clips, pencils, or K'nex to build their catapults. There were a few who had never made a paper airplane, so the book came in very handy. They also experimented with different sizes and shapes of airplanes to see how they would fly.



The winning team ended up with an airplane that shot all the way across the Media Center! 

 The kids loved the challenge! They wanted to do more, but unfortunately we were out of time-until the new spring session begins after break! Our last winter club session would be taking place elsewhere as a special, celebratory field trip. It was totally optional to participate in this challenge, but most of the students jumped right into it. They were discussing trajectory, the weight of materials to use, the type of materials to use, and more. They experimented, and failed, experimented some more, and continued with different designs until they found a catapult and plane that would fly the best. They were collaborative and engaged critical thinkers!



Based on the great response to the VHMS Paper Airplane Catapult Challenge, I am hoping to have more challenges in our spring session of the Makerspace Club. Whether it be collaborations with other schools (please contact me if you would be interested), or fun competitions within our own club, having a challenge activity is a fun way to encourage a different type of thinking that inspires students to work together and really engage in many of the elements of learning and exploration that a Makerspace is designed to encourage!