Hour of Code 2014: Day Two

On Friday, December 12, 2014, four of my Honors Civics students stayed after school to participate in an Hour of Code.  I would have had more students, however many students had an early release for the Christmas Dance which was later that evening.

Two of my students came back from the previous day’s activity to continue their work.  This was the first time the two new participants were available to stay after.  All four worked on iPads and used one of the free Lightbot apps available for an Hour of Code.  We continued to use an Edmodo group dedicated to this endeavor as the platform for communication and organization.

I stood back after a brief overview and let the students discuss the events of the previous day.  The two students who participated Thursday opted to continue on with the Lightbot puzzles instead of creating code via PageStudio.  The new students joined in and they began working on individual tasks.  I mirrored one student iPad onto my Interactive Whiteboard, IWB, using Apple TV.

The students were very quiet as they worked on their tasks, which was not what I was hoping for.  The students were super-focused on what they were doing which was good, but I was hoping for more teamwork.  As I observed what each was doing on their iPad, the student who was mirroring her iPad onto the IWB hit a snag and was stuck on a puzzle.  I encouraged her to ask the others for help and reiterated that I was hoping for a group effort.  As she asked for help, the students realized that they were all around the same puzzle and having similar issues.

JACKPOT!!!!

The four students began to talk, collaborate, and test out possible solutions on their individual iPads, sharing their ideas with each other using the mirrored iPad.  This went on for the rest of the sessions, almost the full hour.  Their ability to work through the increasingly complex tasks increased in speed and the tasks were less tedious as they joked and talked out the solutions.

Overall, the session seemed to be a success.  I posted an assignment in the Edmodo group to add to the enrichment assignment; write a reflection blog post on the Hour of Code, or record a short podcast reflection of their efforts.  I am looking forward to seeing their thoughts on the activities and hoping for honest opinions.  I would like to expand upon this event and getting their opinions on how to improve it is key.  I also offered to continue with activities like these throughout the year if they are interested in doing so.  Hopefully I will find out soon via blog post or podcast if they thought the effort was a success.

My major epic fail for the project was forgetting some Christmas cookies on my dining room table at home that I bought as a snack for the participants.  I did remember to bring juice pouches for them, and had some animal cracker/cookies for snacks, but forgetting the good treats bothered me.

Hour of Code 2014: Day One

Thursday, December 11, 2014, we made our first attempt at Hour of Code 2014.  Hour of Code is an optional enrichment assignment for my students.  To organize the efforts of my students I created a group for them in Edmodo; which I used to survey them via the quiz feature and poll feature.  Links to all resources were also posted there, though I just used Code.org‘s site as the main resource.

Due to scheduling conflicts we all agreed that the only two days this week that we could meet would be Thursday and Friday; with the majority of students only being able to attend one after school session.  For our first day, I had two students stay after school, both have had experience with coding.  They participated in CodeHS last year when they were in Middle School and this November they participated in a Hack Day, I was not the teacher of record for these activities.

The two students came in and jumped on the class iPads and off to Edmodo they went.  Once in Code.org’s site they chose to use Litebot as the tool to complete exercises.   The apps are/were free for Hour of Code.  Both students were gracious enough to answer all of my questions about their coding experience as we worked through Litebot.  They will actually be the main facilitators for this with other students, since they understand coding much better than I, you can see my previous post on this topic.

We were having technical issues with the school wireless that had crashed several times during the day and was currently running rather slowly.  I handed off my iPad to a student and they worked on tasks while I tried to get Litebot downloaded on other devices.  I was successful, but it took most of the time we had to get the iPads set up.  This will make tomorrow easier, although it limited what we could do today.

We projected my iPad screen over the Apple TV, practicing for the larger crowd expected on Friday.  Overall, they seemed pleased with the effort, they will be back for Friday’s session.  For Friday, they can use other code apps to actually work on creating code, while my other students can focus on levels that match their ability level.

I hope to have more to post soon.

Touchcast App for iPad

“Wow! Why have I waited so long to try this out!!!!” Those were the initial thoughts I had yesterday when I finally tried out Touchcast. Touchcast is a video recording app for iPads and in beta for PCs. I have had this app on my iPad for awhile now, but never attempted to use it. My personality changes when I record myself, I become very introverted and quiet, not very good qualities for recording oneself.

Nevertheless, I jumped in yesterday to record a couple of short videos to introduce myself to my next school year’s Honors Civics Classes, you can read more about this here. After about 15 takes I came up with two videos that explain a few things about my class, important links, what is expected, and attempted to show a glimpse of my personality.

Videos are limited to five minutes at a time and you are given sixty minutes of storage on their site, which is not an issue since you can automatically push videos to your YouTube account for archiving. Touchcast has some neat built in perks such as sound effects, green screen, audio file insert from iTunes, and whiteboards. Best of all, it is FREE!

The videos were pushed to YouTube where I grabbed the embed code and shared to my Edmodo classroom for my incoming students to view. Super easy, super quick, and a great way to communicate with students and parents.

Check out Touchcast here.

Computer Room Chaos…or not

I rolled out the students’ blogs last week in three of my classes while my other three classes logged in today.  Overall the students were very productive, they began personalizing their blogs and writing their class expectation blog posts.  The three classes that started last week are almost done with the assignments and ready to move on.

I broke the assignment up for my classes up to keep me from dealing with the potential of six periods of chaos in one day.  Today, all six of my classes were in the computer lab, we all managed to survive the day.  Having half of the classes wrapping up the assignment while the others were starting allowed me to troubleshoot issues so much more effectively.

Speaking of troubleshooting, I did discover that for the most part, the students who had blogs from my class last year had a harder time remembering their log in information…which I anticipated.   Most could log in to Edublogs, a few needed their passwords reset via their Gaggle student email accounts.  A select few needed assistance to log in to both accounts, but this happens on occasion and the students were eager to help each other out while I helped with the administrative tasks.

The students who were new had an easier time, they were given their usernames and they all had a generic password to use.  There were a couple of hiccups with students who were added to my class in the last couple of days, and one or two that I missed when creating the blogs.  I am not sure of it was out school filter or an Edublogs issue, but several student accounts were rough to set up and once they were logged in, they had multiple blogs created from my various attempts to create accounts for them.

Their first task was to change their password to something they would remember.  The students then had to make their blog the primary blog.  This defaults the students to their personal blog instead of the class blog at sign in.  From there they began writing their expectation post and personalizing the space.  The processes were modeled the previous day in class, using the Interactive Whiteboard.  In a couple of classes I had the students gather around a computer while a student modeled how to turn in the assignments or complete a task that was confounding several students.

The assignments were posted in Edmodo along with my classroom expectation post.  I also created a couple of screencasts with Camtasia for Mac for students who may need reminded how to “Turn In” their blog posts and/or personalize their blogs.  The videos are posted on YouTube and SchoolTube for general access, they were also embedded in a folder within my Edmodo classes for easy access by my students. I could not resist name dropping tools so I can add the tags below…

All in all it was a very productive day, with many lessons learned and everyone playing different roles; students as teachers, teachers as learners.  It was what school and learning is supposed to be about.  And the chaos…it was nothing like I had feared.

 

CamScanner for Android

I just wanted to add a quick post about a very useful and free tool for people who have Android operating system based devices.  The device is called CamScanner.  This app has both a free version and paid version, I continue to use the free version.  This versatile app allows me to take quick photos of items with my device, then turn them into full blown .pdfs to be uploaded to the Internet.

CamScanner enables me to take a physical document and upload to my Edmodo online classroom without leaving my students unattended.  It allows users to create files on the fly.  My students will use the app to turn their work on paper into computer-ready documents that can be saved on the Internet.  I used the app to scan and store my daughter’s pre-school and kindergarten art portfolios online.

You can access this free and useful app in the Google Play Store.

IFTTT

My IFTTT recipe experiment worked…I posted earlier today about combining IFTTT with Edmodo. The post was hashtagged with #IFTTT, which my recipe was to automatically push into my Instapaper account.

The recipe worked as directed. Once the post was published, I received an email from IFTTT that the recipe was activated.
I added another step, but not through IFTTT, I set up my Instapaper account to automatically push out to my Tumblr account. This was set up for strictly educational purposes, so I can direct my students to the account. It still does not meet the goal I am trying to achieve; information posted directly to an Edmodo group using a recipe, but it is a step in that direction.

For now I can use IFTTT to push out recipes and then send an Edmodo alert to students who are participating to the various sites via supplied links to perform the tasks. It is not as fluid as I would like, but it will work for now.

Edmodo and IFTTT

I recently came across a post about a concept called IFTTT, “If This Then That.” I believe I came across an initial post in Edmodo or Twitter and ran with it from there. My path took me to the following blog post by Laura Gilchrist. In a nutshell, you can preset some basic actions for your computer or smartphone called “recipes.” Recipes can be automatic actions where all you do is sit back and watch the presets play out, or they can be latent actions that need your prompting to begin. A more thorough explanation can be found on their website by clicking here.

I played around with the concept last night thinking how it can be incorporated into my classroom. There are many pre-made “recipes” on the IFTTT web site, I grabbed one to use for my personal use, with just a touch of my smartphone screen. The recipe automatically searches for free children’s Kindle eBooks and sends me an email when one is released by Amazon. I had two emails about free books within eight hours of setting up that recipe.

I also created my own recipe for classroom use in a matter of a couple of minutes. I clicked through the prompts on the IFTTT site to take any blog posted here on my Edublogs site with the hashtag #IFTTT to be fed to an Instapaper account I set up. This step is what made the process take several minutes instead of several seconds. My goal is to find a way to grab information that I either find or create and quickly push it out to my students to work with in my classrooms. This will be my first attempt to see if my recipe is a success.

At this juncture, I wish it bring Edmodo into the equation. Edmodo is not currently partnered with IFTTT, so I do not think information and actions can be pushed directly into my classes. I tweeted

@edmodo would love to see a way to work with @IFTTT for educational use.

My thinking behind this is…(drumroll please)…being able to create recipes to push information out to my students even more quickly and easily than I can currently. Yes, this is stated above, but… The goal would be to create spontaneous learning groups, to get the students to learn outside of the classroom. At first, maybe have the students post a comment about an article I find, or a picture that is posted…all assignments would be voluntary at first and count as enrichment assignments. The assignments could grow into the students posting more than written comments in response to my information. Podcasts, vodcasts, vokis, and other such multimedia presentations can become responses. The end goal would be for students to begin using IFTTT recipes on their own. They could be used for my class, other classes, or just personal use.

As a social studies teacher my ultimate goal is to ensure that my students have the tools and knowledge to be successful in life. This concept will hopefully help build solid citizens in both the physical world and the digital realm that we now live in. I want them to be positive contributors to society, and I believe that most of them are doing just that, however it is important to keep improving into the future.

Rock and Roll by the Velvet Underground 1970 | John Larkin

Rock and Roll 0

by John • History, Life, News • Tags: , on July 16, 2011

“Rock and Roll” by the Velvet Underground. A remarkable film for a remarkable song.

I was too young to appreciate the Velvet Underground when they originally released their albums during the 1960s. Besides, I seriously doubt that they were given air time on Australian radio at the time.

In 1974 or 1975 my older brother Paul bought the album “Rock ‘N’ Roll Animal” by Lou Reed. During the concert Reed and his band performed “Rock and Roll”. I was hooked.

Later, during my first year at university I met a chap named Paul who was a fan of Reed, the Velvet Underground, Iggy & The Stooges, Radio Birdman and similar artists. Paul had an amazing collection of live recordings of these performers on cassette tape as well as an impressive collection of albums. He allowed me to borrow a copy of one of his Velvet Underground LPs and I heard “Rock and Roll” in it’s originally released form. It blew me away. You can hear it as the soundtrack to the short film in the YouTube video above.

The song was originally released on the Loaded album in 1970. I have since collected other performances of the same track by the Velvet Underground, both live and in the studio.

“Rock and Roll” is one of those songs that makes me stop. It takes precedence at that point in time. It defines the moment. It defines me.

Another fantastic post from an Educator that I follow on my social networks. Not only am I a big fan of this post because I like the Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, but John publicly shows the human side of educators. John often posts ideas on his blog that are not directly related to formal school learning, but fit more of a life experience/cultural genre.

As an educator in the United States we constantly hear from administrators, politicians, and unions to be cautious, even fearful, of social media. I myself am still guarded as to what I post on my sites; sticking mainly to straight educational tips and topics.

This needs to change, we as Educators need to show students, parents, and anyone who is watching that we have a human side. We need to use the forum of social media as an informal educational tool. Pique the curiosity of others by exposing them to ideas and concepts they may never otherwise experience.

Student Math Projects

One of our high school math teachers, Kerri Heymann, @kheymann on Twitter, recently had her Algebra students create a neat project to help other students in the school.  The idea is not new, but it is useful; the students created screencasts of math problems and posted them on the Internet for other students to use as a review resource.  You can find the screencasts here.

The process was simple, students paired up, chose a topic, designed several problems and directions to solve them, then recorded their examples.  Kerri then posted the link to the videos on her school Edline page and her Edmodo classroom.  Now for some name dropping to explain the details…

The students set the problems up on the Polyvision Boards using RM Easiteach software, Kerri set up a free account and a channel on Screencast-o-matic, which the students used to record their explanations.  At this time I would like to thank fellow technology coaches, Jason Henry, John Deihl, and Carol Roth who helped with the recording ideas.  I could not find a way to record directly with RM Easiteach, and they helped clarify that you cannot do so at this time and suggested alternatives.  The students then came into several staff classrooms to record their presentations without distractions.

The students were comfortable with using the Polyvision Boards and Easiteach, we run both the Next Generation and older versions in our district.  Screencast-o-matic took them all of about 10 seconds to learn; the process went very well…the hardest obstacle the students had to overcome was giggling or shyness during their presentations.  The best part of the project was the independence of the students.  We sat back and waited to assist if necessary, but the students handled their issues well.

As a first step, the project went very well, we are already planning expanding and improving upon things for next year.  Hopefully the students can help pull other staff members into similar projects next year.  After all, students are the best at pulling hesitant staff into the realm of classroom technology use and making these tools a part of everyday life.

New Brighton Story Walk 2011

This past Saturday, March 5, 2001, the New Brighton Elementary School had it’s annual story walk.  The story walk has been going on for about five or six years.  I have taken my daughter the last two years, she thoroughly enjoys the day.  The staff from several of our schools, and in some cases their families and former staff, come in school and create a family reading, craft, and fun day for several hours.  Laura Fryer, our Elementary Librarian organizes the event and works on getting the funding through various grants.

The story walk itself consists of a number of areas where students are read stories and get to create crafts related to those stories.  There are several other stations where they can make a healthy snack, play in the gymnasium, or listen to music.  Every child in attendance gets to choose a free book to take home and keep forever.  It seemed like many of the children remember this fact, because the books were rushed right off the bat.  For awhile we were unsure if we would have enough books, but the demand evened out and we did have a number to keep for next year’s event.  This year there were 5 or 6 stations with the event having on overall open theme.  Last year, the theme was a story from every continent.

This year over 260 children and their families attended the event, a marked increase over the past couple of years.  A number of parents gave unsolicited feedback about how they enjoy the event and their kids look forward to it every year.  It would be nice to think that the numbers will continue to improve, bringing the community together with the school and strengthening the overall relationship.

With budgets shrinking or being gutted, we are already brainstorming ways to fund the endeavor next year. The goal is to ensure that we can meet the growing demand and allow all the children to participate fully in the event.  We believe we can make it happen with some help from the community and others in our personal networks.  Hopefully next year’s post will talk about how the numbers continue to increase and have more success stories of collaboration between our schools and the community.