Techie Club: Hour of Coding

Every year our school has an auction and the teachers are encouraged to provide some type of activity for bidding. In the past, I’ve always done a “TechnoWizard of the Day” where a student plans and teaches the classes that come to the lab.

This year I decided to offer something different. It was open to five students who would come in after school for an hour of tech activities.

auction description 2014

Four terrific third graders and one stupendous 2nd grader bid on the item and joined me last Friday for a fun afternoon.

As usual, I had TOO much planned but that’s okay, we had lots of fun. We started with the Hopscotch app and downloaded and Etch-a-sketch program. The children were encouraged to experiment with the variables in the script blocks to change the way the program responded.

Clearing the Screen!

Clearing the Screen!

Next, we moved to Scratch to create a maze and then it was on to the Makey Makey boards to control our project. We also used a pre-made Scratch piano and playdoh to hook that up to make music.

Here is a glimpse at our quick afternoon of coding!

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Music Patterns and the iPad

smule appMrs. Holloway used the MadPad app to have her 3rd graders create music patterns. The students were given note cards that they put together and then used the app to play their music.  Mrs. Holloway had chosen the car sounds to represent the notes and as one child commented, “It sounds like New York!”

The students are eager to create more musical compositions with the other tools offered in the app!

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Chinese: Sharing What We’re Learning!

Mrs. Zhang, our Lower School Chinese instructor, came to me a couple of weeks ago and asked how we could create something to share with parents so they could hear what their children were learning.

She had been working with her 3rd graders on family vocabulary while the 4th graders had been learning animal names. The students had made paper booklets by cutting out images from a worksheet and then had learned a sentence about each picture.

3rd book

3rd grade – families

4th book

4th grade – animals

What we decided to do was have each child use the Book Creator app to create an ePub book. This would enable students to take a picture of their paper booklet, insert into the app, and record their narration.

In making the book, the students learned about taking focused photos and then cropping them. They learned that the pen tool in Book Creator is perfect for writing their name in Chinese characters. And then the recording began!

What an authentic way for children to share their knowledge of another language with their parents! I don’t know about you, but when my boys were younger, they weren’t very eager to share much about school - now parents are able to open the book and listen to their child speak a sentence in Chinese. Due to a lack of time to get everyone recorded, we did not ask the students to read the sentence in English; but they can always share that with their families.

If you would like to see the books the students have created, visit the 3rd and 4th grade Chinese ePub book pages. While on an iOS device, download a book and open in iBooks.


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Apps in a Flash: Using Book Creator

photo(2)Today’s Apps in a Flash workshop focused on the Book Creator app. Book Creator is available for iOS (free and paid versions) and, as of a few days ago, for Android ($2.00 at the moment)!

Because our Apps in a Flash workshops are only 15 to 20 minutes long, I created a “Book Creator: Tips and Examples” book for our teachers. Just click on the above link, download, and open in iBooks.

We had a small group for our workshop but still brainstormed several ideas for using the app. Instead of using an index card for the exit ticket, we worked on a Padlet wall. Feel free to add your ideas to the list!

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Welcome Springtime!

Winter has been long and hard around the country this year but we are finally seeing signs of spring. In fact, we’ve enjoyed 80+ degree weather the past few days!

The first graders came to the lab today and drew spring pictures. I haven’t seen such concentration in quite awhile – they were obviously glad that spring has arrived!

Enjoy their illustrations.

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Apps in a Flash: Tellagami

photo(2)Another “Apps in a Flash” workshop took place yesterday afternoon.

We didn’t have as many participants but that’s okay. It’s a hectic time of year!

Our topic this week was the Tellagami app (free from the App Store and Google Play). Tellagami lets the user create a short (30 second) animated video called a “Gami.” An avatar is created that “moves” with the narration. There are some free backgrounds plus the option to buy others. What I prefer doing is to upload images from the camera roll.

You are able to save the finished “Gami” to the camera roll where you can use it in other apps (such as iMovie). Or the “Gami” can be emailed – that gives a link to where it is stored on the Tellagami site. From there, you are able to get an embed code for blogs.

Here is a PDF tip sheet for the app: Tellagami

There are all kinds of educational activities that can be done with Tellagami.

  • Draw a self-portrait and record a bio-poem. Embed in a blog or combine all to form a class video.
  • Add your own Tellagami to your blog as an introduction to your class.
  • Students can use it to introduce themselves at the beginning of the year.
  • Add images of landforms and describe.
  • Our kindergarteners make a display of a planet during their solar system unit. They could take a photo of their project then tell what they have learned. Combine into a class video.
  • Use for foreign language practice – take picture of vocabulary learned and tell about it in another language.

These are just a few ideas. What have you done with Tellagami? We would LOVE additional thoughts!

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En el Patio de Recreo – In the Playground

Señora Ross teaches playground vocabulary to her second graders. Last year she recorded the students speaking about the different parts of the playground but never really did anything with her video.

This year, she wanted to make sure that the students’ work was posted somewhere. How exciting for parents to be able to hear their children share their Spanish knowledge with others!

Her idea was to have students work in pairs to take two photos each: one of a specific playground item by itself; the second with their partner on or next to the equipment.

In preparation, Señora Ross assigned partners and the item that would be photographed. Before starting, we discussed how to take a non-blurry photo (these were not to be action shots!). Next, we handed out their assignment cards and an iPad. Then we trekked out to the playground.

The students quickly took their photos (only had one instance where video was taken rather than stills) and gathered back together to go to the computer lab to finish the project.


pisntell eduThere are many apps that would work for importing images and recording narration. For this project, I suggested we try Pixntell EDU. I hadn’t used the app with a class but felt like it would be easy for the students to upload images and record on each photo. Once finished, the user is able to save the work as a video file. Our goal was to collect all projects to combine into a class video using iMovie.

The app worked quite well for this project. It was easy for the students to use. Once the user saves, the video automatically saves to the photo roll where it can be air dropped to the teacher iPad.

Quirks of Pixntell EDU:

  • Can’t listen to recording till it is saved. If you want to redo after that, it appears that all photos must be re-recorded.
  • When images are added, there is no check mark to indicate which pictures are selected. This is fine for adults but harder for children. We had LOTS of extra images but they are easy to delete!

Señora Ross and I had quite an assembly line going – she helped with the Spanish vocabulary then sent the students to me so they could air drop their video.

Next, Señora Ross pulled all videos together in iMovie, added a quick title page created in Explain Everything, uploaded to our Vimeo account, and the work was ready to share!

Mrs. Garcia’s Class

Mrs. Cooper’s Class

Mrs. Shapard’s Class

This was a fun project – the students quickly learned the app and really did a great job saying their sentences in Spanish. And we are so glad that parents can get a glimpse into what their children are learning!

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Explaining Homophones with Explain Everything

Mrs. Garcia, one of our second grade teachers, came to me a couple of weeks ago and asked that her students be introduced to the Explain Everything app. The other two classes had already used the app during a science unit and she had seen how powerful it is.

We talked for a bit, tossing around ideas and then Mrs. Garcia mentioned homophones, asking if that might be something that students could share using the app. What a perfect idea! The students were in week 2 of a two week spelling unit on homophones. We decided that the children would draw directly in Explain Everything, label the homophones, and record a sentence (and definitions for Mrs. Garcia’s class). Our other two second grade teachers also decided to have their students use the app to share knowledge of homophones.

Before coming to the lab, the students were assigned a homophone pair (or trio). They wrote a sentence using the words and sketched a drawing on paper of what they would do in the app.

When the students came to the lab, we set up the new Explain Everything page, starting with their name and then saving. Because we have shared iPads, I have the students save this way: Class # + Teacher’s Initial + student name + project name. It seems long but really isn’t! (i.e. 21G Karen homophones)

Next we discussed how to draw – how to change the pen tip and width as well as the pen color.

Illustrating the homophones

Illustrating the homophones

As the students completed their drawings, they were asked to label the homophones.

Next, we talked about the how-to of recording and re-recording if necessary. However, before recording, we discussed the laser pointers. We wanted the students to use these to highlight the correct homophone as the sentence was read.

Recording went fairly smoothly. Some students discovered it’s a bit tricky to read, record, and highlight; all at the same time. But, they easily solved that issue – they asked another student to work the laser as they read the sentence!

After recording, the children learned how to save the video to the camera roll then they air dropped it to me. I combined the videos into class movies using iMovie and uploaded to Vimeo.

Mrs. Garcia’s Class

Mrs. Cooper’s Class

Mrs. Shapard’s Class

Tips and Other Things I Learned!

  • Use the students for peer tutoring – the child appreciates the opportunity to help and it is an invaluable aid to the teacher!
  • The “add page” icon is right under the select symbol in EE and is very easy to hit, especially on the smaller iPad minis. We had to really watch to make sure the students had only ONE page! I think the record number of blank pages was 7!!
  • Note to self: Remember to tell the students to use the laser pointer as they record! I completely forgot to do that with one class so we had a do-over.
  • I do NOT recommend the “light saber” pointer. Wow – does that make a lot of noise!

The students did a fantastic job with this project and enjoyed sharing their knowledge in a new way.

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Celebrating Dr. Seuss

hatDr. Seuss week at our school is a HUGE undertaking! Our librarians design some wonderful activities that certainly excite our students! But, it doesn’t stop with the library – Dr. Seuss is celebrated across the curriculum and we definitely have creativeness shining in the lab.

We started the week with Crazy Hat Day. The second graders and one third grade class visited the lab to draw their rather interesting hats using the Microsoft Paint program.

On Wednesday, some very wacky first graders (and teachers) arrived. We read Wacky Wednesday, by Dr. Seuss and discussed how we could draw our own wacky pictures. This was the first time our little ones had used Microsoft Paint but we ended up with some wacky pictures!

Silly Sock Thursday arrived along with our kindergartners. Since it had been such a wacky week, the students used a wonderful website from the Bronx Zoo called, Build Your Wild Self. The funny thing was that the website didn’t quite work as expected. Students would click on an item to add to their wild self and they would get something completely different! We decided it was just a wacky thing happening since it had been a wacky week.

build your wild self

Look at our silly socks!

Mrs. Moore's Class

Mrs. Rea's Class
Throughout the week the fourth grade classes rotated between the computer lab, music, and art. In the lab, we read Oh! The Thinks You Can Think! by Dr. Seuss. The students were asked to think of an invention of any kind (a new animal, a different food, something that could help them in some way . . .). The pictures were drawn in MS Paint (We prefer this over apps for our more detailed drawings). I uploaded the illustrations to my Picasa account because we wanted to use the Book Creator app to make a class book and we had to get their pictures to the iPads.

The next step was to choose the book size (we used landscape for this) add the picture, text, and narration to the app. Once each child had finished their book, it was emailed to me. I combined all into class books.

Mr. d’Auteuil’s Class Book of Inventions
Mrs. Malone’s Class Book of Inventions
Mrs. Wright’s Class Book of Inventions

Be sure to open the links on an iOS device with the iBooks app (free) installed. Click on the book link above (while on an iOS device). Download and choose Open in iBooks.

The book can be read on a Mac or PC but you must use the Google Chrome browser with the Readium app. (Instructions on Reading ePub Books with the Google Chrome Readium App)

Friday arrived with students forgetting to dress in their uniforms! Oh, yes . . . pajama day! Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book was the focus for the day. Two third grade classes came to the lab and, after looking at some quite unusual beds, they designed their own dream bed.

What a busy but fun week!

(*We had several absences when I saw the students so if you don’t see your child’s work, that would be the reason!)

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Apps in a Flash: Draw & Tell

photo(2)Our second “Apps in a Flash” 15 minute session featured the Draw & Tell app. I had used this about a month ago with first graders explaining fact families so a few of the teachers were familiar with it.

This is a simplified screen casting app for younger children. The user is able to draw a picture or upload from the photo roll. What I like is the easy recording aspect and the fact that students can manipulate stickers and “highlight” parts of the image with a laser-like pointer. The recording can be saved to the photo roll and from their emailed to parents, uploaded to the student blog, etc.

duck duck mooseAfter a quick overview of the app, I used one of Kristen Wideen‘s Ready to Go iPad Centers – “Making One Dollar 4 Different Ways.” Each teacher received a copy of Mrs. Wideen’s dollar organizer and a bag of play money. By going through the process, the teachers were able to experiment with the app while doing an activity that their students could do.

As we wrapped up, I again asked for an “exit” ticket listing ideas on how to use the app with their students.



Ideas from Our Teachers:

  • Use for making arrays.
  • Use for fractions when explaining a fraction of a group.
  • Fact families
  • Money
  • Give kids a paper with sentences (no punctuation) and ask them to punctuate. Take a picture and explain the punctuation that was added. Or use for capitalization.
  • Pretend you are a teacher and teach someone else how to add, subtract, show place value.
  • For art: Draw the elements of design and describe (i.e. Create repetition with stamps or variety with stamps.); Create variety of lines.
  • While studying addition and subtraction, the kids could create an addition/subtraction story using stamps and the pencil tool. Then they can tell us about the story they have written.
  • In math, take pictures of a concept learned and explain.
  • Stamps would be good for showing multiplication and division.
  • In Language Arts, design then explain a story.
  • In Kindergarten – Make addition/subtraction sentences using the stamps. Use with our money unit. For penmanship, trace letters (take a picture of a worksheet).
  • Spanish: Illustrate spoken sentences. Have kids draw picture then explain what is happening while touching corresponding sections of picture.
  • Spanish: Identifying Vocabulary – make vocab sheet, take picture then have child record and highlight words.

Thanks to Amy, Melissa, Kay, Kate, Harriett, Leslie, Gail, and Jane for sharing their thoughts!

Draw & Tell Handout

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