Going on a Dot Hunt!

To celebrate International Dot Day, Mrs. Crumley’s first graders searched for dots in our courtyard. The students were divided into groups of three and given these instructions:

  • Each person takes a photo of something shaped like a dot.
  • Take a selfie or get someone else to take a photo of the members of the group.

After a couple of photography pointers to avoid blurry images, we headed out to our courtyard.

Within just a few seconds, we heard excited voices getting their team’s attention by calling out such things as:

“Look! A snail! That’s shaped like a dot.” “Look at that pipe. It has round holes that look like dots!”

After all photos were collected, we returned to the lab where the pictures were added to Pic Collage for Kids (love this version because there are no ads). Collages were printed for everyone (you know how important it is for children to take something home!).

Here’s a short video of the activity.

Design Thinking – Wow!

I pride myself on being up on educational strategies but have to admit that Design Thinking slipped right past me until I attended an amazing workshop by EdTechTeacher entitled, Creating Innovators with Design Thinking and Maker Spaces. The maker spaces part was what sold me on this but after a 2-day low-tech workshop, I knew this absolutely HAD to become a part of my curriculum!

What is design thinking? The simple answer is, “Design thinking is a formal method for practical, creative resolution of problems and creation of solutions, with the intent of an improved future result.” (from Wikipedia)

However, it is really so much more. Design thinking starts with empathy – gaining a strong understanding of what the user needs; not what the designer thinks he/she needs! The image below from Stanford’s d.School shows the framework for design thinking. The links provide excellent descriptions of the process.

DT framework from d.schoolThe hook for me was the empathy! The reason – last year I worked with students on creating a collection of memories from that grade. What I noticed over and over was that students were more concerned with taking selfie after selfie rather than collecting photos of events and friends! Yes, young children think a lot about themselves. That’s normal. But, if there was something I could do to help guide them to think of others, isn’t that what we would want to do to develop empathetic citizens?

On returning home, I started looking for resources to continue my learning. During a visit with our new headmaster, Ian Craig, discovered that design thinking WAS being taught in our middle school and I had no idea! Also, Ian told me this had been a focus at his previous school so he will be a wealth of information.

In my search, I came across the book, The Launch Cycle: A Design Thinking Framework for K-12, by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani. What I really like about this book and their website is that it is geared toward classroom teachers.

I can’t wait to get started!

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The Trials of a Too Small Green Screen!

The end of school was near and everyone was ready for summer vacation. In other words, it was really important to find something that would challenge the students! I asked the students to produce something that would “teach” something to their peers. I wanted to share one particular project because it certainly showed ingenuity and resilience!

Collin and Tiernan asked if they could use the green screen to teach soccer fundamentals. I mentioned the app, Green Screen by Doink and showed them where the green screen was kept. A bit about our green screen – it was made from a trifold science board (cardboard). No, it wasn’t the sturdiest thing in the world but that didn’t stop these boys! The funniest moment was when the boys brought the green screen back to class in pieces (you can see it split toward the end of the video)!

Is this a “polished” video? No! Would a real green screen have worked better? Yes! What’s important is that the boys worked with what they had on hand to create an informative soccer fundamentals video that will be helpful to other students. Did they learn a lot? You bet! And that is exactly what makes their creation so valuable!

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Fantastic Fridays

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Last week I started something new with the 4th graders – Fantastic Fridays. On the board, I wrote a list of activities. Some were things they’ve done before but never seemed to get tired of it. Others were completely new.

  • Osmo – a unique way to physically interact with the iPad
  • Ozoblockly – drag and drop programming to use with Ozobots
  • Kodable – programming curriculum for elementary students
  • Know Your States – an excellent interactive game to learn where the states are located.
  • Sugar, Sugar – a fabulous problem-solving activity

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The students were SO engaged! Yes, there is a time when you have to teach skills but choosing your learning is critical! We, as teachers, must make time for that as well. Be sure to walk around and listen in on conversations – the dialog, the problem-solving, the planning is amazing!

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The girl who was using Ozoblockly even returned after school so that she could show her sister what she’d done in class.

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She also wanted me to video her Ozobots dancing in tandem. Here they are:

The last question the students asked as they exited the lab was, “May we please do this again?”

And, yes, we most definitely will!

Making Stop-Motion Videos

IMG_5296After one and a half class sessions of Lego building, the first graders were ready to add the final touches to their MyCreate stop-motion videos. (See Who Doesn’t Like Legos for a description of the project.)

The students air-dropped their videos to my iPad which was hooked up to the projector. And, how they LOVED seeing their work shown on the “big” screen! We only had one issue with the MyCreate app – no matter what we tried, we had one iPad that would not save the movie to the camera roll! I checked every setting, turned the iPad off and on . . . but nothing worked. We went to plan B – we just used another iPad to video the video in the MyCreate app!

To share the videos with parents, I decided the best way would be to combine them in iMovie. Here are the classes’ movies.

Mrs. Hutchinson’s Class

Mrs. Crumley’s Class

Mrs. Kee’s Class

For a first attempt at using the MyCreate app, I thought the students did an amazing job. The hardest part, as you’ll see in the videos, is keeping the iPad in one place as the photos are taken. Doing that helps the video “flow” but it does take practice.

What I enjoyed the most was watching the group dynamics; how the children worked together to plan and build.

Here’s a look at the process:

Who Doesn’t Like Legos??

Ever since the fourth graders were “caught” by the first graders working with Legos, the little ones have been asking, “When will it be our turn?”

Well, this week their turn finally came. I wish I could have everyone use the Legos at the same time but I just don’t have an unlimited supply! So, the students were divided into groups of three and were given a baggy stuffed with assorted Lego bricks, wheels, doors, and windows.

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The directions were: Make a stop-motion video of what your group builds.

mycreate appThe children were introduced to the MyCreate app ($4.99). This is an easy-to-use stop-motion app for all ages. The camera is built-in so students can easily take a series of photos to show change over time.

The most challenging aspect of using any app like this is convincing the children that the camera and object being photographed should be stationary. It is SO easy for one or the other (or both) to move and that really does disrupt the flow of the video. Fortunately, the app uses onion-skinning to view the previous image which helps line things up for the next photo.

Helping steady the photographer!

Helping steady the photographer!

My plan was to have students build something from whatever was in the baggie but they were soon begging for more! A quick change in plans resulted and the groups were allowed to send one person to collect additional Legos.

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I was amazed at how well the groups worked together to plan their structure and then to build and photograph each step. Of course, Lego building can never be limited to a 40 minute class session! Next week, we’ll finish creating the stop-animation videos and post to the blogs. I can’t wait to see the finished products!

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A 100th Day Wrap-up!

One of our first grade teachers came to me right before the 100th day of school. She wanted to have the students take photos of their 100th day learning stations and “somehow use technology” to share what they learned. She had some wonderful ideas but time seems to always be a factor!

After tossing around some ideas for creating a way to share, we decided on my favorite “go-to” app – Book Creator. I borrowed the first grade iPads and air dropped a template to each so everything was ready to go when the students arrived.

Thumbs up and ready for the next step

Thumbs up and ready for the next step

The children had taken 5 to 6 photos of their group at each station. They were shown how to add photos, label names, and create a title.

Creating the page

Creating the page

Next, it was time to record, save the book as a video, and air drop to me so I could make the class video.

finding a nook for quiet recording

finding a nook for quiet recording

Here is Mrs. Kee’s finished video – learning about 100!

And, this is Mrs. Crumley’s video:

Sharing Our Book

Recently the fourth grade classes worked in small groups to create a Lego ABC book to share with kindergarteners. (Click here for post about making the book.)

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Our sharing took place on a beautiful afternoon so we gathered the iPads, the kinder students chose a “big” kid for a partner, and off we went. The little ones were enthralled with the 4th graders but what surprised me is how well the older students did with their young charges!

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While the big kids weren’t too eager to hold hands with the little ones (that was my suggestion that fell flat!), they were great at keeping them entertained with the book, talking to them, asking about their interests.

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The only problem we encountered was getting too far away from buildings and then we’d lose Wi-Fi. But, that was an easy fix.

We returned to the lab with a few minutes to spare. That allowed time to finish viewing the Lego Book and share other apps.

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It was a really good experience for our oldest Lower School students to interact with our youngest ones! Looking at the smiles on faces makes these kinds of activities worth every minute.