Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Hour of Code

If you ask a teacher about what their role is in a child's education, they will more than likely mention the importance of preparing students for the future. The fact is that computer science is exploding with the vast amount of people accessing the Internet through computers, tablets, smartphones, and even a pair of glasses. Computer science is centered around the idea that computers have to be told what to do. (As a side-note, I had to know a little bit of coding in order to make some changes to this blog post.) So to prepare students for the future, we at Rome City and Wayne Center Elementary schools will be participating in the hour of code from December 8-12.

As the technology coach for my students and staff, I've already organized and prepared materials for you to make the hour of code a smooth and successful experience with very little preparation on your part. Please keep in mind that the name "Hour of Code" is a little deceiving. (I can hear my kindergarten teachers saying right at this moment that there is no way that their Kindergarten students can do any of these activities for an hour.) The hour of code can be spread out through the week.

Here's a way you can launch it:

1. Show this promotional video to get students to better understand what computer science/coding means:

2. Discuss with students where coding exists: the Internet, video games, computer programs, cars, phones, tablets, apps, microwaves, etc. Ask students if they would be interested in learning how to make electronic devices work. 

3. Show students a tutorial on Kodable, Lightbot, or Scratch

Kodable: Grades PreK-1 (East Noble teachers, this app is installed on your class set of iPads.)

Lightbot: Grades 2-4 (East Noble teachers, this app is installed on your iPads.)

Scratch: Grades 5-6 (East Noble Teachers should send the link to the students as the link goes to a special Hour of Code site with directions.) 

4. Give students time to try it out. If you do not have enough time to try it extensively, give them 5-10 minutes a day during the week. 

5. Take some pictures of your students participating in the Hour of Code and send them my way. I'd love to promote your classroom and computer science! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Teachley.com: Addimal Adventure and Mt. Multiplis

Teachley.com  provides two exciting resources for students to use to build up their addition and multiplication skills on the iPad. These resources provide specific strategies for solving addition and multiplication facts, and they keep track of student progress. You might as well try them because they are FREE.

Addimal Adventure is good for classrooms that have one iPad all the way to a class set.. The teacher can create an account at Teachley.com and create a class of students under him/her. Before the students use the app, the teacher will want to log into each device. From this point on, students will be prompted to select their name prior to playing the game. This will track their game progress and report which addition facts are memorized. As the students play the game, their goal is to win as many gold pieces as possible. Students earn the gold pieces by having the facts memorized.

Mt. Multiplis is not quite as flexible as Addimal adventure as far as students accounts/use go. This app works best in an environment where all students have a device as an account is not required. It saves student progress for one user at a time. If you were to have a small number of devices, there could be a rotation throughout the year on using this app. If you are in a 1:1 environment for grades 3-5, try it out. 

If you are interested in having students share their progress with you, a simple way could be having the students make a screenshot after every memorization round. Then have them send it through email or whichever learning management system you are using. (Schoology, Canvas, Edmodo, Showbie, etc.) That way you have instant feedback and do not have to bother logging into another site to see how your students are performing. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Chrome Extensions

As a teacher, I'm always looking for ways to be more efficient/productive due to the sheer amount of work that has to be completed. Before I became a technology coach, a vast majority of teaching ideas came from the Internet as they obviously do now that I'm a tech coach. I would venture to say that if Chrome Extensions were around then, I would have been a lot more efficient.

Chrome extensions are tools that...well..extend your abilities on the Internet. There are tons of them that you can add onto your Chrome browser so that you can quickly save items, send things to your favorite social media, or even send to a mobile device. They have been around for a few years now so the possibilities are quite expansive.

Before we get too far into the Chrome extensions, you should know that you  need to be signed into your Google account. If you are a Google Apps for Education school, you can use your school district log in information as well. (East Noble Teachers can use their school email address.) Here is not only how you sign into Chrome with your Google account, but how to can use multiple accounts in Chrome at the same time without signing in and out continuously:

I'm only going to look at four Chrome extensions in this blog post as I feel that they were greatly benefit the teachers with which I work. There might be opportunities for more in the future, so I plan on using a "chrome extension" tag in the posts so that all of them can be found conveniently here. Let's take a look at a few:

Print Friendly and PDF:


Padlet Mini:


Now that you've seen a little bit about Chrome extensions, think about some of the other web services you use. Search the Chrome Web Store and see if they have any extensions that might interest you. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

First Grade Timelines

It has been exciting to work with the first graders at Rome City Elementary as we created digital timelines on the iPad. As part of the Indiana social studies academic standards, students are to create a timelines of events occurring in class or in their life. They also have to use terms to represent that unit of time. (For example: yesterday, today, tomorrow, next week, etc.)

This process actually took several visits as we had to discuss what a timeline was and learn how to use Popplet and Shadow Puppet. I broke it down like this:

  1. What is a timeline and create one as a class. Use Popplet to type what happens throughout the week. Students had to be trained on how to create and delete, select, move, and resize "popples." 
  2. Review timeline. Download photos of our specials times from email (or whatever learning management system you are using). Insert photos into Popplet from photo library. Show students how to add colors to the frames in Popplet. Demonstrate how to use "view all" in Popplet prior to saving. Press export and save. 
  3. Review timeline. Show students how to create a Shadow Puppet by adding a photo of their timeline, inserting music, and recording their voice. When they were all finished, the students emailed their work to their teacher. 
Emailing the product in this scenario works great as it takes the teacher directly to a link where they have the option of downloading or embedding the Shadow Puppet sample. My teachers are new to using Showbie as an LMS, so my next step is to start experimenting with the benefits of sending the work to Showbie over email. 

Overall, the project went very well between the two first grade classrooms. There are certainly things I would adjust. If it were my own class, I probably would have arranged a trip around the school to gather the pictures and gather them in the order in which the events take place. This would help with the concept of timeline being in sequential order, teach picture taking and etiquette. 

Here is a sample: 


Newsela is a free reading resource with text levels appropriate for grades three on up. (First or second grade teachers needing some challenging materials may find it helpful as well.) It provides various news articles pertaining to our world today that the teachers can assign directly to the students.

Once teachers create an account, they may want to plan out how they are going to allow students to access the content. Students could access Newsela for the sheer enjoyment of reading the articles. The students wouldn't need to take quizzes or have content tailored specifically to their needs. In this case, the teacher would need to create only one class for their students.

Teachers can also create classes to which they may assign articles. If a teacher would like to differentiate according to reading level, he/she may want to create several classes and essentially treat them as reading groups. This is a great way to meet science and social studies standards as the content is essentially the same, but at a different complexity as teachers can select a range of reading levels for each article. Many of the articles also include quizzes and the quizzes are tailored according to the reading level they are assigned. Once the teacher creates the classes, they will need to distribute the codes according to the students that should receive it.

To get students rolling in Newsela, they will need an account. Newsela was kind enough to provide directions on how students can create their accounts. This can be found in the settings of the teacher account:

Since many of the articles pertain to current events, not all articles will be completely appropriate for third grade students to read due to the content (I mentioned that they are reading level appropriate, not necessarily content appropriate.) This can be handled a couple ways depending upon the comfort level of the teacher:
  1. Train students to select school/age appropriate articles based upon the picture and title of the article.
  2. Only allow students to use Newsela with their account and read articles that you have assigned to them. 
I highly recommend you try it for yourself as it is an easy to use free resource. There is also a pro version that provides more control and data collection on student activity if you are interested that or need data.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Digital Books

Recently, I compiled a list of apps for my teachers of various iOS apps that provide free digital books that are read aloud. This is necessary because it is always a good idea to have a backup plan if the Internet is failing or other online resource is down. I also attempted to filter through the list for ones that didn't have advertisements that were too overwhelming.

My personal favorites are the Collin's Big Cat apps as the user can create their own version of the text on their iPad. Best of all: they are advertisement free.

I'm sure there are some that I am missing, but these are the ones I found:

Story Chimes:

ABC Mouse:

Collins Big Cat:

Far Faria:

Not read aloud, but leveled readers:

Friday, November 7, 2014

Math Bingo for Two

I'm not typically a big fan of apps that are just for skill and drill. However, Math Bingo for Two is free and feeds the need for our competitive junkies in our classrooms. This head-to-head math fact competition is sure to get kids fired up to answer as quickly and accurately as possible to complete the bingo. The bingo part is where the strategy comes in as they have to be conscious of the math facts, but yet plan ahead to see which sum, difference, product, or quotient they need in order to complete the bingo first.

All types of math facts are available for FREE without extra adds popping up on the screen. So many free apps have only a limited part of the app available or advertisements getting in the way. Students can also set the difficulty level by adjusting the max value. 

I highly recommend putting this app on your class set of iPads. If you are a parent and want to work more with your child, this would be a great way to have them practice their math facts at home. I'm sure you will receive less complaining...unless you beat them.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Storyboardthat.com is a free resource that allows the user to make their very own comic. Students can recreate scenes in a book, make advertisements, or find a humorous way to share the meaning of vocabulary words. The possibilities are endless as a storyboard allows for a fun and creative outlet for learning. 

Students can use this on any type of device as it is HTML5 compatible. I made this video using a PC, but attempted it on an iPad as well. I found the iPad version to be surprisingly smooth and easy to use. All of the features function the same except for the print button. Pressing print on the iPad takes the user to a separate page where the item can be saved as an image using a screenshot or printed if you have iPad friendly printers. 

One thing to consider before having your students use Storyboard That is the privacy policy. All works created on the free accounts are available to the public. So students need to be aware that anything they submit can be seen by the public and they do not have control of those privacy settings. Personal information needs to be kept private. This includes (both personal and of classmates): images, names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. This information should be covered with students by looking at section (e) in the Terms of Use Policy of Storyboard That. 

Another issue to consider: users under the age of 13 need to have parent permission. My school district has already obtained parent permission to use this site through an acceptable use policy that parents sign at the beginning of the school year. This eliminates a lot of the frustration of obtaining permission throughout the year for the various online resources teachers use. 

Since the students are using a free account, they are only permitted to have two storyboards at a time. I would recommend having the student click "print" to save completed works and delete when a new storyboard is needed. There is a download feature. However, this requires that students can access email from outside sources.

As a teacher, I recommend trying Storyboard That for yourself. Create a great hook to start a lesson off. This will get the attention of your students, and it is fun!