Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cartoons in the Classroom!

Found a wonder blog that features lots of lovely tools for technology in education. Not sure how I happened upon Creating Comics Online, but I'm glad I did: cartooning makes teaching storyboard design relevant, and the online tools are much easier than demonstrating my stick figure storyboards and having students draw on sheets of paper.

He ends the article with 20 Ways to Use Comics in Your Classroom and More than 100 Editorial Cartoon Lesson Plans which makes cartooning immediately relevant to the classroom.

My students have been introduced to Scratch via e-cards, our next move is to write short stories and animate them using Scratch. After that we'll move to programming in Alice. I think comic strips are a great interim step before getting into 2D and 3D animation.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Agrarian Fascination in games

What's with all the apps and games focusing in farming? This point hit home for me when attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and one of the meet-and-greet questions was whether you checked your farm before the event! At the time I had 3 farms to check so that was a box I signed for others! How can we harness this obsession in academics and computing? Planning for periods of inaccessibility (logic), most profit generated in a given period (math, estimation), artistic nature of crop placement (crop circles), and of course agricultural and geography knowledge of crops. Maybe I'll host an extra credit challenge :)  I envision a class contest with the most decorative, the most profit generating, the most green, etc.

started the trend on Facebook, people were already spending hours catching up with friends, then they spent hours maintaining their farms

iPhone app

Apple's farming contribution, which is just as engaging (if you're profit minded) but had the audacity to download an auxiliary app (Game Center) to add the social networking piece.

The theme extends to cafes, bakeries, restaurants, shopping...anything that translates to buying and selling commodities.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Beginning Programming

School is very different: I once worked with a man (not in an educational setting) who lamented the fact that schools don't teach what they did in the 1950's, which directly contributed to students and scientists' abilities to create the computer revolution: counting in bases other than 10, logic, games. Unfortunately our students are not receiving this same knowledge so before students can program we need to give them logic skills. The following are some activities that give pre-programming logic skills.

Tech tools for class use

Ning: free Ning Mini for educators: iTeach: free website, course management, and more: K12 High Speed Network: free tools for educators:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving Origami

Turkey origami courtesy of
I'm not sure how this idea manifest: a combination of having students for 2 days and not wanting to begin any substantial topics that will be forgotten after the turkey stuffage, and paper being a topic as I put together my spring materials and write grant requests. Somehow my brain came up with board games (no-tech + logic), coloring (no-tech + art), then origami (low tech + logic + art).

I found a few origami crafts specifically for Thanksgiving that were available on websites. There are many more resources on YouTube, but it's blocked by the district filter. My next project will be figuring out how to transfer videos from YouTube to TeacherTube...out of sheer necessity and frustration!

Update 11.22.2010: most students enjoyed the online coloring sites and didn't try the origami on the first day. This reminds me of the coloring phase I experienced as an adult because it was relaxing. I had forgottnen that coloring was to become part of my classroom management plan :)

For the students who did make some origami, they were also engaged and completed a few projects to take home. Lesson could not have gone better!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Holiday e-Cards...Thanksgiving edition

Will have students in my after school class use Scratch to create e-cards (electronic cards) ala Hallmark e-cards. Thanksgiving edition is practice for a Christmas extravaganza!

Gobble, Gobble (to the tune of Master P "Drop it, Drop it"
Gobble, Gobble
Shake 'n' Bake it
Cooking dumplings / Hushing puppies
Ate it, ate it!

Turkey images
Shake n Bake
Cooking dumplings / hush puppies
Ate it, ate it

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Robotics are the new Computer Science

At the Grace Hopper Conference 2010 I attended a workshop on getting girls in grades 4-12 excited about computing, and 2 of the 4 technologies featured used robotics of some sort.

Scratch & Alice are programming languages, and allow students to make incredible animations (2D and 3D respectively) limited only by their imaginations.There are lots of programming challenges for students to participate in throughout the year to really flex their programming muscles.

Pico Cricket & Pleo Dinosaur kits were passed around for us to program and play fun! During a meeting with my peer computer teachers I also learned about Pico Boards, which are like Pico Cricket connections but powered by Scratch...totally awesome...gotta get a few!!!

Then this article about a robotics lesson plan came in my e-mail and I now know that robotics are the next big thing in student computing. Of course it makes sense: artificial intelligence has remained behind the scenes in computing, we have a number of domestic robots (the vacuumers and floor cleaners, and toys) that make us more comfortable with independently operating machines. So the next wave of computers is to develop programmers who are comfortable and familiar with robotics. This means we technology teachers have to step our game up!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Adding Interactive Lessons

I now have to practice what I preach: I have a severely learning disabled student in my class for whom I CANNOT give text-based lessons. In addition we read an article in our staff meeting about the purpose of homework and types and length of assignments we should give students. All of this coalesced in my looking for interactive lessons on cyber safety.
We increasingly discuss students who grew up in a multimedia, multi-modal world, yet because we teachers grew up in the text age and are comfortable in the text age, we tend to give students...text. The test will be if students retain the internet safety lessons better through an interactive module than with reading through.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Teaching Logic Using Board Games

Today I had the privilege of fore knowledge of a planned network outage so I brought in some board games and cards that had been used in an outreach 10 years ago to keep students occupied. My 7th and 8th graders were mystified by Kerplunk, a game that came before their 1999 birth years lol! It got me thinking that it's possible to teach logical thinking "unplugged" using certain board games that promote logical thinking:
  • Kerplunk: modern version of Pick Up Sticks where marbles fall through a column, winner has fewest number of marbles in receptacle
  • Mancala: strategy game that requires counting, and quickly or your opponents confuse you
  • Ludo, Parcheesi or Sorry: game of chance and strategy as you try to get all your pieces "home" while keeping your opponents from reaching "home" first
  • Dominoes:
  • Uno:
  • Go:
  • Monopoly:
The thing is these games may be old fashioned to us because we are of the "7 channel"-"do homework every night"-"play board games or play outside" because "there was nothing else to do" generation. These games are not familiar to our students because they are about 100 generations away from ours, their teachers. So for your next fundng cycle, be sure to invest in a few board games to take your logic-teaching lessons offline and to a whole new level.

CS Unplugged

I have been using CS Unplugged to reinforce computer science concepts after teaching technical skills that have been abstracted. CS Unplugged is a great curriculum for teaching computer science concepts to students without being plugged to a computer. I've found students are able to complete the worksheet activities with little to no assistance, though I have class discussions to ensure students take away the main point of the activities. I expect that for students younger than 7th grade may require more guided discussions in addition to an ending discussion to ensure the main concept is taken away.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Anytime-Anywhere Learning

It's 11pm on a Wednesday evening, final email check, lo and behold there are changes to the class wiki. Students are working on the class project, sharing resources by commenting on each others' pages...isn't this the learning we educators want to see? I thought students would only work during class time...I go to sleep happy that they are enjoying the activity enough to show off at home :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Oh So Connected!

Reflecting on today's classes and I feel...Oh So Connected! Using Web 2.0 tools, my students have created blogs and are now using wikis. Having covered internet research (search engines), depending on how much they remember, they're now equipped to find information on any subject for school.

I will not be able to cover word processing before time ends with 2 classes, but I am confident that the Web 2.0 tools and cloud computing are what this generation needs to learn...even Microsoft is getting in line with online office productivity and smartphone apps.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Class Blogging as a Computing Activity

Image © 2010 M.Agbowo
Blogging is a Web 2.0 tool, meaning users can contribute to online discourse without knowing how to manually code (WYSIWYG-What You See Is What You Get). I had students create their own and write in wikis daily as a computing activity for the following reasons:
  • technology exercise: to wrestle with setting up the blog as a means of reading and following directions, and the experience of setting up an online account
  • writing exercise: students can always more time for language production and idea generation, so blogs allow a space for free writing
  • communication exercise: blogs allow students to read and comment on other student's thoughts, and collaborate on ideas, all remotely, which is a 21st century skill
All in all, except for a few students who just missed the idea, I am satisfied that students understood a bit of technology and a lot of writing and idea generation.

We started off with Edublogs, which seemed so simple. Well, we really started off with trying to sign up for Google's Blogger and some of the other common blogs, but students were not allowed due to their correct years of birth. And some students did not have e-mail accounts so there was no possibility. Edublogs was to accommodate students without e-mail accounts, but there were networking issues where we could not always access the site.

Though Edublogs did not work out for us at this time, the site is very robust in student and class blogging, with lots of ideas and resources for the innovative teacher, and a blogging contest for students. In fact, I ran across a 9-step how-to guide for class blogging.

Some students started blogs through Webs, TypePad (not sure about age restriction), WordPress (Edublogs is the education version of WordPress; not sure about age restriction), and students with existing e-mail accounts were able to create Blogger blogs.

After some research I ran across KidBlog, which seems promising, because everyone is linked through a class page, where I or each student can create student accounts and a list of blogs is generated for the class. More to come on this :)

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Teaching Standards are a good thing

    I have the privilege of being evaluated since I'm a new teacher. My rubric will be the California Standards for the Teaching Profession (full document), which have to do with students, curriculum and learning, and growing as an educator.

    I like to multi-task, kill two birds with one stone, so I will also infuse my technology standards via ISTE NETS for Teachers concurrently, which luckily are similar.

    There is a lot of dialog about teacher quality, merit pay for student test scores, and a whole new industry on professional development classes, teacher testing, etc. All I wish to add is that when teachers honestly meet the standards and are happy in their jobs, you've got great, motivated employees. When something is amiss, not so great.