Thursday, December 6, 2018

Creating, Making, and Learning in Clovis New Mexico

Clovis educators are creating, making, and learning today as they plan maker spaces for their schools.
They used design thinking to create a prototype to use with their students tomorrow!  Can't wait to help them test their designs.


[Photo Gallery]

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Memories of Learning to Code to support Project Based Learning

The following article came across my stream this morning while I was having coffee.  It brought back some vivid memories of a major milestone in my learning to code.    It was my first time trying to understand Object Oriented programming during my Masters Program at Marlboro College.    I so remember the feeling described in this article by Dawson Eliason - "Programming is taught exactly the wrong way."

"If you have any experience with Java, this is easy enough to understand. But if you’ve never seen a piece of code before, it may as well be Mandarin. Nonetheless, the student is taught that message is a variable of type string that holds “Hello world!” and System.out.println(message) prints the value of the variable to the console. The student is told, “Don’t worry about the ‘public class HelloWorld’ or ‘public static void main’ because you will learn more about them later.” They’re expected to take the instructor’s word for it, and continue to use these statements without understanding what they do or why they are necessary. But, hey, they know what a variable is."

Just because I identified with the feeling does not mean I agree or disagree with the premise of this article, but it has me thinking  and asking questions....

First of all... I remember wanting to understand every bit of syntax in our first Java programming assignments.

Yes... I had enough prior knowledge  to understand the Variable "Message".  That felt familiar, but I was asking "what does all that other stuff mean?  What is void?  Why static?"  It took me a while to let go of the NEED TO KNOW  and accept that it was okay to move on without knowing.   

I did have one other point of reference that allowed me to come to terms with moving on in this fuzzy state of mind.  Many many years ago, I entered first grade only knowing 6 words of English.  Our  French Canadian parents had insisted that we only speak French at home.  My mom had taught me "Yes"  "No"  "Please"  "Thank You"  "Salt" and "Pepper".  I guess she wanted me to be polite and have seasoned food. ;-)   I remember the 'blah blah blah"  all around me as my English speaking classmates were speaking in a language that I did not understand.  What I don't remember is the space in between that time and the time where I was comfortable speaking English on the playground.   It obviously happened without enough trauma to create a lasting memory.    So I accepted being in a fuzzy state of mind about many of the code snippets, and carried on.    

As I think of Dawson's premise,  I also am thinking of a tweetfrom @mraspinall that also came across my feed this morning

My motivation for enrolling in Marlboro's Java programming class was much different than many of the other students in this Java class; they were mostly working in IT.  I was a high school teacher who wanted to better support students who were working in a project based learning environment.  I was not teaching a coding class, but coding was quickly finding its way into many of our projects. This was similar to the scenario Dawson describes at the beginning of his blog post

"I learned programming through a relatively unorthodox method. I wanted to make a video game for my senior design project in high school.."

Dawson continues to describe  the learning environment that  Brian Aspall aspires to in his tweet  "Teaching kids to code means to make them think and solve problems through risk taking and trial & error"

"Despite the frustration, it turns out that this was actually the best way to learn how to write code. The unwavering sense that I was totally lost motivated my investigative problem-solving and prepared me for the daily struggle that comes with programming"

This set me off to thinking about a new alliance in Vermont with aspirations to provide teachers with professional development and inquiry-based computer science learning opportunities to successfully integrate computer science in the classroom.

This is exactly what I NEEDED back 18 years ago when I was enrolled in Marlboro's Java programming class.   And a fun fact is that one of the primary players in getting this Vermont Computer Science Alliance with,  University of Vermont,  Vermont Agency of Education, and Vermont Virtual Learning Cooperative is one of my classmates in that original Java programming class - Jennifer Frisbush @MsFribush  Unlike myself,  Jennifer is a computer science teacher,  while my focus is more on Project Based Learning - which of often leads to motivation in teachers and students to learn just enough code to get their project off the ground.

I will be actively watching the Vermont Computer Science Alliance project as it gets off the ground via Twitter @vermontcsa and hope that we can engage teachers who see the value of creating a pipeline of teachers and educators who have the foundational skills for solving complex problems in our world.   I think it's the right time for an initiative like this to be well supported.   Supporting innovative education initiatives like this is the first step in creating the pipeline that Brian Dowling  @be_d  describes in his recent article about Moonshots and Tough Tech on @xconomy 
“It’s pretty sad to me that there’s a decent chance that whole company wouldn’t exist without Elon Musk’s largesse,” he says. “That shouldn’t be a dice roll that SpaceX exists or not. There should be a healthy pipeline producing SpaceX’s if it’s the right time to have a company like that. 

I think  it is definitely 'the right time"  for Vermont Computer Science Alliance  and for us to extend beyond an Hour of Code in our school!  I'm excited to seeing more and more #vted schools offering support to this concept so that it is not a "dice roll"  whether or not our students get a chance to learn to code.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

EMMA Visits Waitsfield Elementary School

EMMA visits Waitsfield Elementary School


Creating StoryScapes
Characters and their  Imaginary Habitats
Grades K-2

Creating Confidence with Creativity, Circuits, and Code. 
Grade 3-4  Group 1

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Using Scratch for Audio Projects

A recent tweet from @CrisMagaletti got me thinking about how one might use Scratch as a podcasting tool.

The current version of Scratch has an great audio editor built in.

  • It is free and can be used both in the cloud or offline.
  • Students can easily record, edit, and add special effects. 
  • You can even export the audio created to your local computer and use it with other platforms.

So why not use it to create audio files for podcasting.

You could even create a cardboard boombox or other cardboard podcast player to activate the podcast by connecting it to a Makey Makey, FunKey or other micro-controller.

Now I can't wait to go try this with students. But since I don't have students this week, I decided to share a few projects where I leveraged the audio features of Scratch along with its ability to be used for physical computing.

But as soon as I have an opportunity to build off the idea of creating a podcast with students using Scratch that came from @CrisMageletti's tweet.

I'll create a followup post and let you know how it goes.

Here are some tips and ideas for using Scratch's audio editing features.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Create an eBook with Google Slides

WHAT IF... your library was filled with hundreds of books authored by YOUR students?
WHAT IF... anyone could purchase one of these books to have in their own library?
WHAT IF...  your community could readayd these books for free - from their mobile device, anywhere, anytime?
WHAT IF...  these books could not only be filled with text and pictures, but also with rich multimedia, animations, videos and interactive games and quizzes?
With Google Slides and a powerful prompt, your students can get started authoring and publishing ebooks, TODAY!
In June of 2011, the City of St. Albans asked the St. Albans City School to help them name the new St. Albans City Fire Truck. The school was so excited to have this opportunity.

They held a writing and drawing contest for all students in 3rd and 4th grade with the following PROMPT:

"What do you think the name of the firetruck should be?  
Write a story that tells us how the firetruck got its name?"

From these initial stories, 19 authors and illustrators were selected to share their potential firetruck names with the fire department. The authors worked for weeks getting their stories from a first draft to a final draft using Google Slides as their publishing tool. The collaborative features of Google slides allowed students to collaborate illustrating the stories as they were drafted. Using Google Slides made it easier for younger writers to chunk their stories into a beginning, a middle, and an end. Organizing the stories in a folder made it easy for their teachers to view the students' process.

An 8th grade writing mentor was assigned to each team. The comments feature of Google Slides was helpful throughout the process.

Did you know that if you add an email address with a + sign to a comment, that this person will get an email notification with the comment. If you click ASSIGN checkbox, they will also see a notification that a task has been assigned to them in their Google Doc dashboard.

When they were ready, the stories were delivered to the City Police/Fire Chief, Gary Taylor, who facilitated the selection process. We used a handy feature in Adobe Reader to automatically print each story in a booklet format. There are times when a printed version is the right choice. We wanted the fire fighters to be able to pass around our booklets as they read them. We also wanted each author and illustrator to have a printed version. This booklet format worked perfectly for both of these goals. 

Here are the 3 steps needed to create your printed booklets.
(Students can author or illustrate their books using a Chromebooks, but the PDF booklet printing steps outlined below will only work on a Windows PC or Mac. If you are working on a Chromebook, you will want to find a PC or MAC to perform these step. A Chrome App like SimpleBooklet offers some Chrome Options for a nominal fee)
Step 1: Download your Google Slide deck as a PDF.

Step 2: Open the PDF version of your story with Google READER. If your PDF opens in Preview or another other program, the next step will NOT work. You will need to FORCE your computer to open your PDF in Adobe Reader by RIGHT CLICKING on the file name and clicking on the OPEN WITH. If Adobe Reader is installed on your computer, right clicking on the file name will provide you with the following options.


Step 3: When you select PRINT from Adobe Reader, you will get an option to print your PDF in BOOKLET format! I LOVE this feature! It prints all the pages in the right order to just fold in half and then provide each student their own hard copy as a take-away. Even though we live in a digital age, there are times when a PRINTED copy is the right choice! (Don't worry, we'll cover how to create the ebook version in the steps below)

On Monday June 13th each of the stories was read aloud to their peers. After two readings of each story, everyone gathered at the front of the school. The St. Albans City School Band played a song to get the community ready for the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT. Chief Taylor announced the fire truck’s new name, the band played, and everyone celebrated both the new fire truck and the hard work of the young authors and illustrated who helped name their town fire truck.

All 19 stories were assembled into one ebook and published online for anyone to ready anytime from anywhere using a computer or mobile device. Three students had written stories with BIG RED as the name. The rest of the stories were included in a section called "Other Names the FireTruck almost got".

Step 1: Assemble all the books into ONE Google Slide deck. You can find the IMPORT SLIDES option under the FILE menu options.
Import Slides

Step 2.  Insert a slide for the front and back cover. Add blank slides as necessary 

We designed a front cover and  added a few blank slides so that there would be blank pages on opposite sides of the the front cover and back cover. 

Step 3: PUBLISH Your Google Slide deck to that viewers can click on it and view it one slide/Page at a time.

Once published you can COPY the LINK or URL anytime you want to share your ebook with someone. (Do NOT use the SHARE button on Google Slides. Used the PUBLISHED URL)

For example,  if you click on the link below, it will take your to the NEWLY CREATED eBOOK for the fire truck stories. 
You can add this link to your school webpage,  to a student portfolio, to your library card catalog,  or to any web page that readers might access to read your students ebooks. 

I like to create web pages that display the cover of each book to visually entice readers to click on each book... like this.

If you prefer to EMBED the ebook right into a webpage, you can copy the EMBED code instead.

Not all web pages allow you to embed HTML code, but if they do, your ebook will be visible like this:

You can check out this article for more information about publishing Google slides or sheets.


You can choose to leave your file as a Google Slide/eBook and access it as an eBook using the link or embed code that Google provides, or you can upload it to a third party service for enhanced options.

Review the steps mentioned above for downloading your Google Slide deck as a PDF.

For even more options check out the examples of integrating your new Google Slides ebook with third party options that I've created. 

You can then upload the PDF services that will give you enhanced digital hosting and  viewing options such as  digital viewing platforms with page turning effects such as ISSU or FLIP SNACK.

You can upload your PDF to a print publishing service where readers can order PRINT copies of your book such as LULU.  Lulu also offers ebook services.

You can upload your stories to VoiceThread either as a PDF or directly from your Google Drive to add voice or video comments as an author or to allow your readers to interact with your story through text, audio, or video comments.

10 Tips for Turning Google Slides into eBooks

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Hack a Toothbrush

Here's a fun project we tried this summer in two different learning environments hacking into an electric toothbrush.

We first explored the idea of hacking into a cheap electric toothbrush at the Create Make Learn Summer Institute  with a group of teachers who were just getting started with making.

Later in the week,  we brought our dollar store toothbrushes to  TechSavvy Girls Camp   -  where over  60 girls we exploring and gaining confidence with technology.  Check out what happened!

There were so many wins to this project!

1) Affordable Making - Promotes upcycling

Purchase a dollar store electric toothbrush and you will end up with a hobby motor, a battery, and some toothbrush parts that can be repurposed into a new invention.  Buying these parts separately could cost between $2 - $3

Even though we purchased a 'new' electric toothbrush for this exploration,  taking it apart for parts helped increase awareness of the parts that can be gained  from objects that we consider 'disposable'. 

2) Learn to Solder

The fact that our new motor only had tiny metal clips to connect wires to, gave us the perfect reason to learn to solder on wire leads.  Learning to solder expands your capacity to make and increases your feeling of empowerment. 

After our first two girls succeeded in soldering some wire leads to the motor, they taught each other and by the second day of camp,  many of the girls felt empowered and  comfortable reaching for the soldering iron throughout the rest of the week.

3) Inventive Thinking

Equipped with new soldering skills and new parts from tearing into our toothbrushes, the girls started to imagine possibilities.  Their inventive spirit kicked in and our hacked toothbrushes took on new shapes, forms, and functions!

4)  Aligns to Agency by Design Framework 

Looking back at this project, I can easily spot all 3 capacities described in one of my favorite #makered frameworks from Agency by Design

  • Looking Closely
  • Exploring Complexity
  • Finding Opportunity

It was amazing to see how something as simple as a dollar store toothbrush provided us with an opportunity to engage both our minds and our hands through creating and making.

Friday, March 30, 2018

March 30 - 3D printing as part of cross-curricular project based learning

I love that the last day of the March is for Making Series (30 blog post in 30 days to inspire us to keep on making)  coincides with one of  my favorite examples of creating, making, and learning -  the annual 3D Vermont event! 

Learning from each other

For the past four years,  a large floor map of Vermont is rolled out on the floor of JUDD gymnasium at Vermont Technical College as the culminating event in the 3D Vermont project.  Teams of middle school and high school students place 3D printed models that they have created (to scale) of historic buildings at various locations on the map!  They then proceed to stations around the gym where they share their research about each of historical locations they have researched as part of this project.    Guest and judges circulate around the room listening to each team share what they learned while researching and modeling historic buildings in 3D.

Video Tour of the Floor Map

Each year I am blown away by the skills that these young students display!  This event is filled with evidence of learning ranging from research skills, communication skills, mathematical skills, design skills,  technical skill, collaboration skills, and  more.

This year's group of students designed their models using a variety of different tools including TinkerCad,  SketchUp, Fusion 360 and SolidWorks.  Here's a short video tour of some of the buildings that the students shared.

A close up look of some of the models.

Students used a variety of different tools (both analog and digital) to get accurate measurements to model their building to scale. 

Taking measurements with digital technology.
Applying our math skills!

Students took care to replicate not only the buildings but also the portions of the environments that were part of the historical narrative. 

The story behind the boat and the bridge and its ghost!

Using 3D finishing techniques to put our building into context. 

Many of the students also modeled the contents found in some of their building.

A telescope 

Taxidermy artifacts located in the museum

And it did not take long for anyone listening to these students to realize that this is NOT a competition about your ability to create a 3D model! As you can see from this video,   this project is  about the the integrated learning that occurs when students communicate what they are learning through a combination of tools and processes that lead to hands on- minds on learning!

Amazing evidence of cross disciplinary learning.

Evidence of students's research ranged from brochures, posters, photo albums, and  Google Slide such as these Google Slides shows

to extensive websites such as this one from the award winning team from Windsor high school

to carefully matted photos and primary document replicas

to actual historical artifacts.

One school even included a VR (virtual reality) tour!  

The competition started with a project that Mike Hathorn from Hartford High School designed for his high school history class. Student researched historic buildings in their town of Hartford, Vermont and shared their research by creating a presentation about the building historical significance along with a 3D printed model of the buildings that they designed. Over the past few years the concept has expanded to include middle schools and high schools from around Vermont!

 Mike Hathorn on the origins of 3D Vermont

And this year's winners....
Middle School Division

3rd place  Mater Christi Middle School

2nd place - St. Albans City and Town School

1st place - Castleton School

High School Division

Honorable mention ~ Montpelier High School

Second Place ~  Enosburg Falls High School

First Place  ~ Windsor High School

Past Winners

Additional media clips from 3D Vermont 2018