Tag Archives: Technology

Full #STEAM Ahead!

 

Back in the summer, when I was mapping out my curriculum for my library media center classes this school year, I really wanted STEAM to be the foundation of everything we do.  For those of you not in the know with this trending educational acronym, STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (and was formerly known as STEM).  The first big project that I did with my fourth, fifth, and sixth graders was Designing Your Own Dream Playground.  Students had to first sketch out a blueprint for their designs and placement of their playgrounds.  Then, they needed to build a small model of their designs using recyclable materials (see left photo above).  The entire process was fun and I was rather impressed with the finished products.  The sky was the limit in terms of their imaginations, and many of my students pushed themselves to create amazing playgrounds.

I also implemented Free Time Activities this year.  Because most of my curriculum relies heavily on project-based learning, my students work at their own pace.  And, as anyone who’s ever worked with children knows, kids work at various speeds and abilities.  I wanted my students to be productive from the minute they walk into the library media center, to the minute they walk out.  So, Free Time Activities seemed like the perfect solution!  I created a chart in the corner of my room that colorfully displayed the various tasks that a student could choose from once they’ve completed their required assignments and/or work for that day.  These activities range from blogging and reading to building with Legos and K’nex.  Additionally, I implemented a makerspace area to help make many of these tasks available.  It is simply a shelving unit filled with any item that could possibly help create, such as yarn, pipe cleaners, tape, markers, and paper tubes.  Certain Free Time Activities are also supported by “challenge cards.”  For example, the Lego station and K’nex kit come with baskets filled with cards with a number of challenges written on them; and the makerspace area has a basket of STEAM challenges.  The students have really enjoyed having the right to choose and navigate how they want to explore and learn (see right photos above).

So far I’ve loved the changes I’ve implemented this year, and I can’t wait to see how it evolves with time.  I recommend giving it a try in your own classrooms and seeing how you can make room for activities like these.  Take that risk!  I’m sure you’ll be amazed with the wonderful results!

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Teaching Our Children the Foundations of Research

img_1484For the four grade levels I teach, my current unit for all students is a research project.  I selected four different topics and grouped my students into pairs or threes; they are to conduct proper research and create a Google Slides presentation.  The topics are as follows:

  • Grade 3–origin of a holiday
  • Grade 4–significant person or group in Black History
  • Grade 5–exploration of  a specific science topic
  • Grade 6–background and historical information about a state

In a previous lesson based around plagiarism and bibliographies, I reviewed with all of my students what exactly constitutes plagiarism and how to conduct responsible research.  They also learned how to give credit to their sources through a bibliography.  We are now bringing these learned ideas into practice through this project.  I am allowing my students to explore (with certain guidelines) and create a slideshow presentation reviewing their findings.

For the third and fourth grades, they are asked to use Kidtopia and Infotopia–simply to ensure their search results are safe and appropriate.  For the fifth and sixth grade, they are asked to utilize PebbleGo Next, which our district had purchased in the summer.  This basic database designed for children has ‘science’ and ‘states’ sections, so it works wonderfully with their respective projects.

Of course they are learning about their topics through their research and work, but the skills I want them to truly perfect are responsible research and proper citation.  These are educational building blocks that will stay with them through high school and higher education.  And, within the first day of creating their Google Slideshows, most of my students already have a bibliography slide on which they are posting their resources.  I am happy to see them become responsible students and researchers.

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Computer Science Education Week

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December 5th through the 11th this year is Computer Science Education Week, and I took this opportunity to go through basic coding with some of my 5th and 6th grade classes.  The first couple days have been an absolute success!  My fifth graders created their own emojis (shown in picture above) and coded a basic robot game–both provided by Made By Code (a Google project).  My six graders, who have already been exposed to coding with their classroom teachers, are doing coding for basic games:  Flappy Bird and Star Wars–both provided by Code.org.

It was fun to devote my time with them this week to coding.  I always like to think because of the rapid advance of technology, we are teaching and training our students for careers that don’t even exist yet!  It’s good to get yourself, as an educator, out of your comfort zone, and explore a new facet with your students!  I myself am a complete newbie when it comes to coding, and a couple of my fifth graders were showing me tricks and shortcuts during their robot game coding!  It was amazing to see some of them in their element, and the fact that they were all leaving with a smile on their face, just sweetened the deal!

Hour of Code, in honor of Computer Science Education Week, is and continues to be a success!  When your students do not want to leave your classroom, you know you’re doing something right…

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Banned Books Week is coming to a close…

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am only a month into my first ever position as an ELEMENTARY educator.  And as most educators know, at least in the literacy realm, this week is Banned Books Week.  I really wanted to make sure I included this “holiday” into at least some of my classes’ curriculum, so I decided to test the waters with my fourth and six graders (about 200 students), and it went wonderfully!  We started off using Mentimeter, which is a wonderful online instant survey tool–I highly recommend it!  I laid out various banned books onto the tables, but did not tell them why they were there and that they were banned.  My Mentimeter question was “What do all of these books have in common?”  Of course, all of them at once gave me and each other puzzled looks because they couldn’t see a connection between a picture book like And Tango Makes Three and a very popular series like Harry Potter.  I encouraged them to discuss with their groups and get creative with their answers.  The end product was interesting to see because they stated things such as “fiction,” “hard cover,” and “illustrations.”

Once we did that I told them their answers were great, but unfortunately none of them was the one answer I was looking for.  And once again, I got puzzled looks across the board.  When I explained to them that the one major commonality of all of these books was that they were banned, the students immediately started calling out questions and groaning.  I loved it!  This meant they were questioning that idea, and were curious to learn more.

We then segued into it being Banned Books Week and the celebration of literacy and the First Amendment.  Some may think that free speech may be too complicated of an issue for children that are only no more than eleven or twelve years old, but it most certainly was not.  Some classes sparked debates about the validity of banning a book, while others wanted to learn the reasoning behind each banning.  It was such a spectacular moment as an educator to witness.  And I truly couldn’t have been more pleased by how the lessons played out!

To wrap up the lesson, I allowed my students to take “mugshots” to celebrate Banned Books Week, and I had more than enough volunteers.  As you can see (below), they got very creative and had a fun time producing their own representation of what banning a book means to them.  It has been a wonderful week, and I plan on spreading the wealth to the third and fifth graders next year!

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To GAFE? Or not to GAFE?

GAFE:  Google Apps for Education

Many school districts are jumping onto this bandwagon.  They want to be a part of the technological evolution that is occurring across the world.  Google, as anyone who is even remotely in the know already uses, began as a search engine, but now, is SO much more!  They are Microsoft’s arch nemesis–a competition among suites.

GAFE has so many features:  classroom, sheets, slides, forms…the list goes on for a bit!  But they are also user friendly and compatible with pretty much any electronic device and other popular tools out there, such as YouTube.  And, if you already have a gmail account, you have access!

I, myself, have been a gmail account holder for over a decade, and I’ve never wanted to part.  Gmail is easy to use, never has never issues, and I’ve never been hacked.  It simply makes sense.  And with access to so many of Google’s services, the deal is sweetened up a bit more.  So when my district offered workshops on GAFE, I did not hesitate to sign up.

We spent three long days doing a lightning introduction and review of everything, and today, we are given the opportunity to take the certification exam.  If my experiences and (short) training did its part, then I will be a Google Certified Teacher by the end of today!

Honestly, in terms of tactile rewards, the certification doesn’t give much.  (You can print out the digital certificate they email you.)  But, it does allow you a lot as an educator in this tech-driven world.  As we spent our days practicing, I was brainstorming lesson ideas in my mind.  I feel energized and excited to tackle the school year ahead!

My district is lucky enough go one-to-one with Chromebooks this school year, so we are most definitely supported to infuse as much technology as possible into our lessons.  And slowly, but surely, I am feeling equipped to take on that challenge!

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Happy 25th, Internet!

This week marks the 25th anniversary of the Internet. It is mind-boggling to think how far we’ve progressed in terms of technology and communication. The internet has changed not only our daily lives, but that of the entire world. It has made us all global citizens and connected us forever.
But, it is still fun to look back and see when this thing called “the Internet” first came into our vernacular. The above video clip shows Katie Couric and her co-hosts discussing the Internet–or at least trying to! My favorite part is when they can’t figure out what the ‘@’ symbol is exactly. This clip makes me think about what might seem strange to people looking back on us in twenty years.
I remember getting my first computer when I was ten years old–it was this big clunky thing–but I was so excited. We had AOL as our service provider and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the dial tone sound of the computer ATTEMPTING to connect. But, when I did hear the “you’ve got mail” welcome message, I would be elated. Looking back at this phase of technology in my life is comical now, but back then, it was the best computers had to offer to our everyday lives.
Technology truly changes the way we do EVERYTHING and it will be interesting to see just how much more it will all evolve in the future.

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March 14, 2014 · 9:11 am

Word Mover

Anyone that appreciates the written word, especially poetry, can attest to the fact that it is sometimes, if not most of the time, very challenging to put together a piece that is not only cohesive and mechanically well written but also beautiful and representative.  But, now the process of writing poetry could not become any easier–with the help of the app “Word Mover.”

Word Mover simplifies the act of composing a poem.  The app has eight “canvas backgrounds” to illustrate their writing, each of which comeS with a word bank ready to use.  All the user has to do is drag the words over to compile their lines for the poems.  If there is a specific word that is not available in the word bank, s/he can add them manually.

From an educational stance, this can widen the students’ eyes to various forms of literature.  From my own personal experiences, poetry seems to be one of the more difficult forms of writing to comprehend for young readers.  They struggle with the idea of poetry and build up mental barriers before they even approach the work.  An app like Word Mover may be able to break those walls down and show them the simple facets of poetry.  Of course, this doesn’t make every child an Emily Dickinson or Edgar Allan Poe, but it adds an interesting element.  What exactly is considered poetry?

What do you think of this app?  Is it something that could open up another facet of literature for students?  Or is it turning a form of art into a game of mad libs?

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January 13, 2014 · 11:45 am