Friday, July 31, 2015

Takeaways from Magic Valley Tech Expo

July 28th and 29th was the first every Magic Valley Tech Expo. It was put on in partnership by three districts in the area. In addition to sharing with you my presentation and information, I want to share with you some of the great things that I learned there as well. I am really looking forward to seeing this conference grow in the coming years.

Makerspaces
MaKey MaKey - An Invention Kit for Everyone from jay silver on Vimeo.
Makerspaces are places where students can experiment, build, and foster their creativity. We found out that there is a wonderful program offered at the local library which has tons of supplies for students to come in and enjoy their makerspace. One of my favorite new things from this session was the MakeyMakey. MakeyMakey bills itself as "an invention kit for the 21st century," and with it we were able to control our computer screens, build circuits and even play a digital piano! (Once we figured out that the floor was messing up the grounding. I really want to get one of these kits for my classroom.

Publishing Student Work
This session focused on two different story writing platforms: Story Jumper and Storybird. Both of these websites allow students to write and design their own books which can later be purchased for download or even as a hardcover book! One of the biggest differences between the two is that Story Jumper will allow students to create their own pictures while Storybird provides premade pictures. I cannot wait to use Story Jumper in my classroom this year to publish my student's work! I wish I had taken a picture of the books that my teacher friend brought that her 2nd grade students made with Story Jumper.

Google Forms
I am in love with Google Forms. I use them regularly for student survey and quizzes (that I would grade manually). One of the best takeaways from this was Flubaroo. A teacher friend told me about Flubaroo shortly before the session and I was very intrigued to see it in action. Flubaroo is an addon for Google Forms that will grade your form results for you. This makes Google Forms even more powerful!



Google Docs/Slides and the Research Tool
I thought I knew all the best tips and tricks for using Google Docs but here I was learning something new! Thanks to my friend @IrishsLearners for sharing this tip with me! The research tool is embedded into Google Docs and Google Slides. All you have to do is highlight the word that you want to research such as reptiles, then click Tools, and finally Research. This will create a pop up on the side of the window that has a Google Search that is devoid of a lot of unneeded information that happens when you just go to Google and type in reptiles.
Students can drag photos over to the document or slide and a citation will automatically be added as a footnote. Additionally, you can hover over a resource that comes up and choose to cite it, which will create the citation for you again. You can choose between many common formats such as APA and MLA. 

Robotics for grades 4-8
For the last 4 years I have had the opportunity to be a an advisor for both an after school robotics program as well a coach for FLL. During this time I have also used robotics in my science curriculum to reinforce topics such as renewable energies.  Here is a copy of my Prezi, but I feel like the real takeaway was the opportunity that teachers had to play with the robots and see how easy the programming can be. I believe that demystifying robotics and programming for teachers will open the door for others who want to get into it. If our students can do it, so can we!

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