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.

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!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Adventures in 4th Grade

The end of last school year brought some changes. I accepted a position that was closer to home and cut my commute time in half. Yay! With it comes a whole host of changes, like a new classroom, new teammates, and new grade level. I'll be teaching 4th grade starting at the end of next month and I am SUPER excited for it.

Going from a 1:1 environment to a room with 3 computers, access to a laptop cart weekly and an interactive board ( I had one of those too the last 6 years), I feel like I get to take all the good things that I know work for a lot of kids and really hone in on my center skills. I hope to be able to write a grant or two this year to get some more tech in the classroom but it's not a bad start.

The end of this month is busy too. I'll be speaking at a local Tech Expo about robotics both in the classroom (grades 4-8) and as an after school program. Luckily the new school that I am at also has a robotics team so hopefully I will still be able to help out with that. At the very least I hope to be able to help my new teammates (and anyone else who needs it) with their technology.

Over the next few weeks I'll be posting some pictures, ideas, and progress of my new classroom and technologies that I plan to incorporate. One of the first things that I made were brag tags, or physical badges. In the past I used an online medium (3D Game Lab) to facilitate the gamification of my classroom. Because I do not have enough computers to do this right now, I was so excited when I found a teacher on atozteacherstuff (I feel so bad that I cannot find the exact link to her post because hers were adorable!) that uses them also. She used dog tags, but I opted for book rings. This year I am doing a whole Mario theme and so here are my Mario inspired badges for this year.

Here's a screenshot of the PowerPoint that I started with then saved it as a .PDF for printing. I tried to align them both behavioral things but also some of the Common Core Math and ELA standards.

Here they are ready to be cut. I should have about 28 students so I printed out 20 copies of each page on cardstock. 

Here they are all done and in baggies ready to go. Thankfully I had a teacher friend to help me cut out the 1,000+ badges

I am really looking forward to this next year and the chance to introduce my love of gamification with a whole new bunch of students.

Here's to our new Adventures in 4th Grade!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Filling Up Buckets

Teaching students about community and citizenship isn't always in one of  your standards, but it is something that I love to foster within my classroom. One way that I do this is by using Bucker Fillers. During the first week of school I read the book "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?" to my students. If you haven't read this book I definitely recommend it. To reinforce these concepts throughout the year, we have a student created bulletin board that is fueled by our Bucket and the Bucket Fillers that the students fill out for one another throughout the year.