Monday, January 26, 2015

Created with Code

The idea of coding can bring a lot of different images of who is a coder.  An adult sitting behind a computer is an image that pops into my head.  A kindergartner was not someone that I would label as a coder.  Solon has been working hard to break down this label of coding is only for adults.  Many students around Solon have been participating in coding events at a variety of different age groups. It has been so amazing to watch Solon's youngest students, the kindergarteners in Mrs. Dibble’s class, write code as part of’s new K-5 curriculum.

The curriculum is very easy to implement because the lesson plans are broken down and easy to understand.  They include unplugged activities, which break down vocabulary, and also include assessments.  The lessons are also linked to Common Core and technology standards.

Many of the lessons begin with an introductory video that links coding to real-world examples.  The kindergarteners view each coding activity as a puzzle and they have a lot of fun when they solve them, usually ending in a celebratory happy dance.

Many of the skills the students are practicing link with problem-solving, critical thinking, and endurance, but also math and literacy skills as well.  In one lesson, students created stories by writing code to include different characters, actions and words.  Check out the kindergarteners’ code stories here.  

Coding can seem like an intimidating task to begin. makes it easy to begin and has four different courses ranging from kindergarten to 8th grade.  If you are interested in exploring’s curriculum, please contact me, I’d be happy to get your class started on their journey with coding.

- Contribution from Amber Bridge, Grant Wood AEA Technology Consultant. Want to share what is going on in your class or collaborate on a technology project?  Feel to to contact me

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Making connections with video chat

I recently had a chance to talk to grad students from South Hamilton CSD about using video conferencing technology to make connections for curriculum, community and continuing education.

To prepare for the Skype chat, I made a list of video connections I've facilitated over the last couple of years along with a list of resources and tips. Thank you to Cathy Stakey for this opportunity.

Connect with experts - Don’t be afraid to ask

Connect with authors - Especially if your students have read their books!

Connect with other educators - free professional development!

Connect with other classrooms

Connect with your community

Connect with your students

Resources and Tips

#mysteryskype - Twitter hashtag
Edmodo and ePals are also great way to find connections

Advice from personal experience

  • Check time zones
  • Practice in advance if possible
  • Connect directly to ethernet (hard wired connection) if possible
  • Locate the mute controls
  • Get a backup email or cell phone number so you can work out last minute issues quickly
  • Keep background noise to a minimum
  • Avoid glaring lights and backlighting
  • Don’t be afraid to ask experts to connect with you and your students
  • Mentor your colleagues once you get comfortable
  • Keep your open applications to a minimum
  • Try to orient your camera so you don’t have to crouch or lean down to get in the frame
  • Make sure you have good audio out so that your class can hear
  • I just use the built in microphone. A headset with mic would be good for a broadcast
  • Double check your equipment - power cord, extension cord, mic, projector, audio output

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Class Dojo and Class Discussions

Class discussions are a great way to learn more about your students.  As a teacher, you can hear students express their point of view with their personality shining through.  It is a great practice to help empower your students to become more confident in group discussions which is a great life skill.
From the teacher’s perspective, how do we keep track of who participated?  Hashmarks on a paper?  But, what did that hashmark actually mean?  Did the student agree with someone else?  Did they make a strong argument supported by evidence?  The one-line doesn’t tell me anything specific about the student’s participation other than the fact that they participated.
Mrs. Cromer, 7th & 8th grade Language Arts Teacher, has figured out how to simplify the process of managing class discussions by using Class Dojo.  On its surface, Class Dojo is an online behavior monitoring system for classrooms.  The pre-set behaviors of “on task” and “talking out of turn” can be customized to fit your classroom needs.  Mrs. Cromer has modified the behaviors to reflect student practices in the class discussions that she is looking for, both positive and areas to improve upon.  

During the class discussion, the behaviors are entered on a simple click.  Class Dojo keeps track of all the entries and makes it super simple to see at a glance how students have done on a specific day.  
It is great to keep track of what students are doing, but Mrs. Cromer takes it to the next level.  Class Dojo has the option to print off student reports.  Mrs. Cromer will utilize these student reports for individual student conferences and larger class discussions to include students in the conversation and start to get them to think about the “big picture” of how the discussion progresses.  This good practice continues to help build and strengthen the class community.  This idea isn’t limited to class discussions and could be used in a variety of different ways in class to help students set goals for future performance.

- Contribution from Amber Bridge, Grant Wood AEA Technology Consultant. Want to share what is going on in your class or collaborate on a technology project?  Feel to to contact me

Saturday, January 10, 2015

EdCamp is coming to a location near you!

This is a great opportunity to experience EdCamp close to home.

There is also an EdCamp being held at Mt Mercy on the same day. Check it out here:

Everyone is welcome!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Tech tools to maximize the inquiry experience

I just wrapped up a multi-week inquiry project with sixth grade teachers Travis Kerkove and Kearce Linder.

This was the third year of collaboration on this Astronomy focused project and I wrote about it last year on the Making Connections blog, in a post titled "Embedded in the Classroom".

For this blog, I wanted to highlight the tools we used to keep things organized and to keep students on track throughout the multi-step process.

Before we started brainstorming ideas, each of the five sections played this Kahoot quiz which addressed some basic astronomy understanding (adapted from a Kahoot already on file)

Students LOVED this and begged to play it over again!

Having a central place to store all the relevant elements of the assignment was key and Google sites did the trick.

I created the site in 2012 and each of the two following years, I have made a copy and adapted it. The front page you see in the screen shot reflects a summary of the 2014 project. At the beginning this "home" page was a starting place for student "wondering". There were links to astronomy playlists on YouTube, saved searches in Ebsco and Gale and links to articles in Newsela. There was also an embedded Padlet with ideas they might tweak:

Students spent 3 days wandering around the subject matter, trying to decide what was intriguing and what information might be available on the topics. Earphones were in high demand, not only for online videos, but for listening to text read aloud using either built in text readers or through web browser software.

After students verified their "why" question, we dug into the research. Again, we used the Astronomy site as a starting point and our new subscription database PowerKnowledge Science was a definite "go to", with its powerful combination of easy to understand, brief articles and well made videos. 

Each student created a project using our EasyBib school edition (authenticating through their SCSD Google account). Each project was shared with the instructor and myself, with viewing, editing and commenting rights. I organized those projects into classrooms for easy access.

Students learned how to cite web sites and a variety of online databases. Online tutorials made using the screen recording feature in QuickTime were available for review via SCSD Media Services YouTube channel.

The school edition of EasyBib includes a virtual note taking feature. Students used this to copy direct quotes and then paraphrase the information. As long as they also provided the source, they were allowed the organize the notes however they liked, by grouping or color coding them.

I commented on all of the projects (that were shared properly) using the Comments feature.

In many instances, I suggested additional resources they could access.

Throughout the process, students were reminded that the Science calendar was online for both students and parents to reference. Check this blog for a post on how SMS is using Google Calendar to keep everyone informed about assignments.

But an old school calendar made an appearance one day too!

To prepare for students getting ready to write, I created two document templates in Google documents, one for their EasyBib notes export and one for their script. I then set up all 5 classes using the Doctopus spreadsheet add on. This allowed me to generate individual documents for all of the students that I could then quickly access via the spreadsheet. This also eliminated the need for students to share documents with the teacher and myself. 

These spreadsheets also allowed us to monitor progress.

I used this to prioritize the projects that I needed to check in on.

After the students were done writing, it was time to start the presentations. I created a template in Google Slides and shared it using the same Doctopus script (once you have a classroom on file, you can use it over and over again).

Students were coached to keep slide text to a minimum (a la TED Talks) and to use images to enhance their message. We discussed image acquisition and attribution and every image was to be cited on the slide. They learned how to determine the image web address using the right click keyboard command.

The last official slide was the bibliography, exported from EasyBib.

Students who finished early created a Wordle using the entire text of their script and added the image to the end of the slide show.

Students copied their script text into the notes area of the slide to help them pace their delivery. They then practiced giving their presentations to each other.

When it was time for presentations, students could easily access their presentations via the Doctopus spreadsheet, eliminating the need to connect and reconnect the laptop to the projector and saving time.

All of the presentations were then embedded into the Astronomy web site to be shared with classmates and parents.

Before students left for break, I used a Google form to collect their feed back. 


I loved this project because im a astronomy nerd
I didn't love it but i didn't hate it.
I loved this project! It was very fun to do.
I think that other grades should get to do this to, it was really fun and i learned a lot from other peers.
It also teaches you to use copy right rules and it teaches you how to resource and make a presentation.
I liked using Easybib, but I didn't like not using google search because it took me a while to fin info
I thought it was fun to learn about something new. I enjoyed it! :)
It was hard to understand all the big words on the websites.
I overall liked this project. I liked the idea that I got to choose my topic and pretty much do it by myself. I think that only a few of people really focused and tried to do a good job. I don't know how well I did personally, but I thought it was pretty fun and interesting. I had an easy time finding information and using the resources, so that is another reason I like it.
i liked it because i love learning about space i wish we didnt have to use computer so munch
I thought the project was easier using he cumputer and note phisically writing it down just opying it from the other page, but then writing it in your own words. I liked this progect A LOT.
I did like the project, but I did have some trouble finding information.
I thought it was a good project and had fun.
I felt that we had the appropriate amount of time to work on our project, and in the end I really felt that I could talk and answer questions about my topic easily.
I thought that it was easier to do it on the computer. The reason I thought it was easier was because you had your notes no matter where you went. If you had a computer. I also thought that if we had a little more time that we could have add some transitions
I liked it, but it was a little boaring.
I did not like it. because i thought not using google made it harder and i could not find any pictures, for what i was looking for
I liked this project because we got to do something interesting that no one knew.
I was very frustrated that I was told that I wasn't allowed to do the topics that I chose and than other students could do them. I was and am frustrated.
I thought the project was really fun… but at times it was a real pain but I was all worth it.
I thought this project could have been more direct, like giving me more instruction.
it was great
I was not the biggest fan of presenting in class, but other than that I thought I did good.
I am not a fan of presenting and taking notes, but I did like making my presentation.
My slides and some information were of topic,and I didn't have script on a lot of slides. So I think I could have done a lot better on this project, such as taking the time to look it over and matching the script with the slides.
It was a bit hard but after a little bit it was easier.
I think it was fun and wonderful and I hope we do it again next year.
I loved this project. I wish we could do others like it!
I thought it was a great project for sixth grade.
Searching aliens is hard because there has been little contact.
I liked doing the project it was fun and pretty easy.
Thank you so much for teaching me Easy Bib. After I learned how to use it is was really EASY. I had a great time learning about how Pluto is not considered a planet. Thank you so much.
It was fun to listen to all the presentation.
I was fun to share it to the class because I felt like I was the expert for the 1-2 minutes.
I think I did pretty well because of the sources that you recommended.
I thought it was pretty fun,because you got to choose anything you would like to learn about.
I liked being able to choose what to research, but I would have also liked a little more instruction.
I thought maybe more optision for diffrent presentiong platforms all the aninmations were the same
I thought that a lot of us had fun choosing what we wanted too research and we should do something like this again.
I loved that we got to choose our topics, but I didn't like that we couldn't have extra facts about our question.
I think it needs to be a little more longer. I need to use more time to do it.
I thought it was a great project to do, it was also fun to research.
i thought that it was really interesting and fun to listen to other peoples presentations
I liked my project because it was something that amused me.
I thought it was was fun.
I think it was fun defiantly do it next year
I think it was fun and I really learned a lot more about astronomy!
I loved working on it and getting to chose our own project
I think the project was fun and i think i could have done a little better but i did good.
I really liked doing this project because it was fun to do.
I feel that the way we did it was good because we didn't have to write three paers before we actually did the real presentation.
I think I did great but I think it could have been more fun
I loved it
i liked the time we spent cause we were independent
I thought this project was a fun project because we got to learn stuff that we don't think everyday.
i think you should of gave us mor time
I think a little bit more time on note taking
.I thoght it was a cool change to do a fun project i liked doing it
I loved the whole entire project,because I got to pick want I wanted to do.
I thought that it was a great project ,but I wish that the project didn't have to be a how or why question.
I really liked getting to see everyone present their projects at the end.

Elements of this process could be used in almost any classroom doing research at any level. Please let me know if I can help you in any way!