Tag: collaboration (page 1 of 3)

10 Easy Steps to a Maker’s Mentality Classroom

Here are 10 things the innovators of tomorrow should have opportunities to do every single day:

1. Think critically about a real problem

2. Ask questions. Deep, probing, open-ended questions.

3. Communicate/debate the problem.

4. Envision solutions to the problem.

5. Test/prototype the solutions.

6. Solve problems arising from the solutions.

7. Persevere in the face of frequent failure.

8. Regroup and revise solutions.

9. Share what they’ve accomplished and learned.

10. Reflect on the bigger implications of what they did/learned.

Web 2.0 Tools for Creativity, Communication, and Collaboration

More notes from this week’s conference presentations in Cy-Fair ISD. Here’s an ever changing list of some new or fairly new Web 2.0 tools that have captured my imagination.

Google Docs embed a little strangely, so if you’d rather access the document directly, you may do so here.

Pixiclip–Online, Collaborative Whiteboard and More

The video below is a very quick overview of Pixiclip, a free, online whiteboard that is a potentially very useful tool for teachers looking to create online tutorials, particularly for flipped classroom applications. The site allows text, drawing, images, audio, and even webcams to be included in presentations, and it has a very user-friendly interface.

Social Bookmarks: 5 Tools to Try

I once had these unnamed, quite brilliant colleagues (They’ll probably nail me for talking about them behind their backs. ūüėģ ) who were and are wonderful friends, phenomenal educators and true technology innovators. They provided me with countless ideas and resources. However, they usually insisted on sharing by sending me an email. While I did appreciate the sharing, I spent literally years advocating for them to ¬†jump on board with the idea of sharing with one another via online, social bookmarking tools. “You see,” I would explain, “I get SO many emails, and I have to then open each one, click on the link inside, then add it to my bookmarks. I have to repeat the process at home to put it on my home computer. It’s just exhausting!” (Okay, I’ve always been a bit of a hyperbole fan.) I offered that simply adding it to a bookmark list in a Diigo group would be much more efficient, accessible, organized, etc. They could click a simple button added to their browser, add a little description, some tags, then share them with everyone that was a part of their group. We would all learn of these great, shared resources in one tidy, weekly email. Ahhh….a dream come true!

Alas, my efforts at persuasion met with very limited success, for unknown reasons. The emails kept coming (replaced occasionally by a tweet). A normal person would have felt beaten. Not I, however. If, by continuing to share the virtues of online bookmarks, I can save just ONE inbox, my efforts will be worth the high costs. To that end, here are 5 email server sparing online bookmark tools you might think about using:

  • Diigo for Chrome

    Diigo’s Chrome extension

    Diigo –Diigo is a very useful tool that has been around for several years. Users can bookmark sites using a simple browser plugin, which also allows bookmarks to be categorized by tags (also the best way to search through collections), added to lists, annotated with virtual sticky notes, or shared with groups. The groups feature is a great way to discover new resources or share with a specific audience. Members can opt to receive notifications of shared resources daily, weekly, etc.

  • Adding collaborators in Pinterest.

    Adding collaborators in Pinterest.

    Pinterest –A huge hit among casual users, Pinterest also has a loyal following amont educators. Users can use bookmarklets or browser extensions to quickly add Pins to specific boards, where they are shared in Pinterest’s appealing, visual style. Don’t forget that Pinterest can be very collaborative, too. Just visit the user dashboard, click on the Edit button at the bottom of any board, then add contributors using their email addresses.

  • Symbaloo webmix

    Symbaloo webmix

    SymbalooEDU –Symbaloo EDU is another tool that has grown a huge following in education circles, in particular. Users create very slick, graphical “webmixes”, collections of bookmarked sites. One shortcoming is that webmixes can be shared, but are not truly collaborative just yet. Still, its attractive style, user-friendly results, and ample pre-existing collections make it worth a look.

  • A flipped classroom pearltree.

    A flipped classroom pearltree.

    Pearltrees –Pearltrees is a tool unlike any of the others. It is very visual in nature, and folks who like graphic organizers are likely to love Pearltrees. Bookmarks, called “pearls”, are added via browser extension and organized into “trees”, which are clusters of pearls. Pearltree users can share trees and pearls, follow others’ collections, and collaboratively build collections. Probably not for everyone, but for those who like its style, Pearltrees is a powerful resource.

  • A ScoopIt collection.

    A ScoopIt collection.

    ScoopIt –ScoopIt takes yet another approach to saving bookmarks, assembling groups of them into pages resembling online newspapers or magazines. A browser bookmarklet can expedite the adding of resources to topic lists. Users choose the destination lists and add descriptions. Users can follow one another and “suggest” new resources to be added, a list of which can be browsed (“curated”, in ScoopIt lingo), evaluated, and either added or rejected. ScoopIt will also make recommendations from the web based on user-defined terms. A drawback is the inability to filter items on a specific collection, but I keep coming back to the tool after several years.

Certainly, there are countless other bookmarking tools being used by educators to collaboratively cultivate classroom collections. What are others that should be in any such list? How are you using them with your students or teams?

7 Years of Blogging

Something I noticed today made me get all reflective…

On December 8, 2006, I wrote and shared my first blog post, something about educating parents about Web 2.0 tools. That’s a quick 372 weeks, 2603 days ago. Since then:

  • 265 posts, an average of 1 every 9.8 days or so.
  • 25,316 views (Half of which are possibly my mother, I’m sure.), or a little more than 10 per day (since Jun 4, 2007, actually, but close enough).
  • 588 comments (not sure how many are my replies–I do try to respond), which is about 2.3 per post.
  • 62 pings (other folks’ sites or blogs linking to my posts)
  • Visitors from all 50 states and 135 countries
True story: I once bought a t-shirt with this on it. (Pretty much gave up being cool right after college.)

True story: I once bought a t-shirt with this on it. (Pretty much gave up being cool right after college.)

So, what does this mean? (It definitely means I don’t have the most popular blog on the Web, for one thing.) Importantly, that first post on December 8th represented the first day I started building my PLN–first blog conversations, then Twitter, Google+, etc. Too many great, professional and personal conversations to count. Imagine the challenges connecting with even a fraction of those numbers of folks only 15 years ago. That post led to others and to the first reader comment (Thanks, Jeff Whipple–my co-workers still make fun of me for an over-the-top celebration of getting a comment from a stranger.), the first conversations, numerous collaborations, and genuinely close friendships. It also was the start of some healthy and productive reflection. I never liked diaries or journals. Hated ’em, in fact. Yet blogging has somehow been something that I have enjoyed and stuck with, and it has helped me grow as a person and professional. I liken it to people who talk to themselves to sort out their thoughts, only someone occasionally eavesdrops and chimes in to find out what you are talking about.

Over these 7 years, I’ve read opinion pieces saying blogging is dead or has already died. Thankfully, those writers get paid to write nonsense (I do it for free–yea!), and I look forward to doing this for the foreseeable future. I encourage every single educator to give it a shot, too. Professional reflection is a very worthwhile exercise, even if you don’t load up on comments (Don’t discount the possibility, though!). While you’re at it, get your students blogging. It is a great opportunity to apply writing skills, share with an authentic audience, and start putting together a record of their growth as students and individuals. On top of that, it is quite simply a truly pleasurable undertaking. Thanks for reading (not just you, Mom)!

New Podcast: #12 Technologies for Global Connections

This episode looks at the reasons why our kids need to be exposed to other people and cultures and the technology tools that we have at our disposal to make it happen. I also VERY briefly explain what Kickstarter is, and why I appreciate it so much. It is a fantastic source of ideas and inspiration, and it might just be a useful tool for the project based classroom teacher or students to get their next great idea.

Summer Tech Camp Report and Reflections

photo10

Creating video game controllers using MakeyMakey.

Last week wrapped up 3 weeks of summer technology camps. These are the first for our district, and summer tech camps are something I’ve wanted to do for years. We offered students who are entering 2nd through 8th grades the choice between 2 robotics-focused camps or a week focusing on programming and innovation. Each week of camp ran from Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. until noon. Camps were offered free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Approximately 80 students attended. Each camp had 3-5 adult counselors and 1-4 high school student CITs (<–callback for anyone who is a fellow Meatballs fan).

Campers build their first robot.

Campers build their first robot.

For the first attempt, each camp went off as smoothly as I could have hoped, primarily due to my phenomenal camp staff. Students were eager and engaged, and discipline issues were few and far between (Amazing how engagement solves so many of those issues, isn’t it?). Each day started with a quick debrief, then counselors either gave a mini-lesson or simply helped facilitate as students got to work. Robotics camp students initially completed a task involving creating a zip line with Legos. They next built their first, basic Mindstorms NXT robots. By the 2nd day, students were using their robots to complete tasks such as navigating a predetermined path on a Twister game mat. Local firefighters specializing in hazardous substance removal visited students to discuss how robots might be used to assist in their work, setting the stage for campers’ final project. Campers created and programmed robots to navigate a mock city (created by our CITs) and carry out specific tasks, such as obtaining simulated radiation measurements or moving hazardous cargo to a safe area.

photo8

SISD Robotics Camp

The final week of camp focused on programming, digital media, and inventing using MakeyMakey and a variety of household items. Students started this week by creating digital movies based upon the book Zoom by Istvan Banyai. They next created short stop motion videos using a free software tool called JellyCam, which I highly recommend. Next, campers explored MakeyMakey and invented their own video game controllers by pairing the devices with a variety of items, from limes and bananas to wires and nails to Play-Do. Finally, students learned the basics of Scratch and created their own video games. An example game by one of our campers is seen below.

I wanted to share a few lessons and observations from this experience, in hopes that they might be beneficial to others planning similar events in the future. I’ve also included a few student and parent comments shared in camp evaluations. I’ve attached both the student survey¬†and parent survey¬†we used.

  • Plan far enough in advance to ensure a smooth, simple registration process. We faced time constraints that made this process very cumbersome. Next year, we’ll be using some form of online registration to streamline things. I’m really intrigued by the Active Networks Camp Manager, which is feature-rich and FREE for organizations whose camps are free.

    photo7

    Campers created robots to complete challenges, such as detecting/removing hazardous cargo.

  • There should be a balance between structured activity and creative, explorative play. As an example, I thought that the initial robotics activities were great, but I was never satisfied with the hazardous waste project. I think I’d make that much more open-ended in the future. As one camper stated, “Make challenges more broad, less specific tasks–more thinking.
  • photo3I’m not sure about the age appropriateness of robotics activities for the youngest attendees. I felt as if many of the tasks eluded some of them, and we ended up separating older/younger campers and assigning slightly different tasks. However, one older camper requested that they “be a little more interactive with the younger kids,” and a younger camper asserted, “Little kids can do what the big kids are doing.” Even so, I’m leaning toward creating a very different, separate robotics experience for kids in 1st through 3rd grades next year.
  • I would really like to involve community members as volunteer camp counselors next year, particularly if they have relevant experience with technology (but not excluding those who do not).
  • We needed to create separate Scratch accounts for each student. My thinking was to use a single, camp login, which would put every project conveniently on the same page. Unfortunately, this resulted in chaos due to campers being constantly, unexpectedly logged off. Lesson learned.
  • Efforts should be made to contact families and remind them of camps when registration occurred weeks prior. The further from the registration date a camp was, the lower the percentage of attendance.

Parent comments:

  • “He was challenged and learned more about what computers can do.”
  • “He learned how to make anything control a computer and he’s happy with learning some programming.”
  • “I have been wanting to get my son started on tech knowledge, but I didn’t know where to start. This is a good launching point.”
  • “…make it a full week or 2 weeks at least”
  • “My child came home every day very excited about what she learned daily at camp. It’s great to hear that this camp sparked such an interest with her. Thanks!”

Overall, I was very pleased, and the many requests from parents for another opportunity next summer were very gratifying, as were the requests to incorporate more, similar experiences into the curriculum. Ultimately, I think this gave our students some valuable experiences, and we’ll hopefully see the fruits of the seeds we planted down the line.

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