Tag: 21st Century Skills (page 2 of 4)

Matador Innovators Team


Put 17 or 18 very bright, energetic, and creative students into a room with a variety of technology tools, give them some real-world (or out-of-the world) challenges, and watch their minds get to working. That is the basic idea behind a group I’ve started in our district, the Matador Innovators Team, or MIT. And, yes, the acronym was intentional. Could there be a better school for our students to want to emulate when it comes to technology and innovation? Also, there is zero reason why students from Seguin, Texas can’t or shouldn’t put prestigious schools like MIT on their radars for the future. Sometimes, a little subliminal messaging is a good thing.


My goals in starting this club are:

  • to provide students with opportunities to have hands-on experiences with technologies that go beyond the computer lab station.
  • to develop students’ collaboration, problem-solving, creativity, and innovation skills.
  • to foster interest in STEM activities and, possibly, careers.


The team consists primarily of 6th grade students, with one 3rd and one 4th grade student participating. 6th grade was selected as the focus age group because students are old enough to be able to take on some more advanced technology tasks, but too young to typically have such tech available as a part of the regular or elective curricula. One thing that was very surprising was that we only had a single girl applicant for this first season. Without any actual research, it can’t be definitively said what the reason for this is, but it is clear that I’ve got some work to do selling the program to our girls. Students had to pay a $20 fee to participate, which will be used to purchase team t-shirts, snacks, and consumables. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have several teachers and technology staff members volunteer their time to act as group mentors.


MIT has been in the planning stages since last fall. A grant from Allstate was secured to help with the initial purchase of materials. Information about the program was disseminated through the local paper in January, and applications made available at k-6 campuses. Applications were due the first week of February, and invitations sent the following week. We had our first workshop this Monday, February 25th. Workshops will take place after school each Monday through the remainder of the school year, and are 2 hours each.


MIT technology resourcesI’ve assembled what I hope will be a good variety of technology resources for allowing students to take some inventive, creative routes to problem solving. Here is a list of the primary resources:

  • Scratch
  • Makey Makey
  • PicoBoard
  • Raspberry Pi
  • Lego Mindstorms
  • Little Things
  • Computer components

As I learned from the very first workshop, it doesn’t appear as if the traditional teacher role will be the main task for me or my other mentors, either. It became very evident as we started working with Scratch, a brief introduction was followed rapidly by students taking the software in a myriad of directions, as they explored its capabilities. Our primary responsibility then becomes providing the questions and problems to focus all of that eager energy.

The Plan

For the rest of the semester, workshop time will focus on learning the basics of the new technologies, such as how a Picoboard can be used with Scratch, practicing, inventing, and solving problems. An example project might be to create a new version of an existing title, such as Space Invaders or PacMan or creating a device that alerts when a lightbulb is left on. Much of the planning for projects will take place as we proceed, in part because the open-ended nature I’m hoping we’ll achieve makes flexibility important.

I do plan on providing updates later in the semester, including sharing student projects. Even in the first meeting, I was honestly very stunned at the complexity of some of the students’ first attempts at Scratch, so I feel as if we’re off to a great start. To get some discussion going…

  • If you had (or do have) a similar program starting (participants, technologies), what kinds of questions would you ask? What kinds of problems would your students tackle? 
  • What technologies am I neglecting to include?
  • What are you already doing to give kids similar experiences?
  • How can we do it better?

TCEA Areas 10 & 11 Conference: Creative and Innovative Technologies

Resources to promote creativity and innovation in the classroom:

Resources to inspire creativity and innovation:

Using iDevices to Enhance Creativity

The iPad and iPod have great potential as tools for promoting the 21st century skill of creativity. Apps designers have produced an endless stream of tools for making music, creating works of art, creative writing and storytelling, and promoting outside-the-box thinking. The following apps are but a few examples that hold promise for the classroom teacher. If you have favorite creativity apps not mentioned, please feel free to share them!


  • Magic Fiddle($2.99)–This app turns the iPad into a concert violin. The app includes an interactive tutorial, songbook, free play, and world feature, which allows users to listen to other users around the globe.



  • Songify (FREE)–Songify is a fun app that lets users create and share original songs. Users simply speak the lyrics into the iPad or iPod microphone, and Songify puts the lyrics to music. Songs can be saved and shared through email, Facebook, or Twitter.
  • Six Strings ($6.99)–Play a variety of virtual stringed instruments (guitar, mandolin, banjo, ukulele) or drums. Users can select a variety of chords and keys. Songs can be mixed with loops from a built-in library, saved, and exported.
  • LaDiDa ($2.99)–Creates songs by automatically putting users’ singing to music. Songs can be shared via email, Facebook, or Twitter.
  • Ocarina ($.99)–Turns the iPod or iPad into a beautiful electronic flute. Users can record and share songs via email. Like Magic Fiddle, users can also listen to others playing Ocarina around the world.
  • LeafTBone ($.99)–Fun app turns iDevices into virtual trombones, played either by touch or by a combination of blowing into the built-in microphone and touching the screen.
  • Garage Band ($4.99)–Powerful app lets users play and record virtual instruments, record voice tracks, mix and edit multiple tracks, and share songs via email or through iTunes.


  • Animation Studio ($1.99)–Powerful, bargain-priced animation tool. Create frame-by-frame animations, import photos, record audio, use text-to-speech, and more. Files can be saved as .mov files or exported directly to YouTube.
  • DoInk($4.99)–Great animation tool lets users create frame-by-frame animations or use a built-in library of backgrounds and props. Animations can be shared via the DoInk website.

    Flipboom Draw HD

    FlipBoom Draw HD

  • ShowMe (FREE)–Record drawings and narration on a virtual whiteboard. Share via the ShowMe website. Great tool for recording instructional videos. Videos can be shared via Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or email.
  • ScreenChomp  (FREE)– Another wonderful tool for recording drawings and voice narration. Videos can be shared to ScreenChomp’s website without an account, where they can be viewed by URL or downloaded as .mpeg files.
  • ArtStudio ($2.99)–Great drawing tool with a wide variety of brushes, textures, and effects. Create layered drawings, similar to Photoshop or Illustrator.
  • DrawCast (FREE)–Simple but powerful drawing tool. Drawings can be saved or shared via email or Facebook.
  • FlipBoom Draw HD ($4.99)–Frame-by-frame animation app suitable for even younger students. Animations can be stored in the image gallery or shared by email or through YouTube.
  • Scribble Kid (FREE)–Simple drawing app suitable for primary students. Includes shape and background library.
  • Drawing Pad ($1.99)–Fun drawing tool with a wide range of pencils, pens, brushes, stickers, and more. Suitable for elementary aged students. Drawings can be stored to the image gallery or shared via Twitter, Facebook, or email.
  • Singing Fingers (FREE)–Create drawings by touching the screen while making sounds, then swipe over them to play back.

Creative Thinking

  • Total Recall (FREE)–Nice, basic mindmapping tool. Create mindmaps and share via email as .pdf files or as images.
  • iBrainstorm (FREE)–Cool brainstorm tool that uses drawing tools and sticky notes. Best of all, users can install the free iBrainstorm Companion app, which lets multiple users connect to the same project for collaboration. Share products through email or save as images.
  • Mindjet (FREE)–Tons of features for a free app. Mindjet lets users build powerful mindmaps including images and links. Users can share as .pdf files via email or sync directly to DropBox or the Mindjet Connect website, where maps can be shared or edited collaboratively.
  • SimpleMind+ (FREE)–Stylish mindmapping app allows for creation of large maps in a range of styles. Maps can be shared via email as .pdf or image files. A desktop application is available (paid) that lets users share and collaborate on maps directly on a Mac or PC.

Creative Writing

  • StoryLines (FREE)–App lets students create collaborative stories. Participants take turns alternately adding text or drawings to produce creative stories, which can be shared via Facebook.
  • StoryKit (FREE)–Create digital storybooks using text, images, and drawings. Upload stories to the Storykit servers and share with others via URL.
  • StoryRobe ($.99)–Create digital stories using images and recorded narration. Stories can be shared via email or by uploading directly to YouTube.
  • DemiBooks Composer (FREE)–Create interactive books, including effects such as sound, motion, gravity, and more. Books can be shared via iTunes or Dropbox (must be viewed in Composer).
  • Scribble Press (FREE)–Create books from drawings, photos, or text, share with a global audience as ebooks or order printed copies.


  • DV Prompter (FREE)–Simple teleprompter app.
  • Green Screen Movie FX ($1.99)–Tool for creating green screen effects, superimposing video on top of other video.
  • Silent Film Director ($.99)–Create retro-looking videos, including 6 filters, included soundtracks, speed controls, more.
  • Splice (FREE)–Remarkably powerful free video editing tool, includes ability to use photos, videos, soundtracks (included), special effects, adjust speed, more.
  • Super 8 ($.99)–Create cool, retro videos, including scratched film effects, credits, titles, more.
  • ReelDirector ($1.99)–Easy-to-use video editor, allows use of video or images, cropping clips, special effects, layered music/sound, more.
  • Videolicious (FREE)–Create short movies with video introduction, narration, background music, and transition effects.
  • 8mm ($1.99)–Another tool for creating retro video effects; includes 7 filters, ability to include filmstrip sounds, jitter effect.


  • Home Design HD (FREE)–Create 3D floor plans, including furniture, doors, windows, custom floors, walls, etc. Images can’t be saved by the free version, so use the iPad/iPod screen grab feature to save.
  • Casey’s Contraptions ($2.99)–Solve puzzles by creating virtual Rube Goldberg machines, or simply create your own imaginative machine.
  • Scribblenauts Remix ($.99)–Use imaginative means to get characters through, over, or around obstacles and enable them to complete a variety of tasks.

TCEA Areas 10/11 Conference Presentation

The following are a Prezi I’ll be using on Saturday, March 26th, when I present the keynote address at the TCEA Areas 10 and 11 annual conference and a Google document with additional resources. The theme of this year’s conference is “Going Global”. I’ll be discussing the importance of fostering global awareness in our students and sharing online resources and tips for teachers to use in the curriculum. The Google document is editable, and I would welcome additional resources to be added.

Google Document

Lodge McCammon on Music in the Classroom

At the TCEA convention this week, I had the privilege of attending a reception put on by the good folks at Discovery Education. At the reception, we were introduced to Dr. Lodge McCammon, who is a Specialist in Curriculum and Contemporary Media at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University. Lodge shared some fantastic music videos that teacher participants at Discovery’s pre-conference workshop had presented and talked briefly about his work creating music videos for Discovery Education. His videos cover advanced science, math, and social studies topics, and they are available at Discovery Education’s Streaming video site (search Lodge McCammon). We talked briefly about his work and research (including a fascinating bit about how traditional music affects the brain versus rap music’s effect), and he was gracious enough to give me a few minutes to ask him about his thoughts on music in traditional subject areas. For more information on his work, visit his website, Iamlodge.com.

Web 2.0 in BISD: An Amazing Impact

Schools are popular targets of those who wish to find a scapegoat for every societal ill from a sour economy to the pitiful season the Dallas Cowboys put us through this year. I believe we are part of the problem, because we don’t do enough to shout about our successes from every rooftop in every community. While I don’t pretend all schools are equally successful, neither are they equal failures. The budget crisis looming for Texas and for its schools, in particular, has heightened my own awareness of the need to become self-promoters. I intend to devote more time than ever before in sharing the ways that our schools are using technology to engage students like never before and to give them opportunities to learn in a real way, infused with 21st century tools and skills. Our communities and leaders need to see how amazing things are happening, not just the negative, isolated events that make our newscasts.

In the spirit of this resolution, I wanted to share some of the ways that Web 2.0 technologies have had a powerful impact on our students, teachers, and schools in Birdville. It has been just 4 short years since I had the opportunity to share my vision for Web 2.0 with our district’s leadership team. It has exceeded my expectations in many ways, and is the most gratifying thing I’ve been a part of as an instructional technology specialist. It has not only made learning more relevant and engaging. It has also thrust our district into the national spotlight, as we have been cited for our progressive stance toward use of the vast Internet resources available. We have been assembling a slide show that highlights how tools such as YouTube, Glogster, Google Docs, Xtranormal, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, wikis, podcasts, Skype, and many more are being put to powerful use in the district. The show is embedded below, or is alternately viewable here. More examples will be added in the coming weeks. I hope they might provide some inspiration for teachers looking for ways to use the technologies in the curriculum.

Creativity Visualized

Here is a Wordle that I generated using the responses you gave to my first 12 Second Tech Challenge question: What is creativity? I’m not sure how to interpret the significance of the word “something” being the most frequently used, but I think it has to do with the fact that creativity should know no boundaries. We have the ability to apply creativity to every subject and virtually every situation, when we are allowed to do so. I think the other words speak for themselves and do a great job of illustrating the key elements of creativity. Thanks to everyone who participated!

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