Category Archives: Technology

Coding with Blue-Bots and Bee-Bots

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This year I’ve been doing a lot of work with Lower Primary in regards to Digital Technology, especially with Blue-Bots. A Blue-Bot is similar to a Bee-Bot, however it has enhanced functionality by being able to be blue-toothed to a device and connect to the BlueBot app. You can read about some of the similarities and differences here.

We bought some of these transparent pocket mats from Modern Teaching Aids so that we could create our own mats for the students to code the Blue-Bots around – I found blocks for Rosie’s Walk, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and The Gingerbread Man all from the Sparklebox website, for free. I simply found the matching picture book on our library shelves and sat the book with the cards and the mat so that students could arrange the cards in the mat wherever they liked and then read the story. As they read, or after they read, they take turns to code the Blue-Bot to move to each part of the story pictured. Great idea for using during narratives or retells for Literacy!bluebots

For Maths, there are these Coding Challenge Cards. I like to ask my students to estimate what shape the BlueBot would draw/make with the given instructions, then test if their prediction was correct! I also found these cool Bee-Bot rulers for using Bee-Bots or Blue-Bots for measurement activities in Maths.IMG_4626

This set of resources is courtesy of the Teach YourChildren Well website and is easily adaptable for many different year levels. It has a huge range of challenges and our Year 7 & 8 students used them and referenced different angles on the map, terminology such as ‘as the crow flies’ to determine difference distances travelled and distance conversions using a variety of given map scales. These devices aren’t just for Primary kids!

My students have also loved creating their own mazes for the Blue-Bots to travel through –  a fantastic opportunity for them to explore width of tracks, estimating how long it should be and the types of materials they should use. They used building blocks, stationary, Lego…so many different things!

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I’d love to hear of any other ideas you’ve used with your Blue-Bots or Bee-Bots!

Please note, I have not created any of these resources myself, but have given you the link to the original source!

Setting up your classroom!

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As we approach the end of another school year, my mind immediately jumps to the beginning of next year and what I’m going to do differently, or keep the same…new posters or furniture arrangements, what apps we need on which iPads…

I’m sure I’m not alone.

However for the last 2 years I haven’t had a classroom to set up and I won’t have do do it for 2018 either. But it got me thinking about all the different classrooms that I rotate through and the types of things I would be focusing on as a teacher – if I was staying in the same room, or moving to a different one!

Displays:

  • Do you have a designated wall space for different subjects? Where do you display anchor charts for various subjects? Or key terminology?
    I am a big believer in visual literacy around the classroom, including word walls, a ‘maths dictionary’ wall and I’ve recently introduced a VCOP wall into one of the classrooms I teach in. In the past, I’ve also had a ‘Wall (or Window) of Fame’ for any students who are featured in our newsletter or local newspaper – I simply cut out the article and blu-tack it to the area – a great way to showcase students and make them feel important. Birthday charts are also a way to help students feel valued, as well as a way to remember and plan for any birthday cupcakes that may be brought it!
    I also like to include very clear instructions and guidelines. These posters from First Grade Glitter and Giggles were used quite often in my class, to avoid me repeating myself.
    A few other things to consider: are you going to display a visual timetable for each day, or have a classroom helper display?

Door:

  • Do you have photos or names of all students at the entrance to your class?
    I always had some sort of theme to my class, so in the past I’ve created door labels with their names and our class logo, or ones with their photo. I’ve used similar labels for their lockers or bag hooks and if using set seating, I’ve attached labels to desks.
    If your class has a name, for example the Year 2 Rainbow Fish, I always display that on the door too!

Stationary:

  • Where will your students keep their stationary and books?
    My students have often had their own pencilcases with everything inside. The problem I often found is that even though parents were asked, they didn’t get everything labelled and things went missing and suddenly I had 8 kids in my class without a pair of scissors.

    Sometimes I had pencilcases just for coloured pencils, textas and crayons and I kept the greyleads, erasers, scissors and gluesticks in a communal area for all students to access. I found this worked really well, as students were required to work together to keep all the resources clean and tidy for the whole class to use. Depending on the grade level, I’ve also had tubs on tables with coloured pencils, textas and crayons too, so there were no pencilcases in my classroom at all.

    I created book covers for each of my different subjects (usually an A4 size) and on the first few days of school, we spent a few minutes here or there colouring them in, so that students could personalise them. If students wanted their books covered in patterned contact, I simply attached it to the front of their book using a piece of clear contact. Unfortunately the ones I used to make were made using Microsoft Publisher before I used a Macbook, so here are some other ideas I found.

Notes from home:

  • Where will you collect permission notes, or late slips?
    I used to just have a pile of notes that I’d collect and then potentially lose them. I made myself a little mail box, so instead of giving notes to me, students would just slip them inside and I’d collect them all at the end of day when I wasn’t doing 20 other things and could deliver them to the office without getting distracted!
    I found that it was also important to designate a box in the classroom for Library Book Returns, so that if students brought their books back before our allocated day, there was somewhere to keep them safe.

 

Hope you’ve found this helpful – comment with any extra ideas that you have for helping set up a classroom!
(I could go on and on, but nobody likes to read a whole essay!)

Diving into Scratch Jnr!

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Earlier this year, I excitedly mentioned to my colleague @erinlucie that there was an iPad app as a prelude to the coding application Scratch. I whipped my iPad out and opened the app, only to find that I had NO idea how to use it and couldn’t seem to make anything happen/move on it. Fast forward a few months and I have since used the Scratch Jnr app twice. By myself, for about 10 minutes each time. However, it’s loaded onto all of the iPads in Prep-6 at our school, so yesterday at lunch two of my Prep students opened it up and asked me how to use it.

Following my basic instructions, this is what was produced by a very excited 5 year old.

Let’s talk about how basic my instructions were. They went something like this:

Me: Hey, do you think we could make the cat by giving it some instructions?
Her: Ok.
Me: The green flag is the button that makes the cat do what we tell it. So we need to click on the yellow button, to find the green flag button. That tells the cat to start moving.
Her: I found it and I pressed it but it didn’t do anything.
Me: We need to drag it next to the grey cat outline. Now that we have the start button, let’s choose a direction for him to move. Click on the blue arrow and drag an arrow down to connect to the green flag button, just like a jigsaw puzzle.

Aaaaaaand, that was about it. Seriously. The most technical terms I used were ‘instructions’, ‘button’ and ‘drag’. I didn’t even mention the words ‘coding’, ‘blocks’ or ‘algorithm’, that will be the next lesson. After telling the cat when to stop moving (by finishing the instructions with a red ‘stop’ button), she pressed the green flag at the top to start the movements – she was stoked!!

After this, we inserted a background: “Click on the picture of the sky and grass”. Then we added a second character and discovered that by clicking on the paintbrush next to it, you can edit the character’s colours! The final part that we added was some talking – a simple speech bubble – I did the typing, she did the talking!

Today in the Prep/1 class, we all opened up Scratch Jnr and had a go. We followed some instructions step by step (the same ones as yesterday) and then they had some free time to explore the app. Within 2 minutes, a student had discovered how to record her own voice to add it to her instructions. Here’s what we ended up with – the last one is the one I made after talking about the miracle of Jesus calming the storm – I’m pretty proud of the 10 minutes I spent on it and the kids even got to add the sound effects!!

Please don’t be afraid to give it a go! I’m bursting with ideas as to how I can use this in my Term 4 Integrated Studies program – creating narratives and fairytales!

Slow-motion videos with 6 year olds

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Last week I had the brainy idea of teaching my Prep/1 class how to make a slow motion video in our digital technology time. Why? It seemed like something that could be fun, looks at logical thinking and step-by-step processing, as well as integrating some teamwork!

To start, I modelled it. I chose 2 plastic animals from the toy tub, sat the kids in a circle around it and showed them what the iMotion app looked like on their iPad. I showed them how to press ‘New Movie’ and press the ‘finger’ button (for manual image capture, rather than on a timer) and then I asked each of them one at a time to move the little frog a tiny bit closer to the dinosaur. As each child moved the frog, I took a photo. After 15 photos, the frog was at the dinosaur! I talked about stopping – pressing the stop button TWO times, and then how to watch the video. The kids were so amazed that I could speed it up, or slow it down.

I let them go off in pairs, armed with an iPad to share and a range of toys to create scenes to capture. It had varying degrees of success, ranging from tantrums due to partner arguments to not being able to keep the camera still, stealing toys from other groups, or taking photos of our partner’s body as they moved the toys.

Yesterday, I came armed with 3 different mazes drawn on A4 paper. This time, they had to place an object at the ‘end’ of the maze and move another object from the ‘start’ to the ‘end’. Here’s what we got: (the last one is probably the most successful, but bear with me!)

Lessons learnt:

  • Think about some sort of tripod – some kids can’t comprehend the concept of keeping the camera still…fair enough, they’re only little!
  • When exporting the final product, make sure it’s at a speed that is easily viewable
  • Talk about not rushing the photos so that nobody’s arm/face/back/nostril is in the way
  • Explain how to turn the iPad up the right way, so the video isn’t upside down!

Not bad for our second attempt! Hopefully we’ll be able to use this knowledge to demonstrate how plants grow….or some sort of sustainability focus!

It’s flipping contagious!

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flipped classroom

Following on from my first attempt at Flipped Learning, a few other colleagues have expressed interest in seeing how it can be used as a valuable tool. So, I set up a few announcements for them in our staff Google Classroom, to introduce them to the concept and to give them some resources and ideas. I’ve copied the announcements that I gave to my colleagues (which also could’ve been sent via email) for you below.

ANNOUNCEMENT 1:
Flipped Learning: giving your students meaningful teacher time while being able to work with others, usually done through the use of videos. Teachers who are not confident at creating their own videos can use videos created by other teachers!

These are the videos I made for the Year 1 class so they could research their own country. As each group watched and listened to their video, they were writing down the facts on their paper proforma. 
What was I doing for the lesson? Roaming the room, showing students how to pause, rewind, replay and helping them find the correct box for each piece of information.
How long did the videos take me to make? None of them are longer than a minute. By the time I added a pretty filter and edited the captions, and saved to my Google Drive, each video took me about 5 minutes in total. 
What did I use to make the videos? My iPhone! I used the Apple Clips app, which allows you to select captions, so that as you talk the text appears on the screen (as mentioned above, you can edit the captions if your enunciation isn’t clear enough for dear old Siri to translate!!)

ANNOUNCEMENT 2:
A short video and quiz to explore Flipped Learning! Click the Google Form below to check it out!
https://goo.gl/forms/YT9rT192xbyNaPRV2

After speaking to my Principal, we also ordered the Flipped Learning book bundle, and as soon as they arrived, I covered them and handed the out the Flipped Learning for Science and Flipped Learning for English to the relevant teachers.

What has happened so far?
Our primary school Art teacher, who also teaches high school Design, Creativity & Technology thought that Flipped Learning would be a great idea to implement in her sewing units. Instead of her explaining (and repeating, and repeating, and repeating herself) how to sew on a button, or use a slip-stitch, she searched Youtube for 2 videos explaining each of these concepts. Her thinking is that she can introduce it, but while viewing the video, students can pause, follow the instructions and then keep going to finished the process. Her question then was, “How do I get these videos to the kids to watch?”
My answer: Google Classroom. The Primary Art classes already had a Google Classroom set up, so I showed her how to:

  • create a new announcement
  • insert the selected Youtube video
  • type a brief description
  • select the students who she wanted to share it with (only the Year 3/4 class needed to see it, not the whole Primary school)
  • send the announcement

(If you don’t have Google Classroom, my suggestion would to be create a QR code linked to the video, so students can access it. Other options would to be placing the video link on a class blog, or common server, Edmodo class, or email it to each student. It really depends on your technology arrangements.)

I’m so excited to see Flipped Learning being used so quickly after introducing it to staff. I have some time off when she is teaching this class tomorrow, so I can’t wait to pop in and see how it all goes!

 

 

Flipped Learning for the first time

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For the last few years, I’ve seen LOTS about flipped learning in the classroom. I didn’t get it and thought it was way too much effort, for not a whole lot of visible result.
I tried it today. For the following reasons:

  • My Year 1 students are researching different countries from a list that we devised. I wanted them to be collecting information, but they cannot read well enough to sift through kid-friendly geography websites, or books from the library.
  • There are 6 different countries being covered by the class. How do I have 1:1 time with each group of kids, whilst keeping the others engaged, without using meaningless time-filler activities?
  • We have 1:1 iPads, so students have access to video content.
  • The students are researching the these 6 specific questions:
    • What is the name of the country? 
    • What language is spoken in this country?
    • Which other places is this country close to?
    • What is the weather like in this country?
    • What do people in this country eat?
    • What is one interesting fact about this country?

Here’s how I implemented flipped learning:

  • I wrote a short blurb about each country, covering the content needed to answer the questions, plus a few interesting facts including capital cities and sports.
  • I whipped my phone out and recorded myself using Apple Clips, with captions appearing as I spoke. Each video was no longer than 50 seconds. I added filters, to be fancy and disguise the lack of makeup I was wearing in some of them. Ha.
  • I saved them straight to my Google Drive.
  • In Google Classroom (which we use regularly) I created announcements for each group of students researching each country.
    Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 8.41.29 pm
  • Students were given their paper proforma, with 6 boxes to write in. They sat next to their other group members, even though they each had their own iPad and headphones to listen and write independently.
  • Students watched the video once right through. As they finished, I asked them to use their pencils and start to write down some of the answers in the boxes. I showed them how to pause the video to give them time to write, which was helpful as they could copy the spelling from the captions if they needed!

What did I notice?

  • Students were helping each other. They were sharing their answers and thoughts, teaching each other how to rewind and pause and showing their group members which box to write their information in.
  • Every single student was engaged – the only conversation happening was about the videos, or their countries!
  • Every single student filled in every single one of their boxes. Sure, I assisted each of them in various different ways, but even the boy who struggles the most to stay focused and get anything on paper managed this task.
  • They were so excited to share their new information!

Will I use flipped learning again? Absolutely. Yes, it took me probably 30 minutes to make the videos, upload and assign to Google Classroom, plus about 20 to type all my country information up. 50 minutes in total, the same time as my actual lesson. But if I hadn’t done it this way, I would probably have spent at least 3 lessons reading information to them, repeating it 6 times, helping them spell it and driving myself crazy!

Flipped learning for the win!

What is eSafety & how do I teach it?

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If you attended my DigiCon17 or EdTechSA workshop, please find my presentation below!

https://app.emaze.com/@AORRCFFQL/what-isand-how-do-i

GAFE with 5-year-olds.

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Yes, they can do it!

How? With your help.

This year, I am responsible for helping implement digital technology across the school, including in the Prep/1 classroom I teach in every afternoon. At the beginning of the year, all students from Years 2-10 were set up with their own Google account. After following Christine Pinto on Twitter for the last 12 months, I was fully convinced that students in Prep & Year 1 needed their own Google account too. We have 1:1 iPads, so I didn’t see how it could be a problem!

I asked our IT tech to set them up for me, and patiently waited. Within a week of the Prep/1 students having their own Google account, here’s what I did:

  • I placed all of the GAFE apps into a folder, and positioned it in the bottom bar of the iPad, for easy access. (Yes, I could have taught them how to do that, but at the start, I just needed to save myself some time. I’ll make sure I teach them how to create and move folders when the moment arises!)
  • I signed into Google Classroom for them (after school, the day before I needed it). (I am fully aware that this is not logistically possible for every teacher in every classroom. The class I’m talking about only has 13 students. But there are other ways around it – Year 6 Buddies to help, giving students their email address & password on a card, setting up keyboard shortcuts that inserts your school email address after the @ symbol…problem solve, you’ll get there!)

But how did I get the students to USE the GAFE apps? Well, the beauty of being 1:1 is that each student uses their iPad over & over, so they can stay signed in on the one device – no signing in and out constantly.

The first step was Google Classroom. I learnt from Alice Keeler & Christine Pinto that keeping your assignments numbered is a great way to keep track of them – and for students who can’t read yet. Despite many of them not yet being able to read properly, I still added written instructions for each assignment and I read them aloud for the students. I would ask them to look for the number 1 and press on the number. We would talk about the ‘plus’ button to add different things, like the ‘camera’ button to take a photo immediately, or the ‘mountain’ button to add a photo that we had taken earlier and was sitting in our camera roll.

A lot of the time, I add a Google Slide or Sheet to the assignment and allow it to create a copy for each student, so that each student would have the same template, but could input their own information. In Integrated Studies, we are looking at Friendship and the qualities of different people, so each student made an Introducing Me page in a collaborative Google Slide. They learnt how to find the slide with their name on it (all of the boys slides were green, all of the girls slides were orange), double tap in the text box, place the cursor after the words that were already there, and type their name, favourite colour and age. On the same slide, they learnt how to press the ‘plus’ button and take a photo, insert it and then use the ‘blue handles’ to change the size of their photo so that it wasn’t covering the text. We still had a few minutes left, so they also inserted a shape and changed the fill colour!

Introduce Me 1

Introduce Me 2

Yes, I use the proper vocabulary, most of the time. I talk about the flashing stick line being called the ‘cursor’ and the plus button being called ‘insert’. I talk about the writing that we do as ‘text’ and talk about the ‘text box’. I talk about Google Slides being the white app with the orange square being named ‘Google Slides’, so they’re getting a visual and a name to learn and relate it to.

They CAN do it! I use Google Classroom at least twice a week in my Prep/1 lessons (I’m only in there in the afternoons, and we also have Music, Library & Garden in my timeslots!), but my next step is to empower the other classroom teacher to use it more confidently. I have added her to the classroom and she can see everything that I post and that the kids submit, but so far, she’s just an observer!

I like to tell my colleagues that Google Classroom is another platform for collecting student work, without collecting piles of paper. One of the added benefits (believe me, there are HEAPS) is that students can submit more than just written work – my Prep/1 class have uploaded videos they’ve created using Explain Everything and Chatterpix, so they are learning oral language skills by recording and listening to their own voice.

My challenge is to integrate GAFE into each of our classrooms seamlessly, so that it’s not something ‘extra’ to use or facilitate, but that it becomes second nature to students and teachers!

Our Interschool STEM Day

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In 2016, two of my colleagues worked together to hold an Interschool STEM Day, to encourage local Year 6 students to work in teams to create a solution to a problem.

Using resources from the IET Faraday website, they adapted and orchestrated a mammoth day for the students to build a device to move one litre of water from the Stadium floor, into a bucket which sat on a platform. It was a challenge designed around pumps, water wheels and water pressure.

This year, one of my colleagues was on paternity leave, so I stepped in to help his teammate. Together, Jodie and I researched a new challenge for the day based around medical engineering – build a device to conduct a remote operation to pick up a ‘kidney’ and a ‘heart’ and place them in the correct place on the body.

We had 75 students from 12 different school register, 24 teams in total. The ideal team number was 3, however a few schools only had 4 Year 6 students in total, which we allowed. The stadium was set up with medical themed decorations, x-rays, lab coats, and medicinal charts. There were ‘Research Stations’, with laptops playing videos on loop with ideas and strategies that may give students inspiration. A hot glue gun station was set up, as was our STEM shop, where all of the building materials for the day were ready to be purchased by the teams.

The day started with a video about medical engineering to put the day into context, how operating theatres rely on robotics and other technology to assist them in procedures. Students were asked to sketch in their Challenge Workbooks a way to move an object from one place to another without physically touching it with their body. We introduced the ideas of forces – push/pull, levers, scoops, suction etc.

Each team was given a budget of $150 STEM dollars. They were required to plan their design, keeping their budget in mind. They were to assign roles to each group member and also create a ‘Learning Log’ using an assigned iPad, to create a documentary-style video of their manufacturing process.

Our school Kitchen Garden coordinator provided us with lunch and students received a small show bag with water and snacks for recess and their workbooks. We operated on a continual scoring system using Google Sheets so that both of us organisers could access to add scores and annotations throughout the day. Students received scores for their design briefs, their sketches, accuracy of their account balance ledger, effectiveness of their design and their teamwork skills.

After lunch, students packed up their tables and we sat down to perform 24 mock heart (ping pong ball) and kidney (ping pong ball) transplants. An iPad was placed above the operating table, where our cardboard cutout body and his foil tray organ chambers lay waiting. This iPad was to live-stream the action on the table, not just for the audience, but for the ‘surgeon’ operating the device. Just like in an operating theatre, the surgeon would be using the large screen to guide his actions while his vision to the cardboard body was blocked by a curtain.

Students had to work around certain parameters – the device must be able to reach a distance of 50cm, it must be able to pick up and drop objects accurately and both heart and kidney must be transplanted in just 90 seconds – it’s life or death for our cardboard body!!

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The winning team was gifted with a set of 6 Makey Makey kits to take back to their school to encourage creative and critical thinking to assist on their STEM journey!

There were many different designs – some more successful than others. There were many levels of teamwork and many different conversations that filled the stadium. The teachers who accompanied the teams from their school were pleased to see such collaboration and skill – not just for those students who excelled in the classroom.

Go Team STEM!

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Using iPads in Literacy Rotations

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Many classrooms use the concept of Literacy Rotations in their classrooms, but struggle to find a way to keep each group engaged while they work with a focus group.

Below are some iPad-based ideas for Literacy Rotations, which of course you would use with a combination of non-iPad rotation activities, we know that just because you can do things on an iPad doesn’t mean it’s better!

  • ReadTheory – free to sign up, create classes and individual student logins. Students start with a pre-test to assess their initial reading level, by reading short passages and answering comprehension questions. By getting questions correct, students earn points and badges and teachers can consistently monitor progress. Fantastic for independent reading time. A colleague has been using this in her Year 8 English class and the students are loving it!
  • Pobble365 – free to use without an account, this website features a picture prompt for every day of the year, with a Story Starter for students to continue, or Question Time for students to answer questions about what they’ve just read. For independent Literacy Rotations, I would use either of these sections for the students to visit on their iPad – they could copy and paste the Story Starter into a Google Doc to continue writing, or create a Google Slide with their Question Time questions and answers. If students work in pairs, they could create an interview using the Camera app & iMovie, with one student being the interviewer and the other the interviewee.
  • Book Creator – there is a web version of this coming out soon, but the app works well for almost any subject! I loved using this in Literacy Rotations after the students had done a Guided Reading with the teacher to create a Book Quiz, for the other members of the group to answer. Students would take photos of the book, insert them into their book and then type their quiz question on the page. I then asked students to use the audio recording function to record the answer, so students completing the book quiz could find out the correct answer if needed. We often talked about Head, Heart & Hands comprehension questions to encourage more critical thinking. I also like the idea of creating an interactive dictionary using this app, by students recording words that are new to them, or really interesting words and using the audio function to record their definition, or explanation in their own words – plus images if they need! Other ways I’ve used Book Creator can be found here.
  • Popplet – I’ve used Popplet in so many different ways, from brainstorming character qualities, to spelling. I love Popplet as you students can use the pen function, insert images from the camera roll and export their finished Popplet. In my lower primary class, I use it to help segment words into their individual sounds.

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  • PicCollage – I used this for descriptive writing, in this blog post, but have also used it to create a collection of words that all start with the same letter, by taking photos, or looking for the same sound in magazines and newspapers.

This is just a tiny drop in the ocean of the multitude of different ways that you could integrate iPads in the Literacy block!