For many of us, at least in the United States, another school year is over. Even as we eagerly embark on our rejuvenation journeys for the summer, you might be thinking, as I am, of new ideas for the next school year. This week, I would like to share some of the improvements I hope to make in my classroom for the 2013-2014 school year. Today’s post is about using Skype in the classroom.
I say that I am going to do it every year, and I never do. I tried it once a few years ago, and it was a bit of a disaster – completely disorganized, kids who were bored watching other kids doing it, kids who were doing it with nothing to day.
I love that the site deals with the logistics, like assigned roles for the students, and possible questions. I really could have used both of those things during our first experience!
I definitely plan to try this with my first graders next year. Our theme is “Folktales” and we read stories from around the world. At that age, even gifted first graders are still trying to figure out the differences between cities, countries, and continents – and they are absolutely fascinated with looking up locations on the globe and on Google Earth.
I also found Skype in the Classroom, which gives even more resources.
I’m trying to think of other ways to use Skype besides the typical ones (interviewing an author or learning about an international classroom). One way that I am considering is to bring it in to our Systems Thinking unit by having the students from different countries respond to a global issue and the way they see it effecting them. Along the same lines, they could discuss their reactions to an event in history. It might be fun to take some common idioms from different cultures and have the students complete or interpret them. I’d also like to get some people to speak to my students about their passions, and Skype could open this up to more than local leaders.
Here are some more Skype resources in case you are interested. However, I would love to hear any ideas you may have that are NOT on this list!
For many of us, at least in the United States, another school year is over. Even as we eagerly embark on our rejuvenation journeys for the summer, you might be thinking, as I am, of new ideas for the next school year. This week, I would like to share some of the improvements I hope to make in my classroom for the 2013-2014 school year. Today’s post is about the benefits of teaching programming to our students.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you have probably noticed that I am a huge advocate for teaching programming to kids. You can see this trend building in a lot of the education blogs and professional publications. Like all trends, it needs to be done right so that it will not be a colossal failure or a “flash in the pan.” Here is why it should be done, and how I plan on doing it next year in my classroom.
Why We Should Teach Programming to Kids
I think that there is a misconception that this is all about teaching kids a new “language” that is useful in the career market. While that is, perhaps, one of the benefits, I think that it should not be the main purpose. Programming languages evolve quickly, and teaching a specific one might be likened to teaching Latin. It can help you to decode other languages, but it is unlikely you will use it daily.
I learned Basic when I was in high school. I haven’t used it since. But I still remember some very important lessons that I learned in that class that can be extrapolated for real life.
The most important lesson was that, if you are not getting the results you want, you can’t keep doing the same thing. I remember the first couple of times a program did not work the way I wanted it to, and I kept saying to the computer, “That’s not what you’re supposed to be doing.”
Once I realized that I only had myself to blame, I would set about finding out what I had done wrong. This led to the next life lesson – find the real source of the problem or your “fix” will make things worse. Sometimes I had to dig deep into the code to figure it out, but would not realize that until I had tried one or two simple revisions that would end in disaster.
When programming, you also advance through the Scientific Process, and learn to change one variable at a time if your conclusion is not what you expected.
And finally, programming is not all about logic. Once you understand the code, you can use your imagination to create unusual, unique, and even beautiful programs.
What I Plan to Do Next Year
As some of my colleagues pointed out this year, Programming falls very easily into something that we already have in our curriculum for elementary gifted students – Systems Thinking. Now that I am becoming familiar with Tynker through the online summer class I’m offering, I plan to use Tynker with my 3rd graders during our Systems Thinking unit. If you want to start anywhere with programming (from about 7 or 8 years old and up), I would highly recommend Tynker as you can create classes and monitor student progress very easily. Plus, it has an engaging curriculum of projects.
I want to weave programming throughout my K-5 gifted classes, so I will begin my Kinders with the iPad app Daisy the Dinosaur. For 1st, we will move on to Kodable, and for second, Hopscotch. (I may switch these last 2 around – I need to play with them more to determine difficulty levels.)
If you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment. Also, for even more links for Programming for Kids, feel free to visit my Pinterest board on this topic.
Well, I finally did it. I finally found an app that is free, happens to be available on both Android and iOS, is engaging, and is educational.
FlipPixArt is based on an old Japanese logic puzzle that offers a matrix and clues about which boxes should be colored in each row and column. By using the numbers at the top of each column and the beginning of each row, one must deduce the correct boxes to “paint” and which ones to “hammer” out of the picture.
Once the puzzle is solved, an object or animal is added to the scene at the beginning of the game. In the free “Zoo” version, there is one scene with 36 puzzles needed to complete it. Recently, the “Holiday” version went free (though I don’t know for how long), and it has 6 holiday scenes with 74 puzzles. However, one of the scenes in the “Holiday” version is a bar scene, so I would not recommend it for educational purposes. There are many other versions – including the Kids one – some are for free, and some cost. So far, my favorite free one is the Model Plane version. There is also a Jurassic one that is sure to appeal to some of those dinosaur enthusiasts.
This is a good app for the classroom because it allows for different players on the same device, so they can each play at their own level. It also offers a great tutorial. I would say that this is a good app for 3rd grade and up, though younger children can probably enjoy it with a bit of guidance.
I know this is a topic that is getting a bit repetitious on my blog, but I really can’t emphasize enough how important I think it is that we offer programming to our students at an early age. This article from MindShift, explains how learning programming has far-reaching effects, and should not be reserved for only those who aspire to careers in technology. ”Why Programming Teaches So Much More Than Technical Skills”, by Ian Quillen, explains 4 specific benefits of receiving an education in this area: Subject Mastery, Systems Thinking, Collaboration, and Passion.
Robotics clubs are a good start in the elementary schools, but we need to think about adding more. Here is my Pinterest board of resources for “Programming for Kids” with links to app, websites, and other articles of interest in this area.
First of all, I have a confession to make; I know very little about programming. What I do know is that it is wonderful for teaching problem solving skills and logic. I also know that those skills, and programming specifically, are in high demand in our nation’s job market.
Hopscotch is an iPod app that is free, and allows the player to create simple programs using methods similar to MIT’s Scratch (also free). I have mentioned two other apps – Daisy the Dinosaur and Cargobot – before on this blog, and I think Hopscotch fits perfectly between them. Daisy is a fabulous introduction to young children. Hopscotch would be the next logical stage. And Cargobot has more complex challenges. All of these apps are free.
Tynker is a web-based platform, and also looks similar to Scratch. I have not tried it yet, but read about it here. I just got my registration approved, and I am eager to try it. I used Codeacademy earlier this year with my students, but I am looking for something a bit more kid-friendly, and Tynker looks promising.
According to this Forbes online article, Hadi Partovi of Code.org ”cites estimates that 1.4 million programming jobs will be needed over the next decade while current projections are for only 400,000 graduates in the field.”
H/T to my co-worker, “D”, for forwarding me info about Hopscotch!
On April 9, 2012, the video, “Caine’s Arcade” was posted online for the world to see. I have posted about this truly inspiring video in the past, in addition to the subsequent formation of the Imagination Foundation. If you have never seen this video, you must make time to watch it. Caine is one of my heroes, and I am so glad that Nirvan Mullick chanced upon Caine’s Arcade, and realized what a wonderful story it would make. This is a true tale of imagination, perseverance, ingenuity, and problem solving. Mullick has posted some updates on the home page of Caine’s Arcade to let everyone know what has happened in the past year – including the over $200,000 raised in scholarship money for Caine. In addition, you can learn how you can help Mullick win a $100,000 grant to “foster creativity and imagination in more kids.”
Feel the need for a pick-me-up? Watch Caine show you the power of a positive attitude.
iSolveIt is brought to you by the Center for Applied Special Technology. CAST is “an educational research & development organization that works to expand learning opportunities for all individuals through Universal Design for Learning.”
Currently, there are two app for iDevices: MathSquared and MathScaled. What I like about both of these free apps is that they allow multiple people to register on one iPad, so when they are using it they can just log in, and continue with the level they last accessed. I also like that the apps have a few levels which allows you to work at your own pace. Another advantage is that each one has a “Scratch Pad” option, allowing you to make notes to help you with your game. And, finally, I am thrilled by the reasoning skils that are required to play each of these games. These are not “drill and kill” games.
What I didn’t like was that I could not find the instructions for either app within the app itself. I ended up going to the iSolveIt website to figure out what I was supposed to be doing for both games. The website has helpful directions and videos, but it would be nice to be able to have tutorials within the app.
If you like Sudoku and Ken-Ken, then MathSquared is the game for you. If you like balancing equations in Algebra, then MathScaled will appeal to you. Or, you can neglect all of your other duties for the next few days, and try both.
This video, which is actually an advertisement for TMB Bank, tells the true story of a floating village in Thailand that spawned a team of young football (soccer, to Americans) players despite the fact that they had no place to practice. Despite the fact that it is a commercial, it truly is an inspirational story, and one from which your students can learn many valuable lessons.
The video is subtitled, so students will need to be able to read quickly in order to catch what is going on. You may need to show it more than once, or to pause as you go along so they can have a chance to follow the story.
For more inspirational videos for students, check out my Pinterest Board.
I originally found this on KB Konnected, and made the mistake of trying it out. I immediately knew it would make a good Fun Friday post, but I was so engrossed in playing the game that I never got around to writing about it. So, here it is, finally. What I love/hate about this game is that there are no instructions, and it gets increasingly more difficult. It’s great for encouraging logic and problem/solving. Duck: Think Outside the Flock is flash-based, so you probably can’t access it on an iOS mobile device unless you try using something like Rover.