Photo Mapo

Sample image created with Photo Mapo app

Sample image created with Photo Mapo app

I have a bad habit of downloading apps that look interesting and then forgetting to try them.  Photo Mapo is a free iOS app that should not be overlooked.

Photo Mapo allows you to integrate any photo with a map and short description.  It offers 13 different styles, and you can determine what shows on your “postcard”, such as the zoom level of the map, the date, or the latitude and longitude.  To choose the map to go with your picture from your camera roll, you can have Photo Mapo determine the actual location where the picture was taken, or you can type in your own address.

To create the sample above, I used a Creative Commons image that I saved to my camera roll from Wikipedia, then I typed in “Rome, Italy” for the address, and wrote a short description.

How can this be used in the classroom?

  • students can add these to research reports on countries, people, or famous landmarks, including “travel guides” or “scrapbooks” (Use the Scrap It app or Pic Collage for a great app-smash!)
  • use these to create a visual representation of classrooms you have virtually visited through Twitter or Skype connections
  • use it to record a field trip (map zoom level can go down to street view)
  • create geography quizzes or mystery questions
  • have students use it to show how a particular location has changed over time
  • combine with Aurasma and Tellagami to make your postcard tell a story when scanned

I’m sure my creative readers can think of even more ideas!  Please add them to the comments below!

 

This is Your Brain on Engineering

GoldieBlox, the company devoted to encourage more females to develop interest in STEM, has had its controversies.  But I think they’ve done an excellent job with their latest PSA, a video that parodies the “This is Your Brain on Drugs” campaign.  The ad creatively shows the use of its toys to highlight the entertainment value of engineering and design.  However, it also sprinkles in some sobering facts about the relatively low participation of our gender in engineering careers.  I like that GoldieBlox offers explanations, resources, and links about each of these facts on its site.

For more information on STEM resources for girls, you might want to visit my recent post on Women Role Models, or this one that gives several links to books, games, and sites.

Some Genius Tweaks to our Genius Hour

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(If you are unfamiliar with Genius Hour, be sure to visit my Genius Hour Resources Page.)

One of my many goals for rebooting Genius Hour this year was to help the students to create more engaging presentations.  Their passion just wasn’t coming through when it came time for them to share it with their peers.  It intrigued me how, during a reflective discussion about a presentation, many students would suggest making it more interactive or entertaining.  But a few weeks later, when it became their turn to share their own learning, their presentations would follow the same already-determined-to-be-unexciting formula.

This school year, I was determined to change this.  I believe that it was because of some of the change that I made that last week, I was rewarded with some of the best Genius Hour presentations I’ve seen since I started doing GH several years ago.

Change 1: My 4th grade GT students, who had never done Genius Hour before, created proposals for their projects – and then the class voted on them.  I was a little hesitant to try this idea at first, but pleased with the results.  Several proposals were voted down the first time based on the criteria we came up with (will the researcher learn anything new? will the class learn anything new from the presentation? will the class be able to use this new information in a practical way? is it interesting?)  Then the students went back to the drawing board and came up with better ideas, which were approved.  No feelings were visibly hurt, and the topics that seemed weak to me were also the same ones that didn’t receive enough votes from the class.

Change 2: To give my students ideas for alternative methods for presenting, I pointed out that I pretty much never use Powerpoint to give them new information – nor do I talk at them for 20 minutes or longer spouting facts.  Then, I gave them the Show What You Know paper to spark some new ideas for sharing their learning.  When they realized there were so many other options, suddenly Powerpoint lost its popularity.

Change 3: I gave them some tips from the SlideShare presentation, “What Would Steve Do?”  (“Steve” is Steve Jobs.) Specifically, I told them to work more on creating a visual story than on a slide show with bullet points.  And – now this is the big one – I emphasized the importance of rehearsing.  After looking at the SlideShare myself, I realized that this was a major weak spot in my classroom.  Students would spend several days on research, several days on creating the presentation, then – boom! – they would inform me they were ready for an audience.  “From now on, we are giving equal time to all three,” I told the students.  “As much time as you spend on research, you will spend on production and then on rehearsal.”

The first 2 groups were ready to present last week – and, wow!  They blew me away with their creativity and polished performances.

Group 1 presented on “How to Take Better Pictures.”  They first shared a poster with information using examples of pictures and a timeline about the history of the camera.  Then they involved the audience by having a game show to review what they had learned from the poster. They performed like real game show hosts, and used an iPad with the Game Show Sound Board app to make it sound realistic.  They had a name for the show (3,2,1 Snap!), a catchy intro, and even a commercial and poster advertising their show!

Group 2 presented what they had learned about Mars.  They did a well-scripted, well-rehearsed play that involved scenery and props, included a salt-dough representation of Mars, and invited the class to fill out a Venn Diagram comparing it to Earth!

After the two groups were finished, we reflected on both presentations as a class, and the students took notes on what they thought did or did not work.  I told them that I would hold them accountable for those notes.  Whatever they felt needed work in the first two presentations, they needed to be sure to improve in their own.

This was the first time that I saw the entire class engaged in someone else’s projects.  I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

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The Science of Character

image from letitripple.org

image from letitripple.org

“Instead of asking students what they want to be, we should be asking them who they want to be.” 

I wish I could give attribution for the above quote.  It was something I saw on Twitter a few weeks ago, and it resonated with me.  The film called, “The Science of Character” delivers a similar message, except the question is, “How do you want to be?”

My 5th grade GT students study the “Dimensions of Character.”  This 8-minute film, “The Science of Character,” says everything that I hope they will learn from this year.  It stresses that you have the power to develop your own character – and that you can also shape the character of other people.  The video cites brain research that supports these ideas, and also cites Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets.

The video asks the audience to think about your own top five strengths.  You can access the ones you have identified to be the most important on the Periodic Table of Character Strengths, and you can click on each one to learn more about it.  This is a fabulous resource.  It not only gives the definition of each strength, but links to films, books, and other websites that give examples of the strength.

The site also offers film discussion guides for every level, from elementary to adult. There are many additional resources on learning more about character strengths, as well.  There is a link to a Character Strengths Survey, but that requires log-in information that I would not recommend be entered by students under 18.

I am definitely planning to use this with my 5th graders.  Last year, using an idea from Angela Maiers, I asked my students to choose their own “Dream Team” of people who demonstrate the traits they most admire.  (You can read more about this project here.)  The “Science of Character” film and resources fit in perfectly with this project.  I want to thank “Let it Ripple” for providing such a wonderful supplement for classrooms around the world!

Learning Creative Learning

Dr. Resnick invites you to participate in an unusual online course through M.I.T. in this video.

Dr. Resnick invites you to participate in an unusual online course through M.I.T. in this video - and uses a little humor to poke fun at himself :)

You might be familiar with Mitch Resnick, one of the co-creators of the Scratch programming language, and a professor at the M.I.T. Media Lab.  I’ve talked about teaching kids how to program quite a bit on this blog, and featured a T.E.D. talk presented by Mitch Resnick on this topic in one of my posts.  You can find out more about Dr. Resnick and his numerous accomplishments here.

Dr. Resnick – along with two of his colleagues, Natalie Rusk and Philipp Schmidt – is giving all of us a unique opportunity beginning tomorrow, March 18th, 2014.  They are presenting a 6-week course for free called, “Learning Creative Learning.”  The target students for this course are educators, designers, and researchers.  Here is a brief summary of the course from their website: “LCL will focus on key aspects of the Media Lab approach to learning: Projects, Peers, Passion, and Play. We invite you to apply these ideas to your own teaching and learning experiences. Together, we can reimagine and reinvent education.”

There will be online sessions every Tuesday from 1-2 PM EST, but these sessions will be recorded for those of us who can’t attend.  You can take a look at the syllabus for the course here, although they do give the disclaimer that it is a work in progress. Discussion forums have been set up, and there is an FAQ section.

You do not have to register for the course to be involved, although you can provide an e-mail address to receive updates.  As I mentioned earlier, the course is free.  You will receive no certification for participating, so getting involved is based purely on your intrinsic motivation to learn from some distinguished educators at a top-rated university.

This is the 2nd year for the course to be offered in this format, but it’s still a work-in-progress.  As Dr. Resnick says, “The best learning experiences happen when you take risks and try new things and learn from your mistakes.”

For those of you who choose to join the class, I hope to see you in the discussion forums or following @medialabcourse on Twitter!  It should be an interesting adventure!

Video Story Problems

Video Story Problems

This resource was shared by Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher).  I am always looking for new ways to bring relevance to math, and I love this idea.  The Video Story Problem channel currently has 195 videos created by teachers and students.  If you go to this post on “The Tech Savvy Educator” you can get more information about the motivation for producing these videos, and how you can get involved.  There is even a form for students to plan their own Video Story Problems to submit.

Below is an example of one of the Video Story Problems that you can ask your students to view that proposes a challenge to figure out some awesome discounts at Kohl’s.  (If you are unable to view the video embedded below, try clicking here.)

Video Story Problem – Shopping at Kohl’s from Ben Rimes on Vimeo.