Category Archives: Student Products

Rubber Band Contest

Wesley Fryer (@wfryer) tweeted a link to the Rubber Band Contest the other day, and I just now got around to checking it out.  (Someday I will describe my convoluted methods for archiving resources that I don’t have time to explore right away!) The contest is sponsored by The Akron Global Polymer Academy at The University of Akron, and is for students in 5th-8th grades.  Entries are due on March 16, 2015 – but you can see all of the relevant dates here.  The challenge is to make an invention that uses at least one rubber band.  Here is the link to the official rules.  Even if you don’t qualify or don’t want to participate officially, you might want to check out the resources and inspire your students with some of the pictures of past winning inventions.  One of my favorites is a runner-up from 2014, the Oreo Creme Splitter!

Oreo Creme Splitter by Lawson Gray
Oreo Creme Splitter by Lawson Gray

iCivics Drafting Board

It’s been awhile since I’ve visited the iCivics site.  You can see my last post about it here (2012!).  The site, founded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, offers interactives, games, and lesson plans for learning about civics.  And it’s all free!

There is a lot of curriculum available on the site, and teachers can log in and add students to a class, giving them assignments that the teachers can then monitor.  One of the tools that looks really great for 5th graders and up is the Drafting Board tool.  This is a robust, thought-provoking interactive that leads students through steps that result in crafting a persuasive essay.  I’ve embedded the iCivics  introductory video to Drafting Board below.  This PDF thoroughly explains how to use the tool.

iCivicsDraftingBoard

There are several things that appeal to me about Drafting Board.  It scaffolds the process of writing a persuasive essay based on evidence very well.  The teacher has the capability of differentiating the assignment by choosing different “challenge levels” for students. Though there is a lot of reading involved, all of the passages have accompanying audio for students who need that support.  These features make this a great UDL resource.

One of the lessons is about whether or not 16-year-olds should be given the right to vote - a topic that is frequently brought up by my students. (Actually, they think “all kids” should have the right to vote.)  Another one that would tie in very well with my 5th grade unit on The Giver is the question of whether or not students should be required to do volunteer work in order to graduate.

Even if you don’t have access to 1-to-1 devices for your students, Drafting Board would be a valuable whole-class lesson, or even a center for groups of students, inviting an educated discourse about controversial topics.

Help Desks

As my students gear up for this year’s Global Cardboard Challenge, they will also be researching a charity to which they will donate the proceeds from their cardboard arcade.  I want them to keep in mind Angela Maier’s mantra, “You are a genius and the world needs your contribution,” and to cultivate their empathy along with their creativity.

Help Desks for Indian children, created by
Help Desks for Indian children, created by Aarambh

As I was thinking about how to inspire my classes this year (many of whom have already seen the Caine’s Arcade videos), I ran across this video from an organization called, “Aarambh.”  Committed to helping students become more comfortable in their schools in rural areas of India, Aarambh found a way to make combination desks/backpacks out of discarded cardboard.  For less than 20 cents in American dollars, a child can be outfitted with this invaluable piece of equipment.  This is a great video to show students so many things:

  • the value of an education
  • how fortunate many of us are to receive a free education with numerous resources
  • how simple, yet creative, ideas can have an incredible positive impact
  • that recycling is not just a luxury but an imperative

LMS Blog Challenge: Interactive Bulletin Boards

So, lesson learned – never beat Laura Moore in a small little Twitter kerfluffle unless you’re ready for a bigger challenge.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Laura and I fought over who would blog about Lisa Johnson’s most recent amazing contribution to teachers everywhere – Customized Padlet backgrounds.  Laura countered with her own post yesterday, and she has thrown down the gauntlet.  Here is her challenge: “What is one idea worth stealing that made you a better educator/blogger? Share your experience through a blog post, tweet, or whatever platform you prefer. Make sure to pass on the challenge so we can all benefit from new knowledge. Use the #LMSchallenge. GO.” (By the way, her blog is “Learn Moore Stuff.”  Hence, the LMS.)

Do I steal stuff?  You bet I do!  I try my best to give credit where it’s due, but sometimes I don’t even know where an idea originated.  If you want to see a list of the people I regularly steal from, check out my Engaging Educators page :)

As I tweeted to Laura, the hard part is choosing just one thing I’ve stolen! As you can see from the title of this post, though, I’m going with the idea of interactive bulletin boards.

I hate doing bulletin boards.  But I love showcasing student work.  When I read this article by Sylvia Tolisano on the Langwitches blog, I got a seed of an idea – to use QR codes with art.  But I feel less guilty about stealing ideas if I kick them up a notch.  So, the result was a bulletin board with poetry, art, QR codes, a quiz, and an opportunity for student feedback.  Students were invited to guess which piece of poetry matched which artwork.  Then they could scan the QR codes and listen to an audio file to see if they were right.  Finally, they could scan a 2nd QR code that took them to a Google Form where they could vote on their favorite one.  You can find more details in this guest post that I did on Richard Byrne’s blog.

Of course, that led me to more interactive exhibitions, like ones that use the augmented reality app, Aurasma (which I stole from Richard Byrne).  In this post, I mention one of my favorite activities, where the students made videos of themselves in snow globes to go with a writing piece. (If you want some more augmented reality ideas, check out my page of resources here.)

Thanks to all of the people who share their ideas, because I would be an awfully boring teacher without them!

And now I must challenge three more people to carry the baton. Joelle Trayers, Brad Gustafson, and Todd Nesloney – consider yourselves tapped!  Follow Laura’s instructions above to share the ill-gotten gains that make you such great educators!

Customized Padlet Backgrounds

@LearnMooreStuff and I had a history-textbook-worthy Twitter battle yesterday over who would blog first about this amazing resource from @TechChef4U.  Laura Moore graciously conceded (although I think she is secretly afraid that my light saber is more powerful than hers).

I love to use Padlet (formerly known as Wallwisher), and I’ve recently started to make my own backgrounds to organize the notes added to the board.  Yesterday, Lisa Johnson (@TechChef4U) tweeted out an awesome resource that she is offering for free – 13 Graphic Organizer backgrounds to add as your Padlet wallpaper.  That is truly an awesome deal!  She even gives instructions on how to insert them.

Padlet Graphic Organizer Background from @TechChef4U
Padlet Graphic Organizer Background from @TechChef4U

 

If you want to make your own Padlet backgrounds, one easy way is to make one in Powerpoint or Keynote and save the slide as a .jpg file.  If you check out this post from Cari Young, there is a video from The Organized Classroom that gives a tutorial for using slides to make desktop backgrounds – which could easily apply to making Padlet backgrounds as well.

Recently, I’ve used backgrounds in Padlet for mini-EdCamp type PD. Teachers add notes about what they would like to learn about, and then the notes can be sorted into sessions.

Padlet is such a versatile tool – device neutral and user-friendly.  And, there have been two recent upgrades – an option to have a grid layout, as well as a Chrome extension.  Now, thanks to Lisa Johnson, it has even more potential!

Build Your Own Computer

Last year, our school’s art teacher asked the students to fill out forms about their teachers which she then compiled into books for each teacher. I laughed as I was reading my book.  For the sentence, “For fun, she likes to…” one student completed it with, “go on Kickstarter and get more things for our class.” (She also wrote that on weekends, “she works on her blog.”)

That child really gets me;)

It’s quite true that I’ve helped to fund a few Kickstarter projects that have ended up in my classroom – most notably the 3Doodler and Robot Turtles.

One of my contributions in the last few months went towards a charming children’s book that teaches programming.  It’s called, Hello Ruby. (Ruby is a programming language, but also the main character of the book by Linda Liukas.)  I haven’t received the book yet, but that’s okay; the author’s updates about the project have already proven my money is well-invested.

a portion of the Build Your Own Computer handout provided by Linda Liukas
a portion of the Build Your Own Computer handout provided by Linda Liukas

The most recent update invites everyone to try out some materials Liukas created for building an imaginary computer.  She provides a printout and instructions.  Her details of the playtesting that she has done already can be found in the post.  This is what she said about what she has learned so far, “One of the big things was realizing that most of the younger kids hadn’t even used a keyboard before. They didn’t necessarily realise an iPad was a computer. Computers were associated with work: little girls imagined using the paper computer as a part of playing house and dad/mom going to work. One of the kids, a young boy, had a great story of how he plays astronaut with his father and how the computer could be a part of that.”

Liukas would love to receive feedback if you try the activity.  Be sure to follow the link on her update to let her know what you think or submit pictures of a “Build Your Own Computer” session in action.

Powtoon for Educators

I had to search my own blog to find the last time I posted about Powtoon.  It was two years ago!  They have come a long way since then!

Powtoon is a fun way to present, allowing you all kinds of dynamic tools that will keep your viewers engaged.

The company recently launched a major campaign for educators offering free classroom accounts.  These accounts are usually $96/year, and you can add 60 students to your account!  The offer expires on October 31, 2014 – so be sure to activate yours soon!

Powtoon Educator Offer

A lot of resources have been added to the Powtoon library since the last time I reviewed it.  For example, when you go to your Dashboard, and choose to create, you will find that there are many templates that you can use .  These templates are fun; there’s even a “Teacher Intro” one!  I took that one, made a couple of minor changes, and had the one embedded below finished in under 5 minutes.

With all of my talk about creativity this week, Powtoon certainly fits the theme.  Imagine what your students could do with this great tool!