Category Archives: Teaching Tools

Sketch Notes

Yesterday I picked up my 3rd grade GT students for class, and one of them had a cute little notebook.  When I asked her what it was for, she said that she just likes to take notes and draw things in it.

Funnily enough, I had just participated in a Twitter chat the night before, and we had talked about student engagement.  Note-taking was mentioned, and we discussed how copying down what the teacher has on the board isn’t usually very engaging, but other types of notes can be.  I gave the Vi Hart videos as an example of taking note-taking to another level.

I was curious to see what my 3rd grader would do with her notebook. I don’t find myself saying a lot of “noteworthy” things during class, so I suspected she would do more off-task drawing than anything academic.  However, I didn’t want to discourage another potential Vi Hart!

In our small circle of 6 + me, we discussed systems thinking and the Billibonk and the Thorn Patch book.  The monkeys had just learned that elephants were easy to trick from watching the mice, and we talked about how, as role models, we never know who is observing our behavior.  My student was busily drawing in her book, and I asked if she wanted to share.

systems thinking

She explained that getting away with doing something wrong could cause an endless loop -like a person breaking a window makes other people think it’s okay to break windows, and it keeps happening.

Definitely not off-task.

During our Hands-On-Equations lesson, my student sketched a lot in her book.  She later showed me her drawings – detailed examples of an equation we solved on the whiteboard along with the vocabulary I introduced today, “legal move.”

Photo Oct 28, 12 37 51 PM

Some people call it Sketchnotes.  Others call it mind mapping or visual note-taking.  My 3rd grade student’s notes haven’t reached the sophistication of Vi Hart, Austin Kleon, or other examples you will find online.  But I will have this young artist in my class until the end of 5th grade, and I can’t wait to see what her notes look like by then!

If you are interested in Sketchnoting, Kathy Schrock has an excellent page of links, apps, and video resources to use with students.  I think it would be well worthwhile to show some of the examples to students, and give them the option of visual note-taking in class.

UPDATE: 10/31/14 – I just found this great post on Doodling from Leah Levy that explains why doodling is great for your students and gives even more resources!

from Austin Kleon's Visual Note-Taking Page
from Austin Kleon’s Visual Note-Taking Page

Elements 4D Lesson Plans

You may remember a post I did earlier this year on the Elements 4D Cubes by Daqri.  These augmented reality cubes, which you can print on paper (I would recommend cardstock) for free, are an awesome way to learn about the Periodic Table. And, yes, the app that brings these cubes to life is free, too!

Several teachers, including me, were asked to create some lesson plans to use with the cubes.  (Full disclosure – we received compensation for this.)  Daqri just released the plans last week. And guess what! Yep, the lessons are free to download! I’m talking Science Standards, printable worksheets, video links, and games.  ALL FREE!

elements

Once you start playing (and learning) with these cubes, you are probably going to wish you had a more durable set – like the wooden ones Daqri originally offered on Kickstarter.  You can sign up on this page to let them know that you would like to be notified when the new ones are available for purchase.  (Okay, so that’s not free, exactly, but it doesn’t cost anything to sign up – so that’s practically free, right?)

Feel inclined to create your own augmented reality content using the Daqri 4D Studio?  You can sign up and get fabulous tutorials here. Totally free! (See?  Back to the free stuff again.)

As you can tell, I’m a bit pumped about this.  Thanks to Drew Minock and Brad Waid, the Daqri 4D Evangelists who made all of this possible, as well as all of the teachers involved in the various plans! This is a great resource for teachers, homeschoolers, parents, and anyone else with curiosity and an interest in science.

If you want some more augmented reality resources, check out this page on my blog with activities, lesson plans, and recommended apps.

Goldieblox and the Movie Machine App

You may already be familiar with Goldieblox toys.  I’ve featured a couple of them on this blog.  I recently visited their site, and they’ve added quite a few more products to their selection – all with the aim of getting children, especially girls, interested in engineering.  One of the kits available for purchase is “Goldieblox and the Movie Machine“, which includes pieces and directions for creating a zoetrope.  The company has released a free app to complement this product, but you don’t need to purchase the kit to get a lot of fun out of the app.

screen shot from GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine app
screen shot from GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine app

Our Maker Club has transitioned from making cardboard games to making movies, and one of the apps the students explored last week was Goldieblox and the Movie Machine.  They quickly figured out what they needed to do to create their own short animations, and they were too busy having fun to ask for help from me.  The club is still testing out different options for movie creation, so we haven’t worked our way up to making final products, but I think this app will definitely be a contender for most popular movie-making tool (along with the Lego Movie Maker app).

If you do happen to have the actual kit, then you can use the app to print out your drawings to put in the zoetrope.  However, this is certainly not mandatory, as you can watch your video play on the iPad just as easily.

I definitely recommend that you add this to the list of apps from which students can select for sharing their learning.  They could, for example, make a video of the life cycle of a butterfly or portray how a character changed in a novel.  I’m sure you can think of many more ways to integrate it with academics!

Kids Philosophy Slam 2015

The new topic for the Kids Philosophy Slam has been announced: Violence or Compassion: Which has a greater impact on society?

You can find out more information about the topic on their website, including rules and guidelines.  The contest is open to students in Kindergarten through 12th grade, so you really should consider giving your students the opportunity no matter what their age.  Here is a great post by Joelle Trayers about how she incorporated philosophy into her lessons with Kinder and 1st graders.

You can see an example from a Kindergartener below from the 2013 contest.

Kids Philosophy Slam

Whether you choose to formally enter the contest, or just discuss the topic, it could certainly make for an interesting debate in your classroom! Here is another post I’ve done on the Teaching Children Philosophy website.  Also, if you might want to check out Richard Byrne’s great review of Socratic Smackdown, a fantastic tool guaranteed to liven up any deep discussions!

 

3 Google App Hacks for the not so 1:1 iPad Classroom

I love the collaborative aspect of Google Drive, but with a classroom of varying numbers and age levels of students and 10 iPads I’ve had to learn to be a bit creative when it comes to using Google activities with my students.  The release of specific apps for iOS such as Slides and Sheets is still problematic when you are not in a 1:1 environment since a login is required to access the files.  And some of the features that look great on other devices won’t work on iPads in a browser – even in Chrome.  Here are a few “workarounds” I’ve developed that some of you might also find useful:

  • Docs are an easy way to share website links with classes. For example, I created a Google Doc called, “Websites for Class.”  I made it public, opened it on each iPad, and sent the shortcut to the iPad home screen.  Now I can change the links any time, and the students can click on them without needing to type in URL’s.  (Sure, you can use a bookmarking site, Google Classroom, or even apps like Chirp to share links, but this simple solution has streamlined the process immensely.)  If you think you are going to want to keep those links for future use, make a copy before you change to new links and save the copy with the title of whatever theme the old links shared (“Optical Illusion Sites,” for example).
  • Create a “generic” G-mail account to use Sheets.  The new Sheets are currently not editable on an iPad browser.  I learned this the hard way.  My students use Sheets for checking in at centers (using the above method, but with a spreadsheet) but that suddenly stopped working.  The files work great in the Sheets app, but I didn’t want to have each student log in since multiple students share iPads – or have my own account permanently on the iPads. So, I made a “generic” account. This G-mail account is used for the sole purpose of sharing documents on my iPads.  All of the iPads are already logged into that account, so the students do not have to do anything but open the app and find the appropriate Sheet.
  • Make a Google Site to share Forms that you change frequently.  This is a bit more advanced.  You can also use a Google Site to share links that you change frequently (but the Doc method described above takes a lot less steps!).  Once you make a free Google Site, you can just click on the html button and embed the code for your form.  Be sure to click inside the Google Gadget area to get the settings button at the bottom and add a scroll bar.  Otherwise, your students may only be able to see part of the form on the iPad.  Add your Google Site to the Home Screen of every iPad and you can then share whatever you want the students to access with a tap on the icon.

Do any of you have Google App iPad hacks?  Please share!

image from speedofcreativity.org
image from speedofcreativity.org

 

Can You Solve This?

There was a link to this lesson in the most recent TED Ed newsletter, and I immediately jumped at the challenge. I’m a bit competitive sometimes;)

I will say that I did solve it before the solution was revealed on the video, but it probably would have taken me as long as anyone else if I wasn’t able to view the clips of people guessing incorrectly.

This is an excellent lesson on how we often make assumptions, and then look only for the evidence that appears to support them.  Lots of classroom discussion could definitely branch off from this one short video.

You can find more Veritasium videos here, although I always recommend that you watch videos prior to showing them to your students to determine if they are appropriate for your audience.

Note: There is an “inappropriate” word said extremely quickly at about 2 minutes in.

from the Veritasium Video Blog
from the Veritasium Video Blog

More Ideas for Pic Collage

I had a great time at the end of last school year allowing the students to use the Pic Collage app on the iPads to create mini-yearbooks using pictures from our class blog.  There are many uses for the app, and I’m pretty sure that I have yet to use it to its full potential.

Using Pic Collage to summarize your favorite moments from the school year
Using Pic Collage to summarize your favorite moments from the school year

At a recent PD about using apps for creating, one of my colleagues, Camala Rose-Turnage, suggested using the app for a fraction study. Students could take a group of pictures, of which only some have a certain thing in common (such as the color red), and then other students could figure out the fraction.  Awesome!  Besides the fact that I had never heard an idea like this before, I could see a lot of potential for differentiation.  Some students might choose obvious traits for their groups, such as color or shape; others might select something more abstract, such as objects that are used for particular activities (recess toys) or ones that all start with a certain letter.  The fractions might vary in complexity, too.  You could have some students portray fractions that could be reduced, or even – depending on the Pic Collage layout – mixed numbers.

Speaking of math, here is a post showing how students can use Pic Collage to create their own math reviews.  And here are some other ideas that could be used in a primary classroom.

Pic Collage is also great for app-smashing.  Use it with Thinglink and Aurasma for an awesome interactive poster.  You can find a ton of Pic Collage app-smashes on this Pinterest board by Holly Inniger.

What’s your favorite way to use this versatile app?