Tag Archives: education

Life After the Cardboard Arcade

This is the 2nd year that I’ve participated in the annual Global Cardboard Challenge, inspired by Caine’s Arcade.  After last year, I had three goals in mind for this year’s event:

  • increase the number of students making games
  • increase the number of students who play the games
  • find a way to integrate the project with raising money for a charity

Last year, my GT students at the school were the only ones who participated.  This year, we started a school Maker Club.  With the help of two other amazing sponsors, we were able to add 24 more students to the roster of game designers.

To increase the number of players, we changed venues.  We moved the arcade from our school to the party rooms at a place called Main Event.  Main Event is an entertainment complex near us that offers bowling, laser tag, a ropes course, and video arcade as well as food and drink.  So, families could enjoy our games and make a night of it.

There were some amazing games included in our arcade.  Two of the more notable ones were a huge Sphero obstacle course created by a group of 6 students and a human fortune-telling machine! (Check these projects out in the slide show and videos below.)

For our charity, the students selected Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, a local organization that helps wildlife that have been injured to recover and return to their habitats as well as offering “forever” homes to wild animals that will never be able to survive on their own.

Our event went really well.  We raised over $700 for our charity and everyone seemed to have a fabulous time.  As an added bonus, sponsors from WRR came to our arcade and selected some of the games to be donated to the organization.  They will be sending us pictures and videos of the games being used for primate enrichment!

And that leads me to wonder how many other ways our games could have a second life next year.  Many of the students dedicated hours to creating their masterpieces.  It would be nice to give those games more than one day in the spotlight.  Monkeys aren’t the only ones that might appreciate them once the Big Event ends.  How about donating them to a Children’s Shelter, a hospital, or possibly a local library?  Admittedly, none of those is quite as exciting as watching a monkey play your game, but there are definitely many ways these creative projects can keep on giving…

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Ping Pong Trick Shots That Will Blow Your Mind

We just had our Cardboard Arcade two nights ago, and a few of the games involved getting ping pong balls to fall into holes or hit targets, all of which I failed at miserably. That’s why this post on Neatorama caught my eye, and seemed to be the perfect Phun Phriday link to share this week.  Check out this insanely talented 12-year-old, Mikey, who does increasingly complex trick shots in this video. (Here is the direct link to the video in case the Neatorama page is blocked on your end.)

from Ping Pong Cup Shots 2
from Ping Pong Cup Shots 2

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?

Feminism at its Finest

There has been a lot of discussion about “feminism” in the news lately – particularly since Emma Watson’s outstanding speech supporting the U.N.’s HeForShe Campaign.  The oppression of women that continues to happen around the globe must stop, and we can all help by watching out for intentional and unintentional negative stereotypes. I have been heartened by a few other stories that I’ve seen in the media during the last week of young people who are brave enough to take a stand against those who continue to reinforce sexist viewpoints:

Malala Yousafzai, who was announced last week to be the co-winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize (along with Kailash Satyarthi), is 17 years old, and continues to fight for the education of women everywhere despite being shot in the head in retaliation for her actions.  She recently appeared in a video for Code.org, urging girls to participate in the Hour of Code.

Not long ago, McKenna Peterson wrote an eloquent letter to Dick’s Sporting Goods after noticing that their 2014 Basketball catalog included no female athletes.  She is 12.  After the fury of media attention, the CEO of the company wrote a letter of apology, and promised to rectify the situation.

And finally, another impressive letter supporting the abolition of gender stereotypes was published in a London newspaper in late September. It was written by a 15-year-old boy, Ed Holtom, as an endorsement of Emma Watson’s U.N. speech.  His mature and insightful words remind us that wisdom is not restricted to people over 21.

Excerpt from Ed Holtom's letter in the Telegraph
Excerpt from Ed Holtom’s letter in the Telegraph


Sir Ken Robinson – Full Body Education

I’ve featured Zen Pencils cartoons on here a few times.  The artist Gavin Aung Than is very talented and creates amazing cartoons based on inspirational quotes.  His latest illustration comes from Sir Ken Robinson’s famous TED talk, “How Schools Kill Creativity.”  The need for a “full body education” is one that I think many educators find is being stifled by the ever-increasing dominance of standardized tests.

image from: "Sir Ken Robinson - Full Body Education" by Gavin Than of Zen Pencils
image from: “Sir Ken Robinson – Full Body Education” by Gavin Aung Than of Zen Pencils

Sir Ken Robinson did an interesting interview about this talk on the TED Radio Hour episode, “The Source of Creativity”, which also includes Sting, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Charles Limb.  It is an extremely intriguing hour that I highly recommend.

Also, Gavin Than has a book coming out in November, 2014, which you might want to consider.  It will include many of the favorite comics featured on his website.

Don’t Blame Me

My daughter is a synchronized swimmer.  One of the little-known facts outside the sport is that these athletes paint gelatin on their hair before a performance or competition to keep their hair up and out of their faces.  The practice is called, “knoxing.”

My daughter had 2 performances on Saturday, and so we began the morning with the tedious process of putting her hair into a bun with a thousand bobby pins, mixing unflavored gelatin with hot water, and applying it to her head.

Unfortunately, something went wrong.  I’m not sure what it was, but the knox looked somewhat lumpy.  By the end of her 1st performance, I realized with great dismay that the knox was in clumps all over her head.

“We’re going to have to re-knox before the next show,” I informed her in the car.

“No!” she pleaded.  “It’s fine!”

“You haven’t looked in a mirror, yet,” I said.  “Trust me, it’s bad.  I’m sorry.  I messed up.  You’re going to have to rinse it all off and we’ll start over.”

Bad knox job

“No, we can just paint over it!”

I shook my head.  “I don’t think that’s going to work.  It looks too awful.”

“But I don’t want to redo it!”

I was about to argue more, and then I stopped for a moment.  Why was I trying to persuade her to redo it?  I hate knoxing.  If neither one of us wanted it done, then why was I insisting?  Was it really for her benefit?

Or mine?

I realized that the reason I wanted to redo it wasn’t because I was worried about her feelings if someone criticized the way her hair looked.  It was because I was worried about what people would think about me.

I could hear the whispers already.  “That mom is horrible.  Look at what a bad knoxing job she did.  And she let her daughter swim that way!”

But glops of gelatin weren’t going to effect her performance.

I revised my statement.  I thought about what she would want – to make her own decision.  “Okay.  When you look at it, if you want me to redo it, I will.”

In a blog post that I once did about Seth Godin’s book, Tribes, I included this quote from his book:  “what people are afraid of isn’t failure.  It’s blame.”

As a parent, I worry that I’m going to get blamed if things go wrong for my child.  It makes me reluctant to allow her to make mistakes, or to sometimes make her own decisions.

As a teacher, I do the same thing.  If a parent questions a decision I made, I fear blame and become defensive.  If a student doesn’t do what I envisioned on a project, I worry that people will think I didn’t teach well enough.

We need to regularly ask ourselves, “Is this about me or is this about the child?”  Often we make decisions that are supposedly the best for the child – but they are really about keeping ourselves from being blamed.

In the end, my daughter decided to allow me to re-knox her hair.  And it looked much better.  But I would have been fine if she hadn’t – and so would she.  That day I learned two things that I should never do:

  • inflict my own insecurities on others
  • put lumpy gelatin on my daughter’s head.
A better job!
A better job!



Powtoon Power

It’s Phun Phriday and I want to share this great Powtoon video that one of my students created to invite everyone to our Cardboard Arcade next week.  I love that he did this on his own time, and using a relatively new tool.