i’m sorry

So, I saw this tweet the other day:

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And I was like, “No, that’s not possible.  A game that’s better than the Chrome dinosaur?!!!”

So, I clicked on the link, which took me here. There were quite a few links in the story and I, of course, clicked on every single one except the one that actually took me to the “game.”

But then I found it.  And I think Chris Rogers might be right. Watching a shark swim through my address bar is pretty fun.  I enjoyed the plane, too.  But I have to say that my favorite is the “diy” option. 

Developer Glen Chiacchieri prominently displays, “i’m sorry” on the tab for this site.  

i'm sorry

And well he should be.  Because of him, millions of tasks will never be completed as people attempt to play the “pewpew” game in their address bar.

Which means that, once again, I’ve stumbled upon another perfect Phun Phriday time-waster that I can happily pass on to the readers of this blog.

I’m sorry!

National Engineers Week

What does it say about my priorities that I started handing out Valentine’s Day resources in January, but I wait until National Engineers Week is practically over before I even mention it?

Not good.

Anyway, for those of you who didn’t know, National Engineers Week is February 22nd-February 28th.  If you don’t live in the United States, perhaps your Engineering Week is yet to come and this resource might prove to be helpful.

Of course, you shouldn’t leave the celebration of engineering to just one week a year.  And I’m pretty sure you won’t get in any kind of major legal trouble if you throw caution to the wind and try out some of these activities on an unofficial day.

Today happens to be Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.  As you know, our nation has a very high deficit of females in STEM careers. Part of this is due to stereotypes which lead to little encouragement for girls to pursue these professions.  Educating young women about their potential in STEM could go a long way to eradicating the blatant inequality we see today.

You can find all sorts of lesson plans and activities for Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day here.  Be sure to check out the playlist of short videos as well.

If you have a young daughter, Rosie Revere, Engineer, is a great way to celebrate this day.  And, if you have a child in middle or high school that shows even the slightest interest in STEM, then I would recommend How to Be a Rocket Scientist.

image from DiscoverE.org
image from DiscoverE.org

 

 

Fairytale Ads

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a GT teacher named Pedro Delgado.  Mr. Delgado was a finalist for TCEA’s Classroom Teacher of the Year.  He shared a link to his class blog, and I stumbled upon a cute photo gallery of a project that his 4th graders did using real company logos in ads with fairytale characters.  The posters made by the students cracked me up!  I asked if he would mind if I shared his idea, and he gave me permission.  This is a fun idea for using the “Multiple Perspectives” icon from Kaplan’s Depth and Complexity.  You could really use the activity with any characters from history or fiction – not just fairytales.  A couple of the pictures by Mr. Delgado’s 4th graders are below, but please check out the rest by visiting his class blog here.

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Twister

Just to be clear from the outset, this post is not about the game that prepares you for a career in Cirque de Soleil – or, in my case, a long stay in the hospital.

Twister, basically a fake Tweet generator, is one of the many fun tools available from ClassTools.net.  (Check out this post from Richard Byrne about Connect Fours, another really cool ClassTools resource.)

ClassTools is the site that also brings you Fakebook. (You can probably easily deduce the purpose of that tool!)  I’ve used Fakebook, and included it as one of the challenges on Brad Gustafson’s ConnectED Bingo Board.  Joelle Trayers has a great post about using Fakebook with Junie B. Jones, and reading her post reminded me that I had been wanting to explore some of the other Classtools resources.

Twister is very simple to use.  You can see the required fields in the picture below.

from ClassTools.net

 

The tool actually pulls images from the internet to use for a background, so I tried a fictional character, Harry Potter, to see what would happen.  Here is what I got when I submitted:

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Then I thought I should try something more historical.

 

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This tool is easy to use and probably works for any famous person, fictional or historical, on the internet.

If you want something a bit more complex, you can try out this downloadable fake Twitter template.  Or, for a simulated Twitter experience, try Tammy Tang’s awesome Google Class Tweeter Template.

Genius Hour Interviews

Last year, one of my fabulous Twitter connections, Andi McNair (@mcnairan3, http://ameaningfulmess.blogspot.com/), mentioned that she required all of her students to interview an expert for their Genius Hour projects.  Previously, this was one of the mystery challenges on my Genius Hour Challenge Cards, but not a requirement.  The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of building this into all of their projects.

My biggest class is my 5th grade GT class – 18 students.  They rocked Genius Hour in 4th grade last year, so I thought they would be the best class to “pilot” this idea.  Since many of the students are working in pairs, this meant we would need at least 9 experts.

We discovered that finding an expert to interview isn’t easy.  We learned pretty quickly that calling the names on websites wasn’t going to work very well.  As soon as the person on the other end heard a child’s voice, my students weren’t taken very seriously.  So, we decided to try e-mailing people to ask if they would Skype with us.  That has elicited a better response, but still requires persistence. (The students typed e-mails from my account requesting help with their projects and for the expert to please contact their teacher if interested.)

Our first expert helped a group of students with a project they were doing on wild animals in captivity.  We found them through a contact I had made when we did our Cardboard Box Arcade earlier this year.

Then, through a comment made by a teacher in a Twitter chat about her students’ Genius Hour projects, I was able to connect another group who is studying the impact of divorce with two students who have experienced it first-hand.

Last week was one of my favorite Skypes.  Some students who are studying global warming talked with an expert who was not only very knowledgeable but also extremely good at explaining his topic to young people.  The students were glued to the screen for almost 45 minutes, covering pages of paper with notes.  However, I couldn’t tell if the students were just being polite or really engrossed in the conversation.

Afterward, I tentatively asked them their impressions of the interview.

“It was great!” “We learned so much!”  “He really explained well!”

Whew.

They had graciously thanked him at the end of the interview, but I ended up sending my own e-mail of profuse gratitude for him taking the time to explain such a complicated issue to my students.

Not all “experts” are great at speaking to students.  However, the process of taking their research out of the classroom and getting a professional perspective gives the students an idea of the relevance of their work, making it much more meaningful to them.

You can learn more about using outside experts in the classroom from Andi’s post – which gives great, specific advice and links to other posts on this topic.

To find out more about Genius Hour, check out my page of resources here.

My students Skype with an expert on global warming.
My students Skype with an expert on global warming.

 

Poetweet

Happy Phun Phriday!  It’s time for another completely frivolous blog post that might inadvertently inspire you to waste huge chunks of time on an activity that is not productive in any way.

I actually had Poetweet slated to be a Phun Phriday post a few weeks ago, but the site went down right when I was about to blog about it.  It seems to be working now, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the bazillions of people who read this post won’t break it by trying to access Poetweet at the same time ;)

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You don’t have to have a Twitter account to use Poetweet – but you need to know someone’s Twitter handle.  All you do is type in the handle, then choose what type of poem you would like (Sonnet, Rondel, or Indriso), and the magic happens.

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I don’t really know how it works.  And the poems don’t necessarily make sense – but then again, aren’t the best poems deliberately incomprehensible?  When you are viewing the poem on the Poetweet site, you can actually scroll over the lines to find out what Tweet they were found in.

Here are the three poems I made from my Twitter handle last night. Some lines are weirdly insightful…

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A Dash for Treasure

Full disclosure – our class received a Dash and Dot package from Wonder Workshop for review.  

Last month I posted an article about the new additions to our classroom, Dash and Dot (and Fitzgerald).  Since then, the school Maker Club, our Robotics team, and my 1st graders have been learning more about the features of these robots.

My 1st grade GT students are learning about different countries around the world.  Before digging into that research, I wanted to make sure they understood the difference between countries and continents, and had a general understanding of their locations.  We have a giant map of the world on our wall, but I thought Dash and Dot might be able to help us by taking their own virtual trip around the globe.  I ordered this vinyl map for the floor from Amazon.

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My daughter helped me to write an adventure for Dash that took him to every continent. (Yes, she came up with the idea for the Shoe of Honesty in the story – which the students found quite hilarious!) As I read the story out loud, the students took turns programming Dash at each juncture using the Blockly app.

A Dash for Treasure

The synergizing and problem-solving were phenomenal.  They took their task of guiding Dash very seriously.  They learned about angles and programming logic.  And, in the meantime, they learned their continents and compass directions.

dashworldmap

My daughter and I deliberately stopped the story before the end. When we got to Dash’s “uh-oh” the students were in complete suspense.  It took practically no prompting from me to get them to write their own endings and to illustrate them.

You can see the endings the students wrote below. (Click on the image to see a larger version.) Don’t be confused if you see “Fitzgerald” in some of their stories.  We have 2 Dashes, so one is named Fitzgerald.  The students are very attached to both, and get upset if all of the robots are not included!

If you are interested in downloading a copy of the slide show with the story and programming prompts, click here.  Here is the PDF of the writing page the students used.  Thank you to Susan Prabulos (@fabprab) for the awesome graphics!

Great Minds Don't Think Alike!

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