I have mentioned before that, if you are going to spend money on a Makerspace, littleBits are a worthwhile investment. The company has added to their Educator Resources since my last post, and I want to point out a few links that you may find useful, especially if you are new to using this product.
littleBits now offers an Educator’s Guide. It includes some of its older resources, but nicely bundles them into one document. In addition to the Challenge Cards that I’ve posted about before, the Guide also includes specific curriculum references and justifies their use in the classroom. This could be very helpful to those of you applying for grants. I also like the “Reverse Engineering” suggestions on page 21, the “Example Lessons” on page 23, and the “Troubleshooting Tips” on page 25.
Another item that I noticed on the littleBits Educator Resources page is the “Project Booklets.” This PDF gives project suggestions based on the type of littleBits kits you have. This way you will not challenge your students to a project that includes pieces you may not have.
Don’t forget that littleBits offers Educator Discounts, and that some of the kits can also be purchased from other vendors, such as Amazon.com.
This week, I’ve decided to reblog some of my more popular posts with some updates. Since I’ve posted this piece on Google Slides Templates, I’ve found some other resources to add to the list. You will find most of the updates at the bottom of this post.
Now that our campus has a set of Chromebooks, my students have been delighting in exploring Google Drive. One tool that has been an asset is the Presentation tool also known as Slides. Similar to Powerpoint, the Google version has a few advantages in our environment: automatic saving (extremely helpful when the network isn’t always reliable), the rockin’ Research Tool, and the ability to use Google image search within the presentation. Even more importantly, a shared presentation invites collaboration. I’ve enjoyed having the students work on slides in the same show simultaneously, such as the metaphor presentation I’ve embedded below. (UPDATE: Alice Keeler has a great post on how students can submit work on a collaborative Google Slide Presentation.)
One of my favorite templates that I’ve run across recently comes from the DavidLeeEdTech blog. This virtual museum template is so cool! Scroll down to the comments section on his blog to get the direct link for downloading the template.
Another option is to download a Powerpoint template that you like, and then to import the slides into your Google Drive presentation.
To download most templates, you will need to be signed in to your Google Drive. If the link provided for a template does not give you a direct copy, then you may have a “View Only” version, and will need to make a copy yourself. When applicable, always leave the proper source citations for the template on the slide show, but do whatever other editing you would like once you make a copy.
There. I said it. I never thought I would. Growing up, I had ZERO interest in Legos.
As an adult, I’ve continued to have ZERO interest in Legos.
Until a couple of years ago.
It turns out that Legos are a lot more versatile than I thought.
I briefly related my newfound respect for Legos in one of the posts I did for my Maker Space Essential Series. If you do a search on my blog, you will find plenty of other posts related to Legos.
Since this is the National Week of Making in the United States, I thought I would curate a few more resources for you that offer opportunities to use Legos for more than just following the instructions in the box.
Don’t have your own Legos? Well, you might have great success, as I did, just asking for donations. Or, you could always make your own, like this student did on his home 3D printer to make a gift for me. (He made the green ones.)
Yep. I used to think the only way Legos could make me cry would be to embed themselves in the bottom of my bare feet at inopportune moments.
Now they make a different kind of impression on me.
As this is a “National Week of Making” in the U.S., it seems only appropriate that makers around the country should spend some time on making cool gifts and cards for Fathers’ Day on June 21st.
I saw a tweet earlier today from @Makerspaces_com that shared a link to this Instructables page with gift ideas. As not all of the projects are appropriate for elementary-aged kids, I sought out something that would be a bit less labor intensive than building your own barbecue barrel.
I saw these instructions for a Light Up LED Card, which reminded me of the ones our Maker Club did in May. I didn’t get a chance on that post to show some of the variations that the students did after learning the basics of the “Everything is Awesome” card. Here are a couple of student originated versions:
Hopefully the students remembered to keep the circuits open so their batteries don’t run out before Fathers’ Day!
You can find more fun projects and resources for any time of the year here.
According to the White House, the United States is celebrating a “National Week of Making” from 6/12-6/18 this year. A National Maker Faire was held in Washington, D.C., on the 12th and 13th, and people all of the country are sharing ideas with the #nationofmakers hashtag. You can go to this link to get ideas on ways to engage in making.
As many of you know, I am a huge proponent of the “maker movement” – especially within our schools. It’s good to see it getting this kind of attention for the 2nd year in a row.
For a list of makers who participated in the National Maker Faire, check out this page. You will see new ideas and new people that you might want to reach out to for “maker” advice.
This 5th grader was super-excited, and completely determined to make sure I didn’t forget to give him his 5-minute sharing opportunity. In my GT classroom, students can earn different privileges for certain achievements, and this was a privilege for which this student had worked particularly hard.
Finally, it was time.
The student came to the front of the room with a box in his hand. It turned out the box was his first package from Bitsbox. It included cards, a magazine, stickers, and a surprise toy.
I last posted about Bitsbox in December. The site is free, and allows students to learn how to code programs. Once the students log in online, students can write and test programs on a virtual tablet. When users create something they like, it can actually be shared and played on mobile devices. You can access the Teacher Guide here.
My student’s parents had gone one step further, and gotten a Bitsbox subscription. Depending on the subscription level that is chosen, either a PDF or an actual box is delivered to subscribers monthly. My student obviously received the box, and he could not wait to share its contents with the class. The students were in awe as he demonstrated how you could actually write a program online, and then play it on your mobile device.
I was thrilled to receive my own Bitsbox in the mail for review. So was my 12-year-old daughter, especially when she saw the “surprise toy” – a Slinky.
The current Bitsbox magazine is great quality (nice paper, color pages), has 22 apps to try, and includes an inventory of some of the songs, stamps, fills, and sounds that you can use to “remix” the apps. It also has a link to a Grownup Guide – one of the best features in my opinion – which allows you to type in a code number for any of the programs. Parents then have access to a helpful “translation” of the programming involved, as well as extension suggestions. LOVE!
My daughter enjoyed the “Who’s My BFF?” code, which randomly chooses a friend’s name from the ones that you input. My students like things that explode, so “Fido’s Lunch” (one of the included programming cards) made quite an impression.
The difficulty of the apps varies. Some are very short and simple. Others have quite a few lines of code, but obviously allow for more fun when playing the completed games. Content-wise, the target ages seem to be about 7-12 years old, though I must admit that I certainly enjoyed trying them out even though I’m nowhere near that age bracket ;)
So, the big question is, “Is a Bitsbox subscription worth it?” One thing you should do to help yourself make this decision is try the website activities first. If your child enjoys those – to the point that he or she is modifying them and begging for more – then you should consider a subscription. My 5th grader obviously did! Personally, I think the $20 PDF would not be that exciting. Kids like to get packages. That being said, I’m not sure the $40 month-to-month is a very good value. I think I would try the $35/month for 3 months or the $30/month for 12. My advice to Bitsbox would be to offer 6 months for $30 each, and the 12 months for $25/month. I think that would be ideal.