Thursday, February 20, 2014

Buzzing BeeBots

Bee-Bot web site
I first came across the adorable Beebot at ISTE 2013.  Right away I was drawn to this little programmable bee.  I tried my hand at programming Beebot there in the booth, and very quickly showed the errors in my early computational thinking skills.  :)  

Terrapin Logo
The BeeBot was developed by the people who brought you Terrapin Logo.  Terrapin logo is a programming software that allows students to bring together their mathematical, computation thinking while incorporating the arts.  Although there are students as young as Kindergarten using it, many would say, Terrapin is designed with older students in mind.
BeeBot's command buttons

Enter Beebot-the programmable robot bees that were designed for young students.  This robot moves according to the simple commands you give it.  If you want the beebot to move forward, you press the "forward" button once and then "go."  To make him move forward 3 times, simply press the forward button 3 times, then press "go." Easy as that.  The Beebot is ready to use as soon as you take it out of the box.  The instruction manual itself is only a few pages long.  The buttons are large and easy to understand.

When we purchased these for our school, we also decided to order the lesson guide, directional cards and the durable plastic mat.  The cards have proved to be very helpful in helping the kids think through their program before testing it.  BeeBot works on any surface, so the mat itself is nice, but not 100% necessary.  The lesson pack was a good place for teachers to get a few ideas, but if you have to skip something, I'd say this would be it.  I'd be happy to connect with other schools currently using BeeBots or thinking about it.  Buzz!! Buzz!!!

Hands on STEAM PD with Beebots, Probots, Logo and more

Last week we had an engaging and fun PD session for our pre-k through 5th grade teachers.  We had three stations that teachers rotated though.  At one station, we set up Beebots and Probots.  At another, we had teachers explore Terrapin Logo software.  The last station was set up as a resource and research station.  Here teachers explored STEAM links, videos and blogs I had shared with them.  

I was so happy with the success of this setup.  Instead of leading the whole group on how to use each tool, I gave them the tools and the guides and let them figure it out on their own.  They learned how to use new tools, 
but I hope it also served as a good model on how to move from teacher based lectures to hands on exploration.  

More information about the tools from that we used in my next blog post. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Interested in Working as an Educational Consultant?

Living in NYC allows me to connect with some of the most passionate and innovative people in the world. Specifially, the EdTech world here in NYC is filled with creative eduprenuers and entreprenuers looking to develop solutions for today's classrooms.  The field is expanding so quickly and people are looking for experts and partners to help them develop all sorts of different tools.  I'd like to help connect more educators and developers by building a database of people who are interested in working with some of these start-ups.
courtesy Dell's Flickr Page

If you have wanted an opportunity to work as an educational consultant and to help develop innovative EdTech tools, this could be a good place to start. 

Click the link below to add your information.

Educational Consultant Database

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

My Favorite Chrome Extensions

Chrome is better when you add extensions that help you stay productive!  Here are 5 extensions I have downloaded and that I use almost daily.  

Add a split screen video presentation or message to any PDF, G Doc, G Sheet or G Presentation  

Speak It
Select text you want to read and listen to it. SpeakIt converts text into speech

Awesome Screenshot
Capture the whole page or a selection, annotate and blur sensitive info.  Allows you to cut and paste directly into an email or GDoc

Encrypted password manager that can save and fill in your login information on all the websites you visit.

Blocks ads, and pop ups on many popular sites

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Crucial Questions for Curriculum Design in the 21st Century

Teaching and learning in the 21st century demands a lot of the people who choose to be a part of the world's educational system.  It includes staying up to date with the latest technologies, connecting and collaborating with others, and constantly reflecting on and improving our practices.
All of that can seem overwhelming.  If teachers can commit to changing the fundamental questions they ask while designing curriculum, we can make a huge impact on the teaching and learning that happens in today's classrooms.

Here is my list of the crucial questions that teachers need to be asking while designing units of study.   
  • Why am I teaching this? What skill am I giving students that they will take with them throughout their lives? Why will my students be interested in learning this?
  • What might my students already know and be able teach me or others about this topic?
  • What are the current trends regarding this topic? Have I searched for relevant articles, videos, online games, simulations, updated teaching materials to share with students?
  • How can my students share their learning? Using traditional tools, media tools, arts, etc?  
  • Where can we post their work to share it with the world?
  • What expert can I bring into the classroom to help my students? In person, through email, chat, skype?
  • Who can I connect with via social media? Twitter, Facebook, Skype? An expert in the field, another classroom studying the same topic, nonprofits, conservancies?
The truth of the matter is that this process is even more powerful and valuable if it is transparent, visible and co-constructed along with students.