Make a Resolution to Collaborate Globally and Join us for the TL Virtual Cafe January 5th

It’s almost 2015!  Many of us will make resolutions for the year, but in the education world a new calendar year most likely is a halfway point in the year.  For me, it’s a great time to pause and check in on what I hoped to accomplish for the year, and think about what I still need to tackle.  One of my big goals for the 2014-2015 school year was to “engage in global thinking and global collaboration”.

So far this year:

  • We collaborated with multiple schools for International Dot Day and used Google Drawing to create works of art with our collaborating schools.
  • We beta tested Wandoo Reader for Evanced and held Skype sessions to offer feedback on improving the tool for schools.
  • We exchanged our recycling problem with multiple schools during America Recycles week and brainstormed solutions for one another, while realizing that we all have recycling challenges as well as ideas for both recycling and reusing.
  • Our 4th grade pushed their explorers project out to the global audience and invited people to view and vote on the explorer perspectives that were offered
  • Joyce Valenza and I hosted a GlobalTL Google Hangout to encourage librarians to push the start button on global collaboration through multiple online communities including the GlobalTL Google Plus Community

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What I know:  I still have a lot of work to do!  While I’ve had many collaborative experiences, I still feel like I’m just scratching the surface of  something that could be much bigger and meaningful.  I also know that I have lots of ideas, but I can’t expand those ideas alone.  I need my professional learning network of global librarians to think, plan, and create with me.

Global TL logo

Joyce Valenza and I will be hosting the 1st TL Virtual Cafe of 2015 on January 5th at 8PM EST.  During our session, we plan to outline three levels of global collaboration.

This process might happen as a three-level taxonomy:

  • Introduction: We learn to use the tools for connection and share their affordances with learners, through engaging, though often one-shot, activities, like__Mystery Skypes__.
  • Inquiry: Guided by teachers and librarians, students engage in authentic partnerships to address issues and problems, engaged in curricular projects like__Flat Classroom__.
  • Independence: Students transfer use of the tools and strategies we’ve modeled, using hashtags to identify global experts, setting up their own investigatory conversations and events. They become citizen journalists, scientists, collaborative writers and creators, engaging in such projects as our Eyes Wide Open initiative.

Our children deserve teachers and librarians who are global. TLs who can plan meaningful global learning partnerships, connecting learners, classrooms and libraries through inquiry projects and expanding the possibilities of expanding the books we read.

Join us for what we hope will be a global conversation.  We want this TL Cafe to not just be a presentation of success, but instead have it be an opportunity to ponder what we’ve tried and brainstorm new ideas for what we can do together as teacher librarians around the world.

Plan to join us.  Bring your ideas and be ready to share them in the chat, on Twitter, and even on the mic during the session.  See you there!

http://tlvirtualcafe.wikispaces.com/

Celebrating Our Explorer Project with the Flipgrid Team

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Today our 4th graders had the chance to Skype with Charlie Miller and the rest of the Flipgrid team in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  This was the conclusion of the explorers project that 4th grade students have worked on for the past few weeks.  As part of the project, we encouraged people around the world to watch our Flipgrid videos and vote on whether explorers were heroes or villains.

The team congratulated our students on their hard work on this project and also took questions and suggestions from students.  Several 4th graders stepped to the microphone and shared suggestions such as:

  • Extending the 90 second time limit by offering a choice of time limits
  • Allowing you to categorize your video with tags

Other students shared what they liked about Flipgrid such as:

  • the ability to watch other people’s videos before making your own
  • the like button
  • being able to film your video again if you weren’t happy with it

Since this Skype came the week after our hour of code lessons, it was also a great time to hear about how an app was developed.  It sounded like developing an app is a much longer process that developing a website because in one of the student questions we learned that the app took about 6 months to create while the website took 2 really long weekends.  We also heard how an app is never really done because you are always trying to make it better.  I loved how this connected both with our hour of code sessions but also to other areas such as writing instruction.  Students also learned about how the name Flipgrid was chosen since the videos are on a grid and they flip when you play them, but they also heard other considerations that go into a name such as web domain registration and what is actually available.

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One of the most fun parts of the Skype was the announcement of awards.  Several students received awards for Excellence in Writing, Shout-outs from authors, and Global Persuader awards.  I sent these names to the Flipgrid team and they took turns calling out student names as I handed out the certificates.  Students had fun giving silent cheers for their classmates as awards were handed out.

I also took time to share with the students the results of all of the voting that had taken place for their project.  It was interesting to see their reactions as they heard that Christopher Columbus was the only explorer voted to be a villain.

Just for fun, we closed out our Skype with a Christmas singalong of Rudolph.  Luke performed on the guitar and we belted out our best Rudolph even through the time delay on Skype.  It may not have sounded like it was together, but it was still fun.

Thank you to the entire Flipgrid team for creating a tool that has helped our student voices to reach a global audience, and thank you for taking time to celebrate with us.

Polar Express Day: A Barrow Tradition Filled with Community

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Ask any Barrow student about some of their favorite events from the year and Polar Express Day will most likely be on the list.  Every year in December, our school transforms into a train station with a train bound for the North Pole.  We wear our pajamas to school, and every class in the school comes to the library to listen to the Polar Express.  On their way, students pass by numerous decorations that have magically appeared overnight.

They sit in rows as if on a train and are served hot chocolate while the hot chocolate song plays overhead.

Then, students listen to the story.  At the end of the story, every student receives a bell with the word “Always Believe” whispered into their ear.

As they exit, they each receive a candy cane as they return from the North Pole back to their classrooms.  I love watching the magic happen for our PreK students as well as students who are new to Barrow, and I love the excitement and bit of sorrow that 5th grade students have as they experience their final Polar Express.

Each year, this event amazes me by the amount of community that is involved in staging the event.

  • Our principal organizes a schedule and gets feedback from the teachers about their assigned time.  She also purchases hot chocolate, cups, and candy canes and arranges with the lunchroom to have the hot chocolate made throughout the day.

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  • A parent volunteer creates a volunteer sign up to have about 3 adults at each Polar Express session to assist with preparing hot chocolate, serving it, and handing out bells.  This year I also had tremendous help from Perrin, a former Barrow student, who came back to volunteer for the entire day.  She organized volunteers and made sure our hot chocolate kept flowing all day long.

Barrow Media Center  Polar Express

  • Some years, a team of volunteers have a bell stringing day where they prepare all of the bells and store them individually in egg carton trays.  This year, a retired teacher prepared all 575 bells for us.  Thank you Terri Sheppard!

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  • I setup the library.  This year, I arranged the shelves to form a path that took students to their seats.  I lined the path with white lights, flowers, stockings, and a tree.  I also setup the chairs, spotlight to shine on the book, and falling snow on our projection board.

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  • Overnight, a team of teachers take time to decorate the hallway.  This special group is our spirit committee and always involves teachers like Mimi Elliott-Gower, Sarah Britton Vaughn, Allison Griffith, and anyone else they can round up.  The kids love coming in to see what the school looks like on this special day.

One of the students who was leaving Polar Express gave me a huge hug and said, “Mr. Plemmons…we are so lucky at our school to have things like this.”  Another student said, “Thank you, Mr. Plemmons, for having this for us.”  It took me by surprise, but I couldn’t agree more.  I’m so thankful for our sense of community that pulls together to make these kinds of events truly magical for students.

Kindergarten Authors, Illustrators, and Storytellers using the StoryKit App

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Ms. Hocking is a Kindergarten teacher at our school who is always discovering new tools that she wants to try with her students.  She recently showed me the StoryKit app for iPhone.  This app uses some of the texts from the International Digital Children’s Library .  Readers can read the books as they are, but they can also edit them.

Ms. Hocking’s class has been reading multiple versions of the same folktales and stories this year, so this type of app was a great fit to extend their curiosities and noticings in reading into something that they could create.

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In class, she continued to have students read multiple versions of the same type of story such as The Gingerbread Boy and The Three Little Pigs.  In the library, students came for a whole hour of tinkering with the app.  Students started on the carpet, and I projected an iPad onto the screen.  I showed them the app and we started exploring the tools and menus together.  Then, students used an iPad to explore on their own.

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Through our modeling and tinkering, students discovered:

  • how to take a picture and add it to the story
  • how to draw on illustrations
  • how to delete text
  • how to add their own text
  • how to resize images inserted into the story
  • how to delete pages
  • how to find and add images already on the iPad camera roll

This tinkering was very important because it allowed students to figure out the workings of the app before they had to produce something.  In class, Ms. Hocking had them select one of the stories from the app and work in a collaborative group to brainstorm changes to the story.  These changes were written by Ms. Hocking or Ms. Rockholt, the parapro, onto a notecard.  Students also went in and deleted all of the text from the story in their classroom.

In the library, the groups came back for a work session.  Each adult worked with 2 groups.  Students took turns modifying the images in the story to match their plans for the story.  Then, some students wrote out new text for the story while other groups told their text to the adult in the group.  We tried to put as much control and creation into the hands of the students.

Back in class, Ms. Hocking is looking over their stories and they will continue to work before finalizing and sharing their work.

I loved seeing what Kindergartners could create.  I also loved the tinkering and creativity built into this project.

 

Hour of Code 2014: Scenes from Day 5

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Today has been filled with 3rd grade coding.  Ms. Hicks brought her Spectrum class to start the day off, and then those same students returned with their own class later in the day.  This gave these particular students 2 hours of code, so they were able to do both the Made with Code site and then launch into making Scratch projects by following the tutorials and then branching off on their own.  I love the structure of the Made with Code site and how it builds up to the openness of a tool like Scratch.  Students seem to better understand the concept of block coding after using the structure of Made with Code.

I know that the Made with Code site was made with girls in mind, but my own wish is that the site didn’t specifically talk about girls.  So many of our boys loved the site as well, but they were a little turned off when they saw the text on the site that specifically labeled the site for girls.  As long as they didn’t read the text, they were happily coding together.

Something else happened during today’s coding sessions.  Some of the teachers gave themselves permission to sit down and code with students.  All week, teachers have walked around and had great conversations with students about perseverance, coding, failure, and innovation.  However, very few have allowed themselves to code.

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Ms. Spurgeon was bubbling with excitement today as she coded the White House Christmas tree in her favorite color of pink.  Her excitement spilled over into the students at her table as they tried some of the things she was trying and watched her try different pieces of code.

It reminded me of the importance of learning along with our students and really showed me that I probably need to explicitly invite teachers to sit and code with their classes.  I can do all of the running around, talking, and nudging, but teachers should learn along with their students and consider how coding comes into their own curriculum.

Another new thing that happened today was that some students really stuck to the Scratch tutorials without trying to branch off on their own too early.  The ones that stuck with the tutorials really got some functioning projects off the ground during their hour of work.

Several of the 3rd graders branched off from the 3 holiday projects on Made with Code and tried some of the other projects.  They loved the beat creator.

As students made beats, they were naturally starting to think about lyrics or dances to go with their beats.  Their teacher happened to be standing nearby when I observed this so I suggested that they might write a rap that connected with some of their classwork.  Then, the teacher got excited and suggested a rap about habitats in science.  It will be interesting to see if this takes off in class or not, but students were certainly interested in creating beats and putting in some work to write a song.

4th grade closed out our day with all kinds of coding.  The experience with coding was the most varied in this grade because several students had used coding in projects last year.  I showed several resources and turned them loose to see what they could do.

This year’s hour of code has been so much fun and was a big improvement over last year.  Next year, I hope to do even more.  I would love to involve families at some point.  I’ve seen several schools hosting parent coding nights, so perhaps we will look at that for next year.

 

 

Hour of Code 2014: Scenes from Day 3 & 4

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Days 3 and 4 have been filled with lots of young learners for hour of code.

Kindergarten class have continued to come to use the iPad app The Foos.  In each session, we start by talking about the word “code”.  Lots of them mention passcodes on iPhones and codes to get into gates or buildings.  We link this to the idea of giving a computer a code.  Then, we watch the video from President Obama.

Before we start the app, we talk a lot about how coders don’t give up, they try small pieces and test, and they collaborate when needed.  The teachers and I have made some interesting observations about students while they are coding with The Foos and other coding tools.

1.  Students who might easily give up or struggle with other subject areas in school are fully engaged and putting forth tremendous effort when coding, while others who like to get things right the first time are easily frustrated.

2.  We talk a lot about stamina at our school and how long you can spend working at a task whether it’s math, reading, or something else.  The stamina of students in coding is very high.  Working for almost an hour was easily obtainable by most students regardless of age.

3.  Students who might not normally share their thinking with other students in order to help or collaborate were very willing to share their coding strategies.

4.  Some students still needed some direct instruction or nudges.  With the Foos in particular, I noticed students repeatedly pressing the run button in order to get a character to move rather than write enough code to make it happen with one click.  I observed students repeating the same code over and over that wasn’t working and never trying something new.  There is a lot to learn from tinkering, but it is still essential and necessary for a teacher facilitator to step in with some instruction, tips, or nudges.

In addition to the Foos, we had 2nd graders who continued to enjoy using the Made with Code site.  They loved programming a yeti to dance, but they thought it was super cool to be able to program the lights on the White House Christmas tree and actually schedule their code to light up in Washington.

Our preK students had a blast using the Sphero draw app to practice drawing shapes and programming Sphero to drive around the carpet in their shape.  You can read more about that here. 

Finally, we’ve been having an interesting occurrence in our makerspace.  It started with a couple of students asking if they could come in during their recess to build and program a robot.  Then, another student asked.  Before I knew it, the word was spreading and more students who were new to making were showing up during recess.  It’s sort of like an underground movement.  It’s exciting, but I’m trying to figure out how to manage it.  Just today, a student came in on her own, designed an object in Tinkercad, exported it to Makerware, uploaded it to an SD card, and began printing it on the 3D printer.  Another student uploaded a file to Thingiverse that he made at home and prepped his own file for printing.  Two students started assembling a robot and pooling their knowledge to create the code that lived up to their vision for what the robot can do.  Another new student appeared, and started tinkering with how to program Sphero.

Students want to dream, tinker, create, and share.  I’m thankful that our library is a place that they can do that.  Hour of code once again opens my eyes and teachers’ eyes to what students can do.

Coding and Beyond with PreK Using Sphero, Osmo, iPads, Computers, and Books

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I love it when a small seed of an idea turns into something much more.  A few weeks ago, I approached PreK about using our Sphero to practice writing letters.  I knew that PreK was working on forming the letters of the alphabet and I thought that the Sphero Draw and Drive app would be a perfect way to merge letter practice with some programming.  I originally thought that small groups might come to the library and use the Sphero with me, but further brainstorming with Ms. Heather resulted in us deciding to do 5 centers that students would rotate through in order to experience many technology, math, and literacy experiences.

Ms. Heather’s class has been bubbling with excitement about coming to the library to try out all of these centers.  Ms. Heather split the class up into 5 groups which was 4-5 students per group.  Ms. Heather, Ms. Melissa (parapro), Ms. Callahan (parent), and I all led a center and one center was independent.  Each center lasted about 10 minutes and took up about an hour with transitions. Here’s what they did.

Center 1:  Hour of Code programming with Sphero

Since this week is our hour of code, I was so glad that PreK got to experience an aspect of coding.  While coding didn’t fill up our hour, it certainly sparked their interest in how to make a computer or robot do what you want it to.  Students sat in a row and each took a turn to think of a letter to practice drawing.  Using the Draw and Drive app on iPad, students drew a letter and pressed play.  The Sphero drove around the carpet in the shape of that letter.  With a shake of the iPad, the letter was erased and the next student had a turn.

We repeated this process over and over until we were out of time.  Each time the robot rolled around the floor there was a burst of excitement.  As the facilitator, I asked students about the letters that they were drawing to make sure that they understood what they were trying to draw.

Center 2:  Osmo Tangrams and Words

Our Osmo devices are one of our favorite tools in the library.  The Osmo is came out this summer.  It includes a base to put the iPad in and a red attachment to place over the camera.  Osmo comes with 2 sets of tools to use with the apps: a set of letter tiles and a set of tangrams.  The three apps are free to download but you must have the base and attachment for them to work.  For this center, students used the Junior version of the Words app.  This app gives students a picture with a matching word.  The beginning sound of the word is missing and students have to lay the correct letter tile in front of the iPad.  If it is correct, the red attachment “sees” the letter tile and magically adds it to the word on the screen.  If it is incorrect, students have to try again.

Students also used the Introduction to Tangrams in the tangrams app.  This app shows students 2-3 tangram pieces pushed together.  For this beginning phase, the colors of the tangrams on the screen match the colors of the actual tangrams.  As students correctly place the tangrams on the table in front of the iPad, the red attachment “sees” them and fills in with black on the screen.  When they are all correct, a new combination is shown.

This center was one that needed adjustment as we went along depending on student needs and strengths. Some needed to focus more on the shapes while others were ready to think about letter sounds in words.  All students had a blast watching the magic of the Osmo happen on the screen and table.

Center 3: Starfall on Computers

Ms. Heather facilitated the computer center.  I put out a computer, mouse, and headphones for each student in the group.  One part of this center was simply using fine motor skills to practice using a mouse.  The other part was to use Starfall to continue practicing letters and sounds.

Center 4: Reading

A parent volunteer read aloud stories that I pulled.  The selections were Peanut Butter and Jellyfish, Job Site, and Stars.  She had students engaged in discussion about the story and the pictures all along the way.

Center 5: iPads

PreK has 5 iPads in each classroom.  Students have a variety of word apps that they can use at their own center time in class, so they are used to using these apps independently.  This made the perfect independent center since we didn’t have 5 adults.  Students sat on the bean bags by the windows and used the iPads by themselves for the 10 minutes of this center.

I think many times people think that our younger students can’t use technology or they are unsure of what to do with younger students.  I love giving things a go and seeing what happens.  We were amazed by students’ engagement and excitement today.  Some asked, “Can we do this every day?”  That was a sure sign of success.  When working with younger students, you have to think about what your barriers might be.  For us, we wanted smaller groups in order to have more adult support if needed.  We also wanted smaller groups so that students wouldn’t be waiting around since we only have 1 Sphero and 3 Osmos.  Using the teacher, parapro, parent volunteer, and me helped to make this possible.  You might have a different barrier, but I hope that you will consider what you might leap into with your youngest learners in your building.