Thursday, May 19, 2016

Making the World Smaller with SMART amp

Teaching is my passion. I love it! I love changing things up, trying new techniques out, seeing my students faces light up when they ENJOY learning or get a new concept. I love teaching!

So lost with out my students!
As of this moment, I am off on family leave and missing my students terribly! So when I can (and I do often!) I check in with my students through technology. 

One of my favorite ways is with SMART amp. SMART amp is SMART Technologies internet based, interactive program for people to work and learn together. Think of it as a BIG room where we can play. SMART gives so many tools within amp that students (children or adults) don't have to leave the space. It's all within the space, including a chat feature, YouTube, links, assessment, graphics, and so much more.

But I think the best part is the collaboration amp automatically lends itself to. Within amp you have to collaborate. There is no way around it. Students must work together to complete their task. Plus, with the sharing feature, amp spaces are even easier to share between students in your class and beyond.   

With SMART amp I am able to check in and chat with students from home, as are my students, which they do and LOVE! Plus, the first time I check in with my students, it freaks them out! Even though I tell them I can see everything, they forget I can and am a part of their amp team and can collaborate with them. Which also reminds them to stay on task. Double win!

Anne Frank and Diversity SMART amp space
In addition to "checking in" with my students, the use of SMART amp makes the world smaller and more accessible. Students in small town Oakdale are not always able to travel to far off lands. Sure, we have the internet and Google to check things out. But those cannot replace conversations and interactions with the people who live in those far off places. This year teaching eighth grade, I was finally able to teach Anne Frank. I have always loved WWII history, and Anne Frank is no exception. And through the magic that is the SMART Exemplary Educator Program and the SEE Summit, I just happened to have a friend who lives in the Netherlands, Boris Berlijn! With his and his students help, our students were able to collaborate through SMART amp and learn about each other's culture, the diversity within each culture, and how diversity in 1943 affects life now. 

Boris's Culture SMART amp space
And now, my students are helping Boris's students with culture in Oakdale and the US! Truly, learning at its finest when collaboration happens! Even better when worlds collide and we feel connected. Learning at its most powerful!

In the end, being connected to other people truly brings us together. Brings us closer to each other, and to our learning. My students learned so much more because there are tools out there to bridge the gap and connect people. We are better together and SMART amp has done just that. Brought us together to be better learners, more understanding, more compassionate, and excited about connecting.

Friday, May 13, 2016

#CUESteamPunk! Robotics in the ELA Classroom

With anything in life, time can seem to slip by and before we know it, it is the end of the school year and time for reflection.

This year has been one of a kind for me...Our family has grown, took some time for myself and family, but still continued to grow as an educator. This year, I threw out my "traditional" plans and organized by what my students needed and wanted. 

We began the year with learning the tech needed to be successful throughout the year. We did this through discovery, team building, and developing a class culture of trust. Units were planned, but individual lessons were typically planned the day or night before. I brought in new tech and tools, both traditional and digital and one of the most exciting was the opportunity to learn, explore, and create with the help from CUE

I signed up for the opportunity to use the CUE Steampunk labs with my English language arts (ELA) students. I wanted to explore how STEM and STEAM should and need to be applied and integrated into ELA. Currently, I have added other aspects of STEM into class, but hadn't the opportunity for robotics....yet.

Then December 14th....Spheros from CUE entered my classroom. My students thought it was dangerous material as it came in its yellow hard case...which of course caught their interest even more! I had them before they even knew what we were going to do! That afternoon, with some high school's help, we mapped out the Sphero Driving Course for the next day.

We were equipped with five Spheros and five iPads, which equaled TONS of FUN! Students were broken into groups to master eight driving courses to earn their license. Their license was needed to continue the rest of the week's Sphero challenges to show that students A. Could handle Sphero driving basics, B. Do some coding, C. Be responsible with the Spheros.
After their driving lessons and test, students then blogged about their driving experiences.

I should mention that the Spheros came the week before our school was having finals and heading to winter break. So what shall we do?! Spheros for finals! I searched the Sphero SPRK Lightening Lab for something "cool" and yet ELA infused for finals. I found the Sphero Assistive Device lesson

Instead of a traditional ELA final, students of the Duckpond imagined that their best friend was in an accident and could no longer rely on their hearing. It was their job to research challenges of deaf and hard-of-hearing, program the Sphero to alert their friend in three types of emergencies, design a plan, test it, blueprint the Sphero's path, and reflect on the process. 

It was AWESOME. The final was so great that students asked for more. Jaiden, a student in my first period said, "That was the most challenging, but fun final ever!" You can't beat that response! So I went to our Parent Teacher Club (PTC) to ask for a class set of Spheros. Armed with the video below, student work, connections to standards, and my principal's support....the PTC couldn't and didn't turn me down! A class set is now in the Duckpond's tool box! Lesson designs have begun for next year!

As if working with Spheros wasn't #EduAWESOME enough, CUE sent me Dash and Dot to play with! I have had to opportunity to play with Dash and Dot with our OJUSD Tech Committee, and I was already sold on Spheros. However, after truly spending some quality time with Dash and Dot, now I want to add these guys to our class repertoire! 

These little guys can be programed to do different things, "talk", dance, and more! I know these guys are suggested for elementary students, but so much can be learned with them and then move up with Spheros. Students can have Dash "map out" the travels of Juan de Pareja of Buck from our novels, tell stories with movement, and I am sure tons that my students can and would come up with. 

Robotics and other tech tools don't have to be isolated into a computer or programing class. Students need exposure and access in any and all classes. These tools not only spark interest in new subject matters for students, but also engages and inspires them for more. Many of my students after "playing" with the robots have begun looking into getting their own robot for home use or coding games online. A small group of students even expanded their Genius Hour project to attempting to build their own version of a Sphero.

STEM and STEAM can and should be integrated throughout curriculum and grade levels. I can't wait to expand my lessons and students yearning for knowledge with robotics. I have even had a student volunteers to run a Sphero coding club! 

Learning at its best is when it is viewed or felt like play and student directed. Thank you CUE Steam Punk for showing me and my students just this. 

Can't wait to learn and share more!