Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Codey Rocky in the Makerspace

I've been using Makeblock since I picked up the mBot a couple of years ago. It was such a fun robot to build. This is why I was excited to hear that Makeblock had launched a Kickstarter for their next robot, the Codey Rocky.


It is very easy to be skeptical of the videos posted by companies showing all of the amazing things their product can do, but I can tell you that Makeblock is not exaggerating what the Codey Rocky can do. Here are some of the standouts from using it in the Makerspace at school and seeing students interact with it out of the box. 

The mBlock 5 is their software that is based on Scratch and can interact with Scratch made programs. Block based coding has become the standard for entry level coding for beginners and it is nice to see Makeblock continue that trend. The cool part is that you can switch to Python coding with the click of a button. I love this option because it is perfect for instruction as students move away from block coding and gain experience using text based coding.


I was able to quickly download the software on my Mac and start dropping the code in with the blocks. The code is quickly uploaded to the Codey Rocky through the USB connection so you can see what you coded right away. I did a quick blinking code to get eyes opening and closing and it worked great! You can have the Codey Rocky move and use the sensors on the code and all you need to do is code, upload, and get started. Using the buttons on the Codey Rocky is the easiest way to test the code you have written and then move on to the sensors once you have a strong understanding of how the code works as written. 

Makebklock also provides 16 lessons for students and teachers to explore to help guide them on their journey exploring the Codey Rocky. The lessons run the full range of sensors that the Codey Rocky has and really gives the user a full experience of what the device can do. 

I mentioned the sensors above and they are sweet. Of the 10 sensors, the sound sensor, light sensor, and IR color sensor were the most fun to play with for the students. All of these sensors are accessible through their app that is available on all mobile and desktop platforms. 

The thing that stands out to me about the Codey Rocky that makes it a great addition to a Makerspace is that it allows students to be creators, not just consumers. They can write the code and direct the Codey Rocky to do what they want. As they become more comfortable adding sensors and working with Python, I can see students in the Middle School transitioning to Raspberry Pi and starting to build their own robots and use sensors with those creations. 

I highly recommend that parents and teachers give the Codey Rocky a look over when they are considering great tools to help student learn and create with code and hardware. I'm excited to see what my students have in store for the Codey Rocky next year when they have more time to create.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Students Share The @WonderWorkshop Cue and Sketch Kit

Good morning everyone! Today I am sharing the last video of the school year from the Knight's Forge Maker Show. The students spend a few weeks learning how to code and draw with the Wonder Workshop Sketch Kit and the Cue robot. I had so much fun watching them problem solve the code and trying to get the Cue to drive and use the markers to make objects. Here are just a few shots I shared on Instagram.




The students worked very hard on understanding how the Cue works with the Sketch kit and figured out how the Cue was able to move the pen up and down. The spent extra time on the video and this is really well done.

It has been awesome to watch them grow over the past few months as they have explored the different tools that are available in the Knight's Forge Makerspace. They have started talking about a mentor program for incoming 5th graders to help students interested in joining the team next year. I'm very proud of all of the hard work they have put in and can't wait to see what they come up with for the next school year.





Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Legends of Learning Brings Game-Based Learning to Students


In my younger days, I really struggled with Math. I remember having a Summer tutor one year to help me with my Math skills. It was awful. Taking away my Summer to work with a stranger to do Math was brutal. However, the one thing that did get me excited to learn Math was a computer game called Math Blaster. I was able to play a game, have fun, and work on my Math skills. I remember playing that game, as well as Where in the World is Carmen Santiago, four hours and hours growing up. Legends of Learning is an amazing website that has many different different games to support STEM and the way it uses gamification to engage learners reminds me of my days playing games and learning Math.

Legends of Learning is a free to join website that gives teachers access to a wide variety of games for students to play. Teachers can choose the games students should play, share the invite code, and then they can track their progress is real time! Each game allows for the teacher to choose how long they want the students to take complete the game and allows for teacher to stop or pause the game at any time. Here are a few shots of the a game and the teacher dashboard.


This was a fun middle school game about the phases of the moon. I had it out after school and a student asked if they could try it out. They had a blast navigating a ship around and answer questions.

Here is where the teacher can decide how long they want the game to run with students and then invite them to the game.


Here is a screenshot of the real-time view of students playing the game. It shows the student's names and where they are in the game. It was great watching the progress of the students and it allowed me to see which students had more difficulty with the content. Without a doubt, my favorite game is Eco Kingdoms. You are in charge of a park and you make decisions that impact the attendance, wildlife, plant life, and your overall budget. My longest attempt had the park running for 31 months until I ran out of money protecting beavers who built a damn. The game was very addicting and I put in over 20 minutes playing.

Gamifying education is not something that is brand new to the edtech space, but it is constantly evolving and I love where Legends of Learning has taken gamification. A wide variety of games for all levels makes this a wonderful tool to add to a classroom. Whether for review or an introduction to a new topic, Legends of Learning is an awesome website that is perfectly designed to support teacher instruction and student learning.


Overall, I really like Legends of Learning and will be working with my Science teachers to weave it into their classrooms. I highly suggest you take the time to sign up and see how Legends of Learning can be part of your classroom.





This is a sponsored post, but that doesn't mean I don't believe that gamification is a great way to engage students. League of Legends is awesome whether this was a sponsored post or not. 






Friday, June 1, 2018

The need to be "pushy" in education #EdChat

I was having a conversation with my friend and colleague Mike Medvinsky. We were talking about how important it is for teachers to expand their thinking and I said something like, "I get so annoyed when you push my thinking." Mike is my friend for a number of years and there is some humor in that statement because few people actively explore outside their comfort zone and push their own thinking. I know I do not do it enough. I think lots of people are open to new ideas, but do not necessarily search out ideas the push up against their current beliefs. Mike is great at challenging why I believe what I believe and it forces me to explore why I do believe it so I can articulate it back to him. I don't always change what I'm thinking, but I always have a better understanding of my side and his side.

There are things I believe in and push others about, but there are some things that I'm still old school about and I know that I need people to push me on my beliefs. My friend Starr Sackstein is great example of this. She has pushed me to explore my ideas on grading and what it should look like. I respect her as a teacher and a friend, but "no grades" was just not something I was going to buy into. However, her pushing forced me to stop and think about my position and try and articulate why I believed what I believed. That alone is so important because we should always self-assess our beliefs in education. Why do we do what we do? If the answer is, "because we have always done it that way", then there is a huge problem.

On Twitter, it is important that everyone has a chance to share their ideas and push back against those ideas that do not understand or are not a best practice. Challenging an idea is not the same as challenging a person. There is a distinction between the two, but many attach who they are to ideas, so they can't separate them. I'm an advocate for Project Based Learning and Makerspaces. There are people that do not think my views of both of those ideals are good for students or teachers. That's cool. I support things that work for me and my students and others are welcome to push my thinking and ask questions. I always felt it was part of my job as an educator to teach students to push their thinking and feel comfortable to respectfully challenge what is being shared. There is not harm in asking someone, "why" or, "can you go a little bit deeper into your reasoning".

How do we expect students and adults to challenge misinformation online if we are not comfortable challenging information that is being shared. We all should be able to push more more information. If you are on Twitter to just share one-liners without any substance, that's cute and people will surely give a like or an RT, but deeper conversations are better when there is an opportunity for deeper discussion, reflection, and growth. Maybe Twitter is just not the place for these things.

Being challenged on your thinking can be tough and might feel personal, bit if we are to grow as educators, we need to be able to explain are practices and help others understand why we do what we do. You don't have to change your position when discussing with others, but by at least listening and articulating your position, you can come out with a better understanding of what the other side is thinking. This, of course, should not be contained to educational conversations. This is an approach all people need to take when it comes to having a better understanding of other people and what they believe.

Thanks to all of my friend and strangers that push my thinking, make me uncomfortable, and help me grow as an educator.

Hugs and High Fives,

NP

Simplifying the Shift to Project-Based Learning


If you’re just getting started with project-based learning (PBL), the logistics can feel overwhelming. Where do you find the right resources? How do you facilitate collaboration among students? How do you give students feedback along the way?

Over 10 years ago, I started to explore Project based Learning in my classroom and it was a tough go at the start. I wasn't sure if what I was doing was correct and I did not have many resources or tools available to me online. Google Tools were not available to me or my students, so trying to make everything accessible and sharable was a huge mountain to climb. I look at the edtech landscape today and I see so many great tools out there that make Project Based Learning so much more accessible to teachers and really lower the bar for entry. 
Organizing Resources
Teachers who are brand-new to PBL, as well as those who have experience using PBL in the classroom, should take a look at Project Pals. This online collaboration platform offers a catalog’s worth of cross-curricular content that’s ready to use right away. Teachers can add their own materials, too. It’s teacher-friendly by integrating with Google Classroom, and allows teachers to keep all their project materials in one place. From there, resources and entire projects can be shared among teachers and students.
Facilitating Collaboration and Feedback
Project Pals gives students one centralized place to collaborate with their peers. The collaborative workspace is updated in real time, so students can participate in problem-solving activities either in class or from home.
Meanwhile, teachers can access student work and provide ongoing feedback. The platform allows teachers to guide students throughout the process to make sure they’re learning the lessons of each project, and to analyze how much each student is contributing to the project.
The interactive lesson plan function allows teachers to ease their students into each topic. They can start their investigative journey by asking comprehensive questions, and then breaking down the problems into separate components. This allows students and teachers to stay organized and focused on problem-solving.
In the video below, you can take a tour of the platform to get an idea of all of the resources ready for teachers and students. It shows how to navigate Project Pals, and what it looks like when you sign up and dive into this student-friendly space. You can find a few lesson examples here.
If you want to take Project Pals for a test drive, teachers can use the platform for free for up to 20 projects and 50 students by signing up here.


This is a sponsored post, but that doesn't mean I don't believe that Project Based Learning is awesome and tools to help teachers embrace it are important and worth exploring.