Monday, May 23, 2016

Making and Minecraft with @WithPiper #MakerEd

When I was at Picademy in February, I learned about an awesome company that uses Raspberry Pi as the brain of their project. Piper is an amazing start-up that has children build their computer and use Minecraft to learn how to use the different aspects of the Raspberry Pi and all of the buttons assembled. Here is a quick video that explains what Piper is and how it works.


When I got home, I had to get one. After waiting patiently, I was able to order a Piper and spent an afternoon building the set with my son. Here is the box and what can be found on the inside. Normally, I take pictures of the assembly process and share what it looked like, but Leo and I were so into building it piece by piece, that I forgot to take pictures. It was that engrossing. Watching the kit come together one part at a time was so fun Leo loved seeing the parts snap into place and he couldn't wait to hand me the next part to put in place. 



Once we had the battery charged, we were ready to go exploring. We started with the mouse and followed the storyline closely. The sound was great and the graphics were perfect. Leo thought it was super funny and wanted to dive into the buttons, but we had to go through the story until we could get to the button install. The pacing really allowed me to learn about the different things the kit could do and I learned as I played. That is the whole point. I learned so much about using the Raspberry Pi and the different functions. It was fun, it was engaging, and it was educational. Those are all of the things you want to see in any product designed for children. 



I played many of the missions in story mode and loved all of it. It was very engrossing and I still have so much more to learn. My only problem was moving it around. The case is wonderfully compact and is light, but the box was awkward to carry. It was missing a handle. So, I took a design I found on Dremel's 3D design site, uploaded it to Tinkercad to adjust, and printed it out. I was able to attach it easily to the box. 




The cool part of the kit is that its design allows you to hack it however you want. That is what is at the core of the Piper kit. They want you, or your students, to build, hack, make, and other things. It has the spirit of Making built in and kids are going to love exploring the world of Minecraft using a computer that they built. 

You can order a Piper Kit yourself and you can save $20 if you use the code NERDY! Check out Piper right now!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Project Based Learning and The Great Gatsby #EngChat

I'm a huge advocate for Project Based Learning. One of my favorite lessons is the one for The Great Gatsby. The assignment is very straightforward. Create something that explains two characters, a symbol, and a theme using a medium of your choosing. I always get some amazing projects and this year has been great. I have had great works of art and a student even built his own green light!

I am writing this post to showcase one of the best I have ever received. Here is a rap battle written and performed by four of my students. The nail the lyrics and one of the students created the beats using Garageband. If you have a few minutes, please listen to the song and leave them a message. They would really appreciate it.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Learning Fun with @TigglyKids


I was very lucky to run into the awesome people at Tiggly when I was at #ASCD16. I stopped by their booth and was blown away at what I saw. Manipulatives for the iPad to help students learn to count, spell, and create. Here is a video that explains more of what it is.  


Awesome right? Well, videos always make things look pretty cool, so I needed to see how my 5 year old would respond to Tiggly for the iPad. Tiggly sent me their educator kits for Shapes, Math, and Words. Here are some images of what comes with the sets. 



Each Education set comes with 5 student sets for $150.00. Along with the manipulatives, each set comes with a Teacher Handbook, 5 Activity books, and 5 Thinker Journals. 

The Teacher Handbook comes with detailed explanations of the different apps that are included with the purchase of the sets and how they are used. They also have activities that teachers can set up for the students. 



The Activity Books allows students to have fun away from the screen and do some learning on their own. 



The Thinker Journal is a place for young students to draw and share their thoughts. This could be a cool reflection space for students that are using the apps and the Activity Books.


A see these sets being a nice addition to an elementary classroom that has access to iPads so students can have fun on their own and still practice their reading, spelling, and math skills.

You might not want/need an entire 5 student kit for your home, so Tiggly has the individual kits for purchase as well. 


Each kit costs $29.99 and is worth every penny. Please do not take my word for it, trust my son Leo.


Leo was using the pictures he created using the shapes to make his own little story. This is just one short video, but Leo played with this for an hour before moving to another Tiggly app. He loves to create stories and the app was a very fun way to facilitate his story telling.



Here is Leo playing the Chef game for Tiggly. This has to be one of his favorite games on the iPad right now. He uses the manipulatives to count the number of ingredients needed to make a crazy recipe. When it is done, a whacky meal with a zany name is displayed. It gets him laughing every single time. I have had to go into the settings are reset the app so he could redo the recipes almost a dozen times.

Tiggly is an award winning product that can support young learners as they explore shapes, words, and numbers. I personally think it is cool and would be awesome in the classroom. Leo thinks it is "Awesome!" and it is his "favorite app". How can you argue against that testimony. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Yes, All Children Should Try Coding #EdChat

I read another wonderful post from the amazing Pernille Ripp the other day and that had me thinking. That is not unusual because all of her posts have me thinking at the end, but this one had me pushing back a little in my head, so I'm going to share it here. 

Pernille's post, Not Every Kids Wants to Learn How to Code, has some wonderful points that I cannot disagree with here. 

Pernille wrote, "not every kid wants to be a computer scientist." She is correct. Not every student wants to be a computer scientist. I would say that most students do not want to be a computer scientist. However, that is not why schools are teaching coding. There is so much more to it than that. 

I also agree when she wrote, "I wish that reading, playing music, creating, or anything else that seems to be so often on the chopping block was just as worthy as coding." Yes! I wish all of our students had more time and access to the things they are most passionate about at school. I want more money and time to help all of these students. I don't think it is fair to say we are cutting art for coding. It's not like coding came along and bullied art and took its place in line. I have been an advocate for the arts for many many years because I do know the value of them in our schools. I think there is room for all of them, but we might need to make room for one by cutting back on another. That sounds awful, but coding is important. 

As we move forward in life, certain things have become more complex than ever before. In Metro Detroit, you used to be able to leave high school and sign up with Ford and work the line. You would do that for 40 years and you would retire with a nice pension. Those days are gone. While some can still get a job in the manufacturing world out of high school, more and more of these jobs require more and more training. Are all of them code based? Of course not, but they are heavily tech based. To understand the tech, people need to understand how tech works. Tech works through code. 

While I do not expect all students to become Master Coders after some coding courses, I do think it is important for them to have the experience so they can have an understanding of how almost everything in the world works now. That exposure might lead them to a career in a coding related field, or they might just be able to troubleshoot some minor issues at their home. I liken it to learning a language. 

In Michigan, we require students to take 2 years of a language and recommend 3 for college bound students. Are we really expecting students to become fluent in three years of HS language? Are they going to become language teachers? Of course not, but they will have a better understanding of the language (coding is a language, many different languages) so they can interact a little better when they encounter it outside of school. 

I also do not think it has to be one or the other. Coding can, and should be, woven in to other subject areas. Coding in Art and Music makes so much sense! Learning the code for the various colors to show up on the display and create images using lines of code are completely possible. Adding music you record to that creation or music created without touching an instrument is possible. I'm not suggesting we abandon paints and violins, but there are ways to add in elements of coding to what we already do. 

My son, Leo, is turning 5 next week and he already has some experience with coding. He has been using Scratch for a few months and loves it. Does he understand that it is coding, no, but he is learning about he cause an effect relationship actions by using the Coding Blocks. As he grows up and if he wants, he will take the knowledge and explore more complex forms of coding. It will be his choice, but based on playing with it and seeing if he likes it. Some parents at home might not have the chance or the resources to support their kids in experiencing code and that is why schools need to support it. 

I am trained as a high school English and Social Studies teacher. I have spent the past 6 months learning how to code on the Raspberry Pi and now I'm learning something different as I play with a robot. I am teaching all of this myself because I find it interesting. Once I have a complete, or near complete, understanding of it, I can then think of different ways to merge that into a literature curriculum. Will it be easy? Of course not. I did not become a teacher because it was easy. It was because of the pay...wait...

I know Pernille is not suggesting dumping coding from schools, but I do think it is becoming more and more important that our students have more formalized instruction in coding so they can be prepared for the jobs that do not exist yet that will probably involve technology in a major way. 

What are your thoughts on coding in schools?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Raspberry Pi Jam at #ISTE2016 #MakerEd

I have been loving all of the cool Raspberry Pi adventures I have gone on since becoming a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator. I have connected with even more amazing educators and have learned so much more about coding and computing than I have ever hoped.

One of the cool things about Raspberry Pi is the community that surrounds this credit card sized device. It is an amazing group of people that love to code, hack, create, and share the cool things they are doing with Raspberry Pi. They organize events for people to get together and share their Pi creations and they have an awesome name, Raspberry Pi Jam.

During the Picademy, the concept of Jams was explained and some of us immediately thought about doing one at ISTE 2016 in Denver. After some hard work and ISTE being awesome and donating space and monitors, I'm happy to announce the ISTE 2016 Pi Jam! All are welcome to come and check out the awesomeness that is Raspberry Pi. If you have no idea what Raspberry Pi is, but you want to talk to people who do, this is the place for you. The event takes place in the Posterboard Session space on Monday June 27 from 5PM-7PM. If you are looking to learn more, please stop by and say hello and see what is going on with Pi.

If you are a Pi enthusiast and you have some awesome things you want to share with others, we would love to have you join us for the Pi Jam and share the awesomeness. Below is a Google Form for those of you who want to claim a space with a monitor to show your Pi work off and answer questions curious people might have.

Again, this form is only for those who want to reserve a spot to show of their Pi projects.


Feel free to spread the word and share the Raspberry Pi Jam love to everyone out there.