A SPRINKLE OF TECHNOLOGY
"In fifteen years we’ll be teaching programming just like reading and writing . . . and wondering why we didn’t do it sooner."
The Hour of Code is a global movement to teach kids all over the world about computer science. The goal in doing this is to help break stereotypes and leave students feeling empowered. The fundamental theme behind this movement is that ANYONE can code and ANYONE can learn.
The idea of coding can be intimidating, which is why many teachers avoid it. However, there are many programs and resources out there that can make the beginning process incredibly easy and FUN! Most programs start off very simple and then increase in difficulty as you go and there are resources available for K-12 classrooms.
Below are 4 of my favorite resources for introducing coding to your students.
If you are interested in The Hour of Code, hourofcode.com is a great place to start. It has promotion ideas & resources, student-guided tutorials and linked activities for all grade levels - including pre-reader all the way to high school.
Students can filter activities based on technology, topics, coding language and more.
3. Swift Playground (iOS app for iPads)
Swift Playground is an app specifically for iPads that turns learning to code into a fun, interactive set of games called "Playgrounds". Students will solve interactive puzzles in order to learn the core concepts and language of coding.
Using a drag/drop feature at first, students will work their way through the levels writing single lines of code to control a character with specific commands. For example, the task in a beginning level could be as simple as moving the character from one square to another. After creating the code, students can immediately try it out to see how it will play out. The immediate feedback helps facilitate engagement and excitement!
2. Made w/Code by Google
According to the Made w/Code website, 74% of girls in the United States express interest in STEM in middle school; however, by high school, only 0.4% of teen girls plan to pursue or major in Computer Science. Made w/Code by Google was started to encourage teen girls to follow their passion for science and technology.
There are many projects to check out on the website, but Wonder Woman is a fun way to get started. Students will work to create sequences to help Wonder Woman escape the scene. As the levels increase, so does the difficulty. Within in a few levels students will be exposed to variables, sequences, loops, and conditionals!
According to their website, Code.org is a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding access to computer science and increasing participation with girls and underrepresented minorities. If you are interested in trying out simple coding for yourself or your students - this is the place to start!
There are lots of FREE games, courses and resources (including posters, handouts, and videos) to help you promote coding or Hour of Code in your school or district.
The Hour of Code page has resources for all ages and students can choose a game that interests them. Here are a few places to start:
Once of my favorite games is called Dance Party. Students code characters to perform specific dance moves (floss, dab, drop, etc.) set to music by some of their favorite artists including Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, The Weeknd, and more! Students can program the characters to perform move to the beat of the selected music.
There are teacher resources, including a lesson plan AND a Dance Party Unplugged activity - with no computers needed!
Star Wars - Build a Galaxy with Code
Use code to join Anna and Elsa as they explore the magic and beauty of ice! The game starts out with a video to engage and tell students a little bit about coding before they begin.
An Hour of Code classic! Use the Angry Birds characters to try out the basics of computer science and coding.
Vocabulary review can be a critical part of student comprehension; but, finding new ways to review or practice vocabulary can be challenging.
Creating stop motion videos using Google Slides can be a fun and engaging way to solidify vocabulary terms - and it's easy to do!
For this post, I will create another very basic example but remember, you can make this as intricate as you want!
First, open a new Google Slides presentation. Select the first slide and go to Insert>Word art; then, type the vocabulary word in the pop up box. Change the font & fill color and move the word to the desired placement on the slide.
Now, add a text box and type the definition of the word. Format the text and place the box where you want it to appear throughout the video. You'll want the text to be fairly large and easy to read.
For my stop motion video, I want my definition to appear one letter at a time - like it is being typed onto the screen. To save time, you could also make the definition appear one word at a time - rather than letter by letter.
First, add a rectangle shape directly over the text box. Make sure to fill the shape so that it is the same color as your background. Also, make the line transparent.
Now, click on the shape and resize it to show the first letter of the sentence ONLY. Then, select the entire slide and press Ctrl + D
(Command + D on Macs) to duplicate the slide. Resize the box again to show the first AND second letter of the first word. Repeat this process of duplicating slides and resizing boxes until the entire sentence is visible.
To demonstrate understanding of the definition, students should add an icon that somehow correlates with the vocabulary word. To select an icon go to flaticon.com and search for thousands of FREE icons! Find an icon that you like, right click, and copy/paste it to your slide. Resize the icon and place it where you want it to appear on the slide. Be sure to site the icon at the bottom of the slide!
Now, this is where the creativity comes in! Students can decide how they want the icon to move or change throughout the video.
For this example, I want the cupcake to be "devoured". So, I will use the cloud shape and, slide-by-slide, I will cover the cupcake to give the appearance that it was eaten.
Create a cloud and make it the same color as the background of the slide with a transparent line. Place the cloud on part of the cupcake to give the illusion that someone took a bite. Then, duplicate the entire slide. On the new slide, click on the cloud and duplicate it, too (Ctrl+D or Command+D for Macs). Move the cloud to another part of the cupcake for another "bite". Duplicate the entire slide again and repeat the process until the cupcake is completely covered and looks like it was "devoured".
For the wanderlust example HERE, I had the car move across the screen. To achieve that, I followed the same premise above, but rather than covering the car up with a shape, I moved it an inch forward, duplicated the slide, and moved it another inch on the new slide. I continued this process until the car was off the slide.
Once the slides are complete, it's time to make it into a stop motion video! Go to File>Publish to the web. Check BOTH of the boxes under Auto-advance slides: and change the timing to every second. Hit the blue Publish button and then OK. Copy the link for the video.
Now, paste the link into a new browser tab, BUT DO NOT PRESS ENTER! Once you paste the link, you'll see the following at the very end:
This shows how many milliseconds will pass before the slideshow automatically flips to the next slide. There are 1,000 milliseconds in 1 second. While that sounds fast, it is NOT fast enough for stop motion. You can speed up the slideshow by making this number smaller. By changing 1000 to 500, it would be 500 milliseconds or one-half of a second. In other words, 2 slides would display per second.
For this example, I decided to change 1000 to 125 - or 8 slides in one second.
Quick tip: After viewing your video, if you'd like for a certain slide to last a little longer than others, duplicate it in the presentation! Each slide lasts the same amount of time, so duplicating a slide multiple times will give it a longer lifespan on screen.
Try experimenting with the number in the link to find the right speed for your video. Below are what my sample video looks like at different speeds.
Once you've changed the speed on the link, you can send it out and share it with others. Email it, make a QR code, or hyperlink it in a slide!
Stop motion can be used for many other classroom projects - not just vocabulary. Here are a few other ideas:
1. Retell a story read in class
2. Explain a math concept
3. Detail a historic event
4. Illustrate a scientific concept
Stop motion videos could be a fun and entertaining way to review important concepts! How will you use this in your classroom? Please share!
Google Keep is definitely one of my favorite tools in GSuite. I use it for all of my note-taking, lists, and even bookmarking. I've listed 4 of my favorite Keep features below.
4. Grab text from an image.
One of my favorite "WOW" parts of Keep is the ability to GRAB TEXT from an image! First though, you'll need to add an image to your list. To do this, click on the "Add image" icon in the menu at the bottom of the list. Then, select the image from your device.
Once the image has been added, click the three dots at the right side of the menu. Then select, "Grab image text". The text within the image will automatically appear in the note!
3. Add a list to any Doc, Slide, or Drawing.
This feature has huge possibilities in the classroom! Users can now create lists in Keep and then add those lists directly to any Doc, Slide, or Drawing! First, open up a Doc, Slide, or Drawing. Then, select Tools > Keep notepad. A sidebar menu will open with a list of all of your notes in Keep.
Find the note that you want to use, then click and drag it into your document. It will even add the image(s) attached to the note!
2. Color code lists based on topic, class, or group.
Maybe you would like for all of your notes regarding math to be red or all of the notes pertaining to 1st period to be blue. It's super easy to do. Just click on the note and select the painter's board on the bottom menu - then, pick a color!
1. Voice dictation in the app.
Don't feel like typing? Do you have students that struggle with text, writing, and/or typing? This handy feature could help a lot! First, download the Google keep app to your mobile device. Open the app and look for the microphone at the bottom of the screen.
Press the microphone and begin speaking. You'll see your words appear on the screen and they will automatically be added to the note!
The best part? The audio file that you recorded stays in the note! So, you can share that voice recording with others - students, parents, or anyone else with a Google account! This feature is a great way to give feedback, share ideas, or communicate with students that struggle with text.
Since 2009, coders have created thousands of amazing experiments using Chrome, Android, AI, WebVR, AR and more. One of my new favorite experiments is called Mystery Animal.
Mystery Animal is a new twist on a classic question and answer game. Players use their device's microphone to ask the robot various yes or no questions to try and decipher what the mystery animal is in 20 questions or less. For example, ask "Are you a mammal?" or "Are you a bird of prey?" It's a fun way for students to practice questioning and critical thinking strategies!
To try it out go to https://mysteryanimal.withgoogle.com/ and click Preview It Here.
If prompted, be sure to allow the website to access your microphone. You will need the microphone turned on so that the robot can hear your questions.
Once the robot has reviewed the instructions, the game will begin.
Click and hold the purple microphone button. When the button turns red, ask a question that can be answered with "Yes" or "No". Release the microphone button when you are finished asking the question. A moment later, you will see your question transcribed on the screen and the robot will tell you if the answer is yes or no.
The goal is to figure out the mystery animal with the least number of questions. You have 20 guesses.
To find out more about how the game was created, check out the quick video below.
Are you looking for some fun holiday activities for your students? Google just might have you covered with Santa's Village!
This nifty webpage is full of fun, interactive games including coding, critical thinking puzzles, translating common holiday phrases in multiple languages, and even information on holiday traditions around the world. And, it looks like they will be adding a new game each day until Christmas!
Here are some details about some of my favorite games in Santa's Village so far:
In this game, users must manipulate different gadgets, such as springs and conveyor belts to make the present drop into Santa's bag. Each level has a specific number of items that can be used and the puzzles become more difficult as the levels increase.
This would be great for critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork in the classroom!
It's important that students understand that different cultures have different holiday traditions. Click on various locations around the world and learn about their special holiday customs.
3. Code Lab
This game is another great way to practice simple coding in the classroom! Users must use the designated code blocks to maneuver the elf to the present. Each square in the grid requires one move or block. Hit the play button at the bottom to watch your code play out.
This an interactive canvas FULL of creative options! Students can create images with backgrounds, digital markers, spray paint, jingle bells, and falling snow! After finishing their project, users can download the image and print it out.
Ideas for the classroom:
1. Code Boogie
There are two versions to this game - Dance class and Dance freestyle.
Dance Freestyle allows users to create their own moves and then share their creation through a link or on social media.
As a teacher, there are lots of times that I want my students to visit a specific webpage, but having students type in a URL is not always possible. Sometimes the link is 57 characters long and nearly impossible to type out. Other times, I have a group of students who, for many reasons, CAN'T type out the address.
QR codes can be a very quick an easy solution to any of these problems.
First, here are 2 main things that you need to know about QR codes:
1. QR codes are connected to URLs or data on the web.
A QR code can be connected to a specific URL. So, whenever someone scans a QR code, the connected URL will automatically open on the mobile device without the user having to type or search anything!
2. Users must have a QR Reader app installed on a mobile device to "read" the QR code.
Think about this like the scanner at the grocery store - the checker scans the bar codes to determine the price of each item. QR codes work in a similar way, except your phone or tablet is the scanner and the QR code will take you to a specific URL.
There are tons of QR reader apps in the app store - search for "QR reader". Choose a reader that is FREE and has high ratings.
Once the app is installed, users can find a QR code, scan it and wait for the corresponding URL to open on the device! It's that easy!
QR Code Creators
There are a lot of QR code creators, but I find that I use the goo.gl extension most often. With this extension, users can get a QR code for any webpage with just a single click of the mouse.
First, you'll need to make sure that you are in the Chrome browser. Then, go to the Chrome Web Store and search for goo.gl. Click the blue Add to Chrome button and add the extension.
All installed extensions will display between the omnibox and the Chrome menu.
Note: You only need to install this extension once - it will stay on your device until you remove it.
Creating a QR Code
Now, let's get to the good stuff - creating the QR code! First, go to a link or URL that you would like to share with others. For this example, I am going to share the link to a Google Form.
Once you are at the correct URL, click the goo.gl extension icon and select QR Code.
If you want to place this QR code in a document, you can right click and save it or copy it. If you save it, be sure to name it appropriately so that you can identify it later.
If you want students to scan the QR code directly from the screen, simply click on the QR code to open it in its own window.
If you want to enlarge the QR code, hold the CTRL key and press the + sign until the QR code is the desired size.
That's all there is to it! Once the QR code is made anyone with a QR reader app can scan to code and go directly to the attached webpage!
QR Code Ideas
Listening Station - Students scan the QR code and they are taken to a video of a book being read out loud.
Number Writing Station - Students scan the QR code to a video explaining how to write numbers or letters.
Teacher Pay Teachers - Check out more free QR code ideas HERE!
I was VERY sad when Google disabled the Research tool within Docs. This tool was one of my favorite things to show teachers and students - it was pretty much guaranteed to get a "Google can do WHAT?!" reaction. But, over the summer, Google changed the Research feature to Explore and disabled the citation feature. Users could still search for a topic through the Google search engine while in the document, but the automatic citation feature was no longer available.
Luckily, Google listens to its users! After receiving feedback from teachers and students when this citation feature was taken away, Google has now officially added it back into Docs! It looks a little bit different, but it is still basically the same process.
First, open a new Google Doc in your Drive.
Let's pretend that you are writing a research paper over William Shakespeare. You can conduct a Google search over Shakespeare without ever leaving the Google Doc! First, select Tools > Explore. A search box will appear on the right side of the screen. Now, type in the topic that you want to search. This will generate a Google search with live links related to the search request. You can click on any of the links and the page will open in a new tab!
Once you've searched and found the information that you want, you can automatically site the website(s) as a footnote! First, place the cursor where you would like for the citation to be and then hover over the link that needs to be cited. Look for a large " symbol to the right of the link and CLICK IT! The link will be cited AUTOMATICALLY!
The default citation format will be MLA, but maybe you need it in Chicago? Or APA? NO PROBLEM! Scroll up to the top of the search menu and click the three dots on the right side. Click on the format that you would like to use for the citation!
Collecting digital work from students can be overwhelming. Many teachers ask that students share the assignments through email, but a teacher can receive hundreds of emails from students and it can be difficult to organize and keep all of the assignments straight.
Try creating a digital dropbox through Google Forms! Teachers can create a single Google Form and have students use the same link all year to turn in assignments. Then, at the end of the year, the teacher has a single spreadsheet that contains links to every assignment students have turned in along with a timestamp showing when each assignment was submitted! The best part? It's REALLY EASY TO DO!
First, open your Google Drive. To access your Google Drive, go to www.drive.google.com and log in.
Then, create a new Form. Click the blue New button and select Google Forms.
Title the form and make sure that the first question requires students to put their name. After you type "Name:" in the question blank, Google should automatically change the format to short answer! You could also add a question for class period if you have multiple classes.
Create a question that allows students to select the assignment they are turning in. You can choose to make this a drop down menu and add different assignments as the year progresses. Any time you add items to the list throughout the year, the link for the form will automatically update - it is a true working document!
Include one more question that requires students to paste the direct link to the assignment in the form. Most digital assignments will have a link that can be shared to access the project or assignment.
Now your form is ready to be shared with students! Click the preview icon in the top right corner (it looks like an eye) to see the form as students will see it. There are several ways to share the form, but my favorite way is to create a customized shortened URL so that students can memorize the link and can go to it quickly throughout the year. You can also have the link posted somewhere in your room or/and in Google Classroom.
My favorite customized URL creator is the Bit.ly extension. Click HERE to download it now. Once the extension is installed, you will need to create a free account. After you have created that account, you can quickly click the extension icon while visiting a webpage and it will allow you to create a customized URL for easy sharing!
Now, anytime a student goes to bit.ly/sprinkdropbox (no need for www. or .com) the student will automatically be taken to my dropbox form! Then, all of the assignments submitted are thrown into a single spreadsheet for me to access in my Drive!
Thanksgiving is in less than 2 weeks! Below are a few fun online Thanksgiving games that can be used on interactive boards, in small group, or in the computer lab. I've also included a few non-technology resources, too! Have fun!
Thanksgiving Challenge (ABCya!)
This game involves critical thinking and categorizing. Players must place family members at the Thanksgiving table based on specific likes and dislikes.
Thanksgiving Sodoku (Primary Games)
Sodoku with a Thanksgiving twist! This will definitely call for critical thinking and strategy!
Unscramble the letters to form a phrase about turkeys.
Thanksgiving Word Search (ABCya!)
Players have the option of choosing a small board with smaller words or a larger grid with bigger words so it works for K-5! The puzzles can be printed or played online.
Not everything has to be about Technology! Honestly, the strongest memories that I have of elementary school are the holiday crafts that we made each year! Of course, that might be because my mother saved every holiday craft my brother and I ever made in school and brings them out each year as she decorates her house. That is definitely something that I plan to do with my children, too!
15 Craft Ideas (Woman's Day)
Woman's Day posted an article with links to 15 different craft ideas and activities to do with kids around Thanksgiving. My favorite is number 16 - creating a Thanksgiving bracelet! Kids use a pipe cleaner and colored beads to retell the story of the first Thanksgiving - SO CUTE!
Free Thanksgiving Printables (Teachers Pay Teacher)
Teachers Pay Teachers has loads of great FREE printable activities to use for the holidays. Some of my favorites are Shopping for Thanksgiving Dinner - A Math Activity and Thanksgiving I Have...Who Has? loop game.
I can hardly believe that CHRISTMAS IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER!
Recently, as I prepared for a presentation over apps that can be used to improve or monitor behavior, I came across an interesting app. To be honest, I wasn't sure I felt about it at first. But, I've decided that the power of using it for GOOD (and not evil) makes it worth a share.
The A Call from Santa! app brings a little magic to your device. The app allows users to send and receive personalized phone calls from the big man himself - Santa Claus! Users open the app, and have the option to call Santa immediately or request a call back at a specified time.
When calling Santa, users will reach Santa's voicemail and can then choose from 7 options including sending Santa a Christmas wishlist, putting someone on the naughty or nice list, and checking the weather at the North Pole.
Users can also request a call back from Santa. In this option, users select the child's age, gender, the reason that Santa is calling, and when the call should be sent. Users can choose from options such as "Put on nice list because...", "Check if still behaving", or "Ensure that Santa is real". There are other options, but I would encourage you to use this app to praise positive behavior!
Click HERE to download for Android.
Click HERE to download for iOS.
Want to see the app in action? Check out the quick video below!
I am a teacher, Digital Learning Specialist, presenter, wife, mom, Google nerd, and life long learner. I am dedicated to finding and sharing easy, quick, and engaging resources for use in every classroom!