Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pixel Press Floors
I am SUPER DUPER excited about a new app from Pixel Press. It is called Floors.

It is a game designing product that is creative. You can either design levels in the app, or you can draw your game on the special grid paper and then take a picture of it, and then the app creates your game.
After testing and tweaks, students can upload their games to the Arcade (searching the Arcade is not great, but email, Facebooking or tweeting it to friends works really well) and share it with friends.
I gave it to my son this morning, after playing with it a yesterday, and he created a two level game in like 10 mins. He is SUPER DUPER excited about creating games for his peers.

I can totally see this used in my coding class next year! I love that the games can be brainstormed, drawn collaboratively, tested, re-tweaked and then finally published and shared with a larger audience. It is a perfect example of a great design thinking lesson! Today, on my EdReach commute (see previous post I learned on the 2 Guys Show, that they are going to be designing lesson plans to help teachers implement Design Thinking lesson around Pixel Press for release in July 2014.

Their Vimeo channel is also really awesome for mini tutorials too! The tutorials are great for kids because they are short and easy to navigate. 

A link to the special grip paper

It is only iOS right now, but they are working on an Android version as we speak.
Guys Show #32 

I heard about it from my friend Carrie (@heck_awesome) and then on the 2 Guys Show #2GuysShow on the EdReach Network (@EdreachUs). 

If you search #PixelPress on Twitter, you can see lots of examples of what teachers are already doing with Floors in their classrooms. Enjoy creating!

LOVE this tool!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Do You Know Your Students?
Yesterday, I had to opportunity visit a Jennifer Leigh's @jen_leigh1 lunchtime coding club for 3rd graders in a elementary school in my district. The students were so excited to share their learning with me. They wanted to take me step by step through the creation process. They shared what programming languages they liked best and why. They talked about how they used other student's work to build their games off of. They knew to give the students they borrowed their work, credit. The coders talked about how they wanted to learn more about Scratch so that they could make more interesting games. They were reflecting on their work and the process of learning to code freely and authentically.

The Code Club was a hive of activity. Students working together, helping each other, going to Khan Academy to get more skills, creating new games based on their favorites.  They even knew which student was "huge on Scratch" because he had created lots of games that other Scratch lovers liked to play. I loved seeing students so excited about learning in school. Persevering through trial and error to create programs.

This has been a busy week for student creations for me.

Over the weekend, we hosted a sleepover, and O and Dylan, my nephew and my son created a video with a side by side screen perspective so that the viewers could "get the full experience". Both boys are 10. They used my computer to screencast their Minecraft Mini-Game, using Quicktime, then, used iMovie to edit the movie into a side by side view with audio, transitions, and titles. They even learned how to create a thumbnail for the video, using to "Make it look professional".  We even had a discussion about copyright of images and their digital footprint in an authentic, teachable moment kinda way.

These boys used tools that they had little to no experience using to create a well edited video with just my guidance. They persevered through the tech to create the finished product that they had in their mind's eye. They used Google Search to figure out what to do. They problem solved together. They were excited to create the video and could not get it on Youtube fast enough so that O's subscribers could revel in the creation! They must have checked their views 10 times throughout the next two days to read comments and see their view numbers. (If you view their video, feel free to comment on their will make their day!)

Why is any of this important?

These students are all 10 years old or younger. They are all creating digital content for audiences that are larger than their classrooms. They are all craving feedback from their audience. They are all creating in digital tools that they need to learn to create their projects. They are all persevering and embracing failure because their are working on their passions. Do these students have this opportunity outside of their Code Club or their homes?

If students are excited about creating at home, could we as educators not leverage their passion to "trick"  them learn content in the classroom?
Simply getting to know our students would help us learn about their skills. Do you know what your students are passionate about outside of school? Do you let them bring their passions into the classroom? Do you allow creation in your room?

Packets are not engaging. Worksheets don't allow feedback from an audience. Answering teacher generated questions does not help students learn.

Let them use their mad skills to create. Let them have choice. And they will happily learn.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Updating my Résumé: A Great Way to Reflect on Change

This week, I have been working on my résumé. Not because I am thinking of changing positions, but because I vowed to myself that I would always have an up to date resume. As I added the tweaks to my position description and added in new professional roles, I began to reflect on my teaching practice.

I live in Illinois, and teachers have a new evaluation system. Say what you will about the evaluation process, the Danielson Framework that it is based on, does force teachers to reflect on their practice. I know that this process being more intentionally built into my evaluations has changed my practice.

Writing my résumé proved to be a good process because I did have to make changes to the descriptions of my work over the last year. Once it was completed, I sent it to my husband for proof reading, and he responded that it was amazing to see all the items that I added to it. That got me thinking about Teaching in Beta (previous post) theory. Should all teachers have to change their résumés each year even if they don't change positions? Do they take on different leadership roles within their school? Do they change methods of delivering content? Start incorporating blended learning into their classroom? Integrate technology when they didn't previously? Should they be changing their practice, and thus the description of their position on their résumés? Gawd yes!

Become connected and you too will need to update your résumé!
Writing my résumé, or better still, tweaking my old résumé allowed me to see where I am changing, evolving and letting some previous practices go to my lesson grave yard. And, better still, it allowed me to see for myself that I am having an impact, coaching teachers to change their practice and having success at it! Maybe rewriting your résumé will help you get through this Spring too!