Friday, December 12, 2014

Coding & Robotics Week 3

This week, during our Coding & Robotics club time, our students were actually able to program the Sphero Robotics balls using the app MacroLab.  Thankfully, Dr. Keith explained all of this to the students!

He started our club time by showing the students that they could actually do more with the Sphero balls that just drive them using the iPads as a remote control. Using our big screen, he demonstrated how to command the Sphero to do what you want it to do using an app called Sphero Macrolab.

Basic programming was explained to the students, as well as degrees and angles. The Sphero Macrolab site says, "The macro system we have developed for Sphero has very practical applications, such as teaching kids procedural thinking and basic programming skills."

It was very exciting to watch the students actually program the Sphero instead of driving it with the iPad app. There was definitely collaboration and critical thinking involved in this process, as pairs of students worked together to drive the Sphero ball.

iPads ready with the Sphero MacroLab app
The students did a great job of applying what Dr. Keith had taught them, and Sphero balls were buzzing all around the library! 

A few students worked with the new Sphero Ollie, using their own device to control it. We had a little difficulty finding the right device to pair with it as it seems our iPads are too old for the app to work. Luckily, a couple of our students had newer devices and downloaded the app. That is a great thing about being a BYOD campus! Someone usually has a device that will work!

As if learning to program the Sphero balls weren't enough, we also brought out the new Makey-Makey we received through Donors Choose. I have to admit that I have been a little intimidated by the Makey-Makey, but the students (with the help of Dr. Keith) figured it out quickly! We even had students come in during lunch the next day to explore it more!

Next week we will continue to learn programming using the Sphero ball and the Sphero Ollie. After the Christmas break we will bring in new members to learn coding and robotics, while the current members continue learning. It is exciting to hear the students talking about coding, coming into the library during lunch, recess and any free time, to work with the computers or Sphero balls! 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

2014 Edublog Awards

The Edublog Awards are an annual event that celebrate "the best of the best on the web". It began in 2004 as a response to the lack of access to learner and teacher blog sites. It's purpose is to "promote and demonstrate the educational values of these social media." Curtis Elementary was excited to learn that there are two blogs that have been named finalists. Our assistant principal, Lorie Bratcher's blog, Passion Lives Here, has made the short list in the Best New Blog category.

Our own library blog, Continuously Learning in the Library, is a finalist in the Best Library/Librarian Blog category.  

I am honored to be a finalist, but I know that I am only there because of some pretty incredible people who are also nominated! I would encourage you to look at each category and find new people to add to your PLN (Personal Learning Network.) While you are there, vote for some of the people that make you better. Thankfully, you can vote for more than one in each category, which is great since it is hard to choose between all of the great blogs, chats, and tools!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Robotics and Coding Club

Curtis students met for the second time last week  for the Robotics & Coding club. This session there are four weeks and students will be able to work with the Sphero robotics balls & Ollies for 2 weeks and code for two weeks. We are using for coding, as well as other sites that can be found on our Coding Symbaloo.

With 20 members in the club, and more wanting to join each day, having help is necessary. Thankfully, we have a parent who enjoys working with the students. Dr. Keith Emmert also happens to be a math professor at a nearby university so that is an added bonus! In addition to Dr. Keith, as the kiddos call him, we also had two high school students who were working for community service hours. This was a big help! 

The students loved the addition of the Ollies to the robotics club. We did have a little difficulty finding a device that would run the app. It seems are library iPads are too old to run it, and even my phone wouldn't run the app. Fortunately, two students had devices that would run the app, so we were able to see how they worked.

The plan will be to continue to work with these students with coding & robotics, even after the four weeks are up, and then bring in more students. 

There was a tweet recently that said something to the effect of "it isn't possible if you don't know it is possible". This is one of the main reasons we are introducing coding to our students. As they move through middle school and high school, they will pick a track to focus on. As the site says in one of their videos, approximately one million jobs may go unfilled due to not having a skilled workforce for computer coders. Maybe a few of our students will choose to learn more. We have one student who created an app after participating in Hour of Code last year.

Grant explaining his app to Mrs. Rife

It is fun to see students becoming more comfortable with coding and operating the Sphero & Ollie. As we head into Hour of Code week, I'm excited to see what they discover! One thing I've learned is that I don't have to be an expert at something before I open it up to students. If I waited until I was comfortable with coding and robotics, our club would never have started. I am learning right beside my students!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Maker Clubs Finish Strong! Spooky Creations

Today we wrapped up the first session of our maker clubs and it was incredible to hear our students share what they learned from this experience. As parents began to enter the library for our presentation, there was a flurry of activity. The students were creating until the very last minute!

We had a full house, and the students were excited to show their creations! The maker club had created a haunted house, a graveyard with rotating tombstones, a spider and a scorpion. One of our Curtis parents, Dr. Keith Emmert worked with this group and the students really enjoyed having him lead their group. The green screen club had used those items, created a script, uploaded images and, using the Do Ink green screen app,  created a haunted movie. 

It was very impressive how eloquently the students explained what they did and what they learned. One student shared how even though what they were doing was "hard, really hard!" it made them want to do more and try harder.

Each student had the opportunity to speak, and I was so proud of their courage! They not only took ownership of their clubs, they took ownership of this presentation. I loved how one student talked about how they weren't always successful, that there were definite failures during the learning process. They talked about working together, not giving up, getting better at what they were doing, and thanked Dr. Keith a lot! 

After everyone spoke who wanted to, we showed their green screen creations, which highlighted the maker club's creations! There were a few giggles as they saw their haunted movies on the big screen. There was even requests to watch their "bloopers"! We will upload the creations to our YouTube channel so that students can see them again.

Here are some pictures of our time together. We met one day a week for five weeks. Some students came in during recess to work on their projects. 

The first session of the maker clubs was a success in everyone's eyes! Parents were proud, students were proud, and there was a very proud librarian! I can't wait to see what our next group accomplishes! Our next session will be basic programming using the Sphero robotics ball. Students are really excited about it!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Picture Book Month

It has been a while since my last post, but here I am, and I am so excited to celebrate Picture Book Month with my students! 

Our library just got a new book order in, so there are lots of books our students haven't read yet! There are also many favorites, waiting to be shared! To help us choose, there is a Picture Book Month calendar with days based on themes or subjects. 

Many of my friends are celebrating Picture Book Month! You can read about how Jennifer Reed celebrates with her students HERE! One of the things I look forward to is the opportunity to connect with schools around the country. Curtis students will be connecting for a Picture Book Smackdown on November 18th. We will have a very fast paced hour of sharing our favorite picture books! Last year we connected with both students and authors and had a great time! You can read more about our fun HERE!

The Picture Book Month site has many resources, including a Teacher's Guide with activities and ideas.  Another great resource is Mr. Schu & his blog, Watch.Connect.Read. He will be using 20 wonderful picture books and have his students participate in a Mock Caldecott unit. We have many of the books mentioned in his post, so I will be sure to share those with our students!

Students and adults alike will be asked to share their favorite thing about reading picture books on our Picture Book Month Padlet! I can't wait to see what they say! Feel free to add to it!

It is sure to be a great month! Grab a picture book and join us! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

We Make It Wednesdays-- Maker Clubs Begin!

One of the goals for the library this year is to have maker clubs with specific projects. Last year, our only maker club was a digital maker club. This club met throughout the year and used digital tools to promote reading. This year, with our makerspace stocked with all kinds of awesome things, we needed to provide opportunities for our students to use the space. Thanks to a Donors Choose project that was funded, we received the Hokki stools shown below. 

We also added MakeyMakeys and a Sphero robotics ball thanks to many donors, but the items we are using for the first maker club session were received through our Weatherford ISD Education Foundation. The littleBits, K'Nex, and Legos would all be put to use, as well as many craft items that we have stocked the makerspace with. littleBits are one of our students favorite things to use in the makerspace. If you aren't familiar with LittleBits, they are electronic modules that snap together with magnets. They are very easy to use and the students LOVE them!

Premium kitboxangled

A couple of parents had mentioned volunteering their time to help in the makerspace, so I visited with one at the beginning of the school year. Fortunately, he has knowledge and experience that lends itself to making. After talking, it was decided that we would have two clubs-- one a maker club (for creating with different objects) and one a media maker club (to use our new green screen) and then we would combine the two to create a haunted movie.

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Students had to complete an application, sharing why they wanted in the club, and get a teacher recommendation. We were able to get all of the students in that turned in an application, which made me very happy. This was possible due to having an extra person, so I was very appreciative of Dr. Keith's help with our maker clubs!

The first meeting was this past Wednesday and the students were very excited! We met together as one big group and talked about what our goals were for the first session of maker clubs. We then separated into the two clubs. 

Maker club students gathered around Dr. Keith as he talked about circuits with them. He had built a ferris wheel and connected some of the littleBits to it. 

There were lots of "ooohs" and "aahhhs" as the students watched Dr. Keith connect the circuits to create buzzers, lights, and more. Then the students were given the opportunity to explore all of the pieces of the makerspace.

Also during this time, the media maker club was discovering how the green screen worked. Previously, I had contacted the creators of a green screen app called DoInk. They had shared some great tutorials for using the green screen, one of which we watched together during our meeting. It was created by dc2Norfolk and is shown below.

The students then worked to find images to use to create spooky scenes that would go into their haunted movie. Our hope is that the maker club will create the buildings and objects that will be in the movie, and the media maker club will take pictures and add those to their green screen creation. 

It seems that our first meeting was a success! We are excited to see what this week brings! 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Operation Edcamp Parker County Complete!

About a year ago, two very excited educators in our district asked to meet with the librarians in our district. Erin Griffith was the assistant principal at the Ninth Grade Center and Natalie Hansen is the NGC art teacher and their Teacher of the Year. They came in talking fast & were very animated. :) Both of them described themselves as edcamp addicts and shared that they would travel to any edcamp that was near! They had the crazy idea to host an edcamp in Weatherford. I usually jump right in with crazy ideas, so I was listening. Plus, their excitement & passion were contagious! We talked logistics, dates, and locations. The main thing we needed was district buy in, as this would need to take place on one of our campuses, and we would need technology support. They were hoping for a spring date, but innovative ideas often take a little time to digest, so the date was pushed to the fall of 2014. 

Many people in education are familiar with edcamps, especially if you are a connected educator on Twitter. But to some, it is an unfamiliar concept. Here is a description from The Edcamp Foundation's website:

Planning began and Erin & Natalie found more people to help organize. There were now people not only from our district, but neighboring districts and one person from a district more than 2 hours away! Luckily, we are all connected, so planning the event went virtual.

To represent our community, Natalie created an awesome logo with a peach (Parker County is known for peaches & the Peach Festival), a motto that it was "going to be Peachy! and a website was made. It was getting closer!!

There were a few bumps in the road... Erin accepted a position at our local Education Service Center and our district hired a new director of technology, but the planning continued. We found that Erin was able to reach more people in her new position and our new technology director was eager to help the event be a success. 

Through Twitter chats, Voxer, and some face to face meetings with a few organizers, we could see Edcamp Parker County Texas (Edcamp PCTX) coming together. Planning took place in small increments, but everyone jumped in to make this happen!

We shared information at our district meetings, trying to get teachers excited about coming and our school district promoted the event through emails, the website and even talked about it during our back to school convocation. 

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Sponsors were secured for door prizes, local restaurants donated gift certificates for lunch time drawings, and thanks to the efforts of organizer Sara Reed, our Weatherford Chick-fil-A donated 200 breakfast sandwiches for the attendees. It is amazing how many companies, both locally & throughout the country, will support events such as this! 

Getting everyone signed in & giving our door prize tickets
Another wonderful part of this experience was witnessing how supportive our school district was of this event. It truly takes a village to pull off an edcamp, and there was a lot of help needed! Our technology department walked the building, tested Wi-Fi and increased hot spots to ensure there was enough internet access for the day. They opened up a special network for ease of access. In addition, they stayed with us the day of the event, just in case there was a problem! 

Erin kicked the day off with an explanation of what an edcamp is. If you haven't been to one, the beginning can look a bit chaotic and unorganized. 

Our superintendent welcomed attendees and even went to sessions! The great part about an edcamp is it is a level playing field. No one is held any higher than another person, and most people don't even know the positions held by the people there. So it was great to see everyone participating! Edcamps aren't for spectators! :)

The rest of the day is best told in pictures! There were so many amazing things that happened! 

And like magic, he was there! Thanks to Amanda's tweet!
People helping people become connected!

Small groups breaking off to talk more about a topic

Crowds of educators giving up a Saturday to learn & grow!

People having fun, because learning can be fun!

And THIS says it all!
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Planning for next year's Edcamp is already in the works! The group that came from Azle had such a great day, they want to host next year! Stay tuned for more information!

Thanks to everyone for a GREAT day from your Edcamp Parker County organizers!