Tuesday, September 26, 2017

iPads: Week 4 - Garage Band

Garage Band is such a fun and free app to use with the iPads! Although it can be loud (especially if your kids start singing to add their own vocals), it is so worth watching them create. I do not know about you, but I love activities that let my students express their creativity. I sometimes create assignments with limited parameters, just to see what they can come up with. This does take excellent classroom management skills (which I only have some days) in order for your students to stay on task and work hard, just be forewarned.

Anyways, if you haven't ever used Garage Band, it is pretty self explanatory. First you choose your instrument from keyboard, drummer, drums, guitar, world, amp, strings, bass, and audio recorder.

Then you choose one of the options for instrument preference.

Then you play around until you get a feel for the instrument. Once you have decided what kind of noise you want to record, you click the red record button at the bottom to record your jam. When you're done, you just click the stop button. You can listen to it, rerecord it, or move on to another instrument. 

This is an activity that I created for my students. It has limited directions, but helps them know where to find all of the Garage Band features. I used this in 2nd - 4th grade with my kiddos, and it was a blast. Check it out in my store here to snatch it up for only $1!

Jam On,

Thursday, September 21, 2017

What's So Great About Keynote?

I first started using keynote when we switched to iPads because it gave the students the ability to work like they did on PowerPoint on desktop computers, but on the iPads. When you are using iPads for multiple students, you run into licensing issues with things like Microsoft office where each user requires their own account. Microsoft and Google accounts all require email addresses, which are really tough to assign to elementary age kids.

One thing that I always didn't like about being a Microsoft school, was that we didn't have the ability to interact with our students sharing things like Google docs, or at least it wasn't as easy for us as everybody who uses Google classroom. Imagine how excited I was when I found something they can do almost that for my students using the iPads. Collaboration is not a Microsoft specialty, although they are working on some options. 

That being said, we thought that Keynote was a good alternative, and it already came on the iPads so it was easy to access. I have never really used Keynote before, even though I own a Mac, because I am most familiar with Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Slides so I would just use those, because most of us like to stay in our comfort zone, right?

Keynote allows you to send fully editable presentations to your students via AirDrop and Apple classroom. You sent each student a copy, so they are not messing with your original. It is super easy for them to send it back to you via AirDrop, or through Google classroom. If you are just using it for something like lecture notes, then they can just store it right on their devices. I love how easy it is for students to add text to blanks or thought-provoking questions that you leave them in your keynote presentations.

With some exploration of the app, I've quickly become relatively proficient at it after just a few uses. You can easily add links to anything you want your students to open and view or research on the internet. My students have watched videos, navigated to websites, and to other slides in the presentation, and it has worked really well for my students. It also has many of the same features that normal document editing would have. You can also add animations and such, just like you can with regular PowerPoint. 

A few disadvantages I've found with the Keynote iPad app, is that it isn't easy for adding pictures. If you have a picture on your iPad, the students can easily add that, but it isn't easy for them to search the internet for pictures of content you're discussing or to add to a research presentation that they are creating. For my students who like to wander while working on iPads, this is nice because they have less distractions. For me when I'm creating these presentations and like to add lots of visuals, it's a little bit of a hassle. 

Overall, I love working with Keynote and look forward to exploring more of its features. If you've used Keynote before, tell me how it works in your classroom!

Monday, September 18, 2017

iPads: Week 3 - Coding Apps

For those of you that do not know, I love to teach coding to my technology students. I don't think that there is any bad that can come out of student having some coding knowledge. Coding also is the base of many careers in many different career fields. That being said, anyone could benefit from knowing some code. I share some of my favorite computer based coding websites in another blog post.

This year, though, I have switched from a computer lab to an iPad lab so I set out to find some apps that I could use this year to teach coding. We have Dot & Dash robots that we use to program and combine robotics and code and I talk about how I use them here.

I highly recommend the Sololearn Inc apps for Middle and High School students. I used them myself when learning different coding languages to teach little bits to my students and they are super informational and effective. I love how easily I could move through them, and they had great help features for when I got stuck. There are Sololearn apps for C#, Java, SQL, JavaScript, HTML, Python and C++.

For my K-5 kiddos, though, I needed something a little more basic. I went searching through the App Store and downloaded the three that I thought looked most user friendly and popular - CodeSpark Academy, Kodable, and Tynker. Below I'll share with you my thoughts on each, and which I decided to use first in my K-5 classrooms.

Kodable: Kodable requires student logins in order to use the app. The advantage that Kodable gives you over other apps is that you create logins for the students, and then monitor student progress. It is nice to be able to make student logins and give them a class code, and not have to use emails for each individual student. In the setting of the mobile lab like I have though, creating accounts means all 200 students that I reach need to have accounts created for them. That is a ton of work for the rate and speed at which we will code. That being said, Kodable has some really great options for coding, but you have to pay for a lot of it. I did send out a cost request on their website, and it was reasonably priced for the amount of students that I have. That being said, our budget is pretty set for the year so Kodable isn't something we are going to purchase this year. I did have my students work through the beginning levels (there are only 5 that are free) just to get a little glimpse at coding, because of the 3 apps, I believe this one starts at the most basic level.

Tynker: My favorite part of the Tynker app is that once you open it up, you are free to code. It does start at probably a 2nd grade level (although most of my 1st graders fared okay), but with good directions, any students can follow along. There are MANY levels of Tynker and they are almost all free. They really start at the basics and quickly move your students forward. If they get one wrong, there are really great help features to update them. Another thing I really love about Tynker is that it starts with drag and drop coding. For those older students who can read, this is such a great way to teach coding. Using the words instead of pictures is ideal for their future in coding.

CodeSpark: As soon as you open up the CodeSpark app, you have to login as a parent. The parent login requires an email and password. It also costs $7.99 per month after a 1 month free trial. It does have a ton of coding challenges and adds new puzzles every week.  If you are a teacher, you can sign up for free student accounts, but you must add each students parent email to their logins. Again, you must do this for each of your students, or you can do a bulk import per class. Once you login to the device once with your teacher account, the students will just need to click their name in order to log in. They get to design a character and pick a fake name to be identified by. There aren't a ton of written directions once you get started - your student is mainly taught through pictures, but there are many levels that you can access with this free account.

Like I said, I did use Kodable with my K/1 students because it starts at the most basic level. I started my 2-4 kids on Tynker right away and they are loving it. We did do Hour of Code with code.org last year, but even my new kids who haven't ever coded before are doing fabulous with Tynker.

Do you use a coding app in your classroom? Do you love it? Share it with me below. I would love to check it out!

Happy Coding,

Thursday, September 14, 2017

iPads: Week 2 - Keynote Technology Project

After last weeks fun "About Me" activity on Pic Collage, I wanted week two to concentrate on the technology side of things. I wanted to know what students think about technology, how much experience they have with it, and how they use it. I decided to use Keynote because it is an easy way to have students interact with technology while answering questions that you give them. It is also easy to add links to additional sites or information through it.

I wanted my students to answer questions about technology and then us discuss them as a class. Enter my Technology Interactive Lesson. I used this in each of my 1-4 grade classrooms, and even though the first graders took longer to spell and type, it was a hit in each class.

This is honestly a great introduction activity to see what students already know about technology. There are a few brainstorming questions that ask questions like what they wish technology would do for them! Listen to them and have them share their amazing ideas like creating something to stop a hurricane, or a robot that can cook all of their food for them. It is amazing to hear what their little minds can come up with and whats important to them. Sometimes you even get a little snapshot into their lives.

Here are a few sample shots from the activities.

If you are interested in purchasing this, just click the link to my TpT store and snatch it up for only $2! 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Dot & Dash - Programming Robots in Lower Elementary

Last summer I was prepping for a summer camp with a programming focus and wasn't finding everything that I needed through websites. What parent wants to pay for their kids to come to camp for 4 hours a day for them to sit in front of a computer the entire time. Even I get restless staring at my computer for that long! I knew that I wanted to keep that programming and coding focus while getting students out of their seats and moving around.

Now there are SO many robot choices out there, but I was looking for ones that would run on software that was easily accessible, work on tablets or computers that we already had, and that were reasonably priced.

We settled on these and do not regret it.

There are apps that we installed on our class devices that are super easy to use. I had first graders using them within minutes of handing the devices over. We used the Go app to start to figure out the robots, and then built from there. The Go app basically just lets the students drive Dash, and then program sound, color, and movement for both Dot & Dash. This was an easy place to start and it really got the kids excited about using the robots.

If you want to know more about what we did with the robots in grade levels K-4, just shoot me a note in the comments and I can share more with you.

Here's To Programming Fun, 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Real Life Thoughts on Hurricane Irma from a Florida girl on the West Coast

Growing up in Southwest Florida, I am not new to this phenomenon of hurricanes. I've been through them before and remember being nervous, but never being scared. Honestly y'all, this has been one of the scariest weeks of my life. 

Everyone is freaking out. Even when we aren't freaking out, the rest of the world is. Josh and I had a decision to make on Wednesday night. We knew we didn't have school Thursday and Friday, and we knew the hurricane was coming this weekend. Evacuate or stay? We made the decision to stay. 

Why? I'm sure that's the question on your mind. Well a couple reasons weighed into our decision. First, I have a grandpa who needs 24 hour around-the-clock care. At the time, they said that he need to leave his home on the Fort Lauderdale coast, and evacuate elsewhere. So now he's in Fort Myers and staying with my parents. Second, my dad is a pharmacist, which means he's responsible for being at the hospital when a hurricane hits. He couldn't evacuate, so my mom and sister were staying put also. Third, Josh has both his parents and grandparents in town. After talk of evacuation, they decided to stay also. We are big kids and can make her own decisions, but what is more important during a tough time than family? Also, we have a pup. Our pup is like our child. He goes wherever we go, and not a ton of hotels and such are friendly for a dog like Cincy (a big ole 80 pound coonhound). Lastly, we have only lived in our house for two years. It is an old frame house built in the early 80's. We don't have shutters and weren't at all prepared to get our house "Hurricane ready" in a short amount of time to leave. So here we stay. 

Evacuating is a whole other beast. We had lots of friends who made that decision, and more power to them y'all. We stayed in touch with them and listened to their journeys. It wasn't an easy one guys. Florida only has two major highways and those are the only ways out of the state. Think about all the people trying to leave traveling on only those two roads. It wasn't pretty. Some of them got off multiple exits before they found one with gas. Some of them were in a car for almost 20 hours before they got to their destination (which was only 8-10 hours of normal travel time). Some did this with dogs, while others did this with small children. And just think - everyone will be entering the state again at the same time, so yes - more traffic. 

For those of you who have never experienced an impending natural disaster, you might not understand how this works. Let me explain it to you – everyone panics and everything disappears. Everyone panics as in I like to think that people are generally good, but when people are at Costco arguing with employees over how much water they can take because my their own admittance "they don't give a f*** about what other people need" - yeah that's panic. Everyone is trying to prep their house, many people for the first time or for their first hurricane. That's why people with houses the size of ours are leaving with enough plywood to board up the White House and leaving some of us with none after hours of waiting in line. It's the reason there are limits on things like plywood and water. It's the reason stores and restaurants are closing. Everyone is panicking.  People don't know what to expect and that's what causes the panic. The cone of uncertainty is just that - uncertain. With every shift and movement, another city sinks deeper into the panic. Then on top of that, everyone you've ever known is texting you telling you how worried they are about you. Well yes, we are worried about us too. We just haven't really had time to sit back long enough to let it sink in. 

Every moment of preparing for a hurricane is basically just waiting. You're waiting in a line for plywood at a Home Depot that knows a truck is coming today, they just don't know when. You're waiting in a line because you saw on Facebook that generators were delivered to a store and you hope they still have some when you get up there. You wait in line at a Publix to get water so that you can survive in the coming days without power. You wait while your significant other runs into Walmart and Targets and Winn Dixies in an effort to find simple snacks that you can live off of like bread and peanut butter. You wait for people to answer your Facebook pleas about a station that hasn't run out of gas yet, and then you wait some more while people in front of you fill up their tank and five gas cans to run their generators. Maybe you even wait in a 5 hour line to enter a shelter because you just don't feel safe. Then finally, when you think you might have enough snacks and water and your house is boarded up and you're exhausted, you take your last shower for what might be days and then you do the most excruciating wait of all - you wait for this beast to make landfall. You wait to see what parts of your house, car and other worldly possessions will survive the storm. You wait to see if your classroom and school are still standing. You wait to see if you still have neighbors, if your family still has their house, and if you still have your job or favorite restaurant to go back to. You wait to see if life will ever be the same again. 

So in the waiting, sweet friends, I encourage you not to panic. Panicking won't get you anywhere and worrying won't add one hour to your life. Irma is coming whether we're ready or not. People are not replaceable. Possessions are. That doesn't mean you can't put all of your favorite things or items that hold memories in a shoebox and sleep with it right next to your head. But while you're picking out those things and the memories come flooding back, just remember that you're going to get through this. I shed tears today as my husband and I sat in our living room praying over our home and asking God to spare it. It's okay to cry. It's an emotional time and the uncertainty of it all is overwhelming. You don't have to be strong all the time. Just remember that together we're #FloridaStrong and there are people around you who will be there for you through all of this and in the aftermath.  Surround yourself with those you love and those who will be there with you to pick up the mess that Irma leaves behind. If you're near family or friends, hug the ones you love a little tighter and be thankful that you don't have to go through this alone. 

And in the coming days when it seems so surreal that everyone else around the world is going on with their daily lives while you feel like yours is in shambles (or will be soon), just know that you're not alone. That there are some of us who are feeling the same way, and that together we will get through this. 

Stay safe & stay strong,