Monday, April 28, 2014

Sphero - Brings Programming, Robotics and Gaming to Your Students

A little over a week ago, I received a Sphero in the mail from my good friend, Naomi, who received several Spheros to try out from the folks at Orbotix.  My 13 year old son, Robert, has not stopped exploring Sphero since it arrived.  He is obsessed!  Our students think Sphero is amazing and mysterious.  I can't wait to incorporate Sphero into our lessons and make the most of this programmable, robotic ball.

Here is an introductory video:

Sphero is controlled via bluetooth from a smart phone or iPad. There are numerous free apps that take Sphero to another level. 

Here are a few of them:

Sphero Drive - to navigate the ball
Sphero Tag - gaming
Orb Basic -programming and coding
Sphero MacroLab - programming

The makers of Sphero created Sphero Education and the SPKR (Schools / Parents / Robots / Kids ) program to bring this wonderful technology into the classroom. This site includes ready to use lesson plans and a community for educators to join.  

Watch this video to see Sphero being used by teachers in the classroom:

Click here if you would like to see examples of how Sphero can be used in the classroom. 
If you would like to get a Sphero, click here or here .

Thank you to the people at Orbotix for creating such an amazing robot for our curious and inquiring students.  And for my 13 year old!!

Here is the proof!
Robert and I used the MacoLab app and created a new macro (program) for the Sphero to go in the pattern of a triangle.  Here are some screen shots from the app and a video:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Creation Tools for Posters, Flyers and Visuals

Recently I was training some awesome teachers, and one of the biggest requests was for tools similar to Google Drawings.  So, here are some tools for students to create posters, flyers, and visuals:

#1 - Canva -

  • free
  • publish as an image or PDF
  • share the link
  • simple drag and drop

#2 - Buncee -

  • free
  • Buncee edu for teachers
  • Click and select
  • Print
  • Share on social media

#3 - Smore -

  • free (can upgrade)
  • add the elements you like
  • embed
  • share via email or link

So there you have it; three great tools similar to Google Drawing.  Today's students are creators of content and these three tools can provide a place for students to show their critical thinking, creativity and knowledge.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

GoNoodle for Brain Breaks

Brain Breaks help students to focus and get ready for learning in the classroom.  

Go Noodle is a fabulous site filled with Brain Breaks for your students.  Go Noodle builds in a gaming feature of earning points to help your class mascot grow.  This site is amazing!

Watch this introductory video:

The Brain Breaks are divided into categories that fit the needs of the students. Air Time works on breathing and calming before a test or big event.  Run With Us helps students to get some energy out by running in place.  And so on.

I highly recommend checking out Go Noodle for giving your students Brain Breaks throughout the day.  By the way, it is free!

Monday, April 21, 2014

How To Change as a Teacher to Benefit Today's Learners


It's a well know fact that I have been teaching for 20+ years and I always tell people that one of the best parts of my job is that I rarely teach the same way twice and that the pedagogy and teaching styles are constantly changing. 
(And thankfully the fashion has changed as well!)

Students have also changed quite a bit from when I first started teaching in 1990!  Today's students have more of a voice in the classroom, they are digital natives and they are greater producers of content than students from the past.

There are many things that we can do to better meet the needs of this new generation of learners.  
Here is a list of some of them:

#1 Objectives
Everyday we post the objectives for our lessons.  We make sure to incorporate the objective naturally into our lesson and help students to understand the purpose for their learning.  Here is the ultimate way to post objectives in the classroom.  I need to do this!

#2 - GAFE - Google Apps for Education.  This year I worked particularly diligently to incorporate more of the Google Apps into my lessons to meet the learning outcomes of our curriculum.
One of my favorites was the use of the research tool in Google Docs and Slides.  

Because GAFE are constantly being improved and updated, I make sure to read Google's Blog daily and recently I also took the time to become a Google Certified Educator.  Next stop is to become a Google Certified Trainer.

#2 - Keeping up with new trends in digital technology.
This year I implemented digital badges, new student response systems, coding and supercharged my flipped videos with tools and apps that add engagement to the lessons.

Digital Badges are an online representation of achievement or skill. Remember your Scout patches? Well just imagine those in a digital form. You can learn more about Digital Badges by clicking here.  I will also be facilitating a webinar for Intel's Teachers Engage at the end of April. Click here if you would like to register for the free webinar.

Student Response Systems- I have been talking about these a lot this year.  Learn about Kahoot and Geddit  just to mention two of them.  SRS bring a new digital way for students to participate and communicate in the classroom.

Coding has hit the education world like a storm.  This year I introduced my students to Scratch and allowed them to experience coding for themselves.  And soon we will be programming a Sphero robot.  More about that in a minute.

Supercharged Flipped Videos - To bring a new dimension to my flipped lessons, this year I incorporated a few new tools such as eduCanon, Teachem, Blendspace, HapYak and Movenote

#3 - A 21st Century Classroom Redesign.  Yes, we are still working on our redesign project. It takes time to reform a classroom.  Our student desks have arrived from our Ripon Education Foundation Grant and we are in the process of putting them together one by one. Meanwhile, Judy, the treasurer of the organization presented me with a certificate.  It was a great moment.  We are so blessed!

#4 - My Next Adventure - Over the next few weeks I will be taking on the challenge of using robotics in our classroom.  My good friend, Naomi Harm, has graciously offered to send our classroom a Sphero.  This sphere can be programmed using an iPad. This is going to be a wonderful adventure!  I can't wait to share our learning experience with this robot.

I hope you will give one of these adventures a try and bring a new dimension to your classroom to benefit today's learners.  After all, things have changed quite a bit from the past:

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Chat with Deb - iPad Apps for Creating eStories and eBooks

Today I share three great apps for creating an eBook or eStory.  


Write About This $3.99 (I'm using the Lite free version)
Book Creator $4.99

Here are some ideas for creating eBooks or eStories:

  • retell a story
  • create a book on a researched topic
  • make a Mother's Day or Father's Day book
  • All About Me book
  • a book about your city, state, country or world
  • personal narrative, persuasive or argumentative, opinion etc.
  • a book report 
  • poetry
  • about a famous person or someone you admire
  • a how to book
  • a cookbook
Issuu is a great place to host your ebooks.

Thank you to Intel and Teachers Engage for hosting this episode of Chat with Deb.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What's on the Menu?

Learning Menus are something I keep hearing about on Twitter and in the blogosphere. 

In the most recent episode of the Digital Buzz Radio Show, Naomi Harm shares the basics of Learning Menus as one way to personalize learning for every student.

Let's take a look:

  • Learning menus are a way to give students choice and differentiate the activities for students.
  • Learning menus have 3 parts: the main course, the side dish and the dessert.
  • In a learning menu, all of the activities in the main dish are required and cover the content.  The side dishes are choices and allow for differentiation.  The the desserts are extensions of the content.

Here is an example:

Watch this video to learn more about learning menus:

Here is another example of a learning menu:

I decided to give learning menus a try for myself.  So here is Norton's Learning Menu for a Novel we are Reading called Jimmy Spoon.

My students are going to love having some voice and choice in their learning.  Learning menus remind me of the Tic-Tac-Toe boards that I used all the time with Gifted and Talented students back in the day.  I hope you give learning menus a try.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Book Trailers - A Chat with Deb

National Library Week is April 13 - 19.  How about having your students create:

Watch this episode of Chat with Deb to see how to help your students to prepare a storyboard and create a book trailer using iMovie.

iMovie Sample from Deb Norton on Vimeo.

Trailer (Theme Bollywood)

Alexia - Dork DIaries from Deb Norton on Vimeo.

Planning sheet
Drawing Pad
Trailer Planning sheets (these are awesome!)

Alternatives sites for creating Book Trailers:
YouTube Editor
Photo Story 3 (comes with Windows)

Thank you to Intel and Teachers Engage for sponsoring this episode of Chat with Deb.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

iPads are as Natural as a Notebook

A few months ago, our school set of iPads were finally allowed to be taken out of the Media Center.  Prior to this, the iPads had to be used while in the Media Center. 

Throughout the past few months, it had become the routine that I go down and pick up the iPads in the morning and without even planning to, they end up in our classroom most of the day.  

What is so incredible is that my students, on their own, pick up the iPads and use them as naturally as they would use a notebook from their desks.

I'm finding that I incorporate the iPads without even planning to. It is just natural, convenient, and simple.

Here are some of the ways we have been using the iPads, naturally:

  • We used the app Explain Everything to create videos about what we had read and researched during our literacy time.
Deanna's video from Deb Norton on Vimeo.

  • We used Kahoot to write and review a chapter from a novel we are reading.

  • We used Infuse Learning to write our math problems and display them for the class to view and analyze.

  • We wrote summary paragraphs using Google Docs and collaborated in real time.

  • We created Book Trailers using iMovie
  • We created book reviews with QR codes.

  • We take our spelling tests using the Spelling City app along with doing our weekly spelling activities.

  • We used Geddit to poll our class and see how well students were understanding the content of a math lesson.

And even with all of these uses, I feel as though we are not using the iPads to their fullest capacity.  I know that there are so many other amazing uses for this touch screen device.  

I have created lessons to incorporate Augmented Reality into our lessons using either the LAYAR app or Aurasma app. Unfortunately our filters are preventing us from using the apps and I need to request that our IT department work on a solution.  

In the meantime I plan to allow my students to use the iPads whenever they are available.  After all, my students are naturals at using them!