Empatico

Empatico is a new site that is being developed to match students with other classrooms around the world.  Because the site is beta testing, you will need to give them your contact information in order to gain early access (expected launch in September, 2017). It is designed for students 8-10 years old, and includes two types of activities: “Sparks” – short activities meant to last 3-5 hours, and “Fires” – experiences that last 2-3 weeks.  You can see some examples of activities on this page.  I’m already excited about the “Ways We Play” activity, in which students share the different ways they entertain themselves with a class from another part of the world.  I am always looking for opportunities for my students to connect globally (see our Valentine Project from earlier this year and my Skype resource post), and Empatico looks like a promising free resource that we can utilize!

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Screen Shot from Empatico

Send Me a Rainbow

If you teach older students who have their own phones, this might be a fun idea for an impromptu writing prompt.  The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has decided to make more of its artwork available to the public by digitizing it and allowing us to text requests.  Only 5% of its entire collection can be viewed in the SFMOMA’s physical building, but thousands more pieces are accessible through this new feature.  You can text the number 57251, and type, “Send me” followed by a keyword or color.  There’s something suspenseful about the whole endeavor that makes it a bit addictive.

I tried it out by texting, “Send me kindness, ” and received the following, somewhat depressing, reply.

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Maybe kindness was too abstract?  So I tried, “Love.”

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Now remember, this is the Museum of Modern Art, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the answer to my next request.

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Not really sure what the museum bot was trying to tell me there…

Anyway,  I soon discovered that trying to use this activity as a “pick-me-up” was a bit too unpredictable, especially after I received a sad portrait of the war in Iraq after I asked for “home.”  However, my daughter and I did have fun using emojis and asking for pictures of bread and dogs.  (It does work with emojis, by the way.)

Not to be outdone by artifical intelligence, I decided to end our texting communication by asking for something that couldn’t possibly be mis-interpreted in a bleak way by a computer. “Send me a rainbow,” I asked.

And it did.

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myRebus

myRebus is a fun tool that teachers can use to create picture sentences for students to solve.  For example, I made the one below for the students who signed up for my summer Google Classroom.  Can you tell what it says?  The site allows you to type in any sentences and it will generate the rebus for you.  It does ask for you to input your e-mail to have the rebus sent to you, but I just take a screenshot.  This could be a fun alternative for spelling practice or even a strategy to get students to pay attention to directions on an assignment.  Another great use is for Breakout Edu clues! For students who want to create rebus puzzles, they can use this site, or you might want to take a look at this lesson plan I wrote for Canva.

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5 Resources for Design Thinking Challenges

When introducing Design Thinking to children, it’s important to include the “empathy” part of the process.  Sometimes, it is easier for students to practice this with fictional characters before they begin applying it to real people.  I’ve curated a collection of both free (green) and paid (purple) resources that offer character cards you can print out to distribute to students so that when they are designing they have a “client” in mind.  If you would like some suggestions for books and videos to help teach empathy, Joelle Trayers has several blog posts that address this topic.

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image from Wikimedia Commons
  • Younger students will enjoy these Adorable free printable from Krissy Venosdale of literary characters
  • The City X Toolkit includes dozens of fictional character cards that can be printed out for free.  (For more information about City X, you can read my blog post here.)
  • Jackie Gerstein created a “Maker Education Card Game” that you can view and use for free here.
  • The Extraordinaires series has different kits at several price points.  You can read more about it in my post here.
  • Khandu is a set of cards that I purchased awhile ago in a crowd-funding campaign.  Like Extraordinaires, it includes characters and challenges.  My set also includes “Ideation,” “Inspiration,” “Action,” and “Prototyping” cards.  It’s a pretty comprehensive pack of 70 full color, thick cards.  Although the pricing is in euros, you can also purchase it through PayPal.
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    image from Wikimedia Commons

Storybooth

Storybooth is a website that gives students voice in a unique way.  Students who are registered can record stories and submit them.  The Storybooth team chooses submissions to animate and produce as videos with the original narration on the site.  It reminds me a bit of the StoryCorps animated videos – just designed for a younger audience.

As an elementary teacher, I would probably not assign my class to record personal narratives on Storybooth.  Instead, I see myself using some of the videos as a resource for inspirational stories to show my students.  I would urge you to choose carefully, as there is a wide range of topics from cyberbullying to dealing with getting your period for the first time.  If you are a secondary teacher, or a parent or educator who knows a particular student who has a story to tell, however, you might consider encouraging that child to make a submission.  Having your story chosen to be animated is surely a very validating experience!

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Advice from Storybooth on story submission possibilities

Below is an example of one Storybooth video that I think would be valuable to show students of any age.  If you are doing a lesson on Growth Mindset, friendship, or empathy, “I Wish I Was Invisible” would fit right in.

For more videos, visit the Storybooth website, or you can also check my Pinterest Board of Inspirational Videos for Students.

Be the Last to Speak

Teachers talk too much.  Even though I am aware of that, I still find myself speaking more than I should in the classroom.  I think that I am better than I was 20-something years ago when I first started teaching – but I definitely want to improve in this area.  The great Simon Sinek (author, consultant, and motivational speaker) gives advice about this in the attached video.  Even though Sinek is speaking in a business context, many top educators like Jo Boaler would certainly agree that teachers should be included in the group of leaders who would benefit from this following this guideline.  Instead of complaining that our students are too lazy to problem-solve, we need to ask ourselves how often we actually give them the opportunity to do their own thinking.

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image of Simon Sinek from http://www.amc.af.mil

For more inspirational videos for teachers, here is my Pinterest Board.  I also have one for students (some videos are on both boards).

We Love Maps

“We Love Maps” was the most recent theme for the bi-annual Barbara Petchenik Children’s Map Competition. The contest is open to entries from children all over the world who are 15 years old or younger, and it really is amazing to see the creativity displayed in the wide range of winners chosen by judges at the International Cartographic Association’s annual meeting this month.  You really must click through the gallery of pictures to appreciate the artistry of these children, as well as the messages they chose to convey with their renderings.  Special shout-out to Champ Turner, from Austin, TX, for having his map chosen for the “Public Award” with the most votes.  With 34 different countries participating, it’s nice to see a winner from my home state!  To learn more about the competition (which only happens every 2 years, unfortunately!), click here.

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image from Pixabay (since I don’t have permission to reproduce the actual contest entries)

Great Minds Don't Think Alike!

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