In the past, I have taught students about biomimicry/biomimetics, in which designers use inspiration from nature to create new products. (The Youth Design Challenge is a great place to find resources for this.) Biodesign takes things one step further by actually incorporating nature, often still living, into innovative artifacts that can be purely for decoration or serve specific purposes.
I first became aware of biodesign when I ran across a website for The Nest Makespace. The unusual images on the home page intrigued me. (I admit that I thought the “bioyarn” designs were actually made out of worms, but it turns out that it’s probably more like this material.)
The Nest Makespace offers some fascinating project ideas here. I am hoping that more lesson plans will be linked soon. In the meantime, you can find more suggestions on the Resource page.
For a “Peek at the Possibilities of Biodesign,” click on this link, or watch the embedded video below.
Alexis Lewis is a teenage inventor who is on a mission to inspire other teens to innovate. You can read her story, and about the products she has invented so far in her young life, here. Alexis specifically wants middle schools to guide students with inventing curriculum, and has launched a website to help in this endeavor. Inventing 101 is a good start as a repository of resources with this end in mind. You can also visit her personal website to learn more about other teen inventors on this page
Looking back on my blog posts, I see that I’ve never devoted one to Flippity even though I’ve used it for various reasons the last couple of years. If you haven’t tried Flippity and you like user-friendly tech tools, you should definitely visit the site. When I first started using it, it was basically an easy way to turn a Google Spreadsheet into flashcards. Since then, it has added many more features – all for free.
Leslie Fisher reminded me to take another look at Flippity when she mentioned a few of the newer additions to the site. There is a now a Timeline and a Typing Test. You can also make a Scavenger Hunt (which is similar to a Digital Breakout, but much easier to create!). I am eager to try the Badge Tracker for our Maker Space. I also noticed that there is a Flippity Add-On for Chrome if you are interested.
Each activity offers you a template that you can copy to your Drive. Follow the instructions on the template and/or the website by typing information into the correct cells. Publish your spreadsheet, get the link, and the magic happens.
Don’t forget that your students can also create with Flippity. Though most of the templates are not going to promote deep learning, they are great opportunities for students to practice skills in novel ways.
One of my presentations this year at TCEA was called, “50 Shades of Green,” (thanks to Angelique for that title). I’ve been curating information about using green screens with classes from my own blog posts, tweets, and other shared blogs from educators. The presentation included ideas for activities/lessons, apps and software for editing, and practical tips. There are lots of links for resources, so if you are looking for a comprehensive collection of green screen ideas, feel free to take a look at the presentation here.
I learned quite a bit about Artificial Intelligence at a TCEA session this year presented by Anita Johnson of Austin ISD. She explained the difference between Expert Systems (where explicit rules are programmed – think “If…Then” statements) and Machine Learning (where the computer identifies and learns from patterns). Johnson teaches middle school, and introduced us to a site called, “Machine Learning for Kids,” which she uses with her students. In the “Worksheets” section, you can find many lessons, categorized by difficulty level, that can be done using Scratch, such as creating a character that smiles if you say nice things and cries if you are mean.
I haven’t had a chance to try this with my students, yet. It looks like you have an option to create a managed class account or “Try it Now”, but check out this page for details on the pros and cons of each choice.
You can also read this blog post to get more information on how to introduce Machine Learning to kids, and why we should even want to educate them about this technology.
It’s always fun to return to the classroom after attending TCEA with something new to use with the students right out of the gate. Of course, as with all things technological, it’s a bit of a risk to try something for the first time without testing how it’s affected by random things like network firewalls. Fortunately, my gamble worked with Gimkit.
Gimkit is an online student response system similar to Kahoot. It was developed by a high school student, who added in an interesting twist – monetization. Students win virtual money as they answer questions correctly. The money can be used to shop for different upgrades such as making each answer worth more money or “icing” your opponents.
Teachers can make Gimkits from scratch, a spreadsheet, or a Quizlet. The questions are multiple choice. Unlike Kahoot, the questions appear on the student devices while the teacher device streams a live leaderboard. The board shows each student’s earnings, who is ahead, and the collective amount earned by the class. I ended up setting my two different engineering classes up as opponents in a “season” so they could compete to see which class earned the most. (Hint: this keeps students from “icing” each other during the game because they will lose out on collective earnings.)
Teachers can also set a time limit, which means that questions will repeat. To be honest, I thought the students would get bored once questions started coming back around, but they begged for more time after ten minutes.
The game was such a success with my 8th-11th graders on Thursday that I decided to use it for another class I was teaching in rotation to 8th graders on Friday. Again, full engagement.
The students in my 4th rotation started getting messages that the site had just upgraded and they were suddenly bounced out of the game. I almost had a complete mutiny on my hands as they realized they would be out of the running for the class competition.
Fortunately a similar situation happened while Leslie Fisher was presenting Gimkit at TCEA. She tweeted Gimkit, and they immediately rolled the site back to the working version. I decided to try the same thing.
My students were dubious.
“What do you mean you’re going to tweet him, Miss? How is that gonna help?”
“This ain’t fair. We’re never gonna win now, Miss!”
Withing a couple of minutes, Gimkit tweeted back their apologies and fixed the issue. My students were astounded.
That class won the competition, by the way. (Free outdoor time next period.)
So, if you have secondary students, I would definitely recommend you check out Gimkit the next time you want to do something a little different for a formative assessment. It will be interesting to watch as this site expands its offerings, but hopefully it will always keep the current features for free.
If you happen to be attending TCEA 2019 in San Antonio, TX, next week, I hope you will swing by to say, “Hi!” or even attend one of my sessions.
You can thank my partner-in-crime for the name of my first session about using green screens:
12:00 PM – 12:50 PM
Fifty Shades of Green
Despite the title, it will be a G-Rated session.
My other session will actually be co-presented with the aforementioned partner-in-crime, Angelique Lackey.
01:15 PM – 02:05 PM
Step Away from the Slideshow
The title is not quite as provocative as my green screen session, but considering my colleague’s direct involvement there will probably be more of a chance we will end up being banned from ever presenting at TCEA again 😉