Category Archives: Apps

More News from TCEA 2018

I don’t want to overwhelm you with all of my take-aways from TCEA 2018 so far, so I thought I would give you a few new tools I’ve learned about with brief summaries and links to the presentations.   I am really cherry-picking from the plethora of resources I took notes on, so definitely click on any of the presentation links if you want to learn more.

I have a few more things to share in the near future, but I don’t want to be a “dumper” as Jennifer Gonzalez would say.

If you are still at TCEA tomorrow (Friday), I would love for you to join me at my session at 9:15 am in Room 12B.  We will be talking about making global connections, and I could use a few extra audience members to drown out the heckling I will have to listen to from my colleague, Angelique Lackey.  Also, I will be using Pear Deck so you can see it in action!

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TextingStory Chat Story Maker App

 

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Make it Snow in the Classroom with Scratch Jr.

I was invited to help a couple of first grade classes with Hour of Code activities last week, and thought that we would try using Scratch Jr.  I had a different lesson planned for our Friday morning (“Can I Make the Sun Set?”) – but then it snowed in San Antonio Thursday night.

For those of you in northern climes, snow may be somewhat unexceptional, but in San Antonio snow is pretty close to miraculous.  Many of my younger students had never seen snow in their entire lives, so it seemed only fair to change our Scratch Jr. lesson the morning following our unusual weather phenomena.

Most of the students in the class were as new to Scratch Jr. and programming as they were to snow.  I started the class with the BrainPop Jr. video I mentioned in last week’s post.  Then I used Reflector to demonstrate the Scratch Jr. interface on the classroom screen.  I talked about the meaning of “character” in Scratch Jr., and how it could be any object that you want to program to move in some way.  I showed them how to add a background.  I also demonstrated that they would need a “trigger” for their character such as the green flag, and how to program characters to move.  Then I gave them some time to explore.

After they played around a bit in pairs on the iPads, I asked for their attention so I could show them how to add a camera shot as a background.  This was something new I had learned last week, and it takes a bit of practice.  This video explains it well. (She is using the tool to make a character, but you can use it for a background as well.)

The students worked on taking pictures for the background.  Some chose the classroom for photos, and some chose themselves.  Their homeroom teachers and I definitely needed to give support to many students – especially when we realized the camera tool wasn’t enabled for Scratch Jr. on all of the iPads.

Once most of the students had backgrounds, I showed them how to add snow as a character.  They clicked on the + sign to add a character, and then the paintbrush icon to make their own.  After choosing the color white, I told them to make white dots all over with the tip of their finger.  It’s difficult to see the white dots on the white canvas, but after they click the checkmark at the top, the dots should show up on their background.

Students can move the white dots to the top of the background, and then program their snow “character” to move down when the green flag is triggered.  I showed them how to add higher numbers under the down arrow so the snow would reappear at the top and come down again if they wanted.

To make it look a bit more realistic, the students can add snow as characters several times, positioning them at different spots on the top to fill the screen with snow falling once the flag is tapped.

Another extension would be to teach the students the “bump” trigger so that when the snow hits another character, such as the Scratch cat, the character can say something, such as, “It’s snowing!”  You could also ask them if they can figure out a way to make the snow accumulate at the bottom of the screen.

There were various rates of success in the classroom for this project.  Some students got confused and added snow to the background instead of making it a character, and the camera tool required patience and practice.  However, there was a lot of learning going on, and great engagement.

This lesson could be another way to connect to the Snow Globe lesson that I have posted about in the past. . Hopefully, the students will now think of other ways to use Scratch Jr. for storytelling and creating in their classrooms and at home.

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Scratch Jr., BrainPop, and PBS

When participating in Hour of Code in our GT classroom this week, the 2nd graders were introduced to the free Scratch Jr. app on our iPads (also available on Android and on the Chrome Web Store ).  Before we started exploring the app, I thought it would be good for them to learn a little bit about computer programming.  BrainPop Jr.  has a great free video that explains computer programming and some of the terminology.  As an added bonus, the sample screen in the video looks very similar to the Scratch Jr. interface, so this particular video was an excellent introduction to our lesson.

You can find Hour of Code lessons for Scratch Jr. here.  Additional lesson ideas can be found on the “Teach” tab of the Scratch Jr. site.  As I was looking up resources to use with my students, I also found this PBS site that includes lessons integrated with some of the popular PBS kid shows, as well as printable task cards.

Scratch Jr. works very well as a starting point for block coding for primary students.  My 2nd graders quickly found many “cool” things that they could do after about 10 minutes of exploration on their own.  Familiarizing themselves with this app will make the transition to Scratch (a web based program for computers that does not currently work on mobile) almost seamless.

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image from Wes Fryer on Flickr

Rock the Lab with Hour of Code

I love Rock the Lab, an incredible resource from @learnmoorestuff.  She has recently updated her Hour of Code page, and the layout is awesome.  It includes links to the basic computer science lessons for each grade level, the activities that have been especially developed for Hour of Code, an Hour of Code Hyperdoc, and a link to the newest Flipgrid Explorer series, which is all about coding!

Be sure to get involved with the 2017 Hour of Code, which is happening next week from December 4-8.  This has been one of my favorite annual events, and I’ve seen incredible student learning ever since my classes started participating the very first year.  Trust me, you don’t have to be knowledgeable about programming to facilitate a great Hour of Code experience!

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Image from Pasco County Schools on Flickr

What Kind of Roads Do Ghosts Haunt?

Both Halloween and the Hour of Code have been on my mind lately, so I was excited to find this post on “5 Ideas for a Spooky Scratch-o-ween.”  Since I teach gifted students from K-5 in my school, many of my older students have used Scratch.   Some of them like to use it to create presentations or make games.  However, my newer students need an introduction on how use this block coding tool.  I particularly like the suggestion to animate some appropriate Halloween jokes using Scratch (or Scratch Jr. on the iPads).  Here is a link to some goofy Halloween jokes that are good for elementary students.  Rosemary Slattery shows some brief examples of animated Scratch Halloween jokes here.  Robots are also fun to program for joke-telling.  We’ve used the Dash robot as a comedian in the past, and it is a new challenge for the students to find a way to code it so the timing works between the joke and the punchline.

Speaking of punchlines, what kind of roads do ghosts haunt?  Dead ends, of course.  (You’ll find that in the list of jokes linked above.)

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The Scream (Reblog)

This post was originally published in 2016.  I think it’s a fitting time of year to bring it back.

We all have things that scare us, of course.  In the book that my 5th grade gifted students are reading, The Giver, the main character is “apprehensive” about an upcoming event.  To help the students connect to the text, I asked them to list some of the things that worry or scare them.  Using our green screen and the Green Screen app by DoInk, I had the students superimpose themselves on the image of Edvard Munch’s, The Scream.  The students then used the WordFotoapp to add their specific fears to the picture.  Here is one result. (You can click on it to see a larger view.)

scream

When I looked closely at this student’s final product, I noticed the word, “division.”  I was a little upset because I had told the students not to put silly things just to get a laugh.  In my mind, division and multiplication would fall into that category, especially since this particular student has never had any problems achieving well in math.

“Why did you put this word when I told you not to put something silly?” I asked him as I pointed at his picture.

He looked at me solemnly.  “I meant the division of people.  You know, how war and other things divide us.”

Oh.

It’s good I asked…

Sumaze

Sumaze and Sumaze 2 are free mathematics apps available in the Google Play Store or for iOs.  The games and the graphics are simple but elegant.  Players start with a number tile, and must move the tile through a maze by flicking the screen in the appropriate direction.  As users ascend levels, other tiles are added to the maze with operations and numbers on them.  It becomes your goal to not only get your tile to the end of the maze, but to make sure it is equivalent to a particular answer before you try to slide it into the final exit space that will trigger the next level.  Mental math and logic are essential to solving the puzzles as multiple operation tiles start sprinkling your screen and you have to choose the operations to use as well as when to use them.

This is not a game with avatars, XP’s, or any other kind of trendy gaming elements, but it is a good game that will challenge math lovers from ages 7 and up.  It reminds me of two other excellent (and free) mathematics apps that I highly recommended awhile ago: MathSquared and MathScaled.  Students with a passion for math enjoy apps like these – and sometimes those who don’t enjoy math finally discover its appeal.

Sumaze