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.)
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.)
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.”
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.
With Constitution Day approaching in the United States on September 17th, I thought I would share “Do I Have a Right?” from iCivics. It is free, and you can play it on your web browser or using the iPad app. The game helps you to learn the rights you are given by the constitution as you assign cases to lawyers based on their specialties. There is now a Powerpoint extension pack that teachers can use to reinforce what the students learn after they play the game. The game is really engaging (my daughter and I love to play it together), and only one of many fabulous resources brought to you by iCivics. If you haven’t used iCivics before, here is a little more information from a previous post.
The “Wow in the World” podcast from NPR is just one of the many kid-friendly podcasts that can be curated by the Leela Kids app, which is available on iOS or Android. Download the app to your mobile device (search for it under “iPhone Only” in the iTunes store – even though it works fine on iPads), and open it up to see a simple menu that allows you to choose an age bracket (3-5, 5-8, 8-12, 12-15*) and a category (Stories, Music, Animals, Ocean, Space, and Curious). Once you’ve made your selections, you can then see either a list of specific episodes or the list of shows that provide those episodes. The duration of each podcast episode is listed under the title. Some are a minute long, while others can be almost a half hour.
How could you use this? Well, as a parent and/or a teacher you may know how difficult it is to search for appropriate podcasts. Now you have a treasury your children can listen to during long car trips or in classroom centers with a set of headphones. The great thing about this is that podcasts have frequent updates so there is a slight chance that you will never run out of episodes!
If you are using this in the classroom, you can gather student reflections using a response sheet like this one from Chase March. Students searching for topics for Genius Hour projects may find something that they may want to research further. Another idea is to use the app to find relevant podcast links for class, and embed those links in a Hyperdoc.
As you can see, there are many ways to use podcasts in class, and the Leela Kids app just made it even easier.
The Merge Cube is the latest product to market augmented reality experiences for kids. It is being sold at Walmart for $14.97 – although it looks like it is already out of stock. Beore purchasing it, you should know that you will need a smartphone or tablet to download the apps for the cube. Merge Goggles can also be used, but are not required as long as you have an app-enabled device. If you have Google Cardboard, you can use it with the Merge Cube. However, the Merge Goggles have a special cut-out specifically designed for use with the cube that helps to make the experience more immersive.
I have not used this product yet, so I can’t give you a full review (you can see one here by “Dad Does”). It looks like it has educational as well as entertainment applications. According to the website, there is a “Mr. Body” experience and “Galactic Explorer”. The Merge Cube is being marketed as “the hologram you can hold in your hand.” It reminds me of Daqri’s Elements 4D Cubes, but it is actually one cube designed for multiple apps – and developers are being invited to submit more.
Merge has several products out there, including its Merge Goggles. You can visit the Merge Miniverse site to see games and YouTube 360 videos that are compatible.
I like the idea of the flexibility (since VR glasses require phones and all I have are tablets in my classroom), and will be curious to see what other educational uses come out of this relatively affordable product. Like many ed-tech options, the novelty may attract your students, but it is up to educators to determine if it is a tool that will deepen learning.
For other Augmented Reality Resources for Education, check out this page.
It has been amazing to watch Wonder Workshop evolve since the days of Bo and Yana (the original names of the Dash and Dot robots) 4 years ago. The robots are incredibly engaging for elementary students, and the company has been extremely supportive of educators. Dash and Dot appeal to students because it is easy to apply personalities to them. Programming the robots becomes an exercise in imagination as well as logic. The ability to augment the robots with bricks, such as Legos, increases the potential for storytelling and problem-solving. In addition to all of this, there is flexibility in programming (in addition to the free Wonder Workshop apps, 3rd party apps like Tickle and Apple’s Swift Playground can be used), which means students from beginners to advanced can code these robots on pretty much any mobile device.
Wonder Workshop is constantly expanding its offerings. I was excited to visit their booth at ISTE to see some of their new products.
The first thing I got to check out was their idea for using Dash to develop spatial reasoning. Using foam core cut-outs, a course had been laid out for Dash to navigate with a pattern of bricks attached to its head. With careful programming, students can send Dash under each piece of foam core successfully by making sure its head is turned correctly at the right time. Wonder Workshop hopes to provide the instructions for creating this course on its website soon.
Some of the most exciting products that has just been added to the store are the challenge cards and curriculum subscription. The curriculum offers 22 NGSS & Common Core aligned lessons for classroom integration. The challenge cards are colorful, leveled activities that match Code.org’s Computer Science Fundamentals. I personally think the best deal is the Getting Started Curriculum Pack for $99. (By the way, I do not work for Wonder Workshop, but have received some free products for review in the past.)
Wonder Workshop will be sponsoring another Wonder League Robotics Competition this year, but the structure will be different than previous years. You can learn more here.
I’ve been told that Wonder Workshop has more surprises coming up in the fall, so you will definitely want to keep up with their announcements on Facebook or on Twitter (@WonderWorkshop).