Category Archives: Creative Thinking

It’s Not a Box

I don’t expect a lot of people will be reading the blog this week, so I thought I would just post some of the inspiring Tweets, videos, and random pics I’ve collected recently Monday through Wednesday. Thursday will be my last Gifts for the Gifted post for 2020.

After all of the Cardboard Challenges, Mini Golf Courses, and Leprechaun Traps I’ve watched students build with boxes, I should not have been surprised by this glorious office built by Vicky Stein (@AgentRedSquirrl) with the former container of her father’s treadmill. Creativity often blooms tremendously when there are constraints, and 2020 has provided plenty of constraints. I wonder if her father has gotten as much enjoyment out of his exercise equipment as Vicky has out of the box…

S.C.A.M.P.E.R. Through Winter and Some New Jamboard Updates

I was excited to find that Google Jamboard updated last week, allowing people to upload our own backgrounds so we don’t have to worry about students accidentally moving our designs. I worked on re-designing one of my S.C.A.M.P.E.R. resources so I could offer it to you for use on Jamboard. S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is a creative thinking tool developed by Roger Eberle, and each letter stands for suggestions to spark innovation: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to Another Use, and Rearrange. I am working on revamping all of my S.C.A.M.P.E.R. materials, but currently have S.C.A.M.P.E.R. Through Winter available on Jamboard for you to copy and use.

I added some animated gifs from Giphy.com to create some more visual interest, but those are not part of the background so they can be deleted if you like. If you prefer, I also have the same prompts on a Google Slides presentation in case you want to make multiple copies of one prompt by downloading as a .png or .jpg. I slightly modified the prompts so that they are “holiday-neutral.” For some examples of some of the creative responses I’ve gotten from students in the past, you can look at this post and this one. I am adding this post to my Winter Holidays Wakelet, which has over 65 resources now. In addition, I will post the link on my Jamboard Wakelet, which is also gaining more resources every day.

One of my recent additions to the Jamboard Wakelet is a nice image of keyboard shortcuts to view a Version History in Jamboard. This image was tweeted by @MariaGalanis. Until yesterday, I had no idea it was possible to do this. Unfortunately, you cannot see who made changes on the Jamboard, as you can with other Google products, but being able to return to earlier versions when mistakes are made or you forgot to make a copy before students used it is extremely helpful.

Alice Keeler (@AliceKeeler) wrote a post about these shortcuts, suggestions for naming your original version history, and a sticky note short cut for Jamboard that she published today, so be sure to check that out for more good advice.

I hope everyone is having a great Monday, and this week, which will be the last for many before the Winter Break, is going smoothly!

Grab a Compliment

I belatedly decided to attend the ISTE 2020 virtual conference last week, and I am so glad I did. I have taken over 20 pages of notes (yes, the old-fashioned way because I remember it better!) and still have hours of sessions that I want to watch. The sessions are available for 6 months after the conference, so I hope to learn even more.

I have so much to share, but I know that this is not a time to be overwhelming everyone. My goal is to share one thing I learned each day for the next few days.

I’m going to start with an incredible session that I went to that was presented by Tony Vincent (@TonyVincent). He is the author of the Learning in Hand blog, offers online graphics workshops, and produces Shapegrams, a program that challenges students to increase their spatial and design skills by reproducing digital drawings.

I must admit that I’ve never been super excited by Google Drawings, so I missed the live presentation by Tony Vincent this year at ISTE. However, so many tweets sang his praises that I decided to check out the recorded session. And, well… wow! He really knows how to leverage Google Drawings to make learning interesting. I had no idea that it has so much potential.

Here is the link to the many activities shared by Tony. As I mentioned above, I just want to focus on one cool idea to avoid causing anyone reading this a complete meltdown. I decided to pick one of the last ones that he shared, the “Grab a Compliment” template. You could easily adapt this to a million different activities in your classroom. The design method is fairly simple. Type something inside a shape in white, and leave it on a white background – then have students drag it to the orange shape in the middle to “reveal” the words. Compliments are awesome, but you could also put reflection questions, breakout room tasks, trivia challenges, or anything you dream of. Another idea would be to have each student fill a white shape with a compliment, question, something they want to share, or whatever. The sky is the limit!

I want to thank Tony Vincent for presenting a creative and engaging session that gave me lots and lots of ideas. I also applaud him for giving a link to a Q&A Flipgrid so teachers could ask him questions, and he could respond afterwards. He is definitely a presenter role model for me!

Photo by Eva Elijas on Pexels.com

Gifts for the Gifted – Bare Conductive Touch Board

 A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students. You may notice that I missed 2019, but I’m making up for it this year with a post every Thursday in November and December up until Christmas Eve.

Last year, we were able to get a grant in our Maker Space for some Bare Conductive Touch Boards and paint (there are smaller tubes of paint if you prefer). One of the choices for students’ final engineering projects in my class was to create a work of art that integrated the touch board and paint. I just scoured my Google Photos archive and, for some reason, have no video of the final projects in action 😦 Here are pics of the artwork and the back of their canvases, though.

The black paint that you see in the mariachi and country pictures is conductive. The concept was to attach the sound board to the back and connect the black paint with copper tape to the sound board. But, as you can see in the bottom picture, the copper tape was not being cooperatively sticky enough so one of the students ended up soldering wires to it instead. (Soldering is not mandatory; we just wanted to make it more durable.) We made hinged frames for the canvases to enclose the speakers and touch board but allow us to turn them on/off and change batteries if needed. The mariachi instruments played music based on which instrument you touched, and the countries played their anthems. (That group was fascinated with countries of the Cold War.)

Don’t let the over-complexity of the project scare you off. I tend to imagine projects that leave out a few minor details in in my initial drafts. What’s cool about the Bare Conductive Touch Board is that it is actually easy to use. There is a little Micro SD card for you to add your sounds, and you probably want to attach a cheap speaker (I got these at Target for $3) that has a microphone jack so you can hear it. As you can see, we also gave it a battery, but you can alternatively just attach it to your laptop, depending on your project. Here is a step-by-step intro to the board that shows you how easy it is to get it working. There are also instructions for making a midi piano.

I was first inspired to look into doing a project like this when I saw this video. For those of you who have used or seen the Makey Makey (a past Gifts for the Gifted recommendation), you can see that this takes the potential just a bit further.

If you have a child/student who loves to create art and would be interested in attaching sound to it, this is a unique gift that they would definitely enjoy.

Pies by Inspired to Taste

In the United States we will be celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow. One of the traditional desserts served is pie. Of course that means I will be making an oreo cheesecake. Because that’s how I roll. Also because I saw this article in My Modern Met and realized that I had been doing pies all wrong. I wish I could post the pictures of these pies on here, but even the rebellious part of me likes to observe copyright laws. If you just want to skip the article and go straight to the pictures, here is Liz Joy’s pie portfolio. I would love to have students look at these pictures, and have them design their own pie decor. I can’t imagine eating any of Joy’s masterpieces, but people generally say that the same thing about what I prepare – minus the “masterpiece” part, and for a different reason.

Gifts for the Gifted – Sleuth and Solve

 A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students. You may notice that I missed 2019, but I’m making up for it this year with a post every Thursday in November and December up until Christmas Eve.

If you know children who love riddles, like the ones on TED Ed, and are about 8 years and up, you might want to consider getting them one of the Sleuth and Solve books (there are two) by Anna Gallo and Victor Escandell. Each book has more than 20 short riddles with fun illustrations and the answer behind a card you can fold down. I have only previewed the one with the black cover (not the History one), so I can’t describe both, but I imagine their format is similar.

The riddles use icons to communicate to the reader whether or not they can be solved using logic or imagination, and there are stars to indicate their difficulty levels (six stars being the most difficult). Some of the riddles are familiar, such as “Crossing the River,” while others are definitely new to me. One feature that I really like is that the book describes how it can be played as a game, encouraging families (or groups in class) to keep track of the cases they solve and how many points they earn for each solution based on the difficulty level. As I mentioned in last week’s gift post, you can really maximize the impact of any gift if you, the giver, play along with the recipient. And, don’t assume you will have to “play dumb.” Some of these riddles are quite diabolical.

I am giving you a link to these books from one of our new local bookstores, Nowhere Bookshop. The store is owned by one of my favorite authors, Jenny Lawson, also known as “The Bloggess.” Unfortunately, their grand opening coincided with the pandemic, so they have only been able to operate virtually. I’d love for you to support them so they will be able to survive and one day open their doors. If you prefer to support another independent bookstore, you can find some on Bookshop.org.

For those who love mysteries and riddles, here is a link to a past recommendation from this series, Invisible Ink books.