Category Archives: Student Products

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.

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)

The 6 P’s of Genius Hour

Last week I mentioned that one of the best parts of attending ISTE is meeting up with people who share our desire to make school amazing for our students.  One of those people is Andi McNairan (@mcnairan3).

Until recently, Andi taught gifted students (she now works for a regional service center), and also integrated Genius Hour into her classroom.  We would touch base with each other to share ideas, read each other’s blogs, and try to meet up at TCEA whenever we could.

Andi recently published a book, called, Genius Hour: Passion Projects that Ignite Innovation and Student Inquiry.  In the book, and in her ISTE presentation, Andi talks about the “6 P’s of Genius Hour”: Passion, Presentation, Pitch, Product, Project, and Plan.  At ISTE, Andi went over some of the tech tools that have helped her students in each of these areas.  For example, she provides the students with QR codes for each of the phases.  They can scan these and instantly be on a web page that gives instructions and resources for that phase.  Because Andi also thinks that reflection is vital, she gives the students a QR code that leads to Tony Vincent’s reflection generator – which offers a randomly selected reflection question each time you visit the page.

Do you have students who have difficulty coming up with topics for Genius Hour?  Andi suggests using A.J. Juliani’s “Passion Bracket” to help them brainstorm. On one side, students brainstorm things that they love, and on the other they think about things that bother them.  By the time they reach the middle, narrowing down favorites, they have potential topics for research.

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A favorite tool of Andi’s that I keep meaning to try is Trello.  Trello can be used by the individual students to keep track of their own progress, but it can also be used by the instructor to determine what phase each student is currently working on.  The name blocks under each category can be easily dragged to a new column.

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Andi and I are both keen on students interviewing outside experts for their projects.  To find those experts, she suggests using Nepris, which matches classroom teachers with industry experts for video conferences.  Like many edtech companies these days, Nepris has limited free options and a subscription option.  One great tip that I learned from Andi is to have the students record their interviews, so they don’t have to take notes. This frees them up to look at the person they are conferencing with, and to pay attention to the topics.  She also mentioned that she has the students prioritize their questions before the interview in case not everything can be covered during their 30 minute time period.

You can find out more about Andi’s extremely helpful tips by visiting her website – appropriately titled, A Meaningful Mess – or purchasing her book.

For more Genius Hour resources, here is my page that includes helpful links, my own personal journey with Genius Hour, and some downloadable activities.

Makered at ISTE

For today’s ISTE post, I thought I would cover a couple of the sessions I attended that were related to coding and makered.

Leah LaCrosse (@llacrosse) and Jon Jarc (@trendingedtech) spoke about the ways they have used the design process with their classes as the students worked with digital modeling for 3d printers.  They included a great diagram from nngroup.com that my colleague and I like because it uses arrows to show that the design process is often not linear, with many steps repeating.  We are also hoping to, as they have, find more “problems” that students can try to solve with design thinking.  (They gave an example of 3d printing a piece for the school’s long-broken water fountain.)

An interesting suggestion for introducing 3d modeling to students was to have them begin by making something fairly simple with Legos, and to then ask them to duplicate the design using a program like Tinkercad.  One workflow tip is to have a Google Form for students to enter the links to their print files to put them in a queue (after they have been critiqued) for the 3d printer.

The 3d printing project that really caught my attention was one in which the students designed vehicles that had to fit the following parameters: multiple parts, multiple colors, no glue, and able to roll across a table.  As Jarc described it, this project took nearly an entire semester, but the students were taking precise measurements, iterating repeatedly as they learned more from mistakes, and putting their own creative spins on the designs – making this a deep learning activity that they will never forget.  Another fun idea?  Fitting the vehicles on top of Spheros to propel them across the room!

Another makered session I attended was sponsored by Microsoft.  I know very little about the hardware featured on their “Make Code” website, so I was curious to learn more about at least one of the pieces, the Adafruit Circuit Playground Express.  This little kit is actual hardware that you can connect to your computer with a usb cord, and use block coding or java script to program.  Even if you don’t have the physical hardware (only $24.95, but it seems to be out of stock), you can use the simulator on the site to code this fun product to do all sorts of things – such as play sounds and light up.  Here is some advice on getting started.  I had to leave the session early, so I missed out on the awesome magic wands they were making once everyone programmed their Circuit Playgrounds.  However, I loved some of the features of the website – including that you can easily transition between block coding and java, the site can be used on practically any device (though you do need USB for the hardware), and you can even use it offline.  As you can see from the pictures below, there are lots of things you can do with the Circuit Playground.  Since it has a battery pack, you can program it and “wear” it without being wired to the computer.

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Sample Projects from Microsoft that can be made with Circuit Playground Express and MakeCode

Of course, these two sessions were only a small sample of all of the makered possibilities showcased at ISTE this year.  It’s amazing to recall the years when makered was relatively new to the incredible impact it is having on educational technology now!

#WhyIMake

Infosys Foundation has been asking people to share why they make, and including some of their responses on their site.  There are also three videos from famous makers (Nick Offerman, Noah Bushnell, and Adam Savage) who explain why they believe it is essential for human beings to create.  My favorite video comes from Adam Savage, The Mythbuster, in which he says, “I make because in making I’m telling a story.”  As I watch my students in robot camp this week, I get to witness their delight in making  – whether it is making programs, designing robot costumes, recording crazy robot sounds, or fastening bits and pieces together to make their robot props.  And I get to feel the same indescribable joy when I create the curriculum that activates these busy makers.

Jackie Gerstein offers even more reasons for making in her recent post about her “Cardboard Creations Maker Education Camp,” reminding us that making things does not have to involve expensive tools and technology.  The key elements are imagination and a willingness to accept messiness – literally and figuratively – as we go through several iterations to make our ideas into reality.

Whatever our motivation for making, it cannot be denied that most of us feel compelled to do it, and feel accomplished when we succeed.  That is why it is so important for educators to teach our students how to heed their inner desires to create, to persevere through those guaranteed botched attempts, and to make it a quest to improve without becoming bogged down by self-flagellation.

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Even though a makerspace isn’t needed in order to encourage students to make, here is a “Makerspace Essentials” list of articles I’ve published in the past about making.

Once an Artist

A couple of weeks ago, my Kinder students were working on their #Awards.  One boy looked over at another one, who was carefully drawing details on his paper.

“Are you an artist?” the first student asked with admiration in his voice.

“I used to be one,” the five-year-old responded, matter-of-factly.

“Really?” asked his awestruck fan.

“Yes.  When I was 2 all I did was scribble-scrabble, but then when I was about 3 1/2, I became an artist.”

“Wow!” Fanboy said.  “Why aren’t you one anymore?”

“Well, I ran out of paper,” Once-an-Artist said.  He paused.  “And ideas,” he added.

Then he looked me straight in the eyes.

“But I’m working on getting more,” he solemnly vowed.

I was reminded of this conversation when one of my tweeps, @TEKnical_Lit, shared the link to this powerful video.  Like my Once-an-Artist student, it makes me sad – but hopeful.

Alike short film from Pepe School Land on Vimeo.

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image from Pixabay