I just had to share this Lego/EV3 vending machine created by one of my 5th grade students. He is in my GT class as well as our campus Robotics Club. He owns an EV3, and spent his spare time last week making this contraption to dispense Starburst candies every time you deposit a quarter. There are other versions on the internet, where he got the idea, but he apparently created his machine using his own design. Super cool!
I am such a geek. Last night, I was researching mandalas for an upcoming lesson with my 4th graders. I remembered that Richard Byrne had just published a post about a new online magazine creator, so I thought it might be fun to try it out and let my students collaborate on the magazine. Then, I started looking for images to put on the magazine cover, and came across a mandala that used words instead of symbols. There was no information on how it was created, so I did a search for word mandalas – and that is how I landed on Mandific. (I still haven’t discovered how the original word mandala picture I found was made, but that’s okay.)
Type a word into Mandific, and it will create a mandala for you using the letters of the word. You can adjust the color, the spacing of the letters, and the design. See if you can figure out my word in the mandala below.
H/T to GeekMom for sharing this tool on a blog post.
Then, I continued my search (I won’t tell you how long I spent on Mandific before remembering my actual mission.) I found MyOats.com. Still not exactly what I was looking for, but it gave me another alternative for including words in a mandala.
As you can see, I didn’t spend a lot of time on that one because I had suddenly become obsessed with finding the perfect word mandala generators.
My next attempt was with using the word cloud generator, Tagul.
I also tried Tagxedo, which will allow you to upload your own image to make into a word cloud. However, I had so many problems with it not loading correctly on three different browsers, that I finally moved on to some iPad apps.
WordFoto has always been a favorite of mine. I uploaded a photograph of a mandala from the web, and then added some text. If you are not familiar with WordFoto, here is a post I wrote about the app.
My last word mandala attempt was created with the TypeDrawing app. I uploaded a mandala photo, and then traced the main lines with words and some of the symbols offered in the app. After completing my drawing, I changed the photo opacity setting so that only my drawing shows. I have to say that this was my favorite creation.
I will keep you posted on what we use! If you have any other ideas for word mandalas (that don’t require expensive software like Photoshop), please let me know in the comments below.
Three years ago, I decided to host an online class that would encourage students to “make things” over the summer. It was called, “Design a Theme Park,” and I invited some famous makers to help judge the different categories each week.
Joey Hudy was one of those makers. Well-known for the video of his appearance at the White House Science Fair with President Obama, Joey was an inspiration to many of my budding “makers-in-training.” I invited him to be a guest judge of the student-designed theme park rides. Joey’s mother kindly responded for the teenager that he would be happy to do it. I wish I had kept copies of his mother’s comments, because I remember that she was excited about any program that promoted maker-education and/or STEM, and her supportive words were very motivational.
Joey had a difficult time choosing a winner from my students’ projects. The day before he announced his decision, he posted this, “I’m sitting here getting to judge your awesome projects. I don’t really like picking winners, you are all winners. You all did exactly what I want kids to do..
Don’t be bored…make something!
Ok..the winners are..drum roll.”
Joey’s mantra of, “Don’t be bored…make something!” has lived on in my classroom since then. I have been following him on Twitter over the years, and often chant those same words to my own students – particularly right before they are about to leave school for long vacations. The enthusiasm of Joey (and his mom) have directly and indirectly affected my teaching style and educational priorities ever since the first time I viewed his marshmallow cannon demonstration.
Today, I saw a Tweet that announced sad news about Joey. He is now 20 years old, and was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia. In this “GoFundMe” post, Joey’s sister makes an impassioned plea for help with the staggering medical costs facing his family as they navigate the difficulties of identifying the appropriate treatment and care.
This post struck a chord with me for many reasons. First of all, I benefited from the great kindness of Joey and his mother when they donated their time to my students as proponents of STEM and maker-education.
Secondly, I know, first-hand, the treacherous havoc that mental health issues can wreak on the sufferers and their families. Over 15 years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and PTSD. This was not a surprise to me, as other family members had received similar diagnoses or exhibited symptoms that were never treated. Therefore, I have great sympathy and empathy for Joey and his family.
I write this post for two reasons: to ask you to consider donating to the Hudy family to help cover Joey’s enormous medical expenses, and to also ask you to consider what our country and/or world can do to educate people about how to better identify and aid the people who suffer from mental illness.
I wish the best to Joey, Elizabeth, and the rest of the Hudy family. Thank you for all of the contributions you have made so far to “making” this world a better place. It’s time for the world to help you now. With so many people behind you, I guarantee you will continue to be a positive force on this planet for many years to come.
Mark your calendar for May 2, 2017, this year’s Global Day of Design. This project, spearheaded by educators A.J. Juliani and John Spencer, encourages classrooms all around the globe to participate in innovative thinking and creating during one 24-hour period. According to Juliani, over 40,000 students participated in last year’s Global Day of Design, an impressive number that we could surely double this year.
Ideally, every day should be one that includes innovation for our students. However, the reality is far from this. Hopefully, just as Hour of Code has promoted awareness of the need for more computer science education, the Global Day of Design will encourage more educators to integrate Design Thinking into the curriculum.
Juliani’s post gives a link to register for the Global Day of Design, as well as many resources. The official website for the project also has a registration link and the bonus of at least 12 free design challenges with the promise of more to come.
In a related post, my colleague Sony Terborg recently wrote about the concept of “The Producer Mindset,” and also linked to the Global Day of Design. Like Terborg, many forward-thinking educators agree that it is imperative that we move away from the factory-based system of education to instead provide students with opportunities to create and think for themselves. Design Thinking is a great framework for educators to refer to when embarking on introducing innovation in the classroom, and I would recommend the Global Day of Design as just the beginning that will hopefully eventually lead to a new generation that is comfortable designing 365 days a year.
This week, I will be at TCEA in Austin with my fabulous colleague, Angelique Lackey. We will be presenting together on Tuesday. Our session is called, “10 Sure-Fire Ways to Light Up Your Curriculum.” The hour-long session starts at 1:15 in Room 19B. It is about using the Project Ignite website to introduce your students to 3d modeling with Tinkercad.
On Wednesday, I’ll be solo. I’ll be presenting, “Code Dread” at 2:30 in Room 13AB. This session is for anyone who has been intrigued by the thought of using coding in the classroom, but has little experience with programming.
FYI – despite having done numerous presentations I always sound nervous. Weirdly, the only thing that makes me nervous is knowing that I will sound nervous which, as you can imagine, develops into a nice little self-fulfilling prophecy. Fortunately, the size of the audience doesn’t seem to impact this, as I am equally as nervous with 2 people or 50. Unfortunately, medication either makes it worse or makes me slur my words so I’ve learned to just tune out my own voice and never listen to recordings. Of course, if you attend either session you won’t have those choices – but I promise not to be offended if you walk out 😉
You may not want to walk out, though, because we just found out that we get to use the Qball (wireless, throwable microphone) during our sessions. So, walking out would mean you not only lose the opportunity of listening to my unique voice, but you would also lose the opportunity to see how horrible I am at throwing microphone balls – a feat I have never attempted, but I am quite certain will bring back flashbacks of the one time I tried to play softball when I was in 5th grade and managed to bonk myself in the forehead. I will try not to bonk you in the forehead, but there is no guarantee.
In conclusion, you may or may not want to attend my two sessions at TCEA and you may or may not want to take out extra insurance before volunteering to be in the audience. If you do decide to brave all of these potential hazards I have mentioned, then please come up and say, “Hi! I am one of the courageous people who read your TCEA post and still decided to come to your session.” That way I will know not to aim for you when I throw the Qball 😉
I’m not actually a huge fan of Valentine’s Day, believe it or not. If you search “Valentine” on this blog, though, you would suspect otherwise. I’ve collected quite a few resources to use in class based on this holiday – mostly because my students seem to love it so much. In fact, I’m pretty sure kids get a lot more of enjoyment out of it than adults!
In case you missed it, here was my 2016 Valentine blog post – which pretty much linked to everything I had curated so far. Since then, I’ve added:
- Creative Thinking with Hearts
- Paper Circuit Valentines
- Virtual Valentines (which also includes a link to an augmented reality Valentine)
Some new ones that I’ve just discovered:
- Shell Terrell posted an incredible list last year of over 26 activities, including a heart-shaped word cloud tool and Tynker programming remix.
- Lego Heart Building Challenge
- STEM Valentines Activities
I imagine a few more will pop up in the next couple of weeks. If so, I will be sure to share them with you!
UPDATE 2/13/17 – Here are a couple Valentine’s Day Breakout EDU activities!
At the end of last year, right before Christmas, I saw a tweet about The Extraordinaires. After visiting the site, I was intrigued by the product and ended up buying one of the smaller sets to try out with my students. Since my 2nd grade gifted students are studying structures, I chose the “Buildings” set.
All of the products in The Extraordinaires line revolve around Design Thinking. Each set includes Character cards, Design projects, and Think cards. The sets also include a drawing pad, and at least one pen. The Buildings Set includes 6 each of the Character and Design cards and 10 Think cards. Larger, more expensive sets, contain more cards.
Each of The Extraordinaires Studio projects allows you to choose a character and a design project. For example, one of my students got the “giant” character and “sports venue,” so his assignment was to dream up a place for his character to play a sport. You can, of course, mix and match the cards, which makes for interesting combinations. The think cards can be used to help refine the project and add details.
Fortunately, I only have 5 students in this particular class, so the set I bought is the perfect size. (Some of the larger sets have higher age recommendations. The company assured me in a tweet that the 16+ noted on the box “only refers to the guidebook and the depth of content,” so this leads me to believe that the cards would still be fine to use with lower ages.)
My students were extremely motivated by the Character and Project cards. The graphics on these definitely generated enthusiasm. Before passing out the cards, we had talked about empathy. I emphasized the importance of designing for their “clients” instead of themselves. For about 20 minutes, there was complete silence in the room as the students got to work.
I had already told the students that this was just the beginning, that they would go through many drafts before settling on final designs. It’s good I prepared them, because I realized that I hadn’t done a very good job of teaching them about empathy. As they shared their first drafts, it became clear that they drew buildings that were familiar and just added a few details (like kelp, for the mermaid’s house) to align the structures with the characters.
Fortunately, the website for The Extraordinaires includes some resources for teachers. We will be using the “Graphic Organizer for Getting to Know an Extraordinaire.” After all, it’s difficult to have empathy for someone you don’t know. This is actually all practice for our final semester project, for which they actually will be designing something for someone at our school. (More about that in a future post.)
If you like the idea of teaching Design Thinking to your students, and would like some other resources, Jackie Gerstein has a wonderful collection of design challenges here. For a great free Design Thinking curriculum, City X is another alternative. To see why you should even consider incorporating Design Thinking into your curriculum, this video from The Extraordinaires allows students to explain. (Be sure to watch all the way to the end if you really want your heartstrings tugged 😉