For her Genius Hour project, one of my 5th grade students questioned what the world would be like without creativity. Since she used Scratch for last year’s project (on Sleepwalking), I told her that she needed to present her information in a different way, but that she could still use Scratch for part of her project. Whereas she used Scratch to give her information about her topic last year, she decided to use Animaker this year. However, she chose to use Scratch for the “interactive” portion of her presentation (I always insist that there be a part that involves the audience), and blew me away with the complexity of her game. She designed “Creativity Land,” which includes five interactive games that help students learn the information she gave in her videos. This. Was. Not. For. A. Grade. She did this purely out of her love for learning and creating. English is her second language – maybe third, because imagination is certainly her first.
If you don’t do Genius Hour with your students, you are missing out on something amazing. And so are your students.
One of the biggest changes I made to our Genius Hour projects this year was to insist that the students do practice presentations for small audiences before they do the “real thing” – kind of like the “Alpha Testing” often used on products before they go on to “Beta Testing” and then full release. In the past, my students have always given one presentation, and this was the summation of their learning. After watching Austin’s Butterfly last year, I realized that this was unfair to all of us. Even though the students were getting peer and teacher feedback throughout the Genius Hour process, their final products were, well, FINAL. A most of those final products had room for improvement. Some of them had mansions of rooms for improvement…
A few weeks ago, I wrote, “What to do when Genius Hour Sucks,” because some of the practice presentations deeply disappointed me. Now, many of my students are ready to try again after making revisions based on class feedback, and I’m not feeling defeated anymore. They really took the suggestions that were made to heart, and have shown great improvement. A few of them are ready to share with a bigger audience – classmates in their homerooms, students in younger grades, administrators, and parents. Some of them will need to do a third practice, but have still made great strides.
It’s kind of incredible to see students make such an effort – particularly when they are not graded on these projects. I believe they are motivated by their interests in the topics they chose, and by the knowledge that people outside their usual sphere will be viewing their presentations. I also believe that our systematic feedback and time for multiple opportunities to practice has made a huge difference. In school we often tell students what they could have done to improve – and then give them no time to try out those improvements.
Want to see one of the student products? Here is a Scratch presentation that one of my 4th graders did on sleepwalking. (She did a verbal introduction to our class, telling a personal story about why this topic was important to her.) Just press the green flag, and you will see what she came up with. Her product has been Alpha and Beta tested, and is now ready to share with the world!
International Dot Day is just a week away (9/15/14!) and I wanted to share with you this great project I saw posted by Louise Morgan last year. It is a collection of Dot Day projects from all over the world presented in Scratch. (If you are unfamiliar with Scratch, the free programming site from M.I.T., click here for more info. Also, Scratch Jr. is now available for free as an iPad app.) I love the way this project integrates programming with showcasing the creativity from students in many different states and countries!
Here is this year’s post that I wrote about the upcoming International Dot Day. There are lots of ways to get involved! Join us for this celebration of creativity and uniqueness of children around the globe!
Not everyone is obsessed with reading education blogs or following Twitter as I am – especially over the summer. I’ve noticed this blog’s stats have started growing since the beginning of August, which probably means educators are starting to return to work and might be looking for resources. For today’s post I thought I would do a short round-up of some of the changes and updates that my readers may have missed over the summer. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list. It’s just something I brainstormed in the doctor’s waiting room the other day 😉
Tellagami – The free app is virtually useless now, as there is no longer customization of characters or Text-To-Speech. For those, you need to purchase the Edu version for $4.99. You can read more about my disappointment in this change here.
Kid President – In case you missed it, everyone’s favorite inspirational politician now has a TV show on Hulu! Find out more on this blog post.
Lego Research Institute – I was so excited about this, I tweeted it out last week! This Lego set, featuring 3 female scientists, is now available for purchase ($19.99). Unfortunately, they are currently sold-out online- and I can’t find any indication on the website if they intend to restock.
I ran across this Flickr album posted by Josh Burker (@JoshBurker) that pretty much shows every instrument in the orchestra integrated with MaKey MaKey. Josh had the opportunity to be the “Maker in Residence” for the Westport, Connecticut Public Library for a month this summer. As you can see from his Flickr album and this video, you can do a lot with cardboard, conductive tape, MaKey MaKey, and Scratch – especially if you are a kid with an endless imagination and a bit of adult guidance.
My absolute favorite piece is the bird. You will find a video on the 2nd page that details the creation of the bird and its numerous amazing abilities. The 11-year-old girl who came up with this brilliant device is as articulate as she is innovative.
I am really inspired to challenge my students to find a unique way to use the MaKey MaKey when we do this year’s Global Cardboard Challenge. Since we only have one for our classroom, I plan to have a contest and whoever proposes the best idea will get to use it for their game. Josh Burker’s collection of images will help the students to see the amazing potential of this tool.
This summer, some other GT teachers and I got together to host some free online classes through Edmodo for our 3rd-5th graders. My class is called, “Make a Theme Park.” Each week, the students are invited to make something for a theme park that they have imagined. For the 1st week, the challenge was to build a model of a theme park ride, and the fantabulous Joey Hudy judged. You can see the post I did on the winners here.During the second week, the students created theme park mascots, and Braeden the Master of Puppetry was our judge. Here is the link to that post.
Our third week of our online “Make a Theme Park” class invited the students to create songs for their theme parks. Michael Medvinsky (@mwmedvinsky), who is an amazing music teacher and Master of Making I connected with through Twitter, was our judge for the week. As usual, the creativity and variety in the submissions thoroughly impressed me! Our judge was dazzled as well, and had a very difficult time choosing the winner. There were songs created with Garage Band, piano, Scratch, and even a muffin tin with wrenches! My daughter and I tried to create one with Incredibox and iMovie – but somehow lost the sound 😦 In the end, Mr. Medvinsky chose the Kittyana Jones Theme Song that was created with Scratch. You can see and hear all of the songs submitted, as well as Mr. Medvinsky’s wonderful comments by going to our Padlet.
Yesterday I mentioned the free online course being offered by Mitch Resnick and his colleagues at the M.I.T. Media Lab called, “Learning Creative Learning.” It starts today, so check out my post if you are interested – no registration required!
Mitch Resnick, of course, is one of the creators of Scratch, a great (and also free!) way for anyone to learn the basics of programming. I noticed that there is a Scratch Day coming up on May 17, 2014, and I want to encourage to mark your calendars for that date. Even if you don’t choose to host a Scratch day event, you can visit the site to find events in your area. According to the site, “The events are for educators, parents and children 5 years and older. Beginner Scratchers are welcome!” If you haven’t done any Scratch programming before, this might be a fun opportunity for you to learn. Last semester, I attended a Scratch class with my daughter, and I was so glad that I did!
You also might be interested to know that Scratch Jr. is currently a Kickstarter project. Scratch Jr. is designed for students 5-7 as an introduction to programming. It uses the same concept of snapping together programming blocks on the screen to create interactive stories and games as the original version of Scratch (designed for 8 years and up).
Scratch Jr. is being developed for the iPad, but will hopefully be available eventually on multiple platforms. The creators are determined that it will be free for everyone when it is released, so they are looking for Kickstarter backing now to pay for the cost of creating it.
I have seen how excited students get about Scratch, and about programming. I can’t wait for Scratch Jr. to be available for my younger students. This will be a valuable resource for educators and parents everywhere to help their children learn sequencing, logic, and the joy of creating in a new “language.”
To see more of my posts about programming for kids, type in “programming” in the search bar on this page, or visit my Pinterest Board.