Computer Science, Creative Thinking, Education, K-12, Music, Student Products, Teaching Tools

Yes, They Have No Bananas

One pretty standard piece of inventory in a Maker Space seems to be a product called MaKey MaKey.  I posted about the MaKey MaKey and its potential for creativity in April of this year.  If you ever see one demonstrated, chances are that someone will be using it to play a banana piano, or a Play-Doh piano, or even a human piano.  But there are far more uses than just as a piano.

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.

image from: Josh Burker on Flickr
image from: Josh Burker on Flickr
Apps, Art, Creative Thinking, Education, K-12, Music, Student Products

Theme Park Song Winner

Theme Song Padlet 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 (@), 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.

Apps, Computer Science, Education, Games, K-12, Student Products, Teaching Tools

Scratch Your Itch to Learn Programming

image from Scratch Jr. Kickstarter site
image from Scratch Jr. Kickstarter site

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!

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 4.24.59 PM

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.

 

Computer Science, Creative Thinking, Education, K-12, Research, Teaching Tools, Videos, Web 2.0, Websites

Learning Creative Learning

Dr. Resnick invites you to participate in an unusual online course through M.I.T. in this video.
Dr. Resnick invites you to participate in an unusual online course through M.I.T. in this video – and uses a little humor to poke fun at himself 🙂

You might be familiar with Mitch Resnick, one of the co-creators of the Scratch programming language, and a professor at the M.I.T. Media Lab.  I’ve talked about teaching kids how to program quite a bit on this blog, and featured a T.E.D. talk presented by Mitch Resnick on this topic in one of my posts.  You can find out more about Dr. Resnick and his numerous accomplishments here.

Dr. Resnick – along with two of his colleagues, Natalie Rusk and Philipp Schmidt – is giving all of us a unique opportunity beginning tomorrow, March 18th, 2014.  They are presenting a 6-week course for free called, “Learning Creative Learning.”  The target students for this course are educators, designers, and researchers.  Here is a brief summary of the course from their website: “LCL will focus on key aspects of the Media Lab approach to learning: Projects, Peers, Passion, and Play. We invite you to apply these ideas to your own teaching and learning experiences. Together, we can reimagine and reinvent education.”

There will be online sessions every Tuesday from 1-2 PM EST, but these sessions will be recorded for those of us who can’t attend.  You can take a look at the syllabus for the course here, although they do give the disclaimer that it is a work in progress. Discussion forums have been set up, and there is an FAQ section.

You do not have to register for the course to be involved, although you can provide an e-mail address to receive updates.  As I mentioned earlier, the course is free.  You will receive no certification for participating, so getting involved is based purely on your intrinsic motivation to learn from some distinguished educators at a top-rated university.

This is the 2nd year for the course to be offered in this format, but it’s still a work-in-progress.  As Dr. Resnick says, “The best learning experiences happen when you take risks and try new things and learn from your mistakes.”

For those of you who choose to join the class, I hope to see you in the discussion forums or following @medialabcourse on Twitter!  It should be an interesting adventure!

Computer Science, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Education, Games, K-12, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Videos

Scratch

Well, I finally did it.  With the help of: an Hour of Code Tutorial, a 3rd grader who knows what he’s doing, and what I learned from auditing a class that my daughter took, I finally felt somewhat ready to try Scratch, the free M.I.T. programming language available on the web, with my 3rd grade class.

Scratch

Full disclosure here: I teach Gifted and Talented students, and my 3rd grade class is composed of 4 students* – one of them being the aforementioned one who knows what he’s doing.  So, I probably don’t get a lot of points for risk-taking.  Plus, the Hour of Code Tutorial walked them through all of the steps for creating a holiday card – leaving me with little to do other than to provide new laptops when their batteries went dead.  I should get points, though, for observing that the batteries were about to die and urging the students to save their projects to their drives before they lost them completely 😉

After doing a Hopscotch tutorial with my 2nd graders yesterday (hey – there were 11 kids in that class!), I was prepared to take things a bit slowly with the students in this group who had never seen Hopscotch or Scratch.  Silly me.  After their classmate’s demonstration, and two steps into the tutorial, they were ready to jump into the project and CREATE.  My job was to step aside.  Here is a link to our class blog post with links to videos of their projects.

Since this was far from the typical experience that a classroom teacher would have if trying to incorporate Scratch, I know that much of my advice would not be helpful.  However, I do have a few words of wisdom for teachers new to using Scratch:

  • Scratch is free, and no longer requires a download (a mobile version is due out in the Spring).  You can use the web version just fine.  There are some added features in the downloadable version, but beginners won’t miss them.
  • You can share Scratch projects by downloading the file to a computer and then uploading it within Scratch or by joining Scratch.  I did not have my students join – as I felt that was a parental decision.  Joining does require an e-mail, but it allows you to share your projects with others in the Scratch community by uploading it to their site.
  • If you don’t have built in microphones on your computers, have some plug-in mics available.  The kids like to make their “sprites” say silly things through recording.
  • Monitor the “silly things” your students say while recording 😉
  • If your computers are somewhat unreliable, encourage your students to save frequently.
  • Be sure to build in time for exploration.  Just choosing their first sprite (object that they will program) from the Scratch library could take 5-10 minutes.
  • Ask someone who knows something about the program to assist you if you can.  If you can’t, it’s still nice to have extra hands available for basic computer trouble-shooting.

The Scratch Hour of Code tutorial is an excellent introduction.  However, here are some other Scratch resources if you interested:

If you have an iPad, Daisy the Dinosaur and Hopscotch are great lead-ins to Scratch.  But, really, the above resources take care of you.  And, as you have probably already learned with the digital natives in your classroom, our students don’t need nearly as much as much instruction as we teachers do!

*I’m trying Scratch with a class of 14 fourth graders today (11 of whom happen to be boys), so my experience will probably be a bit different!

Apps, Computer Science, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Education, K-12, Student Products, Teaching Tools

Hopscotch

If you haven’t signed up to participate in this week’s Hour of Code, it’s not too late.  And, even if you don’t find it possible to get involved this week, I urge you to take a look at all of the wonderful resources.  Consider showing your students the basics of programming, and let them take it from there.

I heard from a few people that they were having a hard time selecting where to start.  The wealth of resources can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you do not have experience with programming.  As someone who is relatively new to it, I understand completely.  That’s why I thought I would devote today’s post to just one of the resources – Hopscotch.

Hopscotch is a free iPad app that is similar to a web-based open-source coding program developed by MIT called Scratch.  But, don’t worry if you have never used either one.  My exposure to them was pretty limited until a month ago.

I used Hopscotch with my 2nd grade GT class yesterday.  There are 11 students in the class.  They each had an iPad, but I think I probably should have had them share.  If you have a full class of students, I would definitely recommend this – for the sake of your sanity and theirs.

The students had used Daisy the Dinosaur and Kodable before – both awesome coding apps.  Daisy had kind of introduced them to using blocks to program, and I think it’s an excellent intro to Hopscotch.  (They are both produced by the same company.)

Hopscotch has a great tutorial video (embedded below) that we used, and that’s what really helped me.  I have messed around with Hopscotch, but never really knew what to do with it, or how to break it down for the students.  Hopscotch does this all for you.

One thing I wished I had done before going through the video with the students was to talk about some of the vocabulary: rotate, opacity, line width, random.

Another thing you may want to check is to make sure you have the latest version of Hopscotch on the iPad.  I thought I had done this, but then some of the menu items looked different on some iPads, causing a bit of confusion with directions.

We paused a lot during the video.  To give you an idea, the video is 25 minutes long, and we barely finished in 90 minutes.  Some of that extra time was exploration; some of it was troubleshooting (kids hitting the wrong button, iPads freezing, going ahead and missing directions, etc…).  If you can, have older kids or parents help you out with this.

Once you go through the video, if your students want to continue using Hopscotch, I highly recommend visiting Wes Fryer’s blog here, where you can find additional ideas for using this app in the classroom.  This includes a link to Wes’ ePub book of Hopscotch challenges. (If you download the ePub book, you may need to also download an ePub reader, such as Adobe Digital Editions.)  The ePub book also explains how to share Hopscotch creations once they are completed.

I see lots of ways that Hopscotch can be integrated into the curriculum – particularly math.  Discussion of angles (helpful to understand for the “Rotate” command), percent, creation of shapes or symmetrical drawings are just some of the ways it can tie in.  Because it allows you to bring in text objects, other subjects could be easily reflected by creating Hopscotch games with vocabulary.  If you search for ways to integrate Scratch into the core curriculum, as on this page, you can probably modify a lot of those ideas to work with Hopscotch.

For more ideas on using programming with kids, be sure to check out the Hour of Code link above, or my Programming for Kids Pinterest Board!