Saturday, June 30, 2018

Let's be Fab@School (ISTE Gem #1)

Over the next several days, I'll be blogging about the things I saw at ISTE that I cannot wait to try in my classroom. The first of my ISTE gems is the Fab@School Maker Studio by FableVision Studios.

When I saw the title of this session ("Paper Prototyping Bootcamp") and the presenter (Paul Reynolds of FableVision), I made it a priority to attend. In fact, I was the fifth person into the room for the session! I have been a papercrafter since I was in middle school, so anything involving paper or cardstock automatically intrigues me. The Peter Reynolds book The Dot is one of my very favorites, so combine the Reynolds brand with papercrafting and this was destined to be a fave. 

Peter and Paul Reynolds are doing really cool things at FableVision Learning, the resource for creative educators. One of those cool things is Fab@School, a very easy-to-use maker studio software that is web-based, inexpensive, and appropriate for all ages.

In the video below, I demonstrate in two minutes how easy it is to model a cube that can be printed and cut out.

There are so many more options than what I demonstrated in that two minute video. There are simple things like copy and paste and rotate. You can add a graph paper background if you need one. You can free draw with a line tool. You can add text. You can hook many shapes together and then "weld" them into one big shape. You can also "unweld" shapes into component parts (including shapes from the Fab@School ready-made projects). And so much more.

When you have a project just the way you like it, you can print, cut and fold it. Or, and this is the part I really love, you can send your page to a Silhouette die-cutting machine ($150 on today) and it will cut on the cut lines and perforate the fold lines. How awesome is that! Kids are using Fab@School in combination with Silhouette cutting machines to prototype everything from simple 2D masks to complicated, scaled models of their schools. Fab@School has a library of projects, lesson plans, and tutorials.

My sister got the Reynolds brothers to sign a book for me
at the NSBA conference. It's a treasure!
A single license for Fab@School costs $25, so for $175 plus the cost of some cardstock, you could have unlimited fun with paper! Where many typical Maker Space tools could cost thousands, these tools offer a low cost option for some seriously creative fun. Plus, if you are working with an economically disadvantaged population, ask for a discount on licenses. I bet you'll get it.

I'm hoping to incorporate a project this year where students design components of a chemical "scene" with Fab@School. Then we'll print them out and automate them with a coding or robotic component of some kind. Stay tuned. It's going to be awesome.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

It's ISTE Time!

Next week at this time, the annual ISTE Conference will be winding down, but this week everyone is gearing up for a BIG five days of educational technology.

Last year I wrote this post about the Google + Community #NOTATISTE. At almost 2200 members, it's not as big as the conference that will take place in Chicago next week, but in many ways, that's better. The people who participate are very interested in sharing with and learning from each other. If you will not be at ISTE, I highly recommend this community. I have participated in the community for the last two years - lots of the fun of a conference without the expense! Currently people are introducing themselves and making badges to post to the community. There are daily challenges that people can answer via Flipgrid (or just by posting comments) and a very impressive wheel of door prizes.

I am headed to ISTE this year. I am going to attempt to blog from my sessions, so hopefully I will post next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I'm planning to focus on coding and am really looking forward to a session on Micro:bit. I'll be bringing one home (Thanks Microsoft, Micro:bit, and Fair Chance Learning for that!), so I'll be able to practice what I learn there.

What are you doing to get ready for ISTE or NOTATISTE? Maybe we'll connect at the conference or the community!

Sunday Saves 6.10.18

Here's what I bookmarked this week:

1. SpeakerDeck: This is an online host for slide decks. Start with a PDF and turn it into slides. Then use the service to present or share as a link or with embed code. Here is a deck I made to try it out (using the embed code to post it to my blog - not sure how to make it smaller!):

2. Crayon: A very bare bones (still in alpha) collaborative whiteboard space. Very easy to use! Click the Get Started button and then type in a name and a room name. To ask others to join, provide the link or just share the name of the room. Then users can interact on the board.

Note in the image above that it shows the names of who is on the board at the top of the screen and shows what color ink they are currently using. Crayon is not fancy, but it is easy. 

3.  What does an atom look like? A good video from PBS Nova:

Monday, June 11, 2018

Making Math Graspable

When Dan Meyer invites me to try something (ok, even if the invitation wasn't directed strictly at me), I try it. That's why when I saw this

I tried this:
This crazy magic is Graspable Math and allows you to use some basic gestures (drag, tap, double tap) to do algebra. After I made the clip you see above, I showed it to my high school freshman son and his eyes twinkled. "Wow, Mom. That's awesome."

Or is it?

Dan described some reasons to be skeptical about the tool. You can (and should) read his post here; Dan postulates that perhaps this tool makes math too easy and reinforces tricks, and perhaps misconceptions, through its use, especially when it is used before students master the content on which the tool is based. I can't disagree with those contentions, but I'm still excited about this tool and here are a few reasons why:

In my class, we solve problems like this:    

With some prodding, my students always figure out how to set them up, but some of them really struggle with how to solve the equation after it is set up. Or they have the general idea of how to solve, but they make a mistake getting to the answer and become discouraged about chemistry because of an algebraic mistake. I like the idea of using Graspable Math to solve because then the math wouldn't slow down their understanding of chemistry.

I also love the idea of using Graspable Math to make videos of my solution steps (for problems like the above or any problems). Sure, I can do this with lots of tools, but I thought it was very easy to quickly solve the problem and record my iOS screen. The strength of Graspable Math over other tools is the speed with which I can make expressions that look like textbook math and not like my messy screencast handwriting. Kids could watch the videos to see each step of the algebra I did in class, in the order I did it, to help them at home. Or if they missed class entirely. 

Graspable Math also has potential for teaching inquiry lessons. I wonder if the tool could be used to demonstrate a certain property or process in order to ask students why the process makes mathematical sense. Or, given several similar equations, kids could use the tool to solve and then deduce what they all have in common.

This next idea relies on a perfect world. In a perfect world, I like the idea of using Graspable Math to teach students to check their work. I can see where, especially with students that struggle to make sense of algebra, this tool makes checking work at home, with parents who might want to help but don't feel equipped, a cinch. And, sure, kids could take the value they found for x and plug it back into an equation to check it without Graspable Math. Except that 99% of students won't actually do that and if they have made an algebra mistake on the way to the answer, they are probably equally likely to make one checking the work.

Once upon a time I enrolled my two children in Montessori school because of the public school kindergarten requirement of a calculator. In the same way that I didn't want them to learn operations via calculator, I wouldn't use Graspable Math to teach algebra. Still, it looks like a neat tool, one that I hope I can incorporate at the right time in my teaching. If nothing else, it's good for teachers to know that it's out there because our students will find it. And use it. With our help, maybe they will use it for good.

Here's what I read Jun 3-10 that was worth saving:

Capsure:  Take photos (or probably any images as jpegs) and add captions with text or audio. Share on one private board or on many boards or with the whole world. Create a timeline even. This tool has loads of educational potential! Bonus: Capsure donates a portion of profits to Alzheimers Association because they prioritize preserving memories.

Google Tour Creator: Danny Nicholson posted to his excellent blog some excellent information about using Google's Tour Creator to make a virtual reality tour. Nicholson highlights the basics about creating a tour.

Two articles that reference the 2017 NAEP (Nation's Report Card):

Are American Kids happy in school? Published in the Washington Post, this article looks at the answers to two questions (Are you happy in school? Do you feel awkward in school?) by fourth and eighth graders who took the 2017 NAEP. The data shows that eighth graders are less happy at school than fourth graders.

How do we know if ed-tech even works? Education Week reports that according to the 2017 NAEP data, US students showed little progress in math and reading. Teachers will search for a solution, probably try some educational technology, but what do we really know about its efficacy? The article concludes that districts should rigorously evaluate technologies, perhaps in pilot groups, before adopting them widely.