New Reading App
This app, Reading IQ, just came out and looks to be a great resource, very similar to Epic! You can read a lot more about it on their blog. Here's the blurb:
"As with ABCmouse, ReadingIQ is available at no cost to teachers for use in their classrooms, with the ability to assign an entire reading level of books to each student to read at home, completely free." Check out a short video from the site.
It is free for teachers- be sure to look up at the top right of the navigation and click on Teachers to get all the details.
Learning in a MakerSpace
One of the hardest things for me, working to integrate technology across all the grades and disciplines, is to allow students to have choices. We are so used to controlling all the aspects of teaching, that we forget that we don't need to control how kids learn. We just need to help them learn. Edutopia has a new series called How Learning Happens. The full series of more than 20 videos will be released in early 2019.
The video below is a preview from Learning Problem Solving and Growth Mindset in a Makerspace. The blurb for this one is "Makerspaces build students’ cognitive abilities while fostering independence, perseverance, and self-regulation."
I also picked up a couple of children's books this weekend- kind of along the same vein. One was Rosie Revere: Engineer. This is part of a wonderful series which includes Ada Twist, Scientist and Iggy Peck, Architect.
What I noticed, aside from the nod to Rosie the Riveter. was the theme of not giving up. Now, I am not a big proponent of jumping up and down for joy about failing. Yes, I know all the little acronyms that go along with FAIL... and not that these are wrong, it's just- I want to succeed. Accepting that a big part of the engineering design cycle is prototype, test, make changes, iterate, takes not an acceptance of failure, but the knowledge that it is a process. The ability to persevere through the process, to take constructive criticism and use it, is the hardest part for many of our students, as well as our teachers to learn. I was down at the Google HQ in Cambridge a few years back and listened to a panel of folks who work for Google. The one woman who truly impressed me said something to the effect of "I was always the smartest one in the class. I was used to being right. Now I am one of many and I have had to learn to learn from others and from my own mistakes. Accepting and learning to use criticism is hard."
So, where am I going with this? The other book I picked up was called, "What do you do with an idea?" I also found a whole book module on this in Teaching Children Philosophy, which was a course over at Mt. Holyoke, not sure if it is still offered. Curious, I started looking around the web and found that this book, this children's book, is being read and discussed in college engineering and design courses. I loaned my copy to First Grade, but see if you can find one. Short, easy to read, nice illustrations, but a pretty powerful message and great questions on the site. What makes an idea important? What does it mean to feed an idea and make it grow?
A couple of tools that I noticed this week included:
Google's bring AR to the web. We've all seen the fancy $ Occulus Rift, as well as the utilitarian Google Cardboard, but Google is actually working hard to bring AR to the web, and not as a novelty. They have a prototype called Article. Article is a 3D model viewer that works for all browsers. Read more about it here.
I saw a tweet from Leslie Fisher about Handwriting recognition in Google Docs, which got my attention: Handwriting recognition in Google Drive. Go ahead and read more about it on her blog. I'll tuck the video in here, too. But... this isn't quite as grand as it sounds. Google Keep can do OCR on an image and then you can send this text to Google Docs. Google Docs can take a PDF and pull the text out of it- not perfectly, and I hope you didn't care about the formatting. However, a combo of tools is getting a whole lot closer. I have a Rocketbook and it can recognize my handwriting and it can send it to docs, to evernote, etc. So- yes, it is cool, but there's another tool in there, not just Google Drive. Here's the link for Rocketbooks. They are also somehow affiliated with ThinkBoard- which is a whiteboard- that you can use the app on and send it to docs- does HW recognition, OCR from the whiteboard.
Looking for a cool STEM toy?
I was thrilled to see that Smithsonian Magazine choose Turing Tumble as the best STEM toy of 2018. This came along as a kickstarter a couple years back and was finally realized this past year. I brought one up to my brother's house and tested it on my niece. It was fun, hard fun, but really engaging for ages 8+. There are 60 puzzles to get through. We played for quite a while and did 15 of them. Check it out the top ten list here, and in the winner in the video below.
One of the Honorable Mentions was Chibitronics. I received one of these kits at the MakerBootCamp I attended last summer. Again- fun, lots of learning. Chibitronics Love to Code Creative Coding Kit. They offer good discounts to educators. Jie Qi, one of the founders, has created such beautiful work, check out some of her projects
We keep hearing about how everyone needs to learn how to code. Do they? I've been seeing a lot of headlines about how computers and AI will be talking over all the jobs in the very near future. I recently saw a couple of interesting videos online and went back to read a bit more about where they came from. This one called The Future of Work: Will Our Children Be Prepared? comes from What School Could Be and basically shows computers taking over all sorts of jobs from milking cows to flipping burgers.
So, I went looking for more information and found a recent Edsurge article , interviewing Ted Dintersmith, a businessman who is now on an education "crusade" (my term). In 2015, he funded and produced “Most Likely to Succeed. My first inclination was that he was yet another Bill Gates sort of guy who thinks he knows more about education than those who are actually working in the field. However, I think he is spending his time investigating and has some good points. One quote from the article resonated with me. "To me, it’s not computer science. It’s computer literacy. It’s understanding and making yourself far more productive with the tools and resources that are out there. That’s what we need to teach—to encourage kids to learn and be confident that they can figure things out, whether they’re a philosophy professor, journalist, scientist or engineer."
On the other hand, but perhaps related- we keep hearing about resilience, grit, perseverance, and a growth mindset as the key components of success. This video has been making the social media rounds of late. Jay Shetty tells us that the real test is life, asking "when were you were taught perseverance, determination, or persistence even for one day? And tells us that "The real challenges we will face are being empathetic understanding people's challenges."
So, I need computer literacy, perseverance and empathy... and then I read this; "We’re Teaching Grit the Wrong Way" from The Chronicle of Higher Education. The author tells us that "grit alone simply isn’t enough. It matters what path people use. As one example, grit combined with gratitude is a strong predictor of resilience."
But... Nigel Coutts thinks that we are wrapping kids in the equivalent of cognitive cotton wool. And, once again, pieces of his argument resonated with me. " We are so keen to make learning easy and accessible that at times we completely remove the challenge."... " We provide endless scaffolding of processes with pro-formas and checklists until the task is reduced to a set of simple steps, manageable with no real mental effort. We then applaud the success achieved and yet wonder why our learners are unable to apply their learning to new situations or transfer their skills from one discipline to another. " Coutts quotes a lot of Jo Boaler's work, which also makes so much sense to me.
Need to learn to code? Need to be more resilient? Need to have more empathy? Which is the key to the future for our students?
Looking for ideas? Google has an online course on Digital Literacy, which actually does help with some of the soft skills that employers are looking for, like collaboration. It's called Applied Digital Skills. You can find out more in the video below, or check the website or YouTube channel.
Back to Ted Dintersmith on innovative schools: "They’re helping each kid in a different, very specific way to discover their strengths, learn more about their interest, and begin to gain the skills and confidence that they can use their life to make their world better."
Hmmm...so maybe I need to add personalized learning to my list... innovative, personalized, resilient, empathetic, creative, collaborative and digitally literate.