Friday, December 16, 2016

Animals & Habitats STREAM Project

Animals & Habitats STREAM Project

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” He understood the importance of engaging students in their learning. At Cardiff Elementary School we strive to engage students by inspiring a love of learning in them. Recently, our second grade digital age learners investigated the big idea that living things depend on their habitat to meet basic needs. Various hands-on, technology-rich, standards-based activities empowered students to own their learning throughout their grade level STREAM unit known as Animals & Habitats.
Collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and creativity were embedded in this unit. These young budding scientists were divided into five groups and used internet webcams located across the globe to observe panda bears, elephants, gorillas, tigers and polar bears in their natural environments. Students made careful observations of their assigned animal. They recorded data regarding the animal’s habitat and behavior onto an organized table. Next, they demonstrated their computational thinking skills by analyzing the data, looking for patterns, and drawing conclusions about animal needs. Once students better understood and could empathize with their team’s assigned animal, they began gathering and discovering more details and information. Students researched and collaborated in teams using digital and print resources to deepen their understanding about their selected animals. Their research led to each student becoming a reporter and creating a digital newsletter that reflected their understanding. A labeled animal diagram and a double bar graph depicting all of the studied animals’ lifespans in the wild and in captivity was then represented in their published work.
The next challenge for students was to become designers and architects while building animal enclosures that would meet the basic needs of their team’s animal.  A fun and educational trip to the San Diego Zoo to gain field experience inspired students to inquire, observe and construct additional knowledge. Once back on campus, they became innovative designers by digitally drawing their enclosure plan and building an animal enclosure prototype that met the basic needs and provided enrichment opportunities for their team’s animal.
The highlight of this STREAM unit occurred when teams of students produced documentaries showcasing their in-depth knowledge and awareness of animal habitat needs. The green screen studio purchased with the SDCUE mini-grant funds combined with Touchcast turned ordinary students into artists, broadcasters, and filmmakers as each team produced an informative documentary about their animal and its habitat.  

All of this hard work will long be remembered by the students that participated because they were involved and engaged. At the end of the unit, a celebration of learning attended by parents, teachers and students provided these young life-long learners an audience and an opportunity to shine!


Deborah Heyer Bio

Deborah Heyer has been a teacher for the last twenty-five years and employed by school districts in Vista, California; Fairfax, Virginia; and currently in Cardiff, California. Traditionally a sixth-grade math and science teacher, she now serves as an Educational Technology Specialist. Deborah is passionate about empowering digital age learners and supporting teachers as they integrate technology in meaningful ways into the classroom. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Central Michigan University and a Masters of Science degree in Curriculum
and Instructional Leadership from National University. Additionally, she maintains a Digital Citizenship Certification from Common Sense Education and a Leading Edge Certification for Blended Learning. She’s a lifelong learner with a growth mindset that is committed to both students and teachers. You can follow her on Twitter @debheyer

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Virtual Reality with Google Expeditions!

“Students, today we’ll be traveling to the Colosseum at Rome. We’ll be taking a tour inside to see where the gladiators fought. Then later on we’ll take an underwater tour of the Great Barrier Reef.”

Does this sound like your classroom? Probably not. Sadly, field trips to places like Rome or Egypt aren’t feasible. But what if you could bring these amazing destinations to your classroom?

Through the use of a cell phone and a virtual reality viewer, trips such as these are possible. My San Diego CUE grant was for Android Phones and ViewMaster VR viewers. Through different apps such as Google Cardboard, Google StreetView, and Google Expeditions, students can take virtual reality “field trips” to almost anywhere, even outer space!

The phones and viewers are very easy to use. The phone runs the apps and is placed into the VR viewer. The virtual reality app takes an image and splits it into two images. The viewer combines these images back into one 3D image. The effect is that the user feels like they are in the picture.

There are many applications for this technology. Social Studies lends itself particularly well. For example, you can find many pictures of the Pyramid at Giza, but to feel like you are walking around it brings a new appreciation. In science, you can take underwater journeys or go to the International Space Station.

The newest VR app is Google Expeditions. With this app, the teacher runs a “field trip” to a destination. The app gives five or six pictures of a location with background information and questions for the teacher to use. The teacher controls the students’ journeys, so no one virtually wanders off to another location. The Expeditions app is also expanding to include contributions from publishers such as Houghton Mifflin and many museums. They are continually adding new locations.

Nearpod VR is an app that provides lessons centered around VR experiences. The teacher starts the slideshow lesson (or it can be assigned to do independently) and the app controls what is on the student screens. There are VR locations imbedded in the slideshow. There is some free content, but most lessons require a small fee.

One of the main benefits is that students can internalize their learning. As an example, students studying the causes of the French revolution can experience the opulence of French royalty in a more personal way. This leads to higher depth of knowledge questions.

The most exciting part of using this technology is the level of enthusiasm from the students. Students can’t wait to take a field trip. The “oohs and ahhs” make this technology worth every penny!

By Christy Hansen

Thursday, December 8, 2016

LittleBits + Maker Space + Creativity = Inquiry Based Art Projects with Meaning and Purpose

LittleBits + Maker Space + Creativity = Inquiry Based Art Projects with Meaning and Purpose

Getting Started

First step was gathering the materials. Using the grant money I put together a mobile kit to take to classrooms to introduce students to Little Bits technology, incorporating Maker Space strategies. I purchased a dozen Little Bits kits and various arts and crafts supplies, and packed everything into a carrying case so it could all be transported to schools.

LittleBits in Action
---Lesson Plan. A colleague in my department and I developed a 2-day lesson plan, inspired by JoAnn Fox’s work with Little Bits and Maker Spaces.  

------Day 1: Students were given a brief overview of what the LittleBits electronics can do, making sure they saw the power and the color coding of the pieces in the kit. We then gave them time to explore in groups of 3 or 4. We provided a graphic organizer for students to record their discoveries, asking them to identify the input, the output and then describe the result, and gave them time to share out after some independent exploration. IMG_1546.JPGIMG_1517.JPG
This first day was wrapped up by asking students to consider the question: “What problem do you want to solve?” Students worked in groups to develop ideas for a Public Service Announcement (PSA) they would create the following day using the Little Bits and the art materials.

-----Day 2: Students collaborate and create on their projects. As they worked in groups, students communicated about how the electronics could be used to manipulate their designs, and used the provided materials (or materials they brought from home). IMG_1554.JPGIMG_1537.JPG
Lessons Learned/Next Steps
  • Lessons should be at least 2 hours, rather than the 1½ originally planned. This will provide enough time for exploration, inquiry, sharing … and clean up.
  • We scaled down project expectations after the first class, encouraging students to create poster presentations using a piece of heavy-duty cardboard as backdrops.
  • Art supplies go quickly! In the future we will ask that participating teachers support the work by supplying some art materials.
  • It would be helpful to plan ahead by ensuring there is time, and space if possible, for student projects to be displayed.
  • There has been interest from teachers at the school sites we have visited so far to using the materials with other classes at their schools.

About Dena Hause
I have been teaching for over 30 years, initially as a bilingual teacher at various schools in San Diego Unified, Carlsbad Unified, and Vista Unified School districts, and later teaching ELA, Math, Social Studies, and Tech at Dana Middle School in SDUSD. I received a Master’s degree from SDSU and SDCOE in Educational Leadership with a Focus in Technology in 2015, and I am currently working as an Educational Technology Resource teacher for San Diego Unified.  

Sunday, December 4, 2016

#RaspberryPiClub @ECVHS

Raspberry Pi on the Back Burner
I’ve been the Teacher Librarian at El Cajon Valley High School for less than a year. I inherited an amazing library program from Steve Montgomery, who retired in December of 2015. As one of Mr. Montgomery’s last big projects before retiring, he started a makerspace in the library (#MontgomeryMakerspace). One of the many items he purchased for the makerspace was a Raspberry Pi, but I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Even though I’m an avid edtech advocate, I haven’t really explored the coding/programming side of educating with computers. In my defense: I’m an English major. I hate to admit it, but the Raspberry Pi that Mr. Montgomery purchased for the library’s makerspace kind of gathered dust for a few months.

CUE Inspiration: Why have a Raspberry Pi Club?
I attended the Computer Using Educators 2016 National Conference in Palm Springs for the 2nd time in March 2016. As a new teacher librarian, I was very interested in attending sessions on how to help staff members make progress with effective technology integration--after all, I serve a 1:1 school. I attended several useful session on this topic, then I noticed a session on the Raspberry Pi by Steven New, so I decided to give it a shot. Here are my notes from attending that session:
“We have one of these things in the library, but it’s not being used because I’m not sure what to do with it. The website above has many great resources. Apparently, this isn’t something that was meant to be a one-off purchase. It looks like the presenter bought several of these and gave them to students to create cool things (time lapse camera, wall mounted presentations, weather station, cloud server, drum set).

Great idea: a club (or a class) with a set of these things GIVEN to students to create something awesome. Students choose a project to make something, document their process, share what they made. These things are as powerful as chromebooks.

How do we get a lot of the auxiliary parts? We’ve got old computers in our back room that we can cannibalize for starters…”
I loved the idea of giving students a chance to tap into their creativity, make a plan, implement that plan, overcome obstacles, and share what they had done. It just seemed like a very authentic, personal way to learn. Plus, digital devices are everywhere, but too few of our students get a chance to tinker with them. I floated this idea by Jason Babineau, the administrator who joined the ECVHS team attending the conference. Jason was very supportive, and agreed to find the funds to purchase some Raspberry Pi kits to get the club going. They arrived a few weeks later, and I immediately got them into the hands of students:


My message to students was students was brutally honest:
“I have no idea how to work on these things, yet. My hope is that we learn together. I have some resources for you, and I can buy parts for your projects if you need that, but I’m very, very new to this. You’re going to need to overcome obstacles. You’re going to need to find information about how to program these things. I am no expert, but I’m excited by what you’ll learn through experimenting with these devices.”

SDCUE Mini Grant
The draw of the Raspberry Pi as a learning tool is that it is relatively cheap. Students can experiment with a device that costs as little as $35. I wanted to think of the Raspberry Pi as consumable--students would use them to create something and then the student would have their creation and the school would no longer have a Raspberry Pi. $35 is cheap, but it’s nothing to sneeze at when trying to get a club or a class going with 10-20 devices, plus all the auxiliary pieces (power cords, mini SD cards, HDMI cables, monitors, keyboards, etc.). One of our district Digital Learning Coaches, Reuben Hoffman, suggested that I apply for an SDCUE Mini Grant. I applied for the grant and got the exciting news that my idea was accepted. I am very thankful for the opportunity that SDCUE gave me to continue this experiment with more students. Students requested additional items for their projects, and with the SDCUE Mini Grant I was able to purchase wireless keyboards, mini touch screens, video game controllers as well as 10 more deluxe Raspberry Pi kits with 32GB mini SD cards, HDMI cables, and power sources.


Successes and Challenges
I think just getting the Raspberry Pi Club off the ground is a significant step forward. We don’t currently have a computer programming class at my school, and interest in our robotics team dwindled to the point that it was discontinued. I think it’s important to give students opportunities for hands on tinkering with technology, and getting this club going was a step in the right direction. Still, I think there are several ways the club can improve. The limited time we have together (meeting at lunch in the library once a week), doesn’t offer much sustained time to tackle the problems that come up for students as they try to get their projects to come to life. I’ve had several club members tell me that the demands of their other high school responsibilities (courses, sports, drama, other clubs they are involved in, etc.) make it difficult to attend meetings and devote time outside of meetings to persevering when they run into challenges with their Raspberry Pi projects. It’s also a challenge that much of the programming and testing needed to make a Raspberry Pi project work has to happen off campus due to the fact that these devices (in the hands of sophisticated, yet malevolent tech experts) could pose a risk to our Internet network’s security. So, it’s kind of taboo to connect these things to our network. There are challenges, but we’re off to a good start.


Raspberry Pi Club will continue at ECVHS. We’ll continue because it’s important to give students access to resources that facilitate experimenting with computer programing.

Author Bio:
Anthony Devine is the teacher librarian serving El Cajon Valley High School. Anthony taught English and ELD courses at ECVHS for 10 years before becoming the librarian. He is passionate about education innovations that provide students with valuable, relevant learning experiences. You can find him on Twitter @anthonyrdevine and @ECVHSLibrary.