Friday, April 29, 2022

Photo of the Week


Always a blast, I love how engaged the kids are when they're exploring with Cody the Code-a-Pillar!


Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Stop (the) Motion AGAIN!

Hold the Presses!

This past weekend I found the COOLEST (yes, it's worth the all caps!) website to use for stop motion (and so much more) with students! I've written about stop motion in the past, and all that you can do with it. For iPads, my favorite app is the free version of Stop Motion Studio. It is very user friendly, and I continue to use it with our lower grades as they still use iPads. Many of our older grade students also prefer using Stop Motion Studio on their own tablets at home.

For Chromebooks, we've been using the Chrome App Stop Motion Animator. It is a great introduction to stop motion, and is super simple to use. But saving your work is a little clunky, and it is pretty basic (which for the most part, is really good when introducing the concept to students!)


If you're looking for something that can do just a tad bit more (or, really, a lot more) then check out Wick Editor. It. Is. SO. Much. Fun! The editor still appears to be in a bit of a beta mode, but is fully functional on so many levels. I love that it is simple enough for basic learning, but the accouterments with this tool are beyond!

After I explored the platform a little bit, I perused the privacy policy. Even though my students are exploring Wick Editor without creating accounts, it's always important to know what information is being collected, and what's happening with that information. They have a section specifically on children and privacy that you can read for yourself. We're using the platform without accounts and I am totally good with that!

This morning when I got to school, I grabbed my student Chromebook to test it out and ensure that when students tried to access it, they wouldn't reach the doomed block screen. Then, I got to lead one of my favorite types of lessons, the "I dunno?!" lesson. Here's how that went:

Once the class was gathered in front of the Smartboard, I told them about this new platform I found for stop motion animation. The kids bubbled with excitement, as we started exploring stop motion a few weeks ago. I opened the Wick Editor and showed them what I knew - how to add an element, to play the animation, to add a layer, and how to delete an element. That's it. 

When they were then unleashed to their own Chromebooks, and they started asking "how do I do this?" I told them that I had already shown them everything I knew about the platform, and it was up to them to learn more. Yeah, I had to repeat that a few times, but by the end of the period, these kiddos were figuring out the coding aspect and beyond! (Did I mention this can be used for coding animations and such, too?)

I was beaming with pride watching these third graders Google questions that they couldn't figure out independently, as they taught each other how to change the frame rate and the background. They found the apps that can be added to the editor for surprisingly fun elements. As we wrapped, one group was working on coding a robot to dance.

All this after 20 minutes of exploration. Student led. I call this a WIN!


Friday, April 8, 2022

Photo of the Week

Fourth graders began designing a quilt square using Google Drawings.
This is part of their study of the Underground Railroad.
The designs the are crafting are incredible!

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Real-World Application

Every year, our sixth graders have a unit called Shark Tank (yes, based on the show!) where they create or adapt a product or service and pitch it to the guest Sharks.

Every year, the Shark Tank unit is tweaked a bit, based on learnings from the previous year.

This year was no exception. And the tweaks skyrocketed the unit to the next level of awesomeness!

We continued to use Google Drawings as the platform for designing the required logo. The logo lesson itself has significantly evolved. We spend a good chunk of time looking at the why behind logos. For example, did you know that the Goodwill logo represents both the "g" for Goodwill, but also the smile that Goodwill puts on people's faces? Learning the lessons behind the logo design has deepened student understanding of not only how important logos are, but how important the design of a logo is, and the role it plays in a company.

In addition, because the kids have used Shapegrams multiple times throughout the years, the logos they designed reached a new level of creativity and detail. The thoughtfulness behind the logo design has added a whole new layer to this element!

Writing has been an integral part of Shark Tank as the pitch is key to landing a deal. In previous years, students published a magazine that contained articles by each product team, along with interviews of classmates and such. Students also interviewed teachers and staff members on their quest to find the perfect product or service to provide.

This year, the magazine said farewell and the door opened to website design! Students used Google Sites to showcase the Shark Tank experience. Working with the structure of the Design Thinking, their website included a page for each step of the process.

My favorite page of the site is the Empathy page. This page features all the information about the why behind the product, and added such value to the whole experience. Students had to choose a service industry and interview those that work in the chosen industry. Their goal was to listen closely to what was said and work to find a solution to an issue faced in that industry. The writing skills needed for this section pulled together many elements, including writing interview questions, taking detailed notes during the interview, and turning those notes into coherent paragraphs.

The website also included a page that defined the problem being solved, a prototype page that included images of the product being designed, each step of the way, and a page that went through the iteration from sketch to final. There is also a page for the pitch, where students chose to record a video of their pitch, or the written version.

Whatever way you slice it, the writing element required of the website ushered Shark Tank into a new era, and elevated the real-world application to the entire unit. Sixth graders designing and writing for websites? Creating logos, complete with backstory? Interview skills? Empathy and problem solving? Having to pitch an idea to judges?

The real-world application in this entire unit is one of the reasons the unit is incredibly memorable, long after kids have graduated!