Thing 13: Coding (2016-2017)

We’ve bumped Coding up a notch this year.  I wrote a grant over the summer and we were given a class set of Ozobots for each elementary school and the middle school.  We also met a few times over the summer to update our Technology Benchmarks for the district which included adding a Coding component to each grade level.  Now, all students will be introduced to coding and by the time they reach 5th grade they will have had exposure to several different coding robots, websites, and Google CS.

In Kindergarten we primarily use to Ozobots to let them explore with robots and code.  This gives them a chance to see how they can control the behavior of a robot by using sets of code.  It is challenging because they have to learn how to draw code correctly which means an even, thick line, but not too thick!  The coding squares need to be perfectly in line with each other so the robots can read the colors and patterns.  Kindergarten loved the Ozobots and each group felt varying degrees of success.

In first grade students begin to learn vocabulary words: algorithm, debugging, and binary code.  In addition to Ozobots, students go onto BrainPop and watch a video before trying a coding game.

By third grade, students will learn about nested loops and conditionals as well. The older students will spend more time on, learning about coding in a sequential format.  Fifth graders will begin the first module of Google CS.  Which we just started last week.

Google CS works hand in hand with scratch so that after students have watched a Google CS video, they are prompted to log in to Scratch and begin remixing their own project.  At first, I was confused, thinking there were specific expectations for each activity, but the program is much more fluid than that.  Google CS is designed to be a loose guideline to coding, introducing students to different aspects of Scratch and then setting students loose to explore and experiment on their own.  After the end of each session, students are awarded a Badge (sticker) to acknowledge their progress and achievements.

I really like how Google CS is loose and lets students explore because that’s the best way to guide a room full of different types of learners.  Students will try different things and press different buttons.  My classes often forget what the video has suggested they try in Scratch so I think I will come up with a little checklist for students to use for each lesson.  That way they will stay on track with the program and avoid falling into the rut of using the same tools each class.

Also, it’s free!  The whole program is free and comes with booklets and stickers so that students really feel they are taking part in an official program.  At the end of each program students are able to view some “Showcased” projects, randomly selected by Google CS.  It’s a great way to share ideas and excitement.  And there was plenty of excitement!

In the Quartz article by Idit Haral, American Schools Are Teaching Our Kids How to Code All Wrong,  Haral discusses and the many other coding games out there for learning how to code.  He makes so many good points about the proliferation of “pop computing,” and easy games intended to help students learn how to code.  This is why coding has to be taught in schools by a teacher.  Someone needs to supervise the learning process so that students are on a continuum upon which they are developing deeper and broader coding concepts and understandings.

Because I am a K-5 educator, I will use many of the tools he’s mentioned in his article, such as  But I will use those tools to introduce very young children to code and then build on them by emphasizing vocabulary, skills, and concepts.  Google CS takes to a much deeper level cognitively and in Scratch, students are actually designing their own games or messages.  I hope that my students will go on to middle school and high school and continue to develop these skills in a way that will prepare them to design complete programs from the bottom up, enabling them to become leaders in a changing technological world.

Up next in the coding world… Raspberry Pi.  And here, I need to get my hands on one, which I have yet to do.  But after reading Life with Raspberry Pi by Chad Sansing, I think it’s the next step in keeping up with the technology trends.


Thing 15: Emerging Tech Trends (2016-2017)

When I selected this “Thing,” I expected a list of futuristic apps or specific programs or skills that young students would be required to know.  Instead, it was a collection of articles with a focus on the big picture, broader ideas and concepts that will improve student learning and functionality in the future.  How to teach them to learn efficiently in the midst of a changing technological environment.

In Idea Watch by Carolyn Foote, I especially liked the concepts of “Fast-Casual” and “Fusing.”  I’m not sure that “Fast-Casual” would work in an elementary environment as schedules are so tight and students do have as much free time as they would in a high school environment to “hang-out” or make independent choices about their time.  “Fusing” is exactly what I need to do on a daily basis in our school in order to keep this space and the activities in it relevant.  I am always seeking that digital overlap with classroom curriculum in order to make our time in the library valuable.  I liked Foote’s idea about a Yoga-space in the library.

In What Technology Will Look Like in 5 Years by Diomedes Kastanis, I was impressed with the futuristic tools described and predicted for 2020.  I appreciate the idea of glocal where we won’t even own our own cars or other items because it can be shared.  Or employees will work within miles of their office because everything will be regionalized.  This article was entertaining and really just broadened my mind to the things that will be available in five years.  In terms of education, I think the take away is that more and more things will be shared.  Including information students use to learn and the products they create.

What Does the Next-Generation School Library Look Like by Luba Vangelova was an inspiring article.  It made me feel better about my own noisy space.  I have the same opinion about attitude and expectation.  I am always trying to make the library feel like an open, shared space.  Students are welcome anytime, though not every teacher utilizes this policy.

I think the most important article listed is The NMC Horizon Report. It maps out various trends and offers ideas for policy making and laying the groundwork for successful integration of technology into school environments.  Below is an image taken from page 6 of the 2016 K-12 Horizon Report:


I find this graphic really useful.  The mid-term trends of collaborative learning and deeper learning approaches point out that these interpersonal skills remain relevant if not even more important as we move further into the technology age.

In the Averill Park school district we are foraging into new territory as we begin the early stages of creating a district wide technology policy.  I will use this “Thing” to support my contributions to the creation of the policy.  In my own library, I look forward to a gradual change in the physical space from desks, chairs, and desktop computers to a more fluid space including bean bag chairs, laptop computers or personal devices, and open space where students can gather in small groups to collaborate.  I look forward to integrating the technology changes of 2020 into our elementary library here.

Thing 14: News Literacy 2016-2017

I recently read two NPR articles shared with me by our middle school librarian, Rebecca Ekstrom. The first was about how students are unaware of when the news they are reading is fake and most don’t even consider the possibility that it could be. Can You Tell if it’s Fake?

The second is about a fake news creator.  Justin Coler, a man who lives in the suburbs with his two children and set about writing fake news to help people realize the prevalence and danger of fake news.  He doesn’t believe his articles impacted the recent election and plans to continue his fake news business because it is lucrative.  Fake News Writer

These two articles plus the articles listed in Thing 14 inspired me to make a Nearpod about evaluating information.  I made the presentation for 5th grade and while searching for material, realized how difficult this topic is to teach to students younger than 5th grade.  We live in a world where children look to adults for protection and guidance and these same adults encourage a deep belief in Santa, the tooth fairy, and the Easter bunny.  So much so that people dress up as these fake characters and perpetuate the fake stories being told about them.

Fake Material on the world wide web quickly becomes inappropriate for an elementary school setting.  Whether it is political, too advanced, violent, or sexual, the nature of many fake stories is not appropriate for children to evaluate.  There are very few educational tools to teach students how to be critical of information and it is an interesting line to cross when I am asking students to think about why they are being told something, who benefits or is harmed by the information, and who paid for it.  Our holidays are a major boost to certain businesses year-round and our everyday environment supports that.

The article by Joyce Valenza, Truth, Truthiness, and Triangulation was helpful because it broke down some specific skills to teach students.  I added the Time Kids video to my nearpod, anytime I can find students speaking about their experiences, I love to add it to my presentations because I think students learn best from students!

Here is a link to my Nearpod.  This is one of the activities I will use to introduce students to the idea of thinking critically about information.  I hope by repeating myself and giving them some exercises, they will begin to think about it and reflect on their attitude toward news and information while on their own as well.

2016-2017 Thing 5: Presentation Tools

I was determined to find a way for students to make an interactive poster, kind of like Glogster, but something that would be easier for them to use.  They needed to make a poster and upload a file of themselves reading a poem featured on the poster.  We are a Google School so I wanted it to be web-based.  I had lots of ideas but a lot of them had problems.  You can’t upload audio to Google or Prezi.  I tried MoveNote but I don’t like how the video is on the side, for this project I wanted all their work to be contained within the slide and the slide to be full screen.  Fulfilling a vision here!

Finally, I found, which records videos and saves them in Google Accounts.  We covered the camera with tape so that their faces are not in the video.  They don’t say their names so no personal information is revealed.  Then they save them to their Google Account.  From there, they have to go into YouTube, upload the file, change it to an Unlisted file, and copy the URL.  Once the URL is copied they can go back to their Google Slides and insert the YouTube video.  Apparently Google Slides will only accept YouTube videos.

This is a very roundabout way of achieving what I would like to achieve.  I would imagine someday Google will enable users to use videos saved within their accounts in their Docs, Slides, or Sites so that YouTube is not necessary.

Knovio works with PowerPoint, or a PDF file but if we switch our Google Slides to PDF, the interactive animation also disappears.

So here is a visual of the example students will see when I teach them how to insert audio into a Google Slide.  Edgar Allan Poe.

Thing 4: Digital Storytelling and Presentation Tools

Thing 4: Digital Storytelling and Presentation Tools is probably the area I delve into most frequently with my students.  I feel as though this is what technology is all about.  It’s a tool for students to synthesize their learning and share it with the world.

This year we used Glogster, Animoto, Prezi, Powtoon, Google Docs, and Google Slides.  I’ve also put together imovies on my own because we only have one ipad.  I plan on passing the ipad around with 2nd grade next week so they can assemble a movie put together from photos from a recent field trip.

I decided to play with Tellagami for this Thing.  I haven’t tried Tellagami myself, but I’ve seen it in action and I like how students can put together a video quickly with complete anonymity.  Tellagami may be getting a little clunky with it’s changes to cost.  I tried to email it to myself without luck.  I was able to save it to my photos and email it from my ipad though.  Here is a link to my Tellagami:

I also didn’t like using Glogster.  I would rather have students use Google Docs to create a poster they can share with links and images.  Glogster froze frequently and students were preoccupied looking at all the choices they had for images and backgrounds.

I am a fan of Prezi, but now having used Google Slides, I may stick with Slides.  It simplifies things when accounts are all linked together and it makes life easier when trying to share or link between docs and slides.

Powtoon I’ve only used a couple times.  I think it could be a great place to go when looking for animation to put into a slideshow.  Or for that student who needs a little extra.  However, I think I’ll also be sending those students to the class blog which I mentioned in a previous Thing post about Web Presence.

I recently saw a VoiceThread made by a fellow librarian and I really loved the professional look of what she put together.  However, it is an expensive tool and with elementary students and the ubiquitous nature of technology tools available, I cannot easily justify paying for a tool.

I am looking forward to becoming more adepts at Powtoons and I will continue to explore ways to utilize Tellagami and iMovie in the classroom next year.

Thing 8: Screencasting and Screen Sharing

I have been enjoying some screencasts made by our technology integrationist in our school district and thinking to myself, “I need to try that soon!”  This Thing 8 was the perfect opportunity.  I read a couple articles about screencasting and after some investigating I started by trying Google Hangouts but then read somewhere that it’s not as simple as some of the Google apps available.  I then added the Screencastify app to my chrome browser and tried it out.  I chose Screencastify because it is compatible with chromebooks which our school is switching over to this year.  Screencastify is also free up to ten minutes.

I made this screencast of the NARA website: 

It is very basic and more for me to try out Screencastify and also to explore and get to know the website, but if you like, you can watch 🙂  

After I made the video, I found the tools to enhance a Screencastify including, highlighting the mouse, writing on the screen, and even a video of me in the corner.  That makes a great presentation tool.

Making a screencast was a bit nerve wracking and forced me to really think about what I wanted to say before I began recording.  Even with a few practice runs I still don’t feel like it is a perfect screencast.  This activity could be really valuable for students because it would force them to plan and practice.

I read in How to Record Your Screen and Create Engaging Screencast a blog by Maddy Bentley, that students will pay attention to an instructional video for no more than 6 minutes.  I know for myself that my attention span while using a computer is shorter than usual and I especially have no patience for videos because most of the time I can scan a page and find what I’m looking for in seconds.  I don’t want to listen to introductions and how-to’s.

Screencasting would be a great way for students to explain their research process after completing a project.  Now that I’ve tried it, I will keep it in mind for my fifth graders for next year.


Thing 15: Web Presence

Web Presence is something I know I haven’t done well.  I have a website through my school’s website but it feels clunky and it’s not my choice for website builders, it’s a google site.  I made a Weebly for my students to use for quick access to web resources and I share it with the librarians in the other two elementary schools in my district.  This works well to provide our students with a similar experience and the collaboration on the website is great to cut down the work load for one person.  I also have a Weebly which I’ve used as a personal portfolio.  I spent a lot of time on it when I made it, but haven’t maintained it since taking my position in Averill Park.

My issue/difficulty with maintaining a personal Web Presence for my library is the amount of time it takes.  I’ve spent some time on my website posting student work but I very much doubt it has been seen by anyone.  In my head I have a solution but have yet to put it into place.  Part of my procrastination has to do with my dislike of google sites.  My solution is to have a student from each class make a post.  This most likely would be the student who is finished first. This student could make a post detailing what we did in class and most likely sharing their work.  The purpose of this website would be for parents and community members to see what happens in our library daily.

The advantage to keeping my google site is that students have google accounts and could just make a link to share their work.  However, then we get into privacy issues and I know their accounts which are linked to blogs are kept private.  Trying to share this would become an issue.

I’ve had a little exposure to Remind.  This wouldn’t be considered a Web Presence but it would be a way to connect with parents and community.  Students could take photos and share web links and write comments on our class time.

After browsing more google sites and with the understanding that our district is going in the direction of giving all students google accounts, I think I need to update my own website and invite students to post their work on my site by sharing their example with me.  If names are removed and their work is shared with me, I should be able to post it anonymously and then log into my site so that they can make a comment about the process and class time.

My first step in updating my website was to change the color and the basic template of my site.  I also changed the font. It’s helped a lot, but I think I still have to keep working at it.  I had to google it to figure out how to change the theme.

I really like Smore as well but I’m not sure if it would be as simple to share some student work and allow parents to view.  So for next year, I will make a goal for myself of having at least one class per week make a contribution to my google sites website.  If that doesn’t work well, I will probably switch my library’s website to a Weebly site and show students how to embed their work.