Empowering Student Voice Through Individual Projects: A Kindergarten Research Project

mick

mick

My library uses a flexible schedule.  This means that I don’t see classes at a set time every week.  Instead, I collaborate with teachers and schedule lessons and projects as they fit into the curriculum each week.  This flexibility allows me to work with more than just homeroom classes to include classes like art and music, gifted, special education, and extended learning time groups.  It also allows me to work with small groups of students or even individuals.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been working with Mick, a Kindergarten student.  He is an avid reader and is very curious about so many things.  Mick discovers a topic and wants to know all there is to know about it.  Our recent exploration has been around seahorses, which was sparked by a book that he read in his class.

Over several sessions, Mick came to the library for research.  We developed questions together on a Google doc.  He did all of the talking, and I did the typing.

Seahorse doc

Once we had a good list of questions, we started exploring PebbleGo, a Capstone Interactive ebook on seahorses, and Encyclopedia Britannica in our Galileo database.  We listened to the read aloud feature or I read the text aloud if it was too difficult for him to read on his own.  We paused often to see if any facts had answered our questions.  If Mick pulled out a fact, we put it into his own words and I added it to the doc.

After each session, I printed our notes for him to take back to class in case he did more research on his own or at home.  Once Mick felt like he had enough facts, I asked him what he wanted to do with his information.

He really wanted to “make a book using the computer”.  There are several tools we could use to do this, but we decided to use an iPad and the Storykit app.  This app lets you create multiple pages, type text, record audio, draw, take pictures, and import pictures.  I’ve seen other Kindergarten students use it, so I felt like it was the right tool for the job.

Mick’s first steps were to find some creative commons pictures of seahorses.  He used the camera on the iPad to take pictures of the pictures and put one picture on each page.

During another session, we went through Mick’s facts and selected an order for the information.  He read the facts he wanted, and I typed them onto the iPad.  I originally had him typing, but it was taking longer than we had time for.

In our final session, Mick recorded his voice reading each page.

The Storykit app lets you upload the book to the Storykit server and then you get a link to the work to share.

I invite you to take a look and a listen to Mick’s informational story on Seahorses.  I love it when student’s voices are empowered through projects in the library.  If you have comments for Mick, please leave them in the comments.

Mick's Seahorses (1)

Crafting Opinion Writing with Puppet Pals in First Grade

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Almost every class in our school is doing some form of opinion writing at the moment.  Last week, 1st grade spent some time tinkering with the Puppet Pals app on the iPad to see how it worked.  We have also been reading books that feature some type of opinion such as The Sandwich Swap and Sylvia’s Spinach.

In class, the 1st graders have been writing an opinion piece, so they brought that piece of writing to the library to use the Puppet Pals app to record their script.  We started on the floor in front of the projector.  I projected an iPad and opened the puppet pal app.  I quickly went through the various screens and made sure everything still looked familiar to students from their tinkering sessions.

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Then, I showed the students a few extra steps they would need to do in order to save their video.  They would need to give their story a title and export the story to the camera roll on the iPad.  I also used this time to explain what my role for the day would be.  Since each class has about 20 students, twenty videos needed to be uploaded to Youtube and put into a playlist for the teacher to share in class and with families.  I really wanted this step to be done while the students were in the library, so I told the students that uploading videos was my only role during our work time.  The teacher was available to walk around and monitor and assist students who were recording, but more importantly, the whole class had expertise in Puppet Pals because of our tinkering and could help one another.  I encouraged them to ask one another for help if they got stuck so that I could focus on getting their videos uploaded.

During the work time, there was not a single student who came to ask me for help to use Puppet Pals.  There were certainly students who got stuck, but they relied on one another to figure things out.  I really saw the benefit of giving them time to tinker in the previous lesson.  They also were empowered to support one another rather than rely on an adult to help.

When they finished recording, they did their additional steps to export their videos and then formed a line in the middle of the library at my table.  I opened the video on the camera roll and selected to upload the video to Youtube.  I signed into my channel on each iPad.  The students helped me name the video and stayed until the video was uploaded.  Then, they went back to their work space and continued using Puppet Pals to tinker and try out a story of their own choice.

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Once all of the videos were uploaded, I selected them all in my account and added them to a playlist.

We worked for a full 45 minutes to record, upload, and continue tinkering.  There was little to no behavior problems.  Every student who had an opinion writing finished was able to film and upload a video.

Now the classes are thinking about a next step for Puppet Pals.  The students are very curious about creating a story with the characters in Puppet Pals, so I have a feeling that we will be crafting some narrative stories very soon.

Sharing Our Math Strategies Using Educreations

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Second grade has spent some time tinkering with Educreations.  Educreations is a screencasting tool for iPad as well as a limited web-based program for computers.  Teachers can create an account and then have students join their class similar to Edmodo or Google Classroom.  As students login and save their work, the teacher can easily see each student’s work in the admin panel.  With Educreations, students can create a screencast about pretty  much anything.  They can draw or type, upload their own photographs as backgrounds, and search for existing photos for backgrounds.  Each movement on the screen as well as the audio is recorded and saved as a flash video.  Each video has a link to make it easy to share a student’s work online with the world.

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Math is not one of the main areas that develops into collaborative projects in the library.  I think we naturally gravitate to reading, language arts, science, and social studies.  However, I would love to support math in the library!  This year we made one of our school improvement plan goals centered on something that could potentially be a project for the library.

Students will utilize personal learning devices to create math instructional videos that demonstrate ways to solve math problems. These will be shared within and outside the school community.

A few teachers have been exploring this, but the 2nd grade team decided to take this on as a grade level project.  After tinkering with the app in the library, I asked teachers to setup a class account and have students join their class.  To help them, I made a screencast:

When students arrived for the 2nd lesson in the library, we quickly reviewed the many buttons in Educreations.  The students did all of this review based on the tinkering that they did in lesson one.  I reminded them that this 2nd work time was not about tinkering.  It was about focusing on using Educreations to show our mathematical thinking.  I reminded students that this would be very different than just solving a problem on a piece of paper or a computer.  Showing our thinking means that we have to talk about what is going on inside our heads.  During our mini lesson, I created a quick example to show them what I mean by sharing what is in our heads.

educreations example

 

The teachers and I gave students 3 math problems to choose from for their first practice tutorial:  14 + 18, 26 + 13, and 57 + 39.  I did this lesson with 2 classes at a time, so we paired students together on an iPad.  One partner wrote one of the math problems down, created a tutorial, logged in to his/her account to save, and then logged out.  The other partner was there for technical support.  Then, the students switched roles.  They did this back and forth until time ran out.

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The main problem we ran into was when students would forget to logout of their account.  The next student would record a video and then it would save that video into the other students account.  When you press logout, the videos disappear from the iPad because they save into the individual student account.  This became a great piece of learning that I built into lessons with other classes.  I think it will just take some practice to remember these specific steps of saving.  Also, if there are existing Educreations videos on the iPad when a student opens the app, those should be deleted before the student logs in.  Otherwise, those practice videos get saved into the student’s account.  It’s not a big deal, but it does cause their account to be a bit messy and it takes up storage.

Students were very productive and focused during the recording of the tutorials.  There was almost no questions about how to use Educreations.  I was able to see a big benefit from taking time to tinker in the first lesson, and it is something that I want to continue to experiment with.

Now, teachers are reserving iPads to use in their classrooms so that students can continue to create math tutorials.  I sent a follow up email to teachers to let them know that I am happy to work with small groups, individual students, or even the whole class again if needed.  Some of the teachers want to schedule another series of lessons using word problems instead of basic addition problems.  When we do this, we will use the camera to take a picture of the word problem and make it the background.

 

 

Riley's math problem I Educreations_ - https___www.educreations.com_lesson_

Check out how Riley solved 57 + 39.

The Power of Tinkering Before Assigning a Project

Educreations Day 2 (2)One of my library goals this year is to give students, teachers, and families opportunities to dream, tinker, create, and share.  That has meant many things during the course of this year, but one of the things that so many of our teachers are embracing with me is intentionally planning time for students to tinker with a new tool before we ask them to create a project with it.

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During collaborative meetings and virtual planning with teachers, I often ask if we can build in time for students to explore a technology tool with no limits, rules, or assignments.  The only assignment is to push as many buttons as you can and see what you can figure out about that tool.  In addition, there is an expectation that students will pass on their expertise to others as they figure something out through tinkering.

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There have been several instances of this type of tinkering happening this year.  Ms. Hocking gave her Kindergarten students time to tinker with storykit.  All of third grade tinkered with Puppet Pals before a folktale project.

This week, first grade is also taking time to tinker with the Puppet Pals app as they prepare for an opinion writing assignment in English Language Arts.

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Finally, 2nd grade is about to start creating math screencast tutorials using the Educreations app for iPad.

As I’ve facilitated these tinkering sessions, I’ve started to adjust how the sessions run.  We start on the floor to talk about tinkering.  Students share some knowledge about what they already know about tinkering.  Some of the responses I’ve heard are:  a time to explore, a time to be busy, and figuring things out.  I follow this with my own understanding of tinkering.  I establish two big ground rules: 1. Push every button you see in an app and see what it does.  2. Share what you learn.

In most classes, I breeze through the app with very little explanation of what I’m doing just so that students get a quick preview of what they will be looking at and what they might end up with.  In Educreations, I wrote 2+2=____ and then drew out a picture of how I solved that math problem.  I didn’t talk about clicking on colors, the microphone, or really anything.  I just wanted them to get a quick view of the end result.

Then, students had a large chunk of time to explore on the iPads.  For 2nd grade, we did this in pairs, but some classes have been individuals.  My role was to walk around and observe.  A few students were tempted to ask me how to do something, but I responded with a “give it a try”.  Very rarely did I do something for a student.  The only time I intervened was when students needed help getting the app up and running or if the iPad had a technical problem.

As I observed, I would stop and ask students questions like “What did you figure out?” or “Why did you choose to do that in that way?” or “Now that you’ve seen how that works, would you do it a different way next time?”.  These were common questions that I used again and again and they certainly were not ones that I started with.  I was very tempted at first to just jump in and show students something, but I learned to step back and ask questions that allowed students to show what they know.

I saw students naturally leaning over and helping other students, but during my observations, I sometimes saw an opportunity for 2 students to partner and share their learning.  This was another role for me to serve as a connector between students.

The energy level was high, and there was some frustration.  However, I did not see any student give up, get completely off task, or leave without learning something about  how the app worked.

At the closing of each lesson, we gathered back on the floor.  I connected an iPad to the projector and had students come and demo their learning for the rest to see.  We tried to move as quickly as possible to share as many tips as we could.  A big observation for me during this time was how attentive students were.  I’ve never seen students watch a peer presenter with such focus.  Usually, they are having side conversations or tuning out to think about other things.  This time they were watching, listening, and giving connection signals if they had also figured out that part of the app.  If time allowed, I had students turn to one another on the carpet and share even more that they had discovered.  During the closing, I tried to connect what students had discovered with the actual project that we would be implementing next.  For example, a student did a demo of how you can erase while you are recording and I added that this might be a tool you would use while modeling subtraction in a video.

Now that this time of tinkering has happened, our next step is to do the work.  First grade will use Puppet Pals to create opinion puppet shows and 2nd grade will create math tutorials to share.  I’m eager to see how productive students are now that they have had time to get familiar with the app before a curriculum standard expectation was placed on them.  My want to continue to explore the power of tinkering and how it can support the work that we are trying to achieve with students.

 

 

Celebrating Our Explorer Project with the Flipgrid Team

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Today our 4th graders had the chance to Skype with Charlie Miller and the rest of the Flipgrid team in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  This was the conclusion of the explorers project that 4th grade students have worked on for the past few weeks.  As part of the project, we encouraged people around the world to watch our Flipgrid videos and vote on whether explorers were heroes or villains.

The team congratulated our students on their hard work on this project and also took questions and suggestions from students.  Several 4th graders stepped to the microphone and shared suggestions such as:

  • Extending the 90 second time limit by offering a choice of time limits
  • Allowing you to categorize your video with tags

Other students shared what they liked about Flipgrid such as:

  • the ability to watch other people’s videos before making your own
  • the like button
  • being able to film your video again if you weren’t happy with it

Since this Skype came the week after our hour of code lessons, it was also a great time to hear about how an app was developed.  It sounded like developing an app is a much longer process that developing a website because in one of the student questions we learned that the app took about 6 months to create while the website took 2 really long weekends.  We also heard how an app is never really done because you are always trying to make it better.  I loved how this connected both with our hour of code sessions but also to other areas such as writing instruction.  Students also learned about how the name Flipgrid was chosen since the videos are on a grid and they flip when you play them, but they also heard other considerations that go into a name such as web domain registration and what is actually available.

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One of the most fun parts of the Skype was the announcement of awards.  Several students received awards for Excellence in Writing, Shout-outs from authors, and Global Persuader awards.  I sent these names to the Flipgrid team and they took turns calling out student names as I handed out the certificates.  Students had fun giving silent cheers for their classmates as awards were handed out.

I also took time to share with the students the results of all of the voting that had taken place for their project.  It was interesting to see their reactions as they heard that Christopher Columbus was the only explorer voted to be a villain.

Just for fun, we closed out our Skype with a Christmas singalong of Rudolph.  Luke performed on the guitar and we belted out our best Rudolph even through the time delay on Skype.  It may not have sounded like it was together, but it was still fun.

Thank you to the entire Flipgrid team for creating a tool that has helped our student voices to reach a global audience, and thank you for taking time to celebrate with us.

Hour of Code 2014: Scenes from Day 3 & 4

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Days 3 and 4 have been filled with lots of young learners for hour of code.

Kindergarten class have continued to come to use the iPad app The Foos.  In each session, we start by talking about the word “code”.  Lots of them mention passcodes on iPhones and codes to get into gates or buildings.  We link this to the idea of giving a computer a code.  Then, we watch the video from President Obama.

Before we start the app, we talk a lot about how coders don’t give up, they try small pieces and test, and they collaborate when needed.  The teachers and I have made some interesting observations about students while they are coding with The Foos and other coding tools.

1.  Students who might easily give up or struggle with other subject areas in school are fully engaged and putting forth tremendous effort when coding, while others who like to get things right the first time are easily frustrated.

2.  We talk a lot about stamina at our school and how long you can spend working at a task whether it’s math, reading, or something else.  The stamina of students in coding is very high.  Working for almost an hour was easily obtainable by most students regardless of age.

3.  Students who might not normally share their thinking with other students in order to help or collaborate were very willing to share their coding strategies.

4.  Some students still needed some direct instruction or nudges.  With the Foos in particular, I noticed students repeatedly pressing the run button in order to get a character to move rather than write enough code to make it happen with one click.  I observed students repeating the same code over and over that wasn’t working and never trying something new.  There is a lot to learn from tinkering, but it is still essential and necessary for a teacher facilitator to step in with some instruction, tips, or nudges.

In addition to the Foos, we had 2nd graders who continued to enjoy using the Made with Code site.  They loved programming a yeti to dance, but they thought it was super cool to be able to program the lights on the White House Christmas tree and actually schedule their code to light up in Washington.

Our preK students had a blast using the Sphero draw app to practice drawing shapes and programming Sphero to drive around the carpet in their shape.  You can read more about that here. 

Finally, we’ve been having an interesting occurrence in our makerspace.  It started with a couple of students asking if they could come in during their recess to build and program a robot.  Then, another student asked.  Before I knew it, the word was spreading and more students who were new to making were showing up during recess.  It’s sort of like an underground movement.  It’s exciting, but I’m trying to figure out how to manage it.  Just today, a student came in on her own, designed an object in Tinkercad, exported it to Makerware, uploaded it to an SD card, and began printing it on the 3D printer.  Another student uploaded a file to Thingiverse that he made at home and prepped his own file for printing.  Two students started assembling a robot and pooling their knowledge to create the code that lived up to their vision for what the robot can do.  Another new student appeared, and started tinkering with how to program Sphero.

Students want to dream, tinker, create, and share.  I’m thankful that our library is a place that they can do that.  Hour of code once again opens my eyes and teachers’ eyes to what students can do.

Coding and Beyond with PreK Using Sphero, Osmo, iPads, Computers, and Books

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I love it when a small seed of an idea turns into something much more.  A few weeks ago, I approached PreK about using our Sphero to practice writing letters.  I knew that PreK was working on forming the letters of the alphabet and I thought that the Sphero Draw and Drive app would be a perfect way to merge letter practice with some programming.  I originally thought that small groups might come to the library and use the Sphero with me, but further brainstorming with Ms. Heather resulted in us deciding to do 5 centers that students would rotate through in order to experience many technology, math, and literacy experiences.

Ms. Heather’s class has been bubbling with excitement about coming to the library to try out all of these centers.  Ms. Heather split the class up into 5 groups which was 4-5 students per group.  Ms. Heather, Ms. Melissa (parapro), Ms. Callahan (parent), and I all led a center and one center was independent.  Each center lasted about 10 minutes and took up about an hour with transitions. Here’s what they did.

Center 1:  Hour of Code programming with Sphero

Since this week is our hour of code, I was so glad that PreK got to experience an aspect of coding.  While coding didn’t fill up our hour, it certainly sparked their interest in how to make a computer or robot do what you want it to.  Students sat in a row and each took a turn to think of a letter to practice drawing.  Using the Draw and Drive app on iPad, students drew a letter and pressed play.  The Sphero drove around the carpet in the shape of that letter.  With a shake of the iPad, the letter was erased and the next student had a turn.

We repeated this process over and over until we were out of time.  Each time the robot rolled around the floor there was a burst of excitement.  As the facilitator, I asked students about the letters that they were drawing to make sure that they understood what they were trying to draw.

Center 2:  Osmo Tangrams and Words

Our Osmo devices are one of our favorite tools in the library.  The Osmo is came out this summer.  It includes a base to put the iPad in and a red attachment to place over the camera.  Osmo comes with 2 sets of tools to use with the apps: a set of letter tiles and a set of tangrams.  The three apps are free to download but you must have the base and attachment for them to work.  For this center, students used the Junior version of the Words app.  This app gives students a picture with a matching word.  The beginning sound of the word is missing and students have to lay the correct letter tile in front of the iPad.  If it is correct, the red attachment “sees” the letter tile and magically adds it to the word on the screen.  If it is incorrect, students have to try again.

Students also used the Introduction to Tangrams in the tangrams app.  This app shows students 2-3 tangram pieces pushed together.  For this beginning phase, the colors of the tangrams on the screen match the colors of the actual tangrams.  As students correctly place the tangrams on the table in front of the iPad, the red attachment “sees” them and fills in with black on the screen.  When they are all correct, a new combination is shown.

This center was one that needed adjustment as we went along depending on student needs and strengths. Some needed to focus more on the shapes while others were ready to think about letter sounds in words.  All students had a blast watching the magic of the Osmo happen on the screen and table.

Center 3: Starfall on Computers

Ms. Heather facilitated the computer center.  I put out a computer, mouse, and headphones for each student in the group.  One part of this center was simply using fine motor skills to practice using a mouse.  The other part was to use Starfall to continue practicing letters and sounds.

Center 4: Reading

A parent volunteer read aloud stories that I pulled.  The selections were Peanut Butter and Jellyfish, Job Site, and Stars.  She had students engaged in discussion about the story and the pictures all along the way.

Center 5: iPads

PreK has 5 iPads in each classroom.  Students have a variety of word apps that they can use at their own center time in class, so they are used to using these apps independently.  This made the perfect independent center since we didn’t have 5 adults.  Students sat on the bean bags by the windows and used the iPads by themselves for the 10 minutes of this center.

I think many times people think that our younger students can’t use technology or they are unsure of what to do with younger students.  I love giving things a go and seeing what happens.  We were amazed by students’ engagement and excitement today.  Some asked, “Can we do this every day?”  That was a sure sign of success.  When working with younger students, you have to think about what your barriers might be.  For us, we wanted smaller groups in order to have more adult support if needed.  We also wanted smaller groups so that students wouldn’t be waiting around since we only have 1 Sphero and 3 Osmos.  Using the teacher, parapro, parent volunteer, and me helped to make this possible.  You might have a different barrier, but I hope that you will consider what you might leap into with your youngest learners in your building.