Scratch as a Content Area Tool

Scratch, developed by a group at MIT, has a tremendous reputation as a computer science learning & creation tool.  But, I believe it is under-appreciated as a tool for the content areas.

It is a great way for students to show their mastery of content standards, while honing their computer science skills and practicing the 4 C’s.  It’s also a great way for educators to create content for their students to interact with.

This summer, I hope to make some examples of how Scratch can be used in content areas.  For now, here’s a little taste:

Scratch in Edu Animation

“Kids These Days . . . “

Adults these days start sentences with “Kids these days . . . “ way too often.  And here’s the thing that I want to point out about that phrase:

Any sentence starting with “Kids these days” is not an excuse.  It is an observation (it’s also a loosey-goosey generalization, but we’ll save that for another post).  However, adults often use it as an excuse.

So?  Isn’t “excuse vs. observation” just syntax?  Well, you may think it is until you see an educator who’s struggling to lead his/her students to mastery shrug their shoulders and say something like “Kids these days want to play on their phones and video games instead of studying.”

Why is it important to draw the line in the sand between excuse and observation on this statement?

Excuse – “Sure, my students aren’t achieving mastery, but it’s not my fault – kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study.”

Observation – “Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . ”

What’s up with the “. . .” in that observation?

Any good educator uses observations (a.k.a., informal formative assessments) to make decisions about how to best lead their students to deeper learning.  It’s what you put after the dot dot dot that is what makes a good teacher a great teacher.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll try using gamification in my course.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll start integrating more technology into my teaching.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll look for an app that they can interact with on their mobile devices to continue their learning.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll learn about the apps, games and sites that they’re using to see what I can learn to support my instruction.”

The most important thing about this . . . 

If you’ve made it this far in this post, and I hope you have, then you get to hear what I consider to be the most important thing about “kids these days”:

We are teachers these days.
It is our responsibility to teach kids these days.
We can’t change them, nor should we want to.
Kids from “back in my day” are gone.
Learn to understand kids these days.
Strive to inspire kids these days.

I was a Coward

I knew it as it was happening, too.  A little voice in my head was yelling, “Don’t be a wimp!  You’re missing an opportunity!”  But I didn’t listen.

I had been frustrated with a quality educator whose mindset was blocking her from buying into a new initiative that was good for our learners.  I knew that the right conversations and experiences could ease her out of this mindset and help her move forward.

I had been thinking about it as I walked to the staff lounge to get my lunch. I was looking forward to grabbing my lunch and heading back to my desk to watch a few videos from my YouTube “Watch Later” list.  And then . . . there she was.  In the lounge.  Eating alone.  It was like fate.  A perfect opportunity to have a friendly trust-building conversation and ease into working on that mindset.

But that didn’t sound enjoyable.  So, I walked away.  I knew it was the wrong thing to do, but sitting there sounded uncomfortable.  Awkward.  I was a coward.

If your goal is to be a leader or a coach, a catalyst or a bus mover, you’ve got to have the uncomfortable, unenjoyable conversations.  You’ve got to take the first awkward steps at building rapport and trust.  Those awkward steps are uncomfortable.

The steps you take when walking away?  Comfortable.  Not awkward at all.  But they’re missed opportunities.

I missed an opportunity that day.  It won’t happen again.

Trying out FlipGrid

After seeing Amy Roediger‘s post about FlipGrid, I had to try it.

FlipGrid is a platform where (1) teacher poses a prompt or question, (2) students access that “grid” with a code, (3) students record their response, (4) students view each other’s responses and (5) students can comment on or like classmate’s response(s).

Amy’s example of the students showing, describing and explaining Chemistry lab experiments/demonstrations was phenomenal.  On her first attempt out of the gate, she went above and beyond the “record a video response” format.

So, I’m getting in on the action.  At this link, you’ll see a prompt from me.  Hopefully, you’ll also see other professionals’ responses.  And, even more hopefully (if that makes sense), you’ll record you response.  I can’t want to hear what you share!!

Searching Google Drive by Owner or Shared To

Sometimes you know who you collaborated on a doc with, but just can’t come up with a search that leads you to that doc.  Why not use their email address to track down the doc?

Searching Drive by Owner or To Animation

I discovered this search term when I was asked to track down all interactions between two specific students.  This gave me the capability to see all docs on which they had communicated, provide them to our administrator and delete the docs from the student accounts.

STEM Practices

In a training webinar for the PEAR (Partnerships in Education and Resilience) Institute’s DoS (Dimensions of Success) Observation Tool, the facilitators discussed how the 3rd of their 4 domains – STEM Knowledge and Practices – was based on the STEM Practices outlined by the NGSS‘ (Next Generation Science Standards) “A Science Framework for K-12 Science Education.”  I think that these 8 practices are fantastic and that schools should place a focus on integrating into the curriculum maps for all content areas, not just science.  Here they are: Continue reading STEM Practices

Feedback & Improvement Happen Incrementally

I couldn’t stop laughing.  My son was running all around the basketball court.  Behind the coach, behind the player with the ball, under the hoop, out of bounds, into the backcourt, all over.  And his defender was annoyed.  I would have been embarrassed, but it was too funny to consider that option.

Why was my 7-year-old running around the court like a hyper chihuahua? Continue reading Feedback & Improvement Happen Incrementally

Reflections on “Misconceptions about Progressive Education” Video

I’m not sure where I found this video – at some point I put it into my YouTube Watch Later playlist – but when I sat down with my lunch one day and watched it, I was blown away by how spot on it was.

After researching a bit, I discovered that this video is from Green Acres School in Maryland.  The gentleman in the center with the beard is Neal Brown, who appears to be their Head of School.  To his right, with the dark hair, is Dan Frank from the Francis W. Parker School.  To Brown’s left is Robert Shirley from Charleston Collegiate School.  There is a series of videos from this event that I intend to watch in the future – probably over a turkey sandwich, bowl of cottage cheese and some Doritos – but for now I’d like to reflect on my favorite parts of this one.

Check out the video and then meet me in the space below the video to see some of my thoughts. Continue reading Reflections on “Misconceptions about Progressive Education” Video

EdTech Insight from Google’s Cyrus Mistry on The Chromebook Classroom Podcast

In the first episode of The Chromebook Classroom podcast, John Sowash interviews Cyrus Mistry, Group Product Manager, Android & Chromebooks for Education.  The episode is full of interesting nuggets about the history and future of Chromebooks, but my favorite part was something that Cyrus said about education in this information age.  It happens at about the 20 minute mark:

A teacher that used to have a section on learning the 50 capitals of the U.S., steps back and says “You know what? having all of these kids already have that answer makes me want to give them a different type of skill: maybe more problem solving, maybe more critical thinking, maybe less memorization, maybe . . . ” Maybe it reminds them, that when the kid leaves or when they graduate, they’re all going to have Google in their pocket and the answer to every question.  So what they won’t have, though, is that ability to critically think and to analyze . . . We see [the teachers] moving to higher order learning.”

I think this is a really powerful point. Educational technology is not an opportunity for substitution.  It is not an opportunity for augmentation.  Nor is it an opportunity for modification.  It is  an opportunity for redefinition. (SAMR Model)

Check out the full episode below and follow John Sowash at @jrSowash.