Thursday, June 4, 2015

Learning to Program With MaKey MaKey in Elementary School

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Julie Smith.

Computer programming has become the new "literacy" that many teachers and school districts are implementing to help students exercise critical thinking and problem solving skills. Students of all ages gravitate towards creating and implementing programs--large and small--that they create digitally. Our technology department recently purchased two MaKey MaKeys for every elementary ITRT to use when collaborating with teachers on special projects that involve computer programming.

What is a MaKey MaKey?

Basically, it is a small invention kit made for ALL ages. The kit comes with a small MaKey MaKey board, wires, alligator clips and a USB cable. You can take everyday objects and turn them into a touch pad that interacts with a computer program. Objects attached to the MaKey MaKey (fruit, Play-Doh, tin foil, copper tape) become "buttons" that replace a basic keyboard or mouse. Operate a computer game with play dough, fruit or even a glass of water!

When I first saw these contraptions my initial reaction was how in the world would we incorporate these devices with our demanding academic curriculum? The last couple of months my instructional technology team and I have had a ball coming up with strong academic tie-ins for using MaKey MaKeys and programming with our elementary students. I was astonished how easily and naturally programming and incorporating MaKey MaKeys have been, even for first graders! Just the other day I was working with first graders who were learning about the four cardinal directions. We had them create interactive compass roses by programming a sprite in Scratch to move north, south, east or west depending on the arrow key they pressed. Some students were even able to add voice recordings to their script!

To test their program, they hooked up a MaKey MaKey to their computer and attached their alligator clips to BANANAS. They called out a cardinal direction to each other and their partner had to tap the correct banana to make their sprite move in the proper direction. This simple activity stirred up such curiosity about how the MaKey MaKey circuit worked that the students wanted to extend their learning by testing out what other objects would activate their sprite.

Another MaKey MaKey lesson we did was with a 2nd grade class. The teacher said her students were struggling with counting US coins. Therefore, we hooked up the MaKey MaKey to a penny, nickel, dime and quarter and programmed Scratch to calculate the coin totals each time a coin was touched.

I hear that even high school students get quite excited over these devices. After all, I have seen most adults get giddy the first time they test out a MaKey MaKey. The engagement these invention kits bring to the classroom is extraordinary. I'm looking forward to discovering new ways to incorporate these kits into the K-5 curriculum!

A MaKey MaKey first experience (I LOVE the curiosity at the very end):

First Experience from Julie on Vimeo.

Programming and MaKey MaKey in action:

MaKey MaKey from Julie on Vimeo.

Julie Smith is an elementary Instructional Technology Coach for Henrico County Public Schools in Henrico, Virginia. She works with teachers and students in PreK-5th grade. Julie is the author of the blog, The Techie Teacher . You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

iRead a Book ... Now What? - Book Posters, Book Trailers, and More

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Angie Oliversen.

My social media bios declare “I like kids. I like books. I like tech. What else could I be but a school librarian?” That pretty much sums it up right there.

Now, I do want to make one thing clear. I do not believe every book needs a “project.” READ MORE BOOKS. That’s what will encourage a love of reading (and the literacy skills will come). That said there are times when added tech IS fun and helpful to instruction. We had 6 iPads last year but this December were lucky enough to get a cart of 25! Of course we wanted to use them.

One housekeeping tip … I use generic Dropbox or Google Drive accounts or Chirp to transfer photos and videos between devices.

The most recent project used Pic Collage for Kids. Fourth graders researched book summaries on and created posters of books they were excited to read over summer vacation. Posters were then used to promote the books throughout the school. We will repeat the project in the August to recap their summer reading!

Before author Jeff Mack visited recently, many of our kinder and first graders finished the sentence “I can …” and illustrated it. We snapped a quick pic of the drawing, videotaped student authors, and put the two together in Book Creator. Voila! Project to share with parents and the author.

Earlier in the semester we used Chatterpix Kids for a characterization activity from David Gordon’s book Smitten. I snapped two pics of the main characters and put them on all the iPads. The students drew mouths on the characters and recorded themselves as the sock and mitten introducing each other and recounting their adventures.

A fun app for practicing sequencing is Shadow Puppet EDU. Our younger students ordered pics snapped from John Rocco’s Blizzard and recorded themselves retelling the story. Older students used it as a way to show a timeline of events from both fiction and non-fiction selections.

Several classes that were first introduced to the app during a research project discovered Haiku Deck could also be a way to share books they had read. They worked at summarizing the high points of a story, finding the most interesting photos to go along with the important events, and above all never giving away the ending!

Of course either of the Puppet Pal apps (version 1 or version 2) provide opportunities for sharing the love of a book. The free versions have content that can be used for projects but if you can get the full paid versions (1 $3.99 or 2 $5.99) you can do a lot more. Students can add their own illustrations or photos and use the app to animate their retelling.

The LEGO Movie Maker stop motion app takes some patience and at least a few minifigures but it helps the kids practice summarizing and storyboarding. Students can often loan minifigures to a filming cause. Or ... the teacher librarian can take a deep breath and share some of her (or his) own.

And last but not least Telestory has fun news templates that can be used for book reviews!

Angie Oliverson is an elementary teacher librarian in south Texas. Find her on her blog, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, and recently on Instagram.

Creating Narrated Slideshows with Google Tools

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Mike Petty.

Last fall our high school purchased Chromebooks and the new principal set high expectations for more project-based learning and technology integration in all subjects. As the instructional technology coordinator for the district, this was great news for me! This school year was a ton of work, but we’re now wrapping up what was certainly the best one of my career.

Over the past several months I’ve often been asked by teachers for presentation options beyond PowerPoint. They wanted something that can be shared beyond the classroom, but that isn’t as involved as a full video project. To meet this need, I outlined a process (and made some tutorials) to make simple narrated slideshows using Google Tools. They are like presentations that present themselves.

The process uses Google Slides and WeVideo and can be completed using Chromebooks or laptops. You can also make them with a desktop computer as long as you have a microphone.

Here is an example of one of these narrated slideshows.

And here are the steps, each with a video tutorial showing the process.

Step 1: Create your slideshow in Google Slides and download each one to your device.
Step 2: Log in at WeVideo and put your images from Step 1 into a video.
Step 3: Record your narration for each slide.
Step 4: Publish the video to Google Drive where you’ll be able to share it with your teacher.

After using this process with several classes I’ve learned a few tips.
  • It helps greatly if the teacher works through the entire process first. I suggest creating your own example to show the class so you’ve seen every step in detail.
  • Relatively short slideshows of 6 to 8 slides work best the first time students work through this process.
  • Students need to be reminded that steps 2 - 4 will take awhile the first time they do this project. They must pace themselves accordingly on step 1.
  • WeVideo adds other files or folders to Drive and students often share the wrong one with their teacher. Remind them to test the file before sharing. If it plays as a video, that’s the file they should share. (And to help avoid some of this confusion, if your students have access to Gmail, tell them they will receive a notification when their video has finished processing.)
  • Yes, you can easily record narration and make a video using PowerPoint. I prefer using WeVideo as outlined here, though, because it is a great introduction to using a video editor for more involved video projects. It’s also prefered because it works on Chromebooks.
  • Since the free WeVideo accounts are limited to five minutes of export time each month, students should not publish until they are sure the slideshow is how they want it.

Mike Petty is a Google Education Trainer and the instructional technology coordinator at LakeVille Community Schools in Otisville, Michigan. He is passionate about inspiring students and teachers to reach their potential by using simple, powerful tools. You can follow him on Twitter at @mpetty39. He blogs at Classroom Games and Tech and

Creating Concrete and Shape Poems on iPads

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Debbie Carona.

April was National Poetry Month but not all of us finished our poetry units during April. Thanks to a few too many snow days, Mary Odom, our 4th grade language arts teacher wisely let the kids work on their original poems well into the month of May. I was lucky enough to be the tech person working with her class on creating individual poetry books using the Book Creator app and helping the kids with their concrete poem illustrations. Another name for a concrete poem is a shape poem. It’s basically where the shape of the poem plays an important role in expressing the topic or meaning of the poem. Our kids have always loved to write and design their concrete poems but with the help of the Type Drawing App, their options have hugely increased.

With Type Drawing, the kids type their poem or just a line or phrase from their poem and then draw the words with their finger. Your finger can create randomly shaped lines or it can draw horizontal, vertical, or diagonal lines. You may choose from a nice selection of font styles, sizes, and colors. You determine whether or not you want the lines of your poem to repeat and how much, if any, space you want between your words.

Learning with the Type Drawing App for iPad from April Requard on Vimeo.

Another great feature of Type Drawing is the ability to add a photo from your camera roll. After uploading the photo, go ahead and type the lines of your poem, making the above mentioned design choices. Then simply trace the photo with your finger. You can add lines to fill in the details of the picture. If you want the photo to disappear and be left with only the lines of the concrete poem, move the photo opacity line to 0%. You can also use the photo opacity line to simply fade the photo.Take a look at these original concrete poems that I put together using the Puppet Edu app.

So, next year when National Poetry Month rolls around, share Shel Silverstein’s concrete poem, “The Circle”, with your students. Then let the Type Drawing app inspire your kids to write and illustrate their own concrete poetry.

Debbie Carona spent the first 20 years of her teaching as a classroom teacher. For the past 8 years, she has been a technology integration specialists at St. John’s Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas. St. John’s is beginning their 4th year as a 1:1 iPad school and is a major proponent of project based learning. According to her, the best part of being a tech teacher is being invited to go into the classrooms and work alongside the teachers. Please visit Debbie’s blog site, At a Glance, and follow her on Twitter @DebbieCarona.