Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mathseeds App - Free for a Few More Days!

I don't normally promote specific apps but I just have to share this one. The Mathseeds app, normally $7.99, is free until the end of the month (Jan 2015). It comes from the Reading Eggs folks. Reading Eggs is an online subscription (or apps) that teaches reading skills through engaging animated lessons. Mathseeds has a similar approach, teaching math problem solving skills. The FREE apps, Mathseeds Kindergarten, Mathseeds Grade 1 and Mathseeds Grade 2 are very engaging and our K-2 students love sharpening their skills using these apps.
There is currently a free parent trial of the online version of Mathseeds for ages 3-6. It is designed to teach at the students' level, starting with number concepts.
Check it out, download it now and pass it on!

PS - If you like my blog post, please follow me and tell your fellow educators.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

WGS on the Map - #GlobalSelfie

In celebration of Earth Day 2014, NASA is inviting the entire planet to participate in the #GlobalSelfie event. So, I took the challenge and put our quaint little rural, 94 year old, technology blessed and future minded elementary school on the map. WGS participated using the #GlobalSelfie Goolge+ event page. To find out the details or to participate check out NASA's Earth Right Now event.
Walnut Grove School on NASA #GlobalSelfie map!
Shout out to Jennifer Whitt and Vickey Sullivan for the nudge.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

iPad Storage Solution

With our school achieving 1:1 student to iPad ratio we were faced with a new issue, secure storage. We needed to find an inexpensive way to store/charge our classroom sets of iPads. When I started researching I could find no inexpensive charging stations ($800 - the average rate), so this is what we came up with.
I decided on a rolling, locking file cabinet like this mobile file cabinet ($130). Luckily, our principal found someone at Central Office that had this type cabinet to give away so we didn't have to purchase them. We also bought surge protectors that had twelve swivel plugs, protector ($50). Someone then drilled a hole in the side to run the iPad cords through. Two surge protectors were mounted on the outside. We also bought protective cases for the iPads. We store/charge approx. 20 iPads per case. 
For about $250 we were able to adequately meet our need for secure iPad storage and charging. With iPads costing $500, this is a small investment.

Beyond Hour of Code – WGS Code:tasic Club

In December Walnut Grove K-5 students participated in the Hour of Code, sparked by code.org, during their library and computer lab time. It was hit with the students! Due to the success of this activity, we offered a 6 week after school coding club. Grades 3-5 participated in WGS Code:tastic Club up to three afternoons per week.
Mrs. Whitt, WGS Librarian, Mrs. Jenkins, WGS ACE teacher and myself used Code.org’s K-8 Intro to Computer Science course. The course is comprised of a 20 hour series of tutorials and activities. The robust course includes plugged activities and unplugged activities.
In the plugged activities (on the computer) the students learned a programming language called blockly to solve fun challenges and were introduced to JavaScript. With unplugged activities (no computer necessary), we taught the basic concepts of Computer Science in a hands-on kid friendly way. For instance, teaching conditionals by creating rules to our own card games and functions by creating patterned sun catchers. We also created games, sung songs and did relay races, all while introducing key vocabulary and concepts.
Learning coding helps students with math, problem solving, and critical thinking. Now the students will have the foundation to pursue their interests in programming.
We culminated the event with a Code-In (akin to a lock-in), wrapping up our plugged and unplugged activities, washing it all down with pizza, cupcakes and drinks. It was a huge success and for our efforts Code.org has awarded WGS $1000 in prizes through the DonorsChoose.org program. With this generous donation we are purchasing kits to begin teaching robotics and basic circuitry using Lego Robotics, Arduinos and LittleBits.
WGS kids are rocketing through this century!
Acknowledgement - Thanks to Holly Whitt for contributing content for this post

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Simon Says, "Let's Use Technology"

Sometimes the simplest teaching methods are the best, even in the world of technology. My most recent discovery is using the old Simon Says game to step students through learning new skills and I call it "Mrs. Campbell Says". Basically, when we are navigating new tech territory in a whole group setting, I give simple one sentence instructions. For example, I might say: "Mrs. Campbell says, click on the start button; Mrs. Campbell says, click on My Documents; Mrs. Campbell says find your saved Word document titled "My Halloween Legend". To command attention there are little or no repeats (depending on the difficulty of skill). At the end of the "game" the student has learned some new skills without being overwhelmed. One of our first grade class successfully created a short PowerPoint project titled Me and My Pet using Mrs. Campbell Says in about an hour. Sometimes I give stickers and I always give praise for a job well done but in any case we are all winners!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Interactive Posters? Kick it Up Using QR Codes

Want to extend the message of your poster projects? Try using QR codes! What does a good poster do? First, it grabs your attention. Secondly, it conveys important information about the topic. Using QR codes is the perfectly simple solution. Chances are your students have gathered topical information using reputable internet sources. Select the best source for additional information on the topic and generate your own QR code to embed/attach/apply to your poster. The resources are numerous and the possibilities are limitless. Maybe there is a cute YouTube video that someone has made that further elaborates on the poster content. If so, create a QR code for the video link.

Shout Out to Sloan and Laurel - Winning Poster

In the example above, students were challenged to create a poster for the local Farm City contest based on the theme "Grown Safely - Extra Tasty". They were invited to look at several websites for inspiration, including www.AlfaFarmers.org. When they decided on the content for their poster, the students attached a QR code linking to a farming brochure on this site. The brochure was packed with additional information about safe farming practices.

Now...with all this said, the question you may have is, "How do I do that?".
Answer: Simple, just check out my QR Codes on the Fast Track page (click the link or beside the Home tab on this page). There you will find a code generator link, recommended QR code reader app and other ideas.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Setting the Mood for Computer Lab

Sometimes the simplest things can liven up an environment, so I periodically change the desktop backgrounds in the computer lab. One of our favorites is the "Click or Treat" one that I created in Microsoft Publisher. Basically, I started with a blank publisher file. Setup the page size to be 16 x 9 (wide screen), inserted jack-o-lantern clipart (stretched the entire size of the page) and added the "Click or Treat"  text. Then I saved the file as a jpeg. Finally, when October rolls around I locate the picture, right click and select "Save as Desktop Background". Now, sit back and listen to the oohs and aahs.