Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Hour of Code 2017 is coming!

Next week (December 4-10) is Computer Science Education Week, otherwise known to many students as that time of the year that we complete the Hour of Code!

I sometimes struggle with ways to motivate and engage students at the middle school level (in general!), so this year I'm trying a special badge/achievement award that I really hope catches on!

To celebrate, all students have the chance to earn a very special locker laurel badge next week by completing the Hour of Code on their own:

​To earn a locker laurel badge, students will need to show evidence of completion of an Hour of Code in a variety of ways:
  • via a certificate from or other coding website 
  • a screenshot/screengrab providing proof of completion 
  • a note from a parent verifying completion of an activity

To sweeten the deal, I have a small stack of special CODE stickers to give to the first 15 students to complete an Hour of Code:

I purchased a whole slew of these online from the store at I may have also grabbed myself some goodies, too, like buttons and a t-shirt! My personal favorite is the "Code Like a Girl" t-shirt. :)

I'd love to have other fun prizes to pass out for the future... what does your school do? Do you have any inexpensive/free-ish ideas that would interest middle schoolers? Let me know!

Here's wishing you a very happy Computer Science Education Week!

- Mrs L.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Free Printable Ozobot Costume Template!

Happy (almost) Halloween! It's my favorite holiday, and I was trying to "dress up" my Ozobots for Halloween. I used some of the extra covers from our classroom kit to make this cute Frankenstein costume, and I used the OzoGroove app to make him dance to the Monster Mash. Here's a short clip:

Then, a couple more bots got the costume treatment:

I had so much fun with this that I wanted students to be able to make costumes for their Ozobots, too! I don't have enough extra Ozobot "shells" to give one to each student, so paper seemed like a logical and simple solution. I searched the internet, only to discover that there really isn't much in the way of paper templates for decorating Ozobots... so I went ahead and made one myself! 

Ok, so my sample decorations aren't exactly super-detailed, but you get the idea. I'd rather students use their own creativity and show ME how they can be used to make their bots awesome! 

Want your own printable template? Click on the image below for the full size pdf file version:

If you do make any Ozobot costumes from this template, I'd love to see them, so please tag me in any posts! Thanks!

- Mrs L.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Invention and Design Cycle

It's parent-teacher conference season, so I get tiny pockets of free time here and there between meetings. I decided to finally try my hand at some sketching on the iPad in the style of sketchnoting/visual note-taking. I used the Autodesk Sketchbook app, which is free!

I'm very pleased with how it turned out! I'm excited to try something similar on my Chromebook next. (I own a personal Chromebook that has a touch screen, so I'm hoping to be able to use it in a similar manner as the iPad...)

Drawing this really got me thinking about the similarities between making art and making/inventing using technology. We all follow a similar thought process of concept - ideas / brainstorming / creating and execution / reflection and revision. Makers, artists, designers, inventors... we're all the same! I think this really helps to illustrate (pun intended, ugh) why I love to live and teach in both worlds: art and computers, and how they're related!

Have a great weekend!
- Mrs L.

p.s. Do you like my new logo? I made it using Google Draw with my 6th graders! 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Even MORE Green Screen Fun Time Ideas!

I’ve been wanting to try out this fun green screen method for a while now. I even got my buddies from my local Starbucks drive-thru to hook me up with a bunch of green straws (those extra-long venti iced coffee straws are perfect for this)!

Disclaimer: this is not my original idea. I got it from one of my favorite PLCs - Twitter!

A lot of iOS teachers love using the DoInk app, which is great if you’re an iPad school… but I’m a Chromebook 1:1 school, so I use WeVideo. Honestly, even if I was an iOS school, I’d still like to use WeVideo because it’s not device-dependent. Anywhere you can access your Google account, you can access and edit your WeVideo projects and video files! It’s so convenient, and they’re constantly adding features and upgrades to the service. I’m hooked.

So anyways, today I set up a mini green screen set: a piece of green construction paper as a “screen,” and a green straw taped to the back of an action figure - like a puppet stand, if you will. Once you add the green screen magic to it, you end up with a video that has an awesome low-tech effect that reminds me of Vitruvius floating around as a ghost in the LEGO movie:

(That visible string from LEGO ghost Vitruvius gets me every time! )

So, I tried out this method (items on green straws) using a Playmobil action figure, a red speech bubble cut-out shape, and a plastic Super Mario figure. I think I surprised myself by how well it worked overall! Can you see the shadow on some? Yeah. Is it perfect? No. Does it do the job? Heck yes! I’m a fan. 

Here’s what my playing around produced:

Fun fact: the skater that jumps off the curb in the last clip is me! I’m trying to teach myself to skate at the skate park. I’m still a very baby beginner, but at least I’m out there trying. :) 

Using the green screen method on a small scale like this is a fun alternative for teachers without space or resources for large green walls or curtains. And you can typically grab the straws for free! 

- Mrs. L.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Tips For Creating a Good Tweet

Recently, my district has begun to leverage social media to help showcase positive aspects of our students, schools, community, and teachers. That’s awesome! Yeah, it’s a little tardy to the party, but at least they made it.

One thing I’ve noticed across several districts is that they love to post about professional development. Stuff like:
"Look at this special guest talking to us about assessment and data!"
"Check out our math teachers working on common core!"
"Hey, here’s some administrators watching a Powerpoint at the district office!"
(Not a tweet from my district; faces have been blurred to protect the identities of the innocent)

Typically, these kinds of tweets are accompanied by a photo from the back of a room, showcasing adults sitting at tables. They might be looking up at a screen (so you get that back-of-the-head view), or you might see them in profile looking at each other. Most importantly, neither the text nor the image makes it look the least bit exciting or engaging:

(Not a tweet from my district; faces have been blurred to protect the identities of the innocent)

Argh. The sheer fact that you tweeted it out does not make it GOOD!

So, I thought I’d share some tips for how to increase the quality of your tweets:
  1. Showcase who is there, and how much FUN you are having. Do you have a guest speaker? Take a selfie with them (like here!), or have a teacher give the ol’ thumbs up and pose with him or her. Don’t just stand there with a neutral expression - make it look like you’re having a good time! 
  2. Or, highlight a detail of something actually HAPPENING. Did people get up and walk around? Did you create collaborative charts or posters? Were there high-fives? Laughter? Did you have a book discussion? Take a close-up picture of one of those things, and talk about a specific detail, rather than an umbrella-like generic tweet. 
  3. Another option is to create a whole collage of photos to show the variety of happenings during your professional development sessions, as in this really nice tweet below: 

  4. (Not my tweet; check out the variety of activities being showcased!)

  5. Tag people in your tweets! Include the handles of people featured, or guests present. This increases the likelihood that your tweet will be shared and liked, and therefore gain a wider audience. 
  6. Share something that you learned. A useful take-away or tip for the people who see your tweet is always nice. They couldn’t be there, but they can still share in the goodness. 
  7. Hashtags! Use them. Hopefully, your district has a common hashtag for use, or even a building level hashtag, but be sure to include broader hashtags, too, like #edtech or #makerspace. Not sure what to use? Here’s a whole list of hashtag ideas in this blog post.

    Not my tweet; I assure you this girl is just as happy underneath the smiley emoji! Isn't that the kind of attitude you want to advertise in your organization? 

    As a general rule of thumb, before you post an image to social media, step back, take a look at your image, and ask yourself:
    "Does this look like a picture of somewhere I'd want to be?"
    "Is this an image that I'd like to know more about?"
    ...and if the answer is no, re-take that picture before publishing it to social media!  

    - Mrs. L.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Classroom Tour 2017-18! Flexible Learning Space Design

Don't you just love peeking into other teacher's classrooms to get ideas for how to design your space and set up your room? I know it's not just me. For the third year now, I've made a classroom tour video for my YouTube channel. 

Wanna take a tour? Check it out below!

I'm pretty proud of how I've been able to incorporate a whole variety of flexible seating options in the classroom: chairs, rocker stools, yoga balls, bean bags, sitting on the floor, or even standing! 

Some of these items were purchased via a grant, but others were total freebies or at little to no cost! 

I really love thinking about and designing learning spaces. I have a made up dream job in my head where school districts hire me to do just that. 

Have you done a classroom tour video? Please share!

- Mrs. L.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Google Classroom Tip I Didn't Know I Was Missing...

I love love love Google Classroom. I've been using it for the last three years (since I moved from art to computer literacy classes), and it is a game-changer in terms of going paperless and making classroom life in general so much easier!

There is a feature, however, in Classroom that I've never used... due dates on assignments. Maybe that sounds weird at first, so let me explain. The way that I grade, there's no such thing as "late" work. Therefore, I don't use due dates. I see kids for a 6-week term, and they either do the work, or they don't. I don't care when it gets turned in... as long as it gets turned in before the end of the term. My husband teaches art in another district, and he runs his classes the same way. We don't assign due dates, because there really aren't any. 

The first year I taught class, I tried assigning a due date based on when we would finish working on it in class, but it only confused students, and I had to keep telling them to ignore alerts from classroom that assignments were late or not done. It was annoying. 

So, for the next two years, I just kept creating assignments with no due date. The problem with this though, is that I never received alerts when students turned in work. Most importantly, if I graded an entire class and someone turned in their assignment AFTER I had graded the work, I never knew to go back and look unless a student took the time to personally email me. Seems like a simple step, but if you've ever taught (or parented) a middle-schooler, you know that every additional step is a huge deal that could possibly (and probably will) get missed. 

I struggled to keep track of work that was turned in after I had already graded the whole class. 

You might be reading this right now and thinking that you already know how to fix this. Well, try not to make me feel too stupid, ok? I'm really comfortable with Google Classroom, and I've even trained others on how to use it! So this was a real light bulb moment for me. 

I could still go in and create the initial assignment with no due date. Then, after I sat down and graded the class, I went back in and edited the assignment to give it a due date of whatever the day was that I graded the work. 

Because I made the date of grading my "due" date, I now receive email alerts after that any time a student turns in an assignment! Why hadn't I figured this out before? 

I was so mind blown by this discovery that I had to tell my husband all about it when I got home. It's a game-changer. So, I thought perhaps there are others out there that might find this helpful, too, and that I'd share. 

Are you familiar with Google Classroom? If not, I have a whole beginner's overview/professional development presentation all about Google Classroom! Check it out here: 

For those of you familiar with using Classroom, what's your favorite Google Classroom trick?

- Mrs. L.
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