Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Club for Creativity - Week 3 & 4

It's hard to believe our club is almost over ~ here's a summary of what the students created in the last couple of weeks:

Day 5 ~ More Brush Bots...

We took out our brush bots from last week and added some craft items and "found" items to modify them. It took some patience to determine how to get the add-ons attached to the brush bots. Some students found that small rubber bands, tape, or glue worked best.

One student added a marker so the brush bot
would draw on the paper.
Some of the modifications made the brush bots turn in awkward ways. A few students found that extra materials helped slow down their bots so they were not spinning in a crazy way. Stickers, plastic pieces, chenille stems, small cups, string, and feathers were a few of the popular items.

Part of the fun of the brush bots was the fact that these little vibrating creations were unexpected - the students didn't know what they would do and where they might go, which was also what made them extremely fun!

..........and some bridge building with Sphero

I brought my Sphero to school on Day 5 and we had a little fun with it during our sign-in/snack time. After a few of the students became frustrated with their brush bots (we had a few battery issues), I challenged them to build a bridge for Sphero to drive over (without crashing to the floor). So some students gathered up handfuls of craft sticks and bottles of wood glue to design and created some bridges.

Day 6 and 7 ~ Makey Makey

If different students were holding parts of the Makey Makey,
they made a connection by High 5's which was a neat realization!
The fourth graders at my school have 1:1 Chromebooks this year, which was great for using the Makey Makey kits. We had easy access to the Chromebooks, and even though we only had 4 kits, the students worked well together to take turns and also do group activities to make a bigger circuit. Most of the time I introduced the project and kit, explained the pieces and where to get more information, and then just allowed them to explore.                                                                                                                          When students explained that something wouldn't work for some reason, I continued to ask them the basics: "What makes it work?" "What might you be missing?" "Is the circuit complete?" "What can you add or take away to notice a difference?" These types of questions helped them try to solve the problems independently or as a group.

Marshmallows worked, but proved to be a
little too sticky for the clips.
The students explored a variety of games using the Makey Makey. Some of these included Bongo drums, Pac Man, online piano, and Mario Bros. Students brought in a variety of materials to attach to the alligator clips including pennies, celery, carrots, marshmallows, and gummy worms. We quickly discovered that the marshmallows were really sticky! But the other materials all seemed to work very well.                      
Everyone in the group took part to make the game work!
This student kept working on the online piano
after the rest of his group moved on to another task.
He made it work with a combo of carrots and pennies. :)
The students pleasantly surprised me by what they were able to do. I think part of this reason was that I allowed them to have choices and make decisions as well as make mistakes. They learned more about what they could do themselves than if I prescribed each and every thing that they had to do or try. They left this week just as they had other weeks --- so talkative and positive about their experience. Mission accomplished!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Plugged In, or Disconnected?

Low Battery. 20% of battery remaining.     (dismiss)

Low Battery. 10% of battery remaining.     (I get it - I know)

Power Plug by ppdigital On DeviantArt CC by 3.0 US

Do you ever get warnings or notices like these?

What happens when your device is low on battery?

What do you do? Just ignore it and allow it to drain into a state of uselessness?

Or do you search near and far for your charger or batteries?

Most of us would probably plug in our devices and recharge them as soon as possible. I think this is a good lesson for us as educators.

Getting plugged in to both local and online communities is one way to recharge your "batteries" and breathe new life into your teaching and learning.

So my question to you is, are you plugged in, or disconnected?

Are you connected to those around you? Are you listening to their needs?
*Our students, teammates, and other staff members need and want their voice to be heard, their choices to be considered, and their needs to be known. Give them a chance to talk. Listen. Repeat.

Are you connected to those in the community or nearby communities?
*Do you know others you can go to in order to ask questions about educational issues, perspectives, and experiences that might be unique to your local communities? Do you have people who you've connected with online as well as face-to-face at EdCamps, conferences, or other meetings? Putting a face with a name helps grow your PLN (professional/personal learning network).

Are you connected to those around your state (and beyond) that are leaders, thinkers, and innovators?
*Learning from others in different positions or situations can put a new light on your own learning and path of growth. A great way to connect with others is through Twitter chats, Voxer groups, and blogs. They might just inspire you to try something new, rethink your perspective, or challenge yourself to take a risk.

Are you willing to get connected so you don't become disconnected with the ever-changing world of education? Get plugged in!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

They believed in me

"If you really want to do it, you do it. There are no excuses."
 ~ Bruce Nauman

There are always excuses for a teacher considering becoming a student once again after many years:

* I don't have the time.

* I'm not ready to go back to school.

* It's been too long since I've been a student.

* I have young kids.

* It's too much money.

* I would need a new computer.

* It would be a lot of work.

* I don't know what to expect.

                                        .......and the list goes on......

But three years ago I decided that I had enough of excuses, and I was ready for the challenge of earning my Master's Degree.

And once I made that decision, my family and friends were right there - to support me - and to believe in me.

They believed in me when I went back to school...fifteen years after graduating from college with my Bachelor's Degree.

They believed I had something within myself to monitor my own learning with online classes.

They believed I could handle the pressure, the paperwork, and the timelines.

It was a big step.

It was scary, challenging, and exciting all at once.

It involved research, papers, projects, and collaboration with others across the country.

It involved time away from my family and friends.

Late nights. Tired days.

Fifteen months straight, with only a 2-week Christmas break.

Why didn't I go back to school earlier?

Maybe it's because I needed the support of my family, friends, and colleagues as well as the maturity to be able to balance the many factors needed to accomplish this life-changing step.

And it was worth it.

Read more about this experience on a post I wrote from September 2014 ~ "A Big Accomplishment"

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Club for Creativity - Week 2

Another week of after school club proved to be both messy, enlightening, and full of problem-solving. Here's a recap:

Day 3 ~ More Squishy Circuits

Students continued their work with squishy circuits from last week, creating new designs. Since the students had already worked with the circuits and the dough last week, they were ready to jump right in this week with more time to try new ideas.

More students this week experimented the kit's motor. One group of boys designed a helicopter blade by attaching a strip of paper to the motor. They enjoyed having me take a video in slow motion so they could see the blades rotating up close.

Smiling Heart :)
Another group of boys created a blob (not sure what it was really) that incorporated multiple LED lights, the buzzer, an alarm, and a motor. It was pretty much a potpourri of all things Squishy Circuits but they managed to get it to work!
The Blob


These cute creatures were bright-nosed
Some creative girls set to work on building snowmen, insects, and other interesting creatures. That's the great thing about Squishy Circuits - they allow for each student's creativity to be used in a variety of ways.

Last count -- about 5 lights were destroyed and multiple pieces of playdough ended up squished into the carpet. But luckily our generous night custodian offered to scrape the dough out of the carpet and vacuum it promptly before I finished cleaning up my supplies and leaving for the evening.

Day 4 ~ An introduction to Brush Bots!

Did you know a toothbrush could be transformed into a crazy, motorized circuit that can move as well as cause a bunch of 9-10 year-olds an unlimited amount of smiles and squeals? Well, it was certainly true last Thursday.                                                                                                       With some careful tweaking and attention to detail, these students were able to create these little motorized brush bots. Then, after making the base model, the students started designing traps, add-ons, LEGO playgrounds, and more. It was neat to see the differences in their bots - some were fast, others slow, some spun quickly in place, and others scooted across the table. Part of the fun was that the brush bots were - for the most part - moving haphazardly. Having control over something uncontrollable proved to be a challenge in itself. :)

Brush bot
Students took on challenges to try to modify their brush bot to travel in different ways - straight, spin, circle. They also used some found objects from the classroom such as LEGOs, pipe cleaners, paper, and tape to redesign their brush bots.

We LOVE brush bots

Next week we'll continue modifying our designs and creating a unique, artistic brush bot that we will get to take home! In addition, we will explore a new item -- Makey Makey.

Until next time.........

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Club for Creativity - Week 1

On Tuesday, February 3, 2015, a group of bright-eyed fourth graders stayed after school to begin our first Creative Circuits Club. After over three months of planning, it was finally time to start!

Stepping out of my comfort zone to try something new, I had to admit that I was both excited and nervous. As we discussed some general expectations, I was convicted to share what I thought would be very important for these students to understand..... creativity and failure lead to learning.

I wanted these students to know that perfection was not the goal. Learning is a process and failure is just a temporary event. We had a great discussion about what happens after you think you've messed up. That's the most important thing -- how you deal with what you perceive to be failure.

Day 1 ~ Light Painting 

E.H. shows her light design.
We used the Photon Capture iPad app (iTunes) along with flashlights and cell phone lights to create some interesting and fun light shows. Students tried a few strategies -- moving the light source, moving the iPad, and using the light on another surface (floor) to create different patterns. Some students also covered the lights with colored tissue paper to display colors. As time went on, students became even more creative by adding additional lights and exploring speed and shapes.

It was a buzz of talking, moving around the classroom, and lights being turned off and on as students explored new ways of thinking and attempting to create designs.

A student was working on a heart shape.
The students also did an amazing job of cooperating to share materials. We borrowed a small set of iPads (thanks Mrs. Wehr) and students worked in groups of 2-3 to take turns capturing the picture and controlling the light source.

Three students worked together - one capturing the image with the iPad, another lying on the ground, and another student tracing their body with light from a flashlight. Looks a little creepy (think - crime scene outline) but cool.

Light creation by C.H.
While some students were doing the Photon Capture app, other students were busy on their Chromebooks using a website with online light painting --  (FlamePainter3). They altered the brush style, coloring, saturation, and opacity to design some awesome light paintings. Students eagerly saved these designs as their computer backgrounds and helped each other alter different settings to create new pictures.
Orange-yellow flame by A.Y.

Day 2 ~ Squishy Circuits

The second day of club we explored Squishy Circuits. Since all of the students had studied electricity in science this year, this activity was the perfect addition to some things they already knew about conductors and insulators.

These girls put their ideas together -- one of our big ideas is that
instead of disagreeing with your group, see if you can
cooperate to combine your ideas into something new!
The process of learning how to create a working "circuit" proved to be fairly easy for some students while others struggled to remember which parts were needed in order to conduct the electricity correctly. The struggle was part of the learning, however, and it was exciting to see the students light up with amazement and cheer aloud when they finally got it to work.

After simply trying to make their LED lights glow, students started creating animals, food items, robots, and some other items not yet "identified"
This robot went through multiple revisions when
the boys discovered they would need multiple
battery packs to light up the whole thing.

A dragonfly, hamburger, and some other "items" :)
 Time flew by -- and before we knew it, clean up time had arrived. A few of us were rather relieved as the kits included mechanical buzzers and alarm sirens. This "discovery" somehow resulted in every creation needing to be "ringing" even if the actual sound had nothing to do with the creation.

We managed to make it through the afternoon with only one broken LED light and a few pieces of dough squished into the carpet. The best thing about Week 1 was the smiles, "aha's" and conversations as new ideas were tested.

Next week is another round of Squishy Circuits, then we'll begin Brush Bots. No doubt, there will be some failures along the way, but those "hiccups" on the learning path will only lead to even better ideas.