Wednesday, January 29, 2014

#mnedchat live via Twitter and HOA

Last night, we tried something new as a part of our normal, Twitter-based #mnedchat.  We wanted to draw on the idea that everyone is an expert and has expertise to share, and at the same time, add a new dimension to our chat.  So, we decided to host a Hangout on Air with a panel of local educators who were interested in / passionate about this week's topic: creative learning spaces.  The Twitter side of #mnedchat continued to serve as a space for conversation, sharing, and questioning, and in addition, also had the added layer of acting as a backchannel for the HOA.

A group of us worked together to come up with the chat's questions, put together a doc for inspiring resources on creative learning spaces, and collaborated on a vision for how the HOA and Twitter conversations would come together to make sure as many #mnedchat participants' voices as possible could be heard.

It was such an energizing event to be a part of!  Here are a few of my reflections after the fact...
  • It was so fun to see, hear, and be a part of the interaction between the Twitter chat and the HOA. Shout outs/mentions, retweets, questions, answers, and conversations happened across both mediums, and made for an in-depth discussion of ideas around creative learning spaces.   
  • I was glad the HOA panel was comprised of local educators who were passionate about the topic. I think it would have changed the tone if we would have featured a world-renowned expert instead.  I liked that it felt casual and that the panelists were regular #mnedchat participants with ideas to share.  I hope that this feeling 
  • Next time, I would like to strike more of a balance between the HOA and the Twitter chat.  I was moderator of the HOA this time, and so found myself focusing a lot on the discussion there.  Next time, I would like to be better about tweeting out the ideas that really resonated with me during the chat so that I could have a quick reference of those ideas later.
  • Another aspect I would do differently next time would be to pay better attention to the Q&A feature through HOA.  After the chat ended, I realized that there were three questions in our Q&A that I never brought up during the hangout.  The Q&A is such a cool feature, and it was exciting that people were using it to ask questions!  Next time, I will have that feature up within my hangout screen so I can more closely monitor it.
I'd like to give shout out to the group of amazing people who helped plan and facilitate #mnedchat last night: +Nicholas Christensen,  +Caleb Lee , +Kimberly Hurd Horst , +Brian Boothe , +Shaelynn Farnsworth .  A huge thank you, also, to all who participated in #mnedchat last night - thanks for all of the great ideas and conversation!  I feel so fortunate to have such an awesome PLN.

If you missed the event, feel free to check it out whenever you'd like:

Check out a summary of Tweets from #mnedchat via +Kimberly Hurd Horst 

Also, please feel free to add to our collaborative resource list on creative learning spaces:

We also created a Padlet for people to post ideas on how to transform a 'traditional' classroom space into a creative and innovative learning environment.  Check it out (and add your own ideas) here:

Thanks again for tuning in, everyone!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Taking Coding and Programming to the Next Level

The way I see it, it all starts with curiosity and a challenge.  How do I move this from one spot to another?  How many steps will it take me to move it?

That's all it takes for many of us to get hooked - on a game, an activity, or a real-life task -- our brains go to work trying to plan out the most efficient course of action.  And when that doesn't work, we reflect, redesign, and re-try.

Many students, classes, and grade levels in my school participated in the Hour of Code in December, 2013....and an hour was only the beginning for most!  Students and staff alike had a blast helping out Angry Bird on, designing a holiday card with Scratch, and solving all kinds of coding puzzles on Tynker.

Some students had already tried out Scratch, others had done block-based programming in our 6th grade Robotics unit using LEGO Mindstorms NXT Video Trainer, but most of the 1st through 6th graders who tried programming through the Hour of Code had never done it before.  And, they definitely didn't want to stop after an hour or a week.

Beyond the students' and teachers' enthusiasm for coding and programming, I saw some pretty awesome results during the Hour of Code at our school.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • students reflected on and persevered through failure to reach a goal
  • students collaborated with one another to discuss ideas, challenges, and questions
  • older students acted as coding and programming mentors to younger students to help them talk through ideas...without giving away the answers 

So, I'd like to take coding and programming to the next level in our school.  I am organizing a recess coding and programming group, and am working with teachers to incorporate coding and programming into lessons, units, and as options for student choice.  I am also working to connect with other educators who are expanding beyond the Hour of Code in their school through Twitter and Google +.

 A few informational / inspirational resources on taking coding and programming beyond the Hour of Code:

I came across an article on 3 ways to continue coding after the Hour of Code that discussed some great options, including the tons of resources and activities available through; a coding app through Edmodo called LearnStreet, and ideas for offering PD that focuses on the value of coding across curriculum.

Here's a great article by Kevin Hodgson on learning coding in writing class - he makes great points about the importance of understanding how technology works and actively gaining the skills that can help to bridge the gap between technology consumers to technology creators.  I also love the parallel he draws between coding and composition (I'm a language geek at heart, after all) -- great points for incorporating coding and programming into language arts, among other subject areas.

Lastly, I recently read a blog post by Rae Fearing about how her 5th graders used the Hopscotch app to create a game and share it with their 1st grade buddies - pretty awesome!  I'd love to try this out with my recess coding and programming group.

What are your favorite resources for coding and programming with students?

How are you continuing beyond the Hour of Code?

I'd love to hear your ideas - feel free to leave a comment below!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Blogging in the new year

Hey 2014, let's get blogging... A new year, a fresh perspective, a renewed vision.

The past couple of years, as an ELL teacher, I had a pretty clear sense of my blogging focus: ed tech tools and resources that enhanced English language teaching and learning.  It was a specific topic, and I found my blogging rhythm (fairly) quickly.  This year, in my new position as a technology integration specialist, it's been harder for me to focus in on one specific theme for my blog....and as a result, I haven't quite established my blogging routine...yet.

Over winter break, I had a chance to do some reflecting on my blog and the direction I'd like to take it in the new year.   I realized that there are basically three kinds of ed tech blog posts that I love to read, talk about, and write:

  • content curation, reflection, and response
  • successes and/or failures with an app, tool, or resource
  • content generation, brainstorming, creative expression

So, I've decided to use those three categories as guides to help me focus my blogging in 2014.

And what better time to start...than the present.

One of my favorite techie tools out there is a free graphic design website called Canva.  Although this site was not designed specifically for educators, I have loved using it to help me design and publish graphics for presentations, posters, websites, my blog, logos, and even my family holiday card.  I love graphic design, and have been on the look-out for an easy-to-use, free graphics resource.  It is currently in Beta and in order to use it, you sign up for an invite - I got mine in a day or two.

Canva currently provides templates for 11 different design platforms / sizes:
  • Business card
  • Invitation
  • Poster
  • Photo collage
  • Card 
  • Social media
  • Facebook cover image
  • Blog graphic
  • Presentation
  • Document
  • Christmas card
Once you choose a design type, you have over 1,000,000 images to choose from to build your design.  Most are free - those that aren't free cost $1.00.

You can customize your design by changing the color, text, size, layout, combination, and alignment of the different images.

You can share your design directly to Twitter and Facebook, you can email a link to it, or you can download it to your computer to print or share.

You can give your friends instant access to Canva once you sign up - sharing really is caring when you find an awesome resource.

At this point, the only con I've discovered while using Canva is that it doesn't yet have an EDU version to make sure the graphics are filtered for student use.  Even so, I love it as a tool for my own teaching and graphic design, and highly recommend that you give Canva a try!

What are your blogging resolutions for 2014?  

How do you structure and focus your blog?  

Have you tried out Canva or another, similar tool?  

I'd love to hear from you - please share your comments below!