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What it is: Recently, the good people at SAM Labs sent me an Alpha Kit to play with and review. You guys, this is such a cool product! I love that as soon as students open it up, it puts them in charge of the learning. Best of all, it encourages the learning to happen through playful trial and error. Each SAM Labs Kit comes with clever little blocks that each does something specific (think switches, light sensors, temperature sensors, DC motors, etc.). These little blocks interact with the SAM Labs app and empower students to become the inventors of great ideas. Through these 17 blocks (the Alpha Kit comes with 4 of the 17 blocks), students get a front row learning experience to delve into programming, logic, and analytical skills while they express themselves creatively and become problem solvers. The uses of the blocks are seriously endless, paired with the app they can do anything from composing music, to creating a remote controlled car, to exploring temperature, to auto-tweeting or post to Facebook. You can play with these little blocks all day long and keep coming up with new combinations of things to do with them (in fact, I did!). I’m imagining all of the new directions SAM Labs could take our inquiry blocks this year!

How to integrate SAM Labs into the classroom: SAM Labs boasts itself as a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) tool. And it is. But SAM blocks are so flexible, that I think that they reach beyond these few subjects. When I look at the blocks, I see endless inquiry possibilities. Yes, students will learn programming basics, how motors and light sensors work, how to use logic to build if/then type scenarios. But students will see more possibilities with these open-ended blocks. SAM Labs has a great collection of lesson plans to get you and your students started if you like, but like Legos, I like to see what the students come up with BEFORE they get the prescriptive input from the adults. They will come up with things we wouldn’t have dreamed of and then we can let the iteration begin! Speaking of Legos, the SAM Labs components snap together seamlessly with Legos. I’m telling you, the sky is the limit with these! I adore tools that are flexible for any classroom, capitalize on student ingenuity and imagination, and give students the power to dream big. Using the SAM Labs blocks students can explore light and temperature, compose songs, experiment with resistance and friction, monitor plant life, create “smart” devices, test out properties of matter, begin to understand programming and patterns and learn about circuits.

I think Anastasis students are going to find some pretty unique ways to hack these little blocks into something that hasn’t yet been imagined for an inquiry project or experiment!

Tips: The Alpha Kit that SAM Labs sent me to play with is impressive even with a limited number of bricks. For a classroom setting, I’ll definitely be purchasing more. These will be a hot commodity for student creations…no need to cause unnecessary arguments over whose turn it is to use them! (Top tip: we solve those kinds of arguments with dance-offs!)

Have you played with the SAM Labs blocks? What have your students dreamed up with them?

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What it is: So you have a 3D printer…now what?! Introducing Tinkerine U the place where you can learn (and teach) 3D printing. Tinkerine U is a great starting point (no matter what brand of 3D printer you have!). Not only can you take online courses to learn more about 3D printing, you can also get real-life application stories about how a variety of professions are using 3D printing. Additionally, you can watch Tinkerine U test out myths and facts about 3D printing and access a variety of challenges for your students.

How to integrate Tinkerine U into your classroom: So often I see schools who have a strong advocate for new technologies, but don’t know exactly what to do with the technologies they’ve championed when they show up. Tinkerine U is a great place for you and your students to learn the logistics of how to 3D print, while also giving you ideas for practical real-life applications that will launch your student’s creativity. The starter challenges are a fantastic way to get started with using your 3Dprinter. Challenges are fun and vary in difficulty. Allow students to choose their own challenges, or choose challenges for your students to take on as a class.

Of course, you can go through all of the Tinkerine U content (and I encourage you to start there), but ultimately, it would be great to have your students go through all of the Tinkerine U content. Empower THEM to be the experts!

If you have a maker space and want to help your students envision possibility, Tinkerine U could be a great launching point for them. Just enough instruction and videos to spark curiosity and creativity without being too prescriptive.

Tips: You don’t have to have a Tinkerine 3D printer to take advantage of these resources! They are 3D printer-agnostic and can help spark learning and creativity for your students.

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What it is: Inkscape is like the open source version of Adobe Illustrator. What really sets Inkscape apart is its use of  Scalable Vector Graphics as it’s native format. Oh yeah, and it’s free. Because open source!!  Beyond being free (cost) it’s also free because it’s free to distribute, and you’re free to check out its open code. Which is pretty neat if you’re into that kind of thing. Inkscape is cross-platform so it’s easy to run on Windows, Mac, or Linux. Open source is basically the Golden Goose for education. Not only can you and your students use it (because the price point is right), but you can also geek out over how it is built (take a look under the hood!).  Inkscape lets students bring their doodles and sketches to life so that their designs are ready for publication in print or on the web in a highly digital format.

How to integrate Inkscape into the classroom: Your students want to create. Inkscape makes it possible to turn their ideas into high-quality digital illustrations. Inkscape can literally enhance any classroom. Any time your students want to create a visual representation, poster, pamphlet, website graphic, a graphic of any kind, Inkscape is a great platform for them to use. Flexible drawing tools mean that digital drawing is limitless. If students can dream it, they can create it with Inkscape.

Just because you aren’t an Inkscape expert, doesn’t mean that your students can’t be. Learning resources and tutorials help your students learn independently and get the most out of Inkscape.

Tips: If your students are asking for Adobe design tools but it just isn’t in the budget, Inkscape is definitely worth introducing to your school/classroom/students!

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What it is: Flipgrid is a video discussion platform for your classroom that lets you engage and capture learning in new and awesome ways. It’s simple (and free) to get started, just create a grid and add a topic to spark some discussion. Students can respond with short video responses using any browser, Chromebook, iPad, tablet, or mobile device. All the students can view the videos and engage. You can moderate videos, provide custom feedback, and set the privacy rules. The free version of Flipgrid lets you create one grid (this is your classroom or community), unlimited student videos (up to 90seconds), simple individual student feedback, and private video sharing with families.

You are the Flipgrid Topic Designer (your students could be as well!). Embed YouTube or Vimeo videos, upload images for your students to discuss, feature a file or a weblink.

How to integrate Flipgrid into your classroom: Flipgrid is a great way to get your students reflecting on learning, collaborating, and providing peer feedback. Students can create and share a book talk or chapter reflection, discuss current events, delve into a topic, engage in an online Socratic seminar around a given topic, collaborate, verbalize their learning process, etc. Flipgrid works in any classroom, with any age student, and within any subject. The sky (and your collective imaginations) are really the limit!

Flipgrid is a fantastic add to the language arts classroom where students can: share a word of the week, complete a video chapter summary, create a character monologue, explore themes and ideas in a text, complete a book review/book talk, ask questions of the author, come up with alternative endings, make text predictions, dramatic readings, practice reading fluency/voice/tone/inflection, reflect or wonder during reading, make connections to other learning, explore metaphor, practice and reflect on presentation skills, collaborative Flipgridding with another classroom, explore perspective, or conduct interviews.

In the math classroom students can: talk through their process or problem solving approach, share examples of found math in context, number talks, weekly math challenges, find the mistake responses, student created math tutorials of new concepts they are learning, stump the class challenges, demonstrations with manipulatives, solving or creating their own “what doesn’t belong” challenges, or solutions to math challenges with multiple outcomes.

In the science classroom, students can: share each step of an experiment through the scientific method with each step being a new video, document dissection, reflect on failures, show the process of building or designing, make predictions, document process, demonstrate, post wonderings, or class challenges.

In the history/social studies classroom students can: do living history exercises where they take on the persona of a historical character, reflect on an era or connective topic like: “what are contributing factors to revolutions,” conduct interviews, explore perspectives, reflect on and discuss current events, create a video timeline of events, connect past events to current events, explore historical trends, connect with other classrooms from around the world, explore place and environment, teach classmates about a historical theme that they geek out on, explore social justice issues, or give a voice to those who historically haven’t had one.

Flipgrid makes for an excellent addition to the portfolio. I love the way it encourages collective intelligence and highlights the social nature of learning. Flipgrid is also a great way to build a growth mindset and self-assessment. As students complete any project or assignment, they could add their reflection on the learning as well as where they think they are currently in their learning journey (we use the progression of Novice, Apprentice, Practitioner, Scholar, Change Maker).

At the end of every year at Anastasis, we host an event we call “Storyline.” Flipgrid would be an excellent addition to that end of year celebration and review of the year. Students could use Flipgrid to document learning progress throughout the year and use it as a way to review their growth.

Tips: Flipgrid integrates seamlessly with other education products you are already using including WordPress, Canvas, Teams, Google Classroom, One Note, Edmodo, Schoolology, Blackboard, Sway, Brightspace, and Power school. The paid versions include tons of added features and are worth exploring more if you find yourself using Flipgrid regularly.

How do you use Flipgrid in your classroom?

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What it is: Plus Happy Numbers is a free kindergarten through second-grade site with monthly math challenges. Teachers can sign up for a free classroom account and assign the monthly math challenge for students to solve. The challenges are designed to tap into higher-order thinking skills and build problem solving cognitive skills like visual spatial thinking. Students each receive their own login so that individual progress can be tracked and reported back to you. Plus Happy Numbers is designed to be used on any device that you have in your classroom including iPad and Mac (via Safari), Chromebook, PC and Andriod (via Google Chrome).  Each lesson comes with audio support for early or struggling readers. Students simply click on the speaker icon for audio directions.

How to integrate Plus Happy Numbers into your classroom: Plus Happy Numbers makes for an excellent math center activity for your students. Each lesson comes with visual modeling of a concept, on-screen manipulatives, immediate feedback and remediation of errors, and adaptive scoring that provides just the right amount of practice a student needs to master a concept. Plus Happy Numbers is a great place for students to build mathematical thinking indpendently while you work with smaller groups of students or one-on-one.

I appreciate that Plus Happy Numbers goes beyond computational understanding and seeks to create students who think, and approach, problems like a mathematician by building number flexibility, problem solving, and higher-order thinking. Plus Happy Numbers can be used as a supplement in any k-2 classroom. Each month, a new Challenge of the Month is designed to stretch students’ mathematical thinking and problem solving skills.  As students successfully progress through a challenge, the difficulty of the problems increases. Student progress is saved so they can pick up right where they left off. At the end of the month, you can print out a certificate of completion.

Obviously a 1:1 environment is ideal, each student can work on these challenges simultaneously. If 1:1 isn’t your reality, fear not! The individual student login means that you can bookmark plus.happynumbers.com on classroom devices so that your students can login to their account. In this scenario, use Plus Happy Numbers as a math center rotation in your classroom. The challenges are broken down so that students can complete a challenge in as little as 2-8 minutes. If you have a projector-connected computer or interactive whiteboard, you could also complete challenges as a class, discussing each challenge as your students progress through and giving students turns to solve at the board.

Tips: If you already have a Happy Numbers account, you are already on your way to using Plus! Just use the same login information and you are ready to start assigning challenges.

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What it is: DOGO News is a great place for kids to learn about current events, read non-fiction articles, and access customized content that you curate. DOGO features thousands of news articles and new original content added daily, this is the leading online source of current events for students, teachers, and schools! DOGO Teachers allows you to create a special page for your students. Each article lists the Common Core Standards it meets, and the grade levels it is appropriate for.

How to integrate DOGO News in your classroom: DOGO News is a fantastic resource for you (and students) to find, read, and interact with non-fiction news articles in your classroom. The site is very easy for kids to navigate. The homepage includes the most up-to-date content, but students also have the option to read articles based on a passion they have (science, social studies, world events, environment, fun, video, or sports) or to search for a specific topic. DOGO is obviously an easy go-to for current events and non-fiction reading and for research in the inquiry classroom.

Our students love to read an article as a class and then search for biases. If there aren’t any obvious biases, they talk about ways the topic might be written about with bias. This generally leads to really great class discussions and bunny trials of questions and research. DOGO is a great place for this activity to start.

DOGO also has a Books and Movies where kids can read reviews written by other kids for books and movies. Students can join DOGO to add their own book and movie reviews.

Tips: Teachers- you can sign up for two different kinds of accounts on DOGO. The free account lets you create your own DOGO class page and add your own assignments. There is also a paid account option that includes some additional features that would be ideal if you use Google Classroom and would like to access ready-made assignments on DOGO.

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2018 is almost here. What decisions are you making today that will amplify what is possible in 2018?

Every year I choose a word. An intention for the year. Something to remind me of my greatest hopes and purposes for the year. Do you do that, too?

The word that leapt out to me for 2018 is FLOURISH.

FLOURISH: 1. to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment. 2. a bold or extravagant gesture or action.

Don’t you just love that? To grow vigorously…especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment.

Anastasis Academy has become “a particularly favorable environment” and now for some intention: to flourish!

Flourish reminds me that I have more. More to contribute to the changing landscape of education. More to give to the students whose lives we impact with our important work. But flourishing is bigger. Flourishing is extravagant. It’s vigorous. It’s more.

I could not be more thrilled to announce the 4th annual 5Sigma Education Conference and the INCREDIBLE line up that we have. 5Sigma will help you consider how you can push beyond current constraints and truly see what is possible in education. It’s an invitation to flourish.

The real power of 5Sigma is in helping you see what is possible and then connecting you to other incredible educators who are doing important work. We’ll provide the favorable environment, your job is to flourish.

If you’re ready to transform your classroom (or school) in meaningful and important ways, we’d like to help you do that.

What will it take to flourish in 2018? It’s not going to happen by doing the same things in 2017. Join us in February and bring on the flourishing! We can’t wait to meet you!

***If you want to bring a group to 5Sigma, contact me and I’ll see how I can help you out.

**** Comment below with your word of 2018 to be entered for a free registration to 5Sigma EduCon!

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What it is: Magik Play sent me a Starter Kit to review, and boy am I glad they did! The Magik Play is a beautiful blend of digital and physical. Students download an app on their iPad and use wooden blocks that interact with the iPad screen to build structures that interact with the illustrations on the app. Students get different puzzle challenges on the screen. They build with the “magic” blocks to match the puzzle and help the characters on screen with their buildings. The puzzles get increasingly difficult to complete throughout the game. Magik Play is recommended for 2-6years old, but I think it is more appropriate for 3-7 years old. I had my nephew (2yrs) try out Magik Play and while he enjoyed it, some of the puzzle challenges required two hands to build the structure. He also struggled to keep the blocks far enough away when he wasn’t building so that they didn’t interact with the iPad and mess up the “magic.” I think in another year, this wouldn’t be a problem for him.

I have seen a lot of companies try to mix physical and digital play, but had yet to see anyone do it really well. Magik Play has definitely found the sweet spot! It is seriously so cool. I opened this set up and immediately started playing myself. I couldn’t stop, I played EVERY level on every app! I love the way that the app involves students in a story where they are helping the main character do things by building structures. When the structure is successfully built, the character interacts with the structure to complete a task. Magik Play is like the most fun kind of puzzle! There are three apps that come with the Magik Play blocks: Hidden Shape, Dino Blocks, and Runaway. Hidden Shape is a great introduction for kids to use the Magik Play Blocks, Dino Blocks and Runaway get increasingly complex puzzles and building.

How to integrate Magik Play into the classroom: Magik Play is a great addition to the primary aged classroom. Not only does it promote problem solving, pattern recognition, and some engineering thinking, it also develops fine motor skills. In the classroom Magik Play would make a great math center. Regular play would increase pattern recognition, problem solving, and fine motor skills. Students could also work in small groups of 3-4 and take turns completing every other puzzle challenge. For very young students partners would be great so they can help balance the blocks of some of the more complex puzzles.

As an extension activity, students could write a story about the characters in the Magik Play apps. Who are they? Why are they trying to escape? What happens next? This could be a fun journaling or free write activity to think through character development, setting, and conflict/resolution.

Tips: The Magik Play starter set would make an excellent gift ($57.99) to your classroom, or gift to the 3-7 year olds in your life. My nephew loves his set!

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What it is: Be Internet Awesome is a fantastic new way to help your students make the most of the Internet by being prepared to make wise decisions as they navigate and interact online. Be Internet Awesome helps teach students the basics of digital citizenship and safety online. This outstanding collection from Google includes: Interland, an online adventure that puts digital safety lessons into hands-on practice with four games; the Be Internet Awesome Curriculum, that will help you teach online safety; the Be Internet Awesome Pledge, to help connect parents and encourage continuity between home and school.

How to integrate Be Internet Awesome into the classroom: With Be Internet Awesome, Google gives you a complete set of tools to empower you to encourage digital citizenship and safety online. There are lessons and curriculum you can download, games for students to play, and a pledge for students to take home so that parents are on the same page.

At the core of Be Internet Awesome is the Code:

  • Share with Care- teaching students the importance of communicating responsibly.
  • Don’t Fall for Fake- teaching students how to discern real from fake online.
  • Secure Your Secrets- teaching students how to protect and safeguard personal information online.
  • It’s Cool to Be Kind- teaching students how the Internet can act as an amplifier, and they have the power to create positive impact for others.
  • When in Doubt, Talk It Out- teaching students how to seek out a trusted adult when they come across something questionable.

Interland is such a beautifully designed game with important lessons about how to mindfully use the Internet. I love the way the lessons learned in the games can transfer seamlessly to real-life as well. Students can play individually in a one to one setting or as a class with a projector-connected computer. Stop to reflect as you play. If students are playing individually, you might have them reflect in writing and come back together to share reflections as a class.

Tips: The Be Internet Awesome Curriculum meets ISTE standards for students and ISTE standards for teachers. Under the Resource link, you’ll also find a lesson poster, certificates and badges, a Google for Education Teacher Training Course, the ability to share Interland directly to Google Classroom, great resources for parents, and an Internaut Papercraft Activity.

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What it is: I adore the DragonBox math apps! I was first introduced to DragonBox through their Algebra app. The app takes away all math anxiety by teaching algebraic concepts without numbers or algorithms. It is genius! You can read my review of that app here. DragonBox Numbers is for kids who are new to numbers, counting, addition, and subtraction. DragonBox BIG Numbers is the next level app of Dragon Box Numbers. As they play, children learn about how big numbers work, and how to perform long addition and subtraction. In DragonBox Elements, students will secretly learn geometry. By playing 100+ puzzles, kids will gain a deep understanding of the logic of geometry. As they play, students will actually be recreating the mathematical proofs that define geometry. What I love about the DragonBox suite of math games is that they are unlike any other math apps. You won’t find mindless repetitions and quizzes of math facts, instead, these games help teach students how to think like mathematicians. This is learning math through exploration.

How to integrate Dragon Box math apps into your classroom: The DragonBox math apps take advantage of a student’s innate curiosity through play and exploration of math concepts. Each game engages students through exploration, reflection, and application.  If you have a 1:1 iPad classroom, use these apps daily! Students can play a game, and then come together as a class to reflect and write down the rules they have learned in that “chapter.” Then, take an equation from the game and solve it on paper. See if students can connect the cards and rules of the game to the equations on paper. Solve the equations using strategies and rules from the game.

In a one or two device classroom, play DragonBox as a class by connecting your device to a projector. Explore the rules together and let students take turns being in charge of a chapter. Review rules and make connections as a class. Set up DragonBox as a math center that students can visit in a rotation where one center is interacting with the game, the next is an opportunity to record rules learned and reflect, and the last is application of the rules to an equation.

Be sure to check out the DragonBox for educators where you can download teachers guides and printable resources for each game in the DragonBox math suite. You’ll also find a great “rules” guide for the algebra and geometry games.

These are seriously my favorite math apps of all time! They encourage kids who can think and apply like mathematicians rather than kids who simply memorize a formula. DragonBox creates a deep understanding of mathematical concepts and number relationships.

Tips: While the DragonBox suite of math apps aren’t free, you can purchase them at a deep discount for educational institutions and bulk purchases. Teachers, you can get access for free to make sure that the apps are right before committing to a purchase for your students. You can also purchase apps in bundles.

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