Saturday, July 4, 2015

Getting Started with Wonder Workshop- Dot and Dash

I've been wanting to learn more about coding in elementary school and introducing teachers in my area to integrate robotics in the curriculum and during the school day.  I'm loving and feel like I'm am only in the beginning phase of exploring and learning.  My goal is to work with the Wonder Robots and turn around sessions to share with my area TCEA Community and spread awareness in my school district and surrounding districts. 

Most of the time, the extra learning has to happen at home.  I really don't mind when learning is this much fun and includes bonding with my children.

I've spent two short time frames over the last two weeks working with my 4 yo son. We've been using the Go and Path App.  So far, I think they are great for pre-readers.  It is visual and enjoyable for a child to explore.

I will document our learning here in my blog as I continue to explore and learn.  Here is the first video that shares my son's trouble shooting and first challenge with Dash.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Coding for Beginners

I'm enjoying a few days of learning at TCEA's Tots and Technology. Here are my take aways, from a coding beginner and the resources I collected from TCEA Tots and Technology.

Getting Started
I've decided to get started with coding at home with my children.  We've enjoyed the board game, Robot Turtles and several iPad Apps.  Robot Turtles is a great way to get started with coding in an analog way.  My children enjoy making sound effects as we play.  Their favorite beginning coding app is My Robot Friend by Leapster. I like it because there is room for four profiles.  This means, I get to learn without affecting their progress.

Hour of Code
I attended a 6 hour session called "Building a STEM Foundation for Elementary Students."
It was a great session for teachers that are coding beginners, like me.  We spent a lot of time learning about the Hour of Code and using in the classroom.

I had heard about, but I was not aware of all of the lessons that were available through the training. In the workshop, I received great "unplugged" lessons that I can use when teaching students and teachers.  These lessons introduced coding vocabulary and really made the concept of coding easy to understand.  I was most impressed that a lot of those lessons were analog and just plain fun.

I spent time hands-on, learning how to code by playing a lot of the coding puzzles that students could solve while learning to code.   

If you are getting started with coding as a teacher, you should create an account in and get started.  It's also okay if you do not know much about coding.  We can learn and it's okay it we learn along with or from our students.  ;)

Taking it Beyond
I attended another session at #tceatots called "Robotics on the Cheap," with Jered Martinez.  This session focused on inexpensive ways to code and was at a higher level. Here is the sketch note Jered created to start us off.  My additions are not as fancy.  :)

Jered Martinez created this to start us off, I added my notes at the bottom center.

I learned about brush bots, little robots made out of inexpensive parts that can be purchased at Radio Shack.  I can't wait to gather the materials and create a fun, home, problem solving project to learn with my kids at home.  I also quickly created my account in Tynker and Scratch  to begin coding.  The neatest thing I learned is that Scratch is open source and the code that is written there can be used to program Raspberry Pi.  For example, check out 25 fun things you can do with Raspberry Pie from CNET.  A participant in the session shared Code Combat as a more advanced coding program.

I think I'm ready to continue learning.  After I build up my basics in, playing Robot Turtles with my kids, and enjoying a few coding apps when I have time, I'll move up the coding ladder.  It's exciting to think about the possibilities and what I can create if I learn to code.  Imagine how much it will help our PreK-12th graders if we give them all the same opportunity. After all, they need to be prepared for today's world and coding is apart of it now.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

So You Want to Be an Instructional Technology Specialist

The past two weeks, I've had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Will on Saturday Morning.  I've enjoyed connecting to share my experiences and to learn more about his experiences as an Instructional Technologist.

Dr. Will asked me to be on his Show for an episode called "So You Want to Be an Instructional Technology Specialist."

You can find the original post by visiting So You Want to Become an Instructional Technology Specialist.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Collins Big Cat Books- Free Book Apps

I have been so excited about the free interactive books for the iPad that Collins Big Cat provides for our early readers.  These are more than just books that read out loud.  Students will enjoy the activities.  There is even a story creator with the ability to record audio to tell your story.

Collins Big Cat: The Steam Train Story Creator
Collins Big Cat: The Farmer's Lunch Story    
Collins Big Cat: Playing Story Creator
Collins Big Cat: My Bike Ride Story Creator
Collins Big Cat: It Was a Cold, Dark Night Story Creator
Collins Big Cat: In the Garden Story Creator
Collins Big Cat: At the Dump Story Creator
Collins Big Cat: Around the World Story Creator

SAMR for PreK and K

I teamed up with PreK and Kinder teachers and facilitators in our district to collaborate on an iPad roll out for early elementary.  I was asked to introduce SAMR to all of the PreK and K teachers in our district.  I thought back to every time I had seen a SAMR presentation or taught teachers about it in the past.  I felt like I needed to create something that would apply to my early elementary teachers.   I collected examples of real student work and looked at some old ways I had seen Pre-K and K teachers using technology and added a few other ideas that I didn't see happening often in classrooms.

The most important part of our presentation was talking about good quality lessons that teachers use to check for understanding and relating SAMR to what prek and kinder teachers do in the classroom.

The teachers on our team challenged me to create the presentation in Nearpod to teach teachers about this awesome tool without directly teaching them about the tool. It worked out really well, teachers enjoyed interacting during our session. The slide show was our Plan B.

We used apps in our SAMR presentation that teachers would use in hands-on workshops taught by teachers on our curriculum writing team during the afternoon sessions.  I made sure to share the lesson ideas as we talked about where they fit in SAMR.

What's even more awesome is, teachers decided they'd like to help me develop our own Pre-K and Kinder Padagogy Wheel similar to the one created by Allan Carrington, because we couldn't find one that would relate to early elementary. I can't wait to collaborate with teachers in our district to do this.

My SlideShare minus the video examples.

SAMR for PreK and K from klwrightbalbier

My NearPod presentation on SAMR for PreK and K

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Using Shadow Puppet in Pre-K and K: Turning Off the Image Seach Feature

I've been working with a group of AMAZING pre-k through 2nd grade teachers to design technology integrated lessons that are aligned with core curriculum.  Shadow Puppet EDU has been one of my favorite apps since the day I discovered it.  It's an app that can be used for any content. 

Here is an example of what a 4 year old can create with Shadow Puppet. This student illustrated the parts of a plant with another app and used Shadow Puppet to share what he learned.


One of the key pieces of our meetings is to really evaluate all of the apps we will be recommending.  We want to answer the questions we know every teacher will ask us. It's important to do this before the pre-k and kinder teachers on our title elementary schools become part of a beautiful iPad roll out.  We want them to be just as excited as we are about the learning that will take place.

"Can we turn off the web image search in Shadow Puppet?" asked a teacher in our meeting. Since we are planning on creating with Pre-K students, I don't know why I've never asked that question myself.  She looked into the settings and there it was! Beautiful, the answer to all of our pre-k and kindergarten worries.  A teacher can turn off the web search when students are working independently to share what they have learned.   A teacher can enable the web search for guided or modeled searches as early learners are introduced to digital citizenship and searching on-line. 

 I love that the creators of Shadow Puppet EDU have thought of everything.  You can undo a recording per page, re-record the whole thing, you can share easily, and even share with parents using their SeeSaw Class and SeeSaw Parent App.

How To-
1. Go to the settings app on your iPad
2. Scroll down till you find the Shadow Puppet App Icon and click on it.
3. Disable the web image search and/or the Edu image search if needed.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Favorite Free eBook Collections for Teachers

I've had a lot of teachers asking me to share my favorite eBook resources for elementary students with them.  I hope you love them as much as I do!

1.  Starring You Story Books for the iPad or Starring You Story Books on the computer- Make your students the main character of the most entertaining stories ever!  Teachers will enjoy reading these stories to their students.  If you are a teacher, you can apply for free access to Storybots learning resources!  Apply now, it's a must! Triple YAY!!!!

2. wegivebooks - You will find amazing eBooks to read with your students. Create an account and begin to enjoy free eBooks that will work on your laptop and computer. eBooks have an age recommendation, easy search options, and there are titles available in Spanish.  This is a free resource for everyone! 

 3. StoryLineOnline - StoryLine Online is a collection of great books that are being read aloud. The Screen Actors Guild Foundation records well-know actors reading children's books and makes graphically dynamic videos so that children around the world can be read to with just a click of a Storyline Online video book image. An activity guide is available for each book.  StoryLine Online works on the computer and iPad. 

4. EPIC! eReader App or use the web version at EPIC!- Here is a great collection of eBooks that are FREE for educators.  There are a variety of books for elementary age students.  Some stories include audio. You will need to create an educator account to share great books with your students. This is also a great resource to share with parents and families.  With a promo code you can share with parents, the family will gain free access for 2 months.