All posts by Ben Schersten

Plagiarism and Citing Sources

FullSizeRenderOver the past couple weeks all third, fourth, and fifth graders have started to explore plagiarism and how it relates to what we do at school.

We’ve explored the concept of Creative Commons (CC) and learned how to do a Google Search that only returns CC-licensed images by using the Search Tools, so we know that if we use an image from the Internet that it’s okay with the image owner for us to use that image.

FullSizeRender (1)We have also explored how to cite those sources. In addition to having permission to use an image, we have to give credit to the original author as well.

It was great to see the students grow as they wrestled with the concept of ownership as we try to make a effort not to accidentally steal things from the Internet.

 

Elementary iPad Apps

This year we brought second and third grade into our 1:1 iPad program. Now all students grades 1-12 in Burlington have their own iPad to to work with.

Another year in, we’ve fine-tuned our choice of apps. We’ve trimmed the list a little from last year. This year we’re focusing on:

ipad2Elementary Foundational Apps:

  • Google Drive (including Docs/Sheets/Slides)
    We use Drive for sharing anything we create on the iPads.
  • Notability
    Notability is a note-taking and annotating app. It’s primarily used in the upper grades.
  • Explain Everything
    Explain Everything is a screencasting app. It allows students to record live screen manipulations (Drawings, etc) while layering their voice over it. This is a great, and very powerful, app.
  • Book Creator
    Book Creator is a very versatile app for creating digital books.
  • Socrative
    Socrative is a polling/quiz app.
  • Blogger
    Blogger is the app we use for the students’ digital portfolios.
  • Drawing Pad
    Drawing Pad is a great drawing app that integrates nicely with other apps (such as Book Creator, Explain Everything, and iMovie).
  • iMovie
    iMOvie is Apple’s video creation/editing app. The iPad version is very user friendly.

The district has also installed the following apps on all the student devices.

Elementary Essential Apps:

  • BB Clock
  • BryteWave K-12
  • Destiny Quest
  • Door 24 Math
  • Genius Scan
  • Google Earth
  • JogNog
  • Lexia Reading
  • Magnabet
  • NetTexts
  • PCalc Lite
  • Piano Partner
  • Read Naturally
  • ST Math
  • SymphonyMath
  • WWP Vocab

Teachers also have the ability to add apps to support what they are doing in the classroom. Common apps include:

  • Accelerated Reader
  • Chalkboard
  • Reflex Math

Lego Robotics

Francis Wyman 5th graders just finished up a 5-week after-school session of Lego Robotics. With the help of the high school’s robotics team (DevilBotz Team 22876) the fifth graders explored both building and programming robots using the Lego NXT robotics system.

Scheduling cut us a week shorter than usual (normally we have a 6-week session) but students were still able to learn and create a lot. After learning the basics teams of students chose from a range of simple challenges (such as kicking a ball) and got to work trying to solve it. Teams experienced setbacks and hiccups but stuck with it and came out with some pretty amazing stuff, especially considering the tight time frame. Below is a video of their creations.

Thanks to Ms. D’Amico, Mr. Musselman, and Mr. Schersten for helping out.

Coding Club a Huge Success

photo 1

For the past five Mondays, Mr. Musselman and Mr. Schersten have been holding an after-school coding club for 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. The students used Hopscotch, a free, introductory coding app using visual programming “blocks” to instruct the behavior of objects on screen.

Students worked their way through a series of challenges presented by Mr. Musselman and Mr. Schersten that progressively built their understanding of how programming works. Along the way they grappled with common problems programmers face when building animations, games, and technological tools. Many students were surprised at the amount of math being used in the coding, but quickly gained valuable understanding of mathematical concepts in graphing, angles, geometry, and rates of change.

photo 4 (3)By week five students with almost no programming experience had designed some amazing work. Students initially challenged with simply sketching their name on screen were able to design programs modeled after some of their favorite apps! Follow the links below to see some of their fantastic programs. To get the ultimate experience, visit these links with a tablet that has the Hopscotch app installed. Viewing these links without the app will cause some of the programs to not work properly and limit their interactivity.

It was great to see all that the students accomplished.

Embedding a PDF From Drive into a Blog

Embedding PDFs in a blog can be a great way to share information, especially with parents and the community. These days Google Drive makes this easy: when you’re viewing a PDF you can easily get the embed code and drop it into you blog. But, the code includes a preview pane and no options for zooming, so it’s not idea. The default Google Drive PDF embed code ends up creating this:

Getting the embed code is easy, but the result is in no way ideal. In fact you’ll notice that most of the first page of the PDF you can’t even see. Fortunately, there’s a better way. It take a little code (really, just a little), but it’s very doable.

The embed code Drive gives you looks like this (it’s what I used above):

<iframe src="https://docs.google.com/a/bpsk12.org/file/d/0B3xoQi_oa7_hU2J5S1RQbFdqS3c/preview" width="580" height="480"></iframe>

What we need to do though, is to use this code instead (it’s way better, for lots of reasons):

<iframe src="https://docs.google.com/viewer?srcid=[put your file id here]&pid=explorer&efh=false&a=v&chrome=false&embedded=true" width="580px" height="480px"></iframe>

I know, the code looks a little intimidating, but most if it we can ignore.

There are only three things in the code we need to worry about:

  1. The file id.
  2. The height of the frame.
  3. The width of the frame.

The file ID for your PDF (one that is already in Google Drive) can be found in the PDFs web address. When you open a PDF, it’s the garbage-looking piece of the URL (it will be between forward-slashes, “/”).

The file ID is highlighted in yellow.
The file ID is highlighted in yellow.

In this case it’s the 0B3xoQi_oa7_hU2J5S1RQbFdqS3c

That id will need to be placed into the code in place of the “[insert your file id here]”. Make sure to get rid of the square brackets in the sample code.

Height and width are exactly that, height and width. You can change these numbers (they’re measured in pixels) to change the size of the frame that you’re PDF is enclosed in.

And what does it look like? If we take this code (notice that I’ve inserted my file ID)

<iframe src="https://docs.google.com/viewer?srcid=0B3xoQi_oa7_hU2J5S1RQbFdqS3c&pid=explorer&efh=false&a=v&chrome=false&embedded=true" width="580px" height="480px"></iframe>

and put it into a blog (remember, when you’re embedding html code you have to use the HTML window of the editor, not the Compose window), you get this:

This is so much better. It zooms out so that the PDF is displayed page-width. There’s no preview pane. You can scroll down if there are multiple pages. There are zoom options if you want to zoom in. All the things we want when we embed a PDF.

A little code, and all the sudden that PDF becomes so much more user-friendly. But don’t forget, in Drive if you’re embedding a PDF you need to make the file public first, otherwise it won’t embed correctly. 

Note: I didn’t put this code together myself. I found it on a Google forum post here, from 2013, from user Yajeng.

Hour of Code at Francis Wyman

Hour of CodeLast  week Francis Wyman took part in code.org‘s Hour of Code. It was a nation-wide effort to expose k-12 students to Computer Science. At Francis Wyman, every class in grades 2-5 spent an hour learning about computer programming. Some came down to the computer lab; others did the hour on iPads. First grade will do their Hour of Code this week.

Code.org has a great k-8 tutorial teaching students the basics of coding. They also have tutorials for older learners as well. These work across devices (laptop, iPad, etc) and are web-based so you can try them out at home.

However, this wasn’t really about learning to code. It was a quick exposure to Computer Science. It was about logical and sequential thinking. It was about finding creative and efficient solutions to problems. Though the tutorials were individual, it was great to see the students quickly come together to work in small ad hoc groups to find success.

Hour of Code

Hour of Code

Hour of Code

Hour of Code

Hour of Code

Hour of Code

Hour of Code

Hour of Code

Hour of Code

Every day we have countless interactions with computers: cell phones, traffic lights, microwaves, your house’s thermostat. Do you know how those things work?

Global Poetry Audiobook

We recently finished a project with Mrs. Ski’s first grade reading class. Ms. Pabarue’s first grade class (in NYC) is compiling a Global Poetry Audiobook using the Book Creator app on the iPad. First grade classes from around the globe were invited to create a page and contribute to the project.

Our page is below, with the audio that goes with it.

The kids did a fantastic job. It was great to see their expression and fluency increase as we continued to practice the poem.

When the book is complete, I will place a link to it here.

Working of self portraits for our book page.
Working of self portraits for our book page.