Tag Archives: Carla

Coding in the Classroom

Not every child will grow up to be a historian, yet there is value in teaching history. Not every child will be a mathematician, yet there is importance in teaching math. What about teaching computational thinking? Computational thinking is a way of describing and solving problems that applies higher level critical thinking. How can programming be a productive addition to an already overloaded curriculum? Consider this quote from Steve Jobs.

“I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”

— STEVE JOBS, THE LOST INTERVIEW

AgentSheets Logo
AgentSheets is a software program that lets you create your own agent-based games and simulations using drag and drop, rule-based programming. For more information on AgentSheets and Scalable Game Design, visit scalablegamedesign.org.

Programming encourages children to use technology to solve problems, first by designing games, then by transitioning to STEM-oriented simulations. Learning to program with Scalable Game Design and AgentSheets software introduces computational thinking patterns using motivational and interesting methods tied to the core subjects. The benefits include enriching learning, elevating critical thinking and expanding 21st century and STEM skills.

eMINTS is offering a course in Scalable Game Design. The pilot begins in August and the course will be offered again in the spring. If you are interested in coding in the classroom, please fill out our eLearning interest form.

Carla Chaffin is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

How We Make Meaning

How does this baby learn about his world? For the most part, this child is constructing his own meanings and ideas about how things work. While some of the parental guidance has been edited out of the video, there’s still four hours of footage (condensed into two minutes) of a baby simply exploring his world and making sense of it all.

Why can’t this be the same approach we take with students? Students can explore, inquire, and investigate the world around them in order to create their own meaning just as this baby is doing in the video. Of course, there are key elements that make this exploration possible.

The baby has some limitations. There is a limitation of space where the baby is learning. He is generally contained in this one room, not permitted to roam throughout the house. Part of this limitation is due to his lack of mobility, but it’s a limitation nonetheless. Similar limitations can be set for student inquiries. Identifying essential, guiding, and content questions can help with focusing the inquiry. Also, hooking them with engaging examples of the phenomena to be studies will provide parameters.

Another thing the baby has that encourages his inquiry is the ample supply and variety of resources. No matter where the baby turns or what he decides to do, there are toys (or sometimes other household objects) with which he can experiment. Providing resources can be challenge for cash-strapped schools, but the internet more than makes up for these shortcomings in the form of limitless literature, multimedia, and simulations.

Finally, the baby’s inquiry goes so well because there is a skilled, caring adult providing an opportunity to actively explore his world. Much of the child’s interaction with adults has been edited out, but one can tell by the way toys have been laid out and the simple fact that his entire play session has been recorded that this baby has adults who are looking out for his well-being. The same can be said for students with teachers who care enough about their learning that they sacrifice their time and financial gain in order to help their students grow intellectually.

With these support systems in place, students, like the baby in the video, will succeed in their efforts to inquire about the inner-workings of their world. Of course, this inquiry can’t take place in an environment that is too restrictive or encourages passivity. Structure, access to resources, and caring and thoughtful facilitation are musts for inquiry to succeed.

What lessons about learning do you glean from the above video? How might these lessons inform your teaching? What can you do better in providing opportunities of inquiry for your students?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger with the eMINTS National Center. A special hat tip is given to eMINTS staff members Carla Chaffin and Carmen Marty for pointing out this video in connection with inquiry.

Tuesday’s Tools: Finding Space for Students on the Web

The World Wide Web is a wondrous thing, but it is often overcrowded with material not suited for students. We at eMINTS are always on the lookout for tools and resources that make the web a friendly place for students. This week’s list of online tools will do just that.

While Blogger and WordPress are excellent blogging tools, they come with the added risk of being part of an online community. For some teachers, this is rather uncomfortable position. Kidblog.org makes it possible for teachers to set up safe and easy to figure out blogs for their elementary and middle school students. Kidblogs simply allow students to publish blog posts and converse in a safe, controlled environment.

Looking for more of an online presence for students? Try Weebly for Education as a web and blog host. The popular web hosting and design site provides an added features of collecting homework and managing student accounts. Of course, there is also a blogging component that makes Weebly rather versatile.

It has been mentioned here before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Safeshare.TV is an easy way to access videos on YouTube without having to deal with pesky ads, (un)related videos, and comments. Safeshare.TV just makes it possible to access the great content that can be found in YouTube’s many, many videos.

How about finding resources on the web that contain appropriate reading levels for your students? Twurdy is a Google-powered search engine that color-codes resources based on reading levels. This can come in handing when researching a topic for students with some reading limitations. Allow students to conduct searches on Twurdy or do the work beforehand, identifying the most appropriate results for your students.

What are some tools you use in providing space and accessibility to the web for your students?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. A special H/T goes out to eMINTS instructional specialists Carla Chaffin and Debbie Perkins for suggesting the tools above.

4ALL: Book Builder

The never-ending cost of replacing books and updating texts is a major burden for schools, classrooms, and school libraries. What if we could create and build our own books? Well, now you can with Book Builder!

This site allows you to create, edit and share digital books. Other books are linked for reading and rating. A list of public library books are accessible as well. Account sign up is free. There are professional resources on the site as well. Universal Design Learning is the sponsor of this site.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. A big hat tip goes out toe his colleague Carla Chaffin for finding Book Builder.

4ALL: Give the Gift of Books

Are you looking for a great way to donate to charity this holiday season?

You can help get books donated to children in need. The Literacy Site makes it easy to give the gift of reading this holiday season. You can click on the “Click here to give” button and 100% of sponsor money goes to supplying books to children in need.

Carla Chaffin is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Tuesday’s Tool: Engaging Presentations with Prezi

Bored with the same old presentation software? Want to spice up your presentations and involve your audience? Prezi might be the alternative for which you’re looking.

Prezi is an online zooming presentation tool. The projects students are able to create on Prezi are more interactive for viewers and focus on the information. The presentation is set up to follow a path to lead the viewer through in an interesting and engaging manner. Emphasis is placed on focal points of the information and anyone going through the presentation will understand the importance of the message being conveyed. Prezi is a new and interesting way to present ideas. Check it out!

Carla Chaffin is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

4ALL: Convert PowerPoint Presentations to Video

Are your students bored with PowerPoint? Do they respond better to video? Well, there’s a free converter you can download today!

Convert your Power Point presentations to video. This program will allow you to turn your static slide presentation into a video for streaming online. Best of all, it is free! (Did we mention that it was free?)

Carla Chaffin is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Puzzles as Community Builders

eMINTS Instructional Specialist Carla Chaffin brings us a great idea to use a puzzle as a community builder from BrainDen.com:

This would be great for a team or community builder with any group. You would not have to actually have the items on hand (scale and tennis balls). The puzzle is more for thinking through.

The puzzle Carla is suggesting is “Weighing IV” and works like this:

Weighing IV.
One of twelve tennis balls is a bit lighter or heavier (you do not know which) than the others. How would you identify this odd ball if you could use an old two-pan balance scale only 3 times?

You can only balance one set of balls against another, so no reference weights and no weight measurements.

The solution to this puzzle can be found here, but please visit BrainDen.com for more puzzles that will make your students think!