Friday, April 20, 2018

Curating and Collaborating with Google's Jamboard App

Post originally published under FTEdTech
I am always on the look out for strategies and applications that allow our elementary students to collaborate. When you can add in tools that will let them sketchnote, curate resources from multiple sources, including their drive and use tools that autodraw icons based on rough sketches, then you know you have something that kids can really get into using.

I am really excited to share the new app we have in the app portal called Jamboard. Jamboard is essentially a collaborative whiteboard app that includes some pretty impressive features - including collaboration! It is part of GSuite (Google applications) and you sign into it with your school email/password. This app opens up so many possibilities for sketchnoting, curation of ideas and most importantly collaboration!  Jamboard is an application that can be used with or without a physical Jamboard recently released by Google. 

Check out the basics of how to get started with Jamboard below:

Write now, I'd have to say my favorite feature is, hands down, autodraw.  I like the idea of sketchnoting, but I often get caught up in the idea that my sketches don't really show what I want them to show. Autodraw is a tool that I can use to move past one of my personal barriers to creating notes.  

In addition to the cool sketchnoting capabilities, Jamboard also offers a way to curate information from a variety of sources like your Google Drive and the web. Imagine organizing thoughts for a video by pulling in research from the internet and notes from a class project that you did in Google Slides.  Jamboard makes this possible.  Check out how that might look below:

One of the last powerful features of Jamboard is the collaboration feature. To get started collaborating, with our current permission level, teachers would begin a Jamboard, then invite students to share ideas on the board through an email or by a code. This would be a powerful way for a group to plan a video project or a presentation that required them to research add images, drawing, and to organize their ideas. Check out the video below to see how to make that happen.

Want to try it out, but need some help?  Let me know! I have ideas for you!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Spring Magnetic Poetry

I originally published this on FTEdTech 

April is National Poetry Month, and a perfect time to inspire students to create their own poems about Spring.

Inspired by Eric Curts' "Springtime Magnetic Poetry with Google Drawings"
I created a template that we could use with iPads and one to use with Seesaw.

I love the format Curts uses in Google Drawings, but currently we cannot use Google Drawings on the iPad, so it requires a little modifying to give our students the chance for the same fun.

To modify the idea so we can use it on our devices with PowerPoint, Google Slides or Seesaw, I first created a background template in Canva using the "Presentation 16:9" size template. I inserted a free image related to spring from their stock images and downloaded it as a JPEG.

Setting up the Activity in PowerPoint

I inserted this image as the background of a blank PowerPoint slide by clicking:
  • Design tab
  • Format Background
  • Picture or Texture Fill 
  • File
  • Locate image and insert
Placing the image on the slide as the background helps to stabilize the activity so students can't move it around.

Once the background was inserted, I was ready to create and insert the word magnets.

I was feeling a little stuck on which words to use for Spring, so I hit up Google and found a great list at a site called Words to Use. To create the "word magnets", I inserted a rounded rectangle and changed the format so it would be easy to see on the background. I then typed in words and saved them as pictures by right clicking on the shape and choosing "Save as Picture..."

I saved some time by reusing the same box over and over.  I then went back in and inserted all the word pictures and arranged them on the sides and bottom of the template.

The extra step of creating these magnets as images will help as students drag and drop. To be flexible I added a template shape at the bottom so students will just have to touch the shape and add their own words. I decided to make this a different color so teachers would be able to see what were student generated words and what belonged with the template activity. It might be fun to have students insert appropriate emojis in the template box.

If you want to use this template with your students, you can find it in Schoology>>FTIS Elementary EdTech Group>>Resources>>Interactive Notebook Files>>Magnetic Poetry for Spring. I uploaded the template to Google and converted to Google Slides. You can grab a copy for Google Slides to use with your students if that format works better for you.

To distribute the assignment to your students, you'll want to upload it to your OneDrive or Google Drive and use Schoology Microsoft or Google Assignments so that you can create a copy of the template for each student. If you're not sure how to do that, check out the directions here.

Setting up the Activity in Seesaw

To give even our youngest students the opportunity to practice with the idea of magnet poetry, I created a similar activity in Seesaw. 

I used the same background and when creating the activity uploaded that image, and used the label tool to create the word "magnets". I also added in emojis for the students to use. For this version, students are additionally asked to create a recording of themselves reading their poems. This would a fun shared writing activity that would align to CCSS writing standards (W.K.2, W.K.6).

You don't have to reinvent the wheel with this one, you can grab a copy and edit the activity for your own needs and learning goals here.

Questions? Want to work together to make more activities like this? Let me know!


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Ozobots: Your Next Center Addition

I originally published this post on FTEdTech

If you haven't tried out the ozobots yet with your class, then now is the time!

Ozobots are tiny little robots that work with markers.  Students draw thick lines on paper with black, red, green or blue markers.  They can create different color combinations to program the robot to perform a variety of moves from changes in speed to changes in color and more advanced turns and moves.

The simplicity of these robots make them a perfect addition for a center.  With little set up, and very little training students can be engaging in activities that meet the standards, help them practice skills and are fun!  This could be a great way to change things up as we head into the end of the year.

Right before Spring Break, I got the chance to work with Mrs. Perkins and her first graders at JES to test out some activities.

For the activity we used an Engage - Explore - Explain cycle. 

Cycle 1 

To begin the activity, students came to the carpet and sat in a circle. I showed the students the robot, and demonstrated how to turn it on and how to make it go by drawing a line.  I asked them to observe what happened to the robot if I changed the color of the marker. We also placed an image of the Ozobot code chart on the Smartboard so students could see different ways they could program the robot. We also talked about strategies for using good team work, since they had to work with a partner.

We used the 5 minute timer on ClassroomScreen to set a timer for students to explore with a partner. Students were encouraged to think about good team work skills and practice drawing different kinds of lines to see what worked best. They were curious to see how to make the Ozobot turn, if they could follow a squiggly line, and what happened if there was no line.  

When the 5 minutes were up, students had time to share out about what they had learned about using the ozobot. They also shared team work strategies that included things like taking turns for a certain amount of time, diving their paper into two and creating their own drawings then taking turns with using the robot.

Once students had some time to try anything we were ready to get into the next learning cycle.

Cycle 2

For the next phase of learning we used a Flippity spinner that had a number of different activities, aligned to things that the first graders were currently working on or aligned to skills that might help them use the Ozobot.

For the spinner we had
  • Color - for this activity students would be challenged to make the Ozobot change colors using different codes
  • Tornado - students would need to code the Ozobot to move in a tornado pattern
  • Tell a Story (RL & RI 1.1, or W.1.3) students would need to work together to create a story or an informational piece that showed a beginning, middle and end.  They would draw images, and write words and then draw a line to lead the ozobot through the telling of the story.
  • Math - for this activity, student partners wrote 3 math problems on one side of the page and mixed up the answers on the opposite side of the page.  They traded pages with another group and new partners solved the problems by drawing a line for Ozobot to match the problem to the answer.
  • Spelling - students would choose a spelling word and practice writing it so Ozobot could follow the letters
  • Symmetry - Students created a drawing that demonstrated symmetry
  • Speed - Students were to use the color code chart to create speed changes with the Ozobots. 
We had enough time to spin the wheel three times with between 5-10 minutes between each spin. For this round, students were able to practice with Symmetry, Telling a Story and Math. After each activity, we paused so students could share their work and what they discovered during the activity.  

Students just recently learned about symmetry and had mixed ability to transfer their learning to their drawings. Some pairs came up with ideas right away. In talking through their drawings, they demonstrated quality reflection and were even able to discuss as a whole group which heart in the drawing to the left showed more symmetry.

This activity allowed for some evaluation of student learning and provided a fun way to reinforce the concept.  After practice and discussion, many more students were exploring the idea of symmetry.

The students also struggled some with the idea of creating a story in the beginning. As a group we discussed that they could show the different things that happened in their school day. After some discussion and modeling, I think the students would be able to repeat the activity in a more independent way. This would be good for having them retell the beginning, middle and end of a story using drawings and verbal retelling.

We ran out of time to fully complete the math activity. This might be more realistic to practice with teacher created templates, but I did like to see the creative thinking that went into developing the problems. 


You can evaluate a student's work in centers in a number of different ways. I used IPEVO Whiteboard app and the Apple TV to mirror the students' work on the smartboard and record it in one motion (video above). Students could use the IPEVO app to do the same thing, or they could take a video of their retelling and share it on a Flipgrid, through Seesaw or on Schoology.
As a wrap up I asked the kids which activity they liked best. It may go without saying, but many of them preferred the free time to explore. The rest of the activities were a bit of a tossup with the symmetry activity possibly edging the others out some.

If you want some more ideas for using Ozobots in your class, check out the Ozoblog.

You might also want to check out "5 Ideas for Implementing Ozobots" from Talkin Pinata Teaching. 

Want to add some engineering or creative fun to the mix? Encourage students to design an attachment for the ozobot to drag along with it or to create a costume for the ozobot that they could then write about. 

Need help?  Let me know!