Tale 1: Teaching Kids to Code with Scratch and LEGO
After meeting Stacey Bernier through the DLCoach meetings, I asked him to help with getting started using Scratch, a free program available from MIT. The IT person at my school imaged our laptops with version 1.4 (the offline version to save bandwidth). I discovered that the LEGO WEDO motors work with Scratch 1.4 programming. Over the past couple of years, a colleague and I have been using Scratch to teach kids to code. We have several intermediate student helpers come in on a regular basis to help kids troubleshoot their programming. We’ve now started a primary Robotics Club that uses Scratch to operate motors and sensors from the LEGO WEDO kits our PAC purchased last year. This has proven to be a reasonably inexpensive way to teach preliminary robotics. The students are excited and have learned how to make the motors move and create variables for time and power. We are looking forward to delving into programming the tilt and distance sensors with the sensing blocks and operators in Scratch.
Tale 2: Supporting Staff with using iPads
To encourage Learning with Technology, our school purchased 15 iPad Mini 3’s last year to use as offline technology for the primary classrooms. The focus has become how to best support and encourage these teachers in using these tools for learning. Although the iPad apps used are offline apps, I have been determining how students can share their work through email or Airdrop/Dropbox and how to manage iPads in a classroom when it is difficult to display the screen through Airplay. We’ve developed a sign-out process for the iPads and our IT person has been helpful in explaining how Apple Configurator works. Our staff is unsure whether or not to group the iPads under Configurator or continue to load all apps on the ipads with bulk purchases. I’m finalizing a list of primary grade apps for the newest imaging of the iPads which will also include some intermediate apps for the older grades.
Recently primary staff has been attending Pro-D focused on using iPads to support learning. There is a growing excitement about creating Centers using iPad apps. I will now be focusing on this with my DLCoach days! I will also make myself available to the intermediates for coaching focusing on Numeracy and how to share files.
General notes on iPads:
- The Here’s How Weebly site has been an incredible resource in our search for good apps.
- The DL blog entry from RE Mountain was a terrific starting point for understanding management and control of apps and iPads within the school.
- If an app is free, users are limited and options for resetting levels are not available. Also, most apps with sharing limit formats and file types relying on online uploads to their server (a bandwidth issue)
- Our school purchased screen covers for the iPads (OtterBox style) with a rubber outer cover. The new iOS8 has the control panel for Airplay on the bottom of the screen, which is now difficult to access with the front screen protector that has a ridge where you swipe up.
- Airdrop isn’t compatible with different iOS versions. With wireless transfer of data already an issue at our school and this compatibility issue, we cannot use Airdrop to share work.
- Regardless of our challenges, iPads are a great tool for use as math and reading skills are reinforced through the use of the camera, QR reader, ebook reader,etc.