Tech Badges Program Year 2 Successful Start

#edtech #atomiclearning  

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Well the kids came back to school and the new and revised tech badges program is up and running smoothly. The kids are excited at the possibilities of earning the tech badges that interest them, after they have earned the required ones, of course.

A few changes for this year:

- I now only hand out badges once a month. So on the last week of each month they get the badges they have earned that past month. Handing them out as they earned them was too disruptive to the class.

- Also on the last week of the month I allow students to work on projects that are one level up from where they currently are. This is to help some of my students that are stuck in a rut -- usually with keyboarding. This once a month chance to work on other projects gives them the motivation they need to kick it into gear and get to the next level.

- I have moved all of my lessons onto the Atomic Learning servers. The students now log-in and get right to work with everything in one place. I would say about 75% of my content is from AL, with the other 25% my own video that I have uploaded to their "custom training" side of things. The nice thing about Atomic Learning is that it is reliable and safe. Sending kids to YouTube for video tutorials can be risky at best. I have had videos that start off nice (on Excel formulas) but the person then drops the F-Bomb about half way through it when a formula doesn't work how he wanted it to. With AL videos I never need to worry about it.

So far so good with this year's launch. Next week they will work on their own badges, so keep your fingers crossed and we'll see how that turns out.

More updates to come...

Brad Flickinger Tech Teacher Bethke Elementary School, Colorado

The iPad mini and the Common Core Standards

#edtech #mlearning #ipaded

So unless you have been living under a rock (cue old GEICO ad), if you're an educator then you've been hearing a lot of fuss over the adoption of the Common Core Standards, and if you're connected to technology like myself, then you have been waiting for today for the launch of the yet un-named iPad Mini.

But what on earth do the two have in common?

This morning I started my daily churn of the edtech news by reading about Atomic Learning's new program for addressing tech components of the Common Core standards. Which comes on the heals of an article I read in Edudemic magazine on the same subject. Now you combine this with the news that Apple's introduction of the much-rumored iPad Mini press event today will focus on this new iPad and education then you might have some connections.

Although I believe that much of the iPad Mini and education connection today will focus on iBooks and pricing, I am holding on to the hope that the iPad Mini will be a great publishing tool, much like it's bigger brother.

You see, much to do to with Common Core standards and technology centers around students being able to publish their writings, through blogs, wikis, podcasts and such. But I also hope that today we see some changes with the iBooks Author. For example, I hope that students can publish directly from their iPads and not need to use a computer like with the current iBooks Author. Come on Apple let's publish iBooks from our iPads, computers are so pre-iPads.

So with fingers crossed and my breath held, I wait for today's Apple event.

 

 

 

Harnessing the Power of Autonomy

#edtech #edchat

One of my favorite books is Daniel Pink's Drive: the Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. And speaking of motivation, I was movitated to read his book after watching the animation of a talk he gave. I must have watched that video three or four times before getting online and ordering his book, and after devoring his book my mind kept thinking, "How can I use these ideas in my classroom?"

One of the real big things that stuck in my mind was the idea of autonomy -- or having the freedom to choose how we do something. He explains how this can be one of the biggest reasons why people succeed at a given task. The problem was that when I went back through my lesson plans I didn't see any autonomy for my students. Every one of them were step-by-step tech projects. So over the summer I started to revamp some of my lessons to include student autonomy.

Take for example my fourth grade U.S. Constitution Podcast project. The original lesson plan was very rigid on how students were suppose to do things. But after my autonomy re-do I had changed a few parts to "student choice." Students were now free to choose to do their podcast on whatever part of the Constitution they chose rather than being assigned. They then were free to choose their own characters and story line.

I have to admit, it was a little more chaotic to watch them work on this project, and at first they were lost with this new found freedom. "So I can do my podcast on anything I want?" But once they got used to a little "structured" freedom they did way better this year on the project.

If creativity is a 21st Century Skill that we want our students to develop, then how could they possible develop this skill without the freedom to choose for themselves how they do certain parts of a project? So take a chance and add a few elements of autonomy to your lessons, cross your fingers, give a little guidance and advice and then be prepared to be shocked by what your students do.

U.S. Constitution Team 3

 

 

 

FLL Tips & Tricks Number 3: Registering Your FLL Team for a Local Challenge

#edchat #edtech #elemchat

What is the use of having a First LEGO League (FLL) team if you do not compete in a competition, right? Plus you need to place well in a local competition to be able to move on to national and international competitions.

But before you run off and sign up your newly formed team to just any competition be aware that there are some "non-qualifying" competitions, kind of like exhibition-matches and not "real" competitions. If you sign up for and win one of these, well that is nice and all, but it won't get you into a state competition and on to nationals. So I don't sign up for these, for me FLL is about teaching young students how to have fun and be competitive, and I want my students to move on if they happen to win.

So with that said, look for a local FLL "qualifying" competition and register with it. There are so many FLL teams where I live here in Northern Colorado that some teams are bumped to compete in farther away qualifiers because our local one is just too full. So I try to register as early as I can and cross my fingers that we get accepted. Since this is a "qualifying" event, if we place well, we go on to the state competition in Denver that is usually three weeks later (usually the second weekend in December). We usually pay $75 a team to be in the competition plus the cost of t-shirts (additional $8/student).

I am usually confirmed with my registrations into local qualifiers by September 20th.

- Brad Flickinger, Bethke Elementary School

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Summer 2011 To Do List

#edtech #elearning #elemchat I got into teaching for a number of different reasons, one of which was to have my summers off to lay around and do nothing. I have been teaching for over 13 years and I never had a summer off, but I keep my fingers crossed that one summer it will happen.

Instead, like many teachers I spend my summers getting ready for the following school year. I revise lessons, attend conferences and training and basically spend every day trying to be better at what I do -- teach children technology.  

Training

Being a tech teacher I have the added pressure of keeping up with new technology. I never want my work to be stale so I spend a lot of time each summer learning how to do something new with technology. So I am sure that I will be stending a lot of time in my Atomic Learning account learning some new tech skills from their tutorials and workshops. This summer I plan on learning how to do stop-frame animation so that I can teach my students how to animate LEGO next fall. http://www.brickfilms.com/

Reading

This summer I plan to read two books; The Death and Life of the Great American School by Diane Revitch and Teach like a Champion by Doug Lemov.

Conferences

PODSTOCK: Although I have never attended before, I am really looking forward to attending this smaller conference. I think that these people are most like who I am or who I want to be as a tech teacher. http://podstock.ning.com/

ISTE: This is the big one and this year it is in Philly. Although I love most everything about this big daddy of edtech conferences, what I really like about ISTE actually takes place the day before. It is called EduBloggerCon and it where I get to rub shoulders with other people who do what I do. Blogger and podcasters that are the Who's Who of educational technology. http://www.edubloggercon.com/EduBloggerCon+2011

Who knows, maybe next summer will be the one that I will take off and relax, meanwhile I will continue my pursuit of better edtech lessons for my students.