Thursday, September 21, 2017

Bloxels with Fractions

  By now all of you savvy educators are well aware of what Bloxels are, and I am super proud to be a Bloxels Ambassador.  In case you aren't familiar with Bloxels and how they can impact your classroom, let me introduce you to my favorite curriculum collaborator!  

Yes!  You are reading the logo right... a program that lets you build your own video games.  This educator values the fact that it is hands on and technology!  Most of the graphics on my page today come from the Bloxels webpage, but some are my own.  Creations by imagination.  

If you are not familiar with Bloxels or how it works I recommend visiting their website HERE.    

The amazing Bloxels website contains a huge amount of information such as the Bloxels blog, how it works, where to buy it, and even educator lesson plans.  Let me tell you how my Bloxels journey began:

One day I stumbled into a Barnes and Noble with my family and there was a Maker Faire going on.  I couldn't believe my luck!  If you've never been to a Maker Faire you are missing out.  There are tons of cool hands on things to do and create and of course technology to play with.  Barnes and Noble was showcasing 3d printers, pens, robots, coding, and Bloxels.  I fell in love and was so excited to play with it my sweet husband bought it for me and I was hooked.  Let me start by saying I had in the back of my teacher's brain a thought for how I could use it in the classroom, but the giddy girl in me was excited about my new toy!!

I did not waste anytime playing on Bloxels and working at creating my own video game.  I grew up in the land of the original Mario Brothers and this was right up my alley.  I couldn't wait to show it off to my students.  

In the beginning I used Bloxels as a reward tool for students who I knew were having behavioral issues.  I wanted to use something that they could exercise their imaginations with and work with their critical thinking skills on.  I definitely needed it to be not only educational, but engaging.  My dreams soon outgrew my one single Bloxels set and I began considering what I could do with this educational tool if I had more than one.  

Soon I became a Bloxels Ambassador because I wanted to be involved in this wonderful product in any way I could.  Not long afterwards, the great folks over at Bloxels had a contest for educators willing to submit their lesson plans that involved the use of Bloxels and I couldn't resist.  Today I'm going to share that with you, and it goes without saying that I can't wait until we start working on fractions in my classroom this year!

Bloxels has a character named "Ugly Sweater Kitty".  It is colorful, it is cute, and it is the first thing that I built.  When I teach fractions I want to engage my students in things they understand to make fractions come alive.  Fractions are a very abstract concept for the age group that I teach, especially when uncommon denominators are considered.  

Here is how the lesson works:

I have students build "Ugly Sweater Kitty" and give me the color fractional representations.  For example, the Kitty above has 2/73 yellow blocks, 31/73 blue blocks, 16/73 pink blocks, 15/73 purple blocks, and 9/73 white blocks.  There are other versions of the Kitty that give a different denominator of course, but for the example this will work.  

When students are comfortable with how to build the kitty and understand what I mean by fractional representations we make observations related to the fractions and pictures they have built.  For instance could I simplify any of my picture?  Obviously in the one above I can't because 73 is a prime number, but how about the sweater?  It took 30 blocks to make the sweater so that would mean 15/30 are pink on the sweater and 15/30 are purple on the sweater?  Can this be simplified?  When the fraction is simplified to 1/2, how do the fractions differ?  How are they the same?  The key is getting your students to think critically about what they see and how denominators differ but the picture doesn't. 

 * original character design

Next I issue a challenge to my students.  Build their own character.  They will need to build a character on their own using at least 4 different colored blocks.  This character has to be something other than what can be found in the Bloxels brochures.  They need to write the fractions that represent their pictures the same way we did Ugly Sweater Kitty.  Can their fractions be simplified?  Does that mean their character changed?  

This activity is a precursor to building a game.  They are starting with their characters in this exercise.  My overarching goal is to get them thinking about fractions.  They are looking at fraction equivalency and the relationships between numerators and denominators.  I find this is a critical thinking concept connecting exercise, and I think it will be a great way to start a fraction unit.  

Of course, incorporating building a game in the fractions unit will be next!  Tell me what you think about this introductory activity!

* original character design

Friday, September 23, 2016

Maker Space! Near Pod! Class Flow! Tech OH MY!

     It has been a busy busy time since my last post!  Summer was filled with lots of great PD, brainstorming for a more innovative year, and some continuing education.  I spent my summer working on my STEM Education Certification through Texas A & M University.  We dove right in with a course on student centered learning environments and project based learning.  This really catapulted what I was already doing within my district.  I am in my districts cohort for project based learning and flipped classroom, so taking this course helped me prepare for the cohort and my classroom as well.  I also went to CAMT (Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching) this summer with my fellow teachers in San Antonio, TX and really focused on hands-on mathematics.

I also attended training for the newest Promethean boards and a great emerging software program called Class Flow.  I will post about Class Flow separately as there is so much to talk about!

     At the start of school, I found out that I was selected as a grant recipient for my school from the Marshall Education Foundation and the funds will be used to establish a Maker Space on my campus.  Now we fast forward to the 5th week of school and I'm still working at Texas A&M on my certification while teaching.  I was sad to have my Promethean Board moved out of the classroom, but since I knew it was coming, I focused on how to keep my students TECH happy!  As a STEM and math teacher, it isn't only about the math.  I'll give you a hint, it still involves Class Flow, and the incorporation of NearPod as well.

    Stay tuned this year to see how Projects are incorporated, STEM is running rampant, and our tech is getting better and better!  What are you doing this year??

Thursday, April 7, 2016


     I got some great news today strolling through the faculty lounge.  I saw I had some items in my teacher box and found a letter from AEP the power company.  I'm sure the secretaries were wondering why I would get my power bill sent to school!  But.. I opened it to see an awesome letter notifying me that I had been chosen for a grant I applied for call the Teacher Vision Grant.  I'm sure for many teachers out there, it isn't that big of a deal, but for me WOO HOO!  Man I am thrilled!

My grant is for $500 for STEM/STEAM use.  What I am doing is going to be so much fun for the kids.  I used the grant to purchase an iPad mini, a protective case, an iPod touch, and a View Master virtual reality viewer.  My students are going to be making Aurasma's to turn our stagnant word wall into an augmented reality word wall.  Students will be making videos explaining the mathematical words and even solving problems for each word.  Students who are having trouble remembering a concept will be able to go back to the word wall and use a 3D viewer with iPod to scan the word they need help with and watch a video.

I am so excited about this project for my kids.  It will enable them to immerse themselves in learning and teaching others.  What is going on with your classroom?  I know it is near the end of the year, but what an amazing year it has been!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Chromebook Drama

   First let me start out this post by saying, this is somewhat of a rant, and somewhat of a timeline that I've been through to find new things, cool things, and in some cases I may have bitten off more than I can chew!

   I've been blessed to work at schools with plenty of technology, but not all technology is created equal.  More recently my challenge is making the Chromebook compatible with all the STEM projects I want to do for my students.  Recently we embarked on a Zoo creation project.  Students have spent the last few weeks researching zoos, animals, and habitats.  My ultimate goal was have students create a habitat using SketchUp and put that 3D habitat into a playground using the software Playing Mondo.  It is a bit of an ambitious project, but the student will be able to do so much with the Playing Mondo (PM) software as time goes by that I knew I wanted to try everything I could.  Enter the dragon... or Chromebook in my case.

   First... most programs that are compatible with PM aren't compatible with the Chromebook.  For instance, SketchUp works wonderfully with Windows, Mac, and I believe even Linux... but not with Chromebook.  I found a way to navigate this process which has taken some genius work with our IT department, but it still isn't in place.  What I proposed was that SketchUp be downloaded to a server and the students be given remote access to that server.  Imagine my surprise when IT said that it was possible.  The only downer is that IT is trying to figure out how to not give students access to the other items on that server.  So I sit and wait.

   Then another amazing idea popped in my head.  I decided to take a look at other 3d generation programs that might be compatible with PM, and ran across a program called Blender.  Well of course, it isn't Chromebook compatible, but I happened across an amazing YouTube video that made me realize, I can make this work!

As a matter of fact using "Roll App" it is doable and there are so many more apps coming within the program, that this may be a really useful tool in the future.  Then I noticed... WOW, this is really technical for 5th graders!  It may be time to scale down my daydream and put into practice a really cool reality that won't frustrate my students!

    Some things I've learned:

1.  Get a great list of Chromebook shortcuts (it is a necessity).  You can pretty much google this and come up with all kinds of resources.

2.  Once you have a great project idea, check to see if it will be Chromebook Compatible... I'm having a hard time finding a whole lot that is.

3.  If it isn't Chromebook compatible, get creative with your searches.  Chances are a hacker has figured out how to make it work.  You just want to be careful that it isn't a hack that is so technical your kids can't accomplish it.

Man I love my job!  What will I learn next?

Care to share your expertise?  I would love to hear about your experiences.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Teaching with Google

Teaching with a lot of tech is a huge goal I have for my Math/STEM classroom.  The importance isn't just to say I'm using technology, but to bring real 21st Century skills into the learning environment while I'm still ensuring growth in my content area by covering my state mandated standards.  It doesn't matter what your state standards are, technology in the classroom is a must.

Currently I am working on training with Google.  They have a really great program for teachers to get free professional development, and when you are done, you can be a certified Google for Education expert.  If you are on Twitter, you check out Google for Education's page and follow it.

A really cool thing I learned today:

Icognito Windows for Chrome - Who knew that you could make what you are doing private on a public computer!?  I sure did not.

Whether you consider yourself tech savvy or a beginner, these are really great tutorials to learn about Google tech in the classroom.  In addition earning professional development credit is a benefit to every teacher.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Google Expedition Charged My Learning!

Our school was selected to participate in Google Expeditions.  How awesome for a small East Texas school to be visited by a tech giant and chosen to participate.  Let's be honest, if you google "Google Expeditions" you will see that they have been all over letting schools test out their new app, but they are all schools in big cities.  We were so lucky to have such an amazing district STEM coordinator that is always looking out for exciting STEM opportunities for our students.  During the expeditions, my students used View Master Virtual Reality viewers with cell phone devices.


I was excited, my kids wanted to do everything even though we only had a 20 minute window per class.  I knew I needed to check into this more.

December:  I had visited the View Master website and of course checked out how I could get one of these off of Amazon.  And then I just let it drop back into the back of my brain as teachers tend to do when testing comes up, grades, and content area takes over... did I mention I have kids of my own and a life outside of school?  December 22nd I'm shopping in a Kohl's department store of all places, and what do I spy on the shelf... My very own view master!  Of course I bought it.  Of course I played with it.  Of course it was the hit of every Christmas party we went to, and I needed to learn more.  So when I'm not googling questions, I'm on Pinterest doing it... LOVE me some Pinterest.  So as I'm digging, I see the term augmented reality again and then everything went crazy.

Now:  I reached out to some amazing educators and leaders in the technology development community.  Check out their twitters ;)  (@karenogen @dacia92 and website )  I am in the process of learning everything I can to rush for some exciting classroom developments when we head back to school in January.

Goal:  I would like to use an app called Aurasma to turn my stationary word wall into an Augmented Reality education station for my students.  Could you imagine definitions coming to life and seeing the math problems worked so students can see these definitions as real life instead of just words and theories?  As smart as I think I am, I know my students will blow away anything I could think of doing, can you imagine what they could create with this?  That of course is only goal number 1.

I am a big believer in evolving the way we teach and reach our students.  YES the fundamentals are very important, but so is immersing them in a world that they will graduate from our school into.  So, if you are on the same journey, or even passed where I am now, please share your experiences. I would love to hear!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Let the "In-Service" Begin!

Every year when students are counting those days left of summer time fun, teachers are going back early.  We have to get our classrooms ready and of course training.  Tons and tons and tons of training.  In fact, I've started my training 3 weeks before students come back to school and MAN am I learning a lot!  We just got done with some fabulous STEM training done be Dacia Jones (@dacia92 if you twitter) from Durham, NC public schools.  I encourage you to check out her blog over at Discovery Education HERE 

Like many STEM conferences we learned about cool projects we could try out with our students, but she also helped to facilitate and grow our little STEM program that for 5th graders is in its infancy.  She organized and helped us get lab coats, helped us with grant writing, gave us great resources and information, and did it with an energetic happy smile everyday regardless of the tech difficulties we sometimes hit (WIFI issues blah!)  That was amazing week number 1!

On to week 2 and it begins, the all teacher "in-service" where you learn about logins and rules and protocols.  Today alone I learned how to log into 8 different systems, and was told there are several more to come!  Add that to trying to work up 2 weeks worth of lesson plans, and let's just say, the school year has definitely begun.

Since this is my first year in a public school I've got a learning curve.  I've been exposed to private school children and private school ways for 3 years now.  One thing I learned today: Buy as many extra supplies as you can afford on your teacher salary.  Many of these children won't have them, and the school won't have anything to give you either!  WHAT!  No supplies???  It is a very sad yet true problems many school children in our country face.  I would be interested in learning about what programs your community has in place to help teachers and their students with this cost.  Please feel free to shout it out!

Tomorrow, I have PDAS training.  Basically its the system Texas uses to do your professional evaluations.  Does this really take a full day though???  Apparently yes :(  My calendar says I will be doing this until 4PM.  Prayers would be greatly appreciated.  Until I can jump on here again, I wish all teachers, New and Returning a fabulous school year!