Tuesday, November 8, 2016

DASH as an Ambassador -Student Feature: Jacob Pyska

Jacob is a fourth grade student in Elaina Aponte’s self-contained classroom at West Pine Elementary.  Jacob is first and foremost a lover of robotics and technology.  Jacob has autism and because of this is very shy and has a hard time in social settings, including school.  That is until recently.  Jacob’s mother, Jeannie, had a goal she set for her son: to be able to walk into school independently without her walking beside him. At the beginning of the year mom would circle the parking lot a few times, giving her son a pep talk and would ultimately end up walking him in.  Mrs. Aponte and I put our heads together and thought we could use Dash as a way to entice Jacob to come into the building on his own.  Dash would greet Jacob at the door and Mrs. Aponte would let him take on the role of the ‘programmer’ and he would code him to get back to class.  Within about a month, Jacob now comes in school and doesn’t want his mother’s help at all. He tells his mother in the parking lot “I can do this!” When Dash is working in other classes on STEM infused lessons, Jacob walks to the classes he is in to check on him.
According to Mrs. Aponte, “Dash was able to give Jacob confidence and independence.  Jacob is proud of himself and that makes me happy.”

“Jacob has been a student here for three years and has grown leaps and bounds.  This robot has given him purpose and something to be excited about each day.”- Lisa Epling, Assistant Principal

Dash is programmable robot that is great for students as young as kindergarten to learn the basics of coding and programming. It is really exciting how much this little robot has helped this student in such a huge way! Recently, the Public Ed Foundation of Moore County awarded a grant to myself and Clint Rogers and we were able to purchase 14 Dash robots and iPads so that he may have an impact on learning in classrooms all over Moore County.  

Friday, November 4, 2016

A New Way to Engage: Using Video Creation Tools in the Classroom

Teachers often struggle to engage students when teaching concepts that are, quite frankly, boring.  We have all taught lessons that we knew the students would not enjoy, but are an essential part of the conceptual framework of the subject, so skipping the lesson was simply not an option.  Why not transform these boring lessons into fun, engaging lessons by integrating video creation tools!

Why Video Presentations?
Using video creation tools provides a platform for all students to demonstrate their understanding of a concept in their own unique way.  By providing the opportunity for students to be creative with their video, engagement increases exponentially which leads to a better understanding of the once "boring" concept.

One common fear that teachers have about using technology in their classroom is that it will shift the students' focus from the subject content to the digital tool being used.  Good news!  Video creation provides a content-centered approach to learning.  Students must first have a solid understanding of the concept being taught before creating a video presentation that displays their understanding of the concept.  This allows video creating to integrate seamlessly into any lesson across any subject.

The Tools
Students at New Century Middle School have used video creation tools for a variety of projects across many different subjects.  Here are the tools they used along with their finished products:

Touchcast (iPad and iPhone)
This tool is free and includes a variety of effects including green screen, virtual whiteboard, unique sounds, and many other virtual apps (called vApps).  Students used Touchcast to create videos discussing economic issues in social studies.  They researched an economic issue in America, then created a video to present their findings and give their opinion on how to fix this particular issue.

WeVideo (web-based)
WeVideo is a web-based tool that allows you to easily edit video clips from your computer.  This is a great tool for students who are using Chromebooks.  Students used WeVideo to create videos for Red Ribbon Week detailing the dangers of taking prescription drugs.  This particular video won second place in a drug prevention video contest.

Splice (iPad and iPhone)
The easiest of the tools to use, Spice allows you to create videos using pictures and video clips from your device.  Because of it's ease of use, minimal class time is needed to teach students how to use the tool.  This particular student used Spice to create a digital "book report" on a novel they read in class.  

The Bottom Line
The next time you are looking to increase student engagement during a lesson that is far from exciting, have your students create a video presentation.  Then watch in amazement as your students create digital masterpieces that helps boost engagement and leads to content mastery.