Minecraft: Cityscapers is a Go!

Yesterday, I held the second meeting of Minecraft: Cityscapers. I have changed things around this year with running a club in general. I took a max of 20 kids, due to space and licensing issues, but also because it makes management and grouping a lot easier. I had students fill out interest forms, and then drew names from a bucket, taking 20 students. I knew there would be many unhappy students, but with my distance from the school, once a week is all I can really do for meetings.

This year, I have also developed more of a curriculum and lesson. I knew I would need general lessons before we started on the main goal of the club, which is to build a gigantic city. I prepared a Google Classroom for this task. I wrote up a basic lesson format for club meetings. It’s not strict or lengthy, but it is flexible and follows a set pattern:

  • Take attendance
  • Review previous week
  • Lesson
  • Google Classroom instructions
  • Minecraft
  • Google Classroom reflection question

I planned out my basic introduction for the first meeting, which was similar to that of my workshops – build a realistic home. I wanted to see building skills. We wouldn’t really start anything new that meeting because it would be hectic enough getting everything started and going.

Well, I was certainly right. Things did not go as planned, and they were rough. Because I didn’t assign the students seats right off, I couldn’t log them into their computers. Instead, I waited until they arrived to log in. That wasn’t a problem, but the issue came signing into Minecraft. For whatever reason, the school computers have issues signing into an account. It seems to get worse after school lets out. We avoided this issue last year with a shared account, since so many students were in the club and were coming every other week.

That issue probably created more chaos than I would have liked. We did what we could, but only 10 of the students were able to be on at a time because the rest of the accounts wouldn’t log in. It was not a happy time, but we made it through. I had written down where each student had sat, so I knew I’d be able to log them in before the club meeting the next time and hopefully avoid this issue, just as I had last year.

In addition, I had a couple of students who wanted to test my expectations. I wasn’t happy, but knew I’d need to stick to my guns on this one. After the meeting, I developed a Code of Honor for the club. It’s basically just a fancy title for the club expectations, and the students sign at the bottom. It lists the consequences of not following, and repeatedly not following means being kicked out of the club. I don’t want to have to ever do it, but I want the students to know that they have consequences for their actions.

I did my usual planning for the next lesson, and began laying out the activities for the topic of the meeting: color theory. The day of the meeting, I decided to change the room we had been using. I had been using a lab, the same from last year’s club. While the layout of the computers was nice, it lacked a projector and a board to write on. I switched to a different lab instead so that I could project my work, and have the white board just in case.

With all of those things in place, I started the second meeting. Things went much more smoothly this time around. We took the attendance, I went over the Code of Honor, and then we settled in to work. I was amazing that the students stayed on task so well, and they worked very hard. We were able to pretty much finish everything we had started that day. Some of the students asked if they could free build sometime, so I have decided to work that into our meetings as well.

Check out some of our work from yesterday:

When we don’t have club days, I leave the server open to the students. Only about 4 students have personal accounts, and they like to get on and build. This is fine with me. I logged in last night to check on the day’s work and to take images for documentation. One of the students happened to be on, and he wanted to show me his work. He told me his plans and ideas. Everything came from his imagination, and he thought it was easy for anyone to do. He soon had to log off, and so I took screenshots of the things that had been built on free time. Our chat gave me a glimpse into the student’s head, and if anything were to ever arise, there are always chat logs kept on the server.

I am now thinking ahead to the next meeting. I am thinking about starting shapes, but I also think I want to explore color some more, and so may also work with color palette selection to add to what they’ve already done. I will think some more on it before deciding for certain.

In the meantime, check out some of the free build work:

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Fluco Toolbox: VideoNot.es

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever wanted your students to watch and video and take notes at the same time, on the same screen? Before, you had to make sure they had pencil and paper, or were competent in switching between the video tab and the notes tab. Not anymore!

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: VideoNot.es

First, the basics:

Name: VideoNot.es
URL: http://www.videonot.es
Cost: FREE
Problem this tool solves: Allows students to take notes on a video on the same screen as the video, tracking the time in the video where the note is taken, AND syncs the notes to Google Drive for later viewing.

VideoNot.es is a tool that allows users to take notes to a video, and the notes are timed with the video. If you’re a Google Drive user, you have an extra benefit – VideNot.es will save your notes directly to your Google Drive for later viewing. This tool works with videos from Coursera, Udacity, edX, Khan Academy, vimeo, and YouTube.

If you’re a G Suite school or a Google Drive user in general, first you’ll want to sign-in. VideoNot.es will request to connect to your account so that it is able to sync and save notes to your Drive. You’ll need to sign in each time, but after giving those first permissions, it’s just one click of a button and done.

Next, you’ll need to retrieve the URL of the video you wish to take notes on. Paste it into the box on the left side of the screen, and a smaller version of the video will appear. That’s it! Then you can easily take notes on the right side of the screen, and Videonot.es tracks the time in the video where you began to make the note. This makes it a handy reference to refer back to later on.

Screenshot 2017-08-18 at 9.32.04 AM.png

Once finished, you can give your notes a title, export them to Evernote (if you’re a user), or save them directly to your Drive. If you have the sync button turned on, everything is saved for you automatically. You can also open previous notes as well. Would you like to share your notes with others? No problem. The share button makes that easy. It will load the same Share screen you see in Drive, and you can input the email addresses that you wish to share the notes with.

Resources

Need a visual? Check out this tutorial from YouTube:

 

Fluco Toolbox image created by Stephanie King (Fan) for this series. Please do not use without permission.

Focusing with Music

As I began this year, I was introduced to an article that suggested different Pandora music stations for teachers to use in the classroom. Some of them I had heard of before in my rounds on Twitter, but I’d never actually tried any of them. I read through the article, and then sent it on to teachers at both of my schools. I got some responses back and thank yous. I then began my year.

I quickly found out that once again I was having trouble focusing on staying on task. I dealt with this last year, so it wasn’t new to me. Last year involved having small snacks on hand to deal with the tiredness that might have crept over me. I didn’t want to do that again this year. I remembered the article and pulled up my first choice for a station – Lindsey Stirling Radio. I love Lindsey, and the station was great, but I found I’d be pulled out of the moment when it played one of her more current songs that had lyrics to it. I became more distracted as the song was sang.

Eventually, I switched to the Beats for Studying station, and that is the one I have stuck with ever since. In the weeks I have been listening, only one song has come across that had very soft lyrics, and they were in another language. I have fallen in love with the different string quartets that cover popular songs, such as the Vitamin String Quartet and the Dallas String Quartet. I have used the station at work and at home, and even at the gym for background as I walked and read my Kindle. I have gone so far as to find the songs on Amazon Prime music and download them to my phone so I can have them offline. (Amazon Prime music is free, but you can’t download on a PC).

Since I don’t have a real office at the middle school on the days that I’m there, I am instead in one of the computer labs. Sometimes, a teacher will need extra space to test a few students. On one such day, this teacher came in and asked if she might test a couple of kids. I asked if she needed my music off, and she said no, it wasn’t necessary.

I hardly paid attention after that. I worked, and as I did two students entered to test. The one boy had the teacher with him, and she sat with him as he worked. Both students finished and left, as did the teacher. I was then surprised when the teacher returned to talk to me. I learned that the boy was a student who could not sit still to test, and was easily distracted by the smallest of things. Even when he was pulled into a separate room, he had trouble staying focused and on task.

However, this time, he actually was able to test without so much fidgeting or distraction. He didn’t have to be reminded often to continue to work, or to not be distracted by whatever object he could find to focus on. He simply worked on his test and finished as he was supposed to do. She was amazed and surprised. I explained to her about the music station and why I listened to it. I thought that would be the end of things, and I got back to work on my projects.

Nope, not the end of things. His regular classroom teacher was the next one to visit me, and she demanded to know what the radio station happened to be. She wanted this student to be able to work and focus, and if she had to load up the station on the student’s computer and plug in headphones, she would. I laughed and explained it to her, later forwarding on the article about the different music stations so she would be able to look into it herself.

Music isn’t going to be the answer for everyone, but for some, it’s a great answer, and certainly worth looking into. If you’re interested in the article I am referring to, you can find it here. It has many different stations recommended by teachers.

Fluco Toolbox: Pixabay

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever wanted to find free clipart and images for use that didn’t require credit or copyright permissions? Did you ever want to be able to find the images and clipart in various sizes?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Pixabay

First, the basics:

Name: Pixabay
URL: http://www.pixabay.com
Cost: FREE
Problem this tool solves: Copyright-free clipart/images to utilize in documents, lessons, social media, and more.

Pixabay is a website that provides images and clipart free of copyright under Creative Commons CC0. The images can be used as one wishes, without having to give any attributions or credit.  Each image is offered in three different sizes for ease of use. An account is free to create for the site. The best reason to create an account is so that when you are logged in, you aren’t asked to always enter a captcha when downloading the larger image sizes.

Screenshot 2017-05-25 at 9.38.10 AM

Pixabay’s homepage. The background image will be different each time the page is loaded.

Searching Pixabay is relatively simple. On the homepage, simply enter the search terms for the images that you are seeking. It is best to keep your terms simple, as results are based on how the artists and photographers have tagged the images.

Screenshot 2017-05-25 at 9.51.47 AM.png

Here is an example of a search for “siamese cats”. At the time you’ll see ads for paid images. These have a watermark on them. Simply ignore them and scroll down to view the free images.

Once you find an image that you like, click on it. You’ll be shown the image in a larger size. There will also be information about the author, related images, and detailed technical information about the image itself. You can favorite the image, share it, and provide comments. A green “Free Download” button is visible to the right of the image. When this is clicked on, three different image sizes for download will become available.

Screenshot 2017-05-25 at 10.34.14 AM.png

Here’s what your screen will look like once you’ve selected an image. Simply click the “Free Download” button to see the different size options.

Click any of the size options to download. Here is where the difference of having an account comes into play. If you don’t have an account, you will be able to download the small size without any captcha popping up, but anything larger will show a captcha that needs completed before the image can be downloaded. If you have an account, you can click any size and not have to worry about the captcha.

The image downloads to whatever you have set the default location to be on your computer. For many, this is the “Downloads” folder. Once you’ve got the image though, you’re set!

Resources

If you need some visual tutorials, check out these YouTube videos for guidance:

 

Fluco Toolbox image created by Stephanie King (Fan) for this series. Please do not use without permission.

PD Resource: Passwords 101 Lesson

I have been overseeing one of our governor’s school students as part of her community service. Emily seeks to work in cyber security in the future, and part of her project involves community service. We teamed up so that she could teach other teachers about the basics involved with cyber security through 30 minute professional development sessions. Her first lesson is on passwords.

Name: Passwords 101
Creator: This lesson was designed by BRVGS student Emily. I oversaw her work and creation, but the ideas inside are entirely hers.
Description: This lesson shows the audience how to create a secure password using a simple algorithm. Learners will be able to strength test their old passwords, determine the characteristics of good/bad passwords, and create their own sample password based on the presented algorithm

Passwords 101 Lesson

Feedback is appreciated. @tisinaction on Twitter or comment here!

 

Student Designed Cyber Security PD for Teachers

For the past couple of weeks I have been working with a BRVGS student named Emily. Emily is a senior working on her final project for the governor’s school program, and one part of the project involves community service. She is interested in the cyber security field, and so her lead teacher suggested she team up with me, as I teach professional development to other teachers. Her goal for her service is to design and teach lessons on cyber security issues that teachers and others face online

I’ve been very pleased with the team up so far, as Emily is a very hard working student. I showed her how teachers begin to design and plan lessons, and she took to it like a fish to water. She decided the easiest thing to start with would be a lesson on passwords. She did a lot of research, and we narrowed down her ideas to teaching how to create password algorithms for a user. There are many different ways to create an algorithm for this, but Emily had found one that seemed to be pretty easy.

We planned and developed her lesson. She started with a hook that talked about what happens with easy passwords and how one person used this to his advantage with government servers. She has a link to a password strength test website where the audience can test the strength of their old passwords and see how long it might take a hacker to crack them. From there, she works with the audience to identify characteristics of good and bad passwords. With that in mind, she goes over the algorithm step by step, using the example of creating a password for a Google account. The audience then practices by creating a password with the algorithm for Facebook. Finally, she wraps up the lesson and asks a couple of exit questions.

Once she had all of her ideas out and in order, we worked on adding explanations. I wanted her lessons to be able to be understood by anyone looking over them, especially anyone who judges her final BRVGS portfolio. I created a simple lesson plan template for her to use, and she copied and pasted her lesson ideas into that so that things were neat and organized. She then decided to create a handout of the algorithm steps. I had to laminate a couple of copies for her teaching use, and then I also made plain copies so that teachers could take it with them.

It was a lot of work, and I hope she has been able to discover how much work can go into just one lesson plan. She’s enjoyed it though, and she’s ready to begin doing research for her next lesson. Now that she has one lesson plan under her belt, this one might turn out to be a little easier for her.

Though the lesson plan has been finished, Emily is not done just yet. She is gearing up to teach the lesson to teachers. She has practiced with family at home, and has brought a friend to my office space so I could listen as she taught the lesson to the friend. We currently have 1 teacher booked for a lesson in the next couple of weeks, and have some more to ask. Emily is planning to gather feedback from those teachers after each lesson, and I am giving them PD credit for helping out a student.

I hope to provide another update after we have worked with some of the teachers. I know Emily is going to do a great job. I know that I have already learned a lot from her, and I’m hoping other teachers will feel the same way.

Want Emily’s lesson? You can get it here!

 

Fluco Toolbox: ScanQR App

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever wanted your students to be able to scan QR codes for a classroom activity, but had no mobile tablet or smartphones?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: ScanQR

First, the basics:

Name: ScanQR
URL: App Link
Cost: FREE
Problem this tool solves: ScanQR allows students to use the webcam built into their Chromebooks to read QR codes.

ScanQR is a very simple app addition for the Chrome browser. If your students cannot bring in smartphones, or do not have them, ScanQR will utilize the webcam to read a QR code placed in front of it. It is downloaded from the Chrome Web Store. The webcam does have to be good enough to read the QR code, but with the Chromebooks in Fluvanna County, this should not be an issue.

When the app is launched, the webcam will automatically turn on. If it is your first time launching ScanQR, you may be asked to give the webcam permission to use the program. Your screen will have 2 red bars on it, like the ones in the image below:

Screenshot 2017-07-31 at 2.03.27 PM

Then you only need to hold the QR code up to the screen, lining it up with the 2 red bars. You may have to move your code in and out so that the camera recognizes it. Once recognized, it will beep and change. In the next two images, you can see me holding an example of a code on my smartphone. In the image on the left, I have not lined it up with the bars just yet. In the image to the right, you can see that my screen has changed. I can now see the web address for this QR code, and have the option to copy the address or go to the URL. If the QR code simply shows text, then you would see the text instead of a web link.

ScanQR is a simple tool with a simple solution. There are no extra bells and whistles here. Give it a try and see!

Resources

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Fluco Toolbox image created by Stephanie King (Fan) for this series. Please do not use without permission.