Monday, March 9, 2015

Digital Citizenship

Last year the Elementary Library Media Specialist and Tech Integrator piloted a Digital Citizenship program utilizing Common Sense Media; from this pilot we prepared recommendations for curriculum implementation. 

Common Sense Media has developed a Digital Passport Program accessible through their website and also as an a app. This year, all of our 5th grade classes will complete the Digital Passport to earn their certificate. They will review basic safety online and proper use skills. Lessons outlined include: Password Safety, Communication Guidelines, Privacy Awareness, Cyberbullying, Keyword Search and Citing of Sources.

Each of the lessons include short/ high impact videos featuring kids, discussion prompts and game-like activities. We cover some topics with the video and discussion aspects of these lessons in earlier grades, so that student awareness of being safe and respectful online begins in Grade 2. 

As we continue to utilize technology and all of the resources it can put at our fingertips, we must also be conscientious of extending our behavior expectations into this medium. It is not just Digital Citizenship, this is truly about teaching and modeling for our students how to be a good person.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Raspberry Pi and Banana Pianos
The world of computer design and programming often seems far away in Silicon Valley, but SDMS students will soon get a chance to find out that, in reality, that world is here, and now. Ms. Capwell recently got the components to build basic computers and some invention kits that encourage creativity and an understand of electronics and circuitry. Instead of relying on technology designed for consumption, like tablets or smartphones, this project will get kids designing and creating, igniting their inner maker to engage with technology, rather than passively watching or merely playing with it.
You might be wondering, "Raspberry Pie? Bananas?" As it turns out, only one of these projects uses actual fruit. Students will be building a computer from scratch parts, with a Raspberry Pi. This is an affordable, credit-card sized computer that works with basic components. The MaKey MaKey invention kits will allow kids to experiment making a basic circuit controller out of anything - bananas included - to control software and apps on their computers. Kids will build and code these devices themselves, sparking a greater interest in technology and bringing a sense of pride and accomplishment.
One of the most exciting things about this project is that it was crowd-funded through Donors Choose. Several people who donated to this project cited their own youthful experiments with technology as leading to more interesting career paths (many in computer sciences), and were excited to support the technological explorations of SDMS students. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

MEA Teacher/Test Administrator: what should I be doing?

Where should you, as a TA, be 38 days before the MEA test window opens.

1. Tested TIDE login credentials and explored the MEA portal.  Once you are in the Teacher/Test Administrator area, click the TIDE button.  If you can't log into TIDE or you have a message indicating your account is locked, you will have to call the Airast HelpDesk.  Their number and email are on the TIDE login screen.

2. Completed TA certification.  You can find that link once you have gone to

3. Completed the training test with your students.

4. Completed at least one practice test with your students.

5. Checked your school’s test schedule RSU #20 SBAC timeline checklist.  At a minimum of 3 weeks before your school begins testing, you need to start working from the TA Checklist.  You can find that link on the Checklist spreadsheet tab for your school (the tab names are along the bottom of the spreadsheet).

Review this information: 
MDOE PD video - this is 3 hours long.  The PD notes above are a summation of this video.
TA user guide - this document was created in April 2014 for the field test, but the information is still valid.
TIDE user guide - this document was created in April 2014 for the field test, but the information is still valid.

Check at least weekly

Ask an MEA (SBAC) question.  This an RSU #20 Google form.  We will review the questions submitted daily and publish the answers on our FAQpage

MEA School Test Coordinator: what should I be doing?

Where should you, as an SC, be right now.  It is Friday, 6 February 2015 and it is 38 days before the MEA test window opens for the Maine.

As of today, MEA School Test Coordinators should have:

1. Tested TIDE login credentials.  Explore the MEA School Test Coordinator portal.  Once you are in the School Test Coordinator area, click the TIDE button.  If you can't log into TIDE or you have a message indicating your account is locked, you will have to call the Airast HelpDesk.  Their number is on the TIDE login screen.

2. Completed the TA certification.  It would be a good idea for you to complete this 30 minute tutorial on using TIDE. SCs are able to administer tests.  You can find that link once you have gone to

3. Reviewed this information: MEA PD notes and MDOE PD video

  • Check at least weekly

  • Check your school’s test schedule RSU #20 SBAC timeline checklist.  At a minimum of 3 weeks before your school begins testing, you need to start working from the SC Checklist.  You can find that link on the Checklist spreadsheet tab for your school (the tab names are along the bottom of the spreadsheet).

  • If your school does not have a defined test schedule, that is priority #1.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Viking Pilots Lead the Way

The Viking Pilots are the SDMS Student Tech Team. Composed of around thirty 6th, 7th and 8th grade students, they provide tech support and training to their fellow students and teachers, and sometimes assist the IT staff with various duties relating to technology in our building. The goals of this program are to engage students around technology in a positive, pro-social way, to encourage student mastery of technology, and to empower students to become resources for technology in our building. Students are recommended by their teachers and are expected to adhere to high standards of behavior, effort and academics. Because it is not self-selecting, this program provides leadership opportunities for students who wouldn't otherwise put themselves forward.

Each grade level is working on a different project, designed to train their tech skills, develop mastery of key applications, hone their collaboration, and support projects happening in their classrooms. For example, the 8th grade Viking Pilots of creating a 'Welcome to SDMS' video for new students using iMovie. iMovie is used in the 8th grade classrooms for various PBL projects, so these students will both be creating something useful for the school while learning the ins and outs of the software. This means that when iMovie questions arise in their classrooms, they'll be ready to support teachers and students.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Year (So Far) in LEGO Robotics

This entry is cross-posted on my personal blog.

This year is year 2 for my work with LEGO Robotics, and it has already expanded dramatically from last year. Whereas my efforts were primarily focused on the after school and summer school programs, this year so far has brought summer camps, a new competitive robotics team, new equipment to serve more students, and the beginning of classroom projects bringing robotics to all students in a classroom.  Here's a run-through of what has been done so far this year.

Summer Camps

The line-drawing program the robot uses in this video provides a great introduction
to programming with switch blocks.
With help from the RSU #20 Summer School program and the Searsport Recreation Department, I held two summer camps this past summer as part of a fundraiser for my program.  I held a beginner robotics camp for students who did not have any experience with LEGO robotics, and an advanced camp where I got to try some new things with students making their second pass through.  Many of the beginner camp students went on to do the advanced camp. Some of the new things that we tried this summer included learning about the switch block and using if/then/else logic in our programming, making remote control robots, and even some robotic musical instruments!  We also had a battlebots competition to see which robot was the toughest!  I have plans to run these camps again next summer, with longer sessions and new, fun challenges for the students to work through!


Build and Program Team students work on troubleshooting
issues with the robot on the challenge table.
All team members take part in the research presentation and field questions
from a panel of judges.
It has been my goal since the start of this project to springboard the learning that the students and I were doing with the robots into a competitive team, and we did that this year with Team WALDO!  FIRST LEGO League is a league where students build and program robots to solve various challenges on the challenge mat.  Teams have two-and-a-half minutes to score as many points as they can, and it is impossible to get a maximum score, so teams have to strategize to earn the most points that they can.  They also have to do a research project based on the season's theme which was "World Class," an education theme.  Team WALDO brought together nine students grades 4 through 8 from four different towns and five different schools to work on this challenge.  We competed at the Augusta Civic Center on December 13th against 71 other teams from around the state.  We came in 29th place overall, and finished 5th out of the 14 total "rookie" teams who were there. And, we had a lot of fun, which is the most important part!  We lose two students this year who will be too old to compete next year, but I am looking forward to starting at least one new team for next season as we integrate in the after school program and become even more competitive in the future!

Classroom Projects:  Lunar Rovers and LEGO Towns

Third grade students at Searsport Elementary School work on building their lunar rovers.
A big stipulation of my grant funding from the Perloff Family Foundation for this project was that I would work towards classroom integration of LEGO Robotics.  We began that effort in earnest in December with a project that we dovetailed into the solar system research the students were doing in third grade at Searsport Elementary School.  We actually split the grade into halves; while one half would be working on their research and accompanying slide show (supported by the student tech team), the other would be working with me on building a lunar rover.  We are coming into the closing weeks of this project, and I'm hoping that we'll have enough time to learn some programming and prepare for an exciting challenge I have for them!

After this project is finished, I transition right into a project with second graders, as we build buildings and vehicles and all kinds of cool things as we learn more about communities!

I'm also in the process of making plans for a project at East Belfast and a project at Nickerson for the end of the year.

After School Program

Because my robotics equipment has been tied to classroom projects, it has not been available for use in the After School Program.  However, it looks like there will be a large enough block of time in the year where I can bring that program back, but this time, I will be doing it over at the East Belfast School!  The East Belfast After School program serves the Nickerson School as well, so I'll have a chance to work with students from two of my schools. While I don't have any final plans yet, I am excited at the opportunity to expand the reach of LEGO robotics to multiple schools.

New Equipment

Finally, while the new after school program helps me expand the reach of robotics in different buildings, I've been searching for equipment to help me expand the reach of robotics in different grades.  The NXT kits that I have are great for the upper elementary students, but they are not very accessible to students in kindergarten, first and second grades.  Therefore, I applied for and received a second grant from the Perloff Family Foundation for a series of LEGO We-Do kits!  These kits will allow the younger students to build simple, interesting robots while learning about how gears and other pieces work.  So far, I have distributed kits to a number of teachers to try out on their own, and I will be following up with them shortly on figuring out what we can do with the equipment and scheduling when the kits will be available at the different schools.  I'm looking forward to deploying these new kits and establishing a larger pipeline of robotics-related activities in our schools that "STEM" from kindergarten and work their way up!

One of many examples of crazy things that you can build and program (with help) with
LEGO We-Do kits.

QR Codes in the Classroom

Going Google has made our students' work easily accessible ... if you know how to find it. My annual inspiration from the ACTEM conference led my to explore QR codes, and some ideas that stemmed from conversations there. I had a vague idea of what these dotted squares were all about, but wanted to use them in a meaningful way in the classroom. So far we have these two implementations that are making kids and families look at work in a new way!
Grade 2 - Mrs. Nelson's 2nd grade builds their student ePortfolios using Google Drive, but how do you share those projects at home? QR codes, of course! Each portfolio folder is connected to a QR code which was sent home - at conferences she modeled how to use it, and was happily surprised at the number of families that has already accessed it. Now she can share photos, videos, documents and more of what the students are doing at school.
Grade 5 - All 3 of Mrs. Larrabee's science classes create Voice projects for their unit on recycling. The projects were impressive, but how do you share them so everyone can see and hear their presentations? QR codes! Each students connected their project to a QR codes. Now samples hang in the hallway so that others in the school can get accustomed to how it all works - amazing!