Thursday, May 17, 2012

Students Soar with Scratch

Have your students ever wanted to make their own video game?  Go from using cheat codes to writing them?  

Fourth graders in Mr. Brown’s class are having a BLAST using Scratch to write their own computer games. Scratch a programming language developed at MIT that allows young people to create programs such as video games, animations, and more in a drag and drop environment.  It is a free download from the Scratch website at and works on both a Windows or MAC platform.  

With a just a few lessons, students are hooked leaving scorch marks as their creativity and imagination take off.  They are intently absorbed in their program, like bees gathering nectar.  
I simply provide them the resources and answer questions. I love watching the learning take place. It is fun to flip the classroom and become the guide on the side.    Their programs develop much like an empty canvas slowly develops into an a masterpiece for an artist.  Students are fiercely proud of their work and are quick to show off their creative projects.  Completed projects can be uploaded to the Scratch site and shared with the world!

Must Knows:
  • It is OK if the kids know more than you do.
  • It is OK to let kids explore Scratch before you become an expert!  You can learn together.
  • It is OK for everyone to be in different places and share with one another.
  • It is OK if all projects are different!

Must Do’s:

  1. Download Scratch.
  2. Watch some videos on the Scratch site and explore the resources.
  3. Explore and experiment with the code.  
  4. Look at Mr. Michaud’s Scratch Site- Learn how to do the first project.
  5. Start using it with students.

One way to get started with students:

  1. Start by showing the Scratch Intro YouTube video.  This is a five minute video that gives students an idea of what types of projects they can create and the basics of how use the tools.
  2. Let the students explore some of the examples in Scratch.  In Scratch click File > Open > Examples > Games . Have students play the game, then look at the code.  I like to start with Pac-Man. It goes well with the first project we work on.
  3. The resources on the Scratch Website Site are great! The Getting Started with Scratch Guide is an easy way to learn the basics.  Students can explore the tools as they work through the guide.
  4. The projects and instructions from NeBo Elementary School are fantastic.  I have the students start with Project 1.  The project will take them about five one hour class periods to complete.  

Scratch Website - 

Learn Scratch (Videos) -  
New to Scratch for Educators-
NeBo Elementary School, Mr. Michaud-
Book - Scratch Programming for Teens - 


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

#BPSNE Launches

On Tuesday, MAY 15, 2012 Bellevue Public Schools will launch the hashtag #BPSNE on Twitter!!

#BPSNE = Bellevue Public Schools Nebraska

This is GREAT NEWS!! This will be the one place you can check all things Bellevue Public Schools on Twitter and we as a district can have one collaborative place to check and keep up with all things BPS.

All you have to do is add the column #BPSNE into your Tweetdeck on your laptop and away you go!  You can download Hootsuite or the Twitter App on the iPad, iPhone, or Smartphone as well.

#BPSNE will be a great communication and collaboration tool for our district.  With more and more Admin, Principals, and Teachers in BPS joining Twitter this will be a fantastic way to share information and pose questions to the entire district with a simple tweet.

Some examples of possible tweets:
From a Principal or Dean:  "Good luck to TBird athletes and coaches as they go in to district track today and the girls tennis team's last meet! #BPSNE!
From a Teacher:  "Don't forget about the @TSWildcats Talent Show at 7 pm tomorrow night.  Go Wildcats! #BPSNE"
From a Director: "The BPS board of education meeting on Monday, May 14th will begin at 5:15 PM as opposed to our regular start time of 7 PM. #BPSNE"
From a Teacher:  "Anyone received their crayfish yet in 4th grade Science? #BPSNE"

The possibilities are endless.  It will be as good as we make it.

We look forward to watching the information flow of #BPSNE take off as people start to tweet using the #BPSNE hashtag!

Stay informed, stay connected.  Follow #BPSNE

Friday, May 11, 2012

Student Council Elections

Want another way to calculate and tally your student council elections?

Want to go PAPERLESS with it?

We have the ticket for you.  Use your set of iPod touches!!  and the SOCRATIVE APP!!

We have blogged about the SOCRATIVE APP before on this post.  Click here.

This is yet another way to utilize these great devices and a FREE APP!

We had close to 300 middle school students come through one class set of 25 iPod touches in a matter of 45 minutes.  The teacher in charge of the Student Council walked around rounding up homerooms to bring to the commons area where we had the touches set up.  With the web-based Socrative program we were able to easily put the 2 students running for President into a question format multiple times over and over again so when a "wave" of kids would come in to vote they would get the next question, which was the same question.  We decided to use the "teacher-led" feature so we would not have students possibly trying to vote multiple times.  In the "teacher-led" atmosphere the teacher has to stop and start the questions, so this was helpful.

It worked really well.

After all the students came through and voted we dumped the results into a spreadsheet and quickly ran a formula to add all the names for us and #BOOM we were done in an instant.  Here is the formula we used: =countif(range,criteria).  We highlighted the area for the range and put " around the criteria which was the name. For example if the student's name was Jenny Smith it would read "Jenny Smith".  It worked beautifully!

Results were in, and we had a WINNER just like that!  The entire process took under a half an hour from start to finish!

No PAPER, very little time, very little hassle, slick, and easy.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Walk Around the Leaf

Here at Bellevue Public Schools we have a lot of changes coming at us for the following school year and this summer!  Here is a rundown of the challenges headed our way:

1) We will be going Google from Gaggle for an email system
2) We will be a G-Apps District
3) Teachers will be moving from a PC platform to a MAC platform
4) iOS devices will increase in the district for teachers
5) 1:1 environment for students is a vision for the near future

As technology trainers for the district our plate is already full and this school year hasn’t even ended yet!  It is a very exciting time, but also very treacherous.   At a recent training we showed a clip from the movie "A Bug’s Life".  The clip highlighted the scene in the very beginning where a leaf falls from the sky while the ants are marching in a single file line with their winter food to the pile.  When the leaf falls and breaks the line, the ants all stop and you can feel the panic rising and see the confusion in the ant’s eyes.  “I'm lost! Where's the line?!”  Suddenly, a “trained professional” rushes to the scene of the leaf and screams, "Do not panic!". He helps the ant to walk around the leaf.  The ant trusts the more experienced ant and carefully and slowly walks around the leaf.  All is well and the line is restored again.  

Teachers and administrators in the room of this particular training chuckled as they watched the clip.  We thought it was a great theme for our future as we move into this unknown territory for so many of our staff members.  Themes are a great way to bring people together and to help people stay focused.  We must stay calm, reassuring, and walk around the leaf as definite obstacles will befall us as we move into this exciting time.  

The role of leading people around the leaf is key to success.  We know we will hear anything from “I prefer PC”, to “What’s a track-pad?”, to “How do I turn my ipad on”, to “Where are my files?”.  

And that is ok!  We are ready!  We will stay calm and reassuring and help staff members to Walk Around the Leaf!  Let the leaves fall!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Groovin' at NETA With Kevin Honeycutt

Last week we had the pleasure of attending NETA 12 in Omaha, Nebraska.  While there were so many speakers to choose from and sessions to attend my colleague, Ann Feldmann, @techiefeldie, and I chose to listen to @kevinhoneycutt as much as possible.  He had four awesome sessions about people.  “People”, you might ask, “and not technology?”  Yup!  For Kevin Honeycutt his stories were about people, passion, and changing the world!  
Kevin grew up in poverty and yet despite that he survived and ultimately thrived!  He moves with the passion of an artist and has a spark in his eyes that you cannot deny!   Kevin has figured out how to leverage the tools that are mostly free to empower kids!  He speaks about students learning online safety, changing the way teachers teach, using the talents and skills that people have to become something wonderful!  

We loved his quote, “If you can hook ‘em, you can cook ‘em!”  He gave real life examples of how he has “hooked” kids to engage them in learning.  He spoke about tricking kids into learning in the best ways possible.  He pointed out students could take art classes from him on YouTube from his website  Students could then use as a platform to upload their artwork and become entrepreneurs, google sketchup for graphic design for free, and leveraging Twitter and Facebook to market their products!  He is a master of thinking outside the box with powerful quotes he called Honey Quotes on his webpage.  
Kevin talked about music in education and having jam sessions with iPads.  Ann and I even got to sign his shiny red guitar!  I think we are official groupies of @kevinhoneycutt!  I would love to sit through another day of listening and watching Kevin speak.  He ignited and renewed our spark for learning and training others on the power of joining people with technology 

Written by Ann Feldmann and Jenny Krzystowczyk