75 Days of Flocabulary for Free? Yeeaaaah Boooooooy!

What time is it? Time to sign up for a 75 day free trial of  Flocabulary.

Here is something guaranteed to chase the winter blues out of your classroom. Check out full access to Flocabulary.com for the next 75 days for FREE!

Flocabulary is fabulous for building academic vocabulary in all of the core academic domains through high quality animated rap songs whose lyrics and concepts stick with kids.

Beyond the core subjects Flocab is expanding with some great coding and computer science videos as well as a life skills series featuring financial literacy and social emotional learning.

There is also no better way to cap a Friday than with the weekly “Week in Rap” and “Week in Rap Jr.” current event videos.

Get your 75 Day trial started with this code. https://www.flocabulary.com/promo/WTMC2016/

A Simple Approach To Dealing With Personal Devices In The Classroom

I have long been an advocate for bring your own device (BYOD) in the classroom. I figure that if kids have tools that know well and use well, then there is no reason to restrict them from using them in the classroom.

Key word there: tools, as in apps for learning.

Too many of the teachers who are frustrated with dealing with personal devices often don’t take the learning tools approach. Instead of allowing for specific purposes they end up policing. They collect phones ahead of class or insist on no devices being out at any time. Kids at our high school have even started bringing old phones to turn in at the beginning of class so they can still access their working devices.

I’m not naive enough to think that every time a kid has a device out in the library, they are using it solely for a learning activity. What I do know from 20+ years in the classroom that kids for the most part respond well when you give them some clear expectations and put the responsibility on them to do the right thing.

Despite spending a lot of time on this early in the year I too have had some frustration with our students in the library who are taking online classes. Too many are “forgetting” or just seeing how much they can push our guidelines with personal devices. Usually a friendly reminder gets everybody back on track. Sometimes it takes a few reminders.

Here is a new poster adorning our work stations. The kids got a laugh out of the devices I chose but more importantly the “got” the message.

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Go Retro With These 8 Bit Drawing Tools

BitDraw for iOS and Android

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 10.14.04 AMIf you grew up in the era of Oregon Trail, Galaga, Defender, Blades of Steel, and NBA Jam then you might have a little place in your heart for the nostalgic look of 8 Bit graphics. When your creative juices start mixing with your love of old school games, check out these tools.

64 Yourself – Upload any image under 2 MB and convert it to something that looks like it was made on a Commodore 64.

8BitPhotos.com – Simply upload a picture and let this site convert it for you.

Pixlr – If you want a little more control over how your pixels come out, use the free Photoshop-ish Pixlr. Upload a pic, find the “Pixelate” filter, and tweak until you have it just right.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 10.28.08 AMYou can also create from scratch online with Make8BitArt.com (below) or on the BitDraw – Pixel Art Tool for iOS devices and Android. The basketball player above was made on an iPad with that app.

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#GetMoving and Get Your Kids Featured at Discovery Education’s NFL Play60 Site.

Here is a great opportunity to utilize some movement lessons and videos to promote healthy living this winter.

Not only has Discovery Education teamed with the American Heart Association to provide fun lessons and videos with a member of the Washington Redskins, they are now giving you the chance to be featured with your students on their new site.

Check out the Discovery Ed blog for details. Larry Fitzgerald, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers won’t be the only stars featured as the NFL revs up for Super Bowl 50. Your class might too.

Ferris Bueller Chimes In On Merriam-Webster’s “Word Of The Year”

A person should not believe in an ism. He should believe in himself. ~ Ferris Bueller

It’s that time of year when Merriam-Webster declares its “Word Of The Year”. And what word generated the most traffic through the online dictionary this year? Well, none really.

This year Webster went with the suffix “-ism” due to the amount of searches for words like racism, terrorism, and fascism.

Proving once again that almost everything you really need to know can come from an 80’s movie, the philosopher Ferris Bueller chimes in from 30 years ago on our newly minted “Word Of The Year”.

And that is the last word on that.

Think Different Tim Cook: 10 Reasons Chromebooks Are Winning…And It Has Nothing To Do With Testing

Apple CEO Tim Cook calls Chrome devices “test machines” – Buzzfeed Photo

On Wednesday in a Buzzfeed interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook called Chromebooks “test machines” and cited Google’s take over of the education market as primarily a result of schools just buying hardware for standardized assessments.

There is no denying that recent mass purchases from school districts have been in response to needing more equipment for tests that have moved from paper to web browser. What is in question is why schools are choosing Chromebooks over Macs and iPads. Cook sells educational leaders and teachers short when he implies that testing is all that went into the decision making and all that is being done with the products once they reach schools.

Now, don’t write me off as a hater. Heck, one of the proudest recognitions I have received is that of being named an Apple Distinguished Educator. I am a huge Apple advocate and I truly believe that Cupertino builds the most durable and best designed products in the tech world. For a long long time Apple won the classroom because its stuff “just worked” and it still does. The six-year-old  Macbooks I teach with just hum along. The three-year-old cart of HPs…don’t.  The iPad has opened worlds previously un-explorable to people with disabilities. Apple has done great things in the classroom and I still believe schools need a number of Macs or iPads around for tasks Chrome devices can’t. I am just not convinced anymore that Apple products are the only solution.

Here Mr. Cook are 10 reasons why educators are choosing Chrome devices over Apple products…and they don’t have anything to do with testing.

  1. The Reality of Classroom Technology Integration – “We create products that are whole solutions for people — that allow kids to learn how to create and engage on a different level,” Cook stated in the and he’s correct. iMovie, Keynote, Pages, Final Cut Pro, Motion, and other high level apps are the staples when it comes to kids creating high level content. The only problem for Apple is that the vast majority of students and teachers don’t learn and teach constantly at this level. As great as all of these Apple tools are, right or wrong, they have taken a support role to the tools students and teachers use most.The SAMR framework discusses how teachers use tech at varied levels between basic “substitution” and creating previously inconceivable activities in a level defined as “redefinition”. The Apple stuff excels in the hands of teachers who have mastered ways of getting to redefinition but the vast majority of educators are somewhere in the middle and most of the learning tasks they ask students to do with technology doesn’t require the high end apps.
  2. Price – Chrome devices continue to drop in price to the point where schools can buy five Chromebooks with touchscreens for the price of one Macbook. It’s hard to justify the extra cost if the job can be done with a solid device at a fraction of the money. I just bought a fully functioning Chrome computer in the $85 Chromebit. $85! Yes it requires me to connect it to an HDMI display and I have to supply the keyboard and mouse but that price point alone makes it wildly affordable for a number of functions around a school.
  3. They Just Work – It is still the number one reason I always choose Apple stuff over Windows stuff and I was very suspect of the Chrome products when they first hit the market. Aside from getting used to the layout of where everything is on these devices my experience has been that the simplicity of the Chrome “just works” as well. With less operating system there are less hassles.
  4. Ease of Management – Managing a cart of iPads is incredibly time consuming and not something most classroom teachers are entrusted to do. Apple has put out a series of management solutions but none have been the silver bullet that actually make life easier for teachers. With Chrome there is virtually no management because when a kid logs in with their Google Apps for Education account, all of their stuff is available.
  5. Google Apps – No, the free suite won’t let you make your documents as cute as Word or Pages will, but with a little skill you and your kids can get darn close. Cute isn’t deal closer on GAFE though. Storage is unlimited for schools and with a little foresight educators can help kids set up portfolios that will follow them all of the way through high school. No one will ever lose their work due to a dead laptop battery because Google saves every few seconds. Plus, it’s just automatically already set up with every Google account. Yes, Apple offers a version of its iWork suite online for free and it can do a lot but space is limited and the sharing options aren’t close to what GAFE does. What is really cool though is that if you want to use the online versions of iLife you can do it on a Chromebook.
  6. Collaboration – The whole game changed way back in the day when Google bought Writely from an upstart called Upstartle. Simply being able to edit something simultaneously ten years ago was groundbreaking. Google has used the last decade to further enhance the collaborative capabilities. Apple is bringing that to iLife but are essentially playing catch up. The collaboration built into a Google Apps/Chrome environment helps teachers better communicate with students and provide useful feedback. The same is true with students communicating and collaborating better with each other.
  7. Google Classroom – From its introduction teachers have been flocking to the free learning management system. As it evolves and becomes more stable it is becoming the go-to, even by die hard Edmodo and Schoology users. What is the big deal? See all six of the previous reasons. Seriously, you can apply all of them. As a classroom teacher, paper was my Achilles heel. In Classroom it’s all digital and the interface shows who has completed work and who hasn’t. Once it’s turned in, it’s locked until the teacher grades and returns it. Apple offers iTunes U which is a beautiful way to present content and develop courses that don’t rely on Internet connectivity but they only run on an Apple device. Classroom works everywhere.
  8. Access Everywhere – Speaking working everywhere, students and teachers can access the work they started on the Chrome device at school anywhere they can find a web browser with an Internet connection. It is something kids have come to take completely for granted. Ubiquitous access is their normal. A perfect example was when we were making book report trailers on iMovie and my students all wanted to know how they could find their work when they got home so they could continue working. They were put off when I told them it was only available on the one device they’d been using.
  9. Open To Innovation – Google Apps has evolved at light speed because of the way individuals can create add-ons. Doctopus and Goobric are examples of innovation created by a user that have made the product better fit teacher needs. This isn’t just in Docs either. There are a ton of new Chrome apps being developed that bring a lot of the creativity and depth of exploration to the Chrome browser.  Apple obviously innovates all of the time too but doesn’t adapt as fast as Google because the innovation all takes place within Apple.
  10. Big Yet Nimble – Lebron James and Cam Newton are special athletes because they are big yet have uncharacteristic speed. Google Chrome and the devices that run it are a lot like that. Google is massive with unlimited resources to support its products yet has retained a simplicity that makes stuff work at the highest level of efficiency. There is no reason to expect that won’t continue to be the case.

Ultimately schools have to find the platforms and devices that work best for their needs. I always have a Mac nearby because I use so many levels of its functionality. My students don’t always need the firepower and Google is picking up a lot of believers in educators who see all of the benefits Chrome devices can deliver at a fraction of the cost.

I understand and appreciate Tim Cook’s passion for giving educators and learners amazing stuff but if Chrome devices are just “test machines”, he needs to Think Different. 

It’s “Madden For the Classroom” Eve! Sneak Peak of Tomorrow’s Launch

It’s one day away! Tomorrow Madden, Discovery Education, and the NFL Players Association launch their “EA Sports Madden NFL: Football by the Numbers” interactive site to promote math and science in the classroom through football.2015-11-24_17-07-03

Brandon Wislocki and I share our experience of getting to preview the site and the simulations. We talk ease of use and some of the key features of the offensive and defensive sides of the ball as we preview some of the core math and science skills being explored.

The Discovery Education blog posted its own previews with a couple of screen shots.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for the official launch URL.

DiscoveringFarmland.com: 7 Tools For Teaching Where That Thanksgiving Feast Came From

As a huge chunk of our population sits down tomorrow and eats way too much, how many will think of the hours, dollars, sweat, and luck that went into producing the bounty in front of them? Probably not many.

Discovery Education and the United State Farmers and Ranchers Alliance have teamed up to help change that through a number of teaching and learning resources at DiscoveringFarmland.com.

Through video and print resources, the site is broken into four lessons (45-60 minutes each) that explore a wide array of farming and ranching topics that are important to not only the sustainability of the industry but also our food supply and the cultural heritage of farming and ranching that has been a part of America since its first settlers.

You might also really strike a chord with one or many of your students who are already passionate about farming or ranching like my former student and Hamilton (MI) Middle Schooler Nate Freyhof, “What got me interested in hobby farming was having a good environment and having fun playing outside instead of sitting inside all day. I also think gardening and training or working with animals is fun to do. It is sometimes good to have technology around like tractors to pull a plow or dig up something.”

Steve Dembo recently detailed on the Discovery Education Blog some of the resources available and that the project is based around the award winning documentary Farmland by James Mol.

Here are 7 great things about teaching with the Discovering Farmland site.

  1. The videos and the lessons really put a human face on farming and ranching. This is done visually but one whole lesson focuses untangling stereotypes.
  2. The four lessons fit nicely into a variety of units. Teachers can spread it out to where they spend an hour per week on top of their prescribed curriculum. Think of it like Google 20% time where you step away from “what has to get done” for a little bit to supplement with projects based on interest or that might be especially impactful. Teachers could do two lessons a week and be done in two weeks or maybe full week is dedicated to a deep dive through the entire set of lessons.
  3. Resources provided make these units ready to roll out, even if the teacher knows nothing about farming or ranching.
    • Teacher guide for each lesson
    • Student activity sheet for each lesson
    • Formative assessment exit ticket or activity for each lesson
    • Video snippets of the Farmland movie to support each lesson
    • Web links to extend the research and learning for each lesson
  4. All lessons are vocabulary rich with words that fit into science, social studies, and technology.
  5. Even though each lesson is well designed, each can be modified to meet more personal or curricular needs. For example, an economics class could research where its county ranks in terms of agricultural production or what the taxable value is on a 40 acre plot of farmland.
  6. Discovering Farmland transports students who may have never left their own urban city limits to a completely unknown and almost foreign seeming part of our world. The virtual visit is one of the truly transformative things educational technology can do and this site and resources are perfect for creating those learning opportunities.
  7. There are great resources already in place but there is still more to come from Discovery and the USRFA. Both are committed to showing not only how important our agricultural heritage is but how there are exciting high-tech careers to be had in farming and ranching. There is no food without farming and there is no farming without great science, technology, engineering, and math skills.

Somebody somewhere grew the potatoes, the turkeys, the cranberries, even the cinnamon for the apples sauce we will be feasting on tomorrow. Why not use the resources in Discovering Farmland when you return to the classroom and challenge your students to find out more about who and where our food comes from?

 

Mr. Losik’s 2015 Holiday Gift Giving Guide

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It’s too early to put up your tree. It’s too early to even turn on the 24 hour Christmas music station. No, it is…..well at least at our house. When the turkey dinner is cleaned up, then it…..is…..on!

It’s never too early though to get a jump on holiday shopping and here is your 2015 gift giving guide from MrLosik.com. In the past I have talked iPads and tablets. Last year it was all about putting STEAM in a kid’s Christmas. This year it’s all about “learning toys that kids don’t know are learning toys” with just a little tech sprinkled into the mix. I have included the link to most of these products on Amazon and most have Prime shipping available. Most are also available from the big box department stores like Walmart and Target as so keep your eyes open when out battling the crowds. Keep your eyes open for me as well on WOOD TV next Monday morning (November 30) to about a bunch of these.

BDPS-squishy-human-body-webSquishy Human Body – The “visible man” human body models have been around for a long time but what makes this one different is that all of the guts come out and kids can spend endless hours doing surgery by extracting them and putting them all back in together. Smart Lab Toys also includes a great guide book that teaches about each body part. This just one of a bunch of amazing products the company offers. There’s a squishy brain that looks totally gross. Get the Squishy Human Body on Amazon for $21.99.

Star Wars Science – Death Star Planetarium – With Star Wars The Force Awakens opening soon, there is no doubt that Star Wars toys are going to be hot this season. It reminds me a lot of the Christmas when I was a first grader. The first movie (or Episode IV – A New Dawn or whatever you want to call it) had just come out and I can’t remember anything I got that Christmas that didn’t have Darth Vader on it. Here comes a great model of the Death Star from Uncle Milton Toys and their line of Star Wars science that turns a dark room into a full map of our night sky or the Star Wars planetary system.

Get the Death Star Planetarium from Amazon for $17.17.

chocolatepenCandy Craft Chocolate Pen – Doodling is great. Doodling with chocolate in a variety of colors is amazing. This pen uses a variety of chocolate-filled cartridges and allows free-hand creativity or is great for filling 50 different molds that are included in the starter kit. I was exploring traditional 3D printers and doodlers, the ones that create plastic objects when I discovered the chocolate pen. Give me chocolate over plastic any day and you will save a bunch of money too. There are a ton of optional accessories that can be added from the Candy Craft line of products from Skyrocket toys. Amazon has it available for $24.93.Anki-OVERDRIVE-Starter-Kit


Anki Overdrive Race Track Starter Kit – 
Take the old slot car race track and move it 50 years into the future. Anki’s starter kit comes with two robotically controlled race cars and eight pieces of easily adjustable track. Instead of just a little trigger that makes the cars go fast or too fast, these cars are controlled by an iOS or Android app. The app talks to the car and the car talks to the track helping to prevent endless spinouts and slide-offs. The app even keeps track of race position and laps completed. No one to race against? No problem. These cars can drive themselves. Yes, just like those Google cars we keep hearing about. If you think that is amazing, they also come with electronic weapons like phasers and forcefields that disrupt the other cars on the track. The starter kit is expandable with more cars and more track pieces, even jumps. This toy is more expensive at $135 but you get a lot of play for the money.  it is still cheaper than most gaming systems or larger electronic devices and it stimulates the science, tech, and engineering of racing along with the creativity of designing the ultimate track layout. Get it at Amazon.

smallcoverStay In The Game: Jared Veldheer’s Journey To The NFL – I am 100% biased on this one but having spent the last five years creating this book I know it will provide a lot of entertainment and insight to any sports fan age 10 and up. Jared Veldheer was an over-sized, brainy kid who often found it hard to fit-in. Things all changed when he realized he could combine his amazing athletic gifts and size with his intelligence in order to do big things in the sports world. Now he’s one of the top left tackles in the National Football League.  If Jared hadn’t made a career of football, the core principles of his life would have likely made him successful in whatever he had decided to pursue.

Jared’s offensive line coach at Hillsdale College was one of the first to read it and said he couldn’t put it down, “ ‘Stay In The Game’ is a great story and a great read. I think current and future football players will benefit tremendously from the insight it provides.”

Get a copy from Lulu.com for $11.99. It will be one book that won’t bring any Christmas morning eye rolls like other books might.

Here is a bonus. I have had people ask about what the best Chromebook and tablet buys are this season so I offer up this device from ASUS. The ASUS Chromebook Flip 10.1-Inch Convertible 2 in 1 Touchscreen starts as a Chromebook but the keyboard flips all of the way back so the touchscreen can serve as a tablet.

flipchromebook For $219 this is a great device that does anything you can do with your Chrome browser all with the convenience of the touchscreen and its price comes in way below what tablet makers like Samsung and Apple can offer. It’s made believers out of a lot of educators and I know of at least two districts in Michigan that are selecting this device for their upcoming 1:1 technology initiatives. There is a ton of learning and fun in this one.

 

A few other odds and ends to explore:

  • Amazon Fire Tablet: At $49 this is a great little 7″ device for playing games, surfing the web (Do people still say that?), or watching streaming content. It might not have the full capability of an iPad but for under $50 it still packs a lot of fun and functionality.
  • Ruby Rails – The new action figure from Goldieblox – She’s a computer engineer who skydives.
  • Compose Yourself – A music card game that lets kids hear their creations played by the London Symphony.
  • Chrono Bomb – Set up a course and maneuver your way through a laser maze before time is up…just you’re the 12th member of Ocean’s 11.
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