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#EdCampAwesome Lives Up to It’s Name!

Never have I left an EdCamp without feeling inspired. Since very 1st @EdCampHouston gave me an initial introduction to this form of PD a few years ago, I’ve gone to so many I no longer keep count of where & when. @EdCampAwesome in Royse City was no exception - more than living up to its name. No doubt there will be more awesomeness at upcoming @EdCampNavasota in April! Here is a scrapbook of personal highlights from #EdCampAwesome!

  • Connecting with @mkwaldie!: Overhearing her mention Google SketchUP in passing as I was heading out of a session on Makerspaces, I stopped to ask her more about it since recently my free license information through TCEA came through. She shared her classes’ 3-D Digital Modeling site & projects with me which she was very passionate about.  Now we are planning to connect our classes & students to share their work in the near future as a result!


  • Discovering Global Cardboard Challenge: Event with opportunity for children to build whatever they can imagine out of simple materials and in the process, develop problem solving, collaboration, and other 21st century skills. Since 2012, 105,000 children in 62 countries have participated & next challenge kicks off in 2015!
  • Experiencing Augmented Reality: Level of engagement & learning potential in all kinds of AR Apps was phenomenal, as was Symbaloo & hands-on presentation by @JaimeDonally

  • Finding wisdom and helpful advice about PBL in K-2: @AllisonHoganEDU Great Pikochart summary by @ChelseaSerio of key takeaways from discussion of her Kindergarten projects HERE

  • Winning a Little Bits Base Kit!  are great for tinkerers age 8 to infinity. Put the screen away, play with friends and family, and snap your ideas to life.

Defining & Refining Driving Questions

 I have many new insights from a recent online class from @PBLUniversity about key elements in a powerful driving question. The DQ for the class: How can I define and refine Driving Questions that capture the main focus of the project and engage students?

‘A Driving Question (DQ) is like a road map that will help students determine how they will reach their destination in a project. However, just like roads may lead us in different directions, a well-written driving question will not have a prescribed path that students must take. A good driving question captures the project’s main focus. It is open-ended, challenging, and linked to the core knowledge, skills, and understanding that students must gain in the project.’

Create a series of subsidiary questions in conjunction with your overarching Driving Question!

...To focus the students on the project task.
...To scaffold the project process for the students.
...To help teachers design lessons that will scaffold the project process for the students.

A Driving Question should be:

1. Engaging for Students:  It presents a challenge, frames a controversial issue, or poses a question that interests kids. It is written in language they understand, and provokes them to ask further questions kicking off the inquiry process. [A local context and/or a challenge to take action makes DQ even more engaging. Connect to a  local issue, community need, or topic relevant to kids’ lives.]

2. Open-Ended: Several reasonable “right answers” are possible. Answers are not “Google-able.” Answers are complex and lead to an in-depth inquiry. It could  be a “yes or no” question, but the answer must require a detailed, thorough explanation.

3. Aligned to Learning Goals: Students will need to learn important content/skills in order to answer DQ. Consider,“To answer this question, will my students need to learn the content and skills I’ve targeted?” Actual content goals do need to be stated in the question. They can be made clear when students learn about the requirements for the product(s) to be created.

Some examples of revisions & refinement of DQ’s...

FROM: What did the ancient Greeks contribute to the development of Western Civilization?

TO: Did the ancient Greeks help make us who we are today?
TO: How Greek are we?

FROM: Which stories and books are the most popular for people our age?

TO: What makes a story or book popular?
TO: How can we create an online survey for kids our age to find out which stories and books are the most popular and why? 

The Tubric is a fun, hands-on way to practice the often-challenging task of writing a Driving Question for a project. (downloadable here!). Looking forward to more classes coming up starting this week, and free again, through @PBLUniversity!


Kid-Friendly Search Tools

An updated collection of kid-friendly search tools to share with grade-level teams this week as we worked on planning & developing research projects. These are part of a campus introduction of IIM as an effective method to 'Tame the Chaos of Classroom Research!'




Computer Science Vocabulary Building Blocks

Vocabulary and learning resources for visual reference as part of ongoing investigation of computer science and coding lessons in my K-5 classes.

                        Computer Science Vocabulary Building Blocks from Elizabeth Eastman



CS and Coding: Opening Doors & Expanding Possibilities

Looking forward to the #HourofCode & #HISDecoded this week, I plan to apply what I've learned recently in an excellent Houston workshop. The context of training emphasized the critical need for ALL students to have exposure and opportunities to learn computer programming. The study of computer science teaches a set of skills and develops habits of mind that can unlock doors and expand future possibilities for kids. It is foundational to so many careers and disciplines.

The world of coding also can build and strengthen critical thinking, problem-solving, and logical thinking patterns. Showing persistence in the face of failure and understanding the value of mistakes as part of learning are essential elements too.

Collaboration is key as kids work together to design animated graphics, apps, digital stories, and games. Check out these brief clips: What is Computer Science? and Pair Programming: Driver & Navigator Collaboration. provides a free differentiated curriculum and a series of courses and tutorials for kids as early as Kindergarten to engage with learning coding concepts. ‘Plugged’ lessons are paired with ‘unplugged’ lessons. ‘Unplugged’ lessons develop foundational coding concepts and vocabulary and are applied in ‘Plugged’ lessons which are online, self-guided and self-paced.

My k-5 classes are organized inside the ‘Teacher Dashboard’ to track their work. Our #HourofCode will extend beyond this week with lessons and continued learning experiences in weeks ahead as we move forward into 2015!

There are lots of mobile apps for coding projects, but I continue to work on collecting resources that are browser-based which work well on touch-screen laptops used with my classes. Here are a few thus far…

Brainpop: Computer Programming
BrainPop Game-Up: Code Monkey

Interactive Tutorials:

  • Scratch: [Getting Started]: Animate your name, create a holiday card, or make a pong game.
  • Tynker: Build your own games and share with friends! Solve fun coding puzzles and learn programming concepts in each level. Beginner: Candy Quest
  • Code Kingdoms: Progress from drag and drop to text based Javascript as you advance your coding skills.
  • Blockly: A series of educational games that teach programming designed for children who have not had prior experience. By the end of these games, players are ready to use conventional text-based languages.
  • BotLogic: an educational puzzle game that challenges kids to tackle complex logic problems while teaching valuable programming concepts. Using simple commands (and eventually code), players program their bots to navigate through progressively challenging mazes.
  • Turtle Pond: Guide a turtle to a pond using computer commands.
Course 1: Early Readers
Course 2: Beginning Readers
Course 3: Advanced (with previous courses completed)

Code with Anna and Elsa: Use code to join Anna and Elsa as they create snowflakes and patterns as when they ice-skate. Make a winter wonderland that you can then share.

Angry Birds: Drag and drop program with basic algorithms

The Foos: A kid-friendly way to learn about computer programming. Program characters to solve puzzles and bring a virtual world to life. The game is "word free" so all can play, even pre-readers!

Make an App:
Make a Flappy Game

(Create Your Own Game) Course 1
(Create Your Own Game) Course 2 + Course 3

Draw Something: Free Play