Today in computer lab we started one of my favorite units to do with students; we are beginning to learn to program using Scratch. Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create interactive art, stories, simulations, and games – and share those creations online. I love seeing the kids get excited. after creating a stack and seeing it come to life.
I plan to spend six sessions on Scratch. The first two are play dates for the students to explore and discover just what can be done using the site. On our third time in I hope to have the students create an account and really start to get their feet wet. By the end of the six week period perhaps we will be able to share some projects. In the meantime, look at some of the comments and conversations below that I got to hear today during lab.
"I don't know how to get my dinosaur to turn around." "Oh! I do! I'll show you."
"This is so cool!"
"Dude, look at this. This is so hilarious."
"Look at my dove fly around my screen."
"I am going home and show my dad. He will love this!"
Below you can see some of our students hard at work!
While planning my first Makey Makey lesson I stumbled upon this Youtube video. I plan to use it to kick start this club since Makey Makey is all about problem solving.
At the beginning of December the three ITRTs from Amherst were allowed to attend the VSTE Conference held in Hampton. Whenever I attend a conference I try to stay away from vendors because I know I will want to spend money I don't have. I stick to the sessions. However, one vendor set up right across the room from some of my sessions and brought children in to showcase what they had created using the vendor's product. I saw second grade children use basic programming skills coupled with a product called makey makey to do some really cool things. SECOND GRADERS were programming and coding! I was hooked.
I came home and asked my technology supervisor for a makey makey to experiment with but was told we didn't have the money. Bummer! So I went to a site called Donors Choose and applied for a mini grant to purchase four makey makeys. By the end of December my grant was funded and today my makey makeys arrived at my school. I can't wait to use these with the students!
Though we use all our senses to learn, it appears that seeing is the sense where most of our learning comes from. So this tells us that the most effective way to clarify and bring understanding to what is being taught is to actually show students.
A few years ago I attended a workshop that focused on the importance of using visual aids in the classroom, The presenter shared that we learn:
While most of us are aware that we should be using more visuals, we may not always know where to safely obtain our visual aids.With the wealth of the Internet the issue becomes not can we find images to use but rather, where do we find images to use that don't violate copyright? We know that we could easily Google images but is it appropriate to just use what we find on Google? There are two things that every educator needs to keep in mind when looking for any resource on the net.
First, not everything on the web is yours to use. Fair use does not always protect you and Google is making it easy for companies and content creators to seek out those who are downloading and/or re-posting their work. Yes, Google knows when you are accessing their site. If you have any doubt, check the ads on your Facebook site and see if they don't match your browsing history. Too, more and more “law firms” and organizations out there looking for violations in obtaining copyrighted content as a way of generating business. They then contact the copyright holder offering their services (for a fee of course). Keep in mind that when copyright laws were created the Internet was just a far away cloud on the horizon.
Secondly and happily, there are some resources that you can make use of. One thing to look for when figuring out if a resource is free to use is a Creative Commons license. Luckily, the CreativeCommons.org website has a ton of excellent information that will help keep us out of trouble. Below are some of my favorite places to go when hunting for images:
Creative Commons Search - Search many sites at the same time
StockVault.net – Free images from photographers around the world
Kozzi.com – One free photo per day
FindIcons.com – Huge resource for avatars or small images
Flickr Advanced Search – Use advanced search filters to show only CC licensed images
Morguefile – Free stock photos
Open Clipart Libary – Public domain clipart
Pics4Learning – free image library for education
At the bottom is a screenshot from a brand new site that I just stumbled upon. This one also has a free app inside of Edmodo so that you or your students can use this in posts. This is called Photos For Class. In the screenshot below you can see a search I did on the American Colonies.
On January 4, 2015, the Lynchburg News and Advance published a letter from their Editorial Board called, Religion, public schools a bad mix. In this letter they submit their opinion that students graduating from Liberty University should not be teaching in the public school system. In fact, they say that, "beliefs [held by LU grads] alone should make LU grads incompetent to teach in any schools at all, but especially public ones."
I am a graduate of Liberty. I earned my undergraduate from Liberty Baptist College and my masters from Liberty University. I state that proudly! I also state proudly that I am a public school teacher!
I cannot separate my faith in God from who I am. I am a Christian! I believe that Jesus Christ is God. He came as a baby born in Bethlehem of the virgin, Mary for the purpose of dying on the cross to save me from my sin. He rose again the third day and is seated at the right hand of God the Father. He is preparing to call for me to be with Him. This may occur at my death or it may occur at the Rapture.
As a Christian who teaches in the public school system, I would like to address the concerns about my disturbing beliefs numerated in the editor's letter.
1. Creationism is Good Science while Evolution is Junk Science-I do believe that God created the world in a literal 6 days. Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." However, when in the classroom I do not push my beliefs on my students. The highest grade I have taught in a classroom setting was fourth. We never got into Evolution or Creationism. There was one year that a student outright asked me what I believed about God creating the Earth. I deflected the question but I do have to admit that I inwardly smiled when another student-who happened to be a Christian-told the questioner that he would answer him at recess. Although I have the right to answer directly if a student asks I prefer to pass the inquiry about such matters to the parents. If I were to ever teach in a grade that does deal with the Theory of Evolution, I would state it just as it is: a theory.
2. The Earth is 6,000 years old-Yes, I do agree with a young Earth. In Genesis 2:1-3 we read, "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation." I love talking to a friend of mine who is an Agnostic. He is forever bringing me evidence of an older Earth. I am not a scientist and cannot argue with him but it's okay. I listen and offer up my faith as a debate. I will admit that because of my lack of knowledge there are some things I cannot explain. That has more to do with my understanding than science. Again, as an elementary teacher I don't have to deal with this concept in the classroom but as I stated before, if a child were to ask me I would refer them to their parents. If I did have to teach this as part of my course, I would teach both sides of the coin without inserting my opinion.
3. Humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time- The Bible says this is true, yes I believe it. LOL! In my daydreams I often wonder if the dragons killed in stories were actually dinosaurs. My belief in this fact has never come up.
4. Environmental destruction is of no concern as Rapture is around the corner- the Rapture could occur at any moment but no one knows when it will happen. The Millerites were the followers of William Miller who, in 1833, first shared publicly his belief in the second coming of Jesus Christ around 1843. But God cautions us "that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:36. New Living Translation). In Genesis 1:28 God said, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." (American Standard Version) We were to hold a position of command over Earth; we were placed in a superior role and were to exercise control over the earth and its flora and fauna. Mankind was set up as the ruler of this world. All else was subjugated to us. With the authority to rule comes the responsibility to rule well. We are to be good stewards of the earth for as long as God waits to return. That means we are to care for the environment.
5. Global warming is a hoax- I believe in global warming. The natural climate has cycled between warm periods and ice ages for thousands of years. I believe I read that our last ice age was in the early 1900s. Is there a difference between the natural cycle and a man-made period of global warming? Not being a scientist, I can't say. Although, if we consider that these cycles probably resulted from the flood (Genesis 6:5-9:17) then all cycles of warming and icing are man made because our of our sin. It does stand to reason that as the population grows so does the sinful impact on our environment. As I read the "science" behind the current theory of global warming it does seem that this cycle is different. Perhaps it is time for us to consider whether or not we are being good stewards of our planet. Hey, even if global warming proves to be a hoax, can it hurt to take better care of what God has blessed us with?
6. The Bible contain all that is needed in one’s life-The Bible is totally true and is my blueprint for my life. However, it would be an exaggeration to say that it is all I need. The Bible is all truth but not all truth is found in the Bible. A very simplistic example would be that my car takes gas in order to run. No where in the Bible does it say that I must fill my tank when it runs out. The Bible alone is all one needs to know how to follow Christ. Second Timothy 3:16-17 states, "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (Revised Standard Version).
7. Guns are welcome on campus [at Liberty]-the Constitution gives us the right to bear arms. Of course, there should be no reason to bear arms on a school campus. This is one area that Liberty and I disagree with. As a teacher I want no part of arming myself in front of students. There was an article based on an interview with a Bedford sheriff about the dangers of letting students carry weapons on campus. Guns and weapons of any kind are forbidden on public school property and for that i am thankful. Just because i disagree with LU on this account does not mean that I feel all their beginning educational professionals should be excluded from teaching.
8. There is nothing wrong with torture and war (according to recent surveys of evangelicals/fundamentalists)- The editor does not quote the survey so I cannot refute it. I do believe that war is a terrible thing and should not be entered into lightly. I also believe that Romans 3:10-18 teaches that all war is a result of sin. We do live in a fallen world. I hate the idea of war but sometimes some wars are more “just” than others. In a world filled with evil people, sometimes war is necessary to prevent even greater evil. If Hitler had not been defeated by World War II, how many more millions would have been killed? If the American Civil War had not been fought, how much longer would African-Americans have had to suffer as slaves? I am very proud of the service my father-in-law gave for serving in the Navy during World War II, while at the same time I pray that my son and grandson never have to serve and I give thanks that my husband never got called to duty. War is wrong but even more so are many of the reasons we go to war. Torture is another story. Here is an online article I read about the Bible and torture. It defines torture as “the infliction of intense pain to punish, to coerce, or to derive sadistic pleasure.” I do not believe in torture; this article does give some instances that are worth considering but I could never inflict pain or uphold the infliction of pain. And once more, this would definitely not be a topic that I would bring up in a classroom of any grade level so should not impact my instruction.
Liberty University can sometimes make me madder than a hornet. It needs a "customer service face lift". Still, as I get to work with new teachers from around the area because, in addition to my daily classroom duties, I am a mentor for my division I have found that Liberty has caring, hardworking, dedicated teachers. Yes, we believe in God. We believe we work for Him and not merely for the school. We value our students because we know that each of our students has a special place in God's heart. I am thankful for the training I received at Liberty. And I am proud of all my colleagues that trained at Liberty and chose to represent their Savior by caring and teaching the students in our wonderful public school systems throughout the area!
With all the mud thrown at public education these days, how can you dare throw out dedicated professionals that desire to work in a field that has so little respect from the media and the governmental policy makers?
Hi, my name is Melanie Lewis. I am an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher for Amherst County Public Schools, located in the beautiful state of Virginia. I LOVE my job! I get to work on my hobby, anything that has to do with computers. I get to work with teachers and students, and I am definitely a people person. Plus, I DO NOT have to give grades. Wonderful, huh? Let me know how I can help you better integrate technology into your classroom.
ACPS' 1st computers
I know only one thing about the technology that awaits us in the future: We will find ways to tell stories with it. ~Jason Ohler