Sunday, November 27, 2016

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Laptop, uh, cart?

I've got a bunch of donated laptops at school, some of which I received at the end of last year, and the beginning this year. The laptops aren't anything special, being 4-5 year old machines that aren't going to be breaking any speed records. However, as the school district has recently moved to G Suites for Schools (Formerly Google Apps for Education) I saw it as a great opportunity to use Neverware's Cloudready software and essentially turn all of them into Chromebooks.

The setting up, and using of the software was easy. Set it up on a couple of USB drives, and I would set up 2-6 computers each day as I went about my business. They aren't set up to managed properly, so I just had students log in as guests, which worked perfectly because most of what they were doing involved doing research online, and we haven't trained the teachers in to use Google classroom or even google docs yet.

There was one major problem though. I had no easy way of keeping all the machines charged. Most classrooms in the school have only 2-3 sets of double plugs, and the library isn't really that different. I didn't want to get a laptop cart either, especially for a bunch of older laptops, that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Teachers trying to use them in the room had to bring power bars plugged into power bars, and take 10-15 minutes setting everything up.

So, using some milk crates, zip ties, and a drill, I went all DIY on it, and made my own frankenstein style laptop crates, that while extremely ugly, work.

Just laying out the chargers to make sure they will fit.

Drilling holes for the powerbar.

Adding zip ties.

Got the charging cords on pretty solid. Those zip ties are strong.
3 of the 5 on, plus the power bar.

All done! Ugly, but functional.

Friday, November 11, 2016 with 2 classes

I wanted to introduce coding to some classes over the last couple of years, but have had trouble finding a cohesive way to do it in a long term manner. I know our school was one of the first in the province to do the Hour of Code, and while that was fun, it didn't really give the longer form of education I wanted to give to the students. Over the summer I looked at two options I had heard about in the previous school year, Google's CS First and I played around with both during the summer, and realized both are great, they have some significant differences. CS First uses Scratch, which I really wanted students to use. I played around with Scratch quite a bit, and can see lots of fun and learning to be had from it. I even took part in a Creative Computing Online Workshop a couple of years ago from Harvard, and really quite enjoyed it, and could lots of benefits to using it with students.


CS First isn't very linear. It is set up to be offered as club, with different themes. Within each themed club the activities are quite open. So it may offer up an activity with several different avenues to complete, and even within those 3 avenues there are a number of options to make something. I think it offers a better learning experience, but to through an entire class into it could be difficult. Furthermore, it isn't all an integrated learning environment. You need to keep one tab open on the CS First website to watch videos and read instructions and click on links to Scratch projects. In a second tab you need to actually open Scratch and work on your projects in there. That doesn't sound like much of a difference, but every extra thing added to a class full of students can make it much more complicated. on the other hand is much more straightforward. I looked in, created 2 classes of students, downloaded usernames and passwords for the students, and selected what level I wanted them to start at, from 1-4. The activities, while not 100% linear, are mostly, complete task 1, move to task 2, and use knowledge from task 1 to help. Continue for 7-11 tasks in a row, then move onto a new programming concept, such as repeating code, if-then statements, etc. Also, I can log into a dashboard to see progress for all participating students.

I've used with 2 classes now, twice with one class, and just once with a second. Both seemed to enjoy it, find it challenging, and seemed to be learning and reinforcing quite a few math concepts. It was especially fun to see some students who may not experience success with standard curriculum doing a great job, and enjoying themselves. And, it was great to see how many of the girls enjoyed taking part. The first year I did the hour of code I a 10 year old girl told me how much fun she had, especially because she didn't realize girls could do "computer stuff".

Monday, November 7, 2016

I want my hat back!

Recently we read "I want my hat back" by Jon Klassen.

 I loved the artwork in the book, and it reminded me of a Google Spotlight story that I had seen, "The Windy Day". Below is picture from the book, and then a picture from the story.

I want my hat back

The Windy Day
The book was great, with a hilarious ending. I really enjoyed the Windy day too. For some reason I am having trouble finding it now, but you can find similar spotlight stories if you go to

Monday, October 17, 2016

Librarian Comes to the Library!

Julia Mayo, from the Newfoundland Public Library, was at school today giving a great presentation to the Grade 5 students about different genres of literature. She brought some choice books for students to look at, as well as giving a great talk on "Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's library" which sounds great.
She also spoke about how easy the elibrary is to use too! Which it is, I use it all the time.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Inner Beauty, Beyonce Style

Many of the elementary classes are reading Roald Dahl's "The Twits" when they come to visit the library. We just started with a class last week and had reached the section where he is describing how Mrs. Twit is incredibly ugly, but she wasn't born that way.

The moment we finished, one girl in Grade 4 exclaimed, "I'm going to keep thinking good thoughts until I look like Beyonce!"

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

This weeks reads...

Right now I am reading two books to the classes that visit the library.

Pancakes for Breakfast, by Tomie DePaola, is a simple easy to read book, because it has no words! Well, not totally. The only real words in the book are a recipe for pancakes. The rest of the book can just be read by looking at the pictures.

For some of the older classes we are reading:

which is a wonderful disgusting book about Mr. and Mrs. Twit, and the terrible things they do to each other. Or that they do to monkeys. Or birds. Or little boys. Really anyone. With lots of bizarre words made up by Roald Dahl and some strange scenarios, it has been a great read-a-loud so far.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

New Books!

New books ready to enter the library system!

Finally got most of the library things up and running, though there is still lots of computer things to do. And as soon as I print the labels for these books I can put all 80 of them on the shelves for kids to read. There are roughly 15 Rainbow Magic, another 15 Geronimo Stilton, a bunch of graphic novels, and another bunch of historical fiction. Should be great!