So THIS is what coding feels like!

Michelle Lau Blog

BEFORE you try to escape from yet another article related to coding (and more generally, Computer Science, the thinking behind coding) in the context of education, ask yourself, do you have any understanding of it? Have you personally evaluated the pros and cons to incorporating coding into your curriculum? Have you actually tried it to learn it? If you have coded, cool. If you haven’t… well, I am not actually here to give you the hard sell about coding in schools. I do however want to share my recent experience learning to code for the first time at 30hands Academy’s one-day workshop called Intro to Programming with Scratch, because it gave me a lot of insight into how and why learning coding is valuable. My first encounter with coding goes back to my elementary and middle school days when Xanga (a blogging platform) was still a thing. Besides publishing some cringe-worthy nonsense, I spent the better part of my time online customizing blog layouts by tweaking other user’s layout codes through pure luck trial and error. Did I work with Java? Python? Who knows. The point is that I modified preexisting code to bring to life what I had imagined — and that turns out to be what coding (and Scratch) is largely about! Scratch is a free programming language developed by MIT through which users can take pre-existing blocks (basically code), fit them together, and create something new, such as interactive stories, games, music, etc. Although Scratch was developed for children, I think it makes a great …

The Importance of Instructional Technologists

Eric Braun Blog

The role of Instructional Technologist has developed in the schools as a response to the need to focus on technology that helps with learning in the classroom. Traditional technologists in the schools have been focused more on the necessary infrastructure like servers, networks, email and home pages. Once there is infrastructure, exciting learning can begin! We are at a point where we can truly connect the pedagogy with the technology to make a greater impact directly on our students. That’s where the Instructional Technologist comes in, and there are some unbelievable people working in this type of a role. Today’s newsletter focuses on one of these amazing people — Karen Ditzler, Instructional Technology Specialist from the Capital Area Intermediate Unit in Harrisburg, PA. Like anyone who wants to make an impact, Instructional Technologists have to be movers and shakers. They have to be creative to come up with ideas to try out. They have to be energized to spread themselves over a wide area. They have to be customer-focused to make a lot of people happy. But since the rewards are so great — smiles, thank-yous, demonstrated learning — this is all cake for those who thrive there, for those who get up in the morning with the thrill of what they will encounter each day. Officially, Karen’s title is Instructional Technology Specialist and her area of focus is technology and curriculum as the connector between the Pennsylvania DOE and 24 different districts. That’s a whole lot of area to …

A Look at 30hands Version 1.10.0 and Beyond!

Eric Braun Blog

Our Commitment We are committed to helping teachers enhance classroom learning through technology and pedagogy. 30hands Storyteller has been found to be an effective learning tool by thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of students. Our goal is to keep the app simple but continue to improve it. That’s why we released version 1.10.0 and why we are working on more things this summer to be ready for you in the Fall. As you review your district and school goals for the upcoming school year, we hope you will consider upgrading to 30hands Pro. You will get even more functionality, and you will help keep alive the technology that many of your districts use as go-to and foundational apps. Recognizing the learning value in getting students to THINK & CREATE, you are enabling students to express what they know in a differentiated manner Thank you so much for helping us grow to beyond 1 million users and to make an impact in learning and teaching! The next newsletter will include another great story from an Instructional Technology Specialist. As always, please send me a note if you have a great educator or educational story to tell that we might include in our newsletter or if you’d like to know more about 30hands Pro and 30hands Professional Development. Thanks! Simple & Creative Learning We believe in simplicity of design and in creative learning. 30hands takes students from the bottom rung of the Bloom’s taxonomy ladder all the way to the …

Learning Together in Project-Oriented, Multiage Classrooms in Lewisville, Texas

Eric Braun Blog

Recently, I sat down over Skype to speak with two teachers from the Lewisville Independent School District (LISD) in Texas. When Kerry Woods and Dina Estes, from Stewart’s Creek Elementary, told me they teach in Multiage classrooms, the wheels in my head started spinning. I immediately thought about the one-room schoolhouses of the Wild Wild West. This was the first time I had encountered Multiage classrooms in the K-12 system. At the university level, my classes are all mixed with students of different ages and levels, and it works very well. Would it work well in K-12? Let’s see what our Lewisville teachers had to say. The first thing that hit me was the enthusiasm of these teachers. “We are very excited to share how 30hands has transformed the way our students show their thinking and learning!” Wow. This was a powerful statement, delivered with vigor and conviction. Nothing sends chills down the spine like hearing teachers talk about transforming their students. If we don’t aim high, we will never get close to what we aspire to achieve. Kerry and Dina each have separate classrooms with 17 students each. About half are Kindergartners and half are 1st Graders, but the students work together as one class. The two classes even collaborate on some projects. The teachers both believe in Project-Based Learning and Formative Assessments as methods to help students learn better. These beliefs led them to the 30hands Storyteller app for the iPad. Although they only have 4 iPads per classroom, they see this as an …

Kindergartners Share Their Inspired Learning with Technology

Eric Braun Blog

Yesterday afternoon, I had a great conversation with Kory Graham, tech-savvy and student-engaging Kindergarten teacher from Triton Elementary School in Dodge Center, Minnesota. Kory represents so much of what is great in teaching today. First of all, you are struck by her infectious smile and upbeat attitude. Even through Google Hangouts, I could see wheels of creativity spinning in her head. Kory has only 1 iPad in her classroom and does not make that an obstacle. She uses it collaboratively with her students and with the 30hands Storyteller app for class projects and trips. During a project, she takes pictures of the students and their work, then has them narrate over the pictures to explain what’s going on, what they have created and what they have learned. Sometimes, she includes digital drawings and short video clips within the multimedia story. The final video that 30hands creates is then shared with parents to show them what is happening in the classroom. Kory notes that the students love to see the stories and hear themselves talk. Since the app is so easy to use, the students can even use it without her and learn to work independently on a project. Kory said, “Students who are a little too shy to stand up and speak in front of the class are often very comfortable explaining what they know when narrating on the iPad.” This is where technology can help differentiate learning. Some of the projects Kory has worked on include: An end-of-year video …

Collaboration Outside of Class Inspires Learning

Eric Braun Blog

Students are used to learning in a certain way, because we train them to follow a predefined structure. This “traditional” structure helps certain students excel by mastering the system, while others, who do not master it, do not do as well. We should ask ourselves, “Is the intended learning outcome to have kids learn to learn the rules and then follow them or is it to empower them to discover knowledge and learn skills with guidance?” Certainly, we do not want kids to grow up to be anarchists who do not follow any rules (Just a gut feel here), but don’t we want to encourage more creative thinking and problem solving by making the path to success less clear and more open to interpretation? I’m not advocating taking them into the woods without a map and asking them to find their way out blindly, but sometimes we seem to provide so many rules and so much structure that our students don’t even have to think about where to go and what to do. One way I have found to motivate my students to be independent learners is to have them collaborate on a project with others outside of the class. The key is finding something that interests them to the point of taking action. It all began last Spring when I met a Tufts University graduate student at a startup event. Kiyomi was studying at the Fletcher School for international affairs. She talked about a class she was taking on making an impact with …

Rain or Shine, Snow or Sleet – Blended Learning Delivers Every Day

Eric Braun Blog 0 Comments

Who would have thought that blended learning was like the postman? Well, it’s true. Setting up class for blended learning not only help students learn more on a day-to-day basis, but it also keeps them learning and on track during snow and rain a sleet. It’s an accidental benefit of learning for the 21st Century. The promise of 21st Century technology does not mean we have to teach and learn 24 x 7, but it means we can. It means we can fit learning into the day whenever and wherever. It means we can play in the snow and still learn – before and after. My semester started out on slippery ice this year. I teach a weekly 3-hour course on Entrepreneurship at Tufts to highly motivated students, most of whom live on campus. Yet, after the first class session, we skipped 2 weeks before we had another class. Depending on how Mother Nature goes, we may miss another class this week. Am I worried? A bit, but not nearly as much as some of my colleagues who rely purely on teaching in the classroom. Here’s why. Before the semester began, I had my students all register for my course at the 30hands Cloud eClassroom. This got them into the mix of the digital content for the course, the syllabus, the assignments and some discussions. It also set an expectation that students needed to do work regardless of whether we were in class. This was so much more successful than when I …

45.5 Percent: Impoverished Without Education

Student Guest Blog 0 Comments

I was born in Mexico City and lived there until I was seven years old before moving to the United States. My house in Mexico was located in a decently nice area. I went to a Jewish Day School during the day and played soccer in a Jewish Community Center during the afternoons. Despite living in a country that had an astonishing poverty rate of 45.5 percent, my daily routine shielded me from noticing it. The only exposure I had to the devastating poverty were the disheveled homes on the side of the road – homes that were built from almost nothing. Despite my limited exposure to poverty as a child, a recent visit to Mexico opened my eyes. This past year, I was in Mexico visiting my extended family. As we were driving to my grandma’s house, we stopped at a light. I turned to my right and saw a boy that was selling candy bars to cars that were halted by the light. From his stature and clearly malnourished body, he seemed to be eight years old. His deep brown eyes, scarred face, and pre-pubescent moustache suggested he was more like twelve. The child had a look in his brown eyes that suggested a stunted childhood, dwarfed by the need to work to support his family and himself. It weren’t his physical characteristics that really struck me, but rather the object he was carrying on his back. It was noon, on a Wednesday, and this little boy was …

A Passion for Diners Ends Up in the Gutters (Startup Story)

Eric Braun Blog

Starting a business has a lot of ups and downs. The future is unknown, and many things are unpredictable. Sometimes, the most important decision is staring you right in the face. Today, I discovered a new story about entrepreneurship when I sat down for coffee with John. The path of his journey is exactly the way the path should go. As we sat at Starbucks at a tiny, rickety table talking about a project, John glossed over a “5-year break” he had taken in the 1990’s. After a few minutes, I stopped  him to rewind. “What did you do during those 5 years?” I asked. He laughed slightly and proceeded to tell me, through his lingering smile, about how he had always wanted to own a diner.  When an investor friend told him to write a business plan, he felt he was off to the races. Soon, he found that writing a business plan was a lot of work, but he plowed through and then presented it to his friend. “What do you think?” he asked. “Not bad, not bad. But where does it explain the impact of the rising price of tomatoes in March? What will you do when that happens? You’re better off selling something simple like donuts.” This question, which seemed to indicate that he needed all the answers before starting his diner, stopped him in his tracks. It made him think about his idea, reflect about his passion and engulf himself with doubt. It was the nail in the coffin …

30hands Pro Takes You To a New Level

Krystiana Watts Blog 0 Comments

30hands Mobile Pro includes great new features to improve productivity and enhance the creativity of mobile presentations and stories. Here’s a brief overview of the new features: Video Clips: You can now record or import video clips directly into a 30hands presentation. Mix together video clip slides with narrated photo, image and drawing slides. Video clip slides are best kept at 21 seconds or less to keep the presentation lean and mean. Dropbox Integration: Add images from Dropbox directly into a 30hands Presentation. Save a Powerpoint as pictures in Dropbox to use in 30hands in 1 step. To share a final video, publish it directly to a Dropbox folder. Hi-Resolution Video: You can now publish videos are a resolution of 1024 x 768 instead of the standard 640 x 480 resolution. Images and text can now have a more crisp appearance in your presentation! Google Drive Integration: Add images from Google Drive directly into a 30hands presentation. Also, publish a finished 30hands video directly into a Google Drive Folder. PDFs and Presentation: This feature allows you to import virtually any type of presentation into a 30hands project. Any other presentation can be saved as a PDF file and imported from Drive or Dropbox with this feature. Each slide becomes a separate image on the 30hands desktop.