The Showdown Between App Inventor and Scratch

Michelle Lau Blog

Though I have hardly mastered Scratch since my first coding workshop (read about it here), I charged ahead anyway into another coding workshop to learn about App Inventor, a web application maintained by MIT that allows you to create and install stand-alone applications for Android tablets and phones. My verdict? Embrace it! At first glance, App Inventor is very similar to Scratch; they both use a drag-and-drop interface, making computer programming much more feasible for beginners since it eliminates the need to produce fleshed out codes. They both allow users to create fully functional programs and help students ease into “real” coding. So which one should you choose? It depends. Here are some notable differences between the two that you should take into account when choosing which one to incorporate into your classroom: Usability I found App Inventor harder to grasp compared to Scratch because of how the code blocks are labeled. Whereas Scratch uses labels that make sense syntactically and semantically, App Inventor uses labels that are semantically invalid in English. Let me give you an example of what the two applications would say if I wanted to play an audio file after I click a button: Scratch: {When this sprite clicked} > [play sound (audio file)] App Inventor: {When (Button1) .Click} > {do [call (audio file) .Play]} Even though this example is relatively easy to figure out, I think we can all agree that the App Inventor language does not resemble the way we normally speak in English. …

Using 3D Printing & Digital Storytelling to Make a Difference

Eric Braun Blog

Imagine you did not have a functioning hand. What would you do? How would you overcome the obstacles presented by a world for people with two working hands? Those of us with two normal hands may never know what this is like, but you and your students now have an opportunity to help other kids and adults overcome these obstacles and learn cool things at the same time. 30hands Learning is partnering with the Enabling the Future initiative and schools to help those without hands overcome obstacles and to help students in grades K-12 learn cool things experientially while providing service to others. The e-Nable initiative is a movement to create low-cost 3D-printed artificial hands for kids and adults who are missing hands, arms and fingers and could use a “helping hand”. It is supported by the Enable Community Foundation. Our project is called “30hands for 3D Hands“, and our starting goal is to work with schools to create 30 hands for kids in need. The initial goal is modest so that it is achievable, but we expect it will grow exponentially. It all depends on how many schools participate. The opportunity to participate in “30hands for 3D Hands” helps schools provide students an experiential option for authenticity in learning, design and reflection. Your call-to-action is to engage your students and schools in these collaborative, experiential projects that help others. The benefits are unlimited. Our role at 30hands Learning is to facilitate the learning process, remove obstacles, make connections and help fund the efforts. …

Project-Based Learning AND Community Service? We’re in!

Michelle Lau Blog

As we diligently work to bring fresh updates to 30hands for the upcoming school year, we are also working on a project to get students more involved in hands-on activities while helping others in need. This came about when our CEO, Eric Braun, stumbled upon an organization called e-NABLE, which encourages volunteers to make cost-efficient, 3D-printed hands for those in need. We knew we had to jump on board. Why? Because here at 30hands, we are not only crazy about storytelling, flipped classrooms, and project-based learning (who’s not?); we are also crazy about empowering students with a wide-range of tech skills that will become increasingly relevant in the 21st century. With e-NABLE, we saw the opportunity to encourage teachers and students to become makers, learn about 3D printing, and help others with their newfound knowledge. What’s more, our name 30hands actually came from the idea that in a class of 30 students, everyone would raise their hands enthusiastically to participate. It therefore made sense for us – 30hands – to do social good by bringing many hands together to engage in PBL and literally provide a helping hand for people who have missing arms, hands, or fingers! Am I right or am I right? I want to switch things up a bit and end with a video story that I created about e-NABLE. Hopefully, it will get you excited about participating in the project and thinking about how you can get involved!   What do you think about this project? Are you interested in …

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 …