To Boldly Go Beyond Creativity

Eric Braun Blog

We first released the 30hands Storyteller app in 2013 with a goal in mind – to see how we might help kids learn through a different kind of creativity. With about 1.5 million Starter users and a growing number of Pro users, we are thrilled at how teachers are using 30hands for better classroom learning. In 2006, Sir Ken Robinson asked, “Do schools kill creativity?” Somehow, as much as we loved creativity – and we really do – we felt there was more to the conversation than that. Creativity can be a step towards greatness, but it can also ramble on with lesser results. Of course, we can all list people who were creative geniuses, but what about creative failures? I suspect they outnumber the geniuses. What was missing to prevent the many from becoming geniuses? What turns someone into a Leonardo, a Miro, a Dickens or a Mozart? In pondering this question, we affirmed that creative greatness comes from adding key spices to the formula, “iterative” spices, namely, Deliberate Practice Review and Reflection Do-Overs The Opportunity to Fail (with little or no risk) The 30hands Storyteller app was designed with this pedagogy of Iterative Creativity™ at its core in order to get students to learn more while presenting their ideas. What they learn is the values of review, reflection, low risk “failure” and quality. Creativity can be greater if it is deliberate and iterative. It’s a simple approach that works: Plan it. Try something. Review it and reflect. Do it over and over …

Quick Activity: Creating a Simple 30hands Presentation or Story

Eric Braun Blog

The evil stepsisters could not fit their feet into Cinderella’s glass slipper because their feet were too big. A lot of technology is like this – too big to fit into the classroom, too complex to understand and too time-consuming to use. Complexity can kill a great idea. We used simplicity as a fundamental design decision in creating 30hands Storyteller because we wanted students and teachers to be able to create great presentations and stories in a short amount of time. In addition to small, simple and fast, we made sure changes could be made without going back to the beginning and starting over, so everyone could be more productive. In this post, I’m going to outline how to use 30hands Storyteller to create a simple presentation or story that will fit within a 45 minute class period. Tell a Story Related to the Curriculum One of the easiest ways to get your students started with 30hands Storyteller is to have them tell a story using photos, images or drawings. This can work for all age groups, including high school and college levels. Have the students tell a story that relates to something you are working on in class. They could retell a picture book read in class, depict a battle or event from their history book or studies or even create a math detective or superhero story. The goal of this first exercise can include lots of learning, but it should be simple in order for them to get familiar with creating in 30hands. Working on the project …

Storytelling at MassTLC Unconference 2015

Eric Braun Blog

An Unconference takes people, ideas, quirks and agendas and mashes them all together to find a structure to be enacted for the day. Everyone follows a path, but every path is unique. In many ways, the unconference process is similar to the process of creating a story. We start with a mosaic of concepts and we converge them into structure. The cool thing about an unconference is that everyone creates his or her own story for the day. This year at the MassTLC Unconference, about 30-40 of us had the opportunity to talk about Stories and Storytelling, but it almost did not happen, because facilitator Jay Batson hesitated at my pitch. Perhaps, my hook was not strong enough. But he took a chance, which led to a great story circle. (Here I am on deck behind a tall guy.) I started the session by explaining that I have realized more and more over the past 5 years that people focus a lot on talking information instead of telling stories. Sometimes, they cram so much information into a run-on sentence that it sends your head spinning. And then what? That information swirls around and around then disappears like the water in a toilet bowl, never to be seen again. Clearly, that’s not what was intended to happen. From an educational standpoint, we teach kids to learn information and present information. That’s what standardized tests do. They’re all about information. Progressive educators believe in the power of storytelling, and they are finding ways to implement it into the curriculum. …

Free Images Give Students Ability to Learn Creatively on Projects

Eric Braun Blog

Using Free Images to Tell a Story or Explain Learning Using photos and images in a presentation or story greatly improves the interest of the viewer or reader and makes understanding the material much clearer and longer lasting. The Internet is full of free images, and it’s not that difficult to find and use them once you know how. Let’s take a look at how I do it in class and for my own projects. I hope this will give you ideas on how to use free images with your students to tell their stories in better ways and express their knowledge and understanding in greater depth and richness. The approach I am going to outline is very similar to the way we did it at 30hands Learning when creating Aesop’s Fables Remixed. By the way, this collection is not a retelling of the fables yet again, but rather a multimedia compilation of intertwined children’s stories inspired by Aesop’s Fables, and it’s all done with free open source images and videos. Finding Images that are Free to Use The first step to using free images legally and ethically is to understand which ones to use and which ones not to use. Two of my favorite sites are Pixabay and Wikipedia, which both have many public domain images. I generally start with Google Search using the advanced options to get an initial idea of what is available. If the selection is slim, I try variations on the search to see what shows up. When searching …

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 …