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

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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 …

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30hands Pro Takes You To a New Level

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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.

Reflections on EdCamp Boston 2013

Eric Braun Blog 0 Comments

EdCamp is an exploratory adventure. It behaves like a start-up company and turns attendees into ad-hoc entrepreneurs. This is what I love about it, because I firmly believe that teachers should act like entrepreneurs in the classroom. If this is true, classroom innovation will occur with much greater frequency. But learning to be an entrepreneur is not easy, just like learning to be a teacher is not easy. Each learns a series of skills and competencies, and each finds the real world very different from what has been learning in preparation. And what is this beast called EdCamp? From an entrepreneurial perspective, it is an Unconference. From a business perspective, it is Conference Gone Wrong. From the uninitiated, it may look like Chaos and Confusion. (Queue up the background flames and squeaky, mechanical music noise here). It starts with a bunch of people (usually teachers) with similar interests (usually students and learning). They all get together in a space that seems pretty big but then very quickly seems pretty small. They hover around a big hand-made Excel spreadsheet on the wall and peer intently at the words in the table cells. Some reach for pieces of cardboard and markers, where they write down ideas that relate to something they just read on the board or something that is burning within their minds and souls. Some drop the pens and fall to their knees. Others climb over their colleagues in order to read better, in order to overcome the glare in their glasses or maybe …

7 Minutes of Cool @MassTLC: Connecting Techies of All Shapes and Sizes

Eric Braun Blog 0 Comments

I headed into Boston bright and early to congregate at the Renaissance Waterfront Hotel at the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC). With over 500 attendees, there was lots of opportunity to network. I thrive on networking at innovation-oriented events, because I find it helps me see things from different angles and be more creative. These events are different from the pure networking events where people are just looking to unwind or find a friend. The innovation community helps you think and create, which has been my mantra lately. I decided to try out the 30hands Mobile app in a different way, more from a journalistic perspective. We call 30hands Mobile a “photo storytelling app”, because it lets people organize photos and images into a storyline then record audio on top of the photos. If the storyline doesn’t flow the right way, just drag and drop the thumbnail images around into the desired order. Recorded audio stays with the images as they move around. If you stutter when speaking or just don’t like it, just click record again and record over the previous audio. From the desktop, there’s a preview button (play) that let’s you review the whole story. When you’re ready with it, click the action button in the upper right and publish it as a video presentation to your camera roll or to a 30hands site, if you’ve signed up for one. We’re still working on some more editing features, so I was wondering how …

Stop Learning, Start Thinking

Eric Braun Blog 0 Comments

Yesterday, I watched a TEDxTEEN talk by child prodigy physicist Jacob Barnett (Don’t mix him up with “Josh” or you’re in for a surprise). He says, “Stop learning, and start thinking!” Yes, he says it with enthusiasm. He cannot contain himself! He attributes his knowledge and understanding with the fact that he takes time out to contemplate an idea in depth.  Why does he say this? Why could it be true?   When the goal is to create something or solve a problem, we have to think about it. At some point, we will come to the conclusion that we need to do some research — find books or websites or other people who will gives us some information to use as a tool to solve the problem. This is true learning. This is what we as employers want to see in our employees. Another thing employers want in employees is people who can work well in teams. They don’t always know they want this, but they do. Even the best lone programmer in a corner will not typically be as good as a circle of programmers who talk to each other about their ideas, help each other from time-to-time and share code.    What if we make as many learning materials available as possible (and anytime, anywhere on any device if possible) and then set the students free with projects to create and problems to solve in teams? Our role as teachers is to coach the students through the …

Seth Godin, Jedi Master of the Connection Economy?

Eric Braun Blog 0 Comments

I just got back from a talk by Seth Godin at Tufts University. As expected, it was inspiring. His core message to students was to get out there and connect. It’s a connection economy. Connect and you get noticed. Do something to help others connect, and we will notice you and care about you. This is essentially a new take on his “permission marketing” concept of past: turn strangers into friends and friends into customers. Today, says Godin, success means being a connector. But the more he talked, the more I felt that he meant more than that. He seems to take Malcolm Gladwell’s tipping point concepts of Connectors, Mavens and Sales People and make them all requirements of a successful entrepreneur. “You have to be all three of these things.” He did not say this in so many words, but he did say, “Pick up the microphone while it’s still available.” This is essentially what a Maven does, right? Speaking out will help you build your network of connections and followers. The more you speak out, the more of a sales person you will become. And of course, it’s all about the 10,000 hours, too. Do it, do it, do it. You will fail, but you will fail less over time. If you’re not doing something that rubs someone the wrong way, you’re probably not pushing yourself, and you will be doomed to a life of mediocrity. As Tufts students, the audience is not prepared for mediocrity, but Seth …