3 STE(A)M Activities to Do with Your Kids During Remote Learning

In a remote learning environment, it is critical that learning is kept light and fun, and it can be challenging to find light and fun lessons or activities that promote STEM skills with your students. With this in mind, I compiled three of my favorite STEM activities that your kids can do at home with their parents or siblings. 

All of these activities simply require regular household items, and if you don’t have a particular item, don’t worry! Every activity material list is adjustable and customizable for whatever materials you have available. I’d encourage you to get creative and add or remove some of the supplies to keep your kids on their toes. These activities can be for more than just the students as they are super fun to do with the whole family! Families can have nightly competitions to see who can achieve the best results. We also don’t want to forget about art. All of these activities can include an art component to create a STE(A)M activity. Kids can decorate or add color to any of the materials they can use in the activities. Let’s dive in!

Puff Mobile 

This activity is one of my favorites to do with teachers, who then bring it back to their students. During the activity, kids are to design a vehicle that can travel six feet in the fewest “puffs” possible. That means getting down on the ground and using your breath to propel the vehicle forward. The key to this activity is building the vehicle. Your son/daughter/student is provided a specific and limited amount of materials to create it. Having a limited amount of materials will encourage them to use design and engineering principals in the build process and be creative with their use. Below I have a sample material list, but you can substitute or remove any of the materials to make it your own! Here are the instructions.

Challenge: Using at least one of all these materials, design, and build a vehicle that moves only by blowing on it. For added fun, put a timer on the first build, have your kids see how many puffs it takes to move puff mobile the first time. Then give them 5 minutes to make adjustments to their design to see if they can improve their results! 

Materials

  • 3 Plastic drinking straws 
  • 4 Lifesavers
  • 1 Piece of heavy paper
  • 2 Paper clips
  • Tape
  • Scissors

Marble Track

The marble track activity requires less space than the puff mobile but offers the same amount of fun! For this challenge, your kids will be tasked with constructing a track for a marble to roll on. The marble must use the track to roll forward and come to a stop on/in an 8×8 landing area. Given that there are no rulers in the materials list, your kids will have to determine how big 8×8 is. For added fun, put in a rule that the track must meet a specific length requirement, or if you have multiple kids completing the challenge, the longest successful track wins! Like the puff mobile challenge, the materials list can be adapted to any household materials you have available.

Materials

  • 3 Plastic drinking straws 
  • 3 Name labels
  • 1 Piece of paper
  • 2 Pencils
  • 4 Paper clips
  • 1 Marble
  • 3 Rubber bands
  • 3 Toothpicks

3 Little Pigs

This activity I find to be particularly fun and would be an excellent addition for an elementary teacher to pair with a reading activity involving the Three Little Pigs. Keeping in line with the story, kids will construct a house with various materials and then attempt to blow it down as if they were the big bad wolf! If you have multiple kids at home, try having them each construct a house with a different base material, the same way the pigs in the story did! This activity is truly open-ended when it comes to materials, but I’ve listed some ideas below.

Materials

  • Straws
  • Paper
  • Paper Clips
  • Play Doh
  • Modeling Clay
  • Toothpicks
  • Tongue Depressors

These three activities are not only fun for the kids to engage in STE(A)M skills, but could be fun for the whole family! In times of remote learning, experiential activities like this can be a welcome learning experience for kids and families alike! 

5 Tips for Leading Professional Learning Virtually

If you are a professional development provider like I am, you get into the profession to make a personal connection with people. There is nothing I enjoy more about my job than getting into a room with a group of educators and getting to know them in the often too short time that we are together. With the current reality of the situation we are living in, the prospect of getting back into a room with people seems a long way off. This means that many of us will have to shift toward delivering our content virtually via a platform like Zoom or Google Meet.

Leading professional development in this manner can be a challenge. It is much different than having everyone’s attention in one room. Teachers are probably at home, distracted by kids, pets, or spouses. As the presenter, it is up to us to make sure our delivery methods are enough to keep our audience engaged and learning with us. 

To that end, I have my five tips for leading professional learning online. I have had vast experience leading groups of educators through online training, and with that comes quite a few ups and downs. While the process is never as smooth as in-person delivery, these five tips can assist in making the experience better for you and your audience!

Outline of Tips in the Video

  1. Be prepared
    • Have your presentation ready and well prepared.
    • Have questions and discussion prompts available to start conversation with your audience.
    • Be prepared for silence, you might have to talk the whole time
    • If you are using Zoom and want discussion to occur, use the breakout room feature.
  2. Have your system set up for delivering quality content
    • Have your camera placed on an elevated surface or use a webcam that is eye level.
    • Have a quality microphone, this might not mean headphones, some of those mics are worse that the one on your computer! Test your audio quality with someone ahead of your presentation.
    • Be in a room with good lighting so people can see you better.
    • Turn off your notifications on your computer and phone. These can be distracting to you and your audience.
    • If possible use two monitors, or at least a second device like an iPad. This can be helpful in looking up information while your presentation is on the screen.
  3. If possible, have a co-host
    • They are great for assisting in moderating the chat for you.
    • They can listen more closely to discussions for things you might have missed.
    • They are helpful to talk to in times of silence.
    • When the session is over they are someone to debrief with.
  4. Know Your Platform
    • Whether it is Zoom, Google Meet, or something else understand it’s basic features
    • Know how to share joining information with audience members that are attempting to join late
    • Know how to start and moderate the chat
    • Sharing your screen is of utmost importance. You will most likely have a presentation, make sure people can see it.
    • Know how to mute your rouge audience microphones. It might not be their fault but mics turn on sometimes, know how to shut them off.
  5. Have empathy for your participants
    • Don’t force them to sit and listen for long periods of time, keep sessions reasonably short and give breaks if needed.
    • This is a new experience for many, if they leave their mic on don’t be mad about it, understand they didn’t mean to interrupt you.
    • Silence from the group doesn’t mean they don’t understand, sometimes silence is just how video instruction goes.

Connecting a Smartphone Hotspot to a Chromebook

In a remote learning situation, many students may not have a reliable internet connection at their home to complete their school work, and many of these students may turn to using their smartphone, or parent’s smartphone, as a hotspot. The hotspot feature allows the smartphone to broadcast a wireless signal that the Chromebook or other wifi capable device can connect to. When the device is connected to the hotspot, the student will be able to access the internet.

How do you enable the hotspot on both Android and iPhones and then connect a Chromebook? These short videos below will assist in demonstrating how this is done. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for support! 

How to Enable Your Android Hotspot

Connect to a Hotspot on Chromebook

Enable an iPhone Hotspot and Connecting to a Chromebook

Remote Learning Tools

We are in a period of time where school closings due to Covid-19 are severely disrupting our academic calendar. Districts are scrambling to find useful resources for teachers to use in developing e-learning plans to continue education for an extended time away from school. 

While this is a difficult task to put together in short order, the edtech community has come together to support one another. This includes many edtech companies offering their premium services for no cost to affected schools (here is a comprehensive list of many of those companies). While many companies are offering these features, it is essential to understand the key elements of a tool that will help in a remote situation. In my opinion, a quality remote learning tool is one that allows teachers to both interact and be visible to their students. Many times this includes adding video to work so students can both see and hear the teacher explain the activity. Below I have created five how-to videos on tools that I believe can help the learning continue for our students. 

Nicole Zumpano of the LTC has also put together a terrific Planning to Close Guide; it is worth your time to check it out. 

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the LTC for assistance!

Tools for Remote Learning

Bring the power of Hangouts Meet and Google Classroom together to give your students a place to come together and talk during a period of remote learning. I’ll walk you through how to set it up!

Take your PDFs and make them accessible for all your students during a remote learning experience by utilizing Kami! Check out some quick tips to get started in this video!

Bring the power of Google Slides closed captions and Screencastify’s screen recording together to help make your student’s learning as accessible as possible!

Curate YouTube videos and share them efficiently with your students. YouTube has an incredible amount of learning resources available to us but managing it can be a problem. Leveraging playlists, subscribing to channels (you could subscribe to mine, that’d be cool), and sharing videos effectively can help your kids!

If you haven’t used Flipgrid before it is the perfect tool for sharing and receiving information with your students and having them share it back to you using video. The best part, it has a mobile app that works just as well as the web browser. It has so many purposes they are hard to count! And .. its 100% free!

From Consumption to Creation: Inspire Creativity in Your Classroom!

The consumption mindset not only applies to the traditional classroom but can carry over into a technology-enriched classroom environment. Students may hope that the educational experience with their school device will mirror how they consume information on their personal devices. After all, students spend a lot of time-consuming information from YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

So the question becomes: How can we leverage the consumption mindset to our advantage? The answer starts with turning our students into the creators of the very content they are consuming. We can challenge them to create artifacts focused around the content of our classes and publish those artifacts for others to consume and learn from.

Teaching our students to create can have a wide-ranging effect on them. It often goes beyond simply helping them learn the content specific to our classes. Creating media helps students develop a foundation of skills that transfer over to many other areas of life. A recent study shows that employers want workers with an increasingly demanding skill set including problem-solving, digital literacy, leadership, and creativity. 

To that end, by challenging our students to become content creators in our classrooms we can help foster all of these skills. Technology provides our students the ability to create with voice, video, images, or any combination of the three. This allows students the opportunity to express themselves in ways that may not be possible in a written assignment.

So how do you get started with these concepts? What are some tools that can provide these creation opportunities for your students? To help answer these questions and more I’ve created a YouTube playlist of my top tools for inspiring creativity including Adobe Spark, Book Creator, and Flipgrid. I hope you find it helpful, and the tools included will inspire your students to become the creators they have the power to be.

The following videos were created by Ben Sondgeroth, LTC’s Regional Educational Technology Coordinator, as an introduction to Adobe Spark, Book Creator, and Flipgrid.

Create Web Pages with Adobe Spark Page: Have you looked for a tool that allows your students to create incredible web pages? Look no further than Adobe Spark Page!

Create Awesome Videos with Adobe Spark Video: Have you wondered how to create a video on your Chromebook or iPad? Look no further than Adobe Spark Video! This amazing tool allows you to create videos and share them back to Google Classroom!

Learn How to Get Started with Adobe Spark Post: Have you been wondering how to create exciting graphics with Adobe Spark Post? This video has you covered! We dive into how to bring this awesome tool into your classroom!

Create Amazing Books with Book Creator!: Have you been looking for a way to have your students create amazing books in your classroom? Then look no further than Book Creator! In this tutorial, I’ll walk you through how to get started with this incredible tool!

Getting Started with Flipgrid in the Classroom!: In this quick video, we will explore how to set up a Grid in Flipgrid and assign out a topic to your students!

 “Driving the skills agenda – EIU Perspectives – The Economist.” 2015. May. 2015 <https://www.eiuperspectives.economist.com/talent-education/driving-skills-agenda>

LTC Monthly Tech Tips! – April 2019

PBL Idea Cards

The Buck Institute for Education’s new PBLWorks website features 63 downloadable projects for K-12 in English language arts, math, science, social studies, world languages, fine arts, health and physical education and other STEM topics.

https:/www.pblworks.org/

Add a Google Drive File to Multiple Drive Folders

Open Google Drive through your web browser and select a file or folder. Now press Shift + Z. You’ll see an “Add to Folder” pop-up. Next, select the folder where you wish to add the selected files and click OK. Your file will be in both places, without making a separate copy of the file!

Add Screencastify Videos in Google Slides

You can add Screencastify videos directly to your Google Slides with the Screencastify for Google Slides Add-On. Open a slide deck and click on Add-Ons, then Get Add-Ons. Search for the add-on and then click the “+ Free” button. Now, when you record a screencast using Screencastify, you can just go to your add-ons and add the video directly to the slide!

Organize your Google Keep

Using the Category Tabs for Google Keep Chrome extension allows you to use colors in Keep to organize your notes. Learn more about this process in this helpful article from Carlos Jeurissen.

Add Emojis to Google Drive Folders

Do you love a good emoji? Add some to your Google Drive folder/file names to spice them up! In order to do this, add an emoji keyboard to your Chromebook’s keyboard options, or simply search for an emoji keyboard in a Google search. When you find the emoji that fits your folder or file name, copy and paste it into the name area. Now you have an exciting way to organize your Google Drive! 🤗 🤩

Manage Your To-Do List with Google Tasks!

Have you taken advantage of Google’s new and improved Tasks feature? Tasks is now located in the sidebar of Gmail, Calendar, and all other Google apps! This great feature allows you to create checklists that are manageable throughout the Google Suite of tools!

Follow Twitter Hashtag without a Twitter Account

Have you seen a Twitter Hashtag advertised but you feel left out because you don’t have Twitter? Well, it is possible to follow conversations on Twitter without a Twitter account! For example, if you would like to revisit the conversation that took place during the recent ICE Conference, cut and paste the following URL into your browser: https://twitter.com/hashtag/ice19?f=tweets&vertical=default . As Twitter users post about the things they are learning and sharing at the conference using the hashtag #ice19, the posts will show up on this webpage. So even if you don’t have a Twitter account, you can see what people are sharing from the conference.

Force Copy (and Preview!)

Do you know how to force someone to make a copy of a Google Doc? Did you also know that you can preview these documents before making an actual copy? Check out this 1-pager that shows you how to do both! Force Copy in Google Docs 

Teachers Talking Tech Recap

On January 25th, thirty teachers from around Northern Illinois gathered at Highland Community College in Freeport, IL to attend the first Teachers Talking Tech Mini-Conference. Attendees braved the -30 wind chill temperatures in order to learn successful technology integration practices. The LTC partnered with Carroll, JoDaviess, and Stephenson Regional Office of Education 8 to host the event.

To kick off the mini-conference, Ben Sondgeroth (RETC, Learning Technology Center North), presented a session on Moving Past the Digital Worksheet, Evaluating Technology’s Impact on the Lesson. Ben discussed tools and strategies for teachers to think through how and why they are utilizing technology in the classroom. He presented on three of the most commonly used evaluation models: SAMR, TPACK, and The 4 Shifts Protocol. Each of these models offer teachers an opportunity to reflect on their lesson’s technology integration and evaluate how they might enhance their student’s learning. Ben then encouraged teachers to think about the new tools and strategies using the Monday to Someday mindset. This mindset asks teachers to categorize new ideas and tools in two ways: am I able to take this back and implement it with my students on Monday, or is this an idea or strategy I would like to learn more about and apply someday?

Nicole Zumpano (RETC, Learning Technology Center Chicagoland) followed, sharing Google workflow tips and tricks. Presenting from a hyperdoc, Nicole provided the attendees with 19 of her most useful Google strategies. Some highlights include:

  • Using multiple Chrome profiles to separate Google accounts
  • Leveraging the power of search in Google Drive
  • Leveraging public calendar view to share events with parents
  • Adding emojis to your Google Drive file names
  • Using the G Suite Training Extension

Nicole’s helpful strategies gave many in the audience new ideas on how to better streamline their digital workflow.

Elizabeth Byam (4th Grade Teacher, Riverbend Schools) then presented several tools and strategies she is using with her students. Elizabeth immediately got the attention of the audience by doing a demonstration of Quizlet Live. Acting as the “teacher,” Elizabeth randomly placed the attendees in groups and pushed a quiz on state capitals out to them all. The room was buzzing as teams raced to finish the quiz first. Elizabeth then moved on to discuss how she is leveraging Loom for screencasting in the classroom, Estimation 180, and Green Screen by DoInk. Her creative and interactive approach had all the teachers engaged and excited to bring new tools to their classrooms!

After lunch, Jody Pauly and Scott Woodly (Pear City School District) partnered to showcase strategies they are using in their school district. Scott, an IT Director, shared his favorite Google Hacks, before turning the podium over to Jody to discuss Flipgrid. Jody demonstrated how she leveraged Flipgrid to engage her 3rd graders in online discussion. She then created a demo grid and asked participants to respond and think about how they might leverage the tool with their students. To wrap the session Scott challenged teachers to not be afraid of failing with technology. He emphasized that technology integration isn’t easy but sticking to the old methods does not help prepare our students for the future. His motivational message was a perfect ending to an amazing day of learning.

To end the day, all attendees entered a raffle for iPad cases that were generously donated by Rug-Ed Cases. Three lucky teachers left with brand new iPad cases. We appreciate Rug-Ed’s contribution to the event!

It was inspiring to see so many teachers attend a professional learning event, even when many of their schools canceled for the day. The desire to learn and grow was evident in the room, and the LTC looks forward to hosting more events like this in the future!

3 Tech Tips to Kick Off 2019!

Every month our staff will be publishing a post sharing some of their favorite tech tips! For January we focus on leveraging bookmarking in Google Chrome, creating online lessons, and protecting your privacy while searching.

#1 Save Space on Your Chromebook Bookmarks Bar!

Are you frustrated at the lack of space available on the Bookmarks Bar? To solve this simply delete the name of the bookmark when you are adding it to your Bookmarks Bar. In doing this, you will only see the “Favicon,” or logo, of the website.

#2 Turn Any Website into an Interactive Online Lesson

The InsertLearning Chrome Extension is a great way to teach current events or anything on the web. This extension provides you with a toolbar enabling you to make notations,  insert questions or even add discussions right within a web-based resource. There are even templates to help you get started.

#3 Try Using DuckDuckGo as a Search Engine to Protect Online Privacy

Use the search engine DuckDuckGo to take back your privacy. DuckDuckGo has a business model where they don’t need to track your searches, store or share your personal information to make money. Everything you search for using DuckDuckGo is private.

For more great resources, be sure to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Recapping the Redesigning Learning Spaces Summits

On January 17th and 18th, the Learning Technology Center partnered with two amazing schools, Buffalo Grove High School, Buffalo Grove, and Middletown Prairie Elementary School, Mahomet for the inaugural Redesigning Learning Spaces Summit. Educators from across the state attended both sites to better understand the design process and learn from each school’s unique experience.

David Jakes

David Jakes started both mornings off with an engaging keynote presentation that focused on why schools were deciding to redesign their spaces. David paid special attention to the details that education teams need to consider when undertaking a project of this scale. Discussion ranged from paint colors in rooms (#beyondbeige) to the specific types of furniture available for purchase. After the keynote, attendees were able to ask David about his experience in consulting schools through the redesign process.

In the afternoon, educators went on school tours by building administrators and teachers. During the tours, attendees were given detailed information on many different aspects of the redesign process including budgeting, professional development provided, and lessons learned throughout their experiences.

At the end of the day, attendees interacted with a panel of host school personnel. Each panel discussed the decision-making process and the fundamental reasons for changing their learning spaces. Attendees came away extremely impressed with both schools, and conversations sparked at how to build off the knowledge gained at the summit.

The LTC would like to thank both Buffalo Grove High School and Middleton Prairie opening their doors and being exceptional host schools. We would also like to thank David Jakes for keynoting the event and bringing his expertise to the day. If you would like the resources David shared during his presentation, please email him at david@davidjakesdesigns.com.

Learn How to Use Google Classroom!

At the start of the 2018 school year, Google launched its largest update of Google Classroom ever! With the update, Google significantly changed many of the core features of Google Classroom. To assist teachers in understanding this update RETC Ben Sondgeroth has created an in-depth video playlist on all things Google Classroom. No matter if you are new or a seasoned veteran to using Google Classroom, this video playlist is for you! Click the menu icon in the top left corner of the video screen to find all the videos on the playlist.

For more great video content be sure to subscribe to the LTC YouTube Channel!

 

Google Classroom Playlist