22 February 2014

Stroud Loves Reading Day 2014

Today was an awesome day! We spent it celebrating our love of reading and despite its stormy start, our fun-filled day went just as planned. It was my first time planning an activity like this and I learned a lot today. I'm already thinking about ways we can improve things for next year.

Back in August, Dr. Gilbert suggested we do a storybook character parade this year. But after talking with some friends and colleagues, I decided we should do a lot more than just have a parade. We ended up planning a whole day of literacy activities and we called it Stroud Loves Reading Day. Our plan was to have it on Valentine's Day (hence the title), but wintry weather derailed that plan. And today, when I arrived at school, we were in the midst of a pretty ugly thunderstorm. But there was no way we were going to let the weather dampen our spirits! 

Storybook Character Parade

Our day started with a storybook character parade. Each class picked a theme a few weeks ago and started planning their costumes. In addition to making their own costumes, students had props made out of cardboard and big banners to share their themes; some
even had little chants and songs to sing during the parade. We had all sorts of themes represented in our parade, from Dr. Seuss to The Watsons Go to Birmingham. Some classes chose a particular author or book, but others were a little more broad in their scope. One class did pirates, with students choosing their chacacter from several different pirate themed books. Another did mice; some students were the mouse from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and others decided to dress up as Desperaux. Third, fourth, and fifth graders went first, with our little ones in the audience. The students didn't get to have all the fun though; we had plenty of adults who got in on the fun and dressed up too! After a short transition, we swapped places and preK, kindergarten, first grade, and second grade got to parade through our halls. You can visit our Facebook page to see more photographs from the parade.

One of the other big successes of the day was the pairing up of classes for book buddies. We haven't done book buddies in recent years, but it's something I did as a classroom teacher and my students always loved it. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to include book buddies in today's activities. Today, I heard from students and teachers that they wish we could continue doing book buddies for the rest of the year. And maybe there's a way. We'll see. I definitely see book buddies as a valuable experience for our students. Our older students are given a chance to practice their reading and empowered by being given the responsibility to teach our younger students. Our little ones get to practice their reading skills to, but they are also able to see their older role models showing the importance of reading. I see book buddies as a way to strengthen our school family and develop the confidence of all of our students. It's hard to pass up a chance to capitalize on an activity that seems to be universally enjoyed.

One of the big drawbacks to rescheduling due to the snow last week was that we lost some of our scheduled guest readers due to conflicts with our new date. But despite having to reschedule, we were still able to get nearly twenty guest readers to come read to our classes. Our students loved having people from our community come read to them and our readers all expressed how awesome our students are. We do amazing things here at Stroud and it's always nice to share our superstars with others. A big thank you to our guest readers for taking time out of their day to come share their love of reading with us.

I wish I'd been able to visit more classrooms today, but Mr. Winter and I were busy, busy, busy in the library. We did technology sessions with every classroom in grades K-5, using the iPad app Flipgrid. Our younger students listened to a story from StorylineOnline and then chose one of three response options. They used Flipgrid to record and share short videos talking about their favorite part of the story, a question they had about the story, or a connection they made. The nice thing about Flipgrid is that it allowed all of our students to be heard, both by their teachers and their peers. After creating their video response, students were eager to watch their friends' videos too. It was a great way for them to share and to be exposed to so many different viewpoints. Our older students created raps, skits, and stories based off a random prompt from the Scholastic Story Starters website, then used Flipgrid to share their work. It was loud and busy and even a little messy at times. But most of all, it was awesome. 

I'm already looking forward to next year's celebration. 

11 February 2014

Designing 3D Models on iPads

We still haven't found a web based 3D design software we like a lot, but there are two great iPad apps that are pretty easy to use - Cubify Draw and Blokify

Cubify Draw is free. There aren't any add-ons to be purchased from within the app. The thing I like about it is its simplicity. This app allows the user to use her finger (or a stylus) to draw, then create a 3D rendering of the drawing. The drawing must be a continuous line; if you lift your finger to draw another line, your first line disappears. You can pull your drawing to make it taller and choose to fill in your shape or leave it as a shell. If left as a shell, you can choose between three levels of thickness. If your line doesn't connect, you can choose to automatically connect using a straight line between the two ends. 

Another nice feature of Cubify Draw is that it allows you to open an image in the background. You can then trace over something in the image to create your drawing. This might be something you'd do with a cityscape, for example. 

Unfortunately, there's no way to edit a drawing. I do wonder if there might be a way to edit the drawing using other software. The file it emails to you is an .STL file. I'm sure it's possible, we just haven't made it that far yet. 

CubifyDraw is great for making simple shapes, but it can definitely be used for more complicated designs. One of our students recently designed a bee by retracing lines she'd previously drawn. I believe she was inspired by our recent Skype chat with Dr. Towell. The mascot at Howard Payne University is the yellow jacket, which is something we're not too fond of in Athens, Georgia. 

I was a little worried pulling it off the platform since some of the lines were pretty thin. I'd like to have this student recreate the bee and see if there's a way to go over some of the lines in order to make them thicker.

Bee designed by Yami (5th Grade)

The other app we've been using is Blokify. Blokify is another free app, but there are additional features that do require payment. I'll get to that in a moment.  

We introduced Blokify by having students create something with a certain perimeter. After spending just 15 minutes or so working on the challenge, students had figured out how to add a row of blocks, delete a row of blocks, and undo/redo moves. 

Like Cubify Draw, this is a pretty simple app. It's definitely more complicated than Cubify Draw, but it's a great app for younger students and those who are new to 3D printing. My four year old even had fun making a little castle.

In Blokify, the user chooses from a selection of free block designs to build their 3D model. A block is placed with a simple touch of the finger. Much like deleting apps from an iPhone or iPad, the user holds down her finger to get rid of a block. 

A neat feature of Blokify is to order your design. A simple print might cost about $5. Users can choose the colors used to print their design and then have their print mailed to them. 

Unlike Cubify Draw, Blokify does have in-app purchases. In addition to ordering prints, users can buy more blocks, more kits, and more building environments. The other kits are Space Platform and Pirate Sea. The colors of the blocks don't really matter since that depends on the color of the filament you're using, but the design of the block does show. 

Our students started out making castles and other types of buildings, but we did have a few students who explored other ideas. One student wrote out his name in block letters. Another designed a face that looks like it could have come straight out of an old Atari video game. 

Castle by Malaysia (5th Grade)

Face by Dre (5th Grade)

The one downside to both of these apps is that you can only email your designs. CubifyDraw has an option to upload your creation, but several attempts resulted in failure and so far, their customer support hasn't been able to help. It would be nice to have DropBox or Google Drive as an option.

We've had a lot of fun exploring these two apps. Our next goal is to find a web based software that we like. I'll leave you with our first three student designed prints in the hands of their makers: