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How to Start a Classroom Podcast

How to Start a Classroom Podcast

With popular shows like Serial, Dirty John, and Doctor Death, podcasting has really solidified as a media outlet. It’s important for students to understand the importance of radio, and to be up on what is the newest form of radio: Podcasting. You can find Podcasts that cover nearly every topic, and discover long form interviews with very or not so very famous writers, researchers, celebrities, for wherever your interests lie.

What do you need to start a classroom podcast?

How to Start a Classroom Podcast

  • Recording device (phone, microphone, computer microphone).
  • Headphones
  • Sound Editing Software (Audacity or Garageband)
  • Place to host your Podcast: Libsyn, Anchor, or SoundCloud
  • Space on your computer hard drive (Podcasts take a lot of space)
How to Start a Classroom Podcast

What is Podcasting good for?

  • Recording lessons and posting them for absent students to catch up on.
  • News and updates in the classroom
  • Student projects
  • Interviews with students, teachers, and parents
  • Full experiential sharing

Because podcasting has become so popular, it is easier and easier to create and share podcasts. A handy new app for sharing podcasts is Anchor. Anchor is as easy to record, edit, and share as on Youtube. You simply install the app on a phone or tablet, create your profile, name your podcast, and get recording. From Anchor, your podcast can be seen on iTunes and Google.

Another way to create a Podcast is by creating a Youtube video, and separating the audio from the video. Now your podcast can be available on two platforms! With Google Hangouts, you can record meetings and interviews with multiple people, send it directly to Youtube, and then take the audio for your podcast! The Audio can be added to Anchor, SoundCloud, or wherever your podcast is hosted.

If you want to keep it simple, another free audio platform is SoundCloud. Like with Anchor, you can record directly into SoundCloud. Or you can record and edit your Podcast, save it to your hard drive, and upload it into SoundCloud. It’s a little complicated getting your podcast from SoundCloud into iTunes, but it can be done. Just follow the instructions here: https://blog.soundcloud.com/2018/05/30/host-podcast-soundcloud/

Depending on the quality of your podcast, it is important to get some audio editing software. A free and easy to use software for editing is Audacity https://www.audacityteam.org/

When you first look into podcasting, it can be a pretty daunting endeavor. Depending on how deep you want to go, podcasting can require a lot of technical understanding or little. If you want your podcast to show up on major platforms like iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play, then you may have to invest in a hosting service like Libsyn (for at least $5 per month). Here is a good tutorial on setting up a podcast in libsyn http://www.podcastersunplugged.com/how-to-setup-podcast-hosting-with-libsyn-podcast-tutorial/, and here is a Youtube video doing the same: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NySz8OFMvSM

Ideas for Podcasting with Students

The easiest Podcast form is the interview. Have your students do a project where they interview someone about something, record and edit the audio, and then place it in the class podcast wherever you decide to host. 
How to Start a Classroom Podcast

There you go! You did it! The class has a podcast! Have you tried Podcasting yet? I'd love to hear about it. 

How to Start a Classroom Podcast

Brittany Washburn
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Why Children need MORE Technology Time

Why Children need MORE Technology Time
But kids are always on devices, am I right? It is true, children these days are averaging about six hours a day if they are between 8 and 12 years old. That is an incredible amount of time when you add it all up. So why are these same kids struggling to take online standardized tests in school?

In most areas of the country, starting in 3rd grade, students are expected to take standardized tests and more than 80% of schools are using computer based testing now. The amount of text on these exam pages that students are required to read and comprehend is mind boggling if you spend any time with these kids in day to day life. They do not just automatically have this skill.
Why Children need MORE Technology Time
Teachers do have more technology available in our classrooms than ever before. It is really rare these days to see a classroom without a projector and at least a few student computers. In more well-funded districts there are even classrooms in which every student has a device of their own.

Teachers are trying to incorporate all of this technology while having little training themselves. They are doing a great job with the resources they have! Schools could really benefit from stepping up the resources they provide to teachers. Getting the devices into the classrooms was a great first step but now we need to take it to the next level, particularly if students are going to be expected to take their standardized tests on computers.

How Can We Optimize Screen Time for Our Children?

It comes down to the type of activities they are doing when they are on these devices. As I'm sure you could guess, mindless activities are not ideal. Here is a quick list you can use when considering if a specific activity is appropriate.

Does the app or program require:

  1. Problem solving
  2. Reading for understanding
  3. Multiple steps to complete a task
  4. Multiple paths to the right answer
  5. Perseverance 
Why Children need MORE Technology Time
If the app or program doesn't meet at least 3 of these requirements, perhaps allow it only during leisure time. 

We are seeing a big influx of technology programs marketed to schools that allow students to log in and work independently. While this has the benefit of being able to differentiate at the academic level of the learner, this type of independent practice isn't ideal for mastering the use of technology. These programs very rarely ask students to type, create, explain, and problem solve as they are learning. A teacher guiding the same type of activities with planned stops for discussions and collaboration is the gold standard for students building real technology skills that can carry over into their lives. 

Technology Class(es)

You know I'm an advocate for technology classes in schools. These classes need to be taught by appropriately trained educators. Stop putting Instructional Assistants in there and expecting them to perform miracles with no curriculum and no training! 

The class periods need to be long enough and occur frequently. We had a great conversation in my Facebook Group, the Technology Teacher Tribe about how a 30 minute class just isn't enough. Here are some of the points other Tech Teachers from around the world are making: 
Tina Says: It's not enough for a lot of reasons. A big one is the inability to cover all of the skills they need to learn--I can't even cover *half* of the important skills in 30 minutes a week. Factor in school delays, calamity days, assemblies, field trips, and safety drills, and they don't actually get that 30 minutes per week each and every week anyway. Also, many classroom teachers think the kids should be learning to type in Technology class and nowhere else. There's simply no way for kids to become proficient at keyboarding when they are only in Technology for 30 minutes a week. Even if keyboarding is all we did for 30 minutes, they still wouldn't be proficient. And yet those all important standardized tests involve typing multiple paragraphs as early as 3rd grade! 

Beyond keyboarding, kids need to learn about and understand Digital Citizenship (Staying Safe, creating strong Usernames & Passwords, Cyberbullying, Copyright, Digital Footprints, how to log into websites and programs and how to manage that login information, how to create digitally, how to communicate and collaborate, how to curate and organize digital artifacts, how to correctly use search engines, how to critically evaluate websites, how to do research and include citations and attributions, how to use computational thinking & problem-solving skills (coding, robotics, STEM, etc.), Digital Literacy, Digital Commerce...and that's just off the top of my head. There is more! How on earth could 30 minutes be enough?
Why Children need MORE Technology Time

Glenda brings up a great point that 30 minutes is actually about 22 minutes.. students have to get into the room logged on etc.. then there is time to line up students and exit class. 30 minutes does allow for questions errors with technology.Why is technology a class that should be 30 minutes long but not math or ela or social studies ?It has to become a valued class as part of the school’s curriculum. 
 Teresa explains: Biggest reason is that the students need time to use their problem solving to master a skill. With a 30 minute class we tell them how to do it and they may or may not remember but they are building the expectation that the teacher will fix their problems. As a teacher I cringe every time I have to end a class before the kids were successful or I have to solve the problem so they can more on.
Why Children need MORE Technology Time

Michelle shared: I am speaking from a high school technology integration specialist perspective. Students need time to be okay with trying things. When they are rushed for time, they just want someone to tell them how to do something. Part of technology classes should include troubleshooting and figuring out a new program or website with limited instructions. This is hard to do in 30 minutes. In my district we have zero required computer instruction class time for K-8 and only electives in the high school. This makes it difficult to give them a chance to use skills they will need when they leave school. I find my students afraid to click on something because it might not be the correct thing. I want them to click on things so that they can better remember what each click does. I want them to be risk takers and try something new without wanting a step by step instruction sheet. I am thankful for teachers who want to integrate technology, but we are always dealing with a large learning curve. Our students know how to be consumers of technology on mobile devices, but they do not know how to be creators of technology. We are really failing our students by not giving them time to learn. We are a 1:1 laptop district and technology should be integrated. We are trying our hardest but there are only two specialists for the entire district (8 schools).
Why Children need MORE Technology Time

Christina says: Learning to use technology can no longer be viewed as optional. It is a necessity for our students to learn to use technology for their future classes and jobs. Thirty minutes a week is not enough time to learn how to type, code, use a computer and the many more things Technology teachers are excepted to teach students.
Technology teachers not only need enough time, but they also need to work together with the classroom teachers to enhance what is happening for the students. With a bit of preparation time, projects and units can be planned that will require all of the critical 21st century skills our students need.

We have a duty to the next generation to prepare them for life today, not how it used to be. That means they need to type efficiently, navigate software programs like pros, and read from a screen deftly before they are even asked to take a test on a computer. This won't be accomplished by watching endless YouTube videos or playing Fortnite every weekend.
Why Children need MORE Technology Time

If you're looking for some educational screen time for the children in your life, I have some great options set up on these 2 pages of my curriculum website:
Grades K-2 links
Grades 3-5 links
Any suggestions of things you've discovered that I should add to these pages? Let me know in a comment.

Transitions into and out of Screen Time

Screen time can be really intimidating when you have a child who melts down or a class that doesn't transition well between activities. 

Here are some things that can make it easier. 
  • Out of sight out of mind. Only bring out the tech when screen time is allowed. 
  • Have comparable "unplugged" activities that work on the same skill or have the same set of characters. That way children aren't only seeing the activity on a screen.
  • Start and finish with physical movement activities. I love GoNoodle for this!
  • A timer is a must. And it should be visible to everyone. And depending on your kid(s) there need to be audible warnings that time is almost up. One strategy I use a lot is asking the child to verbally tell me how much time is left (not just say "yeah I heard you"). 
  • Debrief after the tech time. Ask what they learned, what they liked and disliked about it, what they might do differently next time, etc. 

Brittany Washburn
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Vocab Coding (VoCode) Activities to Use with Any Coding Robot

Vocab Coding (VoCode) Activities to Use with Any Coding Robot

Vocab Coding (VoCode) Activities to Use with Any Coding Robot

I really enjoy finding ways to integrate academic content when using Coding Robots. What a great way to see students SO engaged while learning! These activities can be used with any moving bots, such as the Code and Go, Bee Bots, BOLT by Sphero, Dash and Dot, Botley, Code-a-Pillar, etc. To see my recommendations list for Coding Robots for the classroom, head to my Amazon List and look at the Tech Toys section.

A Primer on Coding Concepts

Coding with students is really just like sequencing. The vocabulary is a little different because we are using math and computer science terms instead of language terms.
For example, a coding sequence, when put together, creates an algorithm that the computer understands as a program. In real life, a sequence is a set of instructions or steps that WE (instead of a computer) understand.

Basically, we are asking our students to be computational thinkers – to think like a computer
Vocab Coding (VoCode) Activities to Use with Any Coding Robot

Just like with the sequence of a story, if any of the steps are missing, the story is incomplete.
With coding, once the program is run, (the programmer presses start) the computer will go through the whole sequence (algorithm) without stopping. If there is a mistake (bug) in the algorithm then the end result will be wrong. 
Vocab Coding (VoCode) Activities to Use with Any Coding Robot

How to Use Vocab Coding with any sets of vocab

The most straightforward way to use these activities is to have students program their bot to go to one term at a time.
Vocab Coding (VoCode) Activities to Use with Any Coding Robot

To add a challenge, give students multiple stopping points for their path.
This might mean choosing 5 cards from the pile and that is the order in which they need to write their program.
Vocab Coding (VoCode) Activities to Use with Any Coding Robot

Add levels of complexity by requiring students to program in “jumping over” pieces or spaces, and “collecting” and “discarding” the pieces they picked from the pile.
Vocab Coding (VoCode) Activities to Use with Any Coding Robot

Due to the factor of choice in these activities, there are no answer keys. Have students check each other.
We call the "path of destruction" our way of checking our answers!

No Bots? No Problem!

Vocab Coding (VoCode) Activities to Use with Any Coding Robot
You can have students act as the robots or you can use the No Bot option included in the sets. 

Check out all of the individual topics included in the bundles. 

Brittany Washburn
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12 Must Have Mobile Apps for Classroom Management

There are so many apps out there for school and technology integration, but what is best for your classroom?

There are so many apps out there for school and technology integration, but what is best for your classroom? There are applications for organizing your classroom, lessons, and presentations. There are applications for student portfolios, parent engagement, and school community integration. And there are TONS of apps for polling, studying and quizzing.

My top three applications for the classroom are Classdojo, Peardeck, and Kahoot. Each of these applications does something a little different for my classroom, but all are essential for learning, assessing, and communication. Below is a list of some of the essential apps for your classroom.

Brittany Washburn
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Small Motor STEM

Small Motor STEM

What is Small Motor STEM?

We have all of these amazing small motor materials and let students explore them, which totally serves its purpose. I want to take it to the next level, though, and give students STEM challenges to complete with the small motor materials. Voila, Small Motor STEM is born!

Pixel Art is really trendy in edtech right now, so I was racking my brain to come up with a way to take it offline and do it in a way that is independent for students. 
Small Motor STEM Activities by Brittany Washburn

Combining Pixel Art with design constraints and small motor materials means that these activities meet so many standards. This list is really just the beginning. If you combine any extra writing activities (planning and/or reflection) you can bring in even more!

ISTE: 1.b, 1.c, 2.d, 4.b, 4.d
CSTA: CPP.L1:3-04, CPP.L1:6-05, CT.L1:3-03, CT.L1:6-01, CT.L1:6-02, CT.L2-07
NGSS: K-2-PS3-2, 3-5-ETS1-2
CC Math Standards: 2.G.2
CC ELA: SL.1.1, SL.1.2, L.1.6 SL.2.1, SL.2.2, L.2.6 SL.3.1. SL.3.3, L.3.6 
Computational Thinking Practices:
Problem Solving

Getting Organized with Small Motor STEM

The cards are color coded for the level.
Level 1- Black outline
Level 2- Blue outline
Level 3- Orange outline
Small Motor STEM Activities by Brittany Washburn
Level 1- Provide students with one of the Small Motor STEM Mats and the full pixel designs. Students will recreate the design using any material they have available.
Small Motor STEM Activities by Brittany Washburn

  • Level 2- Give students design constraints by limiting their materials and providing them the pixel designs that require them to finish the image by mirroring the other half.
    Level 3- Require students to go without the grid and recreate the designs with limited materials.
    Collaborative Option- Students work in pairs where one holds the design card and dictates to the other student which color(s) to put in which spaces on the grid. Communication is key!
  • Small Motor STEM Activities by Brittany Washburn
    Small Motor STEM Activities by Brittany Washburn

1.Print, cut, laminate the cards in the levels of difficulty you want for your students.
Small Motor STEM Activities by Brittany Washburn

2.Put the cards on a ring or in a task box.
Small Motor STEM Activities by Brittany Washburn

Materials to use for Small Motor STEM

The materials that can be used for these tasks are nearly limitless. They just need to be relatively small and have the right color selections.

Materials Ideas:
  • Pom-poms
  • Blocks of any kind
  • Perler beads
  • Craft beads and pipe cleaners or ribbon
  • Buttons
  • Hole punch dots
  • Foam balls
  • Snap cubes
  • Counting bears
  • Centimeter cubes
  • Counting chips
  • Lite-Brite
  • Markers/Crayons/Colored Pencils

Anything else you have on hand that has enough pieces in the right colors
Small Motor STEM Activities by Brittany Washburn

1.Have a place in your classroom where you store these materials for quick access.
2.Challenge students to come up with resources to complete the designs.

Small Motor STEM Activities by Brittany Washburn
You can even do a life-size grid! I made this out of plastic cups and counting bears. 

Bringing in the Academics to Small Motor STEM

Small Motor STEM Activities by Brittany Washburn
The vocabulary cards and recording sheet give you what you need for a mini-lesson about Pixel Art and following a "program" to complete the designs, as well as a reflection activity that asks students to write about their process. 

I recommend printing and laminating all of the vocabulary cards to have on the wall or displayed near your STEM or Makerspace area for students to use as a reference during their activity time. 

Small Motor STEM Activities by Brittany Washburn
Here are some other photo examples to show the materials students can use. The possibilities are nearly endless!

Small Motor STEM Activities by Brittany Washburn

Small Motor STEM Activities by Brittany Washburn
 Don't have quite the right colors? No problem, just replace them with what you do have.
Small Motor STEM Activities by Brittany Washburn
 The grid isn't a perfect 10x10? Challenge students to figure out how to still make the design proportional (something like if they choose to skip a space vertically they may or may not also need to skip a space horizontally).
Small Motor STEM Activities by Brittany Washburn

It would mean the world to me if you'd send me some photos (or post them on social media and tag me so I can see them) of your students completing these challenges. I can't wait to hear what they think!

Small Motor STEM

Brittany Washburn
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Teaching Email in the Elementary Classroom

Once students have a basic understanding of email writing, and possibly even an email to send, we can enter into an email interface.

Teaching email in the Elementary classroom can be a challenge, and there is little to find online about how to do it. This may be due to the variation and exposure students have at such a young age. Some students may already have access to texting, some may not. Some may have a desktop at home, others may not. So, it’s important that the students have a basic grasp on the technology they are using before attempting to teach them email.

That being said, teaching email is a lot like teaching the long lost art of letting writing, just change your language from “letter writing” to “email writing”!  I know college professors who still receive terribly informal messages from students. The more concrete and specific you teach about letter/email writing, the better students’ emails will be. This may even be a good time to begin introducing some email language like “draft”. The letter portion of an email before it is sent is called a draft.

As I mentioned before, student’s will differ on their technology exposure, writing abilities, and learning styles. To begin teaching with the formal email draft writing, think of a good email writing assignment to complete as a group or individually. Here are some possible ideas:
-          They may be writing an email about what they did over Christmas break.
-          They may write an email to the principal about how great he or she is.
-          It could be an email to a teacher requesting more time to complete an assignment, or telling them why they are going to miss school tomorrow.

There are so many possibilities. What types of letter ideas have you practiced in your classroom?

Once students have a basic understanding of email writing, and possibly even an email to send, we can enter into an email interface.

Go over the parts of a letter/email:
-          Email address
-          Subject
-          Greeting
-          Body
-          Closing
Go over basic email/letter etiquette:
-          Use proper grammar
-          Use complete sentences
-          Be polite
-          No texting abbreviations
-          No emojis

Once students have a basic understanding of email writing, and possibly even an email to send, we can enter into an email interface.

Once students have a basic understanding of email writing, and possibly even an email to send, we can enter into an email interface.

Here are some of the terms to introduce:
-          Compose: How to start a new email.
-          Email address: The person or places address the email is going to.
-          Subject: Briefly what your email is about.
-          Draft: email before it is sent
-          Inbox: Where you receive email
-          Sent: Where the messages you sent are.
-          Reply: How to send another email to the same person you received.
-          Reply all: If there is more than one email address, you can reply to all the people in the list.

Once students have a basic understanding of email writing, and possibly even an email to send, we can enter into an email interface.

Different email interfaces may have different layouts or symbols, but the basics are always there.

Warning: some students may think of email like texting or chatting, but it’s important to distinguish. Email is formal, and texting is not. If you compare email to texting, then the work that students put in may look like texting instead of letter writing. In these days of modern technology, email is the new letter, so keep it as simple as possible, and maybe these kids will be able to write a decent draft to their professors and potential employers in the future.

How do you teach email and messaging in the classroom?

Warm Up: eBook to teach how email works.

Main activity: digital interactive slides that introduce email terminology. 

Other resources for teaching email:
-          Lessons for K-2nd grade: https://www.commonsense.org/education/lesson/sending-email-k-2
-          3rd Grade Technology Curriculum Internet Safety Unit Lessons 2 and 3: https://www.k5technologycurriculum.com/product/3rd-grade-tech-lesson-plans/

Once students have a basic understanding of email writing, and possibly even an email to send, we can enter into an email interface.

Brittany Washburn
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