Microsoft has launched an update to its popular Digital Literacy course. This is the first of two updates to the course, and the second one is scheduled to be released in June-July 2019. This will give you plenty of time to review it and consider adding some or all of the material to next school year.
The course is online and self-paced. Even if you consider yourself a master of digital literacy, it’s always nice to see how content is presented and you may even find a few new teaching resources/ideas.
This course will cover :
Interacting with hardware and devices
Consuming digital content online
Computer privacy, safety and security
Online etiquette and civility
Accessing and modifying digital content
Once you’re finished with the course, you can earn a Digital Literacy Certificate. If you receive a passing score on the 30 multiple-choice question course assessment, you will earn a printable digital literacy certificate to show your accomplishment. You can take the assessment whenever you feel ready. Which means you can take the assessment without ever taking the course (which I did). The assessment had questions about Microsoft specific software (mostly Word) and several questions about privacy, how the Internet works, and basic computer hardware.
If you want to access the “legacy” course (the one before the recent update), you can still access it here.
I’m incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to travel the world to work with awesome educators. As much as possible, I try to make my workshops hands-on and interactive. In some cases, that means I’m bringing a lot of stuff with me. A lot of EXPENSIVE and FRAGILE stuff. For a while, I was lugging everything around in a hard-shell suitcase, but it wasn’t really giving it the protection my stuff needed.
So I did some research and asked around and was repeatedly directed to Pelican cases. It’s the same company that makes the Cadillac of coolers, but they are also known for their protective travel cases. Unfortunately they’re also hella expensive.
This short post is to share how I created my own “Pelican” case for less than $80.
Jennifer LaGarde posted a picture on Facebook of her lugging around this case from Husky and I knew it would make a perfect solution!
Note: this is NOT carry-on size. You will need to check this. But you have the added security of knowing that even if the airline staff aren’t gentle with your luggage, that your tech will still be in tact.
Click the image to the left to view on Amazon, but you can also snag it at Home Depot for $60.
Holds up to 100lb of gear
All terrain wheels (much better than my suitcase)
Has a hole for a cord so you can charge your stuff without unlocking the case.
Padlock eye so you can keep your stuff secured.
Removable tray great for small items.
First thing I did was line the inside with foam. I used some leftover foam my from Makey Makey workshop and had some foam from a twin mattress topper which I used to make a bed for my dog (which, of course, he doesn’t use).
If you don’t have a stash of E6000 glue laying around, you’re missing out. It’s potent, but it’s stronger than any glue I’ve ever used. I used this glue to adhere the foam to the inside of the case.
The only thing I didn’t love about this case was it didn’t have a handle on the side. So I found a file on Thingiverse and 3D printed them in PLA on my Monoprice Maker Select Plus printer.
Okay I lied, there was one more thing I didn’t love and that was the foam on the extendable handle. It was soft, but I knew it was only a matter of time before I had it worn away. So I put some of this Friction tape.
So as you’ve already discovered, I’m an awful blogger.
Or I WAS an awful blogger 😉
I’m in the midst of a pretty significant career change and I’ll be dedicating much more time to sharing via my blog and social media. I promise I’ll post something next week with all that info.
Anyway… a part of my transition involved switching computers. While most of my files were already on Google Drive, I had a lot stored on the hard drive. At first my plan was to create a folder and just dump everything on there to organize later, but some of the stuff I wasn’t even certain I really needed to keep. I knew I wouldn’t need it anytime soon. But perhaps there was still a chance I might need it? Or maybe someone else would? Ah the dilemma.
I assumed Google Drive would have an Archive option, just as Gmail does – but it doesn’t. But in my search, I found this handy post on Google Forum that shows a roundabout way to create an Archive folder.
The first thing you’ll want to do is to create a folder on your main Google Drive account. I creatively called it “Archive”. With the help of my tech-savvy BFF’s Nancy Jo Lambert and Sherry Gick, I even added an emoji to my folder name. (yeah yeah, I live under a rock I know)
This is where you’ll move all of those documents that you probably haven’t looked at in years and are really only holding on to in the slight chance you might want them.
Maybe you were an elementary librarian and are now in high school? Maybe you don’t have plans to go back to elementary but you don’t want to throw all of those goodies away…just in case. This is a great solution for you.
Just moving the items into a separate folder was helpful. The only problem I had was that those files still appeared in my Search. I really want to make sure that the results that appear are timely, so when I search something like “Standards”, I’m not finding stuff from 2011.
The way to do this is to make your Archive folder owned by another account. Now, in order to do this, you will need to have another Google account. While I have multiple Gmail accounts, I really only use one account for my Google Drive. Since my other Gmail accounts give me 15GB of free Google Drive Storage, I decided to tap into that for my Archive.
Right click on the Folder and open the Sharing settings.
In the lower right corner, click ADVANCED.
Type in the email address of the account you want to share it with and click “DONE.”
Once you’ve shared it, you’ll need to go back into sharing settings.
Now when you reopen your sharing settings, you’ll have the option to make that account the Owner.
After making the new account the owner of the folder, you can Remove it from your Drive. Removing it from your Drive will ensure that those documents don’t appear in your search results.
I know it can be scary hitting the Trash Can. But remember – they aren’t actually being deleted. You’re just removing this folder from your main account. If you ever need some lesson plan you did in 2007, just login to your other Google account and you’ll find all you files there.
So there ya have it, folks. This trick was probably already known by 97% of you, but whatever. I think it’s awesome.
Many of you know that I love MakeyMakey! (Although, I don’t know anyone that has used MakeyMakey and feels otherwise).
In keeping with their awesomeness, they announced a brand new educator guide for 2018.
Download the guide at bit.ly/makeyguide
One of the reasons I love Makey Makey is because it’s so versatile. You don’t have to install software, and it’s very open-ended allowing for so much more creativity than some other products. I also love Makey Makey’s philosophy of makerspaces in school.
"We believe the maker movement is more than just robots, 3D printing, or even building things. The Maker Movement allows learners to become hardware engineers and solve real-world design challenges by providing a landscape that fosters curiosity and creates vibrant learners."
See that bad boy up there? Well that bike up there looks just like the one I learned to ride on. I remember I rode that bike so hard that the wheels started to disintegrate (because they weren’t filled with air – they were some foam-type material). I had a matching helmet and since my dad was a biker, I would wear a pair of magic gloves to try to look like him. The point is, I’ve always been this cool. (Actually no, that’s definitely not the point I’m trying to make.)
As I got more comfortable riding, my dad adjusted the training wheels so they were more or less there “just in case”. But at some point, the training wheels had to go and I had to get a “real” bike.
No training wheels.
No foam tires.
A real Huffy bike.
And despite riding for months on my training wheels, I didn’t quite know how to start. How will I keep my balance? How do I brake? How do I turn? All important questions, but ones I didn’t really need to think about when I had the support of training wheels and no hand brakes.
So it took a few tries and some frustration, but eventually I got it (#win). Having younger siblings, I would hop on my kid brother or sister’s training wheel bike and would be entertained for a hot minute and then be bored. Why did I want training wheels when I knew how to ride a real bike?
I went through a similar cycle when learning to adjust to a road bike. But again – I eventually mastered it.
So why do you care about my adventure in biking?
As enthusiastic as I am about makerspaces in education, at some point, we have to take the training wheels off. There are thousands of maker products on the market that come with project guides, activity kits, and curriculum guides. And that is wonderful! But we’re forgetting that those guides and kits are just TRAINING WHEELS. They were just meant to give you the foundation skills and confidence needed to take it to the next level. So what is the next level, you ask? YOU TELL ME.
That is the whole idea of the maker movement and sometimes I feel we are totally missing it.
The maker movement is designed to produce the worlds next inventors and innovators. Not the worlds best replicators.
So who knows what they’re going to do with the smoke alarm they just took apart. I attended a conference a few months ago and I overheard a conversation about MakeyMakey. A woman (with the best intentions, I’m sure), was explaining to her colleague that MakeyMakeys are used to make banana pianos and PlayDoh controllers.
No. No. No. No. No.
There is a time and a place for step by step project guides. I’m not saying I hate Instructables or the project suggestions that come with littleBits (or any other product for that matter). However, when Instructables and How-To books are becoming the only “options” in our makerspace, despite having thousands of “options”, we’re limiting our students. Which is so anti-maker.
So what is the time and the place for how-to guides?
When we first began our makerspace, my kids weren’t familiar with even the basics of circuitry. If I said “robot” they envisioned an android shelving library books. So I had to do some teaching of the skills and show kids how certain things can be used.
And this isn’t as easy as it sounds. I didn’t want to “teach littleBits” or “teach Snap Circuits”. I wanted to teach electronics. And that is why we need to teach things that are transferable. Teach things in terms of “input” and “output” rather than “pink” and “green”. I don’t want to teach Dash and Sphero. I want to teach coding.
If you’re teaching your kids the SKILL and not the PRODUCT, they will be able to transfer those skills and build something new.
So how do I let go?
Just do it. There isn’t a guide on letting go. Or a process. Or an outline. Or an Instructable. (there are, however, some amazing self help books on letting go and an incredibly annoying song on letting go).
But for those of you that NEED something, here are some tips.
When you design “challenges”, make them open ended. For example, “make something that moves” is a LOT different than saying “build a robot with 4 Cubelets”
Beware of circulating kits or stations. Again – there is a time and a place for these. But also keep in mind that a lot of makerspace products were meant to interact. If kids at the littleBits table are only allowed to play with littleBits, how are they supposed to learn how the skills transfer? I remember when my kids took littleBits, Legos, K’Nex and some LEDs and made an old Justin Beiber poster light up and talk. That was cool and there was no Instructable on that.
If you’re just starting a makerspace, consider skipping the “how-to” guides altogether. I promise kids will figure it out. Going back to my bike analogy, the new research suggests that skipping tricycles and training wheels is better for kids and they suggest starting kids with balance bikes.
Seriously people, Henry Ford didn’t invent the Model T with a how-to guide.
Things have been so busy with conferences coming up (and kids, and work, and life), I haven’t had much time to blog. But this opportunity was too good not to share!
Finding this was pure luck (or fate). I was streaming my twitter feed (when I should have probably been doing something else), when I found this post:
Some of you are aware, but this is my first year not in the classroom. While I absolutely LOVE my job, there are days when I miss my kiddos so much. The day I first learned about this challenge was DEFINITELY one of those days.
This would be such an amazing opportunity for them to let their genius shine.
We’ll get to the grand prize in a minute, but 100 other teams will also be winners. With cash prizes ranging from $200 to $100,000 (yes, ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND), I know my kids would be interested.
So…what’s the grand prize?
Well, in addition to the ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS, your entire team will receive a 4-day/3-night trip to Los Angeles to attend the prize ceremony. You’ll also get escorted to the limo in a fabulous dress/tuxedo in a LIMO. You’ll also receive some spending cash and tickets to cool stuff to do while you’re in town. (Remember guys, that’s where Disney Land and Universal Studios is!)
And what is that $100,000 for exactly? Well – it’s up to you and your team. Want to invest it? Want to donate it? Want to set it aside for college? Want to launch your own business? Go for it. Chase those dreams and don’t stop chasing.
And how could I forget! TEACHERS ARE ALSO ELIGIBLE FOR CASH PRIZES. Support the winning team and you could snag yourself a $5,000 educator grant?
But really, the biggest prize is so much more than trips and money. It’s inspiring others to try and make the world a better place. It’s inspiring kids to try and fail and try again. It’s helping kids find their passions. Of course that’s the real grand prize. And everyone can win that one.
So what is the challenge?
The Paradigm Challenge is an annual competition that inspires youth to use STEM skills plus kindness, creativity, and collaboration to make a difference. The 2016-17 Challenge aims to generate new ideas to reduce waste in homes, schools, communities, and around the world.
Here is a great video overview for you and to show your students!
I love the theme of this challenge. It’s not just about making something. It’s about making something that has an impact. That solves a problem. That helps someone (or lots of people). As a librarian, I love that it requires students to do research. And think about the rich discussion surrounding intellectual property and copyright. Wow. (is my librarian showing?)
Students need to find a problem (and not just any old problem, but one they’re passionate about). Get them fired up!
Once they find a problem, they need to research what is causing the problem, what (if any) solutions are out there, AND if there are any solutions already out there, WHY is the problem not solved?
As a maker, I love the idea of working through the entire design process AND working collaboratively to solve a problem. This project requires both!
The challenge is open to anyone ages 4-18 (by May 1, 2017). You must have parent permission to participate. There are three divisions for cash prizes (4-8, 9-13, and 14-18)
There is no minimum or maximum team size.
How do my students enter the challenge?
Once your students create an account, they’ll get access to a dashboard. In their dashboard, they’ll see the 10 steps they need to complete the challenge.
As you can see, I only have 20% of the challenge completed because I’ve only done one task (choose my avatar).
As I mentioned before, I love how the Paradigm Challenge incorporates so much research. Some of the activities require kids to read about the current state of the environment, and others require kids to learn about methods to reduce waste (composting, solar energy, and others).
Once you get to the part where you’re “creating”, keep the following judging criteria in mind.
a. Efficacy : How effective is the idea?
b. Feasibility: How possible is the idea?
c. Originality: How innovative is the idea?
d. Presentation: How clear is the idea?
e. Collaboration: How well did the team members work together with each other and with other persons.
Support for Teachers!
Don’t worry teachers -The Paradigm Project doesn’t want you going at this alone. They’ve created an entire portal just for educators. Complete with lesson plans, inspirational videos, flyers, letters for parents, posters, and so much more.
And if you have a question, just reach out. They are support responsive and will help you and your students in any and every way possible.
Michelle Lewis is the Outreach Coordinator and you can contact her directly at michelle at projectparadigm.org
I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to do a guest blog for Demco’s Ideas and Inspiration blog. It’s an absolute wonderful resource and there is an abundance of information about makerspaces and space design on this blog.
Most of you know that I am incredibly passionate about low-tech makerspaces and I am so happy to be able to share my passion in this post. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Unless you live under a rock or are completely off the grid when it comes to technology, you’re probably aware of the maker movement. However, if you need a refresher, I made an infographic. The maker movement is such an exciting time for students and teachers alike! Yet, while a part of you is excited, the other part of you is flooded with the reasons why you just can’t start a makerspace right now.
“I have no money.”
“I’m just not super comfortable with technology.”
“We don’t have devices at my school.”
“I don’t have the space.”
“I don’t have the schedule that allows me to teach the kids how to do the stuff.”
1 – I love Graphite! Graphite is a tool that has an abundance of reviews and ratings for websites and apps. If you’re looking for a tool to accomplish a task, there are hundreds of collections published on every topic imaginable.
2 – I love Common Sense Media. As a middle school librarian I’m always looking for in-plain-English reviews of books. Particularly books with “questionable” topics. Common Sense Media reviews are done by both parents and students that have READ the book and provide specific examples. (I’ll post more about that soon)
I was allowed to write about anything connected to #makerspaces. This was difficult for me. How do I narrow that down? So I decided to shake things up a little bit.
I wrote a post on why you should STOP thinking about starting a makerspace.
I know I’m a little biased, but I think we have a pretty amazing makerspace. It’s getting bigger – and messier – every day and the kids are creating some incredible stuff. Until recently, the makerspace was pretty contained to the library. This certainly wasn’t to exclude maker activities from occurring elsewhere – it just happened.
While at one of our ELA planning meetings, we were discussing the lack of enthusiasm kids have for writer’s workshop. What was once a time for kids to express themselves creatively, was now a time that kids dreaded. How sad? I loved Writer’s Workshop as a kid. We had to fix this. They had tried creative prompts, incorporating movies and music, but they were still “bleh”.
As we were brainstorming, an 8th grade English teacher brought up the book “Make Writing” by Angela Stockman. Oddly enough, I had just finished reading my advanced readers copy since I’m a member of the Hack Learning VIP program. All of a sudden we both were sitting at the edge of our seats ready to do it!
The idea of Make Writing is so basic that it is genius (but doesn’t it always happen that way).
Think about it…
Writer’s Workshop is intended to give students a creative outlet.
Makerspaces are intended to give students a creative outlet.
Put them together and you have magic.
Three easy steps:
Step 1: We reserved the LGI because we needed a large space. We put all three ELA classes together (approximately 75 students).
Step 2: We brainstormed all of the creative things we could have the students do. We made this Tackk to share the options with students.
Below are some images from the fun. And it really was SO MUCH FUN! I’m not lying when I say that 8th grade BOYS were RUNNING to English class. Two days prior a fire alarm could’ve gone off and these boys wouldn’t run. They’d be far too worried about how much “swag” they have when exiting the building “like a boss”. (Seriously though)
So what have I learned?
The “makerspace” isn’t really a “space” at all. It’s more of a culture and a mindset. In reality, what we call the “makerspace” is really just convenient access to the storage of everything.
The makerspace doesn’t have to be an extension activity or an add-on. There are so many ways that you can incorporate making into the curriculum. Advice: take the most boring topic you can think of and incorporate making.
Begin with “suggested” activities to get the creative juices flowing, but don’t limit their creativity to just those activities.
If assigning a grade, try to focus on the process and the planning rather than the final product. It’s important to stress that mistakes will happen and you only truly fail if you give up. Sometimes the greatest inventions occurred on accident.
Be sure to connect with the three teachers that made this all happen!
Our kiddos made their own video explaining the AR sandbox 🙂
I’ve been posting a lot on social media about our latest makerspace creation and so many people (okay, 2) have asked how we did it (and provided a lot of encouragement on the days I thought it might fail – thanks #TCEAtribe). Hopefully this blog post answers most of the questions. Once I go through all of our video footage (the kids took over 4 hours of footage), I’ll post some more videos on our process. As always, if you have any questions or need clarification, please just reach out to me at @LibrarianLister.
I wish I could say we came up with the idea, but we definitely didn’t. Oliver Kreylos, a computer scientist studying 3D scientific visualizations and computational geosciences at UC Davis designed and programmed the AR sandbox software. He made the software available as open source – YAY! – so we, and YOU can go grab it. #GoOpen. We first learned of these sandboxes at the Young Innovators Fair in Philadelphia this January. Myself and another teacher took a group of 20 very curious middle schoolers to this event over our Winter break. It was phenomenal.
Shortly after the Fair, we got asked to present something relating to makerspaces at the Taste of Hershey. The Taste of Hershey is our school’s foundation’s biggest fundraiser. A bunch of restaurants and businesses come together for a day of fun conversation and great food.
There are a lot of resources out there on Augmented Reality sandboxes. Of which, I understood none completely. If it weren’t for my genius, computer-programming and mechanically inclined students, I would truly have a box with sand.
This blog post is an attempt to put the many resources into plain English and I’ll provide links along the way so you can see more.
WHAT IS IT?
There are quite a few videos out there about the AR sandbox (trust me, we watched them all!) but this one does a great job of just answering the big “WHAT IS IT” question.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
AR Sandbox uses a computer projector and a motion sensing input device (an Xbox Kinect) mounted above a box of sand. The Kinect detects the distance to the sand below, and a visualization an elevation model with contour lines (aka. a topographic map) and a color map assigned by elevation is cast from an overhead projector onto the surface of the sand. As the sand is moved, the Kinect perceives changes in the distance to the sand surface, and the projected colors and contour lines change accordingly. When an object (for example, a hand) is sensed at a particular height above the surface of the sand, virtual rain appears as a blue, shimmering visualization on the surface below. The water appears to flow down the slopes to lower surfaces.
Here are the must-have’s to create your own AR sandbox:
A sandbox that is a 4:3 ratio (this is so it matches the ratio of the projector). It’s not a big deal if your box is bigger than the 4:3 ratio, just know that your projection won’t fill the entire box. You can either build your sandbox out of wood (what we did) or find something to use as a makeshift sandbox (think dresser drawer or a plastic storage bin).
Ours was 32″ x 24″. In hindsight, I might have made it a little bigger but since we did a lot of transporting, I’m glad ours was smaller.
If building your sandbox out of wood (as we did), I’d recommend water sealing it or lining it with a plastic tarp of some sort. Ours is not a permanent fixture so we did neither.
TIPS: Your INTERIOR measurements are what’s important. So if you’re using 2″ thick wood for your sandbox walls, you’d want to factor that in when building the box.
Caulk to seal the inside of the sandbox. I guess this wasn’t super necessary but our kids liked using the caulk gun.
Sand that will cover your entire sandbox with at least 4″ of sand.
We used Play Sand from Home Depot and added a little bit of water when we did the demonstrations. This way we could do a bit more molding. We used 3, 50lb bags ($3.90 x 3 = $11.70)
Some places recommend white sand such as this kind from Sandtastic but its much more expensive ($31.99 x 6 = $191.94)
You can also use Moon Sand($58.04 x 8 = $464.32) or Kinetic Sand ($49.99 x 14 = $699.86) if you want a crazy experience.
At least an Intel i5 (preferrably an i7 processor) running at least 3GHz. The better the processor, the faster the Kinect can scan and simultaneous project what it’s rendering. Ours was about a 3 second delay because of our 5 year old i5. We found an i5 processor in an old computer in the technology “death room”.
2 GB of RAM to run the software.
A hard drive with at least 20GB free for the installation of Linux and the software
A sweet graphics card. We used a GTX 950 ($177.99) but I would not go any lower than that. Ideally, go with the 980TI ($619.99) as it will look much more like the quality in the video above. We have a lot of students that build their own computers for fun. One of our students that was instrumental in building this had a 950 that we used.
A first generation xBox Kinect for the Xbox 360 (not the Xbox One!) A lot of kids have upgraded to Xbox One so we had several kids bring in their “extra” kinects.
A short throw projector. (Teachers: Think ceiling mounted projector for SMART board vs. the ones you’d set on a cart in the back of the classroom). Originally we used an old projector from the technology “death room” but the bulb died the day before the “show” (#storyofmylife). So much to the displeasure of my technology department, I stole the one from my library classroom. (#sorrynotsorry)
You’ll want a projector that has HDMI or DVI that way you can take full advantage of the graphics card. You can still use a projector that has a VGA component, but it will definitely cut back on the quality output.
Something the mount the projector and Kinect above the sandbox.
Your Kinect should be mounted at the same height as your box is wide. (Our box was 32″ wide, so we mounted the Kinect 32″ high)
A vacuum (see images below)
Mountain Dew, Italian Four Cheese CheezIts (“must haves” according to middle schoolers)
Camera to document everything
Basically, it will look like this.
Or, if you can’t read middle school, this:
MORE FROM THE ADVENTURE
Before we built the box, we built the computer. We tested the projection and 3D rendering by this very sophisticated prototype made out of masking tape (see above)
We stayed after school one evening to build the box. My husband cut the wood and did some pre-drilling. The rest was up to the kids. A few kids had never used a drill before. Boy were they ever stoked!! Once we had the box assembled, we needed to figure out the mount for the projector.
I was super nervous about this part because it needs to be perfect. Reading through some of the help forums, I knew we needed a way to make this super study, but also somewhat adjustable. Sorry but that was way above me. We left that evening with an “eh…let’s sleep on it” kind of feeling.
And then I got to school the next day and one of my students was waiting with this masterpiece:
Uh…yeah. I know, right? He took a fence post, attached one part of the projector mount to it. Then, he took a steel pipe and put it in adjustable camps to which he soldered another steel pipe so we could mount the Kinect.
I’m not sure what made me happier – the solution to our problem, or the look of accomplishment on Joey’s face ALL day. (Definitely the latter).
The pictures above were taken before school actually started. The kids came by, saw Joey’s creation, and didn’t even go to their locker before they started putting it together.
Once we had everything set up, we put the box on an old laptop cart so that it was study and could house the
The last step was calibration and boy was that a task! We spent a solid 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon just doing the calibration. And we still didn’t perfect the water simulation piece. At 4:30 on Saturday, we went home praying that the thing would work tomorrow.
So on Sunday morning (raining, of course), I brought my Ford Ranger to school and packed up everything. I went to take the sandbox to my car and it wouldn’t fit through the door. SERIOUSLY?!
So we quickly moved it to a smaller cart (an old projector cart) and just prayed that it wouldn’t fall.
Eventually, we got it there.
AND. IT. WAS. AWESOME.
The community response on the AR sandbox was overwhelmingly positive. People thought this was a project for gifted and they were so surprised to learn that this wasn’t a project at all, it was just a bunch of kids interested in learning more about this.
As I was editing this post, we received a phone call asking us to present at the Business Leaders Breakfast next week. I guess I’ll be dismantling that projector in my library again 🙂
This resource has some CAD blueprints of the AR Sandbox (in .dwg files)
As with every complex creation comes its own help forum. This was a life saver in our final moments.