ISTE 2019 Recap

Summary of my favorite finds and ideas from ISTE 2019.

It is hard to believe that it has been almost a month since the amazing ed-tech-a-palooza celebration known as the International Society of Technology in Education Conference or ISTE. There was so much to see and do this year that it has taken me a while to try to boil it all down into a recap. I have so many notes, flyers, and resources that it will probably take me until ISTE 2020 to really process everything. Good news, I have lots to explore for my next 30 tech tools in 30 days series coming this November. But, for you, my loyal readers, I will try to narrow down all that information into my finds and ideas from ISTE 2019.

Old Favorites. New Tricks.

I typically spend a good chunk of my ISTE time in the expo hall checking out my favorite tools and looking for new ones to explore. It is great to reconnect with some of my favorite go-to tools and see what new things they have in the works. I love being able to talk to both the developers in making these tools possible and the educators who are leading the way in the classroom. These are some of my most valuable conversations. Here is what some of my old favorites are up to.

Michael Cohen at the Adobe Booth
Michael Cohen at the Adobe Booth
  • Adobe Spark – Adobe’s booth is my first stop every year. This year was no exception. Not only got to meet the amazing Michael Cohen (aka The Tech Rabbi) and hear how he uses Adobe Illustrator to teach creativity and Math, I also got to talk to one of the developers of my favorite, favorite, favorite, tools – Adobe Spark. Animations are now available as part of Spark Post apps. (Coming soon to the web). Students can also now collaborate on a Spark project.  If you are not yet using Adobe Spark, then these should give you a reason to give it a try. Also, check out Camp Adobe for some amazing learning opportunities. You can read more about my feelings on Adobe Spark on some of my past posts – Spark Post, Spark Video, Spark Pages.
  • 3D Bear – One of the darlings of ISTE 2018 was 3D Bear an augmented reality app. Well, they have had a great year and showcased a lot of ideas at their booth. If you have not played around with 3D Bear, go check out the free trial and start creating. They have lesson plans and challenges that will help get your students creating in AR. Tons of fun. And I’m not just saying that because they have a dancing unicorn that you can play with.

    NASA Learning Labs
    NASA Learning Labs
  • NASA –  NASA was everywhere at ISTE this year. In their playground, they featured new lessons and activities from the STEM Innovation Lab. My favorite was the Eclipse Soundscape. An app that allows you to experience the solar eclipse through visuals, audio, and other sensory displays.  On the expo floor, they had more resources such as their materials that let students learn about all the amazing things going on on the International Space Station. You can find a ton of resources on the STEM on the Station website.
  • Bird Brain Technologies – Finch 2.0 is coming! I repeat Finch 2.0 is coming!! Learn more on their website and see what makes the Finch 2.0 a cool new addition to the Bird Brain family.
  • CommonSense.org – Everyone’s favorite ed tech review and digital literacy site brings you a curated list of their 50 favorite EdTech tools of all time. This one is well worth the browsing time.
  • Flipgrid – Flipgrid fever infecting the ISTE crowd. Shortly after the conference, Flipgrid announced a new Augmented Reality feature. The new FlipgridAR app update lets you add Flipgrid to everything!

New Finds

In addtion to exploring my old favorites, I collected a list of new finds that I want to explore further. They are everything from new STEM activities to new technology. My list is long but here are the first ones I’m going to dig into.

  • Stitching the Loop – Free curriculum for students to explore computer science through e-textiles.
  • Wildcards – A new programmable expandable circuit board and an inexpensive and easy to use tool to help students explore electronics, computer science, and engineering. Designed by a team of electrical engineering dads.
  • 826 Digital – Free mini-lessons, lessons and other resources to ignite a love of writing in your students.
  • Pinna.fm –  Streaming audio service for students. On-demand access to podcasts, audiobooks, and music for PK – 6th grade.
  • Creator Bot Mini Bot – I would love to get my hands on this little bot. It is an Arduino powered robot kit that has everything you need to create a robot.
  • Get Media L.I.T. –  A new graphic novel series by Weird Enough Productions that helps students explore media literacy, social-emotional learning, and 21st-century skills.
  • Synth – This one is a new-to-me tool. You can create 256-second podcasts and share them with the world.
  • Science Journal by Google – Turn your device into a scientific tool through this app. It takes advantage of the sensors built into our devices phone and allows your students to collect data.

New Ideas

So, what are the hot topic ideas on the horizon of ed tech? There were several topics and ideas that stood out this year. From the playgrounds to the Mainstage, people were talking about creativity, computational thinking, and innovation. I left the conference with some new learning goals of my own. My top three: artificial intelligence, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality. Google has experiments and activities for you to get started with AI. And I’m ready to start building with CoSpaces and Merge Cube. 64832451_10220359185996876_5431999139598565376_o

Whew! That is just the tip of the ed tech iceberg when it comes to new ideas from ISTE. Even with all of these new tools, my MOST favorite part of the conference was connecting with all of the amazing educators from around the globe. I get to see some of my education heroes and meet many new ones. I’m looking forward to all of the new collaborations and conversations that will fill the time until we all meet again in Anaheim at ISTE 2020.

Big thank you to all the folks who worked hard to make ISTE possible. And thank you Philadelphia! I had never been to Philly before. I got my first “real” Philly Cheesesteak and saw pieces of our history. It was a winning trip all around!

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Were you at ISTE in Philly this year? What were your big takeaways? I’d love to hear from you!

Learn to Code as You Create Original Music with EarSketch

There are many different creative ways to introduce students to the joys of coding. Today we explore a web-based tool that connects coding to music production – EarSketch.

EarSketch - Compose music through programming.
EarSketch – Compose music through programming.

EarSketch was created by a team from Georga Tech and combines music composition with learning how to code in JavaScript or Python.  I did a little bit of research on this project and it looks like it has been winning the hearts of educators and awards from educational organizations for a while now. In fact, back in June, it was named one of the best websites for teaching and learning in 2018 by the American Association of School Librarians. You can read more about that on Georgia Tech’s website. Way to go EarSketch Team!

EarSketch is intended for high school students but according to the website, it works for older and younger students as well. Along with the web-based platform, there is also a curriculum that has everything you need to teach EarSketch in your computer class. For more information on their curriculum, go to the FAQs page and read more.

It has been years since I have done any real coding, I’ve never programmed in Python, and I was never one who could compose music. The site said “no experience necessary.” So, I thought, why not give this a try and see what I can do. I started with the Hour of Code Module and jumped right in.

Making MusicEarSketch

The interface looks a little intimidating when you first open it up. However, if you start with the Hour of Code module, there are instructions on the right-hand side of the screen that walk you through everything you need to know step by step. The instructions were easy to follow and in no time, I was shaking off my rusty coding knowledge and making music. Once you go through the first tutorial, the layout of the interface begins to make a lot more sense. It is actually fairly easy to navigate.

In the first tutorial, starts you off with sample code that you edit. Which is super helpful. For me, it is much easier to look at the exisiting code and walk through what it does instead of trying to code from scratch. In this first tutorial, I learned how to change the parameters of my functions and how to add music clips. I also learned how to create my own custom beats using variables. Even though it looks complicated, it was really simple once you knew what you were looking at.

The interface screen makes a lot of sense. The top center shows you your timeline and different tracks. You can see how your clips work together based on the parameters you set in your code. On the bottom, you see the code. On the left-hand side of the screen, you have all your libraries. Here you can find music clips, scripts, functions, and more. I also like how it uses the right language for both music composition and for coding.

By the end of the Hour of Code module, I had and nice little program and composed my first Grammy-winning hit. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that good but it was a song and I was impressed with myself.

In the Classroom

EarSkecth is a powerful tool for your classroom. It is true STEAM – the integration of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. I can see how this site will engage both your students who want to learn how to code and those who just want to make music. I think of students like my daughter who is a musician majoring in computer science. In high school, she was always looking for that one great tool to help her learn to code. I think this one would have caught her attention and helped her build both her coding skills and her composition skills. In fact, I’m sending her this link so she can play around with it on her holiday break.

I can see where this site would be great for the computer science class but also for a media class or technology class. It is also a great addition to your makerspace.

Don’t be intimidated by music composition or coding. Click over to EarSketch and start learning both today. Go ahead, make little music.

 

Save the World While You Learn to Code: Dystopia 2153

Who doesn’t love a good dystopian graphic novel? I know I sure do. Give me an online one that also teaches coding and you just made my day. Dystopia 2153, is exactly that. A web-based graphic novel where you solve coding puzzles as you move through the story. Dystopia 2153 was created by TEACH Magazine. I explored the free version – Chapter one of Episode One.

In the Not Too Distant Future

Dystopia 2153 is set in the year 2153 after our world has fallen and is now run by tyrannical robots. The story focuses on orphans making a daring escape from Rathouse Orphanage.

Chapter 1 of Dystopia 2153 - Our world is broken.
Chapter 1 of Dystopia 2153 – Our world is broken.

You begin by reading the graphic novel, which is dark and beautifully illustrated. I also like the ambient music that helps you get into the story. As you flip through the pages you learn about humanity’s downfall and the rise of the machines we created. Then fast forward to Lance. Orphaned from the fall and living in Rathouse Orphanage with others like him.

An Advanced challenge from Chapter 1.
An Advanced challenge from Chapter 1.

Lance works in the garbage dump. For your first set of challenges, you use basic coding skills to help him take the shortcut through the halls to the dump. For the challenges, you use Blocky code to move Lance through the mazes. Your robotic squirrel friend, Chiclet, gives you hints and help along the way.

There are 10 challenges in the first set. They start with simple move codes and progress to include loops and variables. It took me a minute to solve the 10th level.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed the free chapter. The story is intriguing, the artwork is wonderful, and the challenges were, well, challenging. Dystopia 2153 is intended for middle school students. I think that is a fitting age.

I like the mix of story and puzzles that progressively get harder as you move through the story. The narrative gives purpose to the puzzle challenges. You are not just doing puzzles to learn how to code, you are solving the puzzles to advance the narrative. They are connected to the plot points of the story. I feel that increases students motivation to advance.

Currently, there are two episodes available with a third on the way. You can preview the first chapter of Episode one for free by creating an account. To continue reading and playing, you can purchase the home edition, which includes Episode 1, 2, and 3 for $24.99. The price of a new hardcover book. For teachers, you can purchase a classroom edition, which gives you one-year access to all three episodes for 30 students, for $124.99. It also includes additional classroom resources. However, it looks like, as I am writing this, they are running a sale. Home edition is now $12.49 and Classroom edition is $49.99. Go to their pricing page for more information and get yours at this great price! You can even purchase hard copies of Episode one if you prefer an IRL version. Buy that on Amazon.

In the Classroom

Along with teaching students to code, based on the first chapter, there are a lot of other STEAM concepts you can pull out of the story. Such as robotics, AI, and automation, the ethics of technology, environmental issues, politics, and the future of our planet. You could build other activities around the story in addition to having your students learn to code within the story. You could also use it to build their visual literacy skills as they analyze the story visuals.

Dystopia 2153 is a very interesting way to engage students in storytelling and coding. The story seems like it is a good one and the coding puzzles are pretty cool. Go to the website, create a free account and read chapter one for yourself. Like me, you will want to get the rest, just because you want to know how the story ends.

 

Create Interactive AR Story and Game Experiences with Metaverse Studio

If you are a fan of augmented reality games and stories but never thought you would be able to create one of your very own, then you will enjoy Metaverse Studio.

Metaverse Overview

Metaverse Studio is a free online development tool for creating interactive mobile experiences. You can create interactive stories, games, scavenger hunts and more. The premise seems complicated but, thanks to an intuitive storyboard and an amazing library of tutorials, creating a customized experience is easier than you think.

What is an Experience?

Screenshot of some Metaverse Experiences
Screenshot of some Metaverse Experiences

Before you start creating your own experiences it might be useful to download the mobile app and play some of the experiences created by others. An experience can be an interactive VR tour, where 360 images are combined with user response screens to create an interactive VR field trip. Or, an experience could be an augmented reality quiz, digital breakout, or interactive story. Each experience is a mini mobile game created by members of the community.

There are a bunch of experiences in the library. It reminds me of all of the other user created libraries out there like Kahoot!, Quizizz, etc. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are ridiculous. All are interesting was to use VR/AR/MR technology.

What excites me about this tool is the possibilities of what you and your students can create using the storyboard.

Metaverse Storyboard

The Metaverse storyboard is where all the creative magic happens. The storyboard is a web-based tool for creating experiences. When you peek behind the curtain of a Metaverse experience, it looks like a concept map or a flow chart. Look at the image below. It might help.

Metaverse Storyboard
The storyboard of my first experience. Buttons connect to different the scenes that make up my experience.

The storyboard is where you lay out the framework of your experience, format your scenes, add media and interactive features. My first experience, which you can gaze on above, was a simple choose your own adventure story where you help the unicorn find their cat. You can see the first scene where the unicorn asks for your help. Choose the “No.” button and the game ends with a picture of a sad cat. Say “Yes.” and your spirit panda helps its new unicorn friend find his cat in a strange Back to the Future 360 world. The experience ends with a happy cat. Each of the scenes with gray backgrounds are actually augmented reality scenes.

Key Features

My simple little experience is nothing compared to the sophisticated experiences you can create with Metaverse. In addition to standard scenes, you can add interactive modules and input blocks. It is fairly easy to go from simple two scene experiences to AR scavenger hunts. I’m going to be honest, I need a lot more training on the more complicated blocks and modules before I can use them effectively. Luckily, there is a comprehensive tutorial channel on YouTube. You can watch videos on how to add polls, selfie features, and use some of the code blocks to add inventory management, probability events, leaderboards, and more.  As I said, for a tool that looks simple on the surface, you can create some complicated experiences.

What I like most about this tool is that you can get started right away and create simple experiences, however, you will not outgrow this tool quickly. There are lots of things you can do as your skill increases. As the website says – you can create amazing things! Go give it a try!

 

CoSpaces Edu: Virtual Reality Builder

I want to build amazing worlds. I’m a little intimidated by virtual world builders and 3D modeling tools. Fortunately for me, and other aspiring world builders, there are new tools out there that are easy to use and can help us create our spaces. CoSpaces Edu is one of those tools.

CoSpaces Edu Overview

I want to start this post by saying that this tool is amazing. There are so many features that I cannot cover all of them. I’m going to try and provide a basic overview that answers the question – What the heck is CoSpaces Edu? Hopefully, that sparks your interest and you can take it from there. There is just so much to cover on this application. I spent about an hour playing around so I know I did not uncover everything it can do. I also only explored the free version, not the pro version. My overview will be limited but hopefully helpful.

What the Heck is CoSpaces Edu?CoSpaces EDU

CoSpaces Edu is a virtual reality world builder for the classroom. According to their website, CoSpaces Edu is a place where teachers and students can create virtual reality experiences and animate them using code. To learn more, read through their brochure.

CoSpaces is browser based but you can also download an app for your mobile device so you can view your creations.

To give it a try, set up a free basic account. This account will allow you to create two virtual spaces. If you want to create more spaces and unlock a whole host of advanced features, upgrade to the Pro plan. The Pro plan starts at $3.50 per seat with a minimum of 30 seats. If I were teaching on a regular basis, I would consider this. It seems like a reasonable price for all of the features you unlock. There is even a new MERGE Cube Pro add-on coming soon. Read more about this add-on over on the CoSpaces blog. That could be the tipping point for me. Learn about the pricing plans on the Plans page.

Key Features

CoSpaces is a pretty powerful, yet easy to use VR creation tool. As I said earlier, there are too many features to list in this one blog post, so I’ll list some of my favorites. Tutorial Welcome

  • Support and tutorials – Getting started with creating VR experiences can be intimidating. When you first sign-in to CoSpaces, you are launched into a great tutorial. I walked through it in about 10 minutes and was ready to make my first space. The Welcome space takes you step-by-step through creating your own space and working in a 3D environment. Don’t skip this. It is very helpful.
  • Easy to use Toolbox – I created my first space in a matter of minutes. I set the environment. Then added a bunny and made the bunny eat. I needed a tree so I added it and changed the scale. I then added a flying butterfly and a pink backpack. Because, well, why not. The drag and drop interface made it easy to add. The grid and 3D guides also make it easy to get your assets right where you need them.
CoSpace Bunny
The toolbox as I created my first bunny.
  • Class Management – CoSpaces is made for educators. From your dashboard, you set up classes and manage assignments. Students join your class using a join code. I really like that CoSpaces is COPA and FERPA certified. Good to know.
  • Resources and Support – If you have read any of my other posts, you know that I am a stickler for high-quality resources and support. For me, a tech tool is not useful if it does not include good support resources. CoSpaces passes the HoPinkTech support test. There are some great onboarding resources including a handbook and tutorials. There is a nice bank of lesson plans for STEM/Coding, Social Science, ELA, and Arts and Media. Not a huge list but some great ideas to get you started. They also have some IRL goodies for your classroom such as posters and student certificates. On the support side, there is a Tech Check to make sure you are using the right tech, FAQs, a list of teacher Ambassadors, and a user forum that looks pretty active.
  • Gallery – All registered users have access to the Gallery. Here you can browse through VR spaces created by other users. It is cool to see what folks have created. A good place to get some inspiration.

Bottom Line

As I stated earlier, there is too much to this tool to fit into a short blog post. I’ve only scratched the surface. The bottom line is that CoSpaces Edu is a great way to get started in VR creation. The free basic account gives you enough features to explore so you can decide if you want to start using it in your class. It makes VR creation accessible and not so scary. Believe me, VR creation is scary for me. I am excited about the new integration with MERGE Cube. That is a feature to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing what teachers and students create.

I’ll close with a short virtual tour of my Bunny Tree space. Let the little butterfly and sweet bunny take you to a relaxing space while you wonder what’s in the backpack and why it was left under the tree. Enjoy!

Five Resources for CSEd Week

Five Resources for CSed Week and Hour of Code.

Happy Computer Science Education Week!

This week, December 4 – 10, classrooms all over are the globe are celebrating Computer Science Education Week and Hour of Code. Join in the fun with these five great resources.

Bonus – I’d also add books and resources by Kiki Prottsman.

Of course, don’t forget to visit code.org for TONS of Hour of Code activities. Also, follow #CSEdWeek and #hourofcode on Twitter to see what’s happening in classrooms all over the world.

Happy Coding!

 

30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 30 Lightbot

Get ready for CSED week and Hour of Code with LightBot.

Day 30: Lightbot

First off, Day 30! Whoo Hoo!

Ok, now that that is out of the way, let’s talk coding. Computer Science Education Week and Hour of Code are just around the corner (December 4 – 10). Next week, people all over the world will play games, create games, program robots, and engage in a whole host of activities as they explore the world of computer science, computational thinking, and coding. There are many, many different websites and apps out there that will help you and your students join in the Hour of Code fun. One such app is LightBot.

Use the symbols to move the robot and light the tiles.
Use the symbols to move the robot and light the tiles.

LightBot is a puzzle game where you help a cute little robot light all the blue tiles on the screen. The game teaches you how to program as you use icons to create sequences that will move your robot around the puzzle board. Seems simple enough, right? The gameplay is easy but the puzzles do take some careful thinking. I’ll admit, it took me a couple tries to get past level three. Yes, I use to write code. No, don’t judge me.

As you solve the puzzles, you are learning programming logic and terms such as sequences, procedures, and loops. Your little robot friend is there to help you along the way with just-in-time support and guidance. Program your solution by touching the symbols and creating your sequence. Press play to run your solution.

Little robot introduces new vocabulary as you move through the game levels.
Little robot introduces new vocabulary as you move through the game levels.

 Cost

It is available for Windows and Macs as well as pretty much every mobile platform. The app costs $2.99 or $4.99 depending on your platform. LightBox is geared for ages 9 and up. There is also a LightBot Jr app for the younger coders. For those of you not ready to commit to that type of cash, check out the FREE LightBox: Code Hour version.

Teacher Resources

Not quite sure how LightBot puzzles connect to learning how to code? They have a quick guide that explains how their games introduce students to programming logic. They also have additional resources covering topics like how to use LightBox for Hour of Code and some lesson plans. It’s not a huge number of resources but there is good information about teaching programming in the classroom.

LightBot and the free LightBot Code Hour are cute and fun little games that cover some complex programming concepts. You and your students will enjoy this game. It is a great addition to your Hour of Code toolbox.