PBS Kids: Design Squad Explains Design Thinking

Here are the best six minutes and thirty seconds I have spent this school year when it comes to understanding and teaching the design process to my students.

You may not use the same D-Think vocabulary but watching these kids complete the steps it takes to address and solve a problem is a great tool for students to learn and internalize the approach.

In addition, the Design Squad section on PBSkids.org is loaded with more videos, full episodes of the series targeted toward preteens and teens, as well as creative problem solving games. Our fourth graders are not only excelling at the activities they are also applying the design process to other projects we are completing.

Ferris Bueller Chimes In On Merriam-Webster’s “Word Of The Year”

A person should not believe in an ism. He should believe in himself. ~ Ferris Bueller

It’s that time of year when Merriam-Webster declares its “Word Of The Year”. And what word generated the most traffic through the online dictionary this year? Well, none really.

This year Webster went with the suffix “-ism” due to the amount of searches for words like racism, terrorism, and fascism.

Proving once again that almost everything you really need to know can come from an 80’s movie, the philosopher Ferris Bueller chimes in from 30 years ago on our newly minted “Word Of The Year”.

And that is the last word on that.

Makey Makey Just Got Easier With Makey Makey Go

Image result for makey makey goIt is not like inventing with the original Makey Makey was extremely hard to begin with, but things just got more simple and more mobile with the “Go” version.

Makey Makey Go will begin shipping in December and is the size of a thumb drive making it totally mobile and less likely to get you taken “behind the curtain” by TSA when on the way to some nerdfest you’re carrying kits with lots of wires, panels, and alligator clips through airports (I know a lady who experienced this.).

What exactly is the “Go”? Well, this video can explain and describe it way better than I can.

Rubik’s Cube: A question, waiting to be answered – Google

Rubik’s cube is more than a puzzle- it’s a question waiting to be answered. And when the right person finds the right question, it can set them on a journey to change the world. We salute Ernő Rubik and everyone helping young minds find the questions that challenge, excite, and let them see the world in a new way. See artists and designers remixing the Rubik’s Cube at http://chrome.com/cubelab ~Google

Go Ask Siri to Divide 0 by 0. I Dare You.

tumblr_nl516ufas91tw18zlo1_500The best laugh of today came from asking my iPhone’s Siri what zero divided by zero is. I won’t spoil it with her response. It’s something you will have to give a try. She would make quite the math teacher.

Shaking up School Lunch: Epic Lip Sync Battle brings the Fun

Where I teach in Hamilton, Michigan, elementary teachers have an hour lunch/planning time everyday. With it come some obvious advantages for staff. Lunchtime is less rushed and everyone in the building has common planning time. Kids get longer recess. With it also has come challenges. The longer kids are in the lunchroom, the more likely they are to get restless and in trouble.

Principal Teisha Kothe has taken this problem by the horns. She has instituted all kinds of fun activities including Flocabulary videos, Trivia Tuesdays, and Talent Fridays where kids get to show off their special abilities. We kicked things up a notch last week.

Building upon a hugely successful kickoff to March is Reading Month that featured a Superintendent vs. Curriculum Director lip sync battle embedded in a Hans and Franz skit, I challenged Teisha to our own battle. Kids were glued to the action and their laughter, smiles, and excitement were priceless and on Friday we made Blue Star Elementary a place where kids definitely wanted to be. Shouldn’t that always be a goal of our schools?

Here is the full-length version of Teisha with Katy Perry’s “Roar” and me with the Kidz Bop more-elementary-appropriate version of “Uptown Funk”.

Happy Easter Egg! Hidden T-Rex Adventure in Chrome

Here is another great reason to have children. They teach you cool stuff they learn from their friends at school. We’re not talking a new way to spit or armpit farts here. We’re talking an Easter egg hidden in Google Chrome. My daughter came home from sixth grade with this little nugget today.

If you have ever lost wifi while browsing in Chrome you have likely encountered this critter and message.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 9.19.08 PM

Next time, tap your space bar and you will find yourself in a ridiculously simple and ridiculously addictive video game. It’s a great way to pass the time until wifi comes back.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 9.14.49 PMOf course you don’t have to wait for the Internet to go down. Just turn off your wifi and hit reload on this page. You will connect to nothing and soon be jumping cactus and neglecting whatever it was you were supposed to be doing in the first place.

I am going on record right now that I won’t be held responsible for the amount of time you waste on this little trick. But like John Lennon said, “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”


Google has a great Santa Tracker

Visit Santa’s Village created by Google and enjoy a new activity every day. Each is labeled as Watch, Learn, or Play and feature varied levels of difficulty. There is a little something for everyone and lots of learning embedded into most every activity.

The site employs different forms of Google product. Some are tied to Google Code while others like the parachuting Santa game employs maps of the user’s actual location. We typed in our school location and Santa landed on the map right in our parking lot. When Christmas Eve arrives, kids will be able to even track Santa on his trip.


Put some STEAM into your kids’ Christmas

STEAM might seem just like another educational buzzword, but teaching in a way that fosters science, tech, engineering, art, and math produces well-rounded kids with the ability to communicate and solve problems.

This morning I got the chance to share some of these ideas on WOODTV-8 Daybreak.


Here are some great gift ideas to put some STEAM into your kids’ holiday season.

ScienceI Heart Guts plush toys –  Stuffed animal like organs for the kid who wants to be a doctor or just loves gross stuff. Doctors and pediatricians are actually using these in their practice so kids and adults better understand consults. $14-$20 
TechnologyOzobots –  Little tiny robots that can be easily programed either by an app or simply by using various colored markers on paper. Each color equals a different command. Giving kids opportunities to program and code is so very important, not necessarily to create a wave of app creators, but to develop in-depth logical thought in kids. $49

Engineering – Tie – Goldiblox and the Zipline Adventure –  Kids get all of the parts to build a zipline for Goldie, the included action figure. The set also comes with an accompanying book to fuel the imaginative use of the zipline. Goldiblox is a company geared at getting more girls involved with engineering. $25

Equally cool are the Modarri toy cars  – These are like Hotwheels except kids build them from the ground up and then modify the steering, types of wheels, and suspension as well as other options. $19 each or $49 for 3 that comes with extra wheels.

Arts Crayola Virtual Design Pro Car Collection – Crayola Virtual Design Pro Fashion Collection – Elaborate set of art and design supplies where kids make their own vehicles or fashion designs. A partner iOS or Android app lets them scan the designs and then play with them in a virtual world by racing their cars or having models wear their fashions down the runway.

Math – Good old deck of cards and “Book of Cards for Kids – 35 Classic Card Games” –   There are so many math concepts kids learn playing card games from counting, sorting, sequencing, all of the way up to figuring probability and it fosters great family time. $12
These gift ideas are just a handful of options that are available to stimulate thinking and creativity while still providing tons of fun. Notice that they aren’t just device based. Each involves some form of real-world making stuff or analog play. All are great for friends and family to make and do together.