Friday, September 23, 2016

Innovations Worth the Writing of a Grant:

Have you ever written a grant for your job or supplies? As educators, if we want to implement pricey innovations, we first need ways to fund our ideas. 

This is a challenge. Many times teachers spend their own money on classroom items. When the new technology innovations cost more than the usual $1 or $2, our personal budgets don't exactly allow room for such expenditures. 

I've been contemplating items that would be worth the extensive work necessary to earn a grant. I work for the Waterloo Community School District, every year the Waterloo Community Schools Foundation elects innovative projects to provide financial backing for. 

This is my fourth year working for this district. I'm ready to challenge myself with the writing of this grant. (I'll save the advice about how to write an excellent grant for later!)

This new product geared specifically toward young students feels worthy of the work of grant writing:

Video Created by: Primo Toys
Can be found on:

This new product is called Cubetto by Primo Toys. I've been searching through blog postings to find more information and personal experiences regarding this product. 

I love how Nicholas Keith describes the Cubetto experience on his blog,
"Suddenly, a wooden cube with an inviting smiley face on the front starts to move forward. After several squares of forward motion, he takes a quick right, then a left, and stops at his final destination, a rug square with a picture of a house on it. The kids clap and squeal, then dump the blocks out so they can try a different path."
Nicholas goes on to explain the benefits Cubetto would bring to young children as well as the screen-free method of teaching basic programming concepts. It's much easier to write a grant for an idea like this in the preschool classroom as many feel young children already have too much screen time in their day. The screen-free aspect of Cubetto is a huge factor in why I keep going back to Cubetto after looking at other similar products.

Cubetto is additionally an innovative product because they worked with a 3D printing and design company to begin redesigning the original pieces. I like this aspect of Cubetto because 3D printing is a newer technology which is currently being used in so many professions. After introducing Cubetto, I could bring in to students this idea that students can design something and it would be printable. What a great way to teach about 3D shapes and objects! The company Cubetto worked with is Materialise and Natalie Simpson posted about working with Cubetto on their blog
My favorite quote from this blog posting is:
"When Primo came to Materialise they had already identified 3D Printing as the ideal manufacturing method for the first 650 runs of the Cubetto Playset. What they went on to discover was the value you can realize when a product is designed specifically for 3D Printing."

My final reading on this product for this post (it certainty won't be the last as I begin the grant writing process) is a posting by Jacqui Murray in the  "Ask a Tech Teacher Blog". One of the most challenging aspects of writing a winning grant is the inclusion of objectives and learning goals that will be met through the project you submit. As fun as this technology may be, I will not win a grant because I found a cool technological product. Jacqui Murray's comments give some ideas for me to springboard off of for this part of the grant writing process.
"All this time, the child thinks s/he is playing a game when what they’re really doing is learning problem-solving, critical thinking, about a programming ‘queue’, the importance of order, the appeal of cause and effect, how to follow multi-step directions, and how to be critical thinkers. Who would think four year olds were ready for that many higher order thinking skills?"

As an early childhood educator, I'm constantly advocating for keeping play-based experiences as part of the preschool and kindergarten classrooms. This robot touches on many cognitive learning experiences while masquerading as play. This is one of my favorite aspects of teaching young children! 

I'm very excited about the chance to finally write an Innovative Learning Grant! I'm intrigued as to how my students will respond if we are able to acquire something so unique as Cubetto to add to our classroom. I envision tying in concepts such as pattern recognition, making predictions, 3D printing information, and more!

Thanks for reading! Peters out!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Are YOU a lonely teacher? I have those days!

Teaching. The great adventure. Sometimes it can feel like we are in this alone. In fact, we close our classroom doors, teach our amazing lessons, and go home in the afternoon, all sometimes without having an in-depth conversation with another professional.

Photo Title: "Fenway Parks 'Lone Red Seat'
Photo Credit: David on Flikr

Some days you probably feel like that lonely seat! Have no fear though!
The blogosphere is here!

I am a typical teacher in that some days I have so much human interaction, that I don't even want to seek out a conversation with another professional. This usually signifies that it's time to consult the blogs! I might be bone dry of unique teaching ideas, but the great thing is I'm not the first one to do this! I've found so many great ideas on the web from other teachers. I'm not alone!!!

One blog I follow in many formats is the Pre-K Pages website and blog posts. This website offers many unique teaching ideas and materials that are developmentally appropriate for young students. This blog provides free ideas and opportunities to purchase additional resources. The website was created by Vanessa Levin, a very experienced early childhood educator.

A second amazing teacher, blog creator, and twitterer I follow is Christine Pinto. I love all of the things she is doing because she has ideas for getting very young students to use a variety of Google Apps! I love this because it takes imagination and dedication to help young students successfully use all of the tools available in the technology world. She's posted some great ideas of how to get started! Christine's level of technology use with young students is something I aspire to.

This great resource I've began using is the Iowa Reading Research Center. This is not exactly a blog, however, it is a great resource for teachers and families looking for ways to help students with literacy skills. You can search through the resources by grade level, Iowa Core, skill, or resource type. If your entire class is looking like they need help in a certain literacy area, you can easily find a few resources on this page to get you started.

These are only a few of the many resources out there that remind me I'm NOT a "lone red seat"! In the moments where I feel like I'm going it alone, I can seek out these resources and be refreshed, inspired, and encouraged in my teaching career! I hope you are on your way to finding some spectacular teaching blogs as well! Leave your favorite blog links below!

Thanks for reading! Peters Out!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Case for Teachers on Twitter:

Teaching. The always changing profession. In today's day and age teaching has an extra challenging component of cell phones and apps. 

Some schools have one to one devices and some schools are trying to find the fine line between cell phone usage by students and encouraging teachers to use that very same technology in the classroom!

I myself joined Twitter only a short 6 months ago and my professional learning community has grown far beyond my district or even state!

In fact, in the above guide, you can see educators have already done the work of how you can use Twitter in a classroom setting! This is only one of many extensive resources available for teachers about Twitter.

We have to explore Twitter as MA students in our Educational Technology classes. Talk about interesting homework!

Joosten writes, "Educators must make an effort and a commitment to become social media users. The extent of the benefits of social media is not fully comprehensible until you become a part of the community. Don't just be an observer, be a participant!" (Joosten, 15)

I did not even realize the scope of Twitter until I began really seeking out other teachers, principals, instructional coaches, companies creating STEM products, and of course, my favorite sports teams via Twitter! Twitter is a huge resource! In a recent project, one of my fellow classmates created a demo of how you could live tweet with parents during a class field trip! 

Need more convincing?

Pick one or two of these ideas to get started! The most rewarding ways I've been using Twitter is to connect with other teachers. Sometimes it can be tough to find people within your own district or building that have your same passion. Some teachers are very passionate about equity, project-based learning, incorporating technology, using Minecraft in the classroom, or anything else. Using Twitter, you can find other teachers that are already doing the same things you are passionate about!

Last, but definitely not least, consider how wider your teaching world can become when you open the global door to thousands of teaching ideas! It's no longer the day and age when you need to create things and hope they work! Find experts in your content area or grade level, or, be an expert in your own content area or grade level. Don't wait until your professional development days or hours to grow as a teacher!

(Click the word teacher for more ideas!)

Thanks for reading! Mrs. Peters out!