Monday, October 28, 2019

Bot+Boy+Preschoolers: Introducing Robots to Littles

Over the last couple of years in my library we  have started working with some of our codable robots with our preschool students. The idea came from a session I attended at the SXSWEDU Conference in Austin, TX. At one of the sessions that I attended featured Ann Gadzikowski, author of the book Robotics for Young Children. This session was really interesting! Gadzikowski discussed the importance of talking to young children about robots and the many roles that robotics plays in our daily lives. She states in the book “Children see and sometimes even use machines and computers, smartphones and robots, all around them every day. It would be silly to make them wait until they take computer science classes in high school or college to learn the basic concepts.” Gadzikowski also says, “We are building a foundation and creating a pathway for later learning.” (Gadzikowski pg. 4). These statements really made so much sense to me, it is important that we start to have conversations with our youngest students about the robots and computers that are a part of their lives so they better understand how machines work. By laying the foundation early, as students advance in their learning they will have background knowledge and understanding.

I collaborated with the technology education teacher to develop a program that incorporated the work we were doing with literacy in the preschool program and adding the element of coding robots. We started the conversation by talking and sharing the different codable robots that she had in the technology department and ones that I had in the library. This was a way of “publicizing to learners, staff, and community available services and resources” (AASL 2018, School Library III.C.3). We also talked about the connection with sequencing in coding and sequencing in storytelling. We designed a series of lessons that would combine storytelling and literacy with coding and robots.

Lesson 1: Ozobots
The first step was sharing the book Bot+Boy by Ame Dyckman. This is a great book to share with young children as they are beginning to talk about robots. In the story a young boy is playing with a robot he found. They are having a wonderful time when the power switch for the robot is accidentally switched to off. The boy thinks the robot is sick so he takes him home and tries to feed him soup and put the robot to bed. During the night, the robot’s switch is clicked back to the on position. The robot seeing the boy asleep in bed thinks that the boy needs to be repaired so the robot gives him more oil and tries to plug the boy in to get more power. The books is sweet and the illustrations are wonderful. The story also includes the starting point to talk about what is different about the boy and robot. Learners shared their connections with the story and the difference between machines and people. This was a way for learners to “[Develop] new understandings through engagement in a learning group” (Learner III.A.2). We then talked about different machines that we have in our lives. Students named the different machines that they encounter in their daily lives.


Then, I introduced the first robot that the students would be exploring Ozobots. Ozobots are small robots that have a camera on the bottom of the robot. Users can draw different lines and patterns using markers and the Ozobot will read the lines and follow the path. We talked about how this was a different robot then in the story or ones that students encounter in their lives. We also talked about how you need to program or tell some robots what to do, and the way that you program an Ozobot is by drawing different lines. Then we set students up with markers, paper and Ozobots to begin to explore coding these robots!



Lesson 2: Rotating groups with Dash, Root, Mouse and Cubetto Robots
The next step was introducing students to more robots that incorporate different coding applications. We broke the students up into small groups and paired them with a different robot, a teacher and a book. We used the books by Jan Thomas. I love to use these books because the stories are fun and engaging as well as having a clear and simple, beginning, middle, and end. I make photocopies of important events from the story. The students listen to the book, then they put the images from the book in order from beginning to end. This is a collaborative process, students talk to their classmates and agree on the correct order.





The final step is showing the students how the different robots work and then they code the robot to go to each of the photocopies of the illustrations from the book from beginning to end. This is a way of highlights the sequence of a story and making connections to the sequence of coding a robot. This a process and groups need to code and recode their robots to ensure that they follow the whole path of the story. Sometimes they do not give the robot enough commands to go forward to reach different pictures or they turn the robot in the wrong direction. Then the group needs to discuss what went wrong and how they are going to fix the code to complete the challenge. In this process learners are “actively contributing to group discussions” (Learner III.D.1).










The Dash and Root robots use drag and drop coding on an ipad app to connect to the robot. Cubetto robot using different colored tiles on a board to instruct the robot to move and the Mouse robot has directional buttons on the robot that code the robot to move. We do this project over several weeks so all the students have a chance to read different stories and gain experience with different robots and different types of coding.




We do this project in the fall to introduce students to the coding robots. In the spring we do some more connected building and making projects with the robots and storytelling. This set of lessons builds a great foundation for coding that we advance as the students more through the grades.

This is not only a collaborative project for learners it is also an example of collaboration between the school librarian and a fellow educator. The tech ed teacher and I recognized shared goals with this project and found an opportunity to “[partner] with other educators to scaffold learning and organize learner groups to broaden and deepen understanding” (School Library III.A.1).

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Made By Maxine: First Grade Rapid Prototyping Challenge

The first graders do a big design and building project that starts early in the school year. This project is long and incorporates lots of parts including the students make a working art robot. This is a collaborative project with the library, technology and the classroom teachers. At the end of the project each year, all the teachers involved in the project get together and reflect on what worked and what did not work with the project and any ideas to change things for the following year. This is a way that I “partner with other educators to scaffold learning and organize learner groups to broaden and deepen understanding” (School Library III.A.1). One of the suggestions from the first grade team was the students do a short building project before the bigger design project. The idea was this would help remind students where materials are in the makerspace. It would also get students back into the mindset of using different materials, working to build with others and then cleaning up the makerspace. We wanted this one session build to get students thinking about building and collaboration. The great book “Made By Maxine” by Ruth Spiro and Illustrated by Holly Haatam was the inspiration for the project.


We started by reading the book. In the story Maxine is a maker. She makes new things out of old things, tinkers and builds. She meets Milton, the goldfish and he is the best pet in the world. Maxine builds him amazing fish tank with different spaces and rooms using different materials. She also makes Milton an automatic feeding machine and a musical sensor machine! When it is time for the school pet parade, Maxine is determined to invent a way for Milton to be able to take part. She tinkers and builds but nothing works. She is about to give up but realizes that Milton is her friend and she wants him to come to the parade, Maxine goes back to the drawing board and makes, tinkers, builds and rebuilds, designs and redesigns and she makes Milton an amazing mobile, musical fish tank float for the school parade.

After reading the book, students talked about what happened in the beginning, middle and end of the story. They also talked about challenges Maxine faced as she was trying to make a float for Milton to be in the parade. Students discussed how she failed several times before she was able to come up with a plan that worked for Milton.

The next step was for students to engage in a rapid prototype challenge inspired by the book. We set out a random set of materials; cardboard, foam, empty tape rolls, etc, for each group. Then we had a collection of tape, scissors, pipe cleaners, straws and streamers. Finally, each group had a small toy animal on their table. The challenge was for students to build only using the materials on their table and the items in the bins.



When students arrived for class, I explained the challenge. Just like Maxine made something for Milton, they would need to make something for their animal. This was a way to have students think about what they learned for the story and make and create something new. This “allowed learners to build on their prior knowledge and create new knowledge” (School Librarian III.B.2). Each group would work with only the materials at their table and the options in the bins. They would need to rapidly design and prototype something the would benefit their animal. The students had four minutes to look at their materials, talk with their partners and plan. This was a way that learners “actively contributed to group discussions” (Learner III.D.1). Then they had fifteen minutes to build. The last five minutes each group explained what they built and how it would benefit their animal.


Students were creative with their designs. They built spaces for the elephant to find shade and water on hot days, an obstacle course for the alligator so they would have things to do, small and large pools for the whale to swim around, and more. Students talked with each and designed together, including ideas from each member of the group and because of the time limit really worked together to complete the challenge. This was a way to help learners “recognize learning as a social responsibility” (Learner III.D.2).



The goal of this project was for students to start thinking about how to plan and design together and how to use different materials. We will be diving into the larger Dot Day project that will involve more research and planning, as well as many options for students to use to build their robots. This rapid prototype lesson was a way to help get them into the collaboration, tinkering and designing mindset.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

What about Moose? Kindergarten, Collaboration & Making

When I am creating lessons and projects for learners the focus is on making connections with literature and research skills, developing a collaborative mindset, and building and making skills. For kindergarteners, there are so many amazing picture books to work with that inspire wonderful building projects. Some of my favorite books to use are by author Corey Rosen Schwartz. Her stories are humorous and engaging for students and the topics she presents in her stories make great connections to collaboration and design projects. “What about Moose?” is a great book that brings together literature, collaboration and making.


I started the project with reading the book. Students talked about the beginning, middle and end of the story, the setting, the problem and the solution. We documented all of their notes on the board. Then we talked about the characteristics and behavior of the main character Moose. Students shared words to describe Moose’s behavior and cited evidence in the book. Students then focused on the question “Was Moose a good teammate?” Students shared their thoughts and again found evidence in the book to support their ideas. Kindergarteners unanimously agreed that Moose was not a good team member. Moose was bossy, he didn’t listen to his friends, he did not help with the hard work and he criticized his friend’s work. Learners then shared what some characteristics of a good team member. They talked about sharing ideas, helping each other, listening and everyone working on a project together. Through this work learners were “Actively contributing to group discussions” (Learner III.D.1) and “developing new understandings through engagement in a learning group” (Learner III.A.2). Kindergarteners were making connections with other students, sharing their ideas, and making the connections with the story and the characters.



The next step was the building challenge inspired by the story. In the book Moose is not listening to his friends and is too busy bossing everyone around and he ends up stuck inside the treehouse. His friends come together and build a slide to get Moose out of the house. Kindergarteners challenge was to build a prototype of a house that Moose could get in and out. They would be working in groups, thinking about how they could be good team members. Kindergarteners could use any of the materials in our makerspace including cardboard, foam, bubble wrap, pool noodles, etc. Each group was given a cardboard Moose. They had to show that their cardboard Moose could fit in and out of their prototype treehouse.


Teams worked together to plan their design. Students talked to each other, explored different materials and then started building. They shared ideas, designed and then redesigned. Kindergarteners shared responsibilities and building jobs to complete their treehouse designs. Throughout the design and building process, learners “solicited and responded to feedback from others” (Learner III.C.1) as they worked with their teams to create their treehouses. They were also “actively contributing to group discussions” (Learner III.D.1), kindergarteners presented their ideas, planning, building and then redesigning together. As students presented their final projects with the whole class, kindergarteners shared the different contributions of each team member to the final product. They talked about team members coming up with the idea to use a certain material, or whose idea it was to attach a rope ladder. Through this project, learners were “recognizing learning as a social responsibility” (Learner III.D.2). Kindergarteners were developing the understanding that by working together, listening and building with others they were able to solve a problem and build some really cool treehouses for Moose.


Saturday, August 31, 2019

Shared Foundations Collaborate: AASL National Standards

My goal for this blog is to document the work that I do in my school library. For the last couple years I have been sharing the different projects for students that integrate literacy, technology and maker empowerment. Last year, I was not as active in keeping up with my blogging as I wanted to, but for a good reason. I was approached by AASL, the American Association of School LIbrarians, to write a book on Collaboration. The book is one of six in a series AASL is publishing focusing on each of the Shared Foundations in the National Standards. I am so excited to share that the book is complete and is in the process of being published!


Collaborate looks at developing the mindset of collaboration in the three areas of school librarianship: the collaborative work of the school librarian with fellow educators, developing the collaborative mindset in learners and collaboration in the school library space. The book dives into the different domains of Think, Create, Grow and Share, outlines them within the standard of collaboration and offers examples of lessons, projects and professional development work, weaving all of the standards and domains together. The layout of the book is meant to be a comprehensive look at collaboration and the relationship with the school library and the larger goals and missions of the school, the layout and use of space and time in the school library, and the growth and trajectory of developing a collaborative mindset in learners.

The main goal of the book is to give readers a foundation for growing a culture of collaboration at their school and recognizing the role the school library can play as the driver of that culture. The book recognizes that collaboration in the three areas of school library, librarian and learner are all woven together and overlap in all areas is essential to a collaborative culture.

As the new school year kicks off this week, my goals for this school year are to get back to blogging and sharing projects, lessons and ideas and connecting those projects with the AASL National Standards. At the end of each of my blog posts, I will cite the AASL Foundation, Domain and Standard in the project. I hope as fellow librarians and educators connect with the blog and look for ways to incorporate the AASL National Standards, this site will become a helpful resource.

If you are interested in purchasing the book, it is available for presale on the ALA Publications website and will be available soon on Amazon.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Literature, Light, and Laser Cutting with Fifth Grade

Fifth graders read the book “The Midwife’s Apprentice” by Karen Cushman as part of their Medieval England study. The book is the story of a young homeless girl who overcomes failure to find hope and her place in the world. Students spent time talking about scenes in the book where the main character Alyce faces challenges and the moments where she overcomes difficulties in life. This became the inspiration for a maker project in the library, a shadow box picture.  A shadow box picture uses simple paper or cardboard cut scenes stacked together and backed with tissue paper to allow the light to shine through and highlight the figures.




The fifth grade teacher and I were inspired by pictures he had found of scenery from plays that used simple backgrounds and colors to express the different moments, emotions and moods that were happening in the play. Could students do the same thing with scenes from the book? Fifth graders would make connections with what was happening in the book during important scenes and make deeper connections with feelings and emotions the characters were going through. Then using simple drawings and different tissue paper colors they would express their understanding of the characters with the shadow frames.


Fifth graders picked an important scene from the book that highlighted overcoming a challenge or a difficult time for Alyce. After they identified a scene, they drew simple pictures. The pictures were outlines of characters or objects from the scene in the book, and connected by one continuous line. Fifth graders needed to be very thoughtful about what they were drawing and how they were illustration the events of the scene. The laser cutter scans the lines that are drawn and then cuts the lines out of different materials, in this case cardboard. Fifth graders needed to draw their scenes in one continuous line for this to work. They really had to think and plan out their illustrations and layers to ensure they were expressing the events of the book.


Students designed two - three layers of action for their picture for the shadow box they created. Then, fifth graders used the new laser cutter in the library to cut out their drawings. Using lots of cardboard from our cardboard closet, students also measured and cut out the frames and layers for their frames. The final step was picking the tissue paper colors that reflected the mood of the scene from the book. Some students used lighter colors to signify that Alyce overcoming a challenge, others chose darker colors to express that Alyce was dealing with a failure or sad time in her life. Fifth graders built their frames, layering their laser cut scenes with cardboard frames and tissue paper.




The final projects are beautiful, light catching shadow boxes that highlight the connections fifth graders made from reading the book. By using simple cardboard and tissue paper materials and the skills they learned using the laser cutter, they produced beautiful shadow boxes. All the shadow frames were displayed in the library hallway windows.

Monday, April 22, 2019

History, Community and Minecraft with 3rd grade

3rd grade: A year-long study
“What does it mean to be a community?”

My third grade students study the history of the City of Chicago throughout the school year as their central topic. In the library the last couple years, I have designed year long programs and projects that connect to the learning students are doing in the classroom. Last year the class made deeper connections with the city and different communities that lived in the area of history and how transportation was an essential part of the fabric of the city. This year, in collaboration with the third grade teachers and the Ed tech teacher, we decided to focus on the driving question “What does it mean to be a community?”

In the fall, students learned more about the Ojibwe Peoples and focused on learning more about the different jobs and roles members of the tribe had and how they worked together to benefit the whole community. Students collected research and then sorted different responsibilities to create a master list of jobs. Then working in small groups, students designed logos for one of the jobs. Each group needed to think of three aspects of the job and how they could represent the work on connected puzzle pieces. Next, we used the laser cutter we have to engrave the students designs on wood pieces and we displayed them on the windows in the library with written explanations with facts about the Ojibwe Peoples from each group. Each group created a write up about their logo design and included research and information about the Ojibwe Peoples to explain their designs. All of the student work was displayed in the hallway outside the library for the community to explore.
In the winter, the focus shifted to the growth of the City of Chicago and the influx of immigrants to the city. In the library we focused on Jane Addams and Hull House. Hull House was a settlement house founded by Jane Addams on the westside of the city to provide essential services to the immigrant population of the the growing neighborhood. This project included research, exploration of primary source documents, and books and online databases. First we read the book The House that Jane Built by Tanya Lee Stone. The book shares details about Jane’s life, the inspiration for the founding of Hull House, the services and her work to expand social services. We then talked about why Hull House would be important to the community. Students shared ideas and thoughts about supporting immigrant populations and supporting people in a community. We made deeper connections to our driving year long question “what does it mean to be a community?” After they read the book, students were given folders with pictures and drawings from Hull House that were shared from the Hull House museum archives and other sources. Students studied the pictures and drawings focusing on what the images showed them about programs and resources that Hull House provided, third graders collected notes in their field guides. Then students were given packets with facts and information about Hull House including Britannica online database articles and information collected from a variety of resources. Students took more notes about the services provided and why they were important for the neighborhood.



After the research and exploration part of the project, students were given a design challenge; Create a virtual Hull House museum in Minecraft. Students worked in group of threes to design and build replicas of Hull House focusing on highlighting what they learned about the organization and the services that Hull House provided to the community. First, groups brainstormed about the three areas they were going to focus on to build. Many students decided to design and build the library, nursery or kitchen. They also learned that Hull House had a theater where plays were put on and a music room where community members could learn how to play instruments and sing. Third graders also learned all about the playground that was the first public playground in Chicago and the gymnasium for exercise. They learned that very few of the houses had running water so Hull House provided a bath house for neighbors to come and shower to prevent the spread of illness. After the students decided on the rooms they were going to build, they worked with their partners to map out their Hull House ideas. Next, students moved into their Minecraft world. We set up servers so that student groups were all working in the same world to build. Students needed to talk to each other, negotiate and navigate their designs to make sure their rooms were connected and worked together. In their own rooms they focused on designing their rooms based on the research they did on Hull House, what would need to be each of the rooms to offer the programs that Hull House provided to the community. The final step was students recording audio tours of their Hull House museums to share with the community and educate the school about Hull House and the services it provided to the neighborhood.



This project was great for several reasons, it allowed students creativity in how they shared what they learned while still focusing on research skills and collecting information from print, digital and visual resources. The project focused on collaboration skills, students worked in small groups and designed and planned together to build their Hull House museums and write their scripts for their audio tours. For some students it was their first time building in Minecraft and for other students they are experts in Minecraft, this project allowed students to also be teachers, sharing their expertise in Minecraft with other students and being empowered to be teachers. Students were engaged and excited to learn more about Hull House and also to be able to create, design and share their ideas through Minecraft.

Next up Virtual Reality and Chicago Neighborhoods!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Learning About Peace with Kindergarten Students

In the kindergarten classes they have been having a lot of conversations about peace. What does peace mean? How can find moments of being peaceful? This is rooted in the helping young students learn about self awareness and self regulation of their emotions and finding peaceful moments of meditation. I wanted to do a project that connected some of the books we had on peace connected with a maker or building project that connected the ideas of peace with a project students could take with them and use to continue to make connections with the idea of finding moments of peace. That sparked the idea of Peace Lamps. We would read different books that talked about peace and being at peace and then kindergarteners would make their own peace lamps that they could use when they wanted to find some peace.

The project started with reading the book “What Does Peace Feel Like?” by Vladimir Radunsky. The story collections ideas about peace from children around the world. The book ask children what does peace feel like, smell like, taste like, look like and sound like to them. We read the book together and then kindergarteners reflected on what peace feels, smells, looks, and sounds like to them. They talked about the taste of their favorite foods they eat with their families on special occasions or the smell of fresh flowers in the summer and the feel of a hug from someone they love. For the next step, kindergarteners drew pictures of their different kinds of peace.

During the next class kindergarteners made their peace lamps. The students cut out their pictures of peace. Then they glued the pictures between two pieces of wax paper. Then we helped students roll their papers into a cylinder and glue it to the bottom of circle gift box. The final step was adding a small battery tea light inside the lamp. Now students have peace lamps to turn on when they need moments of peace and calm in their lives. This project made connections to the meditation practices and helping students learn to calm themselves and find moments of peace.