Permissions and Challenges

Something that’s been rumbling around in my brain the last couple of days after attending a training  and a recent update in privacy policy from – what responsibility do software and “web 2.0” companies have to schools and students in regard to student information and privacy?

There are literally thousands of websites and resources for students to create digital products, share their knowledge in different ways, or interact with the world at large. However, common among so many of them is the requirement of creating an account, which asks for some kind of information for students. Presumably, many of these companies keep this information to email students, market to them, sell their emails to other companies, etc. I know many websites have their privacy policies and terms of conditions labeled on their websites, but they often have a requirement for students to be 13 or older to use their sites.

Working with many K-6 teachers, it is often a big challenge to find good (free, or relatively cheap) sites, that do what teachers want, and is appropriate for younger learners. This got me thinking – what responsibilities do technology education companies have to the people they are claiming to serve?

I know this isn’t a black or white issue and there are probably a lot of things I’ve left out or haven’t fully unpacked, but I’m interested to hear your thoughts. What say you?


Fairview Animal Hospital

As a Biomedical focused STEM school, students at Fairview Elementary utilize Project Based Learning units centered around learning more about their Magnet Theme. Kindergarten, First, Second, and Third grade students participated in an Animal Hospital. Lots and lots of work went in to putting this event together, but the end result was an amazing learning opportunity for these young scholars!




Through the help of local partnerships with The Red Cross and Wal-Mart,, we were able to transform the library into a medical lab, complete with doctor’s kits, x-rays, and medicine.

Students began their experience with a hands on lesson from the Red Cross on CPR. They had the opportunity to practice on a medical dummy and to ask questions about what the Red Cross does. Then, students were given a stuffed animal and a little story starter about the symptoms of their patient. Students worked with an adult volunteer to diagnose their animal through a series of questions on a Google Form. Once students figured out the diagnosis, they were given directions to X-Ray their patient and what type of medication to distribute. It was really neat to see students talk through what might be wrong with their patient, to ask them questions, and to hear them explain their reasoning for a particular answer to a question.

Building a Foundation

Our second and third grade students at Fairview Elementary’s Programming Club are having a blast learning more about computer programming. We have been using the curriculum from’s 20 Hour Courses. As most of our students are at or below grade level with reading (and they are just little guys – 7 or 8 years old), our students are working through the concepts in Course 1. Course 1 uses fun characters like bees, zombies, and Angry Birds to teach students the basics of looping, events, conditionals, and other computer science concepts. Along with those online components, there are some “unplugged” activities where students get off the computer and interact with some materials hands on.

Last week, we wanted to remind students of the importance of persistence. This is obviously an important skill students should practice in all challenging tasks and it’s often difficult to teach it. It’s especially crucial in an area like computer science, where it is often the figuring out, changing a couple of things, testing and trying again, before you finally reach success. It can be easy to give up, which is why we must create tasks that are appealing enough for students to want to figure it out, but challenging enough that they learn how to work through those areas of discomfort. That’s why I love the curriculum from; it is engaging and cyclical.

For our unplugged lesson, students were given a set of gumdrops, some toothpicks, and a small 6 oz. cup. Their goal was to create a structure that was at least as tall as the cup and would hold the weight of a book (a regular-sized novel) for 10 seconds. They could only use the materials provided. IMG_4466

Before we gave the students their materials, we asked them to spend some time and individually draw a model of their design. Then, each person shared their design idea with their group members. Lastly, the group decided on the best design together.


Then, students were ready to build!


Some groups were successful on their very first try. Others had to continue to problem-solve and come up with alternative designs.


Happy and successful foundation builders!



First (and second) try was a failure!


It’s working!

We gave the students about 20 minutes for this lesson – from individual design time to group building and testing. Once the time was up (and sticky hands washed), we debriefed. Students shared what was challenging about the project. This included things like needing more materials or not being able to communicate effectively with their group. Another challenge was coming up with a different design once their first design didn’t work. Students were reluctant to change too much of their original design rather than mimic what other groups were doing with success.

Some things students enjoyed was testing out different configurations – if they made their structure taller would it hold a book? If they made it wider, could it hold a heavier book?

This was a fun unplugged activity that could easily be implemented in any classroom. It would be a great icebreaker activity at the beginning of a school year or semester. Most of the schools I support are STEM and STEAM schools; this would be fun for a parent night. You could use straws and marshmallows, too.

Your turn! What team building activities do you do to teach the importance of persistence? 

Early Childhood Technology Conference

Yesterday I had a great opportunity to attend a technology conference centered on early childhood in Chelsea. We were lucky to have such a fantastic and welcoming staff of dedicated educators welcome and host this event. It was awesome to hear how folks are implementing technology with the youngest of learners. So often I hear teachers say that a particular app or tech tool is cool, but it wouldn’t work with their kids. Not to be harsh, but that sounds like an excuse to avoid trying something new. It can be really scary to go out on a limb and try something different in your classroom, but it is essential to innovation and growth – both our own and our students’.

There are many iterations of the SAMR model for technology implementation, and I really like this representation because it gives some specific examples of what each level looks like.

Many of the sessions I attended talked about ways we could move beyond the substitution level of technology use and “up the ladder” toward modification, augmentation, and redefinition. It’s really hard to get to the redefinition level, especially with younger students, but absolutely is worth the attempt! I presented on using code in the classroom. This past year we created a coding club after school for our 2nd and 3rd grade students and it was awesome to see students doing things they would never have been able to without the use of technology. (Blog post about our Tech Club coming soon!)

One of the sessions I attended yesterday was called C.A.T.S. (Create and Assess using Technology with Students). The presenter, Angela Brenneman, provided a TON of tech tools, websites, and resources to use with students, but one of the parts of the presentation that stuck out to me was a project called Adjective Hunt. Angela works in a resource room so she works with smaller groups of students on reinforcing concepts. The process for creating these adjective videos seemed really unique and interesting to me. As a former English teacher, I constantly struggled with how to make grammar more engaging and interesting.

The first step students did was to use their iPads to take pictures of adjectives around their school. Then, students had to create a list of words they would place around their photo. For example, if they took a picture of the clock in the hallway, kids might include words like:

-round clock
-12 numbers
-yellow hallway

Then, using a website called Pizap, students were able to add their adjectives to the photos. Pizap has a ton of fun, colorful fonts to choose from and I can imagine my students having a blast picking out fonts to add to their own Adjective Hunt photos. Lastly, using iMovie, students recorded themselves with a short intro and what picture they took. The end result was a really cute video that will help students have a better understanding of what adjectives are.