3D Printing Resources at Local Libraries Supporting STE(A)M

3D Printers as Community-Based Resource

3D printing, a type of industrial robot which can synthesize three dimensional objects for a variety of purposes, is one of the most exciting technological, scientific, and creative innovations of recent years. Local libraries and other learning centers have begun to support an interest in engineering, technology, and creativity by housing 3D printers and providing demonstrations of the technology. 3D printers can be incorporating into makerspaces (read more in our post, Maker Spaces: Community-Based Opportunities to Think, Make, Do, Learn and Share!) or they can stand alone as a resource.

There are several upcoming opportunities for families to learn about and utilize this new technology their your own projects.

Read the rest of this entry »

NERD Summit in Amherst

NERD Summit: Helping to Raise the Next Generation of Innovators, Creative Thinkers, & Technologists!

NERD Summit is back! All are welcome to a free weekend of workshops, training sessions, presentations, youth activities, and more, September 11th-13th at UMass Amherst’s Conference Center.

Want to learn CSS or HTML? Ready to turn your app idea into a real app? Perhaps you’ve been wanting to make 3D drawings using SketchUp or itching to learn about LEGO EV3 Robotics? Look no further than the NERD (New England Regional Developers) Summit, a 3-day learning camp focused on helping people build coding, web design, and related skills, and to welcome everyone into this interesting industry.

Many sessions at NERD Summit are intended for self-directed teens and life-long learners; and there are lots of great FREE facilitate workshops for kids at the NERD Summit 2015.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Good Life: Characters Locked in a Cell

The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons by Sarah Mattison Buhl

Reluctant

So done with winter!“Spring seems most reluctant this year…” my husband’s grandmother wrote in a letter to us almost twenty years ago. Personal email was just starting up, and Grandma was close to 90, so the technology revolution entirely missed her generation. Her phrasing stayed with me all these years later, because what she said was certainly true, but there was no frustration in her words, only grace. A similar text today might read, “So done with winter!,” also true, but delivered with a crass directness and blistering internet speed never before seen. I love social media and texting for the very way it keeps us connected in a casual, immediate manner, but with the intoxicating rush of 21st century communication, and insatiable quest for immediate information, I have lost something.

Internet access makes me feel as though there is constantly something I should be doing, every minute of every day, right up until I fall into bed at night. I could be registering for retirement benefits, paying for school lunches, researching my ancestry, or confirming dentist appointments (there are 5 of us, and one with braces). My cell phone was a generous gift given to me by my generous family. Texting makes communication with them flow freely and easily. Help at school pick up time is now just a text away, and for that I am truly grateful. That cell phone has truly made my life easier in that respect. However, I feel the burden of expectation that comes with that portable, yet powerful device.  Read the rest of this entry »

Holyoke Codes Empowers Youth with Free Workshops

Unwrapping Screen-time & Finding Childhood

Back to the Basics of Allowing Children to Enjoy Healthy Play

The job of young children is to play, move, talk, and interact with people and things so as to build basic skills

Development during early childhood shapes what becomes the foundation for development throughout a person’s life. Language, motor, interpersonal, and many other skill sets have their roots in the earliest parts of childhood and, as such, this time period is incredibly important. The job of young children is to play, move, talk, and interact with people and things so as to build basic skills – and it’s just as important for this to happen as it is for an adult to do their own job every day. Read the rest of this entry »

Computer Science Education Week’s Hour of Code

Computer Science Education Week’s Hour of Code

Just like any other language, computer coding functions based on sets of symbols and patterns. Not something that you can learn through conversation, classes, or a semester abroad, coding can be an elusive skill despite its usefulness and wide range of applications within our technology-filled culture. Learning to code can open up a brand new world of creative possibilities for older students, allowing them to develop computer-based programs of all kinds. In addition, studying programming as a language has some great educational benefits – the attention to pattern and detail necessary in order to succeed at programming can support students in learning to recognize patterns and develop skills in “de-bugging” their own work.

As part of this year’s Computer Science Education Week, the Computing in the Core Coalition has compiled coding-based activities for educators of students of all ages…  Read the rest of this entry »

STEMBite: Bite Sized Videos Supporting STEM Education

STEMBite: Snack-Sized Science Videos

Add some science to these hot summer days with STEMBite, a YouTube channel that offers snack-size videos focused on topics in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and the things in our everyday lives that they are related to. Most of the videos are between one and a half and two minutes long, and are shot from the perspective of the narrator using Google Glass, who explores a different topic, item, and/or surroundings in each one.

Interesting topics include the form and function of animal adaptations and evolution (Form, Function, and Chickens), the physics of sound waves and the concept’s application to shower time singing (Physics of Singing in the Shower), the science and design behind the barcodes found on mass-produced items and price tags in stores (Barcodes), and many others STEM topics.

While most of the topics addressed in the videos are best for older students (grade 4 and above), the videos are short and use fairly simple terms to explain each idea. Younger students may absorb less than an older student would while watching, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t learn at all! Perusing the channel might be a great way to help kids develop curiosity in parts of science that they may not discover on their own – like simple machines or light diffusion. The narrator’s fun tone and the sometimes silly activities that he does help to draw kids in, and the examination of everyday objects helps to provide ways for students to see how each topic applies in their own lives. Try viewing videos related to some of the topics that your child studied in school last year, or ones covering some of the topics that they might encounter once they return in the fall. Not sure what they might be learning? Contact your school for a copy of the district’s curriculum frameworks, or access the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for science online at  www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks/current.html.

Citizen Scientists Wanted for Swarmageddon as Magicicada Emerge from the Warming Earth

After 17 Years, Cicadas Scheduled to Emerge from the Earth Along the Eastern Seaboard. Will They Be Emerging Here in Western MA?

This year, for the first time since 1996, a Magicicada brood will emerge from the ground all across the eastern United States.  This special species – unlike other cicadas – emerges every 17 years with the entire species growing and developing at the same time,  creating synchronized cycles of growth, reproduction, and death.  These insects go through a complicated and specialized series of stages of development as a group, taking 13-17 years to grow into adult cicadas and emerge from the ground.  They will lay eggs for the next generation simultaneously, continuing their synchronized cycle of regeneration.

Much like frogs and salamanders, the cicadas will emerge from the ground only when the temperature is right!  Magicicadas require a soil temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit, extending as deep as eight full inches into the ground – meaning that cicadas will show themselves much earlier further south, while southern New England soil continues to warm up.  Families can track and predict the burst of bugs by monitoring the temperature of the soil in their backyard – while western Massachusetts isn’t expected to have a huge number of cicadas (check out the web site: Massachusetts Cicadas), their existence is quite likely given that Connecticut and the Hudson River Valley in New York are both home to Magicidadas.

In order to predict the bugs’ appearance in your yard, track the soil temperature using a basic thermometer, which can be purchased online or at a gardening specialty store.  Families can also build their own cicada detectors, which will not only measure soil temperature, but will track the creatures’ movement!  Families with older students can learn valuable STEM skills by building a detector, and can use the data that they collect to contribute to cicada tracking and research.  RadioLab, an online resource for STEM-related projects and information, offers instructions for building and operating your own cicada detector, and also has information about submitting collected data.  Follow the instructions to become amateur entomology researchers, and help contribute to the recording of an unusual scientific phenomenon!

New CCFC Guide to Help Early Educators Navigate Digital World

Facing the Screen Dilemma Separates Hype
From What Children Really Need

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood:

“Early childhood educators face increasing pressure to incorporate screens into their classrooms,” said CCFC’s director, Dr. Susan Linn, author of The Case for Make Believe. “The sheer volume of screen technologies marketed as educational, and even essential, for young children is overwhelming. It’s crucial to separate the hype from what research tells us young children really need.”

Smart boards. Smartphones. Tablets. E-books, apps and more. The rapid influx of new screen devices and software poses a special challenge for the early childhood community. A unique offering from Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the Alliance for Childhood, and Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment (TRUCE) provides help and support for childhood educators grappling with how best to support young children’s growth, development and learning in a world radically changed by technology. Packed with relevant research and practical tips, Facing the Screen Dilemma: Young children, technology and early education is the first guide designed to help early educators make informed decisions about whether, why, how, and when to use screen technologies with young children.

Facing the Screen Dilemma arrives at a time of heightened concerns about the amount of time children spend with screen media. New technologies haven’t replaced older ones; kids use digital games and apps in addition to television and video, not instead of them. Time spent with screen media is at record highs for children of all ages. And excessive screen time is linked to childhood obesity, sleep disturbance, and poor school performance. Two brand new surveys from the Pew Internet and American Life Project and Common Sense Media highlight widespread concern among teachers that children’s constant use of digital technology hampers attention span and the ability to complete difficult tasks.

In addition to a much-needed overview of the research on young children and screen time, Facing the Screen Dilemma offers practical considerations and concrete advice for centers using screen technologies, as well as support for centers resisting pressure to abandon screen-free policies.

“Keeping an early childhood environment screen-free is a valid and pedagogically sound choice,” said the Alliance for Childhood’s Joan Almon. “Developing children thrive when they are talked to, read to, played with and given time for creative play, physically active play, and interactions with other children and adults. It’s really OK to say the iPad can wait.”

For all early childhood programs, Facing the Screen Dilemma recommends screen-free settings for children under 2. The guide encourages educators to work closely with parents around technology issues and to understand how children’s exposure to screens at home affects classroom performance and behaviors.

“Educators using screens with young children should be intentional about their choices and determine beforehand exactly how a given technology will expand or enhance classroom goals for children,” said Professor Diane Levin of TRUCE and Wheelock College. “It’s important to choose screen activities carefully, establish rules and routines for their use, and provide clear boundaries so that screen time doesn’t crowd out vital classroom activities.”

Facing the Screen Dilemma can be found at http://commercialfreechildhood.org/screendilemma.

Language Play: 5 Useful Apps That Help to Promote Speech & Language Skills

Apps for Back-to-School

Now that we are all back to school, I thought it would be fun to talk about educational activities on the iPad or iPhone to support children’s learning at school. This year, I have switched my speech and language materials from books and software programs to apps for my iPad, in order to be more mobile and spontaneous with my therapies (Of course, I love that the kids are begging to come to “speech!”). Several parents and colleagues have asked for a list of useful apps to promote speech and language skills, so I thought I would share them with Hilltown Families. Here are 5 of my students’ favorite apps for elementary school. It is very hard to limit this to 5 since there are many great apps that I keep adding to my repertoire! In the future, I will write about favorite older student apps, and apps for other platforms.

  • Starfall All About Me by Starfall Education is a great app for friends to get to know one another. And who doesn’t want to talk about oneself? Children identify what they look like by making an animated version of themselves, their pets (children can use fantasy pets, too), their toys, and places/items in their houses. Then they give a new friend a turn! Great for social skills including turn-taking and problem solving with a partner. Also great for vocabulary skills. Cost: $1.99
  • Speech with Milo: Sequencing by Doonan Speech Therapy. Children sequence three pictures with an option to watch a movie afterwards. Ask what happened with cues to use “first,” “then,” and “last.” Milo the mouse is loveable and gentle with a child’s voice. Promotes sequencing, narrative skills, time concepts, expressive language, and grammar skills. Cost: $2.99
  • For Articulation Practice, I use two apps the most: Articulate It by Smarty Ears LLC is a professional app but it also allows you to do a home program based on the recommendations of your speech-language pathologist. Custom choices of specific sounds in specific positions of words using photo cards. Statistics give percentage correct. Cost: $38.99 – Speech Pairs by Synapse Apps LLC  has lots of great parent information! Two photos are shown that contrast sounds in words to increase a child’s ability to hear subtle differences (“gas”/”glass”). Sometimes the child is asked to listen to the sounds and sometimes to produce the sounds. Very customizable! Cost: $6.99.
  • Sid’s Science Fair by PBS Kids. Visit three different science/math activities. Love these activities! Sorting/categorization/charting, identifying details/matching/patterns using a magnifying glass, and flexible thinking. Ask your child what they did after each activity for narrative, descriptive, and explaining skills. Cost: $2.99.
  • Toca Hair Salon by Toca Boca. A favorite of all children and parents, too! Children love to choose a character to comb, cut, shave, lengthen, shampoo, spray colors, and their favorite, blow dry! their character’s hair and facial hair. Afterwards, they describe what they did to me or to someone who has not seen what they did. Great for sequencing, describing, narratives, and memory skills. Cost: $1.99.

Wow! It’s hard to stop at 5 (I think I actually snuck in 6) but I’ll be back in a month with more ideas! Welcome to the brave new world of educational apps!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kathy Puckett

Kathy is a private practice speech-language pathologist living in Shelburne, MA and the author of our monthly speech and language column, Time to Talk. Living in Western Massachusetts since 1970, she raised two children here and has two grandsons, ages 15 and 8 years old. She has worked as an SLP with people of all ages for the last 14 years. She runs social thinking skill groups and often works with teens. As a professional artist, she has a unique and creative approach to her practice. She loves technology, neurology, gardening, orchids, and photography. She uses an iPad for therapies. She grows 500 orchids and moderates her own forum for orchid growers (Crazy Orchid Lady). Kathy is dedicated to the families of her private practice, and offers practical, creative ideas to parents. She blogs about communication at kathypuckett.com

MIT Launches Student-Produced STEM Educational Video Initiative

Original Short Videos Aim to Fuel K-12 Students’ Interest in STEM

Well-known education resource Khan Academy, a web site offering video-based learning to students, sparked a small revolution in the utilization of video in the classroom.  Videos, once reserved for rainy days or special activities, can now be an incredibly valuable educational resource.  Students are able to pace their own learning when using videos, as they can stop, repeat, and rewind as many times as they need to in order to understand, without feeling pressured to keep up with other students.

Well… MIT and the Khan Academy have teamed up to offer special videos on topics within STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) created by their students!

MIT, home to 10,000 STEM students, holds a wealth of knowledge, and students have created videos on many unique topics – everything from flying robots to the earth’s rotation.  The project, titled MIT+K12, includes videos for students in any grade.  The videos are available on the project’s website and on YouTube – teachers, parents, and even kids can search the site for videos to help with tricky subjects or to learn about something they’re curious about!

3 Apps Aid Citizen Scientists & Nature Enthusiasts

3 Apps to Explore & Engage with Your Environment

While adventuring outdoors to enjoy local landscapes this summer, families can integrate their mobile devices into their trek to create environmental learning opportunities! Three applications – CreekWatch, Leafsnap, and the WildLab – are all designed to teach users about their environment and to help monitor and conserve natural resources.  All three applications provide ways for families to integrate technology into their outdoor adventures in a way that promotes learning and engagement with nature, rather than detracting from the experience. Try one (or all!) of them on your next outing.

WATERSHEDS

CreekWatch allows families to monitor the health of their local watershed by using pictures of streams and creeks (taken by users and submitted via the app) to determine water level and amount of pollution and debris present in the water.

ARBORICULTURE

Leafsnap, called an “electronic field guide,” compares pictures of tree leaves using photorecognition software, and helps users identify trees  – allowing them to learn about the biodiversity present around them while sharing information with a public database, helping to aid scientists.

ORNITHOLOGY

For bird identification, check out the WildLab – it uses GPS-tagged photos taken by users to monitor bird populations, and the user learns what bird(s) they’ve seen using information provided in the app.

8 Ways to Create Engaging Engineering Activities at Home

Engineering Projects for Children at Home

I continue to be amazed at the natural engineering instincts of young children.  Ironically, with all the technology available to kids today (television, computers, tablets, video games), overuse takes time away from building and creating, both of which can lead our next generation of ethical scientists and engineers to solving some of the problems overuse of technology causes. Read the rest of this entry »

Three Programs Kids Can Use to Learn How to Create Video Games

Kids Creating Video Games

Many kids today are great at playing (consuming) video games but who will create the video games of tomorrow?  I think it’s fine for kids to play appropriate video games in moderation.  See Common Sense Media for reviews and ratings for video games.  However, many kids today only consume content.  What we really need in the future is for the next generation to create interesting, appropriate, and constructive content.  That’s goes for television, movies, websites, apps, and games and other media we can’t even envision now.  This activity is great for encouraging interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subjects, as well as art.

Here’s three different ways kids can create video games at home or at school:

Read the rest of this entry »

Seven Values & Goals to Setting Technology Limits: A Personal Story

Technology Limits – A Personal Story

In January I shared a general article on setting technology limits titled, My Top Ten Tips for Setting Technology Limits. Setting technology limits for your family is a personal decision based on the values that you have, so there is no one policy that will fit every family.  So this month, I will share an intimate look at how my family works with setting tech limits…. Read the rest of this entry »

10 Tips on Setting Technology Limits for Your Family

My Top 10 Tips on Setting Technology Limit

One of the best things you can do is to ensure the technology is being used for educating and creating, not just consumption.

Many parents are unsure of how and when to set limits on technology use for their children (and themselves).  I believe this is something we all need to think about, adults as well as kids. Setting technology limits is a personal decision based on the values that you have, so there is not one policy that will fit every family.  As a parent and educator who encourages students to use technology in a positive and creative way, but is also aware of some of the downsides to certain types of technology use, I have compiled the following guidelines. With technology more and more ubiquitous in our lives, it’s a good time to think through this issue for our children and ourselves: Read the rest of this entry »

Art Technology and Software: A Review of 5 Programs for Students

Technology, Art and Kids

Students use KidPix to create diagrams of their studies of volcanos.

Students use KidPix to create diagrams for their study unit on volcanoes.

I sometimes hear concerns from parents about technology and their children.  Are they too young to use computers?  Are they using technology too much?  What I have found, in my experience using technology with students for over 20 years, is that it is not so much “how much” and “when” but “what.”  In our work at the Williamsburg Schools, we aim to enable kids to use technology constructively and creatively while also helping teachers meet state standards.  Today, I’ll go over some commercial and free programs and give some ideas of how they can be used at home and in educational settings.   We will look at animation and comic book software in a future column. Read the rest of this entry »

GIS Day During National Geography Awareness Week at WSU

Westfield State University ‘Discovers the World’ through Geographic Information Systems

Braun, a Geography and Regional Planning/Environmental Science Professor, who also acts as the Campus GIS Coordinator, emphasizes of the importance of understanding modern technology. “Many people still think geography means drawing maps and memorizing the atlas. Today, we make maps using a GIS and we use maps more than ever as tools,” Braun said, citing that the power outage maps seen during last week’s storm were from GIS.g “I hope that folks realize that this technology is already part of our daily lives and that we can, fairly easily, use this technology ourselves,” he said. “GIS and the related technologies (GPS, Google Earth, Smart Phones) are cool and fun to use and give us a way to hopefully get folks interested in geography and regional planning.”

Westfield State University will host GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Day free events on Wednesday, November 16th and Thursday, November 17th as part of National Geography Awareness Week, inviting high school students and teachers to attend.

More than 10,000 organizations and 80 countries hold local events for GIS Day, which illustrates how GIS technology can be applied to our everyday lives. Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Google Earth, and Smart Phones are commonly used, related technologies.

On Wednesday from 7-9pm and Thursday from 5-7pm, there will be several events, including informal workshops teachings on how to use Google Earth to create 3D maps with embedded videos and photographs. These will take place in Bates Hall 022 and seats are limited by computer availability. Contact Carsten Braun at cbraun@westfield.ma.edu to reserve your seat.

A GPS Treasure Hunt around campus from 12-5pm and a GIST Center Open House from 3-5pm in Bates 022 also will be offered on Thursday.

All events are free and open to the public.

Learn more about GIS in the short informative video:

Cyberbullying Toolkit for Teachers

Common Sense Media
Cyberbullying Toolkit for Educators

Common Sense Media has developed a Cyberbullying Toolkit for educators!  The curriculum is adaptable for all ages, elementary through high school, and can be used in any educational context to teach kids about identifying and standing up against cyberbullying.  Teaching kids how about this topic helps to foster positive learning environments and healthy social interactions.  Their website also offers resources specifically for kids and teens, too!  The curriculum and resources are available at www.commonsensemedia.org.

Endangered Words: Out with Nature, in with Technology

Endangered Words
by Anne Keisman

Dandelion (Taraxacum sp.)

Dandelion endangered? (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Picture this: A father and son are walking home from school. The boy bends down to blow on a dandelion. A classic image of childhood, wouldn’t you say?

Once home, the father reaches for a children’s dictionary — the one with the big colorful pictures and 18-point font, written just for 7-year-olds. The father says, “Let’s look up dandelion, son!”

If parents are rolling their eyes from the sickly-sweet unreality of this scenario, stay with me for a moment. It all goes horribly wrong.

Read more at NWF Green Hour.

%d bloggers like this: