We had some of the girls we work with over to experiment with some new "toys" I have. They always enjoy an outing and it was nice having them during our Spring Break with all of us home. We spun a wheel (Classroom Roulette app) to determine which station they would start at. We had 5 stations, one for each girl so they didn't need to share -- it was a great team effort!
I have heard about Osmo for a few years but have only recently tried it. I love it, much more than I expected to! Using an iPad, base, and small reflector piece, it turns the tabletop into an interactive surface to use in a variety of activities. The girls tried their hand at drawing, math, spelling, and tangrams. We also love the Coding Jam game. The activities grow and adjust with each child and so far it is a WIN.
I've seen the Sphero used well in classroom settings and wanted to try it with these girls. It's an awesome extension of coding practice we've done online. The Sphero is cute, fun to drive around, easy to code, and is WAY better than a remote control car or whatever else. We taped a maze on the ground and tried to drive through it. Then I challenged the girls to code Sphero through the maze. I was happy to see they caught on to the coding really quickly, though some got frustrated having to try, fail, adjust, and try again. I loved seeing them persevere and eventually succeed!
When was the last time you played with Lincoln Logs? They were invented just over 100 years ago in 1916 and are still as solid as ever. Each girl created a log cabin from a diagram and practiced spatial reasoning skills.
This was our maiden voyage with this garden set of gears. It took a few tries but once they got going, they really enjoyed it. Cool set!
Bloxels might be the coolest concept of all. I'm not a huge fan of video games, specifically the time spent on them, but this one is all about creation and less about consumption. Using a 13x13 grid, you build each part of the game, take a photo of it, and within seconds your creation becomes an interactive game on the iPad. It's super cool! Different colors become different elements in the game. It becomes an incredibly creative process.
We enjoyed some daal, rice, and chipatis for lunch and got everyone fed and happy.
We had some friendly competition for Pictureka
...and ended with 'Pass the Parcel' for some small prizes.
Here's a short snapshot of our fun day!
I was invited to attend Google's Geo for Good Summit in Bangalore – the first of its kind in India. It was awesome and my mind is still spinning!
Google's Earth Outreach team brought together regional experts in the fields of conservation, air quality, agriculture, and education for collaboration and learning. Together, over an intense 4 days, we put our minds together around how we can use geotools and data to solve real challenges in India. Cross-disciplinary discussions like this are so beneficial and I could tell everyone in attendance really appreciated the opportunity.
I was part of the education track and we analyzed India's unique challenges in education, brainstormed ways to better use geotools as a resource for teachers and students, and designed potential geoprojects that could have lasting impact.
Our guiding formula was:
"If Google did X, I could do Y, which would have Z impact on the world."
It took some serious brainpower during multiple hackathon sessions to come up with ideas, but the culminating presentations showcased some pretty amazing possibilities. Using a geo-inquiry process, our group looked at creating an open-source crowdsourcing map that could better match corporate funding and nonprofit expertise to the schools who need it the most.
Geoliteracy, as defined by Google Earth Education, is "a relatively new term for a long-standing idea consisting of three components: interactions, interconnections and implications. It is the ability to use geographic understanding and geographic reasoning to make far-reaching decisions."
It's more than mapping. Way more. It's making sense of our world in a way that sparks change. I've seen how important it is for teachers to help students develop geoliteracy, to interact well with the world around them, and to make a lasting impact on humanity as a whole.
We deep-dived (dove?) into some amazing geotools, led by Googler experts from Mountain View and around the region. Several others joined us by DVC. It was uniquely beneficial to have access to the very Googlers who design and maintain these tools. They shared their knowledge graciously and were genuinely interested in our feedback and challenges. We were given a few hints of how these tools will be even better in the future and I can't wait to see what's in store.
A few of the resources we used in our education track:
I have several thoughts as takeaways, particularly around visualization and storytelling possibilities. I'm going to need a bit of time to strategize how I can apply what I've seen and learned in a way that can help the teachers and students I work with, but I'm excited.
Thanks, Geo for Good team – you've inspired me!
Time for a celebrazione! These girls showcased what they had learned about Italy over the past few months as we've explored the idea of wonder and curiosity.
They donned their Wonder crown and cuffs...
...and took turns sharing from their Wonder journals. This group shared about transportation in Italy, specifically about gondolas in Venice. Did you know there used to be about 10,000 gondolas and now there are only 400 (all used for tourists)? They learned that Venice is built on water with no cars allowed and that public water busses are called vaporettos. Even our youngest girl colored pictures and filled her notebook with red, green, and white.
This group learned all about the Leaning Tower of Pisa, that it took over 300 years to build and they have tried all sorts of things over the years to slow it's leaning. We "looked" up inside it and all around the grounds using Google StreetView through our cardboard viewer and they thought it's pretty cool that you actually feel crooked when you're inside it. They also learned it's actually a bell tower on a large church complex, which many people don't realize.
I'm really proud of them for sticking to a task, even though it's been really spread out and has taken longer than I envisioned. While not perfect pedagogically, they still learned more than they knew before and we had fun in the process.
Several guests joined us, including a teacher I invited who facilitates student curiosity projects. and many of the older girls came in to listen. After watching a clip about gelato and learning why it's not the same as ice cream (less air, less fat, creamier, lower temperatures, different processing), we enjoyed homemade mango gelato and focaccia bread. Delizioso!
Caio for now!
We've been exploring our wonders about the Leaning Tower of Pisa and transportation in Italy compared to India. I was really proud of the girls last time for staying on task as they watched a few video clips and read some short articles online. They recorded what they learned in their notebooks and shared observations with me afterwards. This was a big milestone because they usually don't like focusing on anything hard and constantly try to pull up other tabs when I'm not looking. It helped that they are earning stars on our Italy flag towards making homemade gelato...
They have loved using Google Cardboard to look at the places we're learning about. We used the Google's Streetview app to look way up high inside the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We used DiscoveryVR's app to enjoy a 360-degree ride on a gondola in Venice. They have a hard time not walking while viewing and get really into it. I try to keep them from tripping or running into something.
Today we went a little more analog and used a variety of maps, a globe, an atlas, and a puzzle to explore India and point out main map features. They used DiscoveryVR to show a helicopter landing at the most dangerous airport in the world (in Nepal) and also gazed up at the beautiful mountains of Zion National Park. They drew countries or states and had me guess where it was. I did ok till I came to unlabeled Mauritania.
I need to re-look at where this project is headed from here, but I'm really pleased with where we're at. More to come!
Our Wonder Women are on a quest to learn more about a topic. Ideally, they'd choose a topic they are curious about and explore it. Since this is our first project of this sort and it's all very new for them, we are taking a journey together first: to Italy.
What's not to love about Italy? There are so many things we could learn about: art, food, culture, landmarks, language, etc. There are plentiful resources that will help us in our quest and having just spent a few weeks there, I have resources of my own I can share. So, Italy it is!
Last week we brainstormed in teams different things they could learn about. Their goal was to come up a guiding, essential question.
One group decided to explore:
The other group will explore:
This week, we began our research. We looked in an atlas and found India in relation to Italy and located a few cities on the maps. We ended up with only one working computer so we did joint research on transport in Italy. Working from a list of possible questions we could ask, the girls used a Symbaloo webmix I curated to find resources.
They listed in their Wonder journals 4 types of transport in Italy:
We watched a video about how gondoliers steer gondolas and paused frequently to discuss and ask more questions. They colored their own gondolas for a bit and then I pulled out Google cardboard's Street View app and it was an instant hit. I have no photos of their excitement, since my phone was used in the viewer, but they loved it. In an instant they were transported to the Grand Canal. They looked around and saw gondolas parked next to red and white striped poles, vaporetto water busses going by, lots of people all around, and a few buildings that lined the canal.
We'll definitely be doing more of that!
Meet the cutest, smartest Wonder Women in town! To launch our year of Wonder, we created our own Wonder Woman costumes that we'll wear sometimes while we research and explore our wonders. With the help of my amazing daughter who was off school today, we put together our arm bands (bracelets) and headbands (tiaras).
These girls are strong. They are brave. They can do hard things. This year we're going to explore what it means to be curious and full of wonder. Some activities will be guided but hopefully as the year progresses they'll be able to explore more wonders on their own.
We cut. We glued (no one got burned from the hot glue gun -- yay!). We colored. We posed. And most importantly, we got absolutely covered with glitter, which is enough to make anyone happy.
They were quite proud of their finished products!
After an absolutely perfect summer break, I'm back in Mumbai and happy to see the girls today. They've grown!
I've stewed long and hard about how to best help them this coming year during our time together. I've reflected on various activities we've tried, what's worked, what hasn't, what they've enjoyed balanced with what they need, what is most helpful but also fun...it's not an easy process. What would you do if you were given these girls for a few hours a month?
They may have limited physical surroundings, but they are incredibly bright and strong and keep me on my toes. They get bored easily, want all the bells and whistles of anything we do online, and it's challenging to motivate them and keep them engaged. Generally they don't like to do anything hard or anything that isn't fun. What child does?
Yet, I have a responsibility to try to help them increase their literacy. Specifically, my goals with them are:
So, given what I know of them and what we've experienced together so far, I've decided on a theme this year I want to try:
That's our word. It's our year of Wonder. I want them to foster their innate curiosity about the world. To ask questions. To find answers. To reach and explore. To travel virtually. To discover. Ultimately...to think. To learn how technology helps us think and solve problems and find answers and demonstrate what we've learned.
This is the mystery box. They asked me lots of questions to guess what was inside. While they hoped it was chocolate, it wasn't. They shook it. They asked questions like, "Is it a ball?" Nope. After a few guesses they were done and wanted to open it. I pushed them to ask me different types of questions that I could answer yes or no. They began to narrow it down. It was an animal. Not a real animal but a toy animal. A big animal. A brownish animal. It lives in India. Not a cow. Our youngest girl guessed it: an elephant! She was so proud and got to open it.
After talking about our upcoming plan for the next little while, including types of questions and question words, we decorated question marks.
It was an analog activity no one was very excited about, but I wanted to lay the foundation and we'll use these in future projects.
So, exciting things are in store! Wonder what? Wait and see.
Today I teamed up with my parents who are regular volunteers. We began with another few chapters from Maniac Magee. Though they were restless, they are enjoying the story and can relate to it. We then alternated through a few activities: working on some art, working on Storybird, coding, and their reading bingo cards. Only two girls had kept track of their cards so they got an extra prize. The others started again and we made our way through. They wanted to mark things off quickly with little effort, but I made them work hard to get each stamp and a prize. Almost all had done some form of reading this week.
We need to work on an organizing system for the books and it's far from an ideal situation, but I'm happy to have any of them reading anything at all. It's summer and they're busy with lots of activities, so any reading is a bonus.
I won't be back for a few months since it's soon my summer, but I'll spend some time thinking through what our plan is for this next year and how to best support them. As always, the privilege is mine and these are wonderful girls.
Today we had some of the girls over to our house since they are out of school. It was their first time here and we really enjoyed it!
We launched our very informal summer reading program to try to get them more excited about reading. It's a long shot and a complicated problem that won't be solved soon, but every small effort helps.
I grew up around good libraries and lots of books and reading has always been part of my life. For these girls, reading is a chore, something they associate with school. They don't have the opportunity, setup, comfortable space, nor the desire to read much at home. They all can read but don't enjoy it, and they hardly, if ever, get so caught up in a book they can't put it down. I would imagine they would love to travel to other worlds through words on a page, to escape their life and explore other lives, but it doesn't work that way for them.
So, today we gathered some stuffed animals, found a comfy place to sit, and read out loud from Maniac Magee, a favorite. We defined big words like legend.
They had some free reading time to choose books from piles and attempt to cross off some of their reading bingo squares. They didn't want to read – they wanted to play – but we set a timer and everyone read for 20 minutes. We'll see how well they do before we meet them again next week, if anyone will do any reading on their own.
We posed for some pictures
Next, they rotated through stations where they could choose from a few activities in each area and get a stamp.
Think station had books, electronic snap circuits, and a microscope where we looked at all sorts of cool slides (housefly mouth parts and fern leaf were favorites).
Design station had Keva planks, brain flakes, kinetic sand and tools, Zoob tools, Legos, and various other manipulatives. Most liked the kinetic sand and baking tools and they 'made' cupcakes and other goodies.
Play station was a favorite and the girls played games, marbles, built a race track and tested for the best cars, and of course...carrom is always a hit.
Create station had art supplies and beads. R. made a heart out of beads and we ironed it to meld it.
After a great lunch of yellow daal and rice...
...we pulled the girls in a few at a time for some baking and they were great helpers. We made donuts and air popped popcorn.
After a swimming and watching Moana, it was time to say farewell till next time
This week marked the beginning of Spring, and even though it's warm all year 'round in Mumbai I still wanted to celebrate.
We brainstormed quite a bit to get started, which is always a bit frustrating for these girls. They like to dive right in to using the computers. We came up with some words that have to do with springtime and beauty and taking care of our earth. I had them think of a beautiful place they have visited and we came up with a list.
They also used a springtime and Earth Day word list I linked to from our Symbaloo webmix if they needed extra help or ideas.
First, we tackled acrostic poems. They didn't seem to have done these before and it was new for them. We chose our topic word and brainstormed words to go with it. Using ReadWriteThink's tool, one girl made her own about earth and the others collaborated together and typed the same poem on their own computers about Spring.
I told them that my kids love to give acrostic poems to others as gifts. If they ever want to give someone a birthday present and don't have any money, they can always write an acrostic poem using that person's name and write words about them. They seemed to like that idea.
Next we attempted Haiku's. These were harder and a good challenge. They had learned the concept but hadn't really been able to practice. ReadWriteThink's haiku tool makes it really easy and there was a lot of clapping out syllables until they got it just right.
We finished by working in Storybird on Spring and Earth Day books to be completed next time.
In Nepali, didi means older sister and is often used to describe one who works for you, one you respect, one who walks beside you on your journey. I work hard to bring teachers, parents, and students the best educational technology tools out there that educate, engage, and empower. Enjoy!