June 6th – Khan Academy

In the spirit of HTML and online pacing, today we’ll check out one of the most popular online courses available – Khan Academy.

June 6th – Khan Academy

While Khan Academy is an extensive website with a lot of material – I’m writing because I was thinking about the HTML section coming off the W3Schools post yesterday.  In Khan Academy you can take a progressive course that has videos, activities, quizzes and projects to complete and show your knowledge of the topic.  The Intro to HTML has 10 segments (combination of lessons and activities) and then jumps into CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) for 9 segments, then bounces back and forth introducing new skills.

The course is easy to follow and engaging – with activities that you can build the basics of what they are asking, or venture off on your own and create something really great.  It’s free to sign up so create an account and learn something!

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Oh wait!  Before I leave you I forgot to mention the most powerful thing – the teacher dashboard.  As a teacher I can create a class, assign Khan Academy assignments and see what the students are doing, how they are progressing and what they are struggling with.  Really great for those day when I had to be absent for conferences and family events.

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June 5th – W3Schools

In your brief time as a Web Developer you’ll come across an awesome resource called W3Schools – bookmark it.  W3Schools has been embed into all my students heads as a great resource to look up when struggling or looking for inspiration.  A general Google search of HTML will get you here, but unlike some sites – this deserves to be at the top.

June 5th – W3Schools

W3Schools.com was something I stumbled upon years ago and it has withstood the test of time.  When I first logged on, it was a basic reference with a little guide, but now they’ve created a curriculum that students (young and old) can venture through and achieve a certificate for completion at the end.  W3Schools progresses from HTML to CSS to JavaScript and goes even higher into JSON, jQuery and server side PHP.

The website has a built in code editor that you can use for simple HTML and internal or embedded CSS.  Take a look and earn a certificate or two!

June 4th – CodePen

Back on March 11th I wrote about Thimble, a great product from Mozilla that you can include CSS and JavaScript files.  Recently I found out about another such product with a few added features – CodePen.

June 4th – CodePen

CodePen is a simple online editor that allows you to create HTML, CSS and JavaScript all on the same page.  CodePen comes with a few more options, in the example it shows you how to include SCSS – the use of variables in CSS, but really you just need to play with it to see if it suits your needs.

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In addition to the SCSS you can change the layout, see the individual html, css and js pages and a dozen other smart design things that help budding web designers.

CodePen is free to sign up (might need to scroll down the page to see the free option) so sign up, copy and paste some of your existing HTML pages in and see what CodePen can do for you!

May 11th – A Week With iBooks Author

Typically I don’t like to introduce products that are OS specific, but I just finished a large project in iBooks Author so I felt I should write about it, for a week.

May 11th – A Week With iBooks Author

iBooks Author is free download for the Mac from the App Store and gives you the ability to create iBooks (also PDF’s without any interaction) for the iBooks App on your Mac or iPhone/iPad.  It functions much like other book creation programs but has some pretty powerful options with the “widgets” you can add in makes iBook Author pretty powerful.

Getting Started:
Seeing as how iBooks Author is a download (free) but doesn’t come with the Mac OS, I’m going to assume most people haven’t seen much of it.  First download from the App Store and open the program.  Much like Apple’s iWork Suite (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) iBooks Author starts with templates and you can pick from pre-styled iBooks.

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On the main landing page you’ll see the formatting options along the top of the screen, along with Widgets and the Inspector/Media/Colors/Fonts options that pop-out separate windows with other options (like other Apple iWork products).

Along the left hand side you’ll see Intro Media, Table of Contents, and Glossary.  With this being a digital/interactive book, you can have a video play as the intro media.  The Glossary option is pretty amazing because you create glossary words as objects, that you can just drag and drop into “similar words”, and because the book is digital – the index feature instantly finds all the words through out the book without listing page numbers.

From this point you might want to check out some free books on the iBooks App.  I’d suggest searching “One Best Thing” which will give you a collection of Apple Distinguished Educator iBooks that tend to show off what the program can do.

May 8th – ScratchX

After writing about Arduino yesterday, I figured I should connect to some common knowledge that we have worked from, basically from the beginning.  All cool Makery/Physical Computing things have their own Integrated Developer Environment (IDE) that was developed with them in mind, but they have also been built to be compatible with many other IDE’s so they cast a wide net.  One common IDE is Scratch because it’s trustworthy, has been around forever and has a huge following.  Well Scratch has a few plugins (Pico Board, Lego WeDo 1.0, Lego WeDo 2.0) but to really get into it, you’ll need to jump to ScratchX.

May 8th – ScratchX

I’ll repeat the disclaimer found on the website on this blog post, “Warning: all extensions are experimental and not a product of the Scratch Team.” so there might be a few hiccups along the way, but some of the “experiments” do some very cool things.

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ScratchX Home Page taken May 24th

I first found ScratchX when looking for something that was easy to connect for the Arduino board, Scratch is a simple language so interacting with the tool early was key.

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Arduino Experiment in ScratchX

Then I noticed some of the other experiments and they are amazing.  The Twitter search is amazing because there are a dozen websites, including Twitter, that you can do that on, but having it available in Scratch shows the power of code and if you can dream it, you can build in.

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Twitter Search Experiment in ScratchX

In the additional experiments area you’ll find LittleBits and our good friend Stephen Lewis with MakeSense (who has been a hit at some trainings I’ve recently been doing).  So look around, much like the original Scratch you can’t really break anything and enjoy ScratchX!

May 7th – Arduino

This continues the thread about MakerSpaces from April 23-28th…

As your potential Makerspace grows, so will the complexity of the projects your students create will increase as well.  You might need a more advanced circuitry board for bigger and better projects.  A step above the MaKey MaKey and MakeSense is the affordable Arduino board.

May 7th – Arduino

The Arduino board is a great way to introduce students to physics and circuitry.  It’s great to experiment with and universally used, there are dozens of extensions and guides to help you along the way.  The Arduino board uses a solderless breadboard so you can plug and play and has an easy library to install and interact with Processing or the Arduino IDE that you can download.

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Arduino’s can be a bit intimidating to begin, but are really user-friendly if you continue to work with them.  Arduino also has a HUGE community that love the product so you’ll never be that far from someone who wants to show you the power and creativity you can unlock with the board.  Full disclosure: it has a breadboard and resisters which are color coded, which is challenging for color-blind students (like myself) so keep that in mind and think of good ways to support those students too!

May 1st – Breakout EDU

Towards the end of the year, as students are overwhelmed from the rigor of the year often times teachers resort to movies or TedTalks to fill in some gaps.  Might I make a new suggestion that challenges the students with critical thinking and sharpens their problem solving skills?  Visit Breakout EDU.

May 1st – Breakout EDU

Breakout EDU is a wooden box (now plastic) that has a “hasp” lock with the ability to use 6 locks to lock one lock (this link will make more sense).  The students then have to solve a number of clues that give them the combinations (in a directional lock, 5 letter word lock, 3-4 digit number locks) to unlock and get the treasure inside.  The box also includes a USB drive to store files on, another lock box to hide additional clues in, a blacklight and marker to hide clues in plain sight, and other items that might help with the game.

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The website has a dozen different games and instructions/hints on how you can make your own.  It also has an “open source” materials list to make the kits your self.

This is a great way to have the students apply knowledge in a real life situation, rather than filling in a set of bubbles.