Musical Express: the Sound Track

Not only is music a pleasure to listen to, it is also an excellent tool for learning.  Kids can use rythmic patterns to learn about fractions, they can create song lyrics to use as a mnemonic device to aid in memorization, music therapy can help children with communication, attention, motivation, and behavioral problems ... the possibilities are endless.  And into this well-established field enters the Sound Track.

 
 
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In 2009, Ricardo Seola developed the concept for the Sound Track as a part his final project for his industrial design course at Scuolda Politecnica di Design in Milan.  "One of the most important aspects of my childhood was playing with musical toys," Seola remembers. "I wanted to come up with an intuitive toy, where every action made while playing it produced a clear musical reaction."  Not only does the Sound Track achieve this mission, it does so with a beautiful and developmentally supportive design.

 
 
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"Kids love to see things happen right in front of their eyes, and hear things happen with their ears," Seola says, and with the Sound Track they will be able to do just that.  With adjustable notes on each track, children will be able to write songs by shifting pegs into different positions.  They can either organize the Sound Track to play classic nursery rhymes like "Mary Had a Little Lamb" using the included "song" book, or they can create tunes of their own, which the train will then play back for them as they push it along the track.  

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

The Sound Track should be available for purchase from Quirky later this year.

 

Making Makers out of Your Kids

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The summer of Making and Connecting is in full swing, and there is no better time than the present to plant the seeds for inspiration.  While in the pre-digital olden times "success" and professional accomplishment required endless schooling and putting in one's time to "work up the ladder," the leaders of the 21st century will be those that can think outside-of-the-box; with teenagers building apps and selling them for millions, college dropouts creating the resources and devices that drive our lifestyle, and kids building tools for the Google Science Fair that could change the world, the possibilities for capable tinkerers and makers are seemingly infinite.  Here are a few of our favorite resources to help get you started ...

 
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Instructables.com offers a little bit of everything.  From battery-powered DIY projects to delicious recipes,  homemade games and crafts to MacGyver problem-solving tools, this site offers great step-by-step visual and written directions to create just about anything!

 
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Make is a similarly amazing hotbed of inspirational opportunity.   With a magazine, blog, Maker Faire's, and Maker kits, this resource is sure to get the Maker juices flowing!

 

Last but not least, don't forget to visit Makerspace  to discover other great Maker opportunities and resources near you!  And please send us pictures and descriptions of all your amazing creations!!!

Super Cute Crafts for Kids

If you've never visited Mr. Printables you should.  Not only do they have great printable everything for children and adults alike, they also have some super cute craft ideas to keep kids busy on a rainy day, or fill those awkward in-between times.  

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And with all this rainy weather in NYC, we thought we would post this perfectly simple, totally adorable craft project to provide a little inspiration to fill the next stormy void ...

 
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You will need ...

1. A scrap piece of wood or strong cardboard, and something to cut it with

2. A clothespin

3. Wood glue  

4. Pencil and paint

 
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Step 1 - Place the clothespin on the wooden sheet or cardboard and draw around it with a pencil. This will be a nose and the clamping end the tooth. Draw a shape of a face around it and cut out to the size you want.
 

 

Step 2 - Draw a fun monster face with a pencil. The end of the clothespin will be a tooth of the monster and the rest will be a nose.  Then paint the monster face and the clothespin. 

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Step 3 - Glue the nose (clothespin) to the wood and you are ready to roll with the coolest wall hanger around!

 

What Kind of a Learner Are You?

Would you rather have 20/20 vision, better hearing than a dog or twice the amount of nerve endings in your fingers? The answer could be telling into your learning world. Neil Fleming, an experienced New Zealand teacher, started a system to better suit the preferences of students based on neuro-linguistic programming that is widely used in schools today. Fleming divided learners into three types: visual learners, auditory learners and tactile/kinesthetic learners. That 5th grader who can remember the page numbers of test questions: visual learner. The sophomore who checks out audio books instead of paperbacks: auditory learner. How about the middle schooler who’s boss in a science lab or shop class: tactile all the way. When it comes to your own personal learning style, you might already have a hunch but we’ve designed this quiz to help determine what fits you best. Don’t be surprised if you can relate to pieces of all three; it’s not uncommon to have a mix of preferences. With this knowledge under your belt, you can conquer the world! Well, you might not conquer the world (right away) but you might be able to study for that history exam in record time.


Learning Infographic

Thanks to OnlineEducation.net for the great resource!

Mathalicious

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Picture yourself in your Freshman year Math class.  The teacher is at the blackboard giving a lesson on radical expressions.  Everyone is bored out of their minds, and beyond confused thinking the same thing ... When in the world will I ever actually need to know this?!  Well, Mathalicious is here to change all that!

This great new resource for teachers aims to teach Math within the context of its real world applications; it takes all of those seemingly random steps and formulas out of text books and into the real world.  So, in order to learn more about equations and expressions, kids could use these mathematic principles in order to understand just how long they would have to run in order to burn off a delicious Big Mac; or students can get a better understanding of Moore's Law by analyzing video game console processor speeds.

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Earlier this year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Department of Education kicked off a first-of-its kind competition, called the Gap App Challenge, inviting developers around the country to submit ideas for apps that could help close achievement gaps in middle school math.  Mathalicous was one of the big winners because not only does the idea just make sense, this site does it really, really well.  With videos, Common Core alignment, lesson guides and handouts, Mathalicous does the grunt work and puts a super powerful learning tool into teachers hands, at a surprising low cost.  This is one you should definitely look into ...

Mangahigh

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There are a lot of online learning resources out there, and it is often hard to sift through and identify the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly!  That is why it is so great to find a resource that offers one-stop-shopping.  

 

Mangahigh is a completely free, online website that offers a wide range of engaging Math games and learning resources for students in elementary and middle school.  Learners are introduced to new lessons with scaffolding, and then progress towards applied work, supported by specific hints and worked solutions throughout.  Plus, teachers can set up classroom accounts to assign homework, track results, and identify ares of weakness for each individual student.  In that way, it's like a slightly less analytical, but way more fun and engaging IXL or Khan Academy.  

 
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Another great characteristic of Mangahigh, that really reinforces the gaming focus of the site, is a social component that allows schools to enter into “math combat” with one another. Called “Fai-Tos,” competitions (named after a “fight” chant Japanese students might yell during a sports match and pronounced “fie-TOO”) these are are competitions in which students from two schools compete to achieve the highest total score in a particular game.  It is just the sort of thing students might become obsessed with, and with such a strong learning focus that is a very great thing!  

So set up your teacher account today, and let us know what you think ...

Super Resources to Support Project-Based Learning

The 21st century classroom experience is getting better by the day.  We've got tablets and SmartBoards, apps and MOOCs, adaptive learning platforms and so much more.  But one of the things that I'm most excited about is project-based learning.  We all learn best by doing, and in a PBL classroom, students are transformed from passive listeners to active thinkers; kids become curious creators, charged with putting their knowledge to work in order to solve authentic, engaging, and inspiring problems.  The PBL classroom brings learning to life, and challenges students to think critically and work collaboratively just like we all do as adults.  

 
 

So, where do we start?  Well, as it turns out, there are a ton of amazing, free PBL resources available.  Here are some of our favorites ...

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The Buck Institute for Education offers PBL support programs to help develop a classroom, school and district culture focused on producing college and workforce ready 21st century learners.  With workshops, videos, articles and more, anyone can learn about PBL on this amazing website.  Plus, they offer an amazing database of project ideas and resources to help any teacher get started!

 

PBLU is a free resource from the people at BIE (in cooperation with the Hewlett Foundation) that's out there to get the PBL ball rolling.  With teacher training videos, and a small but rich selection of project resources, PBLU has everything any instructor needs to get started.  It's almost like the kiddy pool of project-based learning - a really great, supportive, not intimidating introduction to the PBL world!  

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Teach21 from the West Virginia Department of Education features over 50 project ideas for students in 2nd grade through high school. Teachers can also search the site by content area or grade level.  Pretty excellent!

 

The Summer of Making and Connecting

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The title says it all.  This summer, adults and children alike have the opportunity to learn by doing, experience by making, and connect by engaging with participants in The Summer of Making and Connecting.  The project will include hundreds of events, projects and programs in communities across the nation, around the world, and online to help youth connect learning to their interests and to enable teachers to learn from and network with other innovative peers.  And with major advocates of 21st century learning – including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur FoundationMozilla, the National Writing Project, to name a few – behind the scenes putting the wheels into motion, this Connected Learning event is sure to be pretty spectacular.  

The campaign will engage hundreds of thousands of people in creating things on the web, with hardware, and on paper—working in schools and community spaces and at kitchen tables. And with countless organizations from the worlds of DIY, making, writing, and learning hosting workshops and events, participants are sure to get a snapshot of our educational future.  

A kickoff event in New York City is planned for June 15, when cultural organizations that are part of Hive NYC Learning Network will host a Hive Pop-Up.  “Picture a food court for learning,” said Chris Lawrence, senior director of the Mozilla Webmaker Mentor Community.  “Different organizations will set up tables and bring their best interactive making and digital projects.”  Similar events will happen during the summer in locations across the country.  

The Summer of Making and Connecting is all about learning for learners, building curiosity, and planting the seeds for inspiration.  I'll be there.  Will you?  To learn more follow the link ...

Comics for Kids

Comic books are a great resource to get even the most hesitant of readers and writers interested in ELA activities.  They feature a ton of picture support, limited text, and they manage to tell a simple, but engaging story.  In this way, comics are the perfect foundation upon which teachers and students can build a love of language.  Here are some of our favorite digital resources to get your kids hooked ...

 
 
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Marvel's Create Your Own Comic puts all of the amazing Marvel characters at your disposal.  Kids can choose the image layout on each page, add backgrounds, characters, and text and they will have a comic masterpiece in no time.  Once their finished, user's have the option to embed, email, print, or download their creation so their creation may take on a tangible and public life of its own.  Pretty excellent!  Plus, on the same site kids can read through a pretty wide selection of free digital DC comics.  It's a win-win.

 
 
 

For the more advanced or ambitious comic aficionado there is Pixton.  This amazing site allows for maximal customization with minimal work from scratch.  So whereas with the Marvel site children must choose from a limited set of characters, backgrounds, and poses, with Pixton they can adapt any included feature to suit their needs - from moving character limbs into new postures and customizing eyes, ears, noses and hairstyles to changing the collar on a character's shirt!  And as if that weren't enough, comic makers can even add images from Flickr or Google images.  With Pixton the possibilities are endless.

 
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While there are a ton of sites that feature endless amount of free comic books for download, not all of them are kid friendly.  Go Comics is.  They feature a huge selection of great comic reading to choose from, like Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, Ziggy, plus over a hundred more in the A-Z Listings. You can search for comics by month and year, and even subscribe to the ones you like.  And with new content added daily, kids will never be able to complain about a lack of interesting content!