Posts

Join the #MakerMovement: Tips for Creating A Makerspace

Tips for Creating A Makerspace

Understand Your Users

Each school is unique and will require its own makerspace based on its students and community. It is important to start developing your makerspace by taking these users into consideration. Look at what gets your students excited and how can you transform their interests to foster new ideas. Take note of the varying age groups in the school and adjust areas of the makerspace to cater to the appropriate audience.

 

Consider the concerns and interests of the parents as well. They’re support is crucial to the success of a makerspace because of the role they have in their children’s education and the school’s decisions. Ask parents how they wish to see their children benefit from the makerspace in order to guide the development of the makerspace in the correct direction.

 

Ask the teachers; especially those whose teaching methods will be directly impacted by the implementation of a makerspace. Gain an understanding of the technology teachers are comfortable using and/or learning to use. In the early stages of implementing a makerspace, students will need to be instructed on how to properly and safely utilize the space. The greater the teacher involvement, the more enthusiastic they will be about training exercises and helping students succeed.

Consult the School

Before you decide what technology and tools you will include in the makerspace, one must understand the amount of funding their school can dedicate to this project. Depending on your school, it may be best to propose the idea with a list of potential technology to include in order to gain the support needed for funding. There may also be an opportunity to raise money for the makerspace through a fundraiser within the community.

 

Select the technology

The tools and technology for your school’s makerspace should be selected using the proposed budget and information gathered about its users. For younger students, it may be a good idea to start with building tools such as Legos, cardboard, wood, or even basic robot kits. Online applications such as Minecraft and Codemoji can be used to promote creativity and idea generation among students wishing to use electronics.

 

Older students may require more advanced technology to retain their interest and support their ideas. This does not mean that every makerspace must have a 3D printer. Technology best suited for older students includes but is not limited to: woodworking tools and machines, sewing machines, coding software, electrical supplies, robotics and virtual reality systems.

 

Unsure where to start with searching for technology? The article “What to Put in Your Makerspace (and How to Pay for It)” written by Teri Bauerly on EdSurge has great suggestions for a variety of students.

 

Prepare the Teachers

Perhaps the most important step is preparing the teachers that will be working with the makerspace. These individuals are so important because they will guide and assist students in bringing their ideas to life. First, the teachers must be trained to understand the different technology being used in order to effectively help students. Secondly, teachers must also be aware of how to properly help students without hindering their creativity. It can be difficult to balance the capabilities of the technology being used with the depths of a students creative mind. To help teachers master this balance ensure that they are well trained and prepared to work the students and technology in this environment. Be aware of teachers that may not be letting students take full advantage of the makerspace. In the same respect, teachers should understand the safety restrictions of the makerspace to ensure no student is at risk of injuring themselves or others.

 

Plan for the Future

The work does not stop after your makerspace is fully operational. There is always room for improvement because it is difficult to predict exactly how the users will respond. There may be an area of the space that proves to be more helpful to students. The school may want to consider investing more in this area of the space to ensure the technology is available to all of the students. On the other hand, areas that received a poor response should be analyzed to uncover a solution to its lack of success. As the makerspace is used more frequently it may also be necessary to develop a growth plan to ensure all students have the same opportunity to see their ideas come to life.

,

Tech Tuesday: Book Creator

Increase digital presence

What is it?

Book Creator is a way for students and teachers to express their creativity through the creation of books. The application can be used both on Google Chrome as well as on the iPad. Using Book Creator, students and teachers are able to include and combine text, images, audio, and video, giving them endless opportunities to create something memorable. One of the best parts about Book Creator is that there is no limit to who can use it. The age of students ranges from kindergarten to college, which shows that Book Creator is easy to use for any age group.

 

How it Works

The Book Creator process is simple. Once an account is created, users have free rein to choose what their book will be about. Some examples of books that have been or can be created include: “about me” books, poetry books, digital portfolios, interactive stories, or even a math or science lesson.

 

Once the book is finished, users have the opportunity to publish their book. The published book is then shared with both their classmates as well as others around the world. One class even published their books on the Apple iBookstore and six of the students’ books were featured in the top 150 downloads!

 

The Positives

Students can sometimes be reluctant to participate in class. Utilizing Book Creator in the classroom gives a voice to those students who are hesitant to speak up or participate in class discussions. The book creations from students also help to demonstrate their understanding of a lesson. Book Creator also offers an option for global collaboration, where classrooms from different parts of the world can work on a project simultaneously, without actually being in the same place.

 

What Teachers are Saying

This is authentic learning at its best. My students have a voice.”

–  Jane Ross, Digital Literacy Coach

 

“Book Creator has provided such a user-friendly platform. Students’ ability to create and share audio and visual content truly engages “student voice and choice” in math class!”

  • Cathy Yenca, Middle School Mathematics Teacher
,

5 Ways an App Can Inspire Your School

An app Can Inspire Your School

Keep parents and students informed

An app platform allows teachers and faculty to send immediate alerts and updates. It ensures that parents and students are aware of any changes or important deadlines. A study by the Michigan Department of Education found that children of involved parents are more likely to do better in school. Most parents must be informed of how and why they ought to become involved. The app is a simple and easy way for schools to reach out to parents and keep them continually involved in their child’s education and aware of what they can do.

Reduce paper usage

Using a mobile app would allow schools to provide parents and students with paper-free updates. This could potentially allow schools to completely eliminate their use of paper flyers. The app notifications can also reduce the risk of information not reaching parents.

Schools making the change to a paperless system have reported saving about $418,000 in less than a year by cutting out almost 17 million sheets of paper!

stack of white paper

Access information easily

Simple information such as deadlines and notifications would become readily available to parents and students in an instant. The more accessible the information can be, the less time administrators must spend answering simple questions. School apps can provide parents with a sense of security because they are able to stay well involved within the school.

Personalized notifications and updates

Notifications can be sent to any group! Whether you have a district-wide or class-only reminder, it will reach the correct audience. 

Notifications and alerts can be released to parents and students based on the information that would be relevant to them. Alerts sent to the right group would create relevant news updates and eliminate junk mail and wasted resources.

Eliminate SMS text alert costs

Decrease the cost of using alert services by converting to a mobile app! Many schools are using SMS text message alert systems to keep faculty, parents and students informed. The cost of these services can add up quickly, especially for larger schools sending various types of notifications. A mobile app would allow a school to send out a notification through the app using data or the internet rather than paying a phone company per text message. It may be extremely helpful for schools to convert either fully or partially to an in-app notification system depending on the needs of the parents and students. Either way, the cost of an app can reduce the costs acquired from sending SMS alerts and notifications.

iClass CMS provides a fully integrated website and mobile app solution for schools all over the world. Learn about how we can help your school here. 

by Megan
,

Tech Tuesday: Makerspaces

3d print of a dinosaur

What are they?

The popularity of the maker movement has created a large push for students to learn about the STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in their early education. Schools among all levels of the education system are implementing an area for students to explore the STEM field. The areas are known as makerspaces, which include different forms of technology for students to develop their own idea. The space promotes creative ways of thinking as well as collaboration with their peers. The spaces can be located in one designated area or spread throughout the school as an integrated system.

a person draws with a sharpie on a blank page

 

The Technology

Makerspace technology will typically include computer stations, multimedia editing software, 3D printers, video game creation software, laser cutters and similar systems. While the technology in a makerspace is typically quite complex, it does not need to be. The space can include simple creative stations with basic building tools such as wood carving, sewing machines, and even legos. A makerspace will be successful as long as the technology, regardless of the complexity, allows students to think independently and transform their ideas into realities.

3d print of a dinosaur

 

The Response

Educators supporting the maker movement have seen the positive impact it has on their students in terms of personal and educational growth. Most resistance towards the movement is from skeptics believing it wastes money and distracts from education. However, when implemented effectively in a school’s education system, makerspaces will foster learning rather than inhibit it. Educator and blogger John Spencer has witnessed the successes of the maker movement and urged individuals to promote it in their own classroom. In “Why Every Classroom Should Be a Makerspace”, Spencer writes “these aren’t “soft skills.” Rather, they are vital for success in life. These are the critical skills they need for the creative economy. But it’s more than that. They are a deep part of the human experience. When kids embrace a maker mindset, they experience the sheer joy of creative work.”

paintbrushes in jars

 

The Benefits

Makerspaces are conducive to establishing a basic understanding of STEM in a student’s early education. It is with this basic understanding that they can build upon their knowledge of the field to discover new interests and potential career paths.

Additionally, makerspaces mentally prepare our students to creatively solve new problems and adjust to challenges in their own way. As problem solvers, students will gain a greater understanding of themselves and what makes them unique. Educators who implement some level of the maker movement in the classroom will see their students grow as an individual and team member. In the makerspace, students will gain valuable collaboration experience as they work with others and learn to embrace teamwork. The ability to work well with others is a life skill that can be utilized to help themselves and others achieve their goals.

a neon rubik's cube

 

How to start?

The definition of a makerspace is nearly limitless. There is no one correct way to create a makerspace. If you find yourself wanting to start a makerspace at your school, there are some ways you can start the movement within your own classroom. A makerspace does not require large amounts of funding, instead, you can start just by promoting a maker mentality. This can consist of small projects or activities in the classroom that encourage your students to think outside the box to solve problems. But if you are looking to seek funding to create a completed makerspace for your school, start small and build the program as your school witnesses how it is beneficial to the students. A makerspace used effectively will foster its own growth through the students that represent the success of the investment.

 

By Megan

5 Ways Classrooms Have Changed in the 21st Century

Classroom with rolling chairs

Lifestyles have changed dramatically since the beginning of the new millennium. Similar changes have occurred in our classrooms. As the first generation to grow up with smartphones, social media, and more, today’s students have different expectations and needs when it comes to education.

 

Graphic via Open Colleges

Collaboration

Pupils expect fewer lectures and more interaction with classmates. Teachers act as facilitators of learning rather than distributors of information.

 

Tech in the Classroom

Instead of competing with phones, tablets, and laptops, try incorporating them into your teaching! There are many advantages to using devices for school activities including engagement, instant feedback, and enhanced cooperation.

 

Project-Based Learning

Put simply, Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a method of inquiry where students identify a problem, then synthesize information to solve it. PBL engages students and allows them to learn about more than one topic at a time.

What is Project-Based Learning?

 

Organic Layout

Visit any school today and you’ll notice that classrooms that were once laid out in orderly rows are now full of tables, bean bags, and rolling chairs! Classrooms should be designed in a way that reflects learning goals – facilitating collaboration and meaningful discussion as well as independent learning and problem solving.

 

Classroom with rolling chairsImage via Smith System

 

Remote Access

Students have resources available on their cell phones constantly. The standard of constantly available information impacts education – learners want to be able to access homework, grades, and reminders on the go. Make sure that class website is adaptable so it can be seen on a phone and provide a channel for instant communication with teachers

 

iClass CMS provides websites that are completely interactive and adaptable. Our custom website and mobile app solutions are designed to meet the needs of a 21st century school. Learn more here.

Introducing Our Partner: Educators of America

kid looks at a computer

iClass CMS has partnered with Educators of America to support their mission of connecting educators with technology to increase student achievement. 

 

Educators of America works with schools around the world – from New York to New Delhi – to provide teachers with technology and tools for success. In addition to supplying schools with the latest digital technology, Educators of America also hosts professional development and enrichment seminars for teachers. Classroom technology is constantly evolving, and it is important for teachers to stay up to date with the latest innovations.

 

kid looks at a computer

 

Edtech is a powerful resource for increasing student success. Studies show that the use of digital tools in the classroom increases student engagement, collaboration, and problem-solving. We are proud to support Educators of America in making a positive impact in schools in the US and around the world.

 

The USA seen from space at night

 

iClass provides attractive and easy-to-use websites to schools that increase enrollment, improve communication, and meet accessibility standards. Learn more about our partnership here.

Foolproof ADA Compliance Tips for Your School’s Website

A woman and her daughter look at a computer screen.

Header: Foolproof ADA Compliance Tips for Your School's Website

When crafting a school webpage, it’s critical to consider how all users will interact with the site. It’s valuable for schools to be proactive when considering how the site will function for users with disabilities. Here are 5 simple fixes for common accessibility problems on the web.

A woman and her daughter look at a computer screen.

 

Problem #1: Media Accessibility

Users are unable to view or listen to images, videos, and audio files.

Fix: Create alt tags for all multimedia files on the site. These provide a description of the content that users can read or hear. Learn about how to create descriptive alt tags here. Create text transcripts for video and audio content.

 

Problem #2: Time Constraints

Users lose data after a site’s time limit expires or they are forced to reauthenticate. This is an issue for parents who are enrolling their children or registering to volunteer.

Fix: Make sure data entered in forms is automatically saved as a user progresses through the site.

 

Problem #3: Navigation

Navigation should be consistent and logical. All navigation can be performed with a keyboard.

Fix: Ensure that pages have a coherent layout and position on the site. Provide multiple pathways by which users can navigate the site. “Skip navigation” functionality will let users seamlessly access information.

 

Problem #4: Documents

Most schools use their website to post and share documents with pupils, parents, and the community. Many are uploaded in PDF form, and there is no way for visually impaired users to access a description.

Fix: Provide text from all documents in another text-based form, such as HTML or RTF.

 

Problem #5: Visual Design Elements

Color and contrast ratios are important to the aesthetic appeal of your website but can make it hard for users to view information. Additionally, many sites feature small text. Often, it is impossible for users to change the site’s settings for color and font size.

 

Fix: Ensure that users are able to view the site using the operating system or browser preferences for color and font size.

 

Feel like compliance is a lot to manage on your own?

iClassCMS provides website and app solutions for schools that are fully compliant and well designed. Learn more here.