Thursday, December 22, 2016

Embrace The Learning Curve This Christmas Morning



The more I talk to kids about what they are dreaming about showing up under the Christmas tree, the more I hear about really cool, high tech gadgets like virtual reality headsets, 3D printers, robots like Spheros or Ozobots, and drones.

Here is a newsflash. All of those items are amazing and all of those items can be really hard to use at the start. I am not trying to play The Grinch here; I am telling you now so you can be ready for the learning curve.

When kids dream of drones, they don't dream of a parent muttering words that could get them on the naughty list while trying to assemble it. They don't dream of an endless series of 3 second flights either. They dream of that thing lifting off in the living room and capturing with its camera the majesty of a Christmas morning. Reality is that these toys can make many dreams come true but it will take time. Here are some tips.

1. Prepare yourself. Whether you receive the gift or give the gift, understand that the cool stuff you saw happening in the YouTube promotional video probably was highly edited and performed by the inventors of the device. Make that kind of high level use your goal....someday, not right out of the box.

2. Seek out help. Speaking of YouTube, most companies now post many product support videos online. When I bought my XYZ Mini Maker 3D printer I found their online support videos to be far more detailed and helpful than the printed instructions. You can also often find videos created by other users of the product that share their own tweaks and helpful hints. Use all of the knowledge that exists and that people are willing to share. It can make a big difference.

3. Make it about the journey. Instead of pouting that your first 3D printed phone case turned out more like something stuck to the pan at the bottom of great grandma's egg casserole, have a laugh and know your skills will greatly improve. Try and figure out what went wrong so you can improve upon future designs. Keep that lumpy pile of goo so that when you are cranking out really cool stuff you can look back and see how far you have come. It has taken me months to produce anything really useful with my printer.

4. Remember 1 thing. Everything is awesome! We are so lucky to be living in the day and age we do....especially over the holidays. If you need a reminder, just listen to the old Christmas carol "Up on the Housetop." Here is what those kids got from Dear Old Saint Nick:

"Next comes the stocking of little Will
Oh, just see what a glorious fill
Here is a hammer and lots of tacks
Also a ball and a whip that cracks"


No VR headset for little Will? Bummer. Poor Will probably had to go fix the roof and then drive the oxen to town that day once all of the wrapping paper was cleaned up. The point is.....if you get something amazing, be grateful, and when (not if) it doesn't work perfectly right at the start, be happy about that. Don't get mad. Getter better at it.




Monday, December 12, 2016

Take Mr. Tebo's Snow Day Challenge.

I am glad you ventured over here to enjoy some fun learning games during our snow day. After you've made a few flakes, done some Nitro Typing, and made a zany Zimmer Twins creation, watch the video below from Hamilton superintendent Mr. Tebo.

Watch: Mr. Tebo's Snow Day Challenge


Sunday, December 11, 2016

And the Learning Continues



Well, I thought this site would just fade off into the distance since we no longer teach Infotech and now teach STEM.

Well, we are still getting 8500 visits a month from people (mainly kids) looking for fun learning activities. Therefore I have decided to keep posting updates to keep the learning going once the school day ends.

Here are some great places to go as we head into the Christmas season.

Santa's Christmas Village is back from Google.com. Count down the days until the old guy visits.

Make-A-Flake - Whether you have snow or not where you live, make unlimited snowflakes of your own.

Code.org - Enjoy one of the Hour of Code activities like the new one for Disney's Moana or ake one of the online coding courses and build your problem solving skills.

Let's keep the learning going and happy holidays.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Visit the new Hamilton STEM Page

After 16 years, Infotech has evolved in Hamilton to become the new STEM program. I will no longer be updating this page, but lots of cool stuff is already happening on the new site as Mrs. Sikma and I kick off the new program.

Visit and then bookmark the new STEM Page: sites.google.com/hamiltonschools.us/stem .


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

10 Ways To Stop the Summer Slide

Don't let the last nine months of hard work simply slip away. Here are tens ways to keep the knowledge, creativity, and problem solving growing.

1. Read. Our local libraries are amazing places and wonderfully cool on hot days. Holland's Herrick District Library has lot of summer activities planned and so does the Saugatuck Douglas Library. The Kent District Library in Grand Rapids does too if your family is up for a little reading road trip. Best of all, they are all free. Another free online resource is the Michigan Electronic Library's kids section.

Your family can also sign up for Epic Books and have unlimited access to all kinds of digital books for your iPad or tablet. Think of it like Netflix for books with tons of the best titles like Big Nate and Bad Kitty. Epic is $4.99 per month and the first month is free. That's less than a pizza and whether you like fiction or non-fiction, there is something for everybody.

2. Practice Math Facts. Teaching and learning are a lot like playing sports. Professional football players don't just sit around all summer waiting for training camp. They are doing something everyday to become faster, stronger, and smarter. Whether it's running, lifting weights, or perfecting how to better cover a pass, they know without it, they won't be successful. The same is true with math facts. The more they become automatic, the more you can move on to more exciting stuff. Spend time on IXL and XtraMath this summer building your speed, strength, and brain. Here is the Blue Star IXL login.

3. Build Something. One of the main reasons we do math is so we can make cool stuff. Anybody can be a worksheet monkey but is really special to do something with your math skills. Whether you are just nailing wood together on a workbench or creating your own iPad speakers you have to be able to measure your pieces and solve equations. Check out Instructables.com and you will be amazed at all of the projects from simple to mind-blowing. Most even use things you just have lying around the house.

4. Get Outside and Explore. Did you know that in Michigan you are never more than six miles from water? West Michigan is literally one of the best places on earth to spend the summer. Whether it is a visit to a park, the woods, or the beach there are great places to explore just minutes from your house.  The Shore Acres Park near the Felt Mansion has all of that and more. Walk the trails and check out the different trees and then look for fossils, sea glass, and special rocks on beach. The Lake Michigan Rock Picker's Guide is a great book for identifying what you find. Here is a cool blog with some other information. Pier Cove, Westside County Park, Douglas Beach, and Laketown Beach are all free and close by.

5. Grow Something and Eat It. You might live on a big farm or you might live in a tiny apartment, but everyone has enough room for a flower pot or planter. Go big on a whole garden or just spend a buck or two on some green bean seeds and plant them in sturdy pot. Give them water and sun and soon you will have a beanstalk offering up a crisp healthy snack. Gardening Fundamentals  is a great place to start. Print out the journal to track your gardening.

6. Learn to Code. Why just play video games when you can learn an entire new language and build your own? Visit CODE.org and work on a couple of challenges like the Mindcraft, Star Wars or Frozen ones. If you get caught by the coding bug, keep going and try one of their 20 Hour Courses. There is something for every grade level from pre-school on up. Completing these courses will actually give you a nice boost on a career in computer science or set you up to build your own game.

7. Catch the Olympic Spirit. The world's best athletes are headed to Rio de Janeiro in August for the 2016 summer Olympics. Sharpen your geography and boost your knowledge by digging into the history of the games, researching your favorite athletes, and making the flags you find most interesting. Teachervision.com has a great site for getting started. NBC will provide hundreds of hours of coverage but you don't have to wait until August. Check out NBCOlympics.com now to learn all about what is coming up from Rio.

8. Play60. Just go outside and play. You don't have to spend money going to a sports or summer camp. It doesn't even matter if there are any other kids around either. Speaking of Olympics, set up your own events even if you just draw a line, pick up a rock, and jump as far as you can. Set the rock down next to where your back heel landed. Try to beat it. If you want to do some moving with a pro athlete, check out Washington Redskins' Ryan Kerrigan leading some agility activities from Discovery Education and the NFL. Getting creative outside is great for mind and body.

9. Go new places. If you have opportunity to take a trip, understand how lucky you are to be getting out and experiencing new places. Just paying attention to how the scenery changes or the importance of physical and human-created landmarks is the best social studies lesson anybody can have. Even if it doesn't work out for your family to embark on an epic journey just go somewhere different like a park you've never explored. Try to unplug as much as possible but if you are going to bring along a device use it to capture and then share the adventure. Here are some great apps for that. 

10. Do Something For Someone Else. No matter what you do this summer, do something for someone else. The real reward is the feeling you get inside. I've always believed true friendship is true service so just randomly decide to help someone do something like empty the dishwasher or even clean your room without being told. The more you volunteer your time and talents, the more likely you will return to school in the fall ready to be the kind of kid that makes any school a better place to be.

Our summer vacation is something we can't take for granted. Find a nice balance of recovering from this school year, resting up for the next one, and finding ways to keep your brain firing while you make it the best one ever!

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Got Legos? We Need Them In Infotech!

If you have Legos that aren't getting any love at your house, we can put them to good use in Infotech.

We have a number of building challenges we would like to do like building zip lines. We would also like to try our hands at stop-motion movie making with the mini figures. Simply box up or bag up old Legos you would like to donate and drop them off to Mr. Losik at Blue Star. Donations are permanent and the bricks won't be returned. We promise to put them to good use.

A special poster will be created though recognizing all of the students' families who donate. Even just a handful helps.