21st Century Skills

Hummingbird by Birdbrain Technologies

Hummingbird Tutorial

Next week we have a group of teachers coming in to learn some new skills they can integrate into their classes next year. I’ll be teaching a blended session on using the Hummingbird.   It’s a great way to introduce and combine making, robotics, and coding.  Putting the pieces together is pretty simple – no wire stripping, no resisters, no soldering.  The one big drawback is the price of the kit.  But if you take good care of it and keep up with the pieces, it can last a long time.  I made this simple worksheet to guide the teachers through testing out how to connect and code each of the inputs and outputs.  They will have already had a session on coding with Scratch.  After working through this worksheet the teachers will spend the rest of the day creating interactive constructions using the Hummingbird.  

Make sure that you have both offline Scratch and the Hummingbird Server installed on your laptop.  

Go to these websites for self-guided lessons provided by Birdbrain Technologies:



Watch the two videos at the beginning of pages linked above.  They will explain how to connect the inputs and outputs to the Hummingbird and connect the Hummingbird to the Scratch extension with Hummingbird programming blocks.  When programming the following outputs and inputs, make sure that you are indicating which port you are sending the code to.


The Hummingbird LEDs and motors are output devices. By writing programs (scripts) in Scratch you can send commands to these devices to make different things happen.  You might cause a motor to vibrate or turn.  You may cause lights to blink on and off.  You may also turn text into a voice.

Overview of Module 1:  LEDs

Follow the step-by step instructions on one of the websites linked above to attach and program LEDs  (light emitting diodes) using Scratch. Light up several LEDs and change the light intensity. Learn to turn them on and off.  If the LEDs do not light up check your connections. Check your code. Check your power.

Overview of Module 2:  RGB LED

Follow the step-by-step instructions to make the RGB (Red-Green-Blue) LED light up in different colors.  Use this chart to control the colors.

Overview of Module 3: Motors

  • Vibration Motor – The shaft of this tiny motor is weighted more on one side of the shaft than the other.  This causes it to vibrate back and forth when it rotates. Attache a feather or a curly pipecleaner to have some fun.
  • Servo Motor – A servo motor is a motor that moves to a particular angle. The Hummingbird servo motor can rotate to any angle from 0° to 180°.  Consider using this motor mounted at different angles to close a door, wave a sign, or flap a wing.  Use your imagination.  
  • Gear Motors – This motor can make complete 360 degree turns clockwise as well as counter clockwise by using whole numbers between -100 and 100.  How could you include this in your construction?  A Merry-go-round? A revolving planet?

Overview of Module 4: Speak Block

The Speak block converts text to speech. The voice has tht digital sound, but most words can be understood.  In you code, remember to use a Wait block after the Speak block.


The Hummingbird sensors are input devices. They collect information from the environment and send the information to the Scratch program where it it used to make a decision or control an output device.  You can create a threshold or a range of date which will trigger a result by using If-Then statements.  For instance, it the level of sound is over a certain threshold, the Speak block may be programmed to say, “It’s too noisy in here,” the Servo motor may raise a sign that says, “Shh!” and the LEDs may light up.  

Overview of Module 5: Distance

  • The distance sensor measures the distance to the closest object  in centimeters. It can detect distance between about 8 cm and 100 cm.
  • The Sound Sensor measures the level of sound on a scale of 1 to 100.
  • The Temperature Sensor detects the temperature in Celsius.

There is also a light sensor and a tilt sensor, but we do not have these in our kit.  


What if the Hummingbird locks up?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=feAT6uGvlpA&feature=youtu.be

Categories: 21st Century Skills, Art, Automatons, Circuits, Engineering, Professional Development, Professional Development Tool, Robotics, Scratch, Technology | Leave a comment

Using the KIBO Robot to Tell Greek Myths

Last spring I worked with a group of teachers and second grade students to retell Greek myths with robots designed by Kinderlab Robotics.  I can’t say enough about the ingenious KIBO robots.  So much thought went into their design.  They provide very young children the opportunity to practice STEAM skills as they develop social-emotional competencies.

Working in groups required the children to listen to each other; make decisions as a group; combine their ideas and skills to write their myth script, design and create their god or goddess and their map, and construct and program the KIBO.  On the final day of the project, students gathered around each story map as the authors ran their KIBO programs and read the accompanying scripts. When everyone was finished, we then allowed time to debrief the whole process, reflecting on the challenges they faced and the strategies they developed to overcome these challenges. To our surprise, almost every group focused on the social-emotional challenges this project presented. They pointed out how important it is to give each member of the group time to express their ideas and their frustrations and to acknowledge in a respectful way that each person is heard and their thoughts are valued. They talked about their strategies for collaborating on story writing, robot construction, map drawing, and how to program the KIBO. They also talked about how to deal with group members whose behaviors they found frustrating.

Read more about it and see the pictures in my article on the KinderLab Robotics website.

Categories: 21st Century Skills, Engineering, Robotics, Technology | Leave a comment

Button Joy

Button Joy launches today!!!  It’s a super cool product that uses Cloudstitch to drive it. Since it’s customizable, I am excited to see the creative ways people will choose to use it.

Here’s an example of how it works: Operation Dad Pager

Step 1: Order a Button

Order a button and choose what you want to happen when you push it. You can change these actions from our website later!

Step 2: One Minute Setup

When the button arrives, connect it to your local WiFi network.

Step 3: Push the Button

Each time you push, we’ll perform the action you’ve configured. For charitable contributions, we confirm over SMS before charging your card.

If you get one, please comment here to let me know what you did with it.

Categories: 21st Century Skills, Innovation, Technology | Leave a comment

Blendspace – Build a Canvas of Resources to Share

BlendSpace is a tool which enables you to gather and curate resources and assessments to share with students and/or colleagues. It should be created on a computer, but it can be shared to either a computer or mobile device.
BlendSpace.com Instructions
o Create a BlendSpace account at BlendSpace.com. Teacher and student accounts are available.
o Log in to your account.
o Click on + New Lesson button
o Give your canvas a title. Click OK.
Search for content within the web tools on the far right. Click on each icon and enter a search term. When you find what you want, simply drag it to one of the tiles on your Blendspace canvas. When you finish one row of tiles, click on “+ Add row” to increase the size of your canvas.
For any of the web based resources, you can also open another tab in your browser and perform a search. Copy the url of the resource you want to use and paste it into the search bar. You can rearrange the tiles at any time. If you have a wiki, blog, or Google doc you would like to include, paste that url into the search bar.
The source options are:
1. YouTube videos –click on the YouTube icon on the far right and enter a search term in the YouTube Search box.
2. Websites and web images – Click on the on the far right and enter a search term.
3. Vimeo videos – Click on the on the far right and enter a search term.
4. Flickr images – Click on the on the far right and enter a search term.
5. Educreation videos — Click on the on the far right and enter a search term.
6. Gooru – Click on the on the far right and enter a search term.
7. Web pages – Click on the on the far right and enter a search term.
8. Media or files – Click on the on the far right and enter a search term.

For the next two sources you will need to link these accounts so they will be accessible from BlendSpace. To do this: Click on the icon for DropBox or Google Drive and click “Connect.” Enter your login credentials. The content in these accounts will appear and be ready to drag onto your canvas.
9. DropBox – Click on the on the far right and enter a search term.
10. Google Drive – Click on the on the far right and enter a search term.
11. Settings – Click on the to access your settings. This will allow you to enable or disable comments and track the use of your Blendspace canvas (number of views, length of views, likes, dislikes, comments, help requests, and quizzes).
12. Files from your DropBox or Google Drive When you link these accounts they will be accessible from BlendSpace. To do this Click on the icon for DropBox or Google Drive and click “Connect.” Enter your login credentials. The content in these accounts will appear and be ready to drag onto your canvas.
Test and Quizzes
1. Double click on any tile to add text.
2. Hover over a tile and click on Add Quiz to add a quiz. Create a multiple choice question. Designate the correct answer. Click on “+Add question” to add more questions.
Content is automatically saved.
To share your BlendSpace, click on the Share button. You will have three options :
1. A link to share- When you share the link, it can be typed into the browser or a mobile device or computer or email it to the recipients (this includes an iPad cart email address).
2. An embed code to add your Blendspace to a blog or wiki
3. A QR code to share – This can be scanned by a mobile device with a QR reader.

When the Blendspace canvas is opened on a computer or mobile device, click on one of the tiles to begin. Then use the arrows on the right and left to navigate through the tiles. The user will have access to the content placed on each of the tiles.
Some tile content can be opened on an iPad in Pages and Keynote. If so, they are now offline and can be viewed without Internet connection. If opened in Explain Everything the content could be transformed into a screencast.

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Padlet is a virtual bulletin board which allows multiple users to contribute notes, documents, videos, images, and links. What are some ways that teachers and students can use Padlet to facilitate collaboration and the sharing of ideas and resources?

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Lino – A We-Based Bulletin Board

Have you ever wanted an easy way to collaborate with your colleagues (or your family)? Here is my test of Lino, a collaborative bulletin board tool. There is also an app called Lino created by the same company.

After creating an account, I made a “board” and posted a sticky note with instructions. The settings I chose for the board allow visitors to post stickies as well. Please post a sticky on the board by clicking on this link.

Think of the ways teachers could use a collaborative bulletin board to collect ideas and resources. Think of how a group of students or class could work together on a project using a colleaborative board. Class rules, vocabulary, reflections on experiences or videos, short book reviews, suggestions, catagory sorts, possible solutions to a problem, alternate story endings, to do lists, to bring lists, details about a painting, a calendar, etc. Can you think of more ideas?
By the way, the background of the board is a picture I uploaded. It is my beautiful Buster Boy, the most precious cat of all.

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For our first T21 module (EdTech Teacher) we are exploring LiveBinders. This is a web tool which allows you to organize, curate, and share digital resources. A user creates a virtual binder and fills it with links to websites, text documents, PDF files, digital images, and videos. The binder can then be shared with colleagues or students. The creation of a binder can also be a collaborative process wherein two or more people build a binder.

Think of the ways you and your students can use LiveBinders. It could be the “parking place” for all the resources you want your students to use for a unit of study. It could be how you and your department collect and organize resources you will all use. Students could use LiveBinders as a tool for developing and presenting a project. A LiveBinder could include all the resources used in creating a project as well as the project itself. How else do you think it could be used? Please post your comments below.

Here is a short introduction showing how to create a binder. There are many other tutorials on the LiveBinders site itself as well as on YouTube.

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WallWisher Risk

This is an experiment. As I get deeper into 21st Century Skills, I absolutely embrace the concept that experimenting, tinkering is my best way to learn. It is my most effective way to learn. If I stay on the straight and narrow path, I learn the straight and narrow. If I step off the curve and test out ideas, experiment with the tools I have at hand, I learn far more, and sometimes, I like to think, I actually discover something brand new.

Anyway, this is an experiment to see if a Wall Wisher board can be shared and used by others. If this works the wall below should continue to grow as the participants of the CCOW community contribute to it. We’ll see.


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Interactive Greeting Cards

These cards were created using a kit from BareConductive.com. For one card I used a CircuitWriter Pen from Radio Shack. I prefer this conductive ink to the Bare Paint because it is silver and two dimensional. The Bare Paint is black, 3-D, and rather hard to “paint” with.

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MaKey MaKey Some Music

I am learning how to use a MaKey MaKey circuit board in conjunction with Scratch to create simple music. These videos track my progress.
Iteration One

Iteration Two

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