Professional Development

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?

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

Keynote – Apple’s Answer to PowerPoint

If you are familiar with PowerPoint, then you already have a good idea how to create a Keynote presentation using the Keynote app.  They are similar in many ways.  Here is a video showing the basic steps involved in creating and sharing a Keynote.<p>

Categories: iPads, Professional Development, Technology | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

iPads Are Coming

When we open our doors in August this year, our school will be equipped with several new sets of iPads.    I have been reading about how other schools have handled the integration of iPads and I couldn’t be more excited about bringing these new tools to our students.  The many apps available for the iPad will create an easy way for our JK through 12th graders to practice 21st century skills. I am hoping they will use these apps for a wide variety of projects including digital story telling and communicating through such platforms as Edmodo, blogs, and ePals.

The introduction of iPads does not come without its challenges.  We are looking for ways that students and teachers can save, share, and print their work.  While I am happy to have classes go paperless, it seems some teachers are not.  The options for saving and sharing are not standard from across apps.  The most common methods are:

1. Within the app itself.  This would be fine if we were working with a 1:1 iPad program, but we are not.  The iPads will be shared across the campus.  This means that students will need to work on the same iPad each time if their project can’t be finished in one class period.

2) Email to themselves or the teachers.   This will  work as long as the student can access our wifi.  The students already use this method of sharing their work to the school network when they email their work from home.  I am hoping all teachers will be ready to accept work handed in this way.

3) Uploading to DropBox.  This is an option we are still working on.  How can we create a DropBox account that all students can upload to from the iPads and all  teachers can access?  Will students need to/ want to  upload documents to DropBox and then want to download them to continue work?  Will we only allow them to upload finished work?  How can we create folders to sort work so that the DropBox is organized?  How will students know which folder work in?  In testing the DropBox experience, I am finding that while many apps allow an upload wwork to DropBox, downloading it to view  the work could be a difficult experience.  Example:  The My Story app creates ePub files.  They can be uploaaded to DropBox, but in downloading (to a PC,  at least) they require an ePub reader such as the ones mentioned at this link ( ) and even then the sound files are lost.  How will teachers assess such projects?  Will they need to check each iPad or will they need to use such apps without the option of grading the student product?

4) To the app’s website.  In this case, an account needs to be set up on the app website and the student will need to log in to that account to upload their work there.  Who will set up and host the accounts?  Will individual teachers host these accounts or will there be one general account for each app with this feature?  How will we set the privacy settings on each of these sites to ensure student security?  Will student names be attached to these files?

5) Uploading to Facebook and Twitter is often an option within iPad apps.  At this point, these options will not be offered to students or teachers.

In preparation I am offereing some teacher training this summer.  Below are some of the websites I will be encouraging teachers to explore:

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Categories: Professional Development, Technology, Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

If You Don’t Feed the Teachers

I am reading a great little book called If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students by Neila Connors.

If You Don’t Feed the Teachers by Neila Connors

I think Debbie Hanger had this book when she was at Steward.  It’s a treasure chest of ideas.  It contains common sense advice about how to “feed” your faculty so that they know they are appreciated for their hard work and creativity.  I know that feeling of working really hard on something and then wondering if anyone really noticed or understood the effort I had put into it.  The children benefit, but it does not come naturally to a seven year old to thank a teacher for planning something special or effective.  Their appreciation shows in their enthusiastic engagement in the activity.  Another teacher or administrator would never know of my accomplishment unless I told them about it – and that takes time and effort as well.  So in that respect, teaching can feel like a lonely and unappreciated job – with no fault on the part of the teacher or administrator.  How can we find ways to celebrate and show appreciation for the effort and successes of our teachers?

Categories: Book Review, Professional Development | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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