Lesson Deep Dive: Paper Laptops 2.0 – First Grade

This represents the first in a new category of posts here on my blog that I’m calling a “Deep Dive.” Rather than, as I have before, recapping every lesson, in every grade, every week, I’ll periodically choose a lesson or unit per grade level for an in-depth reflection. As always, my goal is to give parents & caregivers in our school community the resources needed to extend student learning at home, and to share my professional practice with teacher colleagues around the world in the hopes of improving my craft.

Paper Laptops 2.0 | 9/14/2014 - 9/17/2014 | First Grade

Paper Laptops 2.0 | 9/1/2014 – 9/17/2014 | First Grade

Standards: NJCCS Technology K-2 8.1.2.A.1, 8.1.2.A.2, 8.1.2.A.3, 8.2.2.A.1, 8.2.2.F.1

Objectives: I wanted students to understand that computers are collections of individual components, each with a different function. I wanted to give them the chance to examine, explore and identify hard drives, memory, CPU, and keyboards and understand what each part does as a portion of the whole. Finally, I wanted to have them assemble a paper laptop with keyboard, screen and mouse, for them to use and keep.

Our First Full Week with HP Chromebook 14’s

Kindergarters learn digital art
We just wrapped up our first full week with our new 14″ Hewlett-Packard Chromebooks ($299, direct). Thought I’d share some initial thoughts for those interested.

Google Classroom: an Elementary Perspective

Third Graders take Google Classroom Out for a Spin
Hello and welcome! It’s been a while since I’ve posted – lots of changes to the blog this year – and with this entry, I’m introducing a new category of posts called “Quick Takes” – brief highlights of an activity, tool or instructional practice I think is worth sharing. To kick things off, I’d like to start with our experiences to date with Google Classroom, which is new this year.


  • I’m happy with Classroom’s initial release. In particular, I like:
    • how easy it is to assign, receive and return work;
    • that the site is fast, uncluttered and easy to navigate;
    • that the mostly text-based user interface (UI) is spartan (but that’s classic Google);
    • that it is free and integrates (obviously, duh) with Google Apps.
  • The students like Classroom. They have told me they enjoy:
    • using it to get assignments;
    • how it looks;
    • the “Turn In” button (as opposed to ‘Share’); and
    • the cool graphic at the top. :)

Let’s dive in a little deeper…

STEM collaborations with Art class? Full “STEAM” ahead!

What do you get when you incorporate artistic design element(s) into a STEM project? Why, a STEAM project, of course! This year we are trying something new – seeking opportunities to integrate Art (taught by Mrs. Sundra, shown here) into various STEM projects. Mrs. Sundra and I see a lot of potential here!

We are starting with two third grade Engineering is Elementary STEM projects:

In each case, Mrs. Sundra is going to work with her students (BEFORE they come to my class) on a project that will be combined with what we’re doing in the STEMLAB. Specifically, for the “Windmills” project, our plan is for the kids to create colorful, imaginative “wraps” which will be glued to the outside of the windmills they’ll be making out of OJ containers, wooden dowels, styrofoam balls and craft sticks:

For the “Parachutes” project, kids will be creating artistic designs on the gigantic commercial coffee filters we use for the chutes themselves:

Designing Parachutes
I’m also super excited because this collaboration means EVERY STUDENT gets to MAKE AND KEEP their own project! (In the past kids have had to double up.) This is going to complicate things from a storage and organizational perspective, but, we’re resourceful, we’ll make it work somehow! And, very special thanks to the NCS PTO for funding the supplies we’ll need to get this done!

I have a feeling this is the start of a great collaboration between my classes and Mrs. Sundra’s! Stay tuned for more!

Mr. Jarrett


Maker Faire New York 2014 – pics are up!

Had an awesome day, perfect weather, amazing exhibits, talks and food – reflection post coming soon – for now, check out the pics!

Fw: 10 Tools To Teach Kids The Basics Of Programming

Just came across this article about programming resources for kids … there are tons of these lists, but I found this particular one worth sharing because several of them are new to me … we’ve used Scratch and Tynker … Alice is for older kids (advanced upper elementary & middle) … many of these tools are available as apps as well as websites. Check them all out and see which your kids like best (personally I think Tynker is the strongest in the group.) Enjoy!

Seeking Second Grade Partner Classrooms for Collaborations, Projects & more!

UPDATE 9/19: Whoa, Nelly! We’ve been INUNDATED with responses from interested partner classrooms! Want in? Please fill out this form if you haven’t already. THANKS!!!

Hello, Grade 2 teachers … in the USA and around the world! We’re Northfield Community Elementary School in southeastern New Jersey and we’re looking for five partner classes to work with us this year on various collaborative projects. Our great state of New Jersey’s technology standards include the following for second graders:

8.1.2.C.1: Engage in a variety of developmentally appropriate learning activities with students in other classes, schools, or countries using electronic tools.

And so, we need YOU and YOUR STUDENTS! What for, exactly? Great question! We’re open to ideas. We’re about ready to kick off a neat blogging project on empathy. That could work. We also have plans to explore the environment (a compare & contrast with your neck of the woods would be super easy and could go in a lot of directions). We can use Skype, Google Hangouts, or services like appear.in or meetings.io. We’ve got a pretty awesome STEMLAB (my K-4 technology education classroom) in which we do lots of cool projects that could also be fun to try together. The sky’s the limit. Really!

Fw: Project-Based Engineering for Kids


Just came across this and wanted to share – what a fantastic selection of projects and activities for the classroom as well as the home! Rainy/cold winter days will be upon us soon, so, get your craft sticks, glue guns, rubber bands, propellers, wheels, straws, etc., ready for some fun! Click the image above or this link: http://www.instructables.com/id/Project-Based-Engineering-for-Kids/.

Bracelet Project: Made with Code

Mom and Dad, are you looking for a fun, easy project to do with your daughters … to spark their interest in coding and 3D printing?

Welcome Back!

K4STEMLAB Room Setup 2014-15
Today’s the day! We’re back! It’s the first day of the new school year for 2014-15!

Entering the third year of my re-imagined K-4 Computer Lab program, they key word is “evolve.” We’re keeping what works (and discarding what doesn’t) in relentless pursuit of the best possible mix of elementary technology skill instruction, guided inquiry learning, and applied engineering concepts. Let me set the stage for you for the new school year!

New State Technology Standards Coming

Over the past several months, I have had the privilege of serving on an New Jersey Department of Education committee tasked with updating the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards for Technology. The last update was in 2009; so much has changed since then! Mobile devices are everywhere; connections & collaborations between students and classrooms are easier than ever; and a surging “maker” movement is encouraging kids to do everything from tinker with broken toys to design for 3D printers and even learn how to write code. These trends and more are reflected in the recently published draft standards for technology, and in the work we will be doing in my classroom this year.

Say Hello to Google Classroom

In grades 2-3-4, my students will be using a brand-new tool from Google (just launched in August) called Google Classroom. We are among the very first schools in the country to leverage this new application at the elementary level. Google Classroom will make it easy for students to access and turn in their work while raising collaboration to a whole new level. This short video will give you an idea what Google Classroom is all about.

Entering Our Third Year with Engineering is Elementary

As the basis for the “STEM” emphasis we incorporated into our elementary Computer Lab program two years ago, Engineering is Elementary continues to provide us with a flexible, robust and powerful platform for guided inquiry learning. Just ask any NCS Elementary student what they remember most about my class last year – I will bet their response will be an EiE project! These wonderful units, purchased with grant money we received in 2012, combine beautifully written and illustrated stories with sound explorations of the Engineering Design Process, culminating in hands-on engineering activities the kids love. This short video does a terrific job explaining the program, its focus and benefits:


The Importance of Foundation Skills 

I often say to students that keyboarding is the single most important skill they will acquire in my class. We will once again be using the online Typing Pal service (grades 2 & up) and a variety of other web-based programs to provide students with a solid grounding in keyboarding skill. For students younger than Second grade, we focus on what we call “keyboarding awareness,” which basically is a working understanding of the basics of a keyboard’s layout, location of the “power” keys (including enter, escape, shift) and when to use each hand to type a letter (as opposed to finger-specific reaches.)

Foundation skills also refer to effective utilization of a mouse (this is becoming more and more important in my class as handheld devices overtake traditional computers in the home), the ability to log onto a Windows-based computer with an ID and password, traversing network drives & managing files, printing, and word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and database skills (taught both with Microsoft Office and Google Apps.)

The School-Home Connection

Students come to my class once a week for 40 minutes. Let that sink in. Once. A. Week. 40 minutes! We have, as you can see, a TREMENDOUS amount of work to do every year – and extending learning at home is a HUGE help. Whether it is keyboarding practice or working with Google Apps or even exploring the learning activities on my grade-level Symbaloo pages (KDG | 1st | 2nd | 3rd | 4th), every little bit helps. I often hear, too, of students going home and replicating the EiE STEM projects we’ve undertaken. (Sorry about the mess, Mom & Dad – but that’s real learning, too!) Simply put, we are partners in your child’s education. Thank you in advance for your help!

That’s all for now. Let’s get busy!

Mr. Jarrett