Inexpensive Computers, Virtual Reality Adventures, and March 2016 Professional Development

This is a picture of a CHIP computer (Next Thing Co., 2015a)

This is a picture of a CHIP computer (Next Thing Co., 2015a)

This month I am sharing two notable finds and ten unique professional development opportunities. Let’s begin with the computers that I learned about while reading an article on (Kelly, 2015). The article was about a computer created by a new startup, Next Thing Co. While the article is a couple of months old, I am still excited by the prospect of discovering an inexpensive computer.

According to King (2015), “CHIP” is a competitor of the popular Raspberry Pi (approximately $35.00) and Raspberry Pi Zero ($5.00). Similar to the Raspberry Pi, the “CHIP” base model does not come with cables, a keyboard, or a display. However, the unit is designed to work with any display and touts several features, such as:

  • 4 GB of storage
  • 1 GHz processor
  • Built-in Wi-Fi for the Internet
  • Ability to play games with a Bluetooth controller

I know that, like me, many of you are looking for ways to introduce technology to students using an economical model. Personally, I know where to find inexpensive keyboards, monitors, and cables; the problem for me has always been the CPU.

If you have access to surplus items, “CHIP” might be a good option that can rival the Google Chromebook. You can learn more about “CHIP” by watching the introductory video below (Next Thing Co., 2015b). The units are scheduled to begin shipping in June of this year. Buyers can decide whether to purchase the original version of CHIP or buy the Pocket CHIP, which includes a touchscreen keyboard and 5-hour battery life.

My next notable find is from Nearpod is a Web 2.0 tool that enables teachers to create interactive mobile lessons that incorporate multimedia and assessments. Teachers can choose to use the free or premium versions of Nearpod. With an extensive library of lessons to download, Nearpod works on any device. Teachers have the ability to let students complete the lessons asynchronously or synchronously. The newest addition to Nearpod’s features includes virtual reality (VR) adventures.

Nearpod is currently offering a grant for free VR adventure kits. The grant also provides VR lessons, a school or district license, and Nearpod training. The deadline is March 31, 2016. Here is a video about Nearpod and the new VR adventures described in this post (Nearpod, 2015). As always, please contact me if you have professional development opportunities that you would like to share.

March Professional Development

Title: Game-Based Learning: The Quest for Classroom Success

Title: Visual Content: Level Up Your Social Media

  • Organization: InfoPeople
  • Date: Wednesday, March 2, 2016 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm CST
  • Description: Chances are your library has been active in social media for a while now. It’s also likely that the results of your efforts have been mixed. If you’re wondering how to change things up, get more visual, and take more advantage of the platforms you’re on, then this is the webinar for you. Even if your library has already been creating visual content, there are now guidelines that can help you to make that content even more effective.
  • Link:

Title: Much More Than the ABC Song! Music That Naturally Supports Children’s Language and Literacy Skills

  • Organization:
  • Date: Monday, March 7, 2016 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST
  • Description: This lively webinar will highlight the numerous ways in which playful and developmentally appropriate songs and chants can naturally support young children’s development of essential language and literacy skills. These skills include phonological awareness, active listening, vocabulary development, print awareness, and narrative skills. Through a discussion of the aspects of language development inherent in music activity and the natural connections between language learning and music making, webinar attendees will gain ideas on how to easily use music to support their language learning goals in the classroom (regardless of music ability).
  • Link:

Title: Reader’s Advisory: Tips and Strategies for Happy Readers

  • Organization: Texas State Library and Archives Commission
  • Date: Tuesday, March 8, 2016 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am CST
  • Description: “What should I read next?” Have you ever struggled to answer that question? The Reader’s Advisory team at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission’s Talking Book Program are here to help! Experts will provide Reader’s Advisory (RA) tips, new ways of approaching genres, and general RA resources. Explore different ways to keep your patrons’ book appetites satisfied with the Texas Talking Book readers advisory librarians.
  • Link:

Title: 10 Educational Apps New Teachers Need Now

  • Organization:
  • Date: Tuesday, March 8, 2016 @ 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm EST
  • Description: The explosion of cool educational apps continues! Companies, students, and administrators realize the power they hold for teaching, learning, gaming, and categorizing information. Join edtech adjunct instructor Shannon Holden as he lists his favorite educational apps for 2016.
  • Link:

Title: 3 Ways to Put Content in Digital Storytelling

Title: Chromebooks in the Classroom 101

  • Organization: Simple K12
  • Date: Saturday, March 12, 2016 @ 10:00 am – 3:30 pm EST
  • Description: Join this online conference to learn the basics of setting up and managing Chromebooks. Ideas about how to implement Chromebooks will be provided by six highly trained professionals.
  • Link:

Title: Disrupting Poverty: Creating a Poverty Literate Culture for Student Success

Title: Leadership for School Librarians

  • Organization: Info2Go
  • Date: Monday, March 21, 2016 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm MST
  • Description: Info2Go! Offers monthly webinars featuring experts discussing current library trends with a focus on providing a platform for sharing knowledge and getting questions answered.
  • Link:

Title: Using Actively Learn to Help Students Interact With Online Content

  • Organization:
  • Date: Thursday, March 24, 2016 @ 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm EST
  • Description: We as educators are helping students make the transition from offline content such as books, magazines, and newspapers to online content. The challenge is finding online reading materials with appropriate lexile levels, and monitoring/collaborating with students as they interact with online content. Join university adjunct instructor Shannon Holden as he walks educators through the process of using Actively Learn, an online platform that can help students acquire these important skills.
  • Link:


Kelly, H. (2015). $9 computer raises $1M on Kickstarter. Retrieved from

King, H. (2015).  This $5 computer sold out in a day. Retrieved from

Nearpod. (2015). Nearpod virtual field trips. Retrieved from

Next Thing Co. (Photographer). (2015a). CHIP computer and banana [Photograph], Retrieved from

Next Thing Co. (2015b). CHIP: The world’s first $9 computer!. Retrieved from



Author: Daniella Smith

Daniella Smith, PhD. is a former school and public librarian. She is currently the Hazel Harvey Peace Professor in Children’s Library Services at the University of North Texas.

Categories: Blog Topics, Professional Development, STEM/STEAM, Technology

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