Play

The Doucette Library has been abuzz with many students coming in for instruction about interdisciplinary learning and indigenous resources.

My partner in crime, Tammy Flanders, mentioned the other day how difficult it is to get any of these students to “play” with the resources.  Of course, the Doucette Library is not only books but also a variety of kits to inspire pre-service teachers to take some hands-on learning into the classroom.

Puppets, circuitry kits, skulls, cells, math manipulatives, games and building materials all have a place on the shelf but even when they are unwrapped and put out purposely for play, even then, students have a hard time picking them up and playing.

What is stopping them from playing?  I’m not sure.  We have played with a good many items as they come across our desks but, indeed, we also read a considerable number of picture books.  In the same way that I feel that you should always read picture books, no matter your age, I also believe that some play every day can be great for your health.

Given the opportunity to play in the library, I would encourage students to take us up on the chance to leave the world behind and play for some of the time.  It may re-ignite that passion you had for learning when you were in school and give you a glimpse of how your students will feel when you are teaching and learning with them.

Drop in.  Come play.  It is an open invitation.

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Makerspace 102 – Stuff

Now that your maker mindset has set in and you are thinking that messy making in your classroom is a real possibility, let’s see how we manage to engage students in making.

First of all, having some materials in your classroom to make with is not as difficult as it sounds.  You may put a call out for parents to help with objects that may be in the home or you may have a small budget with which to purchase some consumables.  One of the best ways to collect materials for your makerspace is to have an on-going take-apart station in your classroom or learning commons.  A take-apart station can house electronics or appliances or anything that you feel you can scavenge parts from.

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Books like “Unscrewed” by Ed Sobey help you figure out the best items to take apart and what you can salvage from each item.

You may want to add a few items from the Dollar Store to help students imagine a prototype for making.  Do you put all your consumables out at once? Not a chance.  Everything would disappear before you turned around.   One experience at a makerspace that I had made sense to me.  Once students have designed a prototype and taken a good second look at it, they can present their plan in order to access the materials they need to build it.  That way item are planned to be used and embellishment can be indulged in at the end of the prototyping (if at all).

Next time we will talk about task design.  Task design is one thing about making that is probably my biggest struggle.  I want students to be engaged and invested in the task but making it personal for them is something that is not easy for me.  Let’s look at task design together next time.

The Horizon Report – 2018

Although The Horizon Report for the K-12 environment is the one I most pay attention to for writing this blog, this Horizon Report – Post Secondary has some interesting findings.

Educause has now partnered with NMC to research and publish the Horizon Report but the main areas of interest remain the same.download

This report examines key trends accelerating technology adoption in higher education (long, mid and short-term trends), significant challenges impeding technology adoption in higher education (solvable, difficult and wicked challenges), and important developments in educational technology for higher education (one, two-three and four-five years to adoption).

There is much to read and analyse in this report.  It is especially interesting to see how long post secondary takes to adopt some trends.  For example, one long term trend (five or more years) is to evaluate advancing cultures of innovation. (p.8)  Does this seem like a long time to adopt an innovative mindset within post secondary faculties?  I thought it was but that is my opinion.  Of course, the adoption will vary.  Some institutions and even some faculties within institutions will be faster to adopt an innovative mindset and create more diverse learning opportunities for students.

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The finding that “rethinking the roles of educators” is a wicked challenge is in line with discovery that innovation is a long term trend.  In order to innovate in the faculties of post secondary institutions there will have to be shift in the role of the educator.  As with the K-12 environment, teachers will be shifting from “knowledge experts to learning facilitators.” (p.34) Taking into account that students have knowledge at their fingertips in a way never experienced before in education, instructors and teachers will have to become comfortable with digital communications and guiding students to relevant, authentic data, research and conclusions.

There is so much more to talk about – this post is only the beginning.  I’ll follow up soon with information about Makerspaces and how they are becoming more prevalent in post secondary environments.  Pay close attention to page 40 of the report, “other  institutions, such as the university of Calgary, supply maker pedagogy, resources, materials selection criteria and project ideas.” See the note 208, it is linked to my research guide about makerspaces.  We will discuss the other findings in a new blogpost, later this week.

Baby, If You Love Me…

Not the usual title of one of my blog posts but I have to say that a workshop about improv games last week led me to wonder how this experience can translate into the classroom.action-2483679__340

Considering the time of year that I’m writing this post, I think improv can develop relationships with your students quickly and solidly without the awkward in between time when working groups are hard to form and students are reluctant to commit to any group in the class.

The introductory game was entitled, you guessed it, “Baby, If You Love Me….”  In this situation, we were to repeat to anyone of the group, “Baby, if you love me won’t you please, please smile.”  After that we could do or say anything to get our collaborator to smile.  Our partner would have to say back, “Baby you know I love you, but I just can’t smile.”  Having people concentrate on not giggling while being put on the spot is the purpose of this exercise.  We quickly sorted into gigglers and stone-faced groups that could not be coaxed to smile.

In this way, the group quickly got comfortable with each other and we learned, through various other exercises, to be silly and fun with people we did not know very well.  We also, at times, invaded their personal space.

Resources like 101 more drama games and activities  here at the Doucette can help you integrate some improv into your classes here on campus or to use during your practicum where you can quickly get to know students in your class.

Our leader pointed out that knowing what is a low risk, medium risk and high risk game is important.  Choose the level of risk according to the outcome you would like to see.  I see these risk levels in terms of how “uncomfortable” you want to make participants.  Low risk means most people will be comfortable with the process.  High risk will involve someone possibly being very uncomfortable with the exercise.  For example, saying “Baby, I love you, won’t you please, please smile,” was relatively low risk with just enough of discomfort saying this phrase to a co-worker to make it a real experience.

Start with something easy and low risk and see if you can’t laugh with the group you are working with.  This type of exercise breaks the ice and helps form relationships for everyone in the group.

For the 7 people in my group, we now see each other at work and say, “hello” and know that we have a unique shared experience that helped us get to know each other better.

 

Safety in Makerspaces

Students and staff members who use the makerspace that exists in your school or classroom should have the skills necessary to foresee possible safety issues and it is in everyone’s best interest to anticipate possible dangers.images

Before your makerspace is in full swing, think about setting some boundaries and simple rules around equipment use.  This article, Safety in Makerspaces gives many good examples of simple rules that will make an impact in a small classroom makerspace.

As the teacher, always look at potential problem areas and create short, memorable rules around what could go wrong.  Take time to look at the materials and tools you are using in the space and how students are using them.

Although not all accidents can be prevented, a few critical rules before your students enter the makerspace can be effective at avoiding a mishap.  Stand in your makerspace and walk through what your students will be doing.  How will they access materials?  How many students will be working in a group? Will they be standing or sitting?  What will be plugged in?  Are the cords for the items taped down or a hanging, tripping hazard?  Minimize the amount of clutter and items on each table. It will get cluttered enough during the activity.

Also take a moment to view the room from your students’ perspective.  From that viewpoint you may be able to isolate other problem areas.

Some rules follow the common sense that mirrors being in any classroom.  Walk. Don’t run.  Keep the chatter below “deafeningly” loud.  Watch what you are doing.  Pay attention to what others around you are doing.  Listen and ask questions.  It is okay to fail and learn from what doesn’t work.

Set up your classroom venue for success as a makerspace and then engage your students in making and learning.

 

Makerspace 101

The sun is shining, the temperatures are high and I am not yet on vacation so here goes a mid-summer blog post…

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Back to basics for this post.  This year in your classroom starting in September or when you are on practicum try to add a little “maker mindset” to the mix.  How does your classroom look?  Is it approachable for students who enter it?  Does it speak to the type of community you would like to create within your classroom?

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In a theoretical classroom, where all the students are mid to top performing, totally engaged learners who are innately motivated, setting the scene for making should be fairly straight forward.  In Division 1 through middle grades, a makerspace in your classroom could contain a few fixed spaces where taking apart or putting together can exist full-time in order for students to gain knowledge of how things work.  These foundation skills will help when they go on to do some designing for problems prompted by various curriculum outcomes.

In a secondary setting, making connected to curriculum can still be included in your classroom, even though many sets of students pass through it in a day.  Connect a making experience to whatever literary piece you are delving into or create a game based on the social studies unit you are covering.  It can be a “plussing” exercise where each group of students during the day moves the process forward while handing it off to the next group showing clearly where they are leaving the project.

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The bottom line is to make “making” part of groundwork of your classroom.  Make “making” part of your mindset.  Allow students to prototype the answer to a question just as often as they write or code or say the answer.  Imagine the students that will be engaged and invested in the learning taking place in your classroom. Trust the process.  Stand back and see the learning taking place.  Know your students well enough to give them time and space to do some of their own problem solving and watch the process close enough so that you may ask some pointed questions.  Know the subject well enough to ask questions calculated to move the project along.

And just … try it.  Give it a go and see what works for you and your students.

Radio Jones and His Robot Dad

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Cost: Free

Size: 677.8 MB

Works on: iOS 7.0 or later

Radio Jones and His Robot Dad is an iPad app that is a graphic wordless novella.  Following the story that many kids experience, Radio Jones deals with a workaholic dad who appears to not have any time to spend with his son.

Radio creates a robotic dad that plays and explores and has adventures with him.  As you “read” the story, you will find a few interactive screens.

I won’t include any spoilers here but, let’s just say that Radio and his dad come to an agreement when it comes to the robot dad.

A lovely way to interact with an app in the days leading up to Father’s Day for kids (and for dads).

Wizard School App

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Wizard School App

Size: 78.6 MB

Age: 4+

By Duck Duck Moose

Price: Of course, free

Do you remember when we used encyclopedias in schools to browse subjects or get some basic dates and facts about something?  Even if you don’t, we know that some students are “browsers.”  Some set in to read full length novels, and other flit around reading the backs of Pokemon cards and the Rules to Enter on the sides of cereal boxes.  Wizard School app will appeal to the latter group and, perhaps, even to the former on certain days.

This app will certainly appeal to students in grades 3 to 6 who have some reading skills.  The creation of an avatar that represents you in the app appeals to everyone.  Even me.

Subjects you can browse include:  Design (like Design a Vehicle), Animals (66 options), World, Drawing, People, Imagination, Space, Photography, Sports, Do-It-Yourself, Science, Kidpreneur, Health, Riddles and Puzzles.

In the animals section, I did open up the information about Polar Bears and it contained:

  • a small portion of video from the BBC featuring playful polar bear cubs with their mom,
  • Alysa McCall, polar bear scientist explaining what adaptations polar bears have made to live in the far north,
  • an interview with Elizabeth Bailey from the Memphis Zoo lets students know what they can do to help save a polar bear
  • and students can record their voice to make a PSA about saving the polar bear population using the knowledge they have acquired.

There are riddles and puzzles to challenge students and buzz feed videos that features many of the topics.

The front screen tells us that Wizard School is made in partnership with Khan Academy.

Download it on the ipads in your classroom and make it, possibly, a literacy centre during your Daily 5.

 

 

 

Social Media and High School

Yesterday, as many of you know, the ABC show Roseanne was cancelled after a very promising re-vamp.  This story in the news presents a perfect teachable moment for many middle and high school students.  The show’s star, Roseanne Barr lost a television series over a tweet.  One particularly racist tweet.

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As many students look for summer jobs and apply to various companies, it is part of the learning process for them to recognize that their digital footprint is part of their identity.

Mediasmarts is the number one site to go to for digital citizenship resources for all ages.  Clearly, having a neutral social media profile is not always covered at the dinner table and teachers are on the front line with students to educate them about the repercussions of posting controversial comments and activities.

Starting the conversation with some experiences that students and teachers can attest to – about someone who called in sick and then posted photos of the awesome party they were attending, or particularly profane tweets seen by potential employers.  These stories have become the stuff of urban myths.

Using articles that are advising job-seekers like, “Why career-minded professional should think before they tweet” show students that posting responsibly is a life-long process and not just something to pay attention to in middle school and high school.   As part of the modern job application process, students should take for granted that someone will google them and look at their social media postings that are not hidden behind privacy walls. Why not include a short lesson on using LinkedIn as a valuable place to keep your work history accessible to employers?

In a follow-up lesson, discussions about the algorithms used by Google and other sites to collect data about you and customize advertising and information to your “likes” would be great information for students to have.  Although teachers often take for granted that this “digital generation” is knowledgeable about the workings of the internet, you may be surprised about how little they know about privacy, data collection and the manipulative nature of various websites.  This interesting video from Scientific American, “How does Google know everything about me?” , shows how your data is collected and used to entice you to purchase or join what is being advertised.

The conversation about digital footprints and keeping a “clean” social media identity may start and end at school without much in the way of parent involvement but it is information that is so important for each and every student.

ii’ taa’poh’to’p (a place to rejuvenate and re-energize during a journey)

“ii’ taa’poh’to’p, the Blackfoot name of the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, was bestowed and transferred  in ceremony by Kainai Elder, Andy Black Water on June 21, 2017. The name signifies a place to rejuvenate and re-energize while on a journey.  Traditionally, these places are recognized as safe, caring, restful — and offer renewed energy for the impending journey.  In a traditional naming ceremony, transitioning into the new name is a journey of transformation towards self actualization.” (ii’ taa’poh’to’p)

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As the university and many other organizations begin the process toward reconciliation with the Indigenous people of Canada, individuals have an opportunity to do some of their own work to learn the devastating impact of colonization.

The Doucette Library has developed a top-notch collection of Indigenous resources for the K-12 audience and, while, it seems limited to certain ages, many of the resources are suitable for adults to read.  Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton, although aimed at a young audience gives a feeling of a child’s experience in Residential Schools.  The Education of Augie Merasty: A Residential School Memoir by David Carpenter and Joseph Auguste Merasty gives an adult perspective to the life-long effects of being sent to a Residential School.

8th Fire: Aboriginal Peoples. Canada and the Way Forward is a 3-DVD collection hosted by Wab Kinew that gives a present day perspective to the continuing relationship between these two cultures.

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A MOOC presented through Coursera and by University of Toronto called Aboriginal Worldviews and Education is free to audit.  The presenter is Jean-Paul Restoule and presents a current Indigenous perspective through lectures, special guests, readings and videos.  For a person beginning to learn about Truth and Reconciliation, this course is an excellent place to start.

A website entitled wherearethechildren.ca captures many residential school survivors and their stories recounted as adults.  This heart wrenching series of videos shows the results of the residential school system through the memories of these adults.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has published the “Calls to Action”  and that is a great place to start a personal journey to move towards reconciliation with Indigenous people.

Although the past shows the wrongs inflicted upon the indigenous peoples of Canada, the future is looking much brighter.  Werklund School of Education recently hosted a Youth Forum, inviting 17 grade 9 students from various parts of Alberta.  Working with these students showed how connected and involved they will be in recognizing the importance of having an indigenous voice in education.  Working with these students was a teaching and a learning experience.