Just Ask…

 

Have you ever run into a problem that is like the writer’s block of learning?  I have been experiencing this feeling lately when it comes to Adafruit Gemma and Flora, two namebrand components that use Adruino open source coding to control LED lights embedded in cloth or clothing. Although I know that all of the components should work together to create a blinking fashion statement, the blink eluded me.

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I sewed with conductive thread. I replaced conductive thread with alligator clips.  I watched YouTube videos, frame by frame.  I downloaded. I uploaded.

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My partner-in-crime asked the essential question.  “Who do we know that could help us?”  We sent out an appeal for knowledge.  Did someone we know, know someone who knows what we don’t know?

My point is that, generally, given a whole university campus, someone knows what you want to know.  And in this case our query was answered with a delightful person we had no previous knowledge of who knew exactly what we didn’t know.

It would seem Adafruit Gemma and Flora are not so easy to get working with conductive thread and the coding is a bit tough to download onto the microcontrollers.  I was having trouble for a very good reason.

Our new contact, from a faculty far, far away, was looking to embed clothing with LED lights, just like we were, but his knowledge led him to create various special components that would make the coding use “Scratch” and he traveled to China to make sure the components were easy to use for makers (yes, I call myself a maker) like me.

What’s my point?  Just ask.  Ask for the knowledge you need.  The world we live in is made very small by social media and email.  Ask if someone you know, knows someone who knows what you want to know.

And I’m very excited to continue to pursue this project with new eyes and new technology and a new person to help out.  The kits and materials we will be using look like they would function well in the K-12 environment.  I’ll let you know what I know when I know it.

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Campus Collisions-Beakerhead

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How much fun can a banana-piano be?  Well if you are in the right place with the right people – it can be amazing.

The TFDL (Taylor Family Digital Library) on the campus of the University of Calgary hosted “Campus Collisions” as part of the 2017 edition of Beakerhead.  It was suggested I join in the fun with a table in the front foyer of the main library.  And join in the fun I did!

First, the banana piano with the help of the Makey-Makey kit, attracted many, many students who were, clearly, trying to get from one place to another through the foyer.  The same as it is an attraction for K-12 students, the visual presentation of having a dozen bananas attached by alligator clips to a Makey-Makey in turn hooked up to a MacBook was irresistible for most passersby.

There were people waiting patiently for their chance to play the banana piano.  It was wonderful to see the reaction of students of all ages.  Many had me SnapChat a video for them to send to friends.  “Look what I did at university today!”

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I also introduced many students to the blue-tooth enabled robot, Sphero 2.0   that rolled on the floor, controlled by various people using my ipad.

Just goes to show, science can be fun and interactive.  One student went away and came back later to tell me that he had figured out that the bananas were not really the most important part of the banana-piano.

Pull out some fun makerspace activities and have students experience and talk about the magic.  Look for great Beakerhead events around Calgary.

Horizon Report 2017 – Makerspaces

The current Horizon Report for K-12,  collected, curated and written by members of the New Media Consortium (NMC) has recently been published online.  I have referred to this annual report before, as it looks at various educational technologies and the possible time to adoption within schools.

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Today, of interest, is the report about makerspaces contained within the “Important Development in Educational Technology for K-12 Education” section.  Adoption for this addition to most schools is categorized as “one year or less.”

More interesting that the statistics about the adoption of makerspaces in schools is the more subtle change in language around the creation and use of a single space to the more general adoption of a “mindset.”  Although, those who follow this blog would say that the report is “preaching to the choir,” I think this change in language is important to the development and sustainability of the makerspace movement.

“Building dedicated spaces for such activities can be perceived as secondary to the true spirit of this trend – integrating the maker mindset into the formal curriculum to spur real-world learning.” (p. 40, NMC/CoSN Horizon Report, 2017)

For pre-service teachers, researchers, and practicing teachers, this notion of developing a maker mindset within a classroom provides an over arching environment from which all learning can be done.

Creating an atmosphere filled with the 4 C’s:  critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity demands the inclusion of a maker mindset, not just a space, within the classroom.

Stay tuned for further reflections on this report.

Planbook.com

Okay, friends, I have been away from you all summer.  However, that does not mean I have been idle.  On the contrary, so many things have been happening that this seems like the busiest summer on record.

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I’m only here for a very short time to offer you one good resource recommended by a friend of mine who is queen of the whole school schedule.  We are recommending Planbook.com for scheduling classes and effective planning of your year, just a month or, perhaps, your whole life.

This website can be customized in so many ways including a 5 or 6 or 7 day schedule.  Use it to partner plan or to plan your own classes.

For the pre-service teachers, get started planning for yourself and others.  Do you know the unit plan you are working of for your practicum?  Start with just that schedule and build a timetable that captures topics, lessons, outcomes and assessment.

Stay tuned for a fun filled year with various educational technologies including Adafruit Flora, more adventures in Arduino, Ozobots, and Bloxels.  I’ll be learning how to have fun coding with Dash and Dot, two robots aimed at the elementary grades.

Learn about all sorts of educational technologies, games and low tech makerspace ideas to use for planning great adventures in the classroom.

Apps of Interest – June 2017

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I’ve discontinued App of the Week because, let’s face it, although I look at apps every week, actually reviewing one put a ton of pressure on this blogger.

Now, apps of interest will be reviewed and connected to curriculum when possible.  Overall, reader, you will get a sense of what is out there with a focus on uses in the classroom.

Having said that, the two apps in the article today are here because of a few unique qualities they possess.  The designer and creator of anxietyhelper and Verena is 15-year-old Amanda Southworth.  She came to the attention of Apple and recently attended her first developer conference.

Both of these apps are aimed at the middle and high school grade range and do not, in fact, address specific curriculum outcomes.   They are very timely in that they address the health and well being of this age group.  anxietyhelper addresses mental health including depression and anxiety disorders and how to access help for these illnesses.  Verena focuses on resources for the LGBTQ community.

A recent article in Mashable features Amanda’s story and her amazing capacity to code. As various school boards put an emphasis on coding in the classroom, Amanda is an example of how individuals come to coding on their own and follow their own path. While it is a great skill to introduce to all students, some will excel and some with be satisfied with the basic skills.

Take a look at these apps.  While they are not as sophisticated as some, they have an amazing capacity to reach out to students the same age as Amanda, trying to get guidance and answers to some difficult questions.

Summer Reading

Summer is a time to re-energize and have some time for new learning in a more relaxed atmosphere.  That’s everything I love about summer reading except that the location can and be the beach or the deck.  Set your sights on something you are interested in, get a big set of post it notes and away you go.

This summer, I am recommending two reads to reinforce the notion of the “Maker Mindset.”

Both books, while not published this year, are new enough to speak to the notion of making embedded in curriculum and in school culture more completely than a room called a “Maker Space” ever could be.  That is not to say that having a makerspace in any facility that you educate in is not a great bonus but without a leading edge, expensive maker space, any educator can still advance the notion of making in any environment.

The first book is “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement is changing our schools, our jobs, and our minds” by Dale Dougherty with Ariane Conrad.  Beginning with Chapter 1, “We are all Makers,” this book, published in 2016, gives a generous overview of the maker movement and some specifics about how it fits in education and more generally, how it is changing the real world.  Chapter 7 specifically addresses the nature and conditions needed to adopt a “maker mindset.”  This book is a quick read to give educators a great foundation in what maker is and what is looks like within each community.

The second book is by Edmonton’s own, George Couros, “The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower learning, unleash talent, and lead a culture of creativity.”  This book speaks directly to educators no matter what stage they are at in embracing the maker movement.  He addresses, because of his own experience, just how difficult it is to lead a revolution in a school system.  However, the information contained here will give educators much to talk and think about.  Many questions will be addressed, like how to create meaningful learning while having innovative students and educators leading the way.

Have a great summer and allow these two great books to help inform your practice in September.

Both books are currently being catalogued and will shortly be available in the Doucette Library.

 

 

 

Google Expeditions

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Here we go – into the world of Virtual Reality. The  Google Expeditions app and website is getting great press lately in education circles by partnering with various corporations like National Geographic, the National Parks Service and the American Museum of Natural History to collect more than 500 virtual field trips (including the National Space Station, so not your average field trip) in one place.

The app is free and field trips appear in 3D as long as you provide a pair of 3D goggles like these to your students to view the field trip on and a Smartphone or Android in a recent generation.  This would cost about $400 for a class set of 20 goggles and you can ask parents to donate used iphones and androids, add the app and use with the class.

Or, you can invest in the Google Expedition Best Buy set of goggles, devices and a hand held teacher device for more money.  The Canadian prices are available upon request from BestBuy.ca but the American pricing is in the $3,000 to $9,000 range.

Yes, it is all in one place and can be used for a class of 10 or 20 students and it is hardware that will be obsolete over time.  The concern is that it will be obsolete in a very short time.

The idea is wonderful.  Have your students stay in class and experience other geographical or historical places without actually going there.  Consider what you want to invest in this idea.  Ask yourself some pretty thought provoking questions like:

  1. How many times a term will we use this technology?
  2. Will the field trips be “embedded” in the curriculum?
  3. Is this technology an add on?
  4. How do I see this technology increasing the engagement and learning in my students?

Once you honestly answer these questions then decide on a plan of action and consider looking for blogposts from teachers who have successfully used the technology.

And make a decision about how much you would like to invest in the technology and how far into the future before another shiny new technology catches your eye.

The expensive kit would be a wonderful addition to any school edtech collection but not all schools are ready to commit thousands of dollars to one technology.  Look for a way to try it out without a big price tag.

 

Virtual Reality and Empathy

A recent article in The Star entitled, “Virtual reality project takes student through time at black orphanage in Nova Scotia,”  begins to open up the connection between students and history in a whole new way.  Imagine donning a pair of VR goggles and visiting the inside of the black orphanage while listening to the first person memories of adults who were there as children.  This experience will be piloted in four Grade 11 classes in Nova Scotia this fall with the help of Oculus Rift headsets. A few safeguards will be put in place like advance warnings that the content is graphic and may be disturbing to some students.  The authentic voice given to the reconstruction of this time and place will be a valuable tool in the deep learning of these students.

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In a similar vein, students can use Google Maps to visit Vimy Ridge  using 2D technology or VR.  And Google Expeditions  makes many more global locations a click away for many classrooms.

The Herchinger Report weighed in on the subject of virtual reality with a column entitled, “Can Virtual Reality Teach Empathy?”  And the conclusion of the column was “yes” virtual reality can help students develop empathy and self efficacy when they “experience” various VR scenarios.  The New York Times 360 virtual reality series focuses on the refugee experience in various hot spots throughout the world.  Students become more empathetic to these refugees through a VR lens.  Imagine the learning that is possible as students virtually visit many scenarios that, until now, have seemed a half a planet away.

As learning to solve problems through Design Thinking become more workable in the K-12 environment, VR meets the needs of many students to allow them to experience real empathy for many situations.

 

You Are a Teacher…What Now?

Many of the second year students from Werklund School of Education are on their final practicum and well on their way to setting up their new classrooms in September.

Here are a few resources that may help in the transition from student to working teacher.

First is the recent blog post and short video about 17 Things They Didn’t Tell You About Becoming a Teacher.  Keep in mind #1 – your feet will hurt for the first little while.

John Spencer has an interesting blog to follow and a new YouTube Channel entitled, “New Teacher Academy” that is certainly worth a visit and maybe even a “follow.”  Many of his posts are linked to Design Thinking and innovation in your own classroom.  Much of it is positive and provided in digestible bites rather than large, buffet style dishes.

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If no one gives you a “New Teacher Card,” make one for yourself and use it often.  There is a culture in every school that is unique and you can not be expected to know all the details in that first year.

The Doucette Library is still here for you.  As an Alumni, you have access to our collection to help with your teaching.  Use the resources you have used in the past in your classroom. That goes for research guides and pinterest boards.  You have access to it all.

Find a mentor in your new school that you feel comfortable with and ask them questions.  In fact, keep an on-going list of questions on your desk for the end of the day when you are tired and have forgotten what went on.

Everything will seem new but take some chances anyway.  The best way to innovate is to jump in and see what works.  Try it with one class and assess the success afterwards.

And,  a little tip for you elementary school teachers that not everyone will tell you…buy some heavy coverage funny pjs in anticipation of Pajama Day.  And matching slippers if you can.  Box them up in your closet and take them out for the day!

 

 

Maker Centered Learning

Maker Centered Learning: Empowering Young People to Shape their Worlds (2017) is one of a few new “maker” resources here at the Doucette.   Making is becoming a hot ticket item in the education field with many publishers and manufacturers jumping on the making wagon.

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Having read some of the literature beginning in late 2014, there seems to be a definite  change in tone and content in this later literature.  Looking back at the Maker Movement Manifesto from 2013, it really was all about the gadgets:  3D printer, soldering, circuits, copper wiring.  It was about setting up a place in which to make with tools that were purchased, usually beyond the budget of the average school.

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There is new hope for those educators who wish to make in their classrooms.  Maker Centered Learning dwells on the benefits of having students make with whatever you have and where ever you are.  Instead of embracing the Makerspace in schools, educators are more openly embracing the maker mindset in the environment they work in.

Although having a dedicated maker space in a learning commons or library is a very desirable location in a school setting, newer literature is encouraging teachers to take what they have to situate making in their learning spaces. In addition, the re-designing of these learning spaces  to make them more flexible for different uses including making and more hands-on activities is showing up more and more in the writing.

Meaningful Making: Projects and Inspiration for Fab Labs and Makerspaces was also received in the library recently and is comprehensive in looking at projects with how-to’s, additional websites and curriculum connections.

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There are many new resources to support making in learning environments. There is a definite change in the focus from buying and equipping a Maker Space to including making in a classroom using what is available.  The emphasis on the hands-on learning aspect of making is coming to the fore and not a minute too soon.