Using Mentors in Makerspaces

At a school I worked at until recently, the use of Reading Grandparents made a difference in the literacy time of every Division I student.  Once a week, a reading grandma or grandpa would engage students in various reading exercises.  Relationships were built.  Learning was done.  In a community with many transient children, someone, unconditionally, had time for them.

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Can this model be applied for the Makerspace in schools?  Yes, of course.  As a teacher and facilitator in the makerspace, finding experts to engage with kids about simple maker projects would create amazing connections.

The local bike shop operator may jump at the opportunity to help students learn to take care of their bicycles.  What about a baker making dough with students?  A local crafts person may be happy to pass along some skills.  While on the forefront of skill development, maker mentors can also build community.

At my former school, we also had Calgary Police Services in conjunction with the Calgary Public Library visit every few weeks for a story time and book borrowing.  It’s a Crime Not to Read program showed students from various backgrounds that the police were approachable and embedded in their community.

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Look for opportunities to meet some experts in your community, ask them about sharing their expertise, go through the administrative work to get them in your school and introduce students to real people who do real things.

Creativity and Classrooms

In the five weeks of the Robert Kelly hosted Book Lab about his latest book, Creative Development: Transforming Education through Design Thinking, Innovation, and Invention, I feel I understand where we, as educators, are headed better than I did before.

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I also  have more questions than ever before.

Creating a culture of collaboration and creativity is essential to move towards a more student-centred decision making model. Kelly’s notion that by flattening out the hierarchy in any educational environment, it allows for true collaboration among all participants.  He articulates the idea of teacher as facilitator and student as captain of their own learning in a way I wish I could.

Kelly challenges the structure of the classroom and the mindsets of those within it so thoroughly as to set the whole concept of education on its head.  And that is a good thing.  Through anecdotal evidence, we see how students who direct their own learning are highly motivated and engaged in self-motivated challenges that round their learning not tied to curriculum but more in tune with how learning takes place in the real world.  This type of learning is messy, not highly structured, not completed in a period, a day or a week. This learning is inclusive, consuming and relevant.

Educational technologies are the tools that suit the task, not a separate skill to be acquired through artificially created and staged outcomes.

Robert Kelly’s ideas challenge how I see students engaging in their education and that is exciting and interesting and scary all at the same time.   Look at this book to promote some “outside the box” thinking for yourself and your students.

 

Awakening the Maker

Having maker minded people in a maker space makes for a more interesting learning experience for students.  You may invite experts to help on occasion or have students who have more making experience facilitate classes.

Another way to promote a creative atmosphere in a learning space is with browsing materials.  Students make connections through the visual browsing of books and magazines.  Of course, Make Magazine is the first resource that comes to mind.  These magazines focus on projects, makers and ideas. Keeping back issues on tables would be a great idea.

Two new books that have recently come into the Doucette Library also make for wonderful maker browsers.  First, Things Come Apart, by Todd McLellan, a book containing 175 colour illustrations and 21,959 components and 5 relevant articles.  The author has dismantled a variety of items like a stapler, a sewing machine, and a two-seater light aircraft.  He has arranged the component parts in an organized photo display and also photographed the pieces as they dropped through the air, sometimes layering several images to complete the picture.  Articles like, “The Repair Revolution” authored by Kyle Wiens, co-founder of iFixit extolling the valuable learning gained by “tear-downs,” the disassembling of electronics are also featured. Let’s face it, though, the real charm in this resource are the amazing photographs.  Set it beside your Take Apart Station for greatest impact.

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DK has published the “Smithsonian Maker Lab: 28 Super Cool Projects” a resource aimed at the elementary and middle school maker space where definite recipes for project outcomes help students to experience hands-on making and gain essential foundation skills that they can later apply to more creative making.  Photographs show step-by-step instructions and the sidebar always shows “How It Works” to reinforce the science behind each maker project.

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Choose carefully but surround your makers with various resources that they can browse in their own time.  Ideas can come from the exposure to what other makers are doing, creating or photographing.

Visit the Doucette Library to take these and other books out to showcase making in your space.

Maker Mindset

The Maker Movement is much more than just a space to provide students in the K-20 environment with a tricked-out place to “do” what they are learning.  A Maker Space without the mindset is just another static museum installation.  The pressure on schools, currently, to install a Maker Space complete with 3D printers and technology to rival NASA does not address the making at all.  The space is just a place before you gather the people with the maker mindset to facilitate within the space.

What does that look like? In most schools, it means looking around for staff who are “makers” and are naturally curious about the space and tools and match them with the space and students to see how the relationship works out.  Before teachers adopt making into curriculum teaching, they may need a chance to see what it looks like in an after school or lunch time club setting. The road to adoption for many staff may be in seeing the learning that goes on in the space before they imagine it working in a particular unit.

I am currently reading and working through the ideas in Creative Development by Robert Kelly.

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In a series of 5 workshops held here on campus by the author, we are learning about creativity, innovation, design thinking and collaboration and what each concept looks like in the future of education.  It is an exciting time to think what is possible if the learning is experienced by students at the hands of creative facilitators.  Although these notions won’t be adopted immediately into K-20 classrooms, the more we know about each concept and how to recognize it in teaching and learning, the better chance we have to be moving towards adoption.  More on these key concepts in upcoming blog posts.

Coding in an Elementary Classroom

Is coding the new literacy? Even if you are not sure of the answer to that big question, you can begin to introduce your elementary classroom students to programming.  Some of the resources listed need technology and some just need your time to set up some centers to spark interest from your students.

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Scratch Jr. as a website or an app is a great way for students to start to understand the “if you program this, then that happens” type of logic that is necessary for programming.  Some may not even catch on that they are learning actual programming due to the game atmosphere of this app.

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Kids Get Coding is a series of books aimed at the K-3 grade level.  Each book explains one aspect of computer programming that will provide a foundation for students to begin to code. They also include tips about being a good digital citizen and how sites collect information about your identity to tailor sites to your needs.  It also cautions students about the importance of privacy and what information sites are looking for that you may not want to give out.  Although each book is only 24 pages long, each has a table of contents, and index and clear definitions of terms that are used in each book.  A website gives access to further content by book title to help educators further work with each subject area covered in each book.

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Robot Turtles and Code Master are both board games that don’t need any technology to run them. Robot Turtles is for very beginning programmers and teaches logic as a introduction to the steps needed for good coders.  Code Master is a one player game and will challenge you students to code instructions on the board rather than into an app or website.  Both good options in a classroom to spark an interest.

Introducing the notion of coding and computer programming into your classroom is not as daunting as it may seem.  There are many books out now to challenge students to learn the rudiments of coding by playing games or working through actions of a robot or character.  Start with these resources and work through this next level thinking with your students.

App(Website) of the Week – GoNoodle

I admit it – doing the Dinosaur Stomp with a number of grade three students mid-morning is an excellent way hit the reset button on your day.  These “movement breaks” in elementary school (as in every sedentary environment) are good for bodies and brains and the body-brain connection.   Remember brain gym.

I think we are past the time to recognize that the health of our students is partly our responsibility as educators because we see them for so many of their waking hours.  Elementary school is a natural place to see the positive rewards of extra movement in your classroom.

Instead of an app this week, I would like to suggest the website  GoNoodle.com. A site where you can incorporate movement into your class while not skipping a beat teaching curriculum.

GoNoodle begins with a video entitled GoNoodle 101 but I don’t think you really need the guidance.  Preview a few videos and choose something to your liking.  Strategically place the video during your teaching and voila – movement and learning.

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Lots of math songs and some American content but I still think you can bookmark the site for a quick change of pace in your classroom.

Old School Maker Space

Today’s post is not about old schools but about an event that the whole Maker World took note of in 2012 that changed the way people thought about at least one boy’s education.

The event is captured in two YouTube movies that capture exactly what it means to be a nine-year-old inventor. The first movie, by Nirvan Mullick, traces the cardboard arcade designed by Caine Monroy in the front part of his dad’s auto parts shop in 2012.

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Here is making at its finest.  Very little adult interference and time to work away at a continuous project. Caine used what was around him, saved money for luxury add-ons like the calculators and tenaciously pursued his design ideas.

Nirvan changes Caine’s life by validating that kind of entrepreneurial spirit and creativity.  The second movie, shows the evolution of Caine’s Arcade from an event to a movement, creating a scholarship fund for Caine, a foundation for making called The Imagination Foundation and an annual Global Cardboard Challenge.

This Huffington Post article , captures some of the most important changes that came about because of Caine’s Arcade. “The impact on Caine has been profound. Caine’s dad told me that before the film, Caine was behind in reading and that his school considered him “slow” and wanted to hold him back a year. After the film, Caine became a poster child for gifted children everywhere — his grades improved and he even stopped stuttering. Caine began to refer to himself as an engineer and a game designer.” (Huffington Post, June 9, 2014)

Caine has become a hero of sorts to the underdog of learners who finds a way to exercise his potential in ways a school could not even imagine.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to present some learning opportunities like Caine’s Arcade to students in every classroom?  We may be able to unlock so much potential in so many students.

Visit Caine’s Arcade site and enjoy the experience.  By the way, Caine is 13 now and officially retired from the Arcade.  How time flies for any entrepreneur.

App of the Week – Litsy

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Cost: Free

Size 26.2MB

Version: 1.4.1

Type: like Instagram for books

Litsy is an app discovered by my co-worker that is very much like Instagram for Books. A Book Riot review of the app is called, “If Goodreads and Instagram had a Perfect Baby…” And you would have to agree this app is a great combination of both of these sites.

Litsy speaks to our creative side by allowing us to pose books for photographs.  Using kits and materials in the library (or from home) we feature books in great environments.  If you would like to follow us our name is Open Sesame – Portals to Teaching Resources.  We thought it was very catchy.  Search us by Doucette_Library as well.

Users have a Litfluence score that appeals to students who are gamers to begin with.  Your litfluence score is based on how many people are following you, how much you post and if people are liking what you post.  Although we are not competitive, some students may find an appeal in this aspect of the app.

We are using the app to feature great resources we would love to see in classrooms and to talk about how we can creatively use books to connect to curriculum or to create a great classroom atmosphere.  We get to pick icons that suggest a good pick, so-so, pan or bail.  Ours are mostly picks since we want you to see the resources we really like.  We also get 451 characters to tell you everything you need to know about this book.  That is sometimes a challenge.

The app would also play well in a classroom for students to use to feature what they are reading, if they like it and if they would suggest it to classmates.  So our use of the app is showing you how you could use the app.  A win-win in my opinion.

Read some reviews about the app and join us to see what we are featuring.  The first books I posted were the ones I reviewed recently in a blog post on creating wonder in the elementary classroom. My co-worker has been busy posting back to school finds and some other great resources.

Join us or do some posting yourself or use it in your classroom.  Get the word out about what you are reading or follow us and see what you great resources to pick up for your classroom or practicum.

The app creators are responsive still to feedback on what you would like to change or see added to the app.

Join the fun and visit us on this book-loving social media app.

 

 

The Horizon Report K-12, 2016 (Preview)

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Horizon Report K-12, 2016 Preview

The Horizon Report compiled by the National Media Consortium is the report that names the trends in education that are most important to pay attention to in the coming year, 5 years and 10 years.  It will be published on September 14, 2016 in its entirety but the advance sample or preview is available today.  NMC also collects information for the coming report in a comprehensive wiki and you can join to view the background information.

This Horizon Report will focus again on the adoption of the makerspace model of learning and teaching into classrooms.  It has moved to the “one year or less” category and teaching students seem to be adopting this model through their studies.  Many workshops and ideas are introduced during their time in the teaching program.

The second trend to on-line learning also remains on track for adoption in the next year or so with the continual changes in the open-source resource market.  Many contributing trends are also affected like blended learning where students are responsible for the background work of watching videos and reading resources in non-class time.

Long term trends in education are generally accepted as more evolutionary than revolutionary, happening gradually over time in schools that are creating new spaces for students to learn in.  Because re-designing spaces takes huge budgets, “re-arranging” of learning spaces in more the norm in most school districts. Here, screen installation for collaborative learning areas, and more flexible work spaces are technology use and general group work adaptations schools can make without a large investment of cash.

Another long term trend in education is the “rethinking how schools work”  and this trend addresses the move to a more authentic, multidisciplinary environment for learning. Teacher education is also meshing with the mid-term trends focused on collaborative learning approaches  based on the four principles: “placing the learner at the center, emphasizing interaction and doing, working in groups, and developing solutions to real-world problems.” And the other mid-term student-centered trend delving into deeper learning approaches in the classroom.

It is exciting to see the acknowledgement that coding is a new literacy to be addressed by educators in the short-term and the notion that students are becoming the creators of their learning rather than consumers.  These two notions are coming to the forefront of education practice especially from a teacher education viewpoint.

The report is rich in topics that are so important to our students as they enter or continue their education to become teachers and to practicing teachers who provide mentoring for our students.  More news when the complete report is released next on September 14, 2016.

App of the Week – Osmo Coding

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Cost: Free*

Size: 83.2 MB

Version: 1.1.0

Updated: August 23, 2016

*Keep in mind that because it is an OSMO product, the app is free but you must purchase the initial OSMO genius kit for $129.99Cdn with the base camera deflection equipment and the OSMO coding manipulatives for $69.99Cdn.

I am a real fan of this product.   The genius kit, as mentioned in an earlier blogpost, contains the camera deflection equipment and base for your ipad as well as the tangram, and word set.  The number set is purchased separately.

And, although I love a free app, the continually innovative products that are coming since the OSMO base kit are good value for the 5-12 age group.

For a quick how-to video, my favourite is Antonio’s World, even though the OSMO CEO has also had a kick at the can with a YouTube video on the subject.  Antonio’s script and editing is much tighter than Pramod Sharma’s video and he gets you the information you need to start using your kit fast with a “just the facts” approach.

Now for the app and manipulatives.  I’ve included pictures in order for you to see them rather than have to describe them to you.  Each magnetic instruction card directs Awbie, a strawberry munching monster, to move in a direction at the turn of a dial, walk, jump or grab and pause for second sober thought.  As your directions help him gulp up strawberries singly or from various treasure chests, you gain strength and rewards to acquire items to make the levels easier.  It is very fun to play and I’m sure most 5 year olds would concentrate on the game aspect and not the coding knowledge they are acquiring.  Once you or your students are ten and up, I think the logic of coding languages would be hard to miss.

I am considerably older than the intended audience and the play was fun and engaging even for me.  My coding age is probably six and I am no digital native.  The trial and error way of moving Awbie around is very fun.  It has a very “try again” sense about it without any negative screens  even if Awbie is going in the wrong direction.  If you allow him to step on a  lily pad he does dunk in the water and pop up, unharmed, so you can try again.

I would recommend the whole package of Osmo again as I did in this blogpost.  It is a great investment for a learning centre in your classroom.  There are lots of different processes to work through that focus on a variety of skills.  Learning coding is becoming a new literacy for students and this kit balances learning and fun, especially for the K-6 crowd.