Does a MakerSpace have to be a Space?

Many schools (elementary, secondary and post-secondary) are including a MakerSpace in their square footage.  People are reconfiguring spaces, libraries, learning commons, classrooms and basement rooms to include a MakerSpace.  People are using grant money, parent council money, and other kinds of budgets to make this happen but I’m asking, does a makerspace have to be a space?

I mean it is nice if students have a dedicated space to do their making, designing and hands on learning but the space is not as crucial to making as the mindset.

Students and teachers may have a dedicated space to make with many fine kits and equipment but if the making is done as a “special” or unusual activity that must be booked and scheduled in, I feel students would not have the kind of making experience I envision.

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Having a maker mindset that permeates a classroom with opportunities to try inventions and ideas out during the natural flow of learning creates an atmosphere where making is not a planned or scheduled event but an everyday occurrence.

The opportunity to embed this type of hands-on learning into each and every classroom suggests that the separate space idea may be just a short term measure to include making in schools.  Teachers may move making directly into their classrooms as a way for students to express the outcomes of their learning in ways other than paper and pen or digital documents.

It’s great to have a MakerSpace but even better to have a maker mindset in every classroom for students who are tackling real world problems to be able to create many types of physical solutions as they continue to ponder solutions and learn original ways to problem solve creatively.

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Speak Mohawk and Tsuut’ina Apps

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An article in the Huffington Post (Canada) led me to investigate the Speak Mohawk app for Apple iPads and iPhones.  The Six Nations Polytechnic launched the app to further protect and teach a language that is in danger of being lost. Statistics are showing about 2,350 people in Ontario and Quebec knowing the language.  Speak Mohawk has broken down words and phrases into 42 categories including “Days of the Week” and “Feelings” for easy access.

Now I realize Mohawk would not be a language that would be picked up in Alberta to any large degree but by accessing the information about Speak Mohawk, it led me to a app developer called Thornton Media, Inc.   that designs a variety of  indigenous language apps.

The Tsuut’ina people, who live west of Calgary, have also developed an app to preserve their language and this one may be of more interest.  Teachers may have students in their classrooms who are learning the Tsuut’ina language at home.

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This app would be a great way to have students in your classroom learn more about the root language and culture.  It is a free app that can be added to iPads or other tablets easily and referenced by students from this culture and other interested students.

It seems that young people in schools and post-secondary settings are expressing an interest in keeping these languages alive and finding a digital way to preserve the language and culture from these communities.  It is a good start.

 

Hour of Code – 2017

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How about spending an hour with your class coding during your practicum?  The Hour of Code for 2017  is set to go the week of December 4th to the 10th to align with Computer Science Education Week.

A quick introduction to coding is a great way to appeal to students and have them learn logic and the step-by-step process that leads to great coding. Laying a foundation of skills needed to code can be done using games like Robot Turtles  or an app like Daisy the Dinosaur.

Do you need to know how to code? No not really.  You need to have a general knowledge of the outcomes that you see for your students.  You will want them to have an awareness of coding, what it looks like, the cause and effect of click and drop coding like SCRATCH and SCRATCH Jr.  Overall, you will want them to have a positive experience getting to know how the computer “knows” how to do things.

Of course, the Doucette Library has your back on this one.  Visit the Research Guide about Coding in the Classroom to find links and resources to help you out.

No tech in your classroom?  Start with a simple writing exercise.  Challenge your students to write down all the steps it takes to do something.   Or build low tech robots and have students record individual movements needed to make the robot walk.

Look to include coding in your classroom as you head out on practicum. Many students and your peers will be happy that you did.

 

Game On!

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The four “super-skills” in education currently are communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.  How do you included all of these skills in a classroom?  Use a game.

We recently used BreakOut EDU, a locked box game much like the “locked room” scenarios popular today,  with 34 pre-service teaching students to show them the advantages of including a game in the classroom.

Students were in groups to tackle two game scenarios, one aimed at elementary classrooms and the other a little more complicated for middle school or even high school classes.

Students found they had to communicate with each other to find out the nature of the locks and the clues that would, potentially, unlock them.  Collaboration was a valuable skill as some clues included math formulas or several people brainstorming answers to clues. People relied on their personal subject area strengths to contribute answers to some of the questions.

Critical thinking came in to play when teams inevitably hit the wall with some clues.  Students began to “think outside the box” for answers to some roadblocks.

Finally, students became quite creative as time ran down on the game to match clue information with lock design. The teams were all successful.

By experiencing a real game situation, all of these students will be more prepared to introduce a game or game design into their own classrooms.

Please visit our new Research Guide about Games and Simulations from the Doucette Home Page for more information about including games in the classroom.

Maker Faire, Calgary 2017

This post will be brief.  I am just letting you know that the coolest place to be this weekend in Calgary is the Maker Faire at Spruce Meadows.  Look at some of the exhibitors and some of the great demos and talks you can attend.  Look for one of my favourite local makers, Make Fashion.

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Please say “hi” and don’t be embarrassed to get your inner geek out.  There will be crowds to surround you as you are inspired to make.

Tickets available on-line.  Celebrate that making is now mainstream!

What to do with a box

Now there’s a thought. What can you do with boxes or with cardboard that can be, often, gathered for free for your classroom?download

The story of Caine’s Arcade, mentioned before in this blog, is the story of true making and playing.  Bringing this playful atmosphere into your classroom can be a real bonus hands-on experience for your students.

There is an actual cardboard challenge that you can sign your class up to do or you can connect it to curriculum units that you are currently teaching.  There are many ideas on-line to inspire you to connect building and inventing to content.  And, as you may know, here at the Doucette, we are BIG fans of Pinterest so follow some Pinterest Boards for a variety of ideas.

Instead of the masses of tape you may use during such projects, perhaps invest in a few sets of the reusable Make-Do’s that help in cardboard construction.

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Just a very simple, low cost, low tech idea to engage students in hands-on, innovative learning, planning, playing and showcasing with their own ideas.

 

Hopscotch: Learn to Code

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ONLY for iOS 9.0 and later

Version: 3.21.1

Size: 119 MB

Cost: Free

Target Audience: Ages 9-13

Create, Play, Learn.

The Hopscotch: Learn to Code app is a great addition to the technology (apps and websites) used to teach coding in the elementary and middle school classroom.

Students can sample what other kids are designing and play, from the screen, games that are designed by other app users.

Given the short video tutorials that appear in the upper right hand corner of the screen, allowing students to follow the step-by-step directions to create their own games or pause the video and catch up, designing games is really only a video away.

Students can also save their games so others have a chance to play.

Hopscotch follows from Daisy the Dinosaur, as another step in the coding process by Hopscotch Technologies.

The iTunes link says this app has been downloaded over 10 million times and I can see why.  Download the free app and see how many games your students can design.

 

A Classroom Blog?

Blogging is a great way to get students to write.  Students would love to create a blog including photos, artwork and other artifacts of their learning.  Don’t just limit them to the written word.

Reading Student Blogs: How Online Writing Can Transform Your Classroom by Anne Davis and Ewa McGrail generates all sorts of possibilities about classroom blogs and individual student blogs.  Although this kind of project takes some planning, it can turn out to be one of the most successful ways to engage students in various kinds of writing.

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Give some thought about why a blog would engage your students.  Can you give them a chance to get creative with words and ideas?  Can they see how everything they are learning is sometimes interconnected? Is is possible to give them space to write free of testing, grading, drilling, measuring and comparing?

Try to find peers, other than your students, to comment on blog posts.  Having their words available to all is a great everyday lesson in digital citizenship and the creation of their digital footprint.

Some ideas to create some buzz around content are:  “answer burning questions, comment on the news, debate a compelling issue, pick a “pro” or “con” side, or comment on a noteworthy post.”  These are just a few ideas introduced by the authors.

Having students comment on their current reading material may be another great way to have interaction between students.  What books are popular and cause a stir when reviewed in the blog?

It is early in the year.  It may be a great time to start students contributing to a classroom blog.  You many recognize some interesting writers in your group.

 

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.

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.