An Inspiring Story

Hedy Lamarr’s Double life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor written by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by Katy Wu

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Now here is the kind of book I would love to see in K-5 classrooms.  While reading through a number of new picture books that came into the Doucette Library over the last little while, this one caught my eye.

This story has EVERYTHING! An accomplished woman, also pictured as a young girl, who loved learning and wondering, a great invention that helped modern day electronics, like cell phones, keep texts and calls private, a Hollywood movie star with a contract with Louis B. Mayer. Hedy’s curiosity led to many personal inventions including a cube that changed plain water into flavoured soda, a ladder to help get in and out of a bathtub.

It is really not about the glamorous life she led or the amazing inventions.  This story captures the curious mind of a girl and a woman about things that were happening around her – in her real life.

After meeting George Antheil, Hedy and George came up with the idea of “frequency hopping” to help torpedoes send fragmented messages not easily intercepted by the enemy.  They co-patented the invention together.  Although this invention would have proven useful, the American Navy put it aside to fight World War II.  Hedy used her Hollywood star power to volunteer to sell war bonds and to meet soldiers at the Hollywood Canteen.

A book like this one in every classroom would be a great addition for children who are tinkerers.  They would recognize themselves in the realistic story of Hedy who, as a child, was interested in life and curious about everything including going to the movies.

“Inventions are easy for me to do.  I suppose I just came from a different place.” Hedy Lamarr

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Coding, Ed Tech and Making: Some new reads

 

Even though I work fulltime in a library, it seems the minutes I get to spend with new books must be intentional and sometimes a bit rushed.  I would love to curl up in a chair with a cart of books beside me to savour new samplings for the collection.

As things are unusually quiet on the desk today, I can take a moment to look at what is new and cool in the areas that I spend the most time with.

My favourite book of the new batch is The Girl with a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague, written by Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley.  The subject of this nonfiction picture book is Raye Montague, one of the many hidden figures whose innovation changed the way navy ships are built.  She overcame exceptional odds being a black woman in the 1950s to design, in 1971, the FFG-7 Frigate.  Using her own computer programs, she completed the design of the frigate in 18 hours and 26 minutes.  The accompanying notes, bibliography and time line, all contribute to the wealth of information in this book.  The big problem I have with it is that it is written in verse.  What a shame.  The story would stand better is some well-written prose to showcase the power of her accomplishments.  This book can be included in classrooms up to grade 6 as students learn how to write biographical information, consider time lines of famous people, and collect biographic research about historical figures and just for students to ponder the strength and tenaciousness of this intelligent woman.

Doll-E 1.0 by Shanda McCloskey would be a great book to have in your classroom.  From grades K-3, girls will recognize the pressure (sometimes from parents) to play with dolls but our main character, Charlotte, incorporates her “making” into traditional play.  Charlotte is a maker and a tinkerer.  Although her house seems full of opportunities for her to indulge her maker imagination, Charlotte’s mother gives her a doll.  Just a doll.  It says “mama.”  As Charlotte puts her mind to it, knowing that a doll who talks must also have a power supply, she unleashes her “making” and inventions and innovations ensue.

Two books have recently come in that would be great “browsers” to have in your classroom to spur students on to learn about innovative ideas.  Engineered! Engineering Design at Work: A fun exploration of nine amazing feats by Shannon Hunt and James Gulliver Hancock looks at 9 different amazing feats of engineering from the following fields: aerospace, biomedical, chemical, mechanical, electrical, civil, geomatics, computer and environmental engineering.  Examples like the Millau Viaduct, a traffic problem solving bridge that was built on time and on budget and solved a major traffic issue in France.  The innovative design is an engineering feat and a work of art.  Innovation Nation: How Canadian innovators made the world …smarter, smaller, kinder, safer, healthier, wealthier, happier by David Johnston and Tom Jenkins, illustrated by Josh Holinaty would also provide a great browsing experience in any classroom.  Pages 124-125 give a two page spread on “How you can be an innovator,”  listing ways to inquire, ideate, incubate and implement ideas and what steps to take within each action to be the best innovator ever.  I also loved reading about the invention and pick up of JAVA script and the plastic garbage bad and something known as the “shrouded tuyere,” a way to stir steel invented by Robert Lee who came up with the idea after tooting in the bathtub.  Innovation is everywhere.  Both these books would be valuable in middle grades.

And now about that edict to have your students coding from k-12.  There are some easy ways to get students coding in your classroom but what if one of the ways was to read a picture book.  How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk, illustrated by Sara Palacios is not an excellent picture book but does present the ideas and vocabulary that are foundational in coding and anchors it to a familiar activity, building a sandcastle.  Look for working definitions of sequence, loops, and “if-then-else” statements.  Having one of these books in your collection is plenty and this one does the job.  Keep this one to the early grades.

Get Coding! Learn HTML, CSS, and JAVAscript and build a website, app and game by Young Rewired State is an attractive sort of book of challenges where you work through various coding recipes to make a website, app and a game.  This book would be great in a classroom where every year now you will be able to reach some of your students through these coding challenges.  Now, keep in mind, that coding books like this are awesome usually for a short time so buy it now and use it.  In September Get Coding2 is coming out and will be full of new challenges. I would say to start kids in grade 3 with these tasks and use this book through grade 9 or 10.

Sometimes when I am looking for a new approach to educational technology I fall back on an old library habit.  See what the new books look like and how can they be used to engage students in new ed tech challenges.  This list has a little something for everyone.  They will be included in the Doucette collection later this week for your use.  And I do feel a sense of renewal now that I have touched a few new books.

 

 

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.

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.

Tips for Tinkercad

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Tinkercad is a free, on-line 3D design website that allows people to create files for 3D printers and other equipment.  Kids are the target audience so students would be able to jump right in.  Students can have a free account and all of their designs are saved to the web account.  Students can, then, 3D print or render their design on a CNC Cutter (Computer Numerical Control Cutter.)
Teachers be aware that you can set up a classroom account so that you can look and comment on students’ work.  Lance Yoder of Edgaged talks about this feature in his YouTube video Tinkercad Playlist.
I would suggest working through the beginning examples to get a handle on how to design with the website and then spend some time on your own with additional YouTube videos or just the website itself experimenting with the options.
MatterHackers have a number of good related YouTube videos and also have other information about printing your design after saving it in Tinkercad.
Here is a place within the maker world where teachers can introduce a website and not know everything about it.  I think there are a few students in classes from grade 5 right up to 12 that will take the lead on designing and figuring out how to create many fascinating models.

IDEO Wise Report 2018

The recently released IDEO Wise Report entitled, Thinking and Acting like a Designer: How design thinking supports innovation in K-12 education by Annette Diefenthatler, Laura Moorhead, Sandy Speicher, Charla Bear and Deirdre Cerminaro is a comprehensive snapshot of what design thinking is looking like in the global K-12 environment.

“If we want students to be creative, collaborative, communicative problem-solvers, adults – administrators, as well as teachers – need to act the same way.” (p. 44)

This quote, hidden deep in the text, is a very important point to make if we are to adopt the mission to embed a designer mindset in the K-12 classroom.  Every one of the stakeholders in the school and the administration of that school must put on the cloak of a designer.

I feel many teachers are already there because they are accommodating students within their classrooms everyday.  Students who need to stand or pace to get work done.  Students who need headphones to tune out.  Students who need an extra snack in the morning to help them concentrate.  Many teachers are designing a classroom where their students find comfort, safety and success.

Wearing the cloak of the designer is much bigger than the classroom as well.  Can we revisit many of the norms we take for granted within a school and classroom every year to change and adapt them to the current wave of students and stakeholders?  Do we have to accept a schedule or routine or an environment that does not challenge every one to be their most engaged self?

This report does challenge the stakeholders in education to use design thinking in the design of schools, classrooms, curriculum and programs to encourage students and staff to be engaged in learning.

Embedding the curriculum with design challenges associated with real world problems surrounds students with the possibility of designing solutions for curriculum related, interdisciplinary problems.  Key to the success of students using the design process is the modeling of all staff who think and solve problems using design thinking methods.

This document gives practical, real life examples of what design thinking looks like at many levels of  K-12 education and would be a great read for anyone creating a culture of design in any education setting.

 

Design Thinking – Wrap-up

We finished up by teaching 11 workshops based on Design Thinking (the IDEO way) to around 225 second year Werklund students and Tammy and I have a few takeaways from the experience.

  1. The sooner the better.  If we could teach “The Three Little Pigs” design thinking scenario to every student in the second year program during the first week of classes in January, everyone would benefit.  There comes a time in the third week where students have already looked at the 5 possibilities (Design Thinking, Discipline-Based Inquiry, Project-Based, Understanding by Design and Universal Design for Learning) to solve their problem of practice where our workshop is really too late.
  2. No matter how much time you give, students want more.  In this case, we actually had students prototype an advertising “pitch” for a product or program that would solve “The Three Little Pigs” scenario.  Last year our feedback was that students wanted to prototype.  We allowed time this year for prototyping and presenting (testing) and then used Today’s Meet to collect feedback from the other students in the class.  Because of time limits, feedback was not rich with information to give groups ideas to change or rationalize why not to change their product or pitch.  Students still felt we did not allow them enough time to digest the feedback.
  3. Instructors in the program should know what they are getting into.  We should have clear information about the workshop we offer since we are now considered to be “the experts” on staff for Design Thinking.  We tried to get students to come independently to the workshop in time away from class time.  We had very little buy-in for students doing the workshop without their classmates.  Given that students want to only come with their class, please see #1.

And we are already talking about changes we would make for next January.  I still think that Design Thinking, the process and the workshop, are valuable tools to give students in Werklund School of Education.  We would love to have a whole day, in the first week of January, with instructors and students to walk everyone through the process fully and completely but we are managing to give a good experience to those who sign up early and immerse themselves in the workshop.

Design Thinking – “The Teacher as Designer”

We often hear this statement during or before any of the workshops we run about design thinking.  Although this phrase appears in 2010 in an article entitled, “The Teacher as Designer: Pedagogy in the New Media Age,” by Mary Kalantizis, Bill Cope, referring to the process of Learning by Design, we use the more general description in our design thinking workshops.

The teacher as designer refers to every educator who designs a classroom, a lesson, a unit, a project, a school environment, a school atmosphere and/or professional development workshops for colleagues.

The design thinking workshops we offer have students work through the d.school five-step program using the “Three Little Pigs” story as an anchor.  This use of the design thinking process is not the only way we see this technique being used by teachers.

Using it to break your students into groups in your class and work through a potential solution to a problem is just one way the process is used in education.  It does reach all the current “c’s” of the modern classroom: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication. It also provides an opportunity for students to practice many so-called “soft skills” as well.

In the secondary stream of our program, we often get feedback about the process not being conducive to the delivery of curriculum content in their grade level.  Lesson and unit design can be developed using the five steps of design thinking.  Starting with the empathy stage where a teacher looks at the lesson from the student’s point of view may be quite eye opening.  Effective lesson and unit development can be completed using the design thinking process.

There may be school wide problems that are presented by other teachers or administration that can be solved using the design thinking process.

 

Each individual school has its own priorities and culture that is set by the administration, often taking into account staff and students ideas.  As administration creates a certain identity for a school, staff may be engaged in the design thinking process to bring these ideas to life.  Say, for example, a school seeks to be an integral part of the community in which it is situated.  Connections with the community can be fostered through various means and the ideas may come from an design thinking session that features the empathy and definition stages.  Moving towards ideation makes the collected research from these stages result in effective community connection for the school as a whole.  Having many great ideas that don’t fit the needs of the community won’t engage staff and students like something that meets the needs of the surrounding area and makes an positive impact in the community.

In these three separate areas of teaching, teachers can take up the d.school, five step process and introduce design thinking into their school.

Design Thinking 2.0 – Interview with a consultant?

We have had some very successful workshops in the first week of working with the second year students from Werklund School of Education.  We had both elementary and secondary classes working through the famous “Three Little Pigs” design thinking scenario with mixed results although most students came up with a convincing pitch to share with the class.  From the “Cattlepult” to a “wonderful community where pigs and wolves live in harmony,” pitches for a “solution” to the pigs versus wolves problem abound.

Our final workshop on Friday afternoon offered us the least number of comments in the definition phase.  We couldn’t cluster ideas or look for outliers.  We were left with very few ideas to talk about or work through to a solution stage.  Perhaps, students weren’t engaged enough to give back any evidence collected in the empathy phase but it was difficult to maintain any momentum through ideation, prototyping and the testing loop.

So here is the change we made to help with the definition stage.  We backed up to the Empathy phase and instead of having pigs and wolves empathize with each other, we introduced two “consultants” into each group to ask questions and gather information from wolves or pigs.  Each consultant was provided with a package of documentation containing some basic information about the pigs and the wolves that could prompt some entry points to begin to gather information.

This morning we worked through a class incorporating this change.  We did get many more ideas to write up on the board for our definition stage and some great statements to anchor the ideation and prototypes.  And, we gathered statements from each one of the four groups.  We will try this approach again on Tuesday.

The ironic feedback we received on just one form was “…if the student switch roles. …can have a better understanding of different roles.”

We will work with the consultant model for now but we will keep an open mind depending on more feedback that will come with future workshops.

 

Design Thinking 2.0

Did I mention that it is January again and for us at the Doucette Library, that means Design Thinking?  The second year Education course, EDUC 546, is looking a little different this year, widening it’s scope to include Universal Design for Learning, Project-Based Learning, Understanding by Design, Discipline-Based Inquiry, and the Design Thinking from IDEO and Stanford.

Tammy and I will be, again, contributing to the learning by holding a number of workshops for the EDUC 546 classes following last year’s model based on the Three Little Pigs.  Ah, but this year we have an extra few minutes in which to add PROTOTYPING!  We will be adding the final two steps in the Design Thinking process, prototyping and feedback/re-test into the Three Little Pigs scenario in a way that fits into our new time constraint.

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In this iteration of the workshop, we will be asking students to ideate using chart paper divided into 4 sections.  We are hoping that students will come up with at least 2 different, viable ideas within the sections of paper.  They will find that the more ideas you have, the better outcome you will have.

For prototyping, we are asking them to take one of the ideas to prototype but not as an actual artifact.  Students will be coming up with a pitch or a way to advertise their chosen artifact.  It is an interesting way to have each group present an idea and sway the rest of the class to think about their solution.

Feedback will be given by other students in the class though the website, TodaysMeet in a “room” for each workshop we are giving.  A few minutes will be available for them to look over the feedback received in this fashion.  Critique comments will answer questions like, “how well does the prototype solve the problem as stated in the defining question,” and “how effective is the pitch?”

We are still asking for feedback about our workshop.  It helps to change what is happening in the Design Thinking teaching here at the Doucette.  So stay tuned, iterations are happening.