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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

Maker Faire 2.0

We are happy to say that we have successfully held our second annual Maker Faire in the Doucette Library.

Amid the bubbles, limbo, musical instruments and dress up clothing, we hosted about 300 students and their prototypes.  For anyone quick enough to think of the implications of this many prototypes in one place, they photographed lesson plans, materials and prototypes for a file of great ideas that may suit their teaching sometime in the future.

What exactly were we doing?  There was method in this madness for many reasons.  We were showing students what a Maker Faire in their school or classroom may look like.  We wanted students to see what kind of celebration students would take part in after working through their own problem solving using the design thinking process to prototype ideas and various outcomes.

We also wanted students to feel the engagement that is prevalent when design thinking is introduced into a project.  Creativity and innovation abound when few boundaries are put in place and students are allowed to draw on their own strengths to research and work through a problem.

We wanted also to celebrate the amazing work that has taken place over the last two years by these pre-service teachers.  As they launch to schools for their final practicum and to jobs in the teaching workforce, we hope they remember the Doucette Library has amazing resources for them to draw upon and that they return to make use of them.

And at this moment, I would like to thank my “partner-in-crime,” Tammy Flanders whose wonderful ideas and willingness to wear a tutu for a cause are second to none.  If you have a partner teacher like my partner librarian, your work life will be a breeze.  And I would also like to thank Dr. James Paul and his continual endorsement of the Doucette Library.  Our Maker Faire was a success because of all of the people involved.

New Maker Resources

After all that Design Thinking work, making seems to be an easy topic to go back and look at.  Two new series are interesting for teachers who have a bit of money in invest in some great resources.

The first series, Be A Maker! Maker Projects for Kids Who Love … (Games, Animation, Robotics, Graphic Design, Music) by various authors feature complete analysis of the area in the title.  For example Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Games gives a brief overview of a few skills, like collaboration, that you will need to be a game maker.  After a two page spread on the history of games and another about the development of Monopoly, discussion around what a games needs to be a game begins.  The first real maker challenge is a “hack,” take apart an existing game and investigate why is works.

After a section that discusses the design process, the next challenge features a few pieces from home or classroom and helps learners develop a game using the pieces.  Through various steps to invent the game, makers are pushed to create with what is available.  In the “Make it better!” section, makers reflect on the constraints of the activity.  Would fewer or more pieces help or hinder the design?

The final section of the book discusses prototyping and testing.  The final task sets makers up for designing a game from beginning to end, testing, revising it and testing again.  In this way, most of the books work through a design thinking process to show students about making.  This series would be great to have in classroom that is set to make.

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The second series, Connect with Electricity, contains titles like How LED’s Work, How Batteries Work, How Sensors Work, and How Conductors Work .  These resources would work best in a grade 4 – 7 class with interest on either side of these grades. These books are considered a very thorough introduction to the subject areas with a table of contents, glossary, answer key, selected bibliography, further resources and index.  Photographs capture the essence of each component as well as the historical context it can be viewed in.  And, I learned things from these books that would help set up a foundation for using electricity in various formats in making activities.  These books would make an excellent addition to your Maker Library of Resources.  They include some projects to build skills and others to promote a maker mindset in the classroom.

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Get your students thinking about making by having resources like these in your classroom library.  Both series make for interesting browsing.

Design Thinking – Final Reflections

Final Reflection by Tammy Flanders

In reviewing the workshops, we taught over the last two weeks, both Paula and I feel more certain that sticking with the Three Little Pigs scenario for both the secondary and elementary level students will be the way to go in the future. The feedback we got from the two classes of secondary students who had the opportunity to work through both scenarios felt it was the one that facilitated their understanding more. However, I feel sure that we will get push back from some secondary students who will see the fairy tale scenario as being too juvenile.  It will be up to Paula and me to ensure that the focus is on the design thinking process and NOT on the task. We just have to make it known to the students.

Upon further reflection, we feel that offering two examples of design thinking (one being the IDEO video where a shopping cart is redesigned and two, displaying our own work as represented in the workshop) is worthwhile. The shopping cart is a great example because the process results in a concrete object that has obviously undergone some significantly physical changes.  It is easy to see the prototype.

Presenting the workshop as a second example demonstrates what a less concrete application might look like. When students are trying to tie the design thinking process to their own classroom practice according to their curriculum specializations (humanities vs. science, math, and kinesiology) there is often a struggle as to what this will look like.  Prototyping is so strongly associated with producing a product that it becomes difficult to know that ‘thing’ looks like when it is not concrete. In the humanities especially, the prototype or product might not be an actual physical thing. It might be a concept, a program or a workshop.

Final Reflection by Paula Hollohan

After all the Design Thinking workshops we did, I firmly believe one thing.  As student teachers this explanation of the process must be experienced and that experience can be the lens through which you see the curriculum.

Students will be going through a few projects to live the design thinking process.  At the end of these five weeks, design thinking will be a lived experience for each of them.

As students prepare for their final practicum and for their own classrooms in September, it will be interesting to see which parts of the curriculum they view “through the lens of design thinking.”

Elementary specialists may feel they have the luxury of time for their students to really experience design thinking.  Secondary students, who feel their time is more regimented, may have to begin by seeing one curriculum unity through the design thinking lens.

Most articles cite the remarkable engagement of students in every grade who are tasked with learning with design thinking.  The adoption may be slow in secondary but will be fed through the invested, engaged students led by engaged teachers.

Resources

We do want you to visit our Research Guide about Design Thinking and Makerspaces.  Also visit our blogs that provide curated resources for various classroom settings.  Tammy’s blog is Apple with Many Seeds and Paula’s blog is Doucette Ed Tech.  We also have a variety of resources showcased through Pinterest Boards and some technology ideas collected on these boards.  All of these resources can be accessed even after graduation and are updated fairly regularly.

It was a great experience to teach the Design Thinking process to so many students and to have so much feedback on the process.  The count down is on for next year’s iteration.

Design Thinking Workshop Prototype

And this is the last peaceful moment we will enjoy at the Doucette for some 5 weeks.  Beginning on Monday, what seems like the sprint to the finish for 2nd year Werklund pre-service teachers will begin with the shot of a starting pistol (only figuratively) and continue at a break neck speed until February 14th.

Not that we, here at the Doucette, have been quiet.  Quite the opposite.  We have been developing a workshop for those same 2nd year students as they test the process of Design Thinking within their grade level and specialty teaching areas.  In order to end with a bang that we are metaphorically beginning with, a Maker Faire will be held here to showcase all of the prototypes of their learning on that final day, February 14.

Back to the workshop.  My partner in teaching, Tammy and I have been generally frustrated by each Design Thinking Workshop we have attended.  We began to visualize what the perfect workshop would look like in order to savour the language and process of Design Thinking.  During the brainstorm of our successes and disappointments, the number one reason for most of our frustrations was TIME.

In infomercial style, many workshops offered complete Design Thinking Training in 30 minutes or less.  And in order to experience Design Thinking, we bought into these workshops to soak up the process we had been reading so much about.   Let’s face it, spending two minutes to empathize with a real world problem is not enough.  Coming up with ideas to alleviate said problem with a 5 minute deadline is dreadful.

Developing our own workshop using the Design Thinking process embedded us in the steps to create a great learning experience for our students.  We decided, (listen carefully), to develop the workshop using the Design Thinking process making the workshop our prototype and having students test and give us feedback.  With me?  Okay, then we developed two humanities based scenarios to work with students through the first three defined steps of Design Thinking: Empathy, Definition and Ideation.

And so we begin the journey of walking 300+ students through the Design Thinking process using our workshop as prototype.  Beginning Monday, I will try to blog at the end of each day to let you know our successes and inspirations to change for new iterations. Notice how the word failure does not appear in this blogpost.  “Inspirations to change for new iterations” is the new failure where failure is, clearly, not an option.

Hang on, it is going to be a bumpy ride!