Freeing the Ed Tech

In September of 2018 and all of this academic year, I have been releasing all the ed tech kits to the shelves.  In a wildly successful experiment, ed tech like littleBits, Sphero Sprk 2.0, ozobots and OSMO are left to fend for themselves on the open shelves in the library.

Other years while I was acquiring the ed tech, I had a conversation with almost every student who took out these kits to use in the classroom.  Although this was wonderful in getting to know students and how they were using the tech, it was not sustainable as a model for taking out technology kits.

As I released the kits to the shelves something wonderful happened.  All of the kits were loaned for classroom use and lesson planning, all the time. Not a one left anywhere.

It showed me that students know how to use these kits in the classroom and are just waiting for a chance to integrate them into their planning.  The initial training on most of the kits is self taught by Youtube and by the other resources the Doucette has like the research guides.  Students are beyond prepared to introduce technology into their curriculum planning.

However, I also noticed something else.  Once the kits are gone there is no back up.  Even when I want to teach with the kits to special groups or classes, I am facing the same timelines as students, putting kits on hold 10 days before any time of teaching.

And so, we are adding MORE of the kits that are most popular to the shelves.  More Ozobots.  More Sphero Sprk 2.0 (and their mini partners).  Thanks to the generous contribution of Werklund School and Dr. Lock, we will have more of everything on the shelf.  Hopefully, this will mean that more students will have more access to more ed tech by the fall.  And if more students are integrating more ed tech into more classrooms, the sky is the limit.  Our next innovators and entrepreneurs will be challenged to take the next steps after technology is embedded in classrooms to make education the most interactive and engaging time in a student’s life.  And that is a very good result.

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Opportunity and Curiosity

Taking advantage of many of the opportunities we are offered is just the beginning of learning to be curious and creative.  Networking with like-minded people or those who expand the ways we think about education are connections that move us forward.

Our first opportunity is coming from a PhD student who can spend an hour or two teaching a small group about the foundation skills and language around coding our wearables.  Now this seems like something I would sign up for.  Before doing a deep dive into the wearables kits that we have purchased, I think this casual, no-pressure overview is a great place to start.  It helps me get my mind around what we are doing, how we are thinking and what the possible outcomes are before we open the more interesting (read complex) kits we have purchased.

For faculty and sessionals, taking the opportunity to visit the Doucette and be introduced to our two newest robots, Jack and Jill, EZ robots with a Calgary connection, will make your teaching and learning a little more fun and engaging.  These robots, investigated by Linda Easthope, are charming and accessible whether you like robotics or need a little nudge to include them in your practice.

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And finally, Tammy and I have an opportunity to visit the new public library.  Looking at the inspirational, flexible work spaces, especially in this library, is an opportunity I just can’t miss.  Looking at this beautiful building even from the outside, inspires me to want to pursue my interests in various spaces inside.  I see they even have sewing machines.  The new library’s space is inspirational for all who are curious and creative.

My advice is to take or make opportunities to move forward in your teaching and learning.  Find out about something new like coding, make an appointment to meet up with Linda, Jack and Jill or just visit a new spot like the library.  Any one of these things can be inspiring and can challenge to move your teaching and learning forward.

Radio Jones and His Robot Dad

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Cost: Free

Size: 677.8 MB

Works on: iOS 7.0 or later

Radio Jones and His Robot Dad is an iPad app that is a graphic wordless novella.  Following the story that many kids experience, Radio Jones deals with a workaholic dad who appears to not have any time to spend with his son.

Radio creates a robotic dad that plays and explores and has adventures with him.  As you “read” the story, you will find a few interactive screens.

I won’t include any spoilers here but, let’s just say that Radio and his dad come to an agreement when it comes to the robot dad.

A lovely way to interact with an app in the days leading up to Father’s Day for kids (and for dads).

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.

 

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.