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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Cell Phones in (or out) of classrooms

The Ontario provincial government has opted  to ban cellphones in classrooms beginning in September 2019.  There are many points of view on this subject and I’ve been reading through many of the opinions.

I think that phones are a distraction in classrooms but can also be a tool.  Being a proponent of ed tech, I really want to think of a Utopian classroom where phones are used for good and not for evil.  Hearing from a seasoned teacher in this Huffington Post article, you would have to sympathize with the disruptions she sees everyday in her classroom.  But if students had a useful conversation with her about what it means to have their phones in class, doesn’t this mean that some compromise can be made.

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Given how almost every student has a phone, can it be used as a tool in some classrooms?

A discussion about being unplugged for certain classes may have buy in from students to see what it is like.  It gives them a new experience away from the minute to minute updates from their phones.

I think we have to be realistic with students, talking about what having a phone in the workplace looks like and what the expectations and etiquette about phone use is in different environments.  Talk about how having a phone is also a tool that can be used for research purposes and for homework.  Ignoring the presence of phones in the lives of students is not realistic.  Talking about digital citizenship and phone etiquette along with using phones as research tools is realistic and may be a wonderful way to educate students about when to use and not use their phones.

 

 

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.

 

 

The Horizon Report – 2018

Although The Horizon Report for the K-12 environment is the one I most pay attention to for writing this blog, this Horizon Report – Post Secondary has some interesting findings.

Educause has now partnered with NMC to research and publish the Horizon Report but the main areas of interest remain the same.download

This report examines key trends accelerating technology adoption in higher education (long, mid and short-term trends), significant challenges impeding technology adoption in higher education (solvable, difficult and wicked challenges), and important developments in educational technology for higher education (one, two-three and four-five years to adoption).

There is much to read and analyse in this report.  It is especially interesting to see how long post secondary takes to adopt some trends.  For example, one long term trend (five or more years) is to evaluate advancing cultures of innovation. (p.8)  Does this seem like a long time to adopt an innovative mindset within post secondary faculties?  I thought it was but that is my opinion.  Of course, the adoption will vary.  Some institutions and even some faculties within institutions will be faster to adopt an innovative mindset and create more diverse learning opportunities for students.

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The finding that “rethinking the roles of educators” is a wicked challenge is in line with discovery that innovation is a long term trend.  In order to innovate in the faculties of post secondary institutions there will have to be shift in the role of the educator.  As with the K-12 environment, teachers will be shifting from “knowledge experts to learning facilitators.” (p.34) Taking into account that students have knowledge at their fingertips in a way never experienced before in education, instructors and teachers will have to become comfortable with digital communications and guiding students to relevant, authentic data, research and conclusions.

There is so much more to talk about – this post is only the beginning.  I’ll follow up soon with information about Makerspaces and how they are becoming more prevalent in post secondary environments.  Pay close attention to page 40 of the report, “other  institutions, such as the university of Calgary, supply maker pedagogy, resources, materials selection criteria and project ideas.” See the note 208, it is linked to my research guide about makerspaces.  We will discuss the other findings in a new blogpost, later this week.

ii’ taa’poh’to’p (a place to rejuvenate and re-energize during a journey)

“ii’ taa’poh’to’p, the Blackfoot name of the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, was bestowed and transferred  in ceremony by Kainai Elder, Andy Black Water on June 21, 2017. The name signifies a place to rejuvenate and re-energize while on a journey.  Traditionally, these places are recognized as safe, caring, restful — and offer renewed energy for the impending journey.  In a traditional naming ceremony, transitioning into the new name is a journey of transformation towards self actualization.” (ii’ taa’poh’to’p)

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As the university and many other organizations begin the process toward reconciliation with the Indigenous people of Canada, individuals have an opportunity to do some of their own work to learn the devastating impact of colonization.

The Doucette Library has developed a top-notch collection of Indigenous resources for the K-12 audience and, while, it seems limited to certain ages, many of the resources are suitable for adults to read.  Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton, although aimed at a young audience gives a feeling of a child’s experience in Residential Schools.  The Education of Augie Merasty: A Residential School Memoir by David Carpenter and Joseph Auguste Merasty gives an adult perspective to the life-long effects of being sent to a Residential School.

8th Fire: Aboriginal Peoples. Canada and the Way Forward is a 3-DVD collection hosted by Wab Kinew that gives a present day perspective to the continuing relationship between these two cultures.

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A MOOC presented through Coursera and by University of Toronto called Aboriginal Worldviews and Education is free to audit.  The presenter is Jean-Paul Restoule and presents a current Indigenous perspective through lectures, special guests, readings and videos.  For a person beginning to learn about Truth and Reconciliation, this course is an excellent place to start.

A website entitled wherearethechildren.ca captures many residential school survivors and their stories recounted as adults.  This heart wrenching series of videos shows the results of the residential school system through the memories of these adults.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has published the “Calls to Action”  and that is a great place to start a personal journey to move towards reconciliation with Indigenous people.

Although the past shows the wrongs inflicted upon the indigenous peoples of Canada, the future is looking much brighter.  Werklund School of Education recently hosted a Youth Forum, inviting 17 grade 9 students from various parts of Alberta.  Working with these students showed how connected and involved they will be in recognizing the importance of having an indigenous voice in education.  Working with these students was a teaching and a learning experience.

 

 

 

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.

Podcasts as PD

Do you want to listen to podcasts during some of your downtime? What downtime?  Or while you are walking or exercising? Or sleeping?  I know teachers are very busy and on the verge of burn-out at this time of year but podcasts can help re-inspire or motivate you or simply get you through to the end of the year.  When asked if you are keeping up with your professional development, you can confidently nod and discuss something about the latest examples of project based learning.  No one needs to know that it was the last thing you listened to before parking your car this morning.

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Search for podcasts that interest you and your passion within your chosen profession.  There are, literally, podcasts for everything.

I suggest, to get started, my two favourite bloggers who have recently entered the podcast realm.

  1. Creative Classroom by John Spencer based on his blog.
  2. Inside Innovation by AJ Juliani

If you have no time to read the blogposts, perhaps you can listen.

I also like the idea of EduAllStars in which a different education innovator is featured in each episode.  WiredEducator.com also offers a variety of interviews with clever educators adapting and adopting technology into their classrooms.

Free webinars often offered great information about using technology and making in the K-12 classroom but many have become “sponsored” by various technology companies and no longer offer the breadth of knowledge they once did.  Podcasts fill that gap by offering innovative ideas within the context of an interview or listening opportunity that is free and not subject to any schedule.

Try one out.  Podcasts are just one more tool in your professional development tool belt.

New Equipment at the Doucette

Do you have a podcast you want to record?  Do you want to do research in a completely new way?  Are you sharing podcasts with your students?

Werklund School of Education has just acquired some new technology to make all of these ways of communicating easier.   Early in March, two Go Pro Cameras will be available for loan up to a week.  These cameras will have chest harnesses so that researchers can record what students and teachers are saying and doing in various research environments.

Because of the popularity of the Yeti microphone that was purchased last year, we have added two more to the collection.  This piece of technology makes for great recording of the spoken voice to share a podcast with your students.

In addition to these major pieces of loanable technology, we have also added two blue-tooth speakers to the collection making it easier to share learning with your students.

We are also expecting a flurry of new robots.  They are always fun to experiment with in classes from K-12 or with your own teaching students.  By prior booking, there will be a total of five Ozobot kits to use with a class.  Other robots are expected soon as the recommendation to include coding in classrooms from K-12 becomes more intense.

In addition to all the new, cool technology, we are welcoming a new Technology Support Assistant for Werklund School of Education to work from the Doucette Library.  Linda Easthope will be joining us beginning in March to help you with your many technology queries.

Please also remember that the iPads, MacBooks and PC carts can be loaned out from Monday to Friday between 8:30am and 6pm while students are here and until 4:30pm during intercession.

All of this technology is available for sign out from the Doucette Library during regular library hours.  Please come and visit us with your UCID and we can arrange for you to borrow it.  We would also like to hear how you are using it to complete your research or as an addition to your classroom.

 

Coding – Where Do I Start?

 

Well I actually know where I started coding and it was the Daisy the Dinosaur App. Although I know that I should be ashamed to say it, I’m not. For my age, I think any kind of coding is a bonus. Something I never, ever thought I would be learning and, yet, here I am.

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And, because the focus in the Doucette Library is to take this educational technology out to the K-12 environment, I think walking the walk and talking the talk is where it is at.

Moving forward was a tougher decision. Everywhere I looked there seemed to be options to learn coding at the next level. Python seemed a bit of a stretch, like speaking Greek before learning Greek. Thanks to a couple of robots, though, my decision became more evident. Ozobot and Dash and Dot both use Blockly (and there is also a Blockly Jr.) So I learned some great terms like looping and moving of robots with simpler click and drag commands.

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Alas, there are larger programming needs on my horizon. For the wearable workshop that we are working on, I would like to, also, invest some time with Scratch. This language also calls upon the click and drag method to watch what happens and that suits me fine.

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My experience with Arduino taught me that I was trying to gallop before I knew how to walk. Much of the coding for arduinos is open source but I am not yet able to predict what the outcome of downloading much of the code will be or how to make minor changes to affect the downloaded code. And, yet, I keep at it, learning step-by-step. I also know that I am not an intuitive coder.

I’ve collected a few good websites, apps and resources to help you begin to bring coding into your classroom or to try something to connect with other coders out there in the world. Take a look here to see where to start.

It’s January – Stop Procrastinating!

App for January

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30/30 App by Binary Hammer

Cost: Free

Version: 2.1.7

Size: 19.0 MB

In-App Purchases

Do you, or the students you work with, have focus issues?  Do you find it hard to complete or substantially take a bite out of a task at one sitting?  This app is for you.  It takes the guess work out of how much time you have to spend on a task and how often you should be checking your phone.  It was recently reported that the average person looks at their phone 115 times a day.  How does anyone get anything done?

And it is not just checking a smartphone that takes attention away from the task at hand.  It would seem society at large is determined to interrupt you often enough to seriously change how focused you can be.

Here is an app that can help with keeping you or your students on task for a stated amount of time.  Use that smartphone to outsmart the interrupters.

“The app allows you to pre-set a list of tasks and allocate the length of time that you want to spend on each activity. The app makes a sound when it is time to move on to the next task. But most impressive about this app is the visual component. You can color code each task, watch the timer count down, and see the list of tasks coming up next.” Jennifer Sullivan and Ron Samul, eSchoolNews, December 6, 2017

All true and waiting for you to download for free.  You can use all the features effectively without any of the in-app purchases.

Hmmm.  I wonder if this would work for my backlog of work.  I seem to remember a saying  about an old dog and a new trick.