STEM Elements

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 7.06.59 AM.pngOne of our most popular regional events is the “STEM and Digital Technologies” workshop we offer. Teachers have a day to explore both the pedagogy of STEM and get hands on with a range of technologies, from Sphero SPRK+, to low tech gear like popsical sticks and ping pong balls! You can see a Twitter moment here which gives you a small window into the action!

This week I’ve been updating some of the material we share on the day and I’ve adjusted this graphic of the ‘STEM Elements’, based on based on the book, “STEM Lesson Essentials, Grades 3-8” by Jo Anne Vasquez, Cary Sneider, Michael Comer. STEM ELEMENTS (1)

 

These elements are a great way to make the important aspects of STEM stand out for teachers and I also encourage them to use these four elements as a planning guide when they’re preparing to engage students in STEM. When we have an empty box it forces us to fill it in! It’s a helpful way to help us engrain this thinking when we are starting out and a good technique to foster new pedagogies into our school culture.

STEM ELEMENTS planning (1).png

Here are some images from the workshop ran last Wednesday. If you’d like to host a regional STEM event at your school, or have me work exclusively with your staff, contact me here on Twitter or use the contact widget on this page.

 

Listen to the Learning Chatter

If you’re like me then you love using technology to engage and motivate learning in your classroom. One of the ‘hits’ you often have to take when you do this is being labelled as a ‘teacher into toys.’ It’s frustrating to hear since you know and have seen the difference they can make for your learners.

img_2650One of the ways you can show others the benefits of these ‘toys’ is to record some of the conversations that your students are having during activities. I’ve started to call this;

  • LEARNING CHATTER = the language and conversations of learning in action.

Here’s a video of some sound bites I captured with one group at a recent Sphero SPRK+ demo hour I took at a local Primary School. Listen for the subject based vocab, the design thinking and collaboration here.

 

Coding Resources Hyperdoc

There will be a load of teachers in Australia and New Zealand starting to think about planning for the year ahead with a new class and a new group of students. One of the things we are always hoping to do is to inspire and motivate them in those first few weeks.

What better way to do this than to launch them into the world of coding! If you’re after a resource to help you get started, here’s a poster with some clickable links to take you straight to the app or website you’ll need.

pic66

There are resources for anyone just starting out, through to more advanced users who are looking to develop their understanding of syntax coding. I’ve also written about this in more depth here, on our website at Using Technology Better. Click the links below to see the online versions and download your own copy if needed using the links at the top of the PDF.

Google Drive – Coding Resources Download

Microsoft OneDrive  – Coding Resources Download

Being ‘Tech Multi-Lingual’

For the last 2 years I’ve been a full time digital learning specialist. That’s a long winded way of saying I’m a technology coach in schools. It’s the culmination of having a growing interest in technology while I was a teacher, that expanded from being the school IT lead teacher, to facilitating a cluster of schools, then being full time in an itinerant role in my local city and finally, now, working full time for Using Technology Better, an international training company.

teh-1For most of this journey, especially while working in schools, you are usually locked into one technology ecosystem. Schools either adopt one platform or another and mostly since teachers (on the whole) struggle to keep up with technology as it is and the last thing we need is people on different devices confusing things. It’s also easier for the IT department or person to manage. (Let’s be honest…that’s usually the reason.)

tech pic.jpgSo I’ve spent most of my time in the Apple world, using Google and later on, Chrome Books. I dabled with Samsung phones (I loved my first S4 and the camera it had at the time) but have mostly used iPhones and Macbooks for the last 8 years. But if you saw my desk at moment – it’s a range of Apple, Microsoft and Chrome Books. And I would use most of this gear on a daily basis!

I remember a conversation with a colleague of mine, about 3 years ago. She was starting to work as a digital learning consultant and I asked which platform she used. Her reply took me back. She said they had to be ‘device agnostic.’ It just sounded plain weird! In those days you were either a PC or a Mac person. And you still hear comments like that now. I know people who won’t go near a kind of device cause it’s not from ‘their tribe’ regardless of whether it might have merit or value for what they’re trying to do.

So now, my role is to help schools learn to get the most out of whatever platform they are using. I’m currently preparing to train teachers in the Office 365 environment with Onenote and Microsoft Classroom – and these tools are amazing! I’m super impressed with the way that OneNote structures their notebooks and tabs, and connects with digital ink (the stylus and the drawing function) in a way that is so familiar to every teacher, for marking and editing student work for example.snip_20170107114317

I think, my main point here is that schools and teachers would benefit so much if the people making the decisions about what tech they use had an open mind to the range of options out there! And maybe, in the next few years we will see schools being open to having ‘the right tool for the right job’ with a range of different devices being used across the school. The days of, ‘We’re a Mac school’ or ‘We’re a Google school’ could be a thing of the past as we become ‘Tech Multi-Lingual.’

BUT –  I think I know the reasons why schools go in one direction or the other. BYOD programmes that let students bring any kind of device into classrooms with teachers who aren’t prepared for the range of tech is a recipe for disaster. What I’m advocating and talking about is a shifting world where we increasingly live and work in a shared tech space. Not most but many of us are realising the benefits of it and I think schools will shortly follow suit.

Are you seeing this in your schools?

 

Google Calendar Goal Update

Google Calendar has been my default calendar for over 10 years now! That’s a long time in anyone’s books and it keeps getting better. Last year (2016 – getting my head around that still) I got really used to using the IOS Google Calendar app – especially for the integration with reminders and the Keep app.

Today Google released an update for the ‘goals’ feature that lets you set some goals around fitness, building a skill, friends and family time etc. The app takes you through some questions that set when, how long and what you’re hoping to do and then synchs that info with your calendar and sends you reminders. You can also tell the app when you’ve completed the goal and it keeps track of your progress for the week.

screen_shot_2017-01-06_at_9_17_15_am
Open the app, bottom right corner click the ‘plus.’
screen_shot_2017-01-06_at_9_17_59_am
Calendar selects the best time for your goal. You can change this, though.

I’ve set a goal for this month to run every day, for at least 30 minutes each morning. We’ll see how that goes!

There’s also a feature that stores your info from your fitness tracker which I’m still working out…haven’t managed it yet for my Apple Watch but will record how when I do.

 

3 Ways to get the most out of your Sphero robots in the classroom!

Last week I was helping the Macgear team demonstrate the Sphero SPRK (Schools, Parent, Robots and Kids) robots to educators at the NZ Ulearn Conference in Rotorua. Here’s a short vid I made that shows some of the snippets of what we were up to for the 2 days.

We use these robots in our STEM workshops with teachers and they’re one of my favourite STEM tools to use; I’ll explain why in a later post. Here’s a link to our upcoming events page where you can see the dates and venues of some STEM workshop days coming up. (Let me know if your schools would be interested in hosting!)

Here are 3 ways to make sure you’re getting ‘learning bang’ for your buck with your Sphero.

1.The teacher is ALWAYS key!

Just like every learning situation, the role of the teacher is paramount. And not in a central, dominant way but as a facilitator, driver, connector and coach. The learning that happens is always best done in discover mode, where the learners are working things out, solving their own problems and making their own ‘cognitive links.’ It’s the teacher, however, who has a crucial part to play to;

a) Frame the activity – create the motivating problem or scenario,

b) Help redirect and scaffold the learner towards some learning outcomes,

c) Provide the framework for reflection and to help students make connections with what they’ve learned – and the space to share those with others.

2. Use a great learning app, like The Lightning Lab

This app – The Lightning Lab, is a great app to use with the Sphero SPRK, partly because of the community you can connect with. Students can download other people’s programmes and build on top, or alternatively, create their own programme and become Sphero authors by uploading to the community themselves!

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-7-26-45-am
SPRK Lightning Lab App – IOS Android, Chrome OS.

The community section also has activities and lessons that teachers and students have written and shared within the app – it’s a great way to share learning experiences and get ideas for your next activity. An even better idea is to have students create a learning experience (around a concept such as angles, gravity, friction etc) and share with others through the app!

3. Combine the digital with the material world…like a boss!

I love seeing the digital world interact with the material – afterall, that’s reality! When we scaffold experiences like the one in the video, where we make a craft that will move across the water, and include a coded programme for the Sphero to automate the craft, we are connecting so many areas of the curriculum and AMPLIFYING the learning. Who doesn’t like getting hands on with things!

IMG_1793.PNG

Those are my three tips! Do you have any other ideas or things you know work with your Spheros? Leave a comment below or retweet this link in Twitter with an idea to share.

Book Creator Comic Tips

This week I’ve been making some comics with a class in the Book photoCreator app. It’s part of a bigger ‘app-smash’ we’re working on by combining the comic with the Explain Everything app to make an animated video.

Here are some tips to creating a comic with backgrounds, characters, and layered objects to give your comics a super professional look!

background

1. Insert a background into each panel.

The new updated Book Creator has a great comic layout with loads of comic like features. Elements such as stickers, comic looking fonts and text functions and PANELS! These are one of my ‘go-tos’ for students adding photos into a page. When they click the photo or camera icon within a panel the app fits the photo perfectly inside it.

When adding a background image for your comic strip, use this approach to give each panel the right backdrop. You can use the same image and zoom in or out for each panel using the 2 finger pinch and stretch.

 

transparent2. Use the ‘transparent’ option when searching for character images.

Students can search and save the right character images on a Google search by finding and using a ‘long press’ on the image to ‘Save image.’ This will appear in their camera roll for use later.

BUT, if you want to use images that can be layered without a background attached to the actual image (it will look like the character is cut out) then use the ‘Search tools > Color > Transparent’ function to search for PNG files. These will have a grey and white checkered background when opened and these save as PNGs for you to add to your comics.

 

3. Add your characters with the + icon.character

When you’re adding the characters you will need to use the + button at the top right of the screen, rather than the camera and photo function inside the panel. If you use that function then the character will replace the background of the panel. The + button process will let you move the character over top or inside the panel as needed.

 


layering4. Layer the objects using the ‘move forward and back’ section.

The last step is to work on getting your characters, stickers, speech bubbles and other elements to be layered in the right way. The default order is that the last thing added will go to the top…but to change this order simply select the element, click on the ‘I’ (or inspector) and use the ‘Move forward and back’ function. This lets you order the elements how YOU want them.

 

And here’s the finished product of all of these tweeks. It’s incredible what students can create using a few techniques and the greatest thing is seeing the sense of accomplishment and pride at what they’ve achieved – as well as the chance to consolidate and deepen their understanding of new learning.

img_1453

Tech Tips Video – How to import codes from VPP to Meraki

Here’s a quick ‘Tech Tips’ video on a question I was recently asked, and one that comes up often. It can be a bit of a rabbit warren to navigate around the Meraki site but hopefully this helps to give some direction.

Remember that when pushing the apps to iPads you could have iPads in tags and select those instead of ‘select all’ if you wish.

Check out the Youtube link for links to Meraki and the VPP.

 

#Eduinfopics – Posters that say a whole lot

Here’s the latest of my #eduinfopics. Today I worked with some Year 2 children on an eBook project we’re putting together to learn about time and clocks. The students are working in pairs – something that I’m finding is the best ratio for learning on iPads – without a doubt. Here’s why;

  • working in 3s leaves 1 person left out,
  • 2s always has someone to ask first when the other forgets,
  • it enables students to work on their collaborative skills – listening, sharing, co-operating etc

Kiwi_20151105_175922

Teacher Learner Term 3

This term I learnt how to snowboard.

6a9f8d3d3ee6e3b4d105da46921a9a55In 2010 I wrote a post about how we all need to make the shift from ‘teacher expert’ to ‘teacher learner.’ Sadly, this is one of the main things holding many of us back from helping our students make the shift into being ready for today’s world. Many of us have a teaching mentality that is fixed and not geared for growth and when we realise that we can’t be the holder of all knowledge and expertise then we open ourselves up to be vulnerable in front of our students. We become more able to be change agents in every way.

This term I decided to learn how to snowboard. I’ve been a skier since I was about 8. My family would have the occasional winter trip up the mountain and I kept the ski trips up into my teens with my friends when I left home and then with school trips since I’ve moved to the South Island.

This year, however, I took the chance to learn a whole new discipline when my wife and I took our kids to Cardrona for the first time. If I’m going to be on the learners slopes, I thought, I might as well learn something new alongside them.

So, a family day out, 2 school trips and a day with some friends later and I have had 4 days this season getting to grips with standing sideways, making ‘toe turns’ and actually cracking a rib (I think… at least it REALLY hurts when I sneeze and I have trouble rolling over in bed). BUT it was worth it.

Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 9.25.29 pmOne of the greatest outcomes of this adventure has been the chance to show my class how much I’ve failed. I showed them this short clip of me crashing a few times and I was amazed at how interested they were. It’s easy to forget how important it is for other learners to see us failing and to keep on trying. I really like this poster for getting this message across, too.

Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 9.30.42 pm

Below is a video I put together using our new school Gopro camera. We’ve decided to buy this to create a new version of our ‘What I did at school’ video we first made 3 years ago. This snowboarding day out with some friends was my chance to get to grips with the camera’s ‘ins and outs.’ There are quite a few tricks to using it, as it turns out. The music is from American Authors, ‘Best Day of my Life.’

I wonder what I’ll learn to do next term?

Learner Poster = eatteachblog.com/

Fail Poster = peachysceneblog.blogspot.co.nz