Let them loose – they’ll surprise you.

We help schools develop their STEM learning development with their students and teachers and one of my favourite activities is the ‘Artbot’ design challenge. It’s super low tech with simple circuitry and coloured felts and uses mostly vibration as a mechanism to drive the cup across paper to create some ‘art.’

artbot-operationMost of the time students will create something that resembles this image, especially if you frame this as a research exercise where they can research what an Artbot is.

But, given the time and space to ideate, design and redesign, students will often come up with stunning designs, completely out of the box. These students yesterday created a hand held rotating mechanism. Brilliant. I’d never seen that before.

See what happens when we allow them that time and freedom to imagine, to create, to explore. That’s what people were made to do. We were created to create.

Image above –cdn.sciencebuddies.com

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.

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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.

 

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!

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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!

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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.

So you’re Team Teaching now, are you?

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 10.16.23 pmOur school has been working in Team Teaching pairs now for the best part of a year. It’s been so successful and beneficial across the board that we couldn’t imagine going back to teaching alone. We are also really pleased to see that this approach to a school structure is catching on all over the country and we’re having quite a few schools visiting to see what all the fuss is about.

Of course we’re not claiming to invent the idea of working with other teachers – my first introduction came from Jo Fothergill, a teacher from New Zealand, who spoke about her team teaching aspirations at an Educamp we hosted at our school in 2012. But we are very proud at our school of developing a whole school culture that has embraced Team Teaching as a crucial part of our shared pedagogy and learning programme.

So – why is there so much push back? I’m going to start a short series of posts that will ‘unpack’ (one of my favourite words, apparently) some of the reasons why TT gets so much resistance and also what makes it work at our school!

 

The Power to Act – Agency

Well – my word for the year (ownership) is growing some really long arms and legs! Here are some of those ‘limbs’ and the impact they are having on our learners.
This video, by Derek Wenmoth, explains some terminology for me around the concept of ‘student agency.’ He explains agency as the ‘power to act’ and it has really captured my attention as we build our active learning approach at our school.

In this video, Derek explains how student agency involves 3 dynamics and I’ve added some implications for our classrooms.

1. The initiative – self regulation of the student.

  • this describes exactly what we are trying to do – engage the learner to be more and more independent and self starting.

2. The relationship is inter-dependent – mediates and is mediated by the socio cultural context of the classroom.

  • the importance of a collaborative culture is key here. How we work together, give and seek peer feedback and create an environment where students want to learn together is incredibly important.

3. An awareness of responsibility of the learner’s own actions and the impact on the environment and on others.

  • our learner licenses approach is working really well in facilitating the right amount of support for each learner and I’m wondering how we can use it better to have student’s mentoring / supporting and encouraging others learning behaviours.

I can see how this terminology is going to catch on as some shared vocabulary for our school. Especially with the parents. Interestingly – one thing I have learnt to do, when talking about this with parents is to emphasise the ‘active learning’ aspect rather than ‘independent learning’ as the latter has overtones of teachers trying to take a back seat to the process.

So – here are 2 aspects of our programme that we have recently invested in across our school to help develop the agency of our students. While not exhaustive, they both form some important pillars to help empower our learners.

Solo Taxonomy

One of our teacher only days this term was spent working with Pam Hook, exploring the ways to incorporate the Solo Taxonomy approach in our classrooms. Solo is an assessment method that involves students, at all stages of the learning journey, to help them see where their understanding is and what to work on next. Pam, @arti_choke, has a knack for explaining the approach in a way that makes sense for people and has developed some fantastic resources for teachers to use with their learners.

She is always very generous with her resources on her site and we have already started using the hexagons, thinking maps and assessment matrix tools. My goal for our class is to be able to use the assessment icons and levels to be able to understand and articulate how well they have grasped a skill or idea and what they should next. This should give us some important vocabulary to use during those crucial learning conversations.

e.g, “How well do I know how to use syllables to decode words? Well, my understanding is at ‘multi-structural’ but I need to understand when and why to use them when I read – that will move my understanding to the ‘relational’ level.”

Learning Pathways and Self Selected Workshops

Last week our Senior Teachers travelled to Dunedin to visit St Clair School and we were hosted by @msbeenz (Claire Buist) AP and teacher, and her team. We have been hugely influenced by Claire’s approach with empowering students to self assess their progress using Goal Sheets and then booking workshops with the teacher. We were very impressed to hear their journey with this approach last year and to see the development of this approach with her team this year.

Our Senior Team has begun to adopt this approach, with our own spin, and combined it within our team teaching approach which will have, I can already see, the following benefits.

  • increased student agency
  • increased quality and quantity of learning conversations to help guide and support the learner.
  • more active and engaged learners!
One of the areas to explore from our visit is how to best develop the home-school connection and whether our current ‘homework’ programme is the best approach. I’m expecting that the ability for the learner to engage with their next steps is something that could and should be able to continue outside of school hours. So, there is enormous potential for our use of google apps, Ultranet and our other online tools carry on this journey.
Here are 2 other links to some docs we sent home for parents that explain how our learning programme has developed so far. This ‘coalition’ between school and home is something we are always looking to grow and the conversations these documents have continued has been crucial to the learning culture we are developing in the school.
We are certainly in the midst of some exciting times and it feels like the pieces of the ‘Active Learning’ approach are falling into place. And when we combine all this with an increasing access to the learning tools we need (10 Chrome books arrived this afternoon!) then the road ahead just keeps getting more and more exciting. 
I hope our learners are starting to feel excited as well. I’m thinking it may be time for some student voice!

Mediamash Workshop Slides

I’m part of an initiative called, ‘Mediamash‘ which is aimed at inspiring schools to dig into the treasure chest of digital media for their learning programmes.

Today we launched our first teacher and student workshops. These are the slideshows from 2 workshops I ran, with a colleague.

I always love talking with other teachers about the systems and methods we’re using in our classes – especially ones with so much passion and enthusiasm for giving our students the best possible learning experiences!

Rewind’ed’ and Mash’ed’

Yesterday our class created some artwork using a simple checkerboard pattern and a 3D effect. To walk them through the process I used the paperfiftythree app – great to screen share with the appleTV and create your own digital whiteboard.

It was when I used the rewind feature (2 fingers moved in a circular motion) to show them the process from start to finish that I realised the whole process could be captured in a screenshare movie. And with a little ‘mashing’, here’s what it looked like.
So – here’s the process from ‘woah to go’ (why is it in that order? Nonsensical).
1. Create the drawing in Paperfiftythree
2. Screenshare to laptop using Reflector app
3. Capture video using Quicktime Pro
4. Import and create video on iMovie
5. Create soundtrack clip on Iambeatbox app
6. Share to Soundcloud and download
7. Add to video project in iMovie
8. Upload to Youtube
Phew. It’s always amazing how apps, programmes and sites share to each other. That’s what you could call ‘Mashed’.

Worried about losing an ipad at school?

Our school has had a large roll out of ipads minis this year and it’s been a journey learning how to
 – configure
 – register
 – store
 – update
 – charge
 – secure!

Last week we had one of ours go missing for a weekend and we weren’t sure how to find it. So – once it was found in the library shelf – we set about getting ‘Find my iphone’ set up on all of them. No mean feat!

Here’s a video I’ve made that shows the steps. I’m intending to share this with parents, too so they can have some peace of mind over the BYODs they send with their children each day.

Created on Quicktime Pro – music made on ‘I am Beatbox’ app.

Time Lapse Fun!

During the last school holidays I edited and posted a movie on our class and school blogs. I wanted to showcase the ‘business’ of our days for the parents of my class – a push back against the ‘nothing much’ response to that age old question from our parents, ‘What did you do at school today?’

The video was posted on the Core Education blog here, a few weeks later.  It was great to see the comments coming in and a few questions asked and the gawker software I used to create the timelapse video is something I’m keen to use again.


The next video is something I made using my iphone and and old light mount on my mountain bike.  The video speaks for itself and was the result of a ‘play around’ day when the rest of the family was out for the day.

And here is a video that is truly inspiring! The power of timelapse to tell a story, especially one that is told over a long period of time, is fantastic. This is by Christoph Rehage and was created from footage over a year. A bit longer than our school holidays allow…

Have you used a time lapse sequence in a video? Are you inspired to give it a go? Why not join in the fun!