Pedagogy Litmus Test

We have a saying in our company.

“It’s about evolution, not revolution.”

It’s often the line I end workshops with. I encourage teachers not to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ and completely revamp their whole classroom practice, but to choose one thing that will make a difference tomorrow for their students (that they’ve learned from the day) and go from there.

BUT, there’s a caveat to that. If your classroom is operating in a way that needs revamping… then you TOTALLY need to start again. Our children’s future relies on them being taught, encouraged, nutured and developed in a way that is completely different from before. Our generation have adapted because we’ve had to but this generation’s need to be agile, collaborative and multi-skilled is crucial.

So, how do you know if your practice needs evolving or a complete revolution. Here’s an idea – a small test. Where is your class on this spectrum? If you’re far to the left, then you need some serious ‘pedagogical redesign.’

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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

Innovation’s not just a buzz word

No one likes to jump on a band wagon but the funny thing about cliches is that they become what they are because there’s some truth in there. ‘Innovation’ is like that. It’s overly used because we need it. Desperately.

 

We need innovative teachers and schools so that we prepare students for today, let alone for tomorrow. What we did yesterday just won’t cut it anymore, for these reasons;

  • the amount of fake news that needs filtering
  • the disruption to our familiar because of technology
  • the disconnect between family and community

If we keep following the techniques and practices that have worked in the past, just because it ‘used to work’ then we’ll miss what will work for now and tomorrow. It takes bravery and it’s not about short cuts.

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Quick question with long lasting consequences

Everyone’s talking about personalised learning. It’s one of the real reasons I love being a digital consultant for teachers and schools: it’s the technology we have now that enables this to happen on a manageable scale. And students are the winners!

One aspect of personalised learning that I think get’s overlooked (we’re often catering for style, timing, pace, age etc) is tailoring our programmes towards passions, interests and strengths. Here’s a question…

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Did you know it’s a myth that Einstein was a failure at school? He was actually a great student, from many accounts, with obvious strengths in Mathematics and the Sciences.

At the age of 12 he was studying Calculus, which at that time wasn’t normal until students were 15. He showed obvious strengths in this area. It would seem that, in 1881, his school system was flexible enough to cater for his strengths.

Interesting.

Too worried to poke the bear

I came across this quote yesterday on Twitter, by @wes_kieschnick. You’d have to agree, it’s not the kind of quote I would splash on the screen of a presentation with some teachers since it’s pretty confronting.

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But it’s real, right? I saw a classroom recently that had a pile of student work sitting on the teacher’s desk. It was a pile of A4 photocopied templates where the students had ‘published’ their writing in pencil and cut out and glued a photo from the internet in the bottom corner. I write ‘published’ since you could tell that they had rubbed out their errors (that’s why it’s in pencil) to get it perfect.

dontPoke-the-bearIs that preparation for the future? Is it even the world we live in now? I’m not aware of many, outside of some classrooms, who are sharing their ideas with other on paper with pencils. There are just so many better ways out there to get a message out to people.

What kind of school are you in? How can you be a ‘bear poker?’ A change maker. I think our kids deserve it.

‘Why’ – helps to have a vision.

Since seeing Simon Sinek’s Ted talk about the importance of ‘the why’ in everything we do (see the talk here, one of the most popular talks ever from the site) I’ve had this concept in my head with just about everything I do. From ‘why’ am I writing on this blog, to ‘why are we learning this in maths?’ I usually start with thinking or talking about the ‘why.’

I’ve really enjoyed working with schools lately who are discovering this for themselves. We’ve been looking at this through a digital learning lens; why do we want to use digital tools and the kinds of teaching and learning practices they allow. And it’s super exciting to be able to ‘see what we’re trying to achieve.’ If we walked around the school, once this is happening, what would we see?

So ‘the why’ leads to our vision. It’s SO important to be able to articulate where we are going since this helps us drive our decision making. Too many people, and schools, and businesses and families are busy ‘doing things’ and making action plans without actually having specific goals and a vision laid out.

Here are some interesting questions for you and your school, your colleagues, family, business partner, husband or wife.

“What is our vision? What would that look like when we get there?”

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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.