Visions of Future Learning and the STEAM Lab

If all goes well, the new STEAM by Design Lab will be constructed during the 2020 – 2021 which will include Science Labs and the Library. I feel this is one of the most important efforts I will ever be involved in as a professional educator. I believe a well designed learning space will fuel learning for the next 50 years of learning. A poorly designed learning space will restrict the next 50 years of learning. Which will we build? Will the design be based on the research and neuroscience of how we learn? Or will the architects design a space that comes in on a budget set in times when rooms for learning were teacher centric, relied on compliance over engagement, and when information was scarce and learners could not learn without being in school. All of those things have changed dramatically in just the last 20 years or so. I have been thinking about this a lot as I think we need to get this right.  Another factor is the fact that this will not be a space I help design for myself but for most likely my replacement. As my career is now sprinkled with the internal debate of retirement along with the occasional question from colleagues; “How many years do you have left?”, it is clear to me that my lasting impact on the future DA students will be how I helped our school think about designing spaces for learners and learning and not for teachers and subjects.

The drawing above is where my thinking is now for what I think the STEAM by Design labs should look like. A list of must haves is forming although I am sure it will change before the ground is broken or the current building is touched.

My thinking is being guided by my 25 years of teaching and learning along with these awesome organizations and folks.

TranscendEducation has put out a wonderful resource for designing spaces for learning. http://www.transcendeducation.org/designing-4-learning

Learning Transformed Book by Eric C. Sheninger and Thomas C. Murray http://www.ascd.org/Publications/Books/Overview/Learning-Transformed.aspx

David Jakes’ many resources: https://davidjakesdesigns.com/ideas/2018/8/28/what-your-spaces-say and https://davidjakesdesigns.com/

American School of Shanghai Learning Spaces Manifesto : “If a space delivers everything we expect, it hasn’t been pushed far enough. “ https://www.saschina.org/academics/learning-spaces

Designing for Learning by American Association of Architects: http://designforlearning.archfoundation.org/

And good ole Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon at Modern Learners: https://modernlearners.com/ and especially the post about Designing for Learning https://modernlearners.com/designing-for-learning/ which discusses the work of  Carol Black and her post http://carolblack.org/the-gaze and Ira David Socol https://mystudentvoices.com/what-does-it-mean-to-build-a-school-or-to-rebuild-a-school-3c8dd5b356d5

Watch her video on WEIRD societies. (Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic)

 

Creating Conditions for Learning & Not Feeling Guilty

I am finishing up the last of the 7 summer camps I do with the help of Donovan and Hutch. You can see what we offer here. I forget how many years I have been doing summer camps for at least the past 10 years as Donovan took my camps when he was much younger. In the early camps, Devin (Donovan’s older brother), Ada, and myself would create materials for the camps we offered. I even created wikis and other supporting sites. Check out this post from 2008. We worked really hard before, during, and after the camps to make sure all of the software, hardware, directions, projects, and plans were ready to go. Ada used to make wonderful handouts with screenshots and directions to create mazes in Scratch. Her sister Gala even helped out in camps and beta tested the handouts. These camps were very successful and fun, but oh so 2008 as we controlled the entire learning cycle as everyone made the same thing at the same time with the same methods. We were doing recipes not projects. We were doing the best we knew at the time. Doing it this way in 2018 would be insane if not educational malpractice given the changes in our world and the wealth of resources available to change how the learning cycle is constructed. We now have resources like CS First with Scratch, CodeMonkey, Made with Code, Code.org, Tinkercad, and a wealth of other free or subscription based resources. The resources are all web-based and use the latest privacy and security protocols and allow us to work anywhere we have an internet connection.

Over the last 2 to 3 years that we have been using these new resources our camps have changed dramatically from the early days where we did recipe instructions. As Dr. Beth Holland and Will Richardson discussed in their podcast from Modern Learners, we have shifted the pace, place, path, and time to allow the campers “learners” to own what they learn. I have had to adjust my thinking that I was not doing as much as I should do to provide the campers with a rewarding experience. What we are doing is more of a blended learning camp although I do not like anything about that terminology. Dr. Holland shared a post about breaking the grammar of school/learning which I think is relevant to how we should all look at learning whether it be summer camps or academic classes. I sort of felt guilty though as what I do is different from what I did. While I no longer have to create handouts and other resources, I now curate and create the scaffolds for learning by using my wisdom and years of experience. I do the same sort of curation in the STEAM by Design seminar I offer during the academic year. My feeling guilty was about me personally when I need to consider my professional guilt if I was still doing summer camps or academic instruction the same way I did it 10 years ago. Learners will learn with us or without us.

How do I know what I am doing now is best for the learners? By listening and observing what is happening to see learners help each other, discuss solutions to problems, smile, laugh, be sad when it is time to stop, go home and continue the learning. I think this is because they own the learning.

Equal Parts Inspiration and Perspiration – Reflections on STEAM by Design Year 2

UPDATE on July 27, 2018 as I just found this post in my drafts which gave me an epiphany related to the bulk of this post that I worked on in May.  These are features and not bugs which I will embrace as look at the learning that is taking place by all of us.

As we closed out another year in learning together, I think the title best illustrates how I feel about the year. We had periods of high-level inspiration happening with learners owning their learning and regulating what they worked on, failed at, and overcame in the different units we explored. I will make adjustments to next years seminar in order to increase the inspiration although I am acutely aware that I will never eliminate the flow between inspiration and perspiration due to the nature of what STEAM by Design in at its core.

The most inspiring learning was demonstrated by learners who could self-regulate, direct their own learning, stick with an idea even though it involved many iterations before they achieved the success they were hoping for. This is the standard I hope to achieve with all learners in STEAM by Design. Here are some of their reflections, feedback from survey, and work.

  

“At first I wasn’t interested in this class but my parents made me do it. I ended up loving it and now it is by far my favorite class.” “This class was fun and taught me a lot.” “Thanks for an AWESOME year!!”

The most perspiring aspects were demonstrated by those learners who could not self-regulate, and direct their own learning. There were a handful of learners who were not able to adjust to the shift in who controls the learning. Most of their work was often titled Copy of or was not delivered. I will make adjustments next year to redirect those learners out of STEAM by Design if needed as it is not a good fit. The comments below from the student survey sums it up pretty well.

“Felt very unstructured and unorganized, slightly more structure would have been nice (but not too structured).”  and “More things that are assigned.”

The next iteration will have fewer learners and all who applied have been accepted. I think this change will make the need to redirect learners out of STEAM by Design a mute point, at least I hope so.

 

 

Tinkercad and 3D Printing Camp

Tinkercad is wonderful software for learning how to design objects in 3D. We also use Makers Empire but due to technical issues, (my brain forgot to ask to have the app installed) we were not able to use it at camp. Tinkercad is free like sunshine while Makers Empire is a very affordable subscription model. We had 12 creative young people who worked hard this week. They were successful with most of their designs and prints although failures were abundant since doing more prototyping will result in the refinements needed to slice their designs.

Below is Octavio’s Snowball Fight Snow Speeder.

Ella really got into making Bunny figures with different themes like; Too Much Coffee Bunny, Scuba Bunny, etc…

Are We Helping Or Hurdling?

This post has been rumbling around in my brain for awhile. I have even told a few people about the idea so thought I should actually start to write it. As the title implies, I think we need to ask ourselves this question. Is what we do helping our hurdling our learning and the learners we learn with? Those of you who know me can figure out what I believe.

Helping is when we provide powerful devices and resources for our learners and lead learners. Hurdling is when we only use them to fill out digital versions of worksheets. The cost associated with “digitizing” the process is embarrassing when so many schools do without textbooks, heat, desks, and qualified teachers in the world.

Helping is when lead learners use the devices and resources to change (As Alan November says) “Who owns the learning?”  Hurdling is when thelead learners pretends nothing has changed in 5 years with respect to how learners can learn with out us.

Helping is when lead learners help our learners to connect with authentic audiences. Hurdling is when we have to unblock sites so learners can connect and share ideas with fellow learners. Sure, the sites can be unblocked, but the fact it was blocked is a hurdle that will stop all but the most persistent lead learners.

Helping is when we think deeply about how to manage the internet so that our learners are not susceptible to the worst that the internet can offer. Hurdling is when the filtering is so restrictive that learners find ways around the management in order to complete work or learn something they are interested in.

Helping is when lead learners give ownership to learners to work on projects that interest and challenge them. Hurdling is when the learner needs to use another learners cellphone as a hot spot so they can watch the YouTube video on how to program their Raspberry Pi project. Real story for a real grade 5 learner.

Helping is when we pay for the full features of Nearpod with complete lessons including the latest in VR curated resources. Hurdling is when we then block the included YouTube videos from those crazy NASA folks that are curated and embedded in the lesson. This is when the horrible learning statement of “You can not do this at school, so do it at home.”, or see how learners learn to bypass the filters as above in order to keep learning. Why do we not trust learners and help them use these resources? What percentage of our learners would cause problems if we opened up resources? I believe this is a small percentage, yet the fear of what this percentage would do, prevents the majority of learners to benefit.  I think there is a large degree of making sure they did not see it at school if they end up seeing the underbelly of the internet. I suppose we only take them to the good parts of town as well. Maybe we should take a field trip to the nastiest part of town and let them off the bus without any adults since that is what we do when we say “watch it later at home.”

We need to be aware of how our best intentions of Helping do not turn into a growth in Hurdling for our learners. Over the years, I have seen younger learners having to solve the Hurdling obstacles put in front of the learning we seek to instill.

My focus remains on helping the lead learners and learners to reach their potential by having open access to the incredible resources our learning system is undergoing. Anything less is professional malpractice in my opinion. More Helping and less Hurdling.

 

Why I Love What I Do and Where I Do It

Modern learning is more about creating the environment for learning now that information is abundant and learners can learn without us. I think of it more like solving a puzzle as we are somewhere between school 1.0 and school 2.0. Two years ago I came up with the idea for STEAM by Design Seminar and wondered how it would work out. I had some nonnegotiable things like no grades or homework. That made this a seminar (not a class since classes have grades and homework), which has turned out to be just what I and our students needed. I have made a good living being a teacher and digital learning coordinator. In fact Durham Academy just did a profile of me which tells my story pretty well. I did a poor job of describing when I moved out of the house at 13 as I did come back each Sunday night to go to school, but spent the weekends on the farm of Eldon Crapp. Read it here. I am lucky that DA has allowed me to try almost anything I thought was worth trying. Granted, I study things and believe I should learn it first before I suggest the school jumps in. That was mostly true with STEAM by Design with the exception of no grades or homework part. As I continue to learn and adjust the seminar, I am grateful to receive the positive feedback like the article, the cards from students, notes from parents, and the affirmations from people I have learned with over the years.

Here are a few of the affirmations in the last week or so:

From a student: note tells it all.

From a parent: Just wanted to send you the latest from the people who inherited Zach (He was in STEAM by D last year). I am glad he found the US teachers of Beck and Starling as well.

From a company:https://www.makersempire.com

We are very excited to let you know that Cal’s entry in our February competition has been selected as the WINNER.  We were impressed by Cal’s original design that showed creativity and fit for purpose design.
This student’s entry was chosen from over 1000 designs that were entered in our ‘Help Theo the Dog’ competition. A cool Makers Empire prize pack will be on it’s way to Cal soon and their design will be featured in the gallery in the Maker’s Empire App.
We are also pleased to announce that entries from the following students were selected as runner-up in the February competition:
Lauren from Wilderness School in South Australia
Natalie from Verona Area School District
Chloe from Woodcroft College in South Australia
We have an exciting new competition called Feeling Dice, challenging students to design an emotions monitor.
We hope you are enjoying your 3D designing and printing at Durham Academy and we look forward to seeing more great designs.
Kind regards,
The Makers Empire Team

https://dash.makersempire.com/designs/cal-baker-theo-s-stick-contraption#

Last but not least from Will and Bruce at Modern Learners: Read The Artistry of Teaching and listen to Changing Educational Norms That No Longer Serve Us .

I think the Seymour Sarason quote Will shares … gets to the heart of what I hope to achieve with STEAM by Design.

“There is one goal [of education] that, if not achieved, makes the achievement of all other goals very unlikely. That goal is to create those conditions that make students want to learn; not have to learn but want to learn more about self, others, and the world. The overarching purpose of schooling and its governance is to support that goal, i.e., to create and sustain contexts of productive learning supportive of the natural curiosity and wonder with which children start schooling.”

 

 

 

Magnetic Marble Run Update

While it took some time to get the STEAM by Design students fully committed, we have lift off or rather marble off. My thanks to John Umekubo @jumekubo  at St. Matthew’s Parish School for the inspiration with his marble run project http://www.creatorsstudio.org/special-projects/magnetic-marble-run-wall There have been many iterations by the students to get theirs working and as you can see many interpretations on designs. I gave the student the following information and directions. Your name must be on it, and these are the measurements you need. Marble, 18 mm, Magnet is 15mm x 3mm and Tinkercad hole measurement diagram.

I did not discuss mass, plane, or gravity. While I wanted them to prototype with cardboard, this aspect is a weak point with our students as most want to get it done like on a checklist. I will keep working on this aspect since we have no grades to motivate this type of hurried learning. Today the students were pretty excited to see how it could work and I have to say, it is pretty awesome. I love how students will play on it during the day.

Adjusting Plans to Maximize Learning

The STEAM by Design Seminar credo of Fail Fast is in full display with the adjustments to Micro:bits from Circuits Playgrounds. I had hoped that the Code.org CS Discoveries course would allow us to get into electronics deeper then we did. I think it was because the interface was hard to understand especially without any previous coding experience. That is one reason why we did CodeMonkey first in C when we switched. After talking with Leigh Northrup from Cannon School about my struggles with Arduino, he echoed the same frustration and said he was abandoning Arduino in the middle school setting. Perhaps, if I knew more about the Arduino IDE we could do it from that instead of the Code.org course. Instead, he was going with Micro:bits. I had heard of them so I purchased some kits for us. I am going to use a course called Making with Micro:bit by Douglas Kiang & Mary R. Kiang to lead us into creating and programming the Micro:bit.

We will use Microsoft’s Make Code site which requires no user accounts.

Micro:bits with Makecode https://makecode.microbit.org/

Learning to flow adjust is not easy, but I am working on doing it faster instead of sticking with something for too long.

Quoting Kevin Brookhouser: “Failure is an option, Failure to Deliver is Not.” While this would seem to apply to the work students do, I think it applies to all who are learning.

On Tour with Tour Builder

I love it when a teacher asks me something they would like to do with their students to help connect what they have been studying or reading to the larger world. Julie, Patti, Mike, and Melissa wanted to make maps so we looked into G Suite’s My Maps and Google’s Tour Builder. With the help of these explorers we have embarked on our journey comparing and creating our story maps. We had decided on My Maps as it appeared to be a more friendly and feature rich environment and was available in our G Suite. After working with a class, Julie and I wondered if Google Tour Builder would work better since there is more sharing options as we want the maps to be viewable on their blogs. My Maps will not work as our students are not allowed to share outside of our G Suite domain. Tour Builder allows for sharing with a link which we can put on their blog. With this in mind, we will work with the afternoon class in Tour Builder. I enjoy ideating as we work through the learning goals and the technology. I just got a message from Patti saying, “I’m in for Tour Builder.”! This is an example of the tour I built in Tour Builder. Since I have not read the books or stories, it is not an accurate example of what our students will create.

The only caveat is that we must create on a desktop computer and then share to iPads to view as the creation is not supported on mobile, “yet.”

We used these resources to get started.

Tour Builder by Eric Curts http://www.controlaltachieve.com/2017/10/tour-builder.html

Overview of the differences by Ann Witherspoon. http://www.poweredwithtechnology.com/2016/04/storytelling-with-google-tour-builder.html

The long running Google Lit Trips is a good place to see past examples. http://www.googlelittrips.org/

Richard Byrne has great resources on how to use Tour Builder and My Maps as well. http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2017/10/google-tour-builder.html#.Wh2RybQ-fUI

 

The Power of Off

Another day, another story about distractions caused by devices. Why do none of these articles and studies discuss the power of the off button? I wrote about my culpability in a post as I own that I have distraction on my hands.

How Smartphones Hijack Our Minds – Nicolas Carr who also wrote the book The Shallows which told us what the internet is doing to our minds. I do not completely buy his argument although I get the point. I imagine there were articles about how the printing press was damaging to the eyes or memory of the humans when it was introduced. Check out Marshal McLuhan’s The Gutenberg Galaxy, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change by Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, or The Rand Corporation’s article on the Information Age, Looking Backward to Look Forward Try this do a Google search for distractions and learning distractions and you will find a plethora (About 31,400,000 in 0.64 seconds, according to Google’s humble brag) of information about the damage being done.

Do a Google search for mobile devices and learning  and you will find an abundance, (About 111,000,000 results 0.71 seconds, again a humble brag) according to Google’s humble brag) of information about how the same devices can be used to increase the learning with adaptions and conscious use. That is about 79,600,00 more although to be honest I did not read them all to make sure if they were pro or con.

I get it and agree, but until there is no longer an off button on the devices, we are still the overlord of the devices we put in our lives. I for one do not want to go back to the day when digital learning happened when you went to the computer lab. For fun, I did a Google search for how to turn off my iPhone? I did not see this number coming (About 16,900,000 results (0.55 seconds)). If there are that many resources on how to turn off an iPhone we might need an intervention.