I was nervous as the first day of coding Code.org CS Discoveries and Adafruit’s Circuit Playgrounds had not gone as smooth as I had wanted. I was not sure how to make the second day go better. I spent about four hours going through the tutorials like I was a student hoping to figure out how to move the class from “what are we supposed to do” phase to the “I can do this”. And then it happened. One student exclaimed, “We’re coding” and they were off helping each other while I helped other students. I felt more empowered as WE were learning and troubleshooting together. The energy in the STEAM lab was “electric”!
I have been reading and listening to Will Richardson for many years. I have a copy of his 2006 edition Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasts which shaped my use of these tools. I was lucky enough to meet Will when he spoke at our school a few years ago. I consider him to be a first level mentor. He has been at the idea of rethinking education for a long time. He is now working with Bruce Dixon at Modern Learners where they do a podcast. I loved this episode as it resonated with me. Will coined the term “change in a vacuum” to highlight how schools work at small projects hoping to influence change and impact the culture of the school. As the image shows, the best laid strategy is eaten by culture every day. I know this to be true as I have helped feed it over the years. Granted, some of my lone nut ideas deserved to be eaten as they were poorly thought out or just nuts. Many of my ideas, like portfolios, blogging, collaborative and creative projects, teaching kids to learn how to use their voice and their face, etc .. were just too far out of the norms of the school’s culture. This is not a judgement about the school’s culture, as I am part of the very culture. I am eternally grateful that I get to try out many of my ideas over the years.
This is a great quote from the Fast Company article: “He has inspired the company’s 124,000 employees to embrace what he calls “learn-it-all” curiosity (as opposed to what he describes as Microsoft’s historical know-it-all bent) that in turn has inspired developers and customers—and investors—to engage with the company in new, more modern ways”.
It is well worth a listen and in fact, I suggest you subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. If you do not subscribe to podcasts, why not?
I need to come clean about my love of Apple products as I feel both extreme pleasure and a sense of responsibility for what we, as a society, have allowed to happen. I played a part in this since I have visited the Apple Campus to learn how to bring devices to our school. I attended the MacWorld Expo in January 2007 when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. These were glorious times with so much promise for the future. We would be able to move computer use from a destination room to being available when needed. Why then did we end up where we are today? Web filters, apps to monitor usage and destinations, apps to turn off other apps, and the list grows each day. We are on the cusp of great advances with machine learning allowing us to talk to our devices to get answers to on the spot questions. Information is no longer scarce and yet many classes and schools act as if it is. Our schools should be different with all of the devices we have added to them. For the most part we have underutilized the power of the devices but instead worked hard at restricting what they could bring to our learning. I am a participant in this movement and want to own my share of responsibility, but not more than my share.
I gave a talk to the sixth grade yesterday about making wise choices with the devices we give them. I write a book that is on all of the devices to support what I think is important for our learning community. I start with the usual acceptable use and what to do and what not to do. I dislike this part of my role but do it as I must to get to the next part of my role. That is to be a role model for how to balance the devices in our lives. Granted, today I turn 61 so I am long past the age of my students, but I think I remain relevant. The students are amazed that I do not own one of the smartphones that I saw introduced in 2007. I do not like talking on the phone and frankly think the costs of the device and the contracts for service are too high. I have a burner phone for those I love to contact me if needed. My school supplies me with all sorts of devices so I have everything that I need. I live on a farm so I now have 3.5Mbps DSL which is fast enough to do most things but not all things. I have watched as my children and grandchildren have been overtaken by the devices they bring to the farm when they visit. The woods on the farm does not call them like it used to when we looked for the fairy village as the iPad or TV has more draw. So with this in mind I wanted to shake up my presentation to the students which is why I asked these questions and shared these resources. Maybe you will find them useful.
Question: How many of you have an Instagram account?
Response: That is amazing since none of you are 13. I do know that you are all capable of lying to get what you want since everyone has to be 13 to use the good stuff on the internet. I discuss a bit about COPPA.
Advice: If the first thing you have to do to get something you want is to lie, you probably should reconsider if you really want it more then your integrity.
This allows us to discuss how humans will do many things to get what they want and lying is sometimes the least problematic action.
I then shared these resources so they could understand why they “wanted” and were willing to lie to get it as I think this is important information so they do not internalize that they are bad people.
I am finishing up a rewarding month of offering camps on 3D Design and Printing along with a bunch of different Computer Coding camps. I have been helped by Donovan Polk and Hutch Castelao who have helped our campers create and learn new skills. This was the first time I offered a 3D Design and Printing camp and I am happy to say I thought it went really well. The image above is of Cal cleaning up their Dragon Egg that they designed and printed. This was the small version as we wanted to make sure it would work before we printed the larger version. I am impressed by how the 109 campers worked hard each day to learn to program. We used mostly free resources like Tinkercad, CS-First, Blockly, Code.org, and one paid service that we also use at school called CodeMonkey. I was very happy that the campers also enjoyed the format of most of the services we used as it allowed them to move at their pace instead of waiting for directions. Learning has come so far since I started doing camps years ago with respect to the resources that are now available. I can remember having Gala Taylor writing step-by-step tutorials for Scratch in the early days. The camps I do now are really more of a blended, personalized, or whatever name du jour you want to use. They are also much less effort than they were in the past since we can use these services instead of having to create everything on our own. This shift is also reflected in the way my STEAM by Design Seminar is conducted. Where else does this shift show up in schools, camps, and other informal learning? Oh, one other benefit, all are web-based and available anywhere the campers have an internet connection. For more information, see the Summer Coding Camps site we used for our camps.
I have left you alone for too long. It is not you, it is me. I have not taken the time to reflect or share my thoughts. I will hopefully improve but can not make any promises. I know I am not alone as many of us who have blogged for years have fallen into the habit of short bursts of information sharing instead of the deeper writing a blog desires of us.
I would love for you to come and learn with me this summer as I will be one of the speakers for the 1st AppsEvents Google for Education Raleigh North Carolina Summit to be held at Cardinal Gibbons High School on June 14 & 15, 2017. This high intensity two day event focuses on deploying, integrating, and using Google Apps for Education and other Google Tools to promote student learning in K-12 and higher education. The program features Google Certified Teachers, Google Apps for Education Certified Trainers, practicing administrators and solution providers and you can find the schedule here. Register now to send teachers, administrators, tech directors/tech support staff, and anyone who is interested in finding out more about leveraging Google tools to support student learning.
I will be doing two sessions: G Suite Loves iOS – Experience the Love Between Them and Get Your Story On with Toontastic 3D App. Both sessions will be fun and move you from your starting point forward with tips and tricks for how to incorporate these great tools into the learning of your school and students.
As part of the STEAM by Design Seminar I have prodded and held on based on what I and the students needed at that time. I love this fluidity and most of the students are adjusting to owning their learning more each day. Emma has had an awesome week as she was working on getting the City of Lights project ready to film, started an art project with Julia as they felt we needed more art in our STEAM by Design Seminar. I had to get more Pink Duct Tape for their projects. As class was proceeding Emma said it was too bad that our 3D Wox printer by Sindoh did not have any pink filament. I said they do not sell that color and we can only use their filament. She said, “I think I will contact them!” She wrote all of this on her own and as you can tell she is great at persuasive writing.
I am an 8th grader at Durham Academy in Durham North Carolina. I use the 3D WOX printers in my STEM class at school. I really like to make cool things that I can use, but you don’t make any pretty colors for us to print with. It would be awesome if you could make colors such as pink, purple and sky blue. I like the 3D WOX printers better than any other company, but the only thing that would prevent me from recommending it are the filament colors. I think that you would get a lot more buisiness with better colors.
Thank you very much for considering this idea.
The new Filament colors (Purple and Pink) are going to be available in the early March. (This had not been announced anywhere – emphasis mine)
You will be able to purchase them through Amazon.
Please let us know for any other questions.
This was really a cool response and we were both happy about the reply. She went to her first two classes and then came running into the STEAM lab at break beaming with smiles and floating on clouds as she had another message.
How cool is this? I love this printer (have 3 and ordering 3 more) for our school as the printers just plain work! Now I love this company for supporting a students dream to print in pink!
Our school has an auction each year to help our parent’s association raise funds for educational items. This year I thought about offering something called “Family Scan” with the following description:
Would you like to explore the world of 3D scanning and printing? Your family could have the opportunity to be 3D scanned using the Structure 3D Sensor https://structure.io/#home-about-vid which will allow the creation of a 3D printed bust of up to 6 family members. Mr. Schaefer will work with your family to schedule a time to scan and will then print your busts to be picked up later.
As a proof of concept, I worked with my STEAM students to scan the, Head of School, Associate Head of School, Upper School, Middle School, Lower School, and Preschool Directors. My student Will is now my go to person to scan as he has become very good with using the scanner.
Andy Pronto and I were working on a project the other day and he mentioned an article he had read while getting his oil changed. He said it was about how hard it is for us to change how we teach, integrate technology, or try other type methodologies into what we do. The article resonated with me as I have done professional development in many different settings for many years and often feel discouraged at the pace of change that comes from the work. It is not because attendees do not value what they learned. There must be something else especially when we all have seen the world change around us in so many ways.
The author; Zachary Herrmann points out some really great insights in his answers to this question:
So what does a teacher stand to lose by changing her/his practice?
1. A traditional sense of one’s own competence
2. The comfort of predictability
3. Familiar successes
“Every time we find a gap between our values and our practice we have an opportunity to reflect and ask, Why? What is really getting in the way?”
“Teachers must embrace the same message we give to students: Learning is about taking risks, trying, failing, and improving.”