Getting Ready for State FLL x3

Robosharks

Robosharks

Robo Dragons

Robo Dragons

Cav Squad

Cav Squad

August 25th feels like along time ago when 19 students, 6 coaches. and 2 coordinators met to form teams and begin the process of developing First Lego League teams. We met each Thursday and most Saturdays since then and have achieved great success as all 3 teams have qualified for state! In fact each team won awards; Robosharks won the Research Award, Cav Squad won the Presentation Award while the Robo Dragons won the Innovative Solution Award.

The State Championships are on January 14th and 15th in Greensboro  http://www.ncfllandftc.com/2016—2017-state-championship.html

The NC First Lego League Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/northcarolinafirstlegoleague#

Creativity, Storytelling, and Graphic Novel Creation

EsmeEmmaBookCovers

This post has been a long time coming as something always seemed to get in the way. This past year, I had the pleasure to work with our grade 8 language arts teachers on a graphic novel project. Students investigated graphic novels in class in preparation for writing their own. Using the awesome Book Creator App on our student iPads they were charged with creating their own graphic novel. We used the comic book template and this Google Slide Presentation to get started. Using Sketchbook Express (iTunes link) or other drawing apps on the iPad, students created images to go with their story. Many students combined their 8 years of art to create amazing images to support the story. Esme (Havoc) created her novel with images she drew in a style that creates a darkness. Esme told Mr. Michelman that she worked the hardest she has ever worked on any project on her novel. She told him that it was not ready as she wanted a little more time to perfect some element. As the school year came to a close we got this message from Esme:

From: Esme
Sent: Monday, May 30, 2016 2:55 PM
To: Ben Michelman
Subject: What Will Become of Havoc?
Hello Mr. Michelman,
Sorry for interrupting Memorial Day, and I know this is terrible timing, but I was wondering what will happen to the graphic novel I made. What should I do with it? Because I want to be able to still edit over the summer, but I don’t know how I’ll be able to do that.
Sorry,
Esme

How many times as that happened in your teaching? The assignment is over, student has graduated, and they want to still work on a project you assigned? This is the definition of engaged and highlights what can happen with student agency.

Emma took a different approach and used models for her drawings. Using her sister and family dog, she posed them and took images. Using the same Sketchbook Express app, she brought the image in on a layer and then used more layers to trace her characters. Once done, she removed the first layer. Her story and images are also well developed and support the happy ending in her story. I submitted her book to the Book Creator contest where she was one of the top ten finalists. She also started creating another book on Romeo and Juliet in order to help students understand it better.

I think both of these students have a future in book writing or whatever they choose to do. The only aspect I would hope they would include next time in their books, is a Creative Commons license so their work can be tied to them as a creator.

A challenge for their future teachers would be to connect to this passion and continue to bring it out. If you would like to read the ePubs you can access them in the shared Evernote note.

Helping to Make Learning More Active with an Educanon

I Learned it on YouTube

Image from: aisletwentytwo

Going into our fourth year of our student and teacher iPad learning program I want to invigorate the use of videos. Teachers will often play a video in class while the students passively watch it. Since YouTube is blocked at school teachers will share a link for the students to watch when they are off-campus. Of course, once the student is on YouTube how long will they stay watching the video the teacher wanted them to watch? How long would you stay? Me, probably not long especially if the related videos showed up and if I did not really know why I was watching the video. What are the main points that the students is to learn? I have watched as vendors figured out ways to make videos active and not passive. I decided this year to invest in PlayPosit (fka Educanon) after comparing all three of the leading contenders; PlayPosit, EdPuzzle, and Zaption. While all had similar options PlayPosit had the best overall solution and a real business model. They are easy to work with and are founded by teachers so they understand the pedagogy and technology. The service is affordable and they do offer a free version although I prefer to pay a vendor so I can count on them being there for more then a couple rounds of financing. I am just starting to create the training materials and recruiting the early adopters.

First Lego League – Update from Tournament

PiranhasTournamentScoresmall

 

What a day!! The ups and downs of any competition is filled with “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” as the saying goes. All 3 teams had strong showings but only the Programming Piranhas advanced to the state tournament on January 23, 2016 in Greensboro, NC. More information at http://ncfll.wildapricot.org/state The image above shows them standing in front of the scores being posted. Their last robot run was wonderful and earned the high score of 337 which had them in 9th place. The Robosharks were in 5th place at this time with the Cav Squad being in 14th. As the final scores were posted the teams moved a bit in the rankings. It was only after the judging was added in for Core Values and Innovative Project that the Programming Piranhas secured their spot while the other teams were left wondering where they could improve for next year. The robot competition is only 1/3 of the competition so teams that showed any weakness in the other areas had a hard time making it to the state tournament.

I am very proud of all the teams who worked hard over the last 3+ months. Go Programming Piranhas!

 

First Lego League – A Grand Experiment

Image from: http://www.firstlegoleague.org/

Our school had our first ever First Lego League team last year when parent, Greg Brown, lead a team called The Robosharks. He worked tirelessly to get the program started and the team went to the state tournament and won The Strategy and Innovation Award for their solution and robot design. A great showing for a new team. Mr. Brown approached the administration of our school and myself after the tournament with the idea of offering an after-school class for students and parents in an attempt to field more teams. After much work by him, we ended up with 25 students and 3 teams. The Robosharks,  Cav Squad, and Programming Piranhas have worked hard since August to get ready for the qualifying tournament on Saturday. The teams have worked hard each Thursday and most Saturdays to solve the missions but also develop their team project and bond as a team. This does not include the countless hours that the parents and teams put in coordinating and supporting their team. I was hesitant to take on the First Lego League teams years ago due to the need for it to be a student run and parent supported structure and not an instructor lead event. I am happy to say that while we have had our ups and downs we have 3 strong teams going into the competition. The team of Programming Piranhas in particular have really risen to the challenge. I am sharing a couple images and a practice movie I have of this team below as I think they show what is possible when you put students in charge. In addition to the teamwork, they have developed an impressive Toy Exchange project that has gained much attention. Read more about that at their Facebook page.

ProgrammingPiranhasphotosmall

Programming PiranhassmallPiranhas-First-Mission-1dhzmqz.MOV

NPR Interviews Sherry Turkle on Face to Face Conversation

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I liked this interview as I listened to it in my car one Saturday morning on the way to the dump, which is a weekly ritual for a person who lives in the country. As it ended, I wrote down the information on my notepad and wanted to make sure I wrote about it as I believe this topic is important to all of us. I do completely agree that we can not have empathy unless we are face to face, but I do believe we need to start there in order to develop empathy.

Turkle, a professor of Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, is interested in how all sorts of new technologies — not just iPhones — are changing our conversations. Her new book is called Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. She is also the author of the books The Second Self and Alone Together.

Listen below or read at http://www.npr.org/2015/09/26/443480452/making-the-case-for-face-to-face-in-an-era-of-digital-conversation

 

An earlier interview from 2012.

Developing Attention and Avoiding Distractions

 

As we enter our 4th year as a school that equips our students with a digital device we continue to see many opportunities to help our students and teachers manage their attention capital. I created this video and added it to the Digital Device Passport book to help our community discuss and take strategies to develop habits that we help develop a mindful use of devices.

Ideas and Strategies include:

Start Fresh:

  • Turn off all running apps by double tapping the Home button and swiping up. Yes we know that having Safari open will allow you to bypass the web filtering system. It is also a violation of the Acceptable Use Policy and the Honor Code.
  • Turn off apps before you start a class that you know you will not need for the class. Email is one app that you most likely will never need during a class.

Limit Swipes:

  • Create a study page. Only include the apps or folders of apps you use to study.
  • Drag folders of your most used apps to your iPad dock for fast access.
  • If you use multiple apps to take notes, organize those apps in a Notes folder.
  • Some apps may be only used in certain subjects, so make folders just for those apps.

Add Web Clips:

  • Add Web Clips to web sites you use to study and save these web clips on your home screen. 
  • Organize these links in a folder on your study page. 
  • These links will only go to the web site you need to use which can help you from getting distracted.

Corral the Apps You Do Not Use:

  • Put the apps you never use in folders on the last screen of your iPad so you do not have to swipe past them each time you are looking for an app.
  • New in 2015 – 2016 is the ability to not even install the app. Your teachers will request the apps* you have to have for their class. 
  • *The Required Apps must be installed by all students.

Create a Calming Home Screen:

  • Set your wallpaper and locked screen images to something interesting but not distracting. 
  • Perhaps your class schedule (with your name covered) so you know where your next class is.

If these things do not help, I suggest that the student take a proactive path by giving their iPad to a teacher if it is not needed for the class period as a way to help them with choices. This will help students build up some success with their choices without drawing attention to themselves. There could even be a place in the room that distracted students put the device so it is not within arms or synapse reach.

I do believe we also need to look at how our instructional practices have adjusted to harness the digital device. Boredom is the enemy of attention. I have seen teachers integrate the use of a connected device with questions like: Someone tell me what the color of __________ is or what is a diphthong so students have an active role in the instructional process instead of a passive role.

Of course companies like Freedom.to (based in Durham) will also help by using technology to create distraction free periods since our brain can fail us even with our best intentions.

How Long Does it Take a Seed of Change to Sprout

Image from OpenClipart.org

 

When we launched our 1 to 1 iPad program 3 years ago, one of the first services we purchased was Nearpod. With the purchase of the Gold School Edition we have 25 accounts for teachers to use. I have done trainings and offered help to learn how to add it to the learning resources. Heck, I worked with Nearpod to provide door prizes for workshops I have done for schools in North Carolina. Last year, I connected them with VISnet so member schools could get a discount. This is a great pedagogical tool that offers a new way to interact with your students. The company has been a dream to work with and has made consistent progress in adding more features and upgrades in the last few years. I am thrilled to work with them and bring the service to our school. My stomach flipped when I read the message below, as I feel I need to do more or do something different to get more engagement at our school. I struggle with tilling the soil of change so that when someone asks if there is a way to do X, I can toss in the seed of change allowing them to sprout a new way of teaching and for students to learn. I follow the advice of Rachel Avery whom I replaced as Computer Science Department Chair years ago. She told me to “always buy for tomorrow” which I believe is awesome advice. Sometimes, though tomorrow takes too long to get here.

 

Hi Karl

My name is Nico from the Nearpod Team and it’s my pleasure to be in touch. After taking a look at your account, we have determined that there has not been much use by your users.

Your purchase comes with a PD session and you have not taken advantage of it. Please use the following link to schedule the most convenient WebiNear date and time for you and your teachers: 

Our WebiNears combine Webinar and Nearpod elements for an interactive training that covers the basics of using Nearpod. This is also a great opportunity to have your questions answered.

Additionally, here are some other resources for your teachers:

Check out this blog post of our latest features and how to implement them in your classroom

Take a look at a collection of support material and resources at nearpod.com/help

Let me know if you have any questions or need help!

Kind regards,

Nico

Lego Mindstorms Robotics Class

Image from Lego

You have played with Legos for years, now you can learn to build and program Lego Mindstorm EV3 robots. I wanted all of you Lego lovers to know that I will be offering and after-school enrichment starting on January 22nd. We will meet in the Library classroom to build robots and program them on the Library computers. The class will be on Thursdays from 4:00-5:00 from 1/22 – 5/14 (16 classes) with no class on 3/12 and a make up lesson on 5/21 if necessary. You can attend study hall before class at no charge. Students will work in pairs to design, construct, and program robots that perform a variety of movements and tasks. This Spring class will develop the skills needed to join the planned First Lego League competition teams starting in the Fall 2015. All materials will be supplied and stored at school. Class is limited to 8 students as we will have 4 kits with 2 students working together.

Learn more about EV3: https://education.lego.com/en-us/lesi/middle-school/mindstorms-education-ev3/why-robotics

Learn more about First Lego League: http://www.firstlegoleague.org

Send this link http://www.da.org/page.cfm?p=607 to your parents so they can register you.

The Evilness of Devices for Learning

Image from Openclipart.org

Yes, I wrote the title as part link bait and part reflection on what has become a common theme to many conversations I am having these days. As we enter our 3rd year of an iPad program which has been recognized as a distinguished program by Apple. Yes, I realize that is sort of like being a preferred customer at the Toyota dealership because you bought so many cars. However, I do know we are moving our school’s learning forward while also allowing for aspects to remain as we find value in them or because change is hard and slow. There is nothing wrong with moving slowly towards the future as long as movement is happening. I prefer to move faster then my institution but that is how I roll and may not be the best solution for our school. However, I had hoped we were past the notion that playing games is bad and a waste of time given that we have explored all sorts of platforms with our students including hosting our own Minecraft servers. Alas, that is not the case although sometimes games and screen time are mixed together.

I wrote this as part of a position statement about gaming at DA.

While some adults see playing games as a “waste of time” or a way to escape into a virtual coma, many of the skills and standards listed above are found in the act of playing or creating games. For instance, Minecraft, is often seen by adults as just a bunch of chopping and blowing up of a virtual space. What is missed when observed as such is the collaboration that must take place to create worlds, the knowledge base needed to understand the game, and how a community of players have created a wealth of tutorials and information on how to play.

Gaming in classrooms and learning has been gaining momentum for years. Durham Academy has explored using games in the Middle School over the years with software like; Gamestar Mechanic, and Evolver (Pre-Algebra). Research shows that game principles are a way to better engage students. http://www.gamesandlearning.org/2014/06/09/teachers-on-using-games-in-class/ and http://www.edutopia.org/blog/using-gaming-principles-engage-students-douglas-kiang. Jane McGonigal has many resources about games. Watch her TEDX talk about SuperBetter.

Advocacy groups like, Common Sense Media provide resources on what games parents can say yes to after-school. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/24-video-games-you-can-say-yes-to-after-school.Vicki Davis has a nice article on Edutopia on game based learning. http://www.edutopia.org/blog/guide-to-game-based-learning-vicki-davis

As I continue to brace myself for the discussions that are coming, I keep saying to myself this is not a problem with devices or technology. These are human behavior problems which need human solutions that are not just banning or blocking. This is an educational problem that needs to be addressed with our colleagues, students and parents. If a small percentage of students have problems with impulse control so they play games instead of listening to a lecture, do we not help the student? What about the other larger percentage of students who are not having the problem? I help to write the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) each year which was redone to not be Though Shall Not document into a more Though Shall type document. This came about after reading the book From Fear To Facebook by Matt Levinson who at the time was at Nueva School.  It is way too long and still causes my eyes to glaze over. I even created a companion website called iPad Passport to help the Middle School students and faculty understand the concepts and language used. I think we need to be focus on having fewer AUPs and more User Policy. To that end I am adding some links to this post that are shaping my learning evolution on this topic.

Edutopia – http://www.edutopia.org/blog/digital-citizenship-culture-trust-transparency-andrew-marcinek and http://www.edutopia.org/blog/educating-parents-about-education-tom-whitby

Providence Day School’s Parenting in the Digital Age site: https://sites.google.com/a/providenceday.org/digitalparenting/home This site is full of useful and practical resources for starting a school-wide conversation. We are reaching out to Matt Scully and Derrick Willard to get advice.