The Reluctant Learner Uncovered

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The USS Benham DD-397

On the first day of the STEAM by Design Seminar, I asked all of the students why they signed up. It sounded cool or my parents signed me up were the most common answers. One student who was signed up by his mother was reluctant to stay and said so. Since the seminar is done through study hall, he could easily just not come. I did suggest that he give it a day or two before he decided. Those days were filled with struggles and a desire to stop. He persevered and worked on the lessons until his skills and confidence grew. Then one day he asked if he could make his own creation and I said yes as long as it was his creation and not a copy of someone else’s work. That was the day the once reluctant learner became uncovered as he has become a very engaged and creative STEAMer. I found out that one of his passions is WWII aircraft and ships. He is using Wikipedia as a source for his images for inspiration while he creates the 3d object. I asked him why he likes to do these planes and ships and he responded that he just enjoys researching and reading about them. He proceeded to tell me all about a ship (not this one) that was a fuel tanker during the attack on Pearl Harbor that was destroyed. He knew the backstory of the ship and what happened to the crew after being bombed. He also knew how it was scuttled and other details. Is he a reluctant learner or just a uncovered learner that has found his agency in learning. I am very proud of him for the growth he is making.

STEAM Surprise

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I came back to my office today after helping some folks with their use of Evernote, and on my desk was this surprise. It is the creation of Emma R. in my STEAM by Design Seminar. We are working on the City of Lights project with our Arduino Basic Kits and CircuitScribe Maker Kits.  I purchased the CircuitScribe Maker kits at https://www.circuitscribe.com/product/maker-kit/. She and the most of the group have been working on putting it together. She worked extra hard as we found out our jumper wires were not male/female so we had to improvise. I am loving how these seminars are going as it is clear to me that with guidance our students are capable of striving and learning with less help and direction from the oldest life form in the room.

STEAM by Design Seminar

Version 3 504 Lab Reconfigured

I am very excited to be offering this seminar next year. The image above is version 3 of how I imagine one of the computer labs being reconfigured. This is a low level reconfiguration as we are not adapting it to a true maker lab as we are not at that point so everything is on wheels and portable. As I write this post, my new 3D printer was delivered. We have 2 Polar 3D printers which are great for prototyping and have served me well with learning about 3D printing, but I wanted the next step as well. I was about to purchase a Makerbot but read about the Sindoh 3DWox. After checking it out online and figuring if the MIT Fab Lab listed it as the printer to get I was not being sold a bill of goods, I ordered it. As fate would have it Zack B. was in the lab next door so was able to see it delivered and we opened it together. He has been coming by lately saying that he has been seeing many cardboard boxes being delivered!

Below is the proposal as presented.

The STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) by Design Seminar will integrate the elements of STEAM using Design Thinking (Define, Understand, Imagine, Prototype, Try, and Repeat) during explorations in Coding, Electronics, and 3D Design and Printing. Coding, Electronics, 3D Design and 3D Printing are concepts and industries that continue to shape our present and will greatly influence our future. The STEAM by Design Seminar will explore these concepts and skills using the online resources (Project Ignite by Autodesk and CodeMonkey)

The seminar will be project-driven and feature design challenges.

Computer Science Coding:  Computer code underpins almost everything we use today. Having an understanding of coding language is essential to understanding the many devices and services used in our world. A lack of understanding of computer code leads to what Douglas Rushkoff wrote about in his book; Program or Be Programmed. Students will use CodeMonkey tutorials to learn to write code in a real-world programming language called CoffeeScript. CoffeeScript is a modern open-source programming language that compiles to JavaScript.

Engineering and Electronics: Students will learn to design electronic circuits with 123D Circuits and Arduino kits.  Once designed, students will construct the actual designed circuits.

3D Design and Printing: Students will learn 3D design skills using Tinkercad and other apps as needed.

After learning the basics of 3D design and 3D printing, students will work on a design challenge related to a problem they would like to solve. Students will learn to work independently and in groups as they design, create and make their challenge prototypes. Once designed, students will have the option of printing their prototypes on our school’s 3D printers.

Design Thinking by David Kelly

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Ben working on a prototype drawing.

 I read Dan Ryder’s article on Medium this morning about how we might bring Design Thinking in a high school english class, so I followed the links to see what I could learn. Some familiar names popped up Mount Vernon,and  Edutopia along with a new conference I had not heard of The Atlanta K12 Design Challenge which is where I found the video below under the resources they are sharing page. Great resources. The link to the TED Talk of David Kelly struck me and plan to use it with our Making Makers Club. I just bought their (David and Tom Kelly) book Creative Confidence on iBooks as well although you can get it at many other online vendors as well. Check out his site http://www.creativeconfidence.com/

I think there is a lot to learn about how we can reshape the way we teach using the Design Thinking concept. Mary Cantrall’s DEEPdt is new to me and is intriguing as a way to make the process easier for us who need different terms to describe the process.

Making Makers – A Journey of Building

MakingmakersMaking Maker Cards from Leigh Northrup

For the last few years I have watched as other schools opened up Maker Spaces or Design Rooms at their schools. The positive energy the teachers used to describe how wonderful the experience has been for themselves and their students made it certain to me that we would need something like this at our school. I did not want to buy first and figure out later as I wanted to find a curricular fit and a curriculum for teaching our students. Thanks to my friends, Matt Scully at Providence Day School and Leigh Northrup at Cannon School a group of us we able to visit their school’s spaces to learn how they approached incorporating a making culture into their schools.

The approaches they took are slightly different but both schools reconfigured space to accommodate having a making space with tools and a flexible environment. Someday we will need to reconfigure a space on campus so we have a dedicated room like they do but not at this time. Ventilation is important as is access to electrical power so we need to figure out if a present day computer lab could become the making space or if we need to look elsewhere.

The making cards from Leigh will be used to help our Making Makers Club develop the making mindset as the cards feature a Thing (to make) Materials (to use) and a Descriptor (to add).

Students use the modeling materials for prototyping and when the design process is done, there is a possible printed version of the designed Thing

  • In teams of 2 or 3 students
  • Each team draws 1 Thing card
  • Each team draws 5 Material cards
  • Each team draws 1 Descriptor card
  • On the iPad or using a small whiteboard, each student designs their Thing using the materials and descriptor.  This lasts for 3 minutes to design and share with each team member.
  • Team then discuss for 2 minutes and chooses the one design to prototype
  • Team then spends 8 minutes building the prototype
  • Teams will then attempt to find ways to improve the prototype.
  • If the teams get a prototype built that they want to 3D print that will be an option.

Of course Design Thinking is also a very important part of the process so we will introduce these concepts to them using resources from Stanford’s d.school, Henry Ford Learning Institute, and Meadowbrook School’s Eureka Lab These are the important skills to help students understand and integrate into their learning. John Spencer shared this great resource last week that we may also use as he uses slightly different language to describe the process.

When it comes time to construct 3D models we will use Project Ignite from Autodesk which uses the popular Tinkercad online software to teach 3D design and construction. The goal is not to find something to print but to design something that absolutely needs to be printed. We will try the iOS apps: 123D Design for Education and Tinker Play  from Autodesk. While not as robust as the desktop apps they do allow for playing around and learning more about how to create objects.

We currently have 2 – Polar 3D printers although in truth one is the Lower Schools but I have been using it for troubleshooting purposes. I like the printers as they have a nice web interface and allows for students to share projects with me. The printers can be finicky as every 3D printer can be as I have found out so they are a great entry level printer as schools get a discount and they will give you plenty of practice with learning the ropes of 3D printing. Contrary to what many people believe, 3D printing in schools is full of failed prints, trial and error, and messing around to get the printer to print. Frankly it is all a part of making although it reminds me of when I was trying to get all of the Macintosh LCII computers to print to an inkjet printer using AppleTalk since when it worked it was awesome, but when it did not work, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why not!