The Moment it Happens

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”!

Heck, I even tweeted it out.

7 Camps in 4 Weeks

Carly Dragon Egg

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.

16 Hours 40 Minute Flight Not Needed for a Student Connection

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.

Hello,
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.
Sincerely,
Emma

Dear Emma,

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.
Thank you.
3DWOX Team

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!

Wait I Know that Drawing

Emma, I saw this notice last night on Twitter from Bookcreator about the new features coming and thought wait I know that drawing.

http://bookcreator.com/blog/2017/02/book-creator-coming-web/

The finalist where your book is shown and linked to YouTube. http://bookcreator.com/blog/2016/04/comic-book-here-are-finalists/

Your book on YouTube https://youtu.be/wSv_GgOcfVc

If you are still creating you might want to consider getting Creative Commons license although we did give permission for them to use your book for promotions so they have the license to use it.

Still impressed by your work a year later.

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#

The Reluctant Learner Uncovered

ussbenhamdd-397

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

steamsurprise

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.

Portfolios, Reflections, and Change

Goals, Reflect, Artifacts

For 7 years now we have been working on creating student portfolios in the Middle School. We are now on our 3rd iteration from what we started with in 2010. I think this iteration is more efficient and will take the least amount of time to fulfill the potential portfolios offer. To quote a fellow teacher when I asked him if his graphic novel unit was proceeding how he hoped. “It is too soon to tell if the juice is worth the squeeze.” This is sort of how I feel as while some of my colleagues think they are a great idea and support them with time and energy, many have no interaction at all. In fact, I would say most of our school has no interaction with the portfolios. Once students leave the Middle School, the portfolio process ends. I spend a lot time “squeezing” the portfolio process and while I believe firmly that students and teachers should have a place to share and reflect on their learning process, I am willing to stop drinking the juice. There are so many other places I can put my time and energy to develop more student agency that I think this is the last year for my championing the use of portfolios. I still think it is a good idea, but I have failed to inject it into the learning culture of our school. I learned that I needed to get more people on board before starting the portfolio process since I believe that would have helped to institutionalize the process.

This is the message I sent to the MS Faculty yesterday

I just finished setting up all of the portfolios for all new students and each 5th grader. You can view all of the past and current portfolios at this address: https://sites.google.com/a/students.da.org/studentportfolios/  (Private Google Apps so only DA students and teachers can view)

I changed the layout a bit and reworked the reflection prompts as follows:

Setting Learning Goals: Each year you should write some learning goals that will guide your learning for the year. What do you hope to learn at school or outside of school? In order to be successful, you need to write these goals down along with ideas on how you will accomplish your goals.

Prompts for writing learning goals:
I am excited to learn about …
To accomplish my goals I will …
Why does your learning matter?

Writing Reflections: Reflecting is the most important part of the portfolio process, for without it, the portfolio becomes simply a collection of work without purpose. By reflecting on your work, you will engage in meta-cognitive thinking and begin to develop a working knowledge of who you are as learners.

Questions to ask yourself when reflecting:
What is the story of your learning as told by the artifacts you chose to add?
What did you learn about yourself as a learner?
What did you learn on your own?
What did you learn from other members of your community?
What are your feelings about your learning?
What was hard or difficult and how will you overcome similar obstacles in the future?
What advice might you have for other students on how to be as successful in the grade you are completing. Examples: How to use the iPad to be successful, how to study, etc..

Some information is from http://tworeflectiveteachers.blogspot.com/2015/03/slow-down-and-reflect-idea-worth.html with a Tip of the Hat to Ms. Goldstein.

Over the weekend I read this article by Mike Crowley and thought there was some nice alignment with what we hope our portfolios showcase. Of special note was this paragraph about Yale adding 3 questions to the selection process for admitting students.

Perhaps, finally, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon with the recent news that Yale University is adding three critical, new questions to its selection process:

What is a community to which you belong? Reflect on the footprint that you have left.
Reflect on a time in the last few years when you felt genuine excitement learning about something.
Write about something that you love to do.

The old system is finally starting to break. Who you are is more important than your grades. Your development as a person is of greater value than your ability to play the game of school. It is important to have a passion, to make a meaningful contribution.

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.

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.