Conversations and Innovations – Community Outreach

When Ben Michelman saw the examples from Brookwood School’s 3D Design Challenge Bank, he said we should totally do this Karl. While I was excited, I also was a bit hesitant to say yes. I was not sure I wanted to give up the time and wondered how the students would take to this type of outreach. After a few exchanges with Ben, I said, I am in as I realized it was fear that was keeping me from committing to doing it. I did not want to have our students believe that seniors are just afflicted people who need us to make stuff for them. I wanted a connection and an emphatic relationship so I knew it would take some setup and time. As Ellie is demonstrating in the above image, a relationship has been formed as she is engrossed in a conversation with Marcella Jerdon. Ben helped a lot with these aspects which allowed us to co-teach the unit. I put him in my Google Classroom as a teacher so he could see what we were doing as well as see all of the resources. The fear I did not share with my students but did tell Ben on our first visit was that I never want to end up in a place like this. Our first visit was in January and even though we had assigned partners we ended up needing to flow as not all seniors were available or able to join us on that day. Some seniors had not signed up, but just happened upon us and wanted to talk. One student was working with a senior who suffers dementia which impacted the ability to really develop the depth of relationship needed to devise a solution to a challenge. I suggested to any student that did not determine a challenge to help with to bring joy to their senior client.

Back in the STEAM lab, students started working on prototypes by thinking about how they might make the solution they had in mind. With a few tries, most students had working prototypes when we returned in February to present them. This visit was full of ups and downs for some students. A couple of seniors no longer wanted to participate or were not available. We ended up finding new seniors for these students since there is an abundance of seniors who would like to be a part of the project.

While there were many bright moments, the connection between Alden and Lynn showed the potential of what these conversations could lead to. Lynn suffered a stroke a few years ago so no longer has all of the use of her left arm and hand. It meant that playing cards were really difficult. After the initial conversation, Alden designed a holder for cards. He brought in a deck of cards from home to test his prototype to make sure it would hold cards like he designed. When he presented it to Lynn, she was thrilled beyond belief and said it was perfect. I asked Alden to keep asking how it could be better and after about 15 minutes, she said, “Well, to be honest, I like green, but Duke blue is my favorite color so I would love one that color.”

There are additional photos on DA’s Flickr stream. https://www.flickr.com/photos/durhamacademy/page3

Thanks to everyone who helped me face my fears, well most of them anyway. I still prefer to be on Camp Moondance Farm in my older years.

All 3 FLL Teams Qualify for State Championship

If you had asked me in August how many teams would qualify for state, I would have hoped for at least two. If you had asked me in October, I would have said hopefully at least one but if we are lucky, two. I should not have underestimated the drive and dedication of the teams as they all qualified for state and won awards along the way.

The Robonators qualified first and were awarded the Inspiration Award at the Reedy Creek Regional on 11/17/2018. The team is made up of  a mix of rookies and experts. They are Kent Lee (5th Grade) Rookie, Anand Jayashankar (7th Grade) Rookie, Charith Fernando (8th Grade) Expert, John McGowan (7th Grade Expert, and Gil Mebane (7th Grade) Rookie. Coaches are Anthony Fernando and Jay Swaminathan with support from the team’s Young Adult Mentor, Hutch Castelao. Supporters are Ashini Fernando, Karen Rabenau, and Yueh Lee who helped the team in anyway they could.

Next up was DA Cav Squad which qualified at Harnett Central Middle School – Angier on 12/1/2018 and were awarded the Programming Award. The team is made up of  a mix of rookies and novices. William Brown (7th Grade) Rookie, Sachin Aggarwal (7th Grade) Rookie, Priya Aggarwal (6th Grade) Rookie, Zaina Taha (6th Grade) Novice, and  Shreya Rao (6th Grade) Novice. Coaches are Scott Baker and Taha Afzal. Supporters are Mariam Ali, and Diti Aggarwal who helped the team every week as Scott and Taha had busy travel commitments during the season.

After being snowed out in December, the Neo Dragons had a lot of time to prepare and stress out for their competition at Carver Middle School – Laurel Hill on January 12, 2019. This team worked to overcome the various setbacks through the season to qualify the state championships and take home the Teamwork Award. The team is made up of  a mix of rookie, novices, and expert. They are Evan Fields (7th Grade) Expert, Theo Satterfield (7th Grade) Novice, Everett Wilber (7th Grade) Novice, and Marcus Vermeulen (6th Grade) Rookie. Coaches are Leora Fields and Fabrice Fortin with support from the team’s Young Adult Mentor, Asher Fields. Asher won the Young Adult Mentor award for the regional tournament. Supporters are Kim Satterfield and Rob Vermeulen.

For the purposes of creating the teams, I came up with the Rookie, Novice, and Expert labels. So no one is confused a Rookie is a member who did not take the Spring MS Robotics course which serves as the unofficial perquisite for being on an FLL team. Novices are those members who took the Spring MS Robotics course but have never been on an FLL team before. Experts are those members who have participated in FLL for at least the previous season. All members are now Experts. My thanks to the coaches who also could have been put into these categories at the start of the season but now are also experts and probably tired.

I remember when the parents of Gala and Ada Taylor told me about First Lego League (FLL) and how we should form a team. I was doing Lego EV3 Mindstorms Clubs and Summer Camps but did not see how I could pull off something so huge as FLL so I said not yet. Then Greg Brown pushed against my wall of resistance and offered a plan, which I took. Four years later, we have gone from having one team, Robosharks, which qualified for state as well to these three teams. Thanks for the time and effort we have put into the success of our FLL program at the Middle School. I know that the work that Michele Guiterrez does in the Lower School with robotics has helped lay a foundation for our teams. I also know we lay a foundation for the Upper School FRC team who is also experiencing success.

Lastly, the key part of why I love FLL is because of the core values and problem solving that is at the center of the program.

 

FIRST Core Values
We express the FIRST philosophies of Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition through our Core Values:

Discovery: We explore new skills and ideas.
Innovation: We use creativity and persistence to solve problems.
Impact: We apply what we learn to improve our world.
Inclusion: We respect each other and embrace our differences.
Teamwork: We are stronger when we work together.
Fun: We enjoy and celebrate what we do!

https://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/fll/core-values

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.

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

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.

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.

Culture Eats Everything


Image from: https://www.torbenrick.eu/blog/culture/organisational-culture-eats-strategy-for-breakfast-lunch-and-dinner/

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.

The podcast  Will and Bruce did on Culture of Change #24 resonated with me especially the term that Will threw out.  Will and Bruce discuss the article on Fast Company about how Satya Nadella’s was able to bring change to Microsoft.

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?