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.

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!

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.

Survey Says Mostly OK

 Image is property of Common Sense Media 

It is quite possible that you saw the survey released by Common Sense Media that discusses their findings on the use of media by tweens and teens. They surveyed 2500 young people.

This link will take you to their survey. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/the-common-sense-census-media-use-by-tweens-and-teens

You can create an account, use one of the social media login options. I think we should all have accounts.

Key Findings: Bold are my highlights.

1. On any given day, American teenagers (13-to18-year-olds) average about nine hours (8:56) of entertainment media use, excluding time spent at school or for homework. Tweens(8-to 12-year-olds) use an average of about six hours’ (5:55) worth of entertainment media daily

2. From Gamers to Social Networkers, patterns of use vary widely among young media users.

3. Boys and girls have very different media preferences and habits.

4. Despite the variety of new media activities available to them, watching TV and listening to music dominate young people’s media diets.

5. Tween and teen media consumption is highly mobile. Overall, mobile devices now account for 41 percent of all screen time among tweens and 46 percent among teens.

6. Even among teens, social media use still lags behind traditional media use like listening to music or watching TV.

7. Digital screen media are used for many purposes: reading, watching, playing, listening, communicating, and creating.

8. There is a large “digital equality gap” in ownership of computers, tablets, and smartphones.

9. More parents are concerned about the type of media content their children use than how much time they spend using it.

10. Many teens multitask with media while doing their homework, and most think this has no effect on the quality of their work.

11. There are substantial differences in the amount of time young people spend with media, based on family income, parent education, and race/ethnicity.

This link will take you to Larry Magid’s response (also on Huffington Post). He is the person behind Connect Safely and a CBS News correspondent. He serves on the boards of many organizations helping young people navigate the internet. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Magid

http://www.connectsafely.org/tweens-teens-tech-and-surprising-findings-from-common-sense-media-study/

I think we need to continue our efforts to teach ourselves and our students how to manage the digital tools in their lives whether we put them there or their parents do. We need to continue to model the behavior we want our students to emulate as they observe what we do daily. Finally, we need to help our students become less consumers of media and more the creators of media. The iPads give us a great tool to encourage creation with an academic focus and a place to fail and iterate fast. There is actually a lot of good information in the report and I believe we see the findings each day here at school.

If I think about the way I used media when I was a tween (it was before it was a word), I would be about the same. I still have some of these behaviors today. What I have discovered in 59 years on this planet is how to balance more of what I do. If any media wants my time and attention, there has to be a real value in it for me. I define that value as either being entertaining or educational for the most part.

How do you manage your time and attention?

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.

Coding, Girls, and The Future Needs

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For many years I have worked at helping girls to learn to code with a wide variety of tools and techniques. I actually started doing this when I was still a full-time Science teacher many years ago. I think the message that girls get from teachers lead to a perception that they should stay away from certain areas of study. This is of course a great disservice to the girls and the world. Some people call it an unconscious bias. I think that is the wrong way to look at it. As educators we must be aware of the biases we bring with us and work even harder to look at the ones we have due to having grown up in an educational system full of these “unconscious” biases.

I was listening to Leo Laporte on the  Triangulation show interview the Robin Hauser Reynolds the Director of Code: Debugging the Gender Gap documentary (watch or listen here) or embed below. It was a great interview and well worth watching or listening to. I did it in my car on my commute to work as I subscribe to the audio podcast. They covered some of the causes and issues related to why the gender gap exists. As I listened I realized the pace of this gap is glacial as I have been teaching since 1993 and have always tried to improve this notion. They did quote someone who said that biases of this nature take a generation to change. OMG, we do not have that amount of time.

The movie was screened at The Tribeca Film Festival this past week so it is not out in wide release yet. I want to show it to my students today in our coding club (which is about equal female and male) as a way to continue to inspire the girls. Learn more about the movie at http://www.codedocumentary.com and watch the trailer below.

CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap Theatrical Trailer from Finish Line Features, LLC on Vimeo.

Summer Time and the Learning is Easy and Fun

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With apologies to George Gershwin, but my camps are easy and fun. I forget how many years I have done camps during the summer but know it has been a few as some of my early campers have moved from being a camper to being a helper to being in college.

I employ 2 helpers for each of my camps as I believe access to help is important when needed. While this may sound contradictory, I also believe not helping is also important as it allows the campers to own the learning. I  strive to be flexible and fluid in how I operate my camps. Last year I was set to use a site to build apps. As we began the camp I could tell that some of the campers wanted to have a slightly different experience so I found another tool to use and let the campers choose which one to work with. We all learned how to iterate and troubleshoot as the new tool was just that, new to all of us. I think it turned out really well in the end although that first morning was different then what I have imagined.

Dan Gilson, Director of Summer Programs, told me my post-camp reviews were very high. He sent me this testimonial to share with you:

Karl Schaefer’s summer camps got rave reviews from parents and kids last summer!  Every single person I spoke with about his camps said that they were extraordinarily run, the communication was excellent and the kids had a blast learning all kinds of new programming and coding skills.  Karl takes the time to make sure every child gets personalized attention and has a positive experience, socially and educationally, in his camps.

I am happy to announce that I will again be offering a series of summer camps. Each camp is the same so you would only want to attend one session as we repeat the camps in the second session. You can register here: http://da.org/summer

Get Tynkering with Mr. Schaefer

Week 4 – June 29 – July 3 – 1:00 – 4:00

Week 7 – July 20 – 24 – 1:00 – 4:00

Tynker is a web-based site which will allow campers to develop the foundational skills of programming through a simple drag and drop interface. Campers with no previous experience with computer programming or game creation are perfect for this camp. Campers will create games that are challenging and fun to play. Campers will learn at their own pace using the step by step guides and interactive tutorials. Campers will be able to create characters and drawings or use any of the thousands of media from the gallery. Tynker is the place to start learning how to code. Once campers master the drag and drop features they can program with Java Script inside of Tynker.

Learn more at http://www.tynker.com

Scratch Programming with Mr. Schaefer

Week 5 – July 6 – 10 – 1:00 – 4:00

Week 6 – July 13 – 17 – 1:00 – 4:00

Imagine, Program and Share are the key elements of what the free Scratch software can allow campers to create. The software is free, the application is logical and campers will be supported in their learning of the programming language by a seasoned crew of instructors. Young people need to be exposed to programming at an early level to learn how the technology behind computers and games actually work and this is a great camp for that exposure. Come to this camp and “scratch” the programming itch!

Learn more at http://scratch.mit.edu

Become a Code Monkey with Mr. Schaefer

Week 6  – July 13 – 17 – 9:00 – 12:00

Week 7 – July 20 – 24 – 9:00 – 12:00

A code monkey is a term for a novice computer programmer. At some point in every computer programmers life, they were a code monkey. This camp will start at the basics and provide campers with an opportunity to become more then a code monkey. We will start our coding journey with Blocky, an online site developed by Google to introduce programming to novices with a drag and drop interface. As our coding journey continues we will spend two days at Khan Academy investigating the fundamentals of computer science and creating simple programs. Our last stop on our coding journey will be Code Academy where campers will delve into HTML fundamentals in an online course which walks users through each step in writing HTML code as they move to working with CSS, Java Script, and beyond. Campers will leave well equipped to continue being a code monkey.

Please contact me if you have any questions about these camps. I look forward to seeing you there.

Feeling Failure

Fail

We read a lot about the need to fail as a way to learn more. As part of my authorized Google Education Trainer program, I must pass 5 exams each year in order to remain a part of the program. With the snow day yesterday, I used it to take 3 of the exams. I passed the first one on Google Sites with a 91% and felt pretty good. I knew from the last time I took the exams that I am weakest with Google Calendar as I do not use it at school and only a little in my personal account. For this reason, I studied pretty hard for the exam. The exam is 60 questions with 90 minutes to complete the exam. It is an open web exam. I thought about doing other exams that I had to take and leave calendar for the last knowing I would struggle with it. I changed my mind and decided to go for it as I knew I would feel great if I had it over and done with. I took all 90 minutes as the questions were hard. I felt good when I pressed the end test button. Within 15 seconds I had my score and the message of failure. I was upset as I thought I had done better. I do not know which questions I missed but do know I can take it again in 7 days. I kept trying to remember the questions to figure out which ones I may have missed. I do not like failing and not knowing where I went wrong. I took a break and thought of ways I can study differently or more in order to prepare for the retest I will take in 7 days. Later in the day, I took the Chrome exam which I felt good about as I use it all of the time and had studied. I scored a 95%. 

What does all of this mean? Failure is different when it is yours. My wife said to me “ I have not known you to fail at something”. I think this is often true due to my preparation (over) and how I approach learning. I have to admit I also experienced my share of exam anxiety as I approached the exam on calendars. I think that anxiety may have played a part in how confident I was in selecting my answers. The good thing is that I get a second chance although I did have to ask for an extension as I am not able to make the deadline due to this failure.