Finding Time for STEAM – NCAIS Conference

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This Friday, 10/21/16, I will be presenting in room 6 from 10:15 – 10:45 at the Annual NCAIS Conference. I proposed this session last year as I think other schools could benefit on how I have approached developing the STEAM by Design Seminar.

Proposal Summary
Making, Makerspaces, and Design Thinking are powerful new instructional methods and concepts that many schools are adopting or trying to adopt. This session will focus on how a Middle School teacher started a STEAM by Design class in a schedule that did not have any room. Come to this session to find a place to add a STEAM by Design seminar in your school.

Proposal Description
Schools are faced with a dilemma when trying to institute new programs or classes. Most schedules in schools are already full leaving little or no room for creating new models of learning and teaching. Our Middle School wanted to have a STEAM class with Coding, Design Thinking, Electronics, 3D Design, 3D Printing, and Making. How do we add something to an already full schedule for students in a way that will not overload the students while also exposing them to these skills and concepts. The answer was to look at the area where students are provided time to study even on days when perhaps they do not need the time to study, or that they would like to learn something about STEAM and still have the time to study when needed. Therefore we are offering a STEAM by Design Seminar as a year-long class open to any seventh or eighth grade student who wants to take the seminar (provided they are also not a double foreign language student). The seminar will meet three out of the six days that their study hall meets. The STEAM by Design Seminar will explore these concepts and skills using the online resources (Project Ignite by Autodesk and CodeMonkey). With this approach, our school plans to infuse the STEAM concepts and skills related to STEAM and Making without wide institutional change that would require committees and time. If we fail, we iterate and adjust to the next design.

This is the presentation I will be using so please feel free to make a copy of

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.

NCTIES Reflections

I was lucky enough to attend NCTIES conference last week in Raleigh. I have not been to this conference for a long time so it was nice to be there again. I attended mostly maker space sessions as I am working on devising how to bring one to our school. There is no magical answer other then to just start and allow agency for the students.

As a Google for Education Certified Trainer, I was asked to help in the Google booth on the vendor floor and had the opportunity to demonstrate Google Expeditions. The technology behind this is pretty cool but I like how the teaching and learning was front and center. The tablet had all of the expeditions loaded on it and the phones inside of the cardboard were delivered the expedition via a closed wifi network. This meant that there was no need for internet access. The phones could be anything 6 inch or smaller. We were using Nexus phones with no data plan. While still in beta through the pioneer program, Google plans to have kits available next year that will feature the tablet, router, speaker, cardboard, and phones for purchase. Pricing is still being determined and currently the free apps are only available on Android. While no guaranty Google has clearly been able to create awesome iOS apps so I suspect much like the Cardboard app, there will be iOS versions of the Expeditions and Viewer apps. Learn more about the hardware needs at this Google Expedition support page.

 

 

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.