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.

Finding Time for STEAM – NCAIS Conference

time

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

Explain Everything and Creative Learning

I was so excited, and a bit nervous, after I found out that we would indeed be purchasing the incredible app called Explain Everything. I was nervous because the purchase represented a lot of money and while I knew the app could be a wonderful tool for our students and teachers, I was nervous that the use would be slow and isolated. I did prepare a tutorial for students and teachers after being approached by a teacher about using it in her classroom. She wanted her students to create tutorials that could be used by students and to show they understood the concepts. The old adage of really knowing something only after you try to teach someone else is very apt. One of the best parts of this app is that it does not require students have an account. Instead, we leverage the services we already use to store and share the completed projects. Configuring the accounts to share in Evernote and Google Drive was seamless. Eeoutside2After the initial instruction, students were off recording anywhere on campus since no internet connection is needed while working. The image above shows students outside working on math problems. They are using the Learner 3600 Headsets from ACP Direct. The use of the headsets helped keep the background noise level down and made the process more formal. Students do not need to use headsets if in a quiet room but kids like to be “professional” so the headsets serve that purpose as well.

The video below shows how two-eighth grade students use the app to create tutorials. These were shared in a Google Drive Folder so all students could listen, watch and learn.

My nervousness is gone and my excitement is growing as I know that Spanish and Algebra classes are using the app to create learning opportunities. The support from the company is also fantastic so if you do not yet, have this app, get it now!

What is Going On with My Brain?

Brain

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/21611336@N00/3723710203

I am concerned both about my brain and my student’s brains. My brain due to aging and devices since each year I seem to remember less unless I have it on a device. Then of course I need to remember what device it is on. This is one reason why Evernote, Google Drive, Instapaper, and my new one Pocket is so important to me as they remove needing to remember which device as they are on all of them. I no longer have to remember as much as I need to know how to search. The time I used to spend trying to remember can now be used doing or not doing other things.

I listened/read the audiobook Brain Rules by John Medina and was fascinated by his research and findings. While his research and advice focuses on more then just the matters of distractions caused by our digital world. This is a big concern for educators and parents as we adapt to the changing world. I think that there are some reasons to be concerned or at least aware, but also more reasons to adjust how we teach and use devices in general. Some of this is based on the Brain Rules book while I have also learned much in the MOOC-Ed Digital Learning Transition class I am taking as well as Common Sense Media which is full of good advice as usual.

One thing to always remember is BALANCE being important regarding most activities in life. Too much of anything except oxygen is usually a problem. I received an email today from a parent about the issue of multi-tasking being a huge concern which prompted this post which has been percolating for awhile. The concerns are valid and if we all work at helping each other, we will be fine.

The Brain Rules web site if full of great videos and information about rules of the brain and I highly reccomend watching it and reading the book in whatever format you choose. This video is about attention which is important for both teachers and parents. 

Quoted from his site about Attention and the MYTH of Multitasking:

BRAIN RULE RUNDOWN

Rule #4: We don’t pay attention to boring things.

What we pay attention to is profoundly influenced by memory. Our previous experience predicts where we should pay attention. Culture matters too. Whether in school or in business, these differences can greatly affect how an audience perceives a given presentation.

We pay attention to things like emotions, threats and sex. Regardless of who you are, the brain pays a great deal of attention to these questions: Can I eat it? Will it eat me? Can I mate with it? Will it mate with me? Have I seen it before?

The brain is not capable of multi-tasking. We can talk and breathe, but when it comes to higher level tasks, we just can’t do it.

Driving while talking on a cell phone is like driving drunk. The brain is a sequential processor and large fractions of a second are consumed every time the brain switches tasks. This is why cell-phone talkers are a half-second slower to hit the brakes and get in more wrecks.

Workplaces and schools actually encourage this type of multi-tasking. Walk into any office and you’ll see people sending e-mail, answering their phones, Instant Messaging, and on MySpace—all at the same time. Research shows your error rate goes up 50% and it takes you twice as long to do things.

When you’re always online you’re always distracted. So the always online organization is the always unproductive organization.

Read the articles at Common Sense Media for tips to help your children and yourself as our children model what they see. I also think this study by The Frameworks Institute: A Hands-On Approach to Talking Learning and Digital Media (PDF) could help us all understand the changes taking place with learning and our perceptions. The parts I have read opened up my eyes to misperceptions and gaps in our understanding on how to even talk about some of the changes. The video (12:32) below will discuss the hightlights.

Digital Media and Learning: Trigger Video from Beth Fisher on Vimeo.

Am I Treading Lightly Enough?

Tread Lightly

http://www.flickr.com/photos/21317398@N04/6243312715

As I work on writing comments for my students during our teacher workday, I found a link to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk in a shared Google Doc from the English Departments Retreat last week. I had not seen it so with two browsers open, one for comments, and one for soul food, I listened and wrote. How do I best support my students learning? How exactly did they walk into our collective learning environment? What dreams did they leave at home because they do not get to fulfill them during school? Should I even care?

My day started out with an email from a friend who is opening a new school in August. He has worked on this for a few years and while I no longer interact with him due to a possible conflict of interest, I am happy to see him getting closer to realizing a dream of his. I am jealous a bit in that he has gone for his dream. Not that I haven’t as I am doing a job I love with a school that has all of the learning resources needed at the ready. Yet, I feel like something is missing and maybe it is the change that Sir Ken speaks to and that I think Steve is going to try to foster. My own grandchildren are in school now and I see a melting of the dreams that they once shared with me. What can I do better to nurture all of the dreams of the dreamer, myself included?  

Steve had read a post by Denise Krebs and got to using VoiceThread and remembered how I had told him about how much I like it. You can read more at his blog. 

 

http://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution.html

 

This is a quote from the talk when he reads a poem W. B Yeats.

I wanted to read you a quick, very short poem from W. B. Yeats, who some of you may know. He wrote this to his love, Maud Gonne, and he was bewailing the fact that he couldn’t really give her what he thought she wanted from him. And he says, “I’ve got something else, but it may not be for you.”

He says this: “Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths, Enwrought with gold and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half-light, I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” And every day, everywhere, our children spread their dreams beneath our feet. And we should tread softly.

Students Writing and Teaching While Looking for an Audience

Seats

Image: Apple\’s Eyes Studio / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Over the last few weeks, more students are looking for audiences for their writing and stop animation movies. Mostly the avenue chosen is to send out email messages individually to students and teachers or to a conference where all students can read the request. I think this is a great indicator of the changes that are taking place not only with our students but also with teaching and learning. As the Innovation and Learning Cohort continues to discuss the book: The New Culture of Learning we run into this shift in each chapter. While we could feel threatened by it, I think we need to realize the power this affords us in our classroom. We no longer have to be the smartest person in the room, but do need to be the wisest. This wisdom will allow us to guide the learning, asking questions that allow learners to go further in their thinking and learning as well as modeling that learning is something that does not stop. The changes taking place in education are thrilling even when I am not sure what comes next.

There will be those who read the student writing below and wonder why the writing is not essay or formal quality. I believe this is a new informal writing that is more conversational then it is formal so while I too cringe at some of the errors, I also believe that we have to allow the students to own their learning and at times learning is, well messy.

I asked the students if it was OK to blog their requests so here they are. If you have a moment, add a comment and let them know what you think.

Ashwin writes:

MORE!!! A observation on blogging by: Ashwin S.January 9th, 2012  Tagged blog, more, personal I’ve noticed over the time I’ve been blogging that most people have the same overwhelmingly feeling. That they want more comments more replies or as I phrased it in my title they want MORE!!! Well you think that I am stating the obvious because who wouldn’t want people to see what they were writing that’s the whole point of blogging isn’t it? Well I think that a lot of people want more comments because of human nature. The more people pay attention to you the better you do in life. Even I am feeling like I want more comments (So please comment) it’s just the way we are. A common phrase I say is the perfect way to describe this observation. That phrase is “That’s just life”. http://pdroom212.edublogs.org/2012/01/09/more-a-observation-on-blogging-by-ashwin-s/

Students in sixth grade have really taken to blogging as you can see from some of their posts. I hold great hope that we can begin to see more teachers use this method of authentic writing with their classes.

Alex G sent out this message to a select group of people both at our school and outside of our school:

You may have already gotten an email message like this from me (Alex G.) or Gus L. but we’re just really trying to spread our stop-motion videos to the world. Me and Gus make LEGO stop-motion on imovie and are going to start using ikitmovie (agreat stop-motion sowtware) which I got a few days ago. I’m currently putting my BEST VIDEO YET on youtube so it will be visible probably tommorrow (thurs. january 12). It’s called The Gang, a LEGO STOP-MOTION and don’t worry none of our or my videos are inappropriate unless you say clay blood  or lego guns are but if i can stand watching it, you probably can too. I’ve sent this to my advisory and many other 6th graders and 5th and 6 grade teachers

If you go to youtube or google (and yes, google) just look up in search: “stopmotionbro alex lego” and some of my videos will come up and in the description of the video, if it says stopmotionbro (me) and doofuzz123 (that’s gus) that means we bothmade it. We’ve only made a few together though. I make them on my own out of lego, clay, caplas, puppets, and on paper. My best Videos will say in the description, used IKITMovie.

This is not chainmail but it would be great if you did send this to or tell other people about our videos. thanks and enjoy the videos!
ps, I CURRENTLY HAVE 999 VIEWS FROM 2 MONTHS OF POSTING VIDEOS SO I ATLEAST WANT 1000 BY THE END OF THE DAY but i don’t need to worry because i get about 50 views a day.
Alex G. 6th grade student

Gus and Ian sent out this message. Clearly Gus is working with many students so must be a good collaborator.

Ian L. and I created a youtube account. It is IGLProductionz. We are uploading videos DAILY, and we hope that you subscribe, as it means a lot to us and will encourage us to make more videos!

So when you hear about how teachers need to harness the passion of their students, this, I believe, is the passion we are talking about. What would happen if these students were directed to create videos for subjects and concepts in the classroom as well as the ones they are passionate about like stop animation and Minecraft? Besides, these students are learning about copyright, fair use, Creative Commons and other 21st Century issues.

Since YouTube is blocked at school, all of this work is taking place outside of school and with their parents knowledge and support.

Here’s to a bigger audience for your teaching and learning.

Is it studying or learning?

Studying

‘Studying’ http://www.flickr.com/photos/90151774@N00/3349594759

I have blogged in the last year about how I wanted to flip my classroom with posts called When Students Teach Themselves and When Students Run the Class. Both highlight for me how I must adapt the ways I have always taught to the current culture of learning. I am helping to lead a cohort of teachers reading the book: New Cultures of Learning by John Sealy Brown and Douglas Thomas. We meet once a month and have great conversations about learning, future, past, current and our role and place. Read more at the blog. We are reading chapter 5 which talks about personal collectives. So the idea of observing what is going on in the labs and in the classes I teach is at the forefront of my thinking these days. In addition, the digital device project is going strong with near constant daily insights.

So with all of this going on, yesterday I overheard an interesting exchange between a very well-meaning teacher and a group of students. The teacher is responsible for an after-school study hall which is housed in a computer lab. Students sit at computers accomplishing work or sit elsewhere reading. Since it is after-school, most students have out their cell phones and iPods which are not allowed during the school day. There are rules for what students are supposed to be doing in order to maintain a productive environment. One thing they are supposed to have is a book to read if they have no homework I understand these rules and support them, for the most part, especially as the numbers of students has grown from 10 or 12 to over 30 students.

What happened yesterday though got me thinking, what is the difference between studying and learning? Are we in the studying business or the learning business? I believe it is the learning business and even though we are often hard pressed to describe what learning is, most teachers know it when they see it, or do they with the changes? Why is not one of the rules to be learning something and not just studying it since to me that implies the knowledge being gained is coming from a source outside the learner. I think we as educators may not recognize learning in this new form and instead may actually quash it in favor of the view of studying which is more familiar.

Sketchup

So what happened? Two students (both girls which is a whole different post about girls and computer science) just finished my class. In their last rotation they both created incredible SketchUp cities as they taught themselves and each other how to use and create. There was another student who they were teaching how to use Sketchup. Students teaching each other SketchUp has been going on constantly since the last rotation. They were not disrupting the study hall but were working on creating a village of their designs. As the teacher, who is well meaning, asked if they were done with their homework, check, they all were. Then came the fateful question, is what you are doing for a class? The students said no, and were told to quit it then as they should read a book or do something else as they could not “play” on the computer. They did quit and went about doing something different. These are exceptional students. I was disheartened but recognize that what looks like learning to me, looks like not studying to someone else.

As I prepared to leave for the day, the student who had been getting instruction stopped me to ask if she could create a petition to get a technology elective class for seventh and eighth grade students since there is not one. I told her I would support her doing that and asked what tool she would use hoping she would choose a Google form which she did. I gave no instructions on how to do anything but today in my email was a sample form asking for my feedback.

As Alan November states in his Global Education Keynote “Who controls the learning?” I would add, would we recognize it if we saw it or would we attempt to stop it?

Digital Learning Farm, Digital Learning, and NAIS Independent School Magazine

Guide to The Digital Learning Farm Flyer | Langwitches Blog

I mentioned this organizational structure yesterday as a way to reconfigure, if you will, a classroom when everyone is connected.

http://langwitches.org/blog/2011/06/21/the-digital-learning-farm-flyer/

Also good is the Globally Connected Learning

http://langwitches.org/blog/2011/06/22/guide-to-globally-connected-learning-flyer/

 

Digital Learning | The Committed Sardine

The concept of digital learning is also in need of understanding. The image above is from a great post on Fluency21 which is a group of educational thinkers founded by Ian Jukes. Read more about this take on digital learning at http://www.fluency21.com/blogpost.cfm?blogID=2288

How do our classrooms help foster or hinder these skills? If we add a connected digital device either as a part of the school or as an organic BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or perhaps just use what we have students hide, where does our curriculum fit within this framework?

The underlying assumptions are core values and processes that enable digital learning to flourish. They are:

  • relevant and contextual curriculum
  • Assessment that is both challenging and transparent (since this lies in a relevant and contextual curriculum, it is also by definition relevant and contextual)
  • An emphasis of higher order thinking skills (analysis and evaluation – creativity is a core aspect of digital learning)
  • Valuing student voice and providing the students with ownership of their learning and assessment.

The author, Andrew Churches works with the Info Savvy Group and focuses on Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT). His bio quote is: “This is about ICT and education. Thoughts & reflections on integrating ICT in the classroom and across the school. I am the Curriculum Manager for ICT and contributor to the infosavvy group. To make a difference we have to change our pedagogy, How we teach, why we teach.”

The above article is from his blog at http://edorigami.edublogs.org Also check out the Edorigami Wiki for a wealth of information.

Independent School Magazine  Fall 2011  Evolution or Revolution

The NAIS Independent School magazine has great articles about change and other issues confronting Independent Schools. In the Fall 2011 Volume 71 number 1 issue Meredith Stewart from Cary Academy and formerly Durham Academy writes with her students about Learning Differently – and Deeply. The entire site is a wealth of resources for all of us in our search for answers to the questions facing our schools and our teaching profession.

Directing the Rider

Direct 1

At our October Faculty Meeting I gave a presentation entitled “Motivating the Elephant” based on the book Switch by the Heath Brothers. See this post for that presentation. At our next faculty meeting, my presentation will be on Directing the Rider which is the second strategy for preparing an organization for a switch. The feedback from my first presentation was mixed in that some colleagues felt that they were doing all they could with what they had to work with while others had concerns that a decision had been made without any discussion. I am attempting to address the first concern with the first slide in the presentation as I was not talking about teachers not doing enough, rather I was talking about the need of our organization to do more. We teachers are often too willing to attach messages to ourselves instead of seeing them as institutional. I can not fully address the decision being made as I do not have all of the information. My sense is that the decision is very much in flux as a group of teachers are traveling next week to Webb School in Knoxville TN to see that school’s iPad deployment. Another school they will visit is Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga TN which recently switched from Windows Tablets to MacBook Airs. Teachers and administrators are going to learn how these two schools utilize the devices in their learning community. Our Middle School Director, Jon Meredith, French Teacher, Teresa Engebretsen, Algebra and Pre-Algebra Teacher, Gib Fitzpatrick, and Sixth Grade Language Arts Teacher Patti Donnelly are part of the group. Patti is also one of the two teachers testing out laptops and iPads with their students. I look forward to hearing what they have learned and how it will help our school determine if we want a 1 to 1 deployment of a student device.

I believe my presentation on Monday will help address some of the concerns raised and move the conversation to helping us all use what we presently have available in addition to new ideas and strategies for learning in this modern era. I will be using a Google Presentation but recorded this VoiceThread version ahead of time for colleagues who cannot attend the meeting on Monday.

 


Middle School Device Reflections Week 4

The Calatrava Eye

‘The Calatrava Eye’ http://www.flickr.com/photos/22746515@N02/5354806024

We started the Middle School Digital Device Project on October 17th when Ms. Donnelly’s class were given MacBooks for use. The iPads were handed out to Ms. Williams’ class on October 24th. After the first week students were able to take them home if we had the signed form back. I have been pleasantly surprised with how the students have responded and are helping us determine if we should adopt a MacBook or an iPad, or nothing. While the process is still very young, I thought I would share some thoughts.

iPad and Laptop

Evernote

We are testing this software and service as the iPad presents a challenge to easily transfer files. Teachers have set up Shared Folders where they can add notes for the students which appear when the account is synced. Each class has setup their school sponsored Evernote account. We did run into a few bumps with the iPad group not being able to sign up using the iPads as it appeared to not like the URL for our sponsored account. A quick trip to the computer lab allowed us to use a Desktop to setup the account as well as sync to the iPad app. Ms. Donnelly assigned an Evernote assignment for the students to teach their parents about Evernote through the use of a recorded audio note. Once the note was created/recorded, students shared the note with Ms. Donnelly where she could listen and assess the assignment if necessary. While I am not sure if this software is critical since we have Moodle and Google Apps for Education, the ease of use and automatic syncing along with the ability to move notes between almost any device does have benefits. I will be very excited once Skitch is integrated so students can draw on PDFs or other notes in Evernote. I sent out invites to the entire 6th grade team today so they could also test the software.

Digital Media and Acceptable Use

This does not surprise me but we have had a couple of issues with students making poor choices even after we discussed the use of the many tools available to them. We are talking about Middle School students so boundary testing is part of the mix as is making mistakes. Some issues that we have dealt with include IMing during class, leaving an iPad/laptop unattended or at home, taking pictures of other students without permission, bypassing the filter to view YouTube, and a couple low battery after being at home. All are too be expected and have been addressed and students are helping us to write How to articles so we can have some student created solutions. These are all very teachable moments.

I think we would have been better prepared our community if we had used and discussed the Common Sense Media Family Media agreements before the students were given the devices. I am pretty sure it would have helped our families cope with the addition of the device to their homes. This area should be a focus if the school were to adopt a device or frankly even if we do not adopt a device.

iPad only

Syncing and Books

While the cases are nice, they must be removed to be charged and synced in the Bretford PowerSync tray. While not horrible, it does mean students must take them out and take off the passcode so we can update the iPads. This is probably not the way we would manage a 1 to 1 iPad environment since students would probably be required to sync over the air or via a different system where they had full rights to the iPads. Since we have them locked to a school ID, students cannot add or delete apps. We struggled with the best way to handle this and decided for the purpose of this test, we would use the Apple Volume License approach where we purchase the apps and install the software apps. Students are using a shared Google Doc to record app suggestions as well as Books they would like to read in iBooks. We will then purchase and sync to the iPads. I am not a big fan of the iBook app as I prefer the Kindle app since I can read the same book on almost any device. Again, for the purpose of this project, we are testing the use of iBooks.

Google Docs

Even with Office2 HD, the use is not the great on an iPad. I read an open letter from Scott Meech where he hoped Apple and Google could make it work better together. Given the competition between these two rivals, I will not hold my breath, but it is a real deterrent on the iPad since the mobile browser does not allow for a rich editing experience.

Blogsy

This app has proven to be a true winner for blogging. While I struggled understanding exactly how to use it, after a few minutes we had a group who knew how to use it and were able to help all of us learn. This is key since the device must allow for writing and we are trying to get our students to write for an authentic audience.

i-nigma QR Code Reader

I love this simple app that allows us to create a QR code and add it to the Moodle course so students just point the iPad at it and they are taken to it. We have used it for the Blog and Discovery Education Mobile site. To learn more about QR Codes in Education read the ISTE article.

Laptop only

  • Kernel panics were new to the students and seems to afflict a few each day. Not sure if it is due to 4 year old laptops or the system but we are attempting to solve this issue.
  • Cords and power adapters across the floor is an accident waiting to happen. We must have a more elegant solution.
  • Storage before, during and after school is in need of fine tuning as many students do not have room in their lockers since it is still full of binders.
  • Using a Google Doc where students could ask questions and I could provide answers makes it easy to support and instruct as often the document would show up in my list of documents as bold alerting me to a question. In short time, I could provide an answer, image or link to a solution. Other times, I just walked to the room to assist.
  • Transitions are always an issue and having one more thing to stow before students leave the classroom is not ideal.

Things to consider in the future

  • Boot camp for students, teachers and parents where we learn how to do manage the devices both from the care perspective but also with respect to digital citizenship and balance.
  • Develop activities that students, teachers and parents can do to practice these digital citizenship practices.
  • Create opportunities for the exchange of information between all members of our community so we are mostly rowing in the same direction as I believe all members of our community desire what is best even if we have different opinions on how to fast to be rowing.

I am looking forward to the next few weeks as the data we are getting back is providing very valuable.