For the first time in about 15 years, I am not conducting teacher workshops or doing summer camps with kids. I am excited and nostalgic at the same time. Before I leave I wanted to get some things ready for STEAM by Design which will have 4 sections plus a new trimester course called CS Explorations. A long-time colleague will be teaching this class while I will split the STEAM by Design teaching with a person who was recently hired. This is the largest expansion of computer science courses in the history of my school and for sure in the middle school. Below are a couple of videos I made for how we plan to assess and encourage students to own their learning.
This text is from the new MS Computer Science site I built for the new courses.
We will be using a Depth of Knowledge model to align better with proficiency-based learning and computational thinking.
The main component of all MS Computer Science courses will be the creation of a reflective portfolio by students with examples of work products including a narrative paragraph on the learning process.
View a presentation on how students can own their learning in STEAM by Design.
View a presentationon how students will use Computational and Design Thinking in STEAM by Design.
Our 3 teams have successfully submitted their 3 pitch videos to Pactful today as part of the Jacobs Teen Innovation Challenge. The teams worked hard to develop product ideas for the Sustainable Development Goals of #5 Gender Equality, #6 Affordable and Clean Energy, and #7 Clean Water and Sanitation. The teams have worked on their solutions for the last few months and went through the design thinking processes to develop the solution they are pitching. Read more about Pactful at this link https://www.pactful.org/ the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals at https://www.globalgoals.org/
We tested different sized Sani Savrs and settled on sizes in the 55 – 60 mm as these models will dispense approximately 2.4 to 3.4 mL. Considering that not all hands are the same size, we recommend using a 55mm for larger hands and a 60mm for smaller hands.
Dispensed Amount Calculations and Possible Savings
Amount Dispensed mL*
# of Squirts per Bottle*
Increase in # of Squirts*
Savings Per Jug*
No Sani Savr
All measurements are approximate due to the differences in the pressure applied to the pump*.
The last couple of years I wanted to somehow connect the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to the work we do in STEAM by Design. We did not have much time to do a “unit” on the SDGs so I decided to use it as a theme for our work. We have watched the #FridaysForFuture protests by young people, discussed how each of us are trying to help, and thought about how our school could adopt a more sustainable intention as we build out our new campus over the next five or more years. Our school is being lead by a team of fifth graders and a teacher to get our recycling program upgraded as we still have too many items not recycled or what we do recycle is contaminated by the actions of a few who choose not to be mindful about where and how they recycle. I believe the planet is facing extinction for future generations if we do not adjust and get serious about the Climate Crises. In celebration of my twentieth year of teaching at our school, I was provided a copy of The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells which is a tragic tail of how we are leaving a planet that our children’s children will not be able to inhabit. So in keeping with the mantra so many schools now deploy regarding student safety, “If you see something, say something.” or as Maya Angelou said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” I knew I had to do better.
That is why the theme for STEAM is connected to the SDGs. Not all of what we do may connect easily or perhaps at all, I know if we look the connections are there but are hiding in plain site. We just started our first sort of mandatory project which is the magnetic marble run where students must create a design that will allow a marble to pass through it and land on the next design that is done by someone else. I give them a few measurements but also tell them, that they might need other information to be successful. I added to the requirements that the design must connect to one of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. Below are the first prototypes created by 3 of the 10 students in the F section of STEAM by Design. Their designs are based on the SDGs although not sure how well the marble will pass through it, I am impressed at how they are incorporating them in their designs. We decided not to list the number of the goal as we felt the design should make it obvious. Students also choose whatever goal they want.
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.”
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.
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.
I need to come clean about my love of Apple products as I feel both extreme pleasure and a sense of responsibility for what we, as a society, have allowed to happen. I played a part in this since I have visited the Apple Campus to learn how to bring devices to our school. I attended the MacWorld Expo in January 2007 when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. These were glorious times with so much promise for the future. We would be able to move computer use from a destination room to being available when needed. Why then did we end up where we are today? Web filters, apps to monitor usage and destinations, apps to turn off other apps, and the list grows each day. We are on the cusp of great advances with machine learning allowing us to talk to our devices to get answers to on the spot questions. Information is no longer scarce and yet many classes and schools act as if it is. Our schools should be different with all of the devices we have added to them. For the most part we have underutilized the power of the devices but instead worked hard at restricting what they could bring to our learning. I am a participant in this movement and want to own my share of responsibility, but not more than my share.
I gave a talk to the sixth grade yesterday about making wise choices with the devices we give them. I write a book that is on all of the devices to support what I think is important for our learning community. I start with the usual acceptable use and what to do and what not to do. I dislike this part of my role but do it as I must to get to the next part of my role. That is to be a role model for how to balance the devices in our lives. Granted, today I turn 61 so I am long past the age of my students, but I think I remain relevant. The students are amazed that I do not own one of the smartphones that I saw introduced in 2007. I do not like talking on the phone and frankly think the costs of the device and the contracts for service are too high. I have a burner phone for those I love to contact me if needed. My school supplies me with all sorts of devices so I have everything that I need. I live on a farm so I now have 3.5Mbps DSL which is fast enough to do most things but not all things. I have watched as my children and grandchildren have been overtaken by the devices they bring to the farm when they visit. The woods on the farm does not call them like it used to when we looked for the fairy village as the iPad or TV has more draw. So with this in mind I wanted to shake up my presentation to the students which is why I asked these questions and shared these resources. Maybe you will find them useful.
Question: How many of you have an Instagram account?
Response: That is amazing since none of you are 13. I do know that you are all capable of lying to get what you want since everyone has to be 13 to use the good stuff on the internet. I discuss a bit about COPPA.
Advice: If the first thing you have to do to get something you want is to lie, you probably should reconsider if you really want it more then your integrity.
This allows us to discuss how humans will do many things to get what they want and lying is sometimes the least problematic action.
I then shared these resources so they could understand why they “wanted” and were willing to lie to get it as I think this is important information so they do not internalize that they are bad people.
As part of the STEAM by Design Seminar I have prodded and held on based on what I and the students needed at that time. I love this fluidity and most of the students are adjusting to owning their learning more each day. Emma has had an awesome week as she was working on getting the City of Lights project ready to film, started an art project with Julia as they felt we needed more art in our STEAM by Design Seminar. I had to get more Pink Duct Tape for their projects. As class was proceeding Emma said it was too bad that our 3D Wox printer by Sindoh did not have any pink filament. I said they do not sell that color and we can only use their filament. She said, “I think I will contact them!” She wrote all of this on her own and as you can tell she is great at persuasive writing.
I am an 8th grader at Durham Academy in Durham North Carolina. I use the 3D WOX printers in my STEM class at school. I really like to make cool things that I can use, but you don’t make any pretty colors for us to print with. It would be awesome if you could make colors such as pink, purple and sky blue. I like the 3D WOX printers better than any other company, but the only thing that would prevent me from recommending it are the filament colors. I think that you would get a lot more buisiness with better colors.
Thank you very much for considering this idea.
The new Filament colors (Purple and Pink) are going to be available in the early March. (This had not been announced anywhere – emphasis mine)
You will be able to purchase them through Amazon.
Please let us know for any other questions.
This was really a cool response and we were both happy about the reply. She went to her first two classes and then came running into the STEAM lab at break beaming with smiles and floating on clouds as she had another message.
How cool is this? I love this printer (have 3 and ordering 3 more) for our school as the printers just plain work! Now I love this company for supporting a students dream to print in pink!