Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Learning continues as we CONNECT

Our connection with +Carlos Roque's class in Cambridge is taking off! Carlos' students have provided my students with two Math tasks that we have worked through. The activities that we are engaging in are exciting to the students and provides them with 'real life' reasons to "do" Math. It's interesting to hear them and watch them work on solving the patterning questions that have been shared with us via Google Drive.

Since the activities are being created by students for students, there seems to be a lot more engagement and 'pride' in creating and completing tasks. It's not all work though, there is some fun happening as well. Carlos' class sent us a Halloween message via YouTube - check it out:

Prior to this message by Carlos's students we had created two videos for them - answering the Math tasks that they had sent to us. Jeff represents our class in sharing our process/answer in the first video and Amanda represents our class in sharing our response in the second video. 

I'm sure you have noticed that I am not sharing the identity of the students in my class. For recorded videos that live on the Internet, my students and I have decided not to share their identity. However, that doesn't stop us from using our audio which the students are very excited about. It may lead to a few podcasts which are another way for us to connect with other classes and share our learning.

We recently created a Math activity for Mr. Roque's class via Google Docs. We shared the Doc with Mr. Roque and then made a short video about it:

We look forward to hearing back from our friends in Cambridge and can't wait for our next live meeting with them. It certainly is a valuable connection for the teachers and students involved. As we progress on our learning journey, Mr. Roque and I continue to learn how to leverage the tech tools involved in getting our classes together. As we are learning, so are our students - first hand and in real time. They know that the walls that surround our classrooms are simply physical barriers that protect us from the elements, not from learning with anyone in the world that has access to technology. Until our next post, get and/or stay connected!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Going with the Flow

My students and I arranged to connect with +Carlos Roque and his grade 5 students today. Last week Carlos and I connected via email about having a hangout between our classes. We talked about setting up the hardware component of the hangout (computer set up, etc) and what we would chat about during out hangout.

When the time came for us to connect, we found ourselves alone in the hangout. The students and I wondered what happened to the grade 5 class - did they have a technical issue? Did Carlos not get my email in time with the link to our hangout? Did something happen at their school that got in the way? We were unsure but as we talked about what we were thinking, we decided to make the best of our opportunity and record a message for the grade 5 students.

The students and I talked about what we should say in our recording, they quieted down, and I hit the "broadcast" button. We went live so I could record the hangout and then send the link to Carlos and his students. We took advantage of our situation and created content for our friends. Great learning came from the hangout that didn't happen. Check out our message to our Cambridge friends:

A few minutes after recording and sending this video to Carlos, we got a call from him and his students! We answered the call and connected!! It turns out that they had some technical issues. This was their first time in a hangout and they did a great job. As we spoke to the students and they spoke to us, I could hear Carlos in the background talking to his students about proper etiquette and supporting them throughout the experience. It was wonderful to see my colleague in action as he broke down the walls of his classroom and continued to teach his students how to do things right. 

It was great to connect the two classes (two of my current students know Mr. Roque and some of his students) and look forward to connecting again soon to do some Math together.  

Friday, October 7, 2016

Connecting with other Classrooms

This school year I am part of a core group of educators working to connect classrooms in order to improve teacher practise and student learning. The goal is to break down the classroom walls and use a variety of tools/techniques to bring teachers and students together to learn and share.

Over the past few years I have been fortunate enough to connect with other teachers using google hangouts and social media but it has never been as planned and strategic as it will be this year.

With these thoughts in my head I decided to email a couple of my colleagues to see if they wanted to connect today for a short time. One of the teachers is relatively new to the use of technology for things of this nature and the other is a seasoned veteran. They both agreed to connect via hangout as an "introduction" to this school year and for my class to share their learning in math at the current time.

The first hangout didn't go as planned. My colleague's camera didn't work, she didn't have a mic, and after few minutes my mic stopped working. Technology is great, isn't it? Thankfully, we used the chat feature to communicate with each other and I used my camera to show her class what we were talking about. 

This 'failure' was great for a couple of reasons. First, my colleague, her students, and my students got to see what things look like when things don't go right. This is an important experience as it provides an understanding of all the little things that need to come together to make something like this happen. My students saw me preparing for the hangout and they knew that I wasn't purposely trying to fail. Second, everyone involved got to see my reaction when things stopped working. I know that glitches like this happen from time to time  so it was important for me to remain calm and go with the flow as much as I can. Although things didn't go as planned, failure (issues that are unexpected) is part of the process. 

Having some fun and showing my students the options that Hangouts provide before connecting with another class.

The second hangout was a lot more successful than the first. For starters, I got myself a new mic to make sure that I would be heard on the other end. The teacher I connected with has experience with hangouts and has experienced difficulties along the way - between the two of us we could trouble shoot out way through a hangout to make sure it worked. 

With audio and video working on both ends, we talked about our learning in Math, with a focus on Math representations and 3D technology. It was neat to present our work (grade 4/5) to a grade 7 class. The hangout was about 5-10 minutes long and served its purpose. 

The students were pretty happy to have experienced seeing and speaking with people outside of our classroom. We are already looking forward to connecting with other classes in our system, and beyond, to share our learning and to experience the learning process with others.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Learning will be Epic (and Innovative in and of Itself) #IMMOOC #RollandChidiac

The path that has led me to the #IMMOOC has been an interesting one. I'm hoping that it is an indication of the great learning that is to come. In June, some of my colleagues ( +Jessica Weber  and +Amy Shantz)  who were taking a course together, decided that they wanted to have a book study over the summer months. I read about it on Twitter and told them that I was interested. Next thing you know, I've got a copy of +George Couros' 'Innovators Mindset' book in my hands. However, that was not my first interaction with the text. Months before the local book club opportunity, I was part of a Voxer chat group (thanks to +Jennifer Casa-Todd)  about the book - where I got to interact with a variety of people from around the globe about their thoughts and experiences with respect to the Innovators Mindset. Even thought I hadn't read the book yet, I was blown away by the learning that was coming out of the chat.

While I was participating in the Voxer chat, I experienced something that I can still visualize today, with crystal clarity. I was at a meeting with a group of people above my pay grade (consultants, principals, and senior admin) and one of them had the book. You could tell that it was being used extensively - it had sticky notes falling out of it and it looked worn - great indicators of the value it held for this particular person. Anyhow, I engaged this person and told them that I was participating in the Voxer chat group about the book.  They began to share their learning with me and anyone listening to us could see and hear the passion with which this person was talking about their experience.

This next part is what has stuck with me over the past few months: this person said to another person (both of whom I respect and look up to) "If you're not learning, you're dying" and the response from the other person was "well, that would explain all the corpses I have been seeing lately!". Wow! That is when several things hit me. First, I thought, I need to get myself in gear and keep bumping up my learning journey. Second, I knew that I needed to put the Innovators Mindset book on my learning journey.

I started reading the book this summer and then I saw a tweet referring to a post that George wrote to see if people were interested in participating in an Innovators Mindset MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). I filled in the form and crossed my fingers that enough people would do the same so that George would proceed with his idea. I shared this opportunity with my District by posting it to our Google + page and told my close friends about it. You can imagine how happy I was when I found out that the MOOC would be running!

The Facebook Page for the MOOC is buzzing and people are posting links to their blog posts about joining the MOOC and what they hope to gain from it. I am looking forward to connecting with people, learning with them, and sharing my learning so I can establish an innovators mindset. I believe that it is worthy of making this mindset a habit. What I am loving so far is that we are already establishing an Innovators Mindset by trying new things and pushing ourselves in order to learn and grow in a way that we may not have experienced before. People are leveraging Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Voxer, and who knows what else to learn and connect.

The learning will be epic. Looking forward to connecting and growing with you.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Students Leveraging 3D Technology

Shortly before school ended in June, the students and I talked about the personal projects they engaged in over the school year. The personal projects were our version of 20% time/genius hour. They engaged in a variety of projects and used them to learn about new things and practise the skills they learned. 

In the last couple of weeks of school, I encouraged the students to think about what types of personal projects they would like to participate in next school year. We talked about a variety of things and many students showed interest in personal projects that would be a service to others. They took the time to start brainstorming what they might want to engage in next year.

A group of students put a plan together and brought it to me. They wanted to do something that would help cheer up young people who are in the hospital. They wanted to design and 3D print something that the children in the hospital could wear/hold on to for inspiration - a reminder that they were not alone. They created and printed the following:

We ran out of time to write letters and get these to the hospital but I am certain this will be taken care of when the school year starts up again. The students are proud and excited about their idea. I look forward to having them make what they need and continue to leverage the resources they have at hand to make their ideas come to life.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Guest Blogpost: Beginnings in 3D Technology

As part of our TLLP learning and sharing this school year, I connected with several teachers to bounce ideas off of and gain a variety of perspectives about our learning and ideas for new learning. One of the teachers I have been working with is +Jessica Weber, an Intermediate teacher in Kitchener. She recently had an interesting experience with respect to 3D printing - actually, her first venture into the 3D technology world. Below is her blogpost about her experience. You can connect with +Jessica Weber on Google + and Twitter.  

This year I have been fortunate to spend time with +Rolland Chidiac-WCDSB at different points of his journey incorporating 3D printing into his grade 4 classroom. A few ah-ha's for me include the role of discovery, tangibles as gateways to student learning and improvement, and the inevitability of failure (and how we use it to feed-forward).

This opportunity to learn, discuss, ideate, and share has been especially beneficial as I am being provided with a 3D printer in my classroom next year as part of a research study on spatial reasoning. One of my goals is to explore how mathematical concepts (eg. scale) and the design process can be intertwined to improve students' spatial reasoning skills. I also hope to discover ways to incorporate design thinking into other subject areas (with students leading the way I imagine). 

The chance to get started with 3D printing came before I knew it. 

As a final culminating activity in history, students were challenged to synthesize their learning from the time period explored in any manner they choose. Ideas included creating virtual timelines, counterfactual videos, and news broadcasts. A pair of students thought that they might like to create a monument commemorating the War of 1812. This intrigued me and I thought it was a great opportunity to give TinkerCad a try. The two boys were more than willing to experiment! 

Below is a screenshot of their TinkerCad design.

The gates on each side represent the countries and the chain represents an unbreakable bond. I noticed the depth of thought as the students worked away on their design. Each element carefully considered and adjustments were made throughout. 

The students were quite satisfied with their design remaining on TinkerCad (which highlighted for me that the ability to print was not necessarily needed required). They projected their design on the whiteboard and shared their ideas and design with their classmates. 

To their surprise, I asked +Rolland Chidiac-WCDSB if he would print the design for them. I was able to download the .stl file and send it to him (woot woot)!! To my knowledge, he needed to make a few adjustments to their design so it would print properly (and in a reasonable time frame). Aspects I need to learn more about next year. 

A few days later it arrived in the courier! 

In one of his previous posts, Rolland stated something that really stood out for me.
"THAT is where the rubber meets the road."

It's the THINKING behind the artifacts that is truly powerful. All made possible by giving students opportunities to design and create in ways that bring meaning to their thinking. 

Back to my 'ah-ha's:

The role of discovery: Rolland didn't know all the answers (or all the questions for that matter) when he started with 3D printing. He discovered alongside his students. This is empowering and motivating for all students. 

Tangibles as gateways to student learning and improvement:
 Who doesn't like to see their ideas come to life? Rolland shared many instances where the tangible object facilitated learning. An example of this was the characters they created as part of storytelling. He noticed what a difference it made having the 3D printed objects on their desks during the writing process. This was evident with my students as well. When I showed the students the printed monument, their faces lit up. I could see the pride and excitement in their eyes. 

The inevitability of failure (and how we use it to feed-forward): 
Rolland's blog on failures was my very favourite. Things don't always go according to plan. Sometimes we end up with just a mess of plastic. We need to adjust and move on. One of the students who designed the monument stated that he was disappointed that the gates did not fit perfectly into the arch. He had included small slits in the arch that were suppose to hold the gates in place. His slits were not quite big enough, so without careful balancing, the gates fell over. He went over to his laptop and changed it on his design. Awesome! 

A big thanks to Rolland for his willingness to share and discuss! 
Looking forward to collaborating on design projects in the future!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sharing the Learning and Learning from Sharing

I recently invited several educators to visit our classroom to see our 3D technology setup, look over student work, and to reflect on their visit by providing my students and I with some of their "wonders". It was a pleasure having +Kellie Grant, +Jennifer Duarte+Mary Diemert+Diane Laverty+Michael Leonard, +Katrina Gouett, +Sean Ferguson, and +Jessica Weber participate in looking at the ideas my students brought to life and helping me reflect on the learning that my students and I have experienced this school year. 

Prior to our visits and meetings, my blog posts about our learning journey were made available to them to provide some history and context. I have spent a lot of time sharing our learning and gathering feedback about it via social media and face-to-face conversations with people at my school. It was a treat to meet up with and share the learning with educators in my school board who I consider to be cutting edge, open to new learning experiences, and critical thinkers who don't hesitate to ask tough questions about what they encounter. 

As a result, my students and I have been provided with a lot of great "wonders" to reflect on and address. My students and I are grateful for the different views/perspectives that "outsiders" have provided us with. We are using their questions and comments to build our capacity and assist us in growing as we wrap up our time integrating the 3D technology into learning and demonstration of learning. Here are some of the wonders that our visitors provided us with:

  • Did most students catch on to Tinkercad easily? 
  • Is it difficult to find the time to print all of the 3D objects during school time?
  • How does integrating technology, in particular the 3D printer, “meet the multiple intelligences?” (Visual-Spatial; Bodily Kinesthetic; Musical; Intrapersonal; Interpersonal; Linguistic; Logical mathematical ).
  • How did students who have difficulty visualizing establish a ‘design mindset?’
  • How frustrating was it when the 3D design did not work?
  • Did the students ever build a 3D design with other materials?
  • The narrative story looked like a lot of fun. I liked how their characters came to ‘life.’
  • Were the characters created on the 3D printer before writing or after?
  • If before, was it easier to write the narrative?
  • I’m curious about the cost of the 3D printing post TLLP budget, is it expensive?
  • What made some students use clay etc instead when doing social studies Early Societies representations? 
  • Are students aware of the differences in the process between using the tech and using their hands? 
  • Can they articulate why they choose the format they did?
  • If you can code can you Tinkercad?
  • Did your students have any experience with coding before your project?
  • What were some of the challenges when using Tinkercad?
  • How did your students handle their successes and failures?
  • Did your students rely on each other to problem solve?
  • I would think perseverance would be a trait that your students demonstrated through some of the activities. Was it difficult for your students to picture their characters in 3D form and transform that image into real life?
  • What will your students do with their new knowledge? Can they apply this knowledge to other subject areas?
  • The 3D printer really made me wonder about how I could best use it in visual arts and integrate it with measurement in math (cylinders and circles).
  • I wondered also what types of paint could be used on this plastic? (model paint, nail polish, etc).
  • I also wondered how using a 3D printer would propel students forward in a growth mindset.
  • Because of the newness or ‘novelty’ of this technology do students overcome the failures and challenges of design with ease?
  • I keep wondering if this is something I could financially pull off in my class...thinking about funding options that might work.
As you can see, we have been provided with a lot of great questions to consider. What I have been doing is posing one or two of the questions above to my students each day. We form a classroom meeting circle and I ask the question. At first the students felt a little worried about the questions - they wondered whether people would judge them based on their thoughts/opinions. I reminded them that the purpose of questions were to help us grow as learners, that there is as much value in being able to easily answer the questions as there is in struggling with them.

Taking risks and trying new things has been an over arching theme in our class this year. I reminded them that I think of myself as the chief risk taker in our classroom and that when I invited my colleagues to enter into this process with us that it was a big risk and that I felt the same as them. I also reminded them that my growth and learning has benefited because of the risks I have taken and that my teaching practice will improve from the feedback I receive.

We are lead learners in this area now and as responsible citizens and life long learners, we have a duty to lead and teach others. As we go forward, my plan is to continue to integrate 3D technology into my classroom community and into the general population of the school. This year's group of students know that I want them involved as we move forward - that I expect them to assist in teaching and mentoring the students who start to integrate this type of technology into their learning during the next school year.

With a little less than two weeks left in the school year, we will be spending a lot of time processing the questions above and figuring out what we know, what we don't know, and what we want to learn. I am confident that our reflections will lead us to great insight about ourselves and the directions we want to take to improve and how we want to keep sharing our learning so other will do the same.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy 3D Father's Day!

As we were preparing for Father's Day, the students and I wanted to do something unique. We started with a quick Google search that led us to the stereotypical Father's Day stuff that almost everyone has seen over and over again.

As we searched and discussed out options, one of the students suggested that we print something using the 3D printer, as we had for Christmas with out ornaments. The students agreed that it would be a good idea. Since we didn't have a lot of time on our hands, we searched for 3D files that already existed and found one that we liked - a key chain!

At this point, the students got together in groups and started talking about what we could do to the file to make it our own, to customize it a bit and to make sure that we could print 30 or so of them so that everyone would have one.

The first thing the students suggested was that we shrink the key chain so that it would take between 20-25 minutes to create. Then we talked about print quality to make sure that even though it was small, it would still look good. After a couple of test runs, we had our key chain set to be made in about 23 min with a regular print quality setting.

Everybody got one and we even printed one for an older student who saw what we were doing and showed interest. I picked up the key rings from the Dollar store and tada, Father's Day 2016 would prove to be a unique one for all of our dads.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Bringing Ideas to Life in Social Studies

In Social Studies the students spent some time learning about Early Societies (e.g. Ancient Chinese, Greeks, Egyptians, etc). As a whole class, we learned about the Six Indigenous Nations and how they lived. In particular, we examined such things as their family life, dress, food, housing, transportation, technology, and art. After we worked together to learn about the Six Nations, the students were given the opportunity to focus in on an Early Society of interest. They researched their chosen society, created a Google Slides presentation, presented it to the class, and compared their chosen society to at least two other societies that were researched. They also shared a 3D printed object and explained how it assisted with their learning and reasons for its creation.

Together, we created a Slides template of the minimum requirements and then students started to work independently to gather information, make sense of it, and incorporate it into their presentation. The students were also provided with the opportunity to design and print an artifact connected to their learning. The idea was to give the students one more way to demonstrate their learning by using the 3D printer. Many students took advantage of the opportunity to create an artifact - many used the 3D technology but some decided to use cardboard and plasticine. Nevertheless, the majority of the kids were excited and motivated to learn, design, and create. 

As I have come to learn over the span of this school year, the 3D printed thoughts and ideas that have been brought to life are only 1 piece of the learning puzzle. They are proud of the physical representations of their learning. They hold them, manipulate them, and pass them around - they are symbols of their hard work and new learning. I love seeing the excitement on their faces but the best part for me is listening to them as they talk about their artifacts. THAT is where the rubber meets the road. Sure, it's great to see that they successfully took their abstract thoughts and brought them to life using technology and a design process, but when they start to talk about what their artifacts represent, I get a direct route to their their thinking, the connections they make/made, the way they apply what they have learned, and the process they followed to arrive to the end product. There isn't too much prodding on my part, I just ask a question or two and they do the rest of the work. 

Below are photos of some of the cool creations that have been printed and discussed. 

Ancient Chinese food prepared and placed on a platter. Great discussion about Chinese food and how it differs from what we eat today.

Ancient Egypt: the Greek God Anubis who is associated with mummification and the afterlife. Designing this object proved to be difficult for the student so she found a design on the internet and then customized it and printed it.

Medieval Times: Bow, arrows, and bucket for arrows. This artifact was created around the ideas of technology, security, and hunting for food. 

Medieval Times: a great castle that would house royalty and other important people. Protection and architecture were the main themes to come from this artifact. 

Ancient Greece: a vase that is also 'art'. Lots of talk about arts and culture here.

Ancient Greece: a structure that is stereotypical of Ancient Greek architecture.    

Ancient Egypt: a 3D printed camel that aided in talks about transportation, animals, and culture. 

Ancient Greece: Medusa and the stories that go along with her.
With June right around the corner, it will be interesting to see what direction the students take next with respect to the 3D technology in our classroom. It continues to be a lot of fun and a wonderful learning journey. Just last week, a new student joined our class community. As with most new people to our class, she was surprised to see the printer and wondered how it worked. The students had no problem explaining it to her and how we are using it for our learning. One of the students took the time to print her a flexible bracelet so she could see how it works and to have her very own artifact to take home and use to explain to her family. It was a great reminder of the opportunity we have at our disposal this school year. It even led to a powerful classroom meeting about making the most of opportunities that come our way and the idea that we have a lot to be thankful for. 

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. You can also connect with me via email and on Twitter. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

All In A Day's Work

The 3D printer is becoming more accessible to the students as each day passes. Some students are comfortable with the process while others are still in the valley of the learning pit.

This is not a problem, in fact, it is something that we celebrate often - with all the learning that we engage in. Learning is all about taking risks, making mistakes, making connections, and having fun. Incorporating a design mindset and having the technology to bring ideas to life in our class provides the students with wonderful learning opportunities.

A great example of this is something that happened yesterday. During self selected reading time, one of my students read something - causing him to reflect on and create an idea that he had. 

He sketched out a picture of what he saw in his mind: Timothy the Toaster. A toaster with a top hat, moustache, and a monacle. 

After he drew it, he asked if he could grab a Chromebook and use the 3D software to try and replicate his drawing. I told him that would be ok - he would have to squeeze it into our day. He used his time wisely and it didn't take him too long to create Timothy using Tinkercad.

He had completed the "hard work". The students often tell me that printing their work is easy but that getting their ideas out of their heads and on to paper (or Google Drawings/Tinkercad) is the tough part. 

With only about an hour and a half left in the school day, he asked if we could print  Timothy the Toaster. We got things going, shrunk his design to be able to print it in an hour (his original design called for a 5 hour print job), and we were off to the races.

By the end of the day he had his Toaster rounded and was showing his classmates and talking about his ideas for a story that he would like to put together about the Toaster. I asked him what else he might do and he spoke of other characters that would be part of all of this.

With minutes left in our day I asked him about the process he followed around this particular activity. He told me how excited he was when he realized that he could make something that had never existed. He spoke about how much fun it was to manipulate the software to create what he had seen in his mind and drew on paper. 

I told him that I wanted to talk to him about this experience in greater depth after he had some time to think about what he had engaged in, his motivation, challenges he experienced, and his feelings after the fact. 

I look forward to hearing what he has to say, watching him formally share his thinking with his classmates, and seeing/hearing what they do next. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Creativity and Tech Integration in Writing - Part 2

The students are finishing up the fictional narratives that they have been working on for the past couple of weeks. I have been meeting with them and talking to them about their work and their 3D artifacts. It seems to be an engaging and empowering process - to take imaginative ideas and slowly bring them to life and then take them back to the imagination. They created fictional characters in their mind, brought them to life using 3D technology, and then wrote a fictional story. While having a lot of fun, they have been busy crafting their stories, peer editing, proofreading, rehearsing oral presentation, and reflecting on the feedback provided to them.

To get a better understanding of our plan, check out the Part 1 blog post.

Here are some examples of how the intersection between curriculum, technology, and creativity have come together:

Snowy the Easter Bunny



Smokey the Grape

Johnny and Egg Boy

I'm especially proud of the following piece of writing and 3D artifact. It was created and written by a new student in my class. He arrived two weeks ago from the Middle East. He doesn't speak a lot of English but was intrigued by the 3D printer and what the other students were doing. He learned how to use Tinkercad and came up with a cool idea about what he wanted to share with us. He created 'King Boy' and with the help of a few students, wrote a story. On top of being dropped into a foreign culture and immersed in a language he doesn't know, he has taken some big risks. This assignment has provided him with a way to connect with the other students. 


After the students finish up their writing they want to formally present their work and then display their writing and artifacts for others to see. Its been and exciting process so far and look forward to what we do next.

I would love to hear your thoughts about the work we have done. Please feel free to leave a comment!

Coding: Lessons Learned

After reading a little bit about the Hour of Code, I decided to introduce my students to coding/programming. You can read more about our start to coding here and you can see some photos of our work during the Hour of Code here.

We played around a little bit with it before the hour of code. We participated in that and we had so much fun that I decided to get a Sphero BB8 Droid for the students to continue playing around with programming. 

Since BB8's arrival, students have been bringing in their personal devices to play with and program the Droid. They have had a lot of fun learning to program our robot. 

Here are some of the observations I have made over the past couple of months as the students have engaged in programming the robot:

  • There has been more failure than success and the students never give up. They never complain that things are too hard or that they can't do it. They simply keep going, using trial and error to assist them.
  • Many of the students draw diagrams and/or use paper and pencil to write out a plan of action to assist them with their thinking.
  • Students engage in solving problems each time they work with the robot. No session session has gone as planned, yet the students maintained their interest and enthusiasm.
  • It isn't always the same students who bring in their personal device to work with BB8. The students who have a device (e.g. iPad, iPod Touch) and are permitted to bring it in tend to invite students who don't have access to a device to join them at lunch recess to work on coding the robot.

Something else I want to note is that when my coding students seem to be struggling in class, I have been using their programming experience to remind them and encourage them about maintaining to engage in and practice a growth mindset. When things get too tough, I remind them about what I have observed while they programmed BB8. It seems to get them thinking and that is a good thing.

Three students were successful in getting BB8 to move around a desk group without issue. Here is a screen shot of their programming and a video of their successful run.

The students replicated what they had done above after recess as well. They showed their classmates and they talked about the process they followed. It has motivated others to get more serious about the time they spend working with the Droid. 

These three students tell me that their next step is to program BB8 to do more complex things, like going through an obstacle course! I look forward to seeing what they do next as they continue to problem solve and persevere.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Failure & The Joy That Can Come From It

It's become common practice in our classroom to check in on our 3D printing jobs within the first 10-15 of printing. If things are going to go bad, it usually happens within that time frame.

When things aren't going as planned, we cancel the print job and then analyze what went wrong and when it happened (with respect to our design). These are our failures, that is what we call them. 

It's never easy to 'fail' but we always learn something new and share our learning with everyone so we can try and avoid the same problems that led to the fail. I have been enjoying the failures as much as the successes. When I see a flaw in a design I will talk to the student about it and ask whether they see what I am referring to. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't. Sometimes they make changes to their design, and sometimes they don't. Some of them need to fail in order to learn and some of them do what they can to avoid it.

Nevertheless, the learning (creativity, collaboration, communication) is great!

Here are some examples of our recent failures:

The failures above have led to the successes below:

I'm thankful for the prompting I recieved to write this post. My students recently asked me if I had shared their failures with all of you. One of them asked if I had written about the creations that didn't work out. They also made a comment about all the photos I have taken of their failures. Apparently I am as excited to photograph the failures as I am of the successes!

I do believe it is important to reflect on and share the good and bad moments of any learning journey. If we frame success around the process of learning and the growth that comes from it, then we are sure to feel a sense of success and accomplishment no matter what the final outcome is. This is something that I am constantly working on incorporating in my life and that of my students lives. It is not an easy task, but it certainly is a worthwhile one.

The students are still working on writing their fictional narratives so stay tuned for a blog post about what they ended up creating and how it helped them with their writing!

Friday, February 12, 2016

What Does Innovation in Education Mean To Me?

CC licensed photo shared by Flickr user Missy Schmidt

Thanks to the likes of +Will Gourley and +Jonathan So (read Jonathan's take on it here), I recently spent a significant amount of time thinking about what innovation in education means to me. What's my take on it? How would I define innovation with respect to the work that we do in Education?

These questions, and subsequent reflection(s), caused me a lot of angst as I considered what my definition of innovation is. As I wrestled with the idea, and stopped trying to narrow my focus to just one simple response, I opened the flood gates and just let everything come out. When all my ideas about innovation were laid out in front of me, I started picking up the pieces and organizing them in a way that made sense to me. 

One of the things I realized was that my definition of innovation was not only connected to my experiences, but to the people I interact with, watch, and learn from on a daily basis. MY understanding of innovation is connected to a variety of people inside and outside of the Educational field. This may not sound earth shattering to you, but it was a significant realization to me as I reflected on innovation.

CC licensed photo shared by Flickr user Tsahi Levent-Levi
Without further ado, here is the cleaned up and edited version of what innovation in education means to me:

It's is about being FREE (fresh, relevant, & exciting)! This approach to innovation is a process, not an event. Based on my experiences, it requires the following -

  • a lot of iteration where things are messy and look bad before they can look good
  • taking risks, failing, and being resilient
  • being open to learning AND unlearning
  • meeting students where they are at and listening to what they want/need
  • being flexible (to bend but not break)
  • making connections to, and using, the best practices of other disciplines/professions/professionals, and
  • becoming a connected educator (social media)
What I have listed above, especially the part about becoming a connected educator has allowed me to stay FREE from the darkness that wants me to remain stagnant and “old school”. I do believe there is a time and place for everything, but I am also a firm believer that educating our students means that we prepare them as best as we can for the unknown. What better way to do that than to model innovation for them so that they can work hard to be fresh, relevant, and exciting with whatever they choose to pursue.
I would love to hear your thoughts about what innovation means to me and more importantly, what it means to YOU.