This article from TeachThought caught my eye recently. For those who know me, I often choose to do a "sandbox" day when introducing a new tool. I know that I learn best by hearing about something, watching someone/a video, and then messing with it myself. I need the verbal, the visual and kinesthetic modes to really get a handle on most of the digital tools and all of the physical tools. Although the article spoke to gaming and video games, like Minecraft, where the object is to build something, it also spoke to the need to "do stuff", "make stuff", to create. The digital tools I use every day stick in my head, the ones I use sporadically, I have to look up every time. The physical tools I use every day present no challenges,but new tools often take me a while and some "sandbox" time to get used to. Fellow teachers and I were watching students cut paper circles last week as part of a project and could not believe how hard it was for them. They apparently never have to use scissors. Last year I watched a student attempt to use a hammer to screw in a screw. If you have ever seen me try to use a sewing machine, you know, some of us just need more direction and practice. Thus, Sandbox Learning=hands-on, engaged, minds-on learning. It works. It brings out our strengths, allows us to learn and work through our weaknesses. Is this the way to learn everything? Probably not. I know how much I have hated being tossed into a project with no help. Sandbox learning can be structured, with scaffolded support as needed, but wide open enough to challenge to encourage. Lock-step, teach-to-the-test may give students high test scores, but are they learning?
I'm quite sure that as we head into election season here in the US, the "disinformation" in the media will only get worse. Commonsense Media is an excellent resource for educators. Their News and Media Literacy Resource Center has a wealth of material to use. I love the Sift, the News Literacy Project's newsletter for educators. If you haven't seen it, check it out here. Did you know about the upcoming first National News Literacy Week, Jan. 27-31 ? The goal is to raise awareness of news literacy as a fundamental life skill. Read more about it here. I also didn't realize, and have not checked out their new app Informable. "The app, which is free, is designed to improve users’ ability to identify different types of news and other information." This is also an interesting site that I was introduced to recently- allsides.com .
What are you using for media literacy resources ?
Ideas to Share
Looking through my Wakelet for things to write about and once again either Google Slides has the most interesting articles out there or I just gravitate to them.
But, before I forget, last week was World Kindness Day. Rather than just being kind 1/365th of the time, why don't you check out some of the ideas on the Random Acts of Kindness site. They offer free curriculum ideas for K-5 and for 6-8 centered around the 6 core concepts of Respect, Caring, Inclusiveness, Integrity, Responsibility, and Courage.
Check it out here: https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/
Google Slides Add On
This one comes from Julie Smith, The Techie Teacher. It is a Google MarketPlace add-on that lets you slip additional slides into a slide presentation that you have assigned on Google Classroom. For example, if you have students working on an ongoing science journal in slides and you want to add a few explanatory slides to the assignment- this add-on lets you just slide them right in. Read more about it here and grab the Add-On here.
Google Slides as Narrated Storybooks
This is from a post that Greg has on Medium. It's a really nice simple, easy to do idea. Greg describes a 6 step process. He gives excellent examples of programs to use, where to find audio, etc. I will have to check out his suggestion of using 123apps.com to record audio on chromebooks. Do check out his article and follow his suggestions to create narrated storybooks in your classroom. We haven't yet gotten the magical add audio button on our chromebooks yet... but it's coming! I was thinking that this would be a really nice simple way to use Storyboardthat images/comics, download them as images, pop into a Google slide deck and then narrate. As soon as we get audio, I know the students will have lots of ideas.
Ideas to Share
Upcoming Free Workshops
Please share with your students too! This coming Saturday, Nov 23, will be a Maker Jam sponsored by Holyoke Codes over at the MGHPCC center in Holyoke. Check it out . https://holyokecodes.org/events/maker-jam/
Digital Storytelling Tools
I was asked recently about the best tools for video on chromebooks. I recommended Adobe Spark and Screencastify. We Video is OK, but the free version is limited. Then I remembered a couple of nice posts that Richard Byrne published about digital storytelling and thought I should pass that link along as well. Richard almost always gives you a nice little video tutorial, which I always find helpful.
Handwriting & Notetaking
I keep on hearing that students remember best when they physically write/draw than if they type it. I have also seen some really interesting articles about the benefits of teaching handwriting. Do you teach handwriting? Do you have students type notes or write them out? Do you see benefits one way or the other? This is an article from Edutopia called How to Teach Handwriting and Why It Matters.
This article from the Univ of California tells students to take notes by hand to get better grades. I wonder why the research they quote is almost 6 years old and if that makes a difference? I also wonder if sketchnoting is better or worse- more or less effective.
MassCUE has a new digital micro-credential program that you may want to check out. Here's their blurb... and the link: " This four-level program is available to all MassCUE members at no cost during the introductory roll out of the program. Many of the module tasks are embedded in the Hoonuit platform that is included in every MassCUE membership! After completion and review of each badge level, an educator will receive PDPs as well as a badge within a three-week period after completion and approval from the MassCUE PD Committee. We encourage participants to earn all four badges."
I just attended a Digital Promise webinar yesterday on micro-credentials. They have a pretty amazing platform of micro-credentials to choose from. Most are free, but sometimes the issuing agency will have a fee. Check with your school or licensing authority to be sure that they will accept micro-credentials.
Sorry- back to MassCUE News...
There will be another GooglePalooza in Western Mass again this summer- over at Gateway Regional in Huntington. I went last year, had a good time and gained new ideas to use in the classroom. Chris Parker does an excellent job hosting and helping to organize- and they have good food. Here's the link and the blurb" MassCUE’s Googlepalooza event is a full day of G Suite for Education (formerly Google Apps for Education) hands-on workshops taught by experienced Google Certified Trainers and Educators to promote better learning in the classroom. Participants will have a choice between presentations at varied ability levels – all covering a wide variety of G Suite tools, devices (Chromebooks, iPads, Android Tablets), teaching strategies, and implementation. All of this learning for just $65 (fee includes lunch.)"
Summer PD... I have not attended this online PD, but have heard great things about it- Check out Hive Summit- https://www.hivesummit.org/ They have not announced this year's speakers yet.
I recently read this article in EdWeek: Explicit Phonics Instruction: It's Not Just for Students With Dyslexia. What I got out of it- there is a move to reexamine reading instruction.
Then I read the Washington Post article which was referenced- "Want to read fast and well? Ignore the rules of the speed-reading gurus" A quote from Seidenberg rang true, “A look at the science reveals that the methods commonly used to teach children are inconsistent with basic facts about human cognition and development and so make learning to read more difficult than it should be. They inadvertently place many children at risk for reading failure. They discriminate against poorer children. They discourage children who could have become more successful readers.”
Finally I went back to the other articles referenced and chose " Hard Words Why aren't kids being taught to read? This was really interesting and kind of terrifying.
Look at the graph below-(You get more info on the interactive graph online). The author then goes on to talk about "balanced literacy" and concludes that it does not reflect the current brain/learning science. Really interesting article. Check it out: https://www.apmreports.org/story/2018/09/10/hard-words-why-american-kids-arent-being-taught-to-read
Ideas to Share
Looking through the links I saved recently, 3/4 of them came from Jen Giffen (http://virtualgiff.blogspot.com). Always a great resource- lately I think I have bookmarked most of her posts.
New Reading App
This app, Reading IQ, just came out and looks to be a great resource, very similar to Epic! You can read a lot more about it on their blog. Here's the blurb:
"As with ABCmouse, ReadingIQ is available at no cost to teachers for use in their classrooms, with the ability to assign an entire reading level of books to each student to read at home, completely free." Check out a short video from the site.
It is free for teachers- be sure to look up at the top right of the navigation and click on Teachers to get all the details.
Learning in a MakerSpace
One of the hardest things for me, working to integrate technology across all the grades and disciplines, is to allow students to have choices. We are so used to controlling all the aspects of teaching, that we forget that we don't need to control how kids learn. We just need to help them learn. Edutopia has a new series called How Learning Happens. The full series of more than 20 videos will be released in early 2019.
The video below is a preview from Learning Problem Solving and Growth Mindset in a Makerspace. The blurb for this one is "Makerspaces build students’ cognitive abilities while fostering independence, perseverance, and self-regulation."
I also picked up a couple of children's books this weekend- kind of along the same vein. One was Rosie Revere: Engineer. This is part of a wonderful series which includes Ada Twist, Scientist and Iggy Peck, Architect.
What I noticed, aside from the nod to Rosie the Riveter. was the theme of not giving up. Now, I am not a big proponent of jumping up and down for joy about failing. Yes, I know all the little acronyms that go along with FAIL... and not that these are wrong, it's just- I want to succeed. Accepting that a big part of the engineering design cycle is prototype, test, make changes, iterate, takes not an acceptance of failure, but the knowledge that it is a process. The ability to persevere through the process, to take constructive criticism and use it, is the hardest part for many of our students, as well as our teachers to learn. I was down at the Google HQ in Cambridge a few years back and listened to a panel of folks who work for Google. The one woman who truly impressed me said something to the effect of "I was always the smartest one in the class. I was used to being right. Now I am one of many and I have had to learn to learn from others and from my own mistakes. Accepting and learning to use criticism is hard."
So, where am I going with this? The other book I picked up was called, "What do you do with an idea?" I also found a whole book module on this in Teaching Children Philosophy, which was a course over at Mt. Holyoke, not sure if it is still offered. Curious, I started looking around the web and found that this book, this children's book, is being read and discussed in college engineering and design courses. I loaned my copy to First Grade, but see if you can find one. Short, easy to read, nice illustrations, but a pretty powerful message and great questions on the site. What makes an idea important? What does it mean to feed an idea and make it grow?
A couple of tools that I noticed this week included:
Google's bring AR to the web. We've all seen the fancy $ Occulus Rift, as well as the utilitarian Google Cardboard, but Google is actually working hard to bring AR to the web, and not as a novelty. They have a prototype called Article. Article is a 3D model viewer that works for all browsers. Read more about it here.
I saw a tweet from Leslie Fisher about Handwriting recognition in Google Docs, which got my attention: Handwriting recognition in Google Drive. Go ahead and read more about it on her blog. I'll tuck the video in here, too. But... this isn't quite as grand as it sounds. Google Keep can do OCR on an image and then you can send this text to Google Docs. Google Docs can take a PDF and pull the text out of it- not perfectly, and I hope you didn't care about the formatting. However, a combo of tools is getting a whole lot closer. I have a Rocketbook and it can recognize my handwriting and it can send it to docs, to evernote, etc. So- yes, it is cool, but there's another tool in there, not just Google Drive. Here's the link for Rocketbooks. They are also somehow affiliated with ThinkBoard- which is a whiteboard- that you can use the app on and send it to docs- does HW recognition, OCR from the whiteboard.
Looking for a cool STEM toy?
I was thrilled to see that Smithsonian Magazine choose Turing Tumble as the best STEM toy of 2018. This came along as a kickstarter a couple years back and was finally realized this past year. I brought one up to my brother's house and tested it on my niece. It was fun, hard fun, but really engaging for ages 8+. There are 60 puzzles to get through. We played for quite a while and did 15 of them. Check it out the top ten list here, and in the winner in the video below.
One of the Honorable Mentions was Chibitronics. I received one of these kits at the MakerBootCamp I attended last summer. Again- fun, lots of learning. Chibitronics Love to Code Creative Coding Kit. They offer good discounts to educators. Jie Qi, one of the founders, has created such beautiful work, check out some of her projects
Monica Burns shared a free resource this past week that she has created. "This book is for educators working with students of all ages, especially those in a Chromebook classroom. This free ebook is called Using Book Creator for Formative Assessment: 15 Tips for Checking for Understanding." Read more about it and download this free resource on her blog, then head right over to Book Creator and read more about using Book Creator and Adobe Spark
We are reminded that this week is Assistive Technology Awareness Month by Leslie DiChiara. She shared a great intro to AT video by Chris Bugaj on herblog. Just a reminder, CTD has an excellent library of Assistive Tech resources, including Quick Takes.
It would be hard for me to decide which one of the new-to-me tools I learned about this week is the coolest.
I really loved Jen Giffen's quick post about PDF Candy. I have the full version of Adobe Acrobat at home, but not at school. It drives me crazy when I need/want to make changes to a pdf and cannot do it right away. This tool may solve that problem. It's called PDF Candy. Just head over to the site, choose what you need/want to do with the pdf and click on it. You upload your PDF, make changes and download it. If you don't want to wait, there is also a free downloadable program for Windows. Check it out here.
Another cool tool I learned about is actually software called Pepakura Designer. It is used to take a 3D file, for example a file from Tinkercad, and"unfold" it to make a 2D paper design which can then be printed and folded. I see this as a great way to do some rapid prototyping vs the much slower and more costly 3D printing. I haven't tried it out yet, but check out Stu Lowe's Tweet.
Merge Cube-Co-Spaces Add-on
This new add-on has been released and so far, it is getting great reviews. I tried Co-Spaces back when it first came out, but it took forever to load for me. Partially because I have pokey internet, but it seemed cool, but clunky. It has come a long way. I am not a huge Merge Cube fan, but I know some teachers- and some students love them and have found great value in using them to demonstrate learning. This new combo sounds great- and easy to do. However, the caveat is that you need a Pro license. This is for a minimum of 30 students and will cost $105/year. Check out the video below and see what you think.
A few years ago, I backed the Neuron on Kickstarter. It's still in the box. But, after watching this little guy programming with Neuron and Swift playground, it's got to come out of the box, even if I just bring it to school and let some brilliant students give it a go. If you're wondering- Neuron is a lot like Little Bits- but it seems sturdier to me.
Articles to Ponder
Last week I noticed an article by George Couros about balance. I first met George back when Beth Still brought him to ISTE (it may have still been NECC), as the "newbie". Little did I know that Alec's little brother was going to go on to become a rock star educator. But, Balance: This is a goal of mine, so I was interested to see what George said. I was struck by his first paragraph: “Balance is stupid.”
Of course, he goes on to talk more about this and about how he now views balance today. Then I saw another article by John Spencer who delved into this same topic. Take the time to read his whole article. Or... just watch the video below- then go read the whole article, it's worth your time.
Global Maker Day
Today is #Global Maker Day and students around the world shared what they are making and tried new challenges. Check out the landing pagehere, to get an idea of the structure of the day and then check out the video of the live stream. You can just click around the time line to view various classes, speakers in action. Thislink to the buncee slide show with the schedule can you a better idea of what to look for on the video timeline. Twitter was abuzz with great ideas from classrooms around the world. #GlobalMakerDay .
Dyslexia Awareness Month
It seems that even our governor, here in Massachusetts, has added something to celebrate Dyslexia Awareness month. Governor Baker signed a proposal on Friday, which would require the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to come up with guidelines for screening of students with at least one indicator for dyslexia or another neurological learning disability. You can read more about it here.
CTD Quick Takes
I got an email from CTD, Center on Technology and Disability, featuring something new to me, Quick Takes. I love this idea. This series of Quick Takes is all about EF- Executive Functioning. There are 2 short videos to give an overview and some nice ideas for apps and then a few links to longer articles to begin to dive deeper into the topic. Check out the videos they shared below, but don't skip heading over the their website to learn more. They have a phenomenal library with thousands of articles, videos, webinars, all searchable by keywords.
Leveled Readers- What's the Best Way?
I was listening to a podcast about the best ways to use leveled texts and had hoped to pop the podcast right into this post, but it seems to be flash based and gets stripped right out. Jennifer Gonzales - from the Cult of Pedagogy Blog did an excellent interview with literacy consultant and author Jennifer Serravallo recently. Check out the podcast as well as the write up here.
Speaking of reading... one of my favorite reading resources is ReadWorks. Whether you are looking for reading passages, paired text or the wonderful "Article a Day" series, chances are you can find it on ReadWorks. Need stories read in a human voice? Need stories to appeal to your ELL students? Need to enhance your social studies or science curriculum? Check out ReadWorks for great content and built in supports for your readers.
Best Webinar on Fake News Evah!
I attend a lot of webinars. Over the last several years, we have all heard way more than we ever wanted to about "Fake News". I have attended many webinars talking about this and exploring ways to help our students determine the credibiilty of what they read/see. I know I just posted about this a couple weeks back, but... Tiffany Whitehead did a phenomenal job the other day and gave tons and tons of resources. I first met Tiffany at an ISTE librarian breakfast, maybe 2011 or 2012. She was an up and coming young librarian then, and wow- now she has really become one of the goddesses of the library world. What you should really do, head over to Edweb.net and watch the webinar. It's about an hour long. You can get MA pdps for these if you take the CE quiz at the end. So- here's the link and you can just head on over and watch it. I have a one tab page of links that I opened as we went along- so if you just want links... here you go. Don't miss the great infographics and lesson plans over at the Newseum. Tiffany has an excellent blog post with some great videos to share with your students. Great way to get these conversations going.
One resource that I am adding to HES/HA is the Brittanica School Insight chrome extension. This will help students bring fact-checked material to the top of their search. Read more about it here. I'm not doing a "force-install", simply adding it to the white list. To install, either click the big green button on that last link, or go here. I shared the video years ago, in a different venue, but if you are not familiar with the term "filter bubble", check out the TED talk below. Think confirmation bias... before you even get to look at a range of results. If you are logged into your Google account and use Google search- you are in the filter bubble. I know that many can not use an incognito tab at school, but try it at home and then look around to see what other search engines like Duck Duck Go come up with. It may surprise you. Here's Eli Pariser's talk on filter bubbles from 2011 ( yeah- that long ago- and we still have filter bubbles).
While I am still on my research kick, citations. These used to be the bane of many a student's existence. Now, we have tools that make it ever so easy. One of the HES teachers contacted me a few weeks back because the Easy Bib online site had way too many ads, some not entirely appropriate for 5th and 6th graders- to say the least- "distracting". However, there is an Easy Bib add-on, right in Google Docs. Easy to use- no ads.
October is Dyslexia Awareness Month
H/T to all my AT friends who are posting great articles and links to help us learn more about dyslexia. Learning Ally has a great program called 1 in 5. Check it out here, and watch the video below. They also have great basic information as well as infographics you can download, print and share. Thanks to Leslie DiChiara for posting the link to Edutopia's article as well as many others. Check out this month's blogposts. You can find excellent resources to learn more about dyslexia at Understood.org. This is a whole page of links. Reading about how dyslexia impacts Henry's life in so many ways was really eye-opening for me as I read A Day in the Life of a Teen with Dyslexia. If you want to get a broad understanding of the many facets of dyslexia, check out the link here.
Hopefully the video below will show back up... YouTube seems to be having issues
Explode the Controller?
I met John Lynch at the Scratch Conference in Cambridge this summer. We were both in a hands on workshop, using micro controllers, arduino, etc... to make stuff. I was fortunate enough to get to work with John on our little project. I had seen his work earlier, but didn't know it was his when we were all checking it out. Now, after seeing his work all around the web, on makey-makey and so much more, I want to build some of these. So...HES teachers- this is a challenge for me, for you, for some of our students- let's make some of these Explode the Controller games!
After a mostly wintery April vacation, it was nice to finally see the sunshine. Hoping to have the last of the snow leave my gardens this week. I have a lot of little catchup items to share this time.
I went down to Connecticut today to attend the Greenwich Country Day School's Maker Faire. Although I was very disappointed that the scheduled keynote speaker, Colleen Graves was unable to attend due to a family emergency, I did enjoy listening to Ron Beghetto speak about creativity.
A couple points that resonated with me:
My favorite workshop of the day was with Rush Hambleton- "Meet the Microbit". It was fun to experiment with this relatively inexpensive, easy to use pocket size computer that lets you get creative with digital technology. I had played around with these a little bit, but working in small groups I learned a lot more than I had previously tried by myself. With the new version of Scratch coming out in August children will be able to program physical devices (like micro:bit).
Catch Up Time
Finally, the wonderful set of tools is free for both teachers and students- and is now COPPA compliant so kids under 13 can use it with supervision. A couple of our 4th grade classes have used this on some of the global projects they have done in the past and now we can give them accounts that they can use for so many projects! Richard Byrne has a nice roundup of the features on his blog.
Images for student work
We have a tab on our HES Symbaloo with a lot of these links, but Tony Vincent recently put up a nice post with some that we don't currently have listed. Check them outhere.
Checkboxes in Google Sheets
One of the things I really like about Google Keep is the quick and easy way to create checkboxes. Now, for all the spreadsheet fans- you can create checkboxes in Google Sheets. Alice Keeler writes about it here and shows you how- step by step.
Two great updates from FlipGrid to share. First- and this is happening soon- Wednesday, May 9th - World Record Wednesday.
Quote from the blog:
"It starts with you. It starts with us!
On May 9, 2018, you can be part of history! Our Global Classroom will aim for the student voice record books and attempt a World Record on Flipgrid. 24 Hours, all nations, all learners, across the globe, sharing the same message. We are calling on students, educators, digital citizens and global ambassadors to join together using your phone, tablet, or computer to record a message uniting The World"
One more from FlipGrid... AppSmashBash. Want to do more with FlipGrid? Looking for ideas? Check out the webinar #App SmashBash.
Making Learning Visible
Once again- FlipGrid is front and center. I watched another webinar on using FlipGrid in the classroom- across all ages and disciplines to make learning visible, to share learning. This came after spending part of my afternoon with 4th graders who were introducing themselves, via FlipGrid to students around the world, as they prepare to work on projects with students in Mexico, Canada and Australia.
Here's the recording of tonight's webinar. If you haven't made time to check out this tool- it is easy to use and a great way for your students to make their learning visible.
#Global Maker Day 2017
Interested in makerspaces? Today was #globalmakerday. I was too busy all day, but plan to catch up with some of the challenges and videos later in the week. Lots of info from various vendors as well as the challenges are on the landing page.
Before I forget- again- Rushton Hurley ran a cool little project this past week- a 5 day challenge to become a better teacher. Along with ideas you can use to present or discuss materials in the classroom, he also has ideas about feedback. You can still learn more about it here and grab a couple of colleagues and give it a shot.
A couple of tools that I have been playing around with lately that you may want to check out include CheckMark and Talk and Comment
Talk and Comment is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to put voice notes and comments anywhere. "This free extension lets you record and send voice notes on all sites (Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Github, Gmail, Google+, Wordpress, ...), in a easy way. Voice notes can be played even if you don't have the extension installed." Here's the quick overview:
CheckMark is a new feedback extension for Google Docs, put out by EdTechTeam. You can find in the chrome web store. Like others of its ilk, it allows you to insert pre-set comments quickly and easily. The user interface is clean and easy to use. And I think, like other users, that the ability to customize the pre-set comments would be a welcome addition. Here's a couple quick videos for you to check it out yourself.
Loom- add videos anywhere
Another way to give feedback is to pop a quick video onto an email or a Google Doc. Loom gives you a super quick and easy way to do that. And.. it's integrated with Gmail and Google Docs as well as lots of other applications and platforms. Here's a quick overview. Try it- you may like it.
Before I hop onto my soapbox, here's a few interesting/fun links to check out.
Eric Curts- who always comes up with great Googley ideas, posted a great template for Build a Jack-O-Lantern with Google Slides. Check it out here
Tom Mullaney posted a nice short video about Google Keep's new integration into Google Slides.
Richard Byrne pulled all of the new Google Slides features together in his post here. Although there are quite a few new features to check out, the one I was most interested in was how to insert a timeline into Google Slides. Lucky for us, Richard has it covered. Check out his blog for more.
Those of you who know me, know that the whole "mindset" verbiage is something I don't really buy into as anything new and wonderful. But, this summer and this fall I have been focused on trying to renovate the "old" computer lab into a STEAM lab. Thus, I have been diving into the whole maker movement, maker "mindset" and trying to figure out how our elementary school, our students, our teachers, our culture- can all work with a makerspace, a STEAM lab. It's exciting to see it begin to build.
A little history...
Back, maybe 10 years ago, Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez started doing something called the Constructivist Consortium before NECC and then ISTE. I went to a couple, didn't get it. I wanted it get it, but I didn't and found it frustrating. Then they started having summer workshops called Constructing Modern Knowledge. I went to the first one- hated it, actually left a day early. I really wanted way more direction than Gary was willing to give. He wanted folks to stretch themselves, take risks and take charge of their learning. As I said, I hated it. When their book Invent to Learn came out, I read it. This is not the way I was taught, nor the way I ever taught, and certainly not the way I felt I learned best. But, after pushing back on this and all the language associated with it, it's worth doing. Students can take risks, can extend their learning. Even their teachers can try it and see how it feels to be the learner, to have the questions, to find the solutions.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to go with Judi, our HS media specialist, over to Mt. Holyoke to visit their makerspace, courtesy of former HA teacher Janet Slocum. I had never been to this new space and was really impressed by the variety of choices the students are afforded. But, keep in mind, this is Mt. Holyoke College, so they have the funding to do it up right. After seeing all the cool projects Janet has done with her students, seeing the fancy laser cutter projects, and the molds that had been made- to fill with chocolate, we sat down to talk about how to make the connections between the school/state curriculum and makerspaces. I was a little surprised to hear that even at a facility like Mt. Holyoke, that the professors, instructors aren't leveraging the makerspace and all the cool stuff they have there. Students are coming in and doing more personal work. The only exception I saw, heard about, aside from Janet's work was a print-making course. We talked about how to make the curriculum tie-ins, without making it yet one more thing for teachers to try to cram into a very busy schedule.
Today, I watched a group of 4th graders work in our STEAM lab with Sphero robots. They used Blockly drag and drop programming, and programmed their robots to make a square. Their next job was to make a maze on the floor with painter's tape and see if they could program their robots to maneuver through it. Aside from some very basic instruction before they began, they were not given a lot of directions. Some asked for more help. Some just went for it. They had 3 values to put into each roll command- time, speed and direction. I could easily see how this could be a math lesson, a physics lesson and a communication lesson- all rolled into a programming activity. Luckily, I am not under pressure to get through a set curriculum. Many of you are. How can we embrace this "maker mindset", learning by doing, when our students, our teachers, the administrators and parents are so heavily invested in test results? I watch students walk in, take control of their learning, work past the time to leave, and leave excited and smiling.
What is this mystical maker's mindset? Beats me. It's hard for me to just go for it. to try to something with no real directions, to fail sometimes. I do it because I don't have a lot of choice. There's no manual for this, no scope and sequence, no pacing guide. I ask others, I seek help from youtube, from twitter, from my PLN... but, like the kids in my STEAM lab today, I sometimes just have to try it and see. I spent half of lunch time today beginning to learn how to program the little Edison robots we have- along with the help of a 6th grader. We did a pretty good job learning as we went, learning from each other. Tomorrow we will try again and see what else we can make them do.
When we were at Mt. Holyoke, I asked the woman who is in charge of the makerspace how she learned everything she needed to know to grow and run the space. Guess what- she is self-taught. If you like to read about mindset, Dale Dougherty, one of the founders of this movement, wrote about it here; EdSurge has a list of 6 "must-haves"; read some of Colleen Graves' work here or check out some of my friend Jackie Gerstein's work here. I steal ideas from Jackie on a regular basis. She has also pointed the way to great resources like the Destination Imagination Challenges.
If you haven't tried design challenges- go ahead- give it a try. You may discover that you have a "maker's mindset".