One of my big goals this year has been to develop a STEAM/makerspace in the old computer lab in my elementary school. The old lab had Gateway E series, 15 year old computers, and needless to say, the space was not utilized by most of the teachers, unless they had to do mandated testing. With a lot of help from my PLN, Eduporium, the Edward Hopkins Foundation and the Helping Hearts organization in my district, we are building a space that kids and their teachers are beginning to use. It's fun, it's educational and I think we are getting kids engaged, giving them agency and a voice... all in baby steps. Time, as usual, is the cross we all bear, but this is by far the most authentic way I have seen to integrate technology and the engineering design process into the curriculum. We are not yet at the true "maker" stage. Much of what the students are doing is assigned by the teacher. I see a few students coming in to use the space in the "off hours" to create on their own, and hope that this will build momentum as they find new ways to create, new passions to follow. My next step, as an educator, will be to step back and try to follow in the footsteps of others by challenging students and allowing them to take more control, to try, to succeed, to fail, to learn. Here a few things I have seen recently that I am trying, or plan to introduce.
Monday Maker Challenge
When I read John Spencer's post back in the beginning of the month, I was excited. Yes! This is what I will do. Well, almost a month later- I still want to do it, but haven't yet. Maybe it's the name- Maker Monday. I don't work Mondays... But I love the ideas John has inhis post He offered 3 options: Maker Stations, Maker Challenges and Divergent Thinking Challenges. If you haven't picked up John's book- Launch, Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student, written with A J Juliani check it out- I found it to be worth my time. If you're in my district and want to borrow it, let me know.
Using greenscreens in video production is not new, but is one easy way to get students producing their own work and gives them a different way to show what they know. Miguel Guhlin over in Texas wrote up a nice blog post with some great examples, especially for STEM projects. Be sure to follow some of his links to see even more.
Need more examples? Wes Fryer, an amazing educator, has a Google Site full of great ideas for Green Screen and more. Check it out here.
I have been compiling a list of sites with great project ideas- some to have kids try, others for them to check out and be inspired to create their own. One of thes sites is Lance Makes. Lots of great ideas, with good clear directions to follow for those who are new to the engineering piece, or as a baseline for students with some experience. Think Instructables for kids.
Another favorite that I need to do more with isDestination Imagination. They, too, have a great set of challenges, which could fit nicely into a Monday Maker type of thing. You can check out their resource library here. One caveat: lately the links open to a sign up for the newsletter link, and then get stuck in that loop. Simply right click on the image/link and choose to open in a new tab to view it or save link as to save it.
A couple more: Curiosity Machine design challenges. Some of the challenges on the site are free- full directions, etc. Others require a subscription, but they show you the basic idea and often that is enough to get you started. They have a special free section for educators, with ties to NGSS.
For example, these are the standards covered in the 5 free lessons for grades 6-8.
Process vs Product
As you can probably guess from the links I shared, I am still vacillating between controlling the lessons and allowing students more freedom to choose/create. Maybe I'm wrong, but I believe that elementary students, especially, need some of the basics before they rush off to "make". This is a process for my school, adding more choice for students, giving up more control, but balancing this with the admin push for "standards", assessments. When I hear colleagues say that it's great to see their students having to make choices, to independently decide what to do, I swing towards student agency. When I see gaps in knowledge, I want to do a "lesson" on it and swing back into "teacher" mode. I am so lucky to have others to follow. Jackie Gerstein is one of my heros. I love her blog post entitled: Focusing on the Process, Letting Go of Product Expectations. However, I also love and freely steal from her Maker Camp series and appreciate having explicit direction. I want it both ways and still have not found a good balance for my newly created STEAM lab.
Image CC: By Rebeca Zuñiga
I recently read an article about Esther Wojcicki's work, watched a few of her videos and then saw that there is now an actual Moonshot in Education movement, a little like the 20% time that many of you have heard about. One of the primary goals is to give students agency in order to help prepare them for the real world. This really resonated with me as several of my colleagues were just talking about this today- allowing students to make decisions, to work collaboratively on real projects. The Washington Post recently ran an article about the skills Google was looking for in their employees: same skills that Esther is promoting: "Project Aristotle shows that the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety. No bullying. To succeed, each and every team member must feel confident speaking up and making mistakes. They must know they are being heard." You can learn more about her work, her goals and maybe sign up to get more info and resources here.
H/T to Leslie DiChiara for sharing Hillary Goldwaith-Fowles' article: Digital Does Not Equal Accessible. As more districts incorporate digital tools into the mainstream student population, we often get the impression that the tech or the digital access will magically cure all. Needless to say digital ≠ accessible. OER ≠ accessible. UDL ≠ accessible automatically. Check out this wonderful article and all the crowd-sourced comments to help bring this issue into focus for all.
Diana Benner down in Texas has published the first in a series of articles on accessibility on chromebooks. Nicely categorized, features a short list of chrome extensions to check out. If you are looking for a more complete listing, or other options, check out Eric Curts' work here.
#Ditch Summit report
I ended up binge-watching all 9 hours of Ditch Summit on a couple of those frigid days of the vacation week. As usual, it was worth my time. Two of the presentations really stood out. My favorite as far as potential gold mine of resources was Jon Corippo's EduProtocols: What They Are and How They Can Impact Learning. You can get in touch with Jon on Twitter: @jcorippo. He has so many great ideas to help streamline your workload and get more time with the students. You can get a quick synopsis from the notes Matt Miller provided. The other presentation I really enjoyed, although I have to say just picking 2 is hard, was Tanya Avrith and Holly Clark's presentation on Technology and Pedagogy. "How can we use technology to amplify great teaching instead of just putting technology on top?" Contact them: Website: hollyclark.org Twitter: @HollyClarkEdu & Website: tanyaavrith.com Twitter: @TanyaAvrith. These two amazing women are doing the work, not just talking/writing about it, and it shows in the way they approach the topics and in their solutions to the problems we all face. Here's the quick synopsis from the notes Matt Miller provided.
Storytime from Space
I saw this site referenced the other day and thought it was the coolest thing! Astronauts are reading/videoing children's books from the International Space Station. You can learn more about it here. Here's a short blurb from NASA: "Story Time From Space combines science literacy outreach with simple demonstrations recorded aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Crew members read five science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related children's books in orbit, and complete simple science concept experiments. Crew members videotape themselves reading the books and completing demonstrations. Video and data collected during the demonstrations are downlinked to the ground and posted in a video library with accompanying educational materials." You can read more about the research involved in this project here.