Welcome back for this penultimate article in my FutureSchools 2016 series. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here. When I looked at the program for the day, I must admit a certain amount of disinterest in this session, covering as it was, 3D Printing and Robotics and their application and integration within the curriculum. I do believe that both areas hold some application and as teaching tools, however, at this point in time, they are not on my radar. We do have some small groups dabbling with some older Lego-based robotics, but that is the extent of it.
Shireen Winrow (@Shireenwin), the E-Learning facilitator at Redlands School, opened the session speaking under the title Integrating 3D design and printing into the curriculum. Shireen spoke about the continuum of growth when implementing 3D printing from beginning through to integrating and then transforming learning. She spoke about her entry point with students being the designing and printing of small stars.
They utilised an app to design a tree, and then hand-drew a leaf, and used the app to clone, flip and rotate them in order to position them upon the tree, which generated a discussion about spatial awareness and associated mathematical skills, on top of creative arts to actually draw the leaf. Shireen did make one comment at this point which made myself and a number of those around me laugh when talking about the actual printing of the final product; which was that the 3D printer failed and so they had to just switch to using the laser cutter to cut some templates. The financial investment to own either of those tools is not something that is achievable for many schools.
Shireen spoke about including thinking skills in the teaching of 3D design and made the comment that “….you can’t think about thinking without thinking about thinking about something.” My understanding of what Shireen was meaning here was that to effectively teach thinking skills, that you need to have students thinking about their thinking, whilst thinking about something, it is something that needs to be done in-situ, whilst completing another activity in order to have some context within which to think about your thinking.
The Year Two unit based on types of Transport required students to select a mode of transport and identify the various shapes that would be required to create that in a 3D model, such as needing a cylinder for the handle of a broom. A Year Five unit required students to design a character, including what they look like, clothing and come up with a written justification for how they look, in the form of a story about that character. Using a program called Thingmaker, students were then required to print them using the 3D printer.
Year Six took this a step further, being required to select a character from a book, and go through the same process, with the justification required to contain textual evidence for choices made about the appearance, and the resultant 3D printed characters were displayed in the school library.
Shireen spoke about some tools that they had utilised, including Thingiverse, BuildWithChrome, Adobe Photoshop, Morphi, Thingmaker, 3D Creationist and Makers Empire. She also commented that when starting out with 3D Printing, that you need to experiment, and take calculated risks.
Following Shireen was John Burfoot (@johnburfoot), the Lead Robotics Facilitator at Mac ICT (@MacICT). John said that robotics in schools is more prevalent now than ever before and that robotics can inform students of various vocational opportunities in addition to helping them learn how to solve problems, persevere, work collaboratively and think logically.
Robotics utilise an inquiry-based learning strategy and is an interactive teaching and learning resource. Technology offers a tool to allow students to explore, learn, create and play at the same time. John mentioned that research published in 2010 found that there were typically three different approaches to planning and implementing inquiry-based learning with a robotics focus. The first was theme-based, where the initial learning stimulus and subsequent learning was focused on something, a zoo, transport, space etc. The second was Project or Problem Based Learning such as the need to feed the pet cat while the family was away on holidays and how that can be achieved; while the third was goal oriented such as RoboCup, Robo Soccer, or the UAV Challenge.
John spoke about the use of themes, STEAM, storytelling and exhibitions as some varied options for integrating robotics within the curriculum, and that new options are emerging on a regular basis, including, just recently the Lego WeDo, Bee-Bots and the Sphero. John closed out by reminding us that Lego Engineering is a great first port of call for robotics but that there are plenty of other easy to learn options available, and that the Parrot drone, which can be programmed through the Tickle App is a great starting point for drones.
As always, thank you for reading, and keep an eye out tomorrow for the final articles in this years FutureSchools review.
For the full list of articles in this series, please click here.
After an excellent lunch with some debriefing about the round table sessions with some new friends, it was time return to the ClassTech conference stream for session three of the day, with Cathie Howe and Dr. Nerida McCredie presenting under the title Transmedia storytelling for education. It was a title that left me perplexed, as the concept of transmedia was not one I’d heard often, and never in conjunction with literacy or storytelling. They defined transmedia as being “the systematic unfolding of elements across a story world, with multiple elements in multiple platforms.” and gave Star Wars Uncut as one example of where transmedia has occurred, and listed some research papers that had informed their own project (two of these are included at the end of this article).
Cathie and Dr. McCredie elaborated on this by speaking about a project they ran called Weaving a Storyworld Web (WSWW), which was based around three principles of transmedia storytelling:
This can occur through students mining a story point to uncover a hidden gem, such as creating a list of Cinderella’s chores; through partnering with the author to expand and explore the storyworld, wherein students become ‘co-authors’ to explore and add to the storyscape by adding to the storyworld, either before, during or after the story setting, such as adding what happened in the world of Harry Potter after the final book, or telling us about the lives of Harry Potter’s families; or by dreaming which involves students re-imagining, re-examining or recreating the story in a new way, such as re-imagining Little Red Riding Hood as a science-fiction story, or if Peter Pan’s nemesis, Captain Hook, was a woman.
This process involves significant analysis of the story, prior to the mining, partnering or dreaming stage to determine story points across themes of either character, plot or location, to ensure a thorough understanding of the storyworld, and those story points are then the triggers for learning. Story points act as anchors on discussions, and the creation of the story web, where possible should be a physical act.
Transmedia, it seems, aims to put the reader into multiple sets of shoes as they play the part of reader, viewer and co-creators through the production of transmedia artefact as part of the process.
I’m ambivalent on the practicality or effectiveness of the concept of transmedia in as far as the process of weaving a story world is something that many teachers do as part of any literature study, but not necessarily with the physical web creation, or in quite the same format as has been described here.
The second presenter for this session was Susan Bowler, under the title of Robotics in the Classroom, a topic I had heard much praise for, but with which I had no experience, and only limited curiosity. For some reason when I think of robotics in any context, I get one of two images in my head, that of Short Circuit, from the 1986 movie of the same name, or ‘Arnie’ as The Terminator. I’m not sure why that is, but there you have it. It seems that Robotics in the classroom can be as expensive as you want to make it, but it can also be done on a shoestring budget, with prices starting, at this point in time, for around USD$30 for Arduino and Raspberry Pi all the way up to the top end, which is apparently the Lego MindStorms.
Robotics can serve a wide range of cross-curricular purposes, encompassing science, technology, engineering, mathematics, design, and software design and development. Robotics appeals to students as they represent an open-ended challenge, and can be as simple or as complex as the users skill level, starting with such simple programming needs as back and forth movement, all the way up to multiple sensors and other complexities.
Two online resources were mentioned as being particularly useful: the Lego Education website and Damien Kee’swebsite. Other sites of interest include the RoboCup Juniorwebsite which also contains a document with a draft unit of work in scope and sequence format, StemCentric, and the Dr Graeme site. Additionally, Robogals is an organisation that focuses on increasing the rate at which females become involved with science and technology, and are able to do school visits to drive robotics interest among the girls of a school.
I didn’t find this session as interesting as I had some other sessions, but the foci were on two areas that I’ve not had any dealings with, nor feel any particular interest towards.
My next article will focus on the final session of the ClassTech conference stream, a presentation by world-renowned Makerspace proponent, Gary Stager.
As always, thank you for reading, and please leave a comment. I’m especially interested to hear from those who have utilised robotics or WSWW in their school, and how it played out for you.
See here for the list of articles in this series.
Journal article references from the Transmedia storytelling for education presentation.