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.
Welcome back for part two of the view of session two of the FutureSchools conference. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here. Following Peggy Sheehy, was Glenn Carmichael, who described the school in which he teaches as “…a smallish high school…” called St Michael’s Collegiate School in Hobart, speaking under the title STEM Projects with real world applications.
Michael spoke about how he heard the question “…when will we use this?” on a regular basis from his students, and that it seemed as thought mathematics was the subject in which this question was asked more in than any other, which I think is true. From my own schooling, I would not have even considered asking that question in English, science or creative arts, yet in mathematics, it seems like it is asked on a regular basis (read this interesting and thought-provoking article on the topic).
Glenn discussed how the school wanted to embed STEM in the school in a manner that it had intrinsic value to students and spoke about two projects that were utilised to put that in place. The first project required students to develop an iPhone app that had meaning and practical use for them. From a programming perspective, xcode was utilised as it is free and is a real coding language, not a kiddy language with excellent tools for student planning including a storyboarding facility and the ability to simulate the app in its current state to debug and test various iterations. The students, after much discussion, concluded that they would develop an app for use at school to fill in a lot of the gaps in information that students required for getting around.
Glenn related how student timetables were not particularly informative, with a time, room code and a teacher code being the sum total, and that the teacher code did not necessarily mean that you knew who it was before your first class when you first arrived. I remember my first timetable in year seven, and it had a timeslot, room identification and the teachers name (Mrs Smith etc). This particular teacher coding, from what I recall of what Glenn said was a series of letter from their name. Students decided they wanted an app that provided a mapping function so that you could work out where rooms were, and the easiest route from where you were to where you needed to go, teacher’s names and their photo, a to do list, and useful links.
The project had inherent usefulness and significance to the students involved in the project and as such, the natural engagement in the project was high. The decision was made that simply embedding Google Maps would not be sufficient, as it would not provide the specific room locations, or the ability to allow for second level rooms, that a custom map would, which meant that students had to create their own maps with all of the mathematical skills and concepts that go along with that.
The students were also required to create and present a sales pitch to gain experience in considering factors such as cost/profit margins, clients wishes against what the developer wanted (colour schemes to fit with corporate designs etc.), modification of prototype to meet client demands, determining cost of production and then what a fair retail price would be.
Glenn did indicate that the learning curve on xcode was incredibly steep and that the success and failure rates of students in completing particular tasks needed to be balanced. As a result of the challenges from learning xcode, xcode Edu was created, a more manageable version for use with students.
The second project was a 3D Printing project where students utilised Google Sketchup with two add-ons; one called Solid Inspector and the other being Sketchup STL. Once again, students were required to treat the project as a business project and determine the real cost of the final product, including time, plastics, general wear and tear on the 3D printer itself, electricity (which introduced unit conversion), packaging and handling.
Glenn spoke very well and was apologetic at having to rush through his presentation, openly admitting that he had a number of short videos that he could not show due to time constraints at having to start late.
After Glenn’s brief talk, it was the morning break which was followed by the roundtable sessions. Last year, I was not very impressed with how the roundtable sessions had been organised from the perspective of the physical set up. None of the issues have been addressed or remedied in preparation for this year, and if anything, they were worse. My first roundtable was with Glenn and I was excited to be able to hear him speak further and hopefully glean some of what he had been forced to omit in his conference presentation. It was not to be.
Once again, the round tables were tucked at one end of the expo hall, where the concrete floor combined with the cavernous size of the overall space to create an annoyingly loud echo chamber with multiple conversations overlapping creating a cacophony of noise. I was again standing at the back, approximately three metres away from Glenn and could not hear him. At one point, there was someone at the other end of the table speaking, and I could not hear them, and when the person in front of me, who was sitting down, asked a question, I could not hear them very clearly. My total notes from the session consisted of the FutureLearn online professional development side could be useful for coding and STEM-based learning as an educator, and a something which I did manage to hear, as it was very early in the roundtable, when he said “this is bigger than I thought; it was meant to be a small group.”
I gave up after about ten minutes, as I was gaining nothing other than a headache, and spent the remainder of the session speaking with Brian Host, Paul Hamilton and Alfina Jackson, who introduced me to Meredith Ebbs, which from my perspective, was quite productive. I did not attend the second roundtable I had nominated as I strongly suspected it would be the same, and the conversation with Brian and Paul was, for me, valuable. I received a few pieces of advice, including the use of Blendspace as a host for flipped videos as a work around the NSW Department of Education block on YouTube, TeacherTube and Vimeo, and also a contact name regarding the inability of Android devices to connect to the DoE wi-fi.
I can only hope that with FutureSchools moving to Melbourne for 2017, that the issues with the roundtable sessions are properly addressed and those sessions are more beneficial for attendees. When you pay a significant sum for a conference (and I was not the only person that I am aware of who was there having self-funded their attendance) you expect all the sessions to be well managed. At this point, with the advice that FutureSchools is moving to Melbourne, and EduTech is moving to Sydney, I do not know which event I will attend as I have not been to EduTech previously. A decision for next year.
I hope you have gained some benefit from this article, and as always, thank you for reading. The next article will cover the penultimate session, with presentations from Shireen Winrow and John Burfoot.
For the full list of articles in this series, please click here.
“A teacher does not need to teach everything.”
– Gavin Hays
Welcome back for the review series from FutureSchools 2016. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here. This article will focus on the presentations by Gavin Hays and Jill Margerson, taking this series through to the afternoon break of day two. I have to admit that I entered this third session rather numb, mentally, feeling a touch of conference-itis, that sensation of having heard too many ideas and struggling to process them all. It still amazes me the number of people who sit there and do not appear top be taking any form of notes for later reflection, whether it be manual with a notebook and pen, or digital via some form of word processing app or Live-Tweeting. I would be lost without my notebook, but then, as the saying goes, different strokes for different folks.
Gavin Hays (@gavhays) is from the Parramatta Marist High School and was speaking under the title PBL and STEM Mashup. Gavin began by speaking about how they had implemented Project Based Learning (PBL1) across Years Seven to Nine and then Problem Based Learning (PBL2) across Years Ten to Twelve.
Gavin spoke about how PBL1 and PBL2 are both based around three key skills (top row in the PBL Jigsaw) that are supported by three attributes. Projects require authenticity, but this not necessarily mean based in the real-world or their local context, it means real and of significance to the students in some way. Limited PBL learning to the local context limits the scope of problems and projects. It was also discussed how groups are formed, sometimes teacher assigned, sometimes student formed, and that group roles are allocated, again, either by the teacher or determined within the group, as that is a realistic function of how groups often function in real-world contexts.
The second attribute that is required is that there should be active exploration involved, that it should generate wonder and curiosity and focus, acting as a springboard for possibilities rather than a ceiling for activities. Gavin stressed the point here that the teacher does not need to teach everything, that students do need to grapple with learning and pushing through struggles.
Gavin then spoke about how they felt that they needed to explicitly teach the STEM content up front and how over time they eventually learned to trust their program and teachers were adding in the STEM content, concepts and skills organically. Students need to get to the point of frustration, and teachers need to provide scaffolding to allow them move beyond that, however that does not mean the scaffolding is provided immediately, at all times. There needs to be an opportunity for students to, potentially, work through something on their own. They found that students would often need three to four years to properly embed the attributes and skills that were being taught.
The skill of collaboration did need to be explicitly taught, including how to manage differences within a group, assign roles, set deadlines and that over the four year program, students would complete in the vicinity of one hundred and eighty projects and that it was early in Year Eight where students seemed to connect the dots with group management, task delegation and deadlines and the impact that those skills could have on the final product.
This led to a discussion about communication and how students needed to learn to communicate with each other and also with the whole cohort, which was facilitated through the requirement for a presentation of projects, with the audience expected to listen and ask probing questions, forcing the presenters to really know and engage with their product and the skills and concepts underpinning it in order to be able to answer questions on the fly and with confidence.
STEM was additionally offered as an elective subject and was underpinned by a driving question which would necessitate being chunked for easier engagement, and assessment of the underlying problems and issues but that these driving questions would require significant understanding of a variety of concepts and skills across a range of curriculum areas and that the final design was first prototyped and tested, refined, re-prototyped, retested and then the final product produced.
Gavin’s final point was that we, and our students, need to continue learning, always, as life never stops teaching, which was a sage point to finish on.
I will halt this article there as it is Friday afternoon and I am still at school rather late and I very much want to go home. I will endeavour to get the next article, finishing out session three, tomorrow at some point. Until then, as always, thank you for reading.