Posted in Digital Technologies, Minecraft, Teaching and Learning

Getting started with Digital Technologies

Partly in response to the new New Zealand Digital Technologies curriculum, my school is offering a Year 7 module for Digital Technologies for the first time this year. It almost didn’t run as it fell prey to the beast that is secondary school timetabling, but I am super glad it did. We (Kevin and I) did a little bit of planning last year, but of course things change (we got yr 7 instead of yr 8, and about 20 lessons rather than 30). It has been a really good learning experience for me, trying to keep abreast of the changes in the New Zealand Digital Technologies curriculum, watching with interest the changes happening at NCEA level one so that we can try and tailor our program so that students can have a pathway to those qualifications, and we want to do a good job so we can get a yr 8 digit tech course into the timetable, and then on up through the senior school. I have an interest in coding and Computer Science, where as Kevin teaches L2 Robotics and has much more experience than me with coding etc, although I’m pretty sure I could kick his butt in Minecraft. We are both fairly good at driving the microbits, although Kevin has an advantage as he is better at coding in general. We are also using Microsoft Teams, which is new to the school this year. It is also my first go at co-teaching a class, which has (so far) been fabulous…. because we both have different skills sets, terrible senses of humour, and have helped each other out.

So, before I go too much further, I do need to acknowledge Kevin Knowles. He and I are co teaching this module and (between you and me) I think we have been ROCKING it. Being our first go, there are off course some things we will change next time, and I have learned loads (Kevin was kind enough to say he had learned one or two things).

Getting started

Our first lesson had a very simple objective – get everyone logged into Office 365. Because it was the first lesson, we had less time than usual as it took a we while to get all the kids where they needed to be. And we learned for next time we need to print off a sheet with all of the log ins and passwords 🙂 Going through Kamar for pretty much every new student took a wee while…. but also hopefully by module two this won’t be such an issue as the students will have had 5 weeks to get used to logging in. Once logged in, students sent us an email, so that they knew our email address and so the very few who didn’t know how to do this could learn how.

Next we focussed on algorithms – how do you make toast (an idea poached from the fabulous Cathy). We did this as a class, then the students had to do an algorithm to get dressed in the morning – which lead to an introduction of if this, then what type questions (eg, if Monday-Friday – wear school uniform, if Saturday go back to sleep). The students where surprisingly passionate about little details – what order to put on socks and shoes, or top half then bottom half first – which gave Kevin the opportunity to talk about (and me to learn about) the fact that sometimes order in programs is important (eg socks then shoes) and other times it doesn’t matter (sweater or pants)

Getting started with Microbits

We then hit a bit of disruption with some students going to camp – so we had 1/3 of the class absent over the next 5 lessons. But by the end of it, everyone could (and almost everyone DID)

  • Do some coding with the makecode microbit site
  • Download the code and get it onto their microbit
  • code a microbit to say spell out the letters of their name
  • Take a screen shot of their code and put it into their onenote
  • Get the microbit to do something else (some did AMAZING things with no input from us)

 

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 3.17.37 PM.png
Kevin 3d printed all the cases last year – colour coded for 1) easy grouping of students and 2) easy to check we get them all back

Then when we had everyone back together again, we covered loops/repeats – trying to get Santa to say ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’

Thinking about Data representations

Once everyone was back, we doubled back a little I guess to go over data representation. I have to say it, Kevin NAILED this. The kids did maths without knowing they did maths!! And it got kids thinking about what number and letters are actually representing….

Kev started with counting in base 10, with a ‘ones’ column, a ‘tens’ column and so on, which got the students thinking about what the number represent. Then he moved onto binary using the same table…. and away we went. Kids just picked it up.

Kev did share some tricks, eg 15 is 1111…. you don’t need to count it up, because it is just one less than 16, which would be 10000. and so on. And if the last number is a 1, you know the number must be uneven. Some of the kids who have brains that like patterns picked up a few more, and I spend some time helping less confident kids go through adding up the different numbers.

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Kevin had found a scratch game for the students to do for the remainder of the lesson, and they were SO keen on it we started the next lesson with it too.

Which then lead into ASCII coding…. a brief demo on the board and then we gave the students a code to solve and then asked them to write them names in ASCII in their section of the onenote

 

Where to next?

We have about 2 more weeks to go… and are still tossing up about giving the code builder in Minecraft education edition ago using some of the ideas from the introduction to comp sci course. Because of timetabling issues, we haven’t been in a fixed room yet, and on different laptops each time, so it is only now that I can get minecraft up and running on them all. So tomorrow I am going to try and install everything to get it going, and then off course I’m out on tuesday for a cricket tournament…..

Alternatively, we will carry on with the microbits, we have some speakers we can attach so we can explore the concept of inputs and outputs. And there are LOADS of cool projects we can do with the microbits. (You can see some HERE). So Kev and I are sitting down on Monday to talk it through.

Reporting

We do need to report on progress made…. which is one reason we have encouraged students to put their work into the OneNote we can gather a portfolio of evidence of the code they have built and the tasks they have completed. We are also going to make a couple of Microsoft forms to check students can 1) read an ASCII code and 2) interpret simple program commands such as loops. So we will have evidence on understanding of data representation, algorithms and programming to report to parents about. Which only covers 3 of the 6 ‘themes’ I guess, but is not too bad for a 5-6 weeks module we hope.

For next time

Next time we will make some subtle changes. Hopefully students will be already confident at logging into office 365 and using teams and/or classonenote, which will save us some time at the start. We are also going to rejig the onenote slightly, we started with sections for each of Minecraft, microbit, ASCII etc… which lead to extra clicks for the students. So we will just have one section, with pages for each, which the students can then add to (also means less clicks for marking). We will also make the front page the place were we put the links for students… we started having them in the conversation but they got lost in the chatter, and then having them as a tab in the team means they open in the team, which is rather a small window/space.

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The teams interface works well to keep the students in the one browser window, but it does reduce the size of the usable space for coding… The expand tab does give you some more space, but still not a full window (and Yr 7’s struggled to find the 2 little arrows on the top right….)

We will also survey the students (using forms) at the end of the module and use their feedback to tweak the second module through. At which point I think we would make any bigger changes if they were needed.

Successes and challenges

I think every teacher in New Zealand right now is probably desperately wishing for a ‘normal’ week. It will be week 7 before I have a full week at school with no disruptions… and then I am away on camp in week 8, and then hit the 2 short weeks around easter. So juggling the disruptions when we are trying to introduce a new course has been a bit of a challenge, but also a relief because it has given us a bit of breathing space to think about what the best next step is.

Something I didn’t expect was the typing skills (or lack there of) that the students have. A number of students were turning the caps lock button on and off to capitalise one letter, and didn’t know to hold down the shift button. While I’m not a ‘touch typer’ (and I have terrible spelling both in my handwriting and typing) I can use more than 2 fingers. So we might need to include some sort of upskilling process so the students are not slowed down by their typing speed.

A real success (I think, Kev can speak for himself) has been how Kevin and I have worked together. As we move throughout the year, we will definitely be more confident and so maybe need to communicate less, but we really have worked together quite well. We have taken turns at being ‘good and bad cop’, and we are both able to reach different students at different times. We have pretty much both been in the room for the whole time, but it hasn’t felt crowded. Kev has definitely got more expertise, but I now feel confident that I could tackle all of the concepts myself next module. As we move through the year, we will probably be in the room together less, but it has worked really well for starting out, especially as I grasped some of those programming concepts.

And another success was the absolute buzz in the room after Kev introduced binary numbers. It was maths, it was abstract, I was worried it would be ‘hard’ but the kids nailed it. And seemingly LOVED it. The cheers around the room as the worked their way through the levels of the binary game where awesome, I kind of just stood and stared as the kids just nailed it. You don’t always get those moments as a teacher, so it was worth savouring, even though Kev had done all the work for that lesson.

The biggest challenge I think for us will be getting this option carried forward into yr 8, 9 etc. Or finding some room for it among another curriculum area… so we will press on and try to get it fitted in to the timetable one way or another.

Reach out

If you are teaching a digit tech course, or using the code builder in minecraft, I’d LOVE to hear from you. Either on twitter or flick a comment on the blog and I will be in touch (probably late). If I have made a mistake you have spotted, please let me know so I can fix it and learning from it. Or if you are wanting any more info, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, I’m definitely learning as I go, and am happy to help out as much as I can.

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Posted in random ramblings

Reading too much into Star Wars – the last Jedi

This post contains spoilers from the Last Jedi movie, so if you haven’t seen it and want to, don’t read it. And some of the ‘quotes’ will be off, I will correct them when I see it again (or I can find the clips on youtube)

Last night I went to Star Wars – the Last Jedi. The movie as a whole was amazeballs (I am a star wars fan as a disclaimer) but there were a few moments that really stood out to tired end of year teacher brain. I am probably reading WAY too much into it, but there were a couple of ideas that really did stand out for me.

  1. The best teacher, failure is

Master Yoda rocks up when Luke Skywalker is feeling all down and out about being a failure (He did make a rather large cock up to be fair…) And in awesome Yoda style, he says some pretty profound things. My second favourite was about masters (teachers) and how you need to be lots of things to be a teacher, but failure is also a good teacher and learn from it you will. (I need to see the movie again to get the quotes right).

2. The burden of a Master is to watch people out grow you.

Again, this was Yoda at his best. But I don’t think it is something teachers acknowledge enough, and it is why I try really hard to push kids in front of me (either by dangling carrots, cracking ‘whips’ or lighting fires) rather than pulling them up. A subtle thing to think about, but if you pull people along, do you limit how far they can go, because they are following you, rather than treading their own path. How can I make sure kids are learning for them, not to please others?

3. Keeping the light alive is more important than being a hero.

In the movie Poe, the bolshy and impulsive pilot. He is pretty kick arse in a tight spot to be fair. But in this movie he fails to see a big picture and essentially is a right pain in the butt. On a whole other level, there is a moment where a kick arse woman named Haldo refuses to be mansplained to – I LOVED the woman in this movie, there were some really strong characters. And then, when the crunch comes, she acts and is awesome and Poe gets it – with help from Leia of course – that heroes come in all types, and being heroic doesn’t always save the day. And that sometimes you do have to cut your losses.

I guess this was another little wake up call for me about being ‘heroic’ and how the small little acts that no-one sees are just, if not more, important than the big bold strokes. How really kick arse people don’t need that recognition, they are just kick arse.

4. We will win by saving what we love, not destroying what we hate.

This was a really cheesey moment in the movie (There was so much awesome cheese in this film) but again, it was a wee reminder about staying focussed on what is important and that if we can protect what we love, really the rest doesn’t matter quite so much. So do we spend enough time focusing on what is awesome and what we love in education, or do we spend too much time focusing on what we ‘hate’??

 

So yeah, it was awesome, and I will go and see it again (and then buy it to go with all the other star wars movies on my shelf) but to this tired and slightly disillusioned teacher brain, it was an awesome reminder about remembering there is lots to love in education, that quiet heroics are just as important as loud ones, that failure is the best teacher and sometimes you do outgrow ideas, or people, or people and ideas outgrow you.

And that is ok

 

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

What if marking was like ‘teaching’

So, I am marking again this year (I’m not 100% I’m allowed to say which standard etc… so I won’t. I think/hope most of what I say here is stuff I’m allowed to say). Marking this year has been easier than last year somehow, although I did find one question in particular difficult to get my head around the expectations. And so, at the start especially, I checked in with my check marker quite a bit to make sure I was being consistent.

A colleague asked if I will mark again next year – after all I complain about it, turn into (even more of) a social hermit during the party season, and it is hard work. And while money is money (and while a BIG chunk goes on to my student loan, it is nice for the Christmas credit card bill in January) it is not that much when it is a beautiful sunny day, your colleagues are at the Christmas party, and you are inside marking.

But the complicated answer is I like marking. Not actually the marking, the marking is hard, takes me ages, and I feel awful for every kid that doesn’t get over the line we say is good enough. I don’t like PEPs, and I don’t like memory tests, and, in fact, I don’t like exams full stop. Marking takes over my life, and my families life for 3 or so weeks each year.

But I do like marking.

Because it is collaborative in a very unique way.

At the start, we all sit together in a big room and work through a marking schedule. We debate/argue/comment/fight over what answers can be expected and accepted, and what do we expect a student at this or that level to know. How many ways can the questions be interpreted? What do they text books say? This group of teachers talks through what we want our learners to be able to express in the exam. We then look at some example answers, and debate about whether they do or don’t meet ‘the standard’

Now, do we REALLY do this in schools? We might chat amongst the department, or think about it for ourselves,  we might ask some-one to moderate an internal task for us, but I don’t think we have this intense cross schools conversation about what students should be able to do. Imagine if we could move beyond ‘standards’ and have a proper conversation about our learners, and what they could do, and how we could get them there, rather than token conversations about competencies and values.

So, step one, I like the markers meeting. It is collaborative, robust, and we compare each others work, all with the aim of being in the same place with regards to where students from different places might be.

Step two is I like getting feedback. Bunches of ‘check marking’ go off and get double checked. And the feedback is really helpful. Around 10% of marking gets checked. Imagine if 10 % of my lessons got checked – if I had some-one sitting in on them, willing to help out, or point out a common error I was making, tell me to double check some adding up, or even just to say good job, keep it up. If 10% of my lessons got checked (I teacher 15 hours a week) that would be 3 lessons over 2 weeks.

Call me crazy, but I would LOVE this. I would love more feedback about how to improve my practice, and get the very best out of myself and my kids.

Step three – While a part of me hates saying this, it does make me able to do my job teaching kids how to meet a standard better. I am better at recognising tips and tricks. I get an insight into how other teachers around the country are teaching the kids in their classrooms. I feel like I really ‘get’ the standard, which then helps me understand other standards. And, like it or not, getting kids to pass standards is a big part of my job. And then, when so much PLD costs a fortune, I actually get paid to mark, and get a better idea of how the standard works. Go figure.

So what if teaching was more like marking. What if we had these conversations about the outcomes for our learners? What is we got paid to learn more about the standards/expectations, rather than schools having to fork out money for PLD? What if we got the feedback? What if teachers truly felt if they weren’t quite sure, they could just flick an email away and get another set of eyes or ears over something, not just from one teacher, but 2 or 3 or 4……

So yeah, I will sign up again next year. Maybe by the time my student loan is paid off, we will have move beyond exams and there will be no more end of year summative marking. But in the mean time, I like working with a group of other awesome teachers from lots of different schools to make sure we get the best result for all the kids out there.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Perspective

So another end of year has rolled around, and I have this song on repeat in my head.

But I also got a very traumatic reminder of just how precious life is, and how we do need to try and find a way to treasure every moment.

So, to myself and all my colleagues in the teachverse out there thinking of how the year has gone, and what they could have done differently, I hope you all have spend more time with friends and family at the top of the list.

For next year, I am going to take a step back, and try to remember my job is just a job, even though I LOVE it and HATE it (hate the frustrations is more accurate I guess) and try to leave it at school. I am passionate, and I do care, but this shouldn’t impact my life as much as does. I need to spend more time with Mr 5 and the hubby, and my friends, and more time on me too.

I’m looking forward to a break, to going to my parents for Christmas, ripping down some walls in my house and sorting out my garden, and then of course Hands on, which is always such a pleasure to spend a week with amazing young people from all over the country. I have weddings, friends babies due so blankets and hats to crochet and my first school holiday with me wee man.

Enjoy your break teachie friends, you have earned it. I hope that the break puts all those frustrations into perspective and you come back refreshed – it is my wish for me too. I hope you can save every day like a treasure, and you find what you want to do while there is still time left.

 

 

Posted in random ramblings

Reflections from the PPTA ICT meeting Nov 2017

On Monday was the last ICT meeting for 2017. As usual it was a full on day, although to be honest I did not leave feeling as hopefully as I usually do – hopefully it is just that it is the wrong end of the year. As usual, this was my interpretation of what was said, and I am happy to be corrected, or if you have a question or an issue for the committee, I am happy to take it to them 🙂

Up for discussion was

  1.  Round robin – we have introduced a google doc for round robin discussions from regions and representatives. 2 points of interest came up this time

a) Learn Coach flipped learning – 2 members from regions expressed concern about the ‘credit’ farm feeling of this course. As they are a PTE (private training establishment) there is very little that the PPTA can do. Other than express concerns (that are shared by other organisations if I got the drift of the conversation correct) that this model is privatisation of education, and has no pastoral care provided. Due to the pastoral care issue, there is not an option for this to be incorporated into a ‘COOL’ (if indeed the COOLS continue under the new government)

This did spark an interesting conversation (a highlight of the meeting from my point of view) on the future of education. The rate of teachers leaving the profession, the lack of new ones coming in, the changing technological landscape and the changing purpose of assessments are all tied into this type of venture. Predictions are that this will be the tip of the iceberg, and more online learning ‘portals’ will become available – perhaps simply because there are not enough teachers to teach in all schools…..

A report that was commissioned by the government (conducted by cognition) into research of online learning is due of the first of December, looking into the dispositions and competencies of online learners and teachers, pastoral care, data security etc. This report may shed some light on how the government will move forward. But to some around the table, it is clear that education is at a kind of cross roads, and Education 2.0 (to quote John Crieghton) might look quite different. Are we ready for it?

b) An ongoing theme around teacher safety and workload around being ‘contactable’ 24 hours a day. What are the lines for teachers around keeping themselves and their students safe? Is it ok to reply to emails from students after 10pm? Is it ok for students to have cell numbers, or instagram/twitter/facebook? Horses for courses, or do we need a blanket policy? All it takes is one false step… are teacher adequately aware of the risks. This is a hard one, I had an example of a student texting me at 5:45 am the morning of their exam. What is the expectation around this? Some teachers would ignore, others reply? But by replying (I did, but at 6:30 when I woke up) am I setting an unrealistic expectations for my colleagues?

2) TELA update

Was very brief, there was not much to update. The consultation process I was part of was not overly informative and was confidential. I can say (I hope) there will be a wide range of devices available. There was then debate around how do we ensure teachers and school USE the variety effectively – I got ‘kicked’ around for saying I worried ‘gatekeepers’ would just choose the cheapest devices and for ease of network management keep everyone on the same device. The gatekeepers around the table said there is never adequate resourcing for device management in schools, which segwayed into funding issues in general. So while I am pleased there will be more devices options available, I do worry that teachers will not be aware they can have a choice, or schools will take this choice away due to funding issues or network managing issues. Sigh

3) Digital Technology Curriculum update

I really feel for the team that has been putting this together, they have been getting slammed from all sides and seemingly pleasing no-one. Everything is a little on hold after the releases of the reports from the consultation process – comments where made the survey was potentially skewed due to its length and overly complicated structure – and while the new government finds its feet. Comments were made that while digitech can’t be compulsory, it is strongly encouraged for years 1-10. The NCEA level one standards will be available on December 12th, which means planning will be in the holidays (it probably would have been anyways, but it is still a late date). Other comments where around ‘digital championships’ which had drawn criticism for being too competitive and using lots of $$ for no real purpose, and the digital equity project, looking to support 12,500 kids who have limited access to technology (I feel 12,500 is a drop in a very big ocean. There was also some discussion around where are all these teachers going to come from???

There was also some discussion around subject silos (again, another hightlight) in that digitech should not be stand alone. And perhaps if schools do it this way they will find it harder, or it will be pigeon holed as something you do for an hour a week. So my take was if we can integrate these ideas into the broader curriculum, it will work much better (she says after being super excited to get a yr 7 module digitech module to teach next year….)

4) Auckland STEM project.

Graeme Aitken (along with Tony and Kate, sorry I didn’t get there last names) came to talk us through the Auckland University STEM project. I was really impressed – their ‘mission’ was to support non specialist teachers who are teaching STEM subjects, especially physics. They want to be more successful at making maths and physics graduates from Auckland Univeristy., as they realised they weren’t getting as many as they wanted (between 2005 and 2011 they only had 11 physics teachers graduate from their teaching program). So they decided to think about it differently consulted with different groups (who wisely told them to start at Level 1, not level 3) and have set up a site to support students and teachers. They were ADAMANT the whole way through it was meant to be used as a support, not a replacement, and they really didn’t want it to be seen as a ‘baby sitting’ tool. (Again, another wee side conversation about guide to the side rather than up the front delivery of knowledge). They are funded for maths and physics, and want to get into Chemistry as well. It is free for ALL schools. So check it out http://www.stemonline.auckland.ac.nz/

5) N4L update

The lovely Paula Hay came along to update us on what N4L has been doing. Again (it was a common theme) they are waiting a little bit to see what the new Government will bring to their roll. It is also easy to forget just how big the N4L job is – there are over 800,000 users on their network. They had blocked over 120,000 viruses (and acknowledged some got through….). There was discussion around kids setting up their own networks to get round blocks. A nice update was they have a new support hub, where any teacher from a school can log in and ask for help, or read some FAQS to get help. And then a great wee discussion on digital assessment and how it might work – my question was why are we bothering to invest so much into digital exam infrastucture when exams are possibly a lost cause anyways (again thinking education 2.0). Most of the points were around logistics, devices etc. Although with the idea of any where, any time learning came some questions around teacher workload, and of course classroom management and timetabling – any time anywhere assessment would come at a cost of the timetable (which is not a bad thing in my view). N4L is also working with Chorus to look at wireless extensions for schools – a polite is being run at Haeta – so that the school wireless reaches into the community and students can use it at home.

6) Creative Commons

We had a skype presentation from Mandy Henk about creative commons, who is more than happy to help any schools wanting to adopt this. It was a good reminder about how many teachers openly (and unwittingly) flout copyright laws when sharing resources and/or taking resources when they move from school to school – it is the property of the BoT of your school as you were working for them when you made them.

7) Other bits and pieces

There was a brief update about COOLS – again, waiting to see what the government will do and the government does not want private providers- but it would need to change the education act as it was amended (I wasn’t super sure of the legal aspect, it sounded complicated…..). There was a little more information on SISI (student information sharing initiative) which sounds like it might not have much impact on the ‘front’ end of systems teachers use, just the back end around getting SMS systems to talk to each other more efficiently. And then safety around who can get what information.

And I think that was it. So a full on day, and reading over this, there was a lot of discussion and information. I have a nagging worry about teacher supply and that this, rather than sound practice, will push digital schools into being, but if we don’t have the teachers on the ground, perhaps it will be better than nothing.

Have fun

 

 

Posted in random ramblings

I was wrong…..

Today I had a mentally crushing realisation of just how far short I have fallen for a goal I set for myself and my yr 13 Chemistry class. I had set out to teach Chemistry, to move away from teaching them to the Achievements Standards. I hoped to make them interested in Chemistry and the world about them, not just the credits. And I am pretty sure that I failed quite horribly at it. We had a end of topic test last week required for the ‘derived grade’ demands of NCEA and they kids just didn’t do it. Some flat out refused. The ones that did do it did terribly for the most part. When I raved and stormed today trying to get something, anything, out of them that I could do to help, I got ‘I’ve already got Merit endorsed, I don’t need this….’ or ‘I’m not doing this standard in the externals, I don’t need it…..’ or (the worst for the soul today) ‘I’ll just swot up for the exams Miss’. Or averted eyes as they thought to themselves ‘another teacher flying off the handle’.

From an outside perspective, the ‘results’ this class will get will be awesome. A good number of endorsements should be on the cards. They have learned some Chemistry. These kids will put the work in for the exam and pass. The feedback from the internally assessed standards was positive – kids did think offering the 4th internal would be good ‘for more credits’. Apart from today when I was ranty, I think most of them enjoyed the class. They gave useful feedback for next year. We did some great practicals and I feel I got them thinking more about what those practicals represent. Some might be in a place where they can even do well in Chemistry next year at uni.

But from my perspective I had wanted sooooo much more for them. I talked with them at the start of the year and tried to blend their need for credits and uni prep (this is what they said they wanted) with me wanting to push those preconceptions.

I wanted them to be motivated and challenged, not counting credits. I wanted them to be able to at least get an achieved on a practice test without having to ‘cram’ because they had a base level of knowledge from throughout the year. I wanted them to have more pride in themselves and their work, and so put the time in to learning something. I had faith that trying to instil the value for a love of learning would hold out over the credit crunch.

I was wrong.

Maybe do I need to rethink. They said they wanted credits and uni prep. Do I really know better than they do about what they want?

So I will crawl into a swirl of thought, and try and think about how I could do better next time. But right now it hurts and I am so frustrated that in the end it still all came back to credits. Credits they will get, but at what cost?

So, today I arrived at school (the day after the post and ‘incident’ above) and found my room pranked. With clever ‘political’ memes based on conversations around elections time. Maybe, just maybe, I was too hard on the kids (and myself) and they learned more than just about credits…  🙂 

 

 

 

Posted in Professional learning, Teaching and Learning

Making holograms – Molecular shapes

Watching Hack the Classroom on Sunday, I saw ‘a hack’ on how to make hologram videos. The hack was by Tomas Milicka, and he used a combination of office paint and powerpoint to make his own (or to get his students to make their own) hologram videos. I didn’t quite see the potential at first, but then I remembered some GIFs of 3D shapes I made using ChemSketch at a Peter Hollamby workshop in my first year of teaching (8 years ago) and I wonder if they could be used to make some holograms of 3D chemistry shapes that are required as part of the L2 and L3 NCEA Chemistry curriculum. Visually molecule shapes in 3D from a 2D drawing if often a challenge for students, so any hook or tool to help them is AWESOME.

So I had a play, and success. I inserted the gifs and aligned them changed the background to black, and then made a slide recording with no sound. Then exported the slide recording as an mp4, loaded on to youtube and away we went.

Screenshots of the powerpoint slides in production

I am STOKED with how they have turned out, and how easy they were to make. So now I have another tool when trying to demonstrate the 3D nature of molecules, which some students do struggle with.

And I’m stoked I found a fun wee idea I could run with, it will really only be a ‘hook’ for my classes, but it was a really nice motviational boost for me at the time of year when I feel like all I am doing is EXAMS EXAMS EXAMS. So a massive thanks to Tomas for sharing this idea, it gave me the wee boost I needed to do something fun and learn something new.

Feel free to use this videos in your class, there are loads of websites that show you how to build the ‘viewer’ including this one. I will keep adding more shapes as I make them.

I’ve made them into a playlist on youtube, so you can find them all HERE

Have fun

 

 

 

 

Posted in Professional learning

Hack the classroom (October 2017) – making connections

This morning (at an unpleasant hour of 4:00am NZ time) I tuned in for Microsoft’s Hack the classroom – a live broadcast from Washington State in the USA. While it was super early, it was worth being up to connect with all the other educators from around the world. If you like, you can watch a reply of the hack the classroom HERE. I had an extra incentive for being up to watch the broadcast live rather than by replay, as Nikkie and I had submitted our ‘hack’ around making connections within the NZ Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert community with our monthly Professional Learning Community calls. Getting in touch with these amazing educators once a month is genuine highlight for both my professional learning and for soothing my soul when I get frustrated, or stuck. We are all ‘hacking’ our curriculums and tech and are open about sharing and helping each other, either on the calls or on yammer. The banter is not bad either.

Highlights from the hack the class session.

Alan November

Alan November was the first ‘keynote’ speaker (live from Boston) – and in his very first sentence he talked about how we can’t get enough of teachers teaching teachers. So I was pretty sold already.

He then talked about some research about the ‘curse of knowledge‘ – and how some-one who already knows something might not connect with a ‘new’ learner’ as effectively as some-one who has just learned about it. This idea struck me quite strongly, mostly because I had not considered it before. Doing a simple search determined it is not a new idea, and yet I hadn’t heard it before. So, as always, learning new things and new ways of looking at things to help me be the best I can at helping learning happen.

He then also talked about the importance of students taking ownership of their learning. His suggestion was swapping the word ‘solve’ for ‘involve’ eg instead of solving a chemistry problem, design a problem involving alkenes and alcohols. Just a different way of flipping the thinking around – and given how hard I find it to write practice questions, I think this would be an awesome way to get my kids thinking more about what they are working on. He said he had ‘a somewhat cynical view of spoon feeding’ and this was a strategy to try and prevent this. As well as teachers letting go of their classrooms and not being in control. Teachers ‘knowledge’ is going to go down in value as more learning is on line, but teachers ability to support those students in their learning and creating content will need to drastically increase.

Another awesome point I reflected on from his presentation was when he was asked about engaging reluctant learners. He said

All kids love to learn, but not all love school

which I think nails it. So many kids will learn what they are interested about, but schools don’t ‘have room’ for what they are interested in.

So this presentation made me think some hard thunks, and I’m going to look into the idea of curse of knowledge a little bit more.

Tammy Dunbar 

Tammy Dunbar is AMAZING. I meet her at the Microsoft Education exchange in Seattle in 2015. She just radiates energy and passion for her job. My favourite message from her presentation was

‘life is bumpy, I want them to look at those challenges and be able to say, no, I can work through this, I can do this.’ 

She uses a whole range of tools in her class room, but it was the way she uses powerpoint that really stood out for me. Powerpoint often gets a bad rap, and we have all been in a powerpointless session, but it is a really powerful tool and to see it being used well was awesome. She is also using Minecraft really well, and as I’m looking into this for digital tech next year it was really cool to get some little ideas around that.

And of course, Tammy works closely with Koen Timmers to bring global education projects like Human Differences and Climate action. I have LOVED being involved in these projects and am proud to say I can contribute to them (when really it is my amazing kids doing all the work)

Making holograms – Tomas Milicka

My last highlight was another ‘hack’ submitted by another educator about Holograms. I love getting kids to make holograms, and usually do it as part of a light topic, or occasionally just for a fun filler. But I had never considered making my own videos. At first, I did kind of discount it (I will use it being 5:40am as a part of an excuse). But then I thought about the videos I could make. Before now,  it just hadn’t popped into my head I could make my own and I had always used some videos from youtube. So this 2 minute ‘hack’ about how to make your own hologram video was pretty cool, and I am going to have play with some chemistry shapes to see if I can make them into holograms somehow to students can see them in 3D in 3D in a hologram…..

 

So those were my big three takeaways. The other speakers and hacks were awesome, but those ones really stood out for me.

And then, last but least, it was time for Nikkie and me to grace the screen. Hearing Anthony talk about the work we do was such a great acknowledgement.

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It isn’t why I (or we) do it, it is still nice to get the odd little pat on the back. So a massive thank you to all the NZ MIEE’s out there that rock my world, that sent in pictures (or a video Ryan, massive brownie points for you) and make my education life a better place. And also to all the non MIEE teachers in NZ, and worldwide, who help me keep keeping on. You rock!!

Kia Kaha

 

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Science and Ethics

Every year as part of my Genetics topic I set aside a couple of hours to talk about morals, ethics and ethical frameworks. I am still using an awesome outline I got from a session at Biolive in 2009 that Fiona Anderson presented that uses some great resources from the Science learning hub Ethical analysis page. I ask my students to try and think past there ideas of ‘right and wrong’ and identify why they think so. Yesterday was the first time I got asked

‘Why are we doing this in Science Miss? Isn’t this social studies?’

Which was both a great teachable moment around science and ethics, and a little bit of a downer that somehow throughout the year I hadn’t made an impact on to why ethics might be important for Science. That said, you do need a relationship with the class so it is a safe space for students to ask questions and share ideas – you can end up talking about some fairly heavy stuff.

So I thought I’d share how I approach the ethics ‘lesson’ and I need to keep pondering where else I could include ethics.

So, as I mentioned, I still follow most of the ideas from the presentation from Fiona in 2009. (The slides were shared at the time, so I hope Fiona doesn’t mind me sharing the presentation now – the links are from the old biotech learning hub that have moved to the Science learning hub – link are smattered down below)

Essentially, you identify what bio ethics and ethics is first up

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Then distinguish between morals and ethics – there is a explanation video HERE on the science learning hub.

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I also tell a personal story of when I was working in research, and, without thinking, when my flatmate asked how my day was when we were at the supermarket and I casually replied I’d had a nightmare day because I’d ‘processed’ 150 odd mice, I got ‘attacked’ by a person who overheard and screamed that I was a monster for a good 5 minutes. She and I had very different morals around animal testing. I just tried to diffuse and ignore their leather shoes…. sigh.

And in responses to the ‘why are we doing this in Science question’?, I talked about Mengele and some of the horrific experiments during the Holocaust. And how just because ‘Science’ can, doesn’t mean ‘Science’ should. And how I thought Genetics was a relevant topic to discuss there issues, as genetic screening and IVF techniques become more advances and common place, society as a whole needs to be aware and educated so informed choices can be made.

For my class yesterday, I asked them about the ‘anti smacking law’ (which possibly lead to the social studies question….) as I knew it was something they would all have an instantly moral feeling about – but when I asked them why they thought that, or felt that way, they had a hard time explaining it to me….. we spent about 10 minutes talking through some of these ideas, and of course they all come up with questionable moral and ethical situations in order to ‘trick’ each other. But I have asked with different class and students about euthansia, ‘paying’ for addiction treatments or should the youth wage be less than or the same as the minimum wage.

I then called them back, and spent some time talking about ethical frameworks…. Video HERE

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And then we watched the example of the ethics of whaling, and how you can apply these ethical frameworks to decision making.

And then they class had definitely had enough of me, so I put them into groups, gave them a framework to work with and gave them a task of deciding if we should screen ALL embryos for susceptibility to cancers. (You can have ‘real’ fun with the groups if you like…. in another year I asked about vegetarian versus omnivore diets and put some ‘farmers’ in the values group….) (I thought about vaccinations – should ‘we’ pay for the treatment of some-one who is really sick because they didn’t get vaccinated, but I’ve already had a couple of vaccine debates with this class this year)

And of course, ‘chaos’ ensues. Mostly that awesomely good chaos as students argue, talk over each other, go hang on, I need to look that up…. what do you think?

I LOVE talking about ethics with my classes. It really stretches there thinking. It allows ‘non science’ kids a chance to shine and fully participate. It always opens my mind up to different ideas and morals. It is a great chance to bring up historical cases, or talk about the ethics proposal systems in NZ (it is a rigorous process to gain permission for animal experiments for example, and research can’t be published unless ethical approval was obtained. And students are often quite interested that ethics doesn’t extended to insects….). But can I fit it anywhere other then Biology? Even the story of Rosalind Franklin and the use of her work ties in with DNA. I touch on it with the story of Alexis St Martin who became a living experiment on the digestive tract – and how his family ‘hid’ his body when he died so it couldn’t be used for further research. But I’m not sure how it could fit into Chemistry, or physics quite the same? Maybe around ideas of space travel? Was sending the dogs and primates into space ethical? Or climate change – is it ethical for people to allow building new building consents for ‘water front properties?

I’d love to know where you fit ethics into your Science curriculum 🙂

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Thoughts on Computational Thinking

I’m not super sure when I first heard the term Computational thinking, but the first time I took proper notice of it was in March this year when I was fortunate enough to hear Lisa Anne Floyd speaking at E2 this year. Even then, I thought, this is nice, this is a way to get people thinking about thinking and problem solving, rather than, this is life changing. But as I have delved a little deeper and been planing our digitech module for next year, I’m really liking the ideas behind computational thinking, and the links I can make to multiple other ‘thinking’ thunks, like Nature of Science, or using taxonomies. To my mind, the ‘computational thinking’ strategies seem a little more visible, maybe because they are based around problems and finding solutions, rather than just meta cognition and thinking about thinking. I then read this fabulous paper about a pedagogical framework for computational thinking which got me onto other papers and other ideas.

So what is computational thinking? There are lots of fancy definitions, like this one

‘an approach to solving problems, designing systems and understanding
human behaviour that draws on concepts fundamental to computing’
Wing 2006″

but to my mind, it is breaking a problem down into a flow chart, and working through the steps to solve it, with some iteration or corrections. A bit like this

Core education also has a nice page and video with Tim Rice talking about Computational thinking… and I have shared this video before but it is still a good one

 

So, how can I link this to my ‘Science lessons’? Lets say I want to know how the pH of an acid effects how quickly a piece of magnesium corrodes. There are various ways I can measure this . -how long it takes for a piece of Magnesium metal to disappear. Or how long it takes for a jar or test tube filled with water to be displaced by Hydrogen gas. I would need to ensure both of these measures were ‘fair’ so I could need to use pieces of Magnesium that were not only the same mass, but they same surface area. i would need to start the stopwatch at the same time and stop it at the same time. I would need to use the same gas jar or same water displacement to measure Hydrogen production. I would need to do a test run to check I could accurately measure the timings or that the volumes produced where sensible.

And then you get to the fun stuff of how do you accurately measure the pH of a solution anyway? In junior school we use universal indicator, but when you get into the senior school this isn’t specific enough – both HCl (a strong acid) and CH3COOH ( a weak acid) turn red in universal indicator. Yet CH3COOH has a lower pH because not as many Hydrogen ion dissociate, which you can pick up using a pH probe or different indicators. So while 10mL of 1 mol/L HCl and 10mL of 1mol/L CH3COOH will make the same mass of magnesium metal corrode and disappear, and the same amount of Hydrogen gas to be produced, the HCl will happen much faster, due to the lower pH/high concentration of reactive particles in the solution. Or do I just use different concentrations of HCl and test the impact of decreasing pH that way?

If you don’t teach Science, chances are the above 2 paragraphs make no sense at all. Even though I am pretty confident that every student in NZ in the last 60 years has put some magnesium metal in some acid and maybe done a pop test, you are definitely excused for not following

So if I put these steps into a flow chart, they become clearer…. and the steps required to determine each factor that might impact the conclusion become more explicit. And like the friendship algorithm above, it can be amended or changed if the process doesn’t work. The ability for iteration to be used and not perceived as a failure is massive.

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So while this might not have been the best or clearest example to use, it is one that came to mind. A simple junior science experiment that is actually a lot more complex than it appears, or we even teach it. And when I ask my yr 13 chemistry students to do this, they get a bit a stumped. They have been taught fair testing in terms of nature of Science, but not how to go back and find a solution is the results are inconclusive, or what processes are available to find solutions.

I think these also applies to writing frames and other tools we use to organise our students thoughts, and try to get them to think about their thinking. Perhaps I have been using aspects of computational thinking all along with out realising it, but this now just means I can refine it and make it more explicit when I am trying to get my kids thinking ‘scientifically’ and following a process.

And this isn’t to say that computational thinking is the answer to everything. One thing I really like is the idea (to quote my colleague Kevin) if you can put a problem into a flowchart, a computer can solve it. If you can’t, then the problem needs a person (or several people). People have the ability to think creatively, which is also so important to problem solving, but only if you have a robust system in place to identify the problem.