I recently asked for some help (boy do I need it) on how to scaffold planning for practice and outcome design and development for the digitech course I am teaching this year. It is a massive learning curve. I was hoping to get a ‘generic’ plan, which was not forth coming. (although I did get some useful ideas, but I still need to build my own) One teacher said he got the students to make their own using smart art in Microsoft word, which is part of our office 365 package. He gave me a quick demo, and I was blown away by how quick and easy the smart art tool was to use. I had previously been using draw.io to get students to draw flowcharts, but the smart draw in word in much simpler to use. You do need to be on the desktop version of word rather than the online/office 365 version to get the smart art option though. Things like dichotomous keys, practical pathways, next steps for A, M and E level answers, well the answer was already there in Microsoft word. They are perhaps a little generic , but in terms of ease, it is an absolute win! I was able to whip up a little flow chart to show file hierarchy in about 2 minutes….
So then I started having a little play, and it is super easy to change colours, fonts, add bits in and take bits out
And you can save as a picture so they are easy to insert into other docs.
And this is a really good example of a little thing I didn’t know. And knowing that the smart art option had these would have saved me loads of time last year. I asked a few times on twitter and various PLNs about flow charting options, and no-one ever suggested this (possibly because lots of other NZ schools are google schools….).
And I guess too it is a reminder to place value on different skill sets. Not everyone has to teach things in the same way, or have the same way of getting to get things done. But this little tidbit that took 2 minutes to receive, was a real game changer for me. I wish there were more ways to share those little gems of knowledge we all have, that people simply don’t know they don’t know.
Last week I was up in Wellington for the PPTA ICT committee meeting. It was quite a busy meeting, with a LOT of discussion around equity, in terms of access to devices, access to support, some issue with PLD, and digital assessment. There was then a run down of the progress being made by the Te Rito project, which I first blogged about after the meeting this time last year which was a good insight into progress made, and the impact for the Learning Support roles which are starting in January 2020.
As usual, this is my interpretation and memory from what was said, and I am happy to be corrected or put you in touch with the right people for more information. 🙂
I’m putting the Te Rito at the top, as I’m guessing most people will be most interested in that, even though the reps came at the end of the day 🙂
Rachel and Donna came from the ministry Te Rito project to update us on who things are going. They started with this video as an overview of the aims and scope of the project
If you click above, it will take you to the vimeo site (I hope…..)
In my words (and happy to be corrected) the premise and drive is to protect and uphold the mana of the child – which links to the name as Te Rito is the inner of the Harakeke/flax plant, with the surrounding leaves offering protection. Along with this as the idea of ensuring ‘the right’ stories of the children are being told, and the ‘taxonomy’ for different situations is similar enough to be useful.
The aims of the project are
reduce admin burden
make sure those who need to know KNOW
Which has involved a LOT of background work to make the systems ‘interoperable’ – that is, the Te Rito system will work with multiple SMS (Kamar, Edge etc), as well as browsers, health care software, NZQA, google and office 365, lots of things 🙂 There is a lot of work, but Rachel was (quite rightly) quick to stress these are desired outcomes, but getting everything to talk to everything was a VERY big job.
The ‘system’ will be sector owned, but the budget will ultimately be meet by the ministry. They were clear that they do not own the data (the child owns the data – but then could a child really understand what that means?), and there are some very clear guidelines around who can access the data and for what purpose. Which also requires a lot of different law (for example, health and safety trumps privacy, and there is interesting case law in Australia for this were a teacher aide was severely injured by a student).
There was also a lot of talk about how the system has been modified for the new Learning support roles. (ESR = Early Stage Roll out)
And some info on the governance and privacy
There was also discussion around what training would be needed for BoTs, Principals, learning support co-ordinators and teachers. Chatting to a friend going into a LSC role next year, some of the PLD has already begun, as the team are hard at work trying to get the LSC interface ready for Feb 2020. So if you are in one of these rolls, it might pay to check out the information out there and have a think about how the implementation of this might look in your school/Kura.
So there was a lot of information on offer. There are some really awesome aspects, and then some that concern me a little. Mostly around making sure the right information is sorted, and that students are not given a label they don’t deserve. Kids deserve a fresh start I guess, but also, sometimes the information would be useful. It might stop some students ‘falling through cracks’. Or get more continuity with their learning and support. Many around the table who were in more ‘senior’ positions than me in a school were really excited by the prospect. And I guess if it helps students, it is worth it.
There was also a request for a PPTA rep for a the Data for Wellbeing sector advisory group – so there is a PPTA representation in the development team.
And if you are still reading, prior to this presentation and questions, we discussed.
The meeting started (after the perfunctory accepting last meeting minutes etc) with a quick whip around the regions/representatives to see if they were any concerns. Main points of interest were
multifaceted log ins and cell phones – how are people dealing with two part log ins. One school had seen 1500 attacks over the period of 90 minutes, and it is a growing issue. Office 365 two stage log in requires a cell phone… what if kids don’t have on? Many schools round the table had a ‘phone’ box – a clear plastic click clack for phones to go into, either at the start of the lesson, or if they were used innappropraitely. I was firmly on the side of educate, not punish, but also, if I’m not insured if the phone gets broken, I’m not touching it. There was discussions around search and seizure guidelines – can schools legally hold a phone??? So the conversation went slightly sideways, but cyber security is still a big issue, as is the misuse of devices by students.
School donations/Government fees scheme and BYOD. Very mixed spread across the group of schools who had or had not opted in to the fees scheme. Some felt ‘pressured into it’ by communities struggling. Others realised they would have less money, but hoped communities would be better for having the extra money available. Others had chosen not too – did not feel they could offer adequate curric with those costs. When you look at the details, if a students needs a calculator to complete a Chemistry pH calculation, or a maths problem, the school SHOULD provide one if they have opted into the fees scheme. Same with BYOD. Some grey areas around should and MUST. Quality of devices is an ongoing concern, as is access in the community (for homework etc, but also social inclusion). Great discussion around the richness of extra curricular activities – I am not a camp person (I hate not having a nice bed with clean sheets and a good shower) but I make an effort to go on school camps because of the relationships you form, and how refreshing it can be to see a frustrating or shy or outgoing student in a different light on camp. Students remember these trips…. and they do build richness into a curriculum, but how can they be done on such a shoe string budget?
Then there was some more specific discussion around
Online exams – seems to be working well – a few seemingly isolated issues – in schools using it. Questions linked to equity of access were asked (discussed more below) and members asked for some specific info relating to decile of schools and access to online assessment (ie is it mostly higher decile completing them) as well as any information around comparative pass rates (eg high school decile online compared to paper – do schools in decile one have comparable results etc). There was also a request for ‘best practice’ for running online exams – there are lots of info sheets from NZQA on this, but perhaps that information is not finding the right people – often the network manager or perhaps the Principals nominee are not always getting the message…. and which information needs to go where???
EQUITY. Of seemingly everything!! Access to devices, tech support in schools, infrastructure in schools, access to PLD – both for digital fluency for staff, as well specific support for elearning pedagogy. (The upcoming PPTA PLD grants might help with this – there are LOTS of $700 grants, but no news (that I have heard) of how to access them yet.) Mixed in with the general ‘wait and see’ with the new NCEA changes. A comment was made that ‘BYOD is just a policy’ and so should not get the noise it does! Schools who have thought about their policy and procedures are often more successful – so how do you support more schools to have better policies????? What do schools do when students don’t have devices? Loaner devices (but again equity issues, they are often slow, and by the time students go and get them, then take them back, they have missed significant learning time. Questions around is there any BES work that could be shared on this – it seems a little adhoc, and many boards may or may not have the skills to implement this in schools well. There was a similar discussion around BES for digitech integration – I’m guessing it is still too new so the data hasn’t been gathered yet?
Is the committee still relevant?? And WHY? This was an interesting question, and generated good discussion – I feel I get well informed, but often that we lack the ‘clout’ to make real change. Getting information out to time poor members and leads was discussed – how can we improve the information reach. (I bought up my stats from my blog reflections – I generally get between 70-100 people reading these posts….). There was also value in meeting with government departments, partly to share back to the community, and partly to give feedback to them from a wide base of people (ICT has reps from schools, low decile, Te Kura, PPTA itself). So it looks like we will be going for a while yet, and it was a good motivation to push on and get the conference paper on equitable access to ‘ICT support’ in schools for conference for next year.
Topics up for discussion for next year will be checking in on the online NCEA assessment, as well as the changes with tomorrows schools, and of course keeping advocating for more equitable access to device, PLD and learning opportunities
Feel free to flick any questions my way, and I’ll do my best to answer them or put you in touch with some-one who can. If you would like anything raised with the committee sing out. And as always, if I have made an error, please let me know.
Half way last term, I got to accompany some students to a digigirlz event that was hosted by the fabulous Phillipa Dick At Balmacewen Intermediate. The girls where given a ‘challenge’ and then quickly showcased a variety of digital tools they could use to make a solution. One that grabbed my eye was Thunkable, a drag and drop ‘app’ builder. So while the students I was ‘looking’ after went to work, I sat and had a play with Thunkable and found it easy enough to use and quickly built a small prototype app for identifying ions in Chemistry (which is an internally assessed achievement standard for L2/yr 12 Chem that I have previously had a go with adding some computational thinking in around algorthims and scratch. ). The I got ridiculously busy, and didn’t think to much about Thunkable again until I got to this standard with my Chem class, and I gave them the challenge of building an app. Using thunkable was much more accessible for students who did not already have the coding experience of confidence to use scratch, and it also took less time.
I am SO impressed with the app that the students built. Below are some screen shots
This work was completed in addition to the class work – about 5 girls worked on this app, almost completely independently of me. They said they really enjoyed doing something a bit different, and the other students in the class soon realised that while it was a bit more work, it was also some really good skills to learn, and rather fun being able to work together on a project like this.
This standard is changing for next year, and after toying with the computational aspect for a couple of iterations now I am feeling confident that I could incorporate the digital technologies aspect more completely into the unit of work, rather than having it as an optional add on. The new achievement standard specifications have a component where students need to describe why (or why not) an ion in a solution might be harmful (or useful) – so perhaps students could each research a different ion as part of the learning, and then combine this knowledge into the app….. still pondering how it might look, but excited for possibilities.
This term I have picked up a Year 7 Science class (mostly due to timetabling changes) and we have started the term with a ‘Bikes and Trikes’ topic, which is essentially aiming to cover levers, simple machines and forces. I had this class once, which was mostly a let’s get to know each other a bit better (we did flipgrid introductions with mixed success, but it was a good way for me to figure out the more digital literate and confident students, and the students who can follow instructions more easily than others). After this, I walked through a colleagues class, and saw their students blowing ping pong balls around using straws, and thought to myself ‘I’m poaching that’ for lesson 2. It was an easy way to introduce the ideas of the lessons, which were
A force is a push or a pull
Forces can change an objects speed and direction (or velocity…. it is yr 7) or forces can change an objects shape
We wrote some notes (still a good settling activity, especially this brand new class I had meet once) and did a think, pair, share activity on any ‘forces’ they could think of. There were lots of star wars themed answers, and a few space themed ones to. We then watched some videos of rollercoasters etc…
And then I let them lose with ping pong balls and straws, and they had a ball. I set them a challenge of getting equal and opposing forces acting on the ball, so it stayed still. This proved a bit too challenging as many students just couldn’t resist blowing a big puff to knock the balls off the center.
I then thought about getting students to design mazes that they had to get their ball to travel along. This was much more successful at getting the idea that the direction of the force, as well as the size of the force is important. And I was amazed by the effort that went into some of the groups mazes, they tried and failed, and tried again, decided things were too easy or too hard and really got into it.
The groups of students who worked more collaboratively were able to get their ping pong balls to the ends faster than others, because they positioned themselves around the maze so each person had a different direction to direct the ball.
And if I had thought about it a little more, I ought to have put some computational thinking ideas in there – how many breathes/blows to get the ball to the end, what direction does the next breath need to be etc. How could you get the ball to the end of a maze with the least breaths possible? It would have been a useful little exercise similar to how I have seen sphero’s or bee bots used to get students designing instructions/algorithms to get a sphero out of a maze.
And for when I do this next time, I will think about how I can get the idea of direction change a little more explicit in the preparation for the maze, and how I can follow up (I left it too late and it was basically an oh crap, the bell is about to go, packing up now please…… so working on timing is obviously important too)
As my inquiry this year, I have been trying to explore ways to incorporate aspects on the digital technologies curriculum strand into ‘my’ classes in a meaningful way. I have had a play with my Level 2 chemistry class by focussing on pattern recognition and algorithms we were exploring solubility rules, and then also with some mystery skypes to work on students questioning ability. I have also had a play with some stop motion videos for polymers with my chem classes (trying to be brave and branch out into the designing digital outcomes strand rather than just the computational thinking strand of the digital technologies curriculum!! I am definitely less confident with this strand… and I am still working to find ways to incorporate programming specifically into my Science classes, my own knowledge of programming is still holding me back a little). My yr 8’s have had patchy lessons here and there as I tested out little activities trying to get my head round things. As I have grown more comfortable with the ideas, and the levels to pitch to different students, I am planning to incorporate a more learner centered approach with my yr 8 Science class for our plants topic. Specifically around incorporating computational thinking to pattern recognition, algorithms and plant identification, and then designing a digital outcome for the students final plant identification tool.
Almost every person who has ever done any science at school will remember seeing a dichotomous key – a flow chart with this or that answers that you works your way through to identify a species of plant or animal
The key is dichotomous because it there are two choices, does the shark have this or that. So it is like a binary system, with only 2 options. Which is essentially how all computers work, because the only have the two possible options. To be able to draw a key like this, you need to have identified the patterns and traits that are unique to each species, and then order them in such a way so that each species can be identified.
In the past, I have focussed on ‘teaching’ my students how to interpret these keys rather than getting them to build their own. There is often a key in an end of topic test, and (being a bit brutal on myself) it was an easy way to get some students over the line.
This year, I’m allotting a bit more time and the plan is.
spend some time learning how to identify plants.
Using the plants around us, the plants that we see at the Sinclair wetlands (we go on a great field trip there, spending the day ripping out gorse and planting trees and shrubs and watching all the bird life in the occasional moments the students are quiet enough to not scare them all away) and some online resources, I’m ‘hoping’ that students will learn more about the different features of the plants, and why these adaptations are important. An easy example would be deciduous compared to ever green trees – NZ natives do not lose their leaves in the winter compared to many introduced trees. Why might this be? Or why do our local sand dunes have different plants to the river bed a few metres up.
There will be a bit more direct instruction in this section. I watched with interest the debate over learner centric and teacher driven teaching and learning, and I think, like all things, you need to find a happy medium between the two. So we will go over what some adaptations are, ideas to look for, how environment impacts growth etc.
2. Look specifically for different patterns occurring with the various traits of the plants.
So, as we look at the adaptations, what do all the plants that have ‘spiky’ leaves have in common? Are they related or not? How can we tell the difference between the two different types of leaves and the plants they represent? How can we begin to group plants together based on similar patterns, traits etc.
If we get time, we might get into some abstraction. What adaptations would a plant living in this environment have? If the climate continues to change, what adaptations do you think the plants in different places might need to make. Could the plants do this fast enough?
3. How could we help some-one else identify the different plants? Making a dichotomous key.
So, designing a flow chart seems simple enough right. I’m hoping not. I’m thinking there will need to be some good leading questions, and some iteration involved to get the best possible outcomes. What yes no questions could we ask to identify 10 different plants that are common about the school? How could this be done in the least number of steps? How can we cut down on repeating questions? What is the best way to ask the questions clearly.
4. How do we present our keys?
I’m sure some of the students will want to do this in minecraft (they are minecraft crazy!!). I might be brave and try doing a java based program with those that are keen. And those that are less confident I am thinking we might do some options with a powerpoint – using the hyperlink function to jump between slides to mimic bringing up the next question in the key. Or I am sure the students will have some other ideas about how they can present their work.
So this ‘unit’ of work will hopefully tie in some of the learning I have done around the digitech curriculum, and allow me to more specifically focus on the designing digital outcomes strand. My holiday project is to modify the classes onenote so all the plant adaptation content is there, as well as spending some time on the digital design outcome strand to sure up my knowledge of this area.
So, aside from just catching up with some of my favouritists teachery people, and meeting some new ones, I actually did learn a few new things to take forward. This is a summary of those I guess, for me to come back to and check in to see where to next
Zoom in powerpoint.
You know how sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. This was a definite case when I was chatting to Steve and he was showing me some of the online resources he and his colleagues have set up for their biology students. Steve is ‘big’ on visible learning and we were talking around how to make this possible I guess. I saw a ppt and was like, hang on, how did you do that, I want that. And so I learned about zoom. It is a feature in powerpoint where you can have a summary page, or a ‘list’ of pages and/or sections of ideas from a ppt presentation. I could instantly see this would work really well for our upcoming Chemical reactivity topic, so I have been having a play
Step 1 is to go to insert and then hit zoom
then select the sections (or slides) you want
Which then gives you a summary slide, which you can then click on to go into more depth into that section
I’m still putting this together, but I really like the visual ‘these are the things you need to know’ and then click into them to get more detail. So this resource will just be online for the kids to use – kind of a flipped learning resource I guess – rather than for me to use in class. So it was a really good little techie tip when I was talking to Steve about making learning more visible.
2. 3D paint and mixed reality
Sometimes there are things you know you don’t know, but don’t have time to go and learn more about them. I’d seen little demos of Paint 3D and mixed reality, and gone, I must look into that, but never made the time. Then at the hui, I didn’t get the time, but thankfully there were some shared slides and I got onto having a go once I was back home. Why, oh why, have I not had a go with this sooner.
Paint 3D is a windows 10 app, and it is really rather grunty so a non art specialist. It lets you mock up little pictures, and with the digital inking of a surface if was super easy to sketch up a little kiwi
But then you can sketch in 3d, and get a 3D kiwi using shapes and sketching, and with a slick of a button, your sketch is quietly standing on your trousers as you are sitting on the couch having a play.
There is also a pretty cool library of shapes and other animals via the mixed reality viewer…. Mr 5 Loved the shark swimming through his book
And I quite liked the solar system just sitting there
So my immediate goal is to get some of my chemistry students to use this to make shapes for revision for 2.4 and 3.4…. as well as to share the solar system with the yr 9 teachers at my school who are doing space this year. I’m glad I took the time to check this out properly, there is a wealth of resources and ideas just sitting there, and I think it could really help to visualise some of the more abstract ideas around chemistry. If nothing else, it will make reading the shark book for the millionth time much more enjoyable.
3. Putting some more puzzle pieces together re the digital technologies curriculum and classroom integration.
I’ve been pondering for a while about how I can both best integrate the DTC into my own teaching and learning programs, AND help other teachers, both in my school and everywhere, do the same. There is still a real ‘unknown’ quantity out there, were teachers either don’t know about the new curriculum, or are afraid of it, or simply think – oh, someone else will do that. It wasn’t till earlier this year that I had a wee ‘light bulb’ moment that you don’t need to do everything at once, and different areas of computational thinking and designing digital outcomes can be slotted into lots of different places in out fabulous New Zealand Curriculum – and in actual fact many people already are without realising it.
So by half listening in to the keynote sessions (not because I was slack, but I was busy doing loads of other things) from the fabulous Becky Keene on computational thinking, and then the equally awesome Iain Cook-Bonney and Chris Dillion on the digital curriculum, by popping in and out of sessions in the afternoon and then the keynote on global thinking and the UN sustainability Goals in education from the inspiring Koen Timmers, a few more little pieces started to fall into place for me. They are nicely summed up in some of the tweets from the hui
Schools have been about students consuming and producing.
We have to start thinking about valuing ideas not products@BeckyKeene#NZMIEEHui18
Thanks @BeckyKeene for your keynote on computational thinking. I am passionate about students completing learning challenges that leave a legacy in the community (classroom, school or wider community) so was resembling Julia Roberts up the back #NzMIEEHui18pic.twitter.com/6nmBVMKLmj
It was a pleasure to share my journey and hopefully a little bit of knowledge with you at #NZMIEEHui18. I was blown away by the enthusiasm and expertise that was present today and it only reinforces to me that this is something we cannot do alone in our schools #ittakesavillage
I have a confession to make. I really love my kiwi friends. They down to earth, sincere, fun and it always ends up drinking 2 whiskeys. Thanks for having me friends!
Speaking about Kakuma project and some inside information about our new project. #NZMIEEHui18#mieexpertpic.twitter.com/S4Xi0eVhSe
Use the phrase ‘What makes you say that?’ Instead of ‘why’ when responding to student comments- prompts thinking and removes judgement. More great inspiration at @ProjectZeroHGSE#NZMIEEHUI18@JarrodAberhart this is the project with Visible Thinking
And there were many more fabulous little ideas and snippets floating around the conversations, tweets and presentations. They are weaving themselves into a stronger sense of possibility for the new curriculum and how we can better support our young people to be the very best they can be. What models and exemplars could be made to support staff as learners of these new ideas? How can we insure we are meeting the needs of all our learners, and embrace the rich cultural aspect that the NZC supports?
So I had a fabulous weekend. Some specific learnings, and some big picture where to next learnings, ponderings and dreams.
It was very hard to know where to start writing this post, as it has been an amazing journey, filled with successes, failures, excitement and despair, collaboration and lack there of, to get to the point where the NZMIEEhui18 has been and gone. It was an amazing weekend, filled with learning, laughter, ideas, diversity and fun. I would like to thank everyone who came along and made it what it was.
So how to did come to be?
The New Zealand ‘chapter’ of the MIEE group (Microsoft innovative educator expert) had never had a face to face meeting before. Small groups had meet at the global educator exchanges, most of the ‘initial’ group meet in Sydney back in 2014, and there have been local events held in Auckland, Christchurch, Nelson etc. Occasionally we would bump into each other at other conferences (there was an excellent crew at energise!!). We do meet once a month on a Wednesday evening to have a webinar, with usually 40 or so people there, to share, chat and have occasional guest speakers. These calls have really grown, and focus on a mixture of pedagogy, curriculum, tech tools/demos and conference feedback depending on the month. But we had never had an NZ wide meeting, and there are people I work so closely with that I had never meet, or I could count the number of times I have meet them using one finger.
But then Nikkie gave me a buzz and said, hey, should we apply for this funding (the networks of expertise funding). I was a bit skeptical at first, we were already so busy, but also really thought it sounded good, so I said yip, but I’m not spending hours on it. But of course we did spend hours on it and sent away an application for funding for a face to face meet up and some money for release time and for the monthly calls. After what felt like AGES we heard back, could we meeting to discuss. Sure we said, not quite sure what was going on. And then we found out we had got the funding for 2 years, not one, and we were good to go.
Which then lead to an interesting conference prep time, where we both had to learn about different things, like accessing money from the ministry!! writing invoices, getting things paid, navigating other commitments. We had one planning day during the holidays when I flew up to Auckland and then loads of late night skypes. Nikkie’s school was amazingly helpful. We organised speakers, had to build a webpage (which was a real rush job at the initial time, as in when do we need it?? Oh tomorrow, sure we can do that tonight…..), we sorted flights and accom (with the help of the fabulous Janine) and then we sorted the last minute changes and challenges.
And then it was the weekend.
I flew up on Thursday so I could have some time to get my head right (I don’t like flying) and so I could meet up with the fabulous Becky Keene that night, as she also arrived that day. Friday was busy with last minute jobs, as well as a lunch trip to Waiheke island (we had to show Becky around after all). Friday night I barely slept despite having had a couple of ciders… and it was Saturday.
And while there were specific pieces of new learning, and some deep, challenging learning conversations that I will post about separately, my lasting and overall impression was of how fabulous ALL the educators who came are. Old and young (my goodness 24 is young, I’m getting soooo old), primary and secondary, senior leaders and classroom teachers, facilitators, everyone was amazing. Everyone had something to offer in a rich tapestry of being the best they could be. I had some challenging chat with Pip around the differences between the NZ and Australian school curriculums, talked through some minecraft tips with Noellene, talked literacy with struggling learners with Lynette, talked about heroic models and filling holes, about how to grow the community, connected with Koen again via skype, about building PLD that works for you. I meet people I have worked with for 3 years and saw their energy and passion with no filters. I reconnected with people I have only ever meet overseas. I filled my kete, and I know I contributed to filling the kete of others. It is true that people are the most important thing in all the world, and I am so proud of the work that was done to bring everyone together.
When I first ‘meet’ computational thinking about 18 months ago at a presentation by Lisa Anne Floyd, I was hooked!! I wanted to dive straight in, and as such my first few attempts at using computational thinking frameworks kind of fizzled with my classes. (you can see my earlier post on computational thinking HERE) It has taken a while for my understanding to percolate and over the course of the last 18 months I’ve done some reading, some talking (thanks Nikkie and Kevin mostly) and some teaching and come to realise that you don’t need to do all the parts of computational thinking at once. For example, as part of the yr 7 digital technologies course I am teaching, we focus on algorithms and data representation (so a little pattern recognition, we might need to make this more explicit) with very little on decomposition and abstraction. As the new digital technology curriculum in New Zealand has a focus on computational thinking, I’ve been wondering how I could incorporate this more into my science classes. I was original thinking solely of juniors, at mostly around some add in activities such as hacking STEM lessons, or some maker space activities, or using MinecraftEDU. But have decided to be brave and have a go with my Level 2 NCEA Chemistry class with the AS 91162 identifying ions in solution standard.
I’ve decided this after learning a little bit more about computational thinking. some of this comes from being in digital technology class with Kevin teaching the yr 7’s. In my own learning, some of the resources I used included this great wee course aimed at kids via the bbc bite size site. Then there is the Computational Thinking course on the microsoft educator community, which had a link to this blog piece written by Janette Wing (and a link to the original viewpoint article, which is 10 year old)
There were also some videos I watched, while a little ‘cheesey’ this was a favourite… the idea of sorting puzzle pieces appealed to me, I always sort the edges first, then colours or a pattern.
But what it took for me to finally get my head to get to this point was a conversation with Nikkie about teaching kids to read, and using pattern recognition to identify words. The next night, I was with my Mr 5 as he read his story book and he read in his book look, looked and looking (On a seperate topic, my goodness kids books are insanely dull at times…).
I had an mini epiphany. It was simply that simple, and I had been making it too hard in my head. Not everything needed to be done at once.
So, what might this mean for my Level 2 Chem class and identifying ions.
Usually, I teach this by starting out with the solubility rules which make up a flow chart the students can follow during the internal to identify the ions. Depending on time, we might have a play with the solutions and see what patterns we can find, and what ions form precipitates with others. Generally though, I rush this step, so I can spend more time on balancing ionic equations and the justifications around the steps which students require for excellence.
Because I had finally gotten my head around (decomposed perhaps) the idea that I didn’t need to do ALL of computational thinking to teach computational thinking, what could I include?
The obvious one is algorithms – as there is already a flow chart in place.
But I wondered why I couldn’t let the students design there own flowchart…. maybe not to use in the assessment because I’m not sure it would pass moderation…. as a way of learning how to use a pattern to make an algorithm. And exploring the patterns of solubility (for time I might get a group to do everything with Cl-, and another group to do everything with I-, and then compare notes) we can do a fairly good job of pattern recognition. This group activity might also fit nicely into knowledge building and collaboration, and hits all the nature of Science stuff.
I was talking this through with Kevin and of course he said – well, you could make some sort of scratch program based on the flowchart – a series of yes/no questions to find the ion. So I will put the option to the students – there are a couple who are also in Kevin’s Robotics class – that if they want to make a program, they can. Again, I’m not sure they would be able to use this in the assessment, but if it works, I might find out more about this for next year…..
So I am starting smaller this time, and aiming for pattern recognition and algorithmic thinking. Students will work in groups over a lesson or two to identify which of the required ions for their assessment react with what. We will compare data and look for trends (and then compare to the solubility rules). Then design a flow chart to determine for an unknown – which might need some iteration along the way. And of course, as they are working on this, I’ll throw in that they have to write the correct balanced ionic equations for precipitates and for the complex ions formed. I’m really hoping that by asking the students to write their own flowcharts, they will ace the part of the assessment where they need to justify their ‘choice’ of ion, as they should develop a thorough understanding of the idea behind it.
I’ll also give the option of the scratch program. And if time allows (it probably won’t…. sigh) I would like to go more into the pattern recognition of why some salts are more soluble than others, linking back to atomic and ionic structures and energy….. oh the places we could go
As part of the inquiry section of my yr 8 Home Chemistry unit, some of my students explored the Chemistry add in for MinecraftEDU. (You can find out more about the Chemistry Add in HERE at the MinecraftEDU site.) We have a subscription for MinecraftEDU at my school to use with the year 7 digital technology unit and I have been looking for different ways to integrate MinecraftEDU into more learning areas in Science. The Chemistry Add in is pretty kick arse, with lots of possibilities for different learning. Some of my students were super keen to have a look around as they already love playing Minecraft at home, so I essentially gave them free reign in the prebuilt world and then got them to teach me how to use it 🙂
The upshot was the students LOVED it. They had a great 3-4 lessons just poking around and seeing what they could do. It lead to some great discussions, and some great practicals too 🙂 They showed me what they were doing, so I learned the ins and outs super quick 🙂 If there was the opportunity I jumped into the worlds they were playing in and had a look around with them. It was a great way for me to learn about it.
So, starting at the beginning – the game leads you into a set path , where you can make element and compounds
With no real prior knowledge, the students were able to make up a variety of different elements, and got a basic idea of atomic structure. In the New Zealand Curriculum, we used this model for the atom right up until NCEA level 3 chemistry where we introduce spd notation, so it works pretty well. In future, I would love the ability to make ions, I can see this would be a super useful tool to show students the impact of changing the number of electrons…. but as an element constructor it was still pretty amazing.
You could then go and make compounds, the tutorial takes you through making sodium acetate, which you then combine to make an ice bomb – which the students loved using to freeze the pond outside.
This lead to a discussion if this would work in real life, which it kind of does and kind of doesn’t, put I have promised we will have a go at making some sodium acetate towers at the end of the topic
By the time the kids got to this stage, they had ditched the tutorials in favour of just having a look. They quickly discovered a spot where you could make Helium filled balloons that you could attach to animals and make them rise up into the air. There was a convenient ‘cage’ of animals, and a crafting table to make the balloons nearby.
The real highlight though was when one of the students found the lab book, and saw all the amazing recipes on there. They were super keen to make the torches…
So away they went, first of all we had to make the elements. Which meant looking up a periodic table and found out how many protons, neutrons and electrons each element has.
And then we made the compounds – the students struggled a little with getting the correct number of chlorides to each metal. It was great teachable moment around chemical compounds – a bit hard for yr8, but because there was a context the students ate it up
We then took the chloride salts and crafted the lamps…. and it was awesome
The coloured lamps rocked
So, of course we had to make some coloured flaming torches for real….
So the Chemistry add in for MinecraftEDU is pretty freaking sweet. I’ve only scratched the surface so far, and it is awesomesauce, especially for the juniors. I loved that we could remake the torches in real life, and can make links between what the students saw in the game world and the lab. I’m looking forward to exploring a bit deeper into what it can do.
I attended EnergiseNZ2018 at the end of the April school holidays, and it was exactly what I needed to kick start my interest and passion for learning back into gear. Talking to loads of teachers there, many were tired, a bit burnt out, frustrated and not sure of where they were headed. Which is where I had felt coming into the holidays – not helped by the MOUNTAIN of work I felt I had to get through (some marking is still sitting in a pile on the bookshelf looking at me). So it was really good to set aside some time to think about what I am doing, force myself to learning something new, talk about some things that interest me, catch up with some old friends and meet some new ones. I don’t think I got as many ‘new ideas’ from this time round compared to last year, but I did feel like my conversations were deeper and more ‘grunty’.
An added ‘bonus’ / stress (Mostly ’cause I can’t have Arnika thinking it was too much fun) was I was asked at the relatively last minute to fill in for the fabulous Pip Cleaves to present, as she was unable to come. But being able to immerse myself in what she did and think about how I could use it, and then have to sure those ideas up in my head enough to be able to ‘present’ them, and then get the discussion and feedback, was a really good learning experience.
Anyways, the day started with a mihi whakatau to welcome us to Rolleston West school. It was a lovely new school, with an epic playground, and big open spaces. We then had a welcome from a ministry person whose name I didn’t catch (my bad) before we kicked of with
Truth be told, Ali floored me a bit with her presentation. I knew she was big on games, and I have read a little bit of her stuff. About half way through I was filled with terror for my Mr 5, as well as being enormously thankful we live in New Zealand. I am almost certain that if we lived in the states, he would probably be medicated for ADHD…. But it that simply because we value quiet rather than engaged, and because we make assumptions about how boys and girls will act.
So, in the states (in particular) there is a clear issue with student behaviour. Kids using their fingers to represent a gun have been sent home. Ali gave an example of (young – I think Kindergarten) boys talking about killing horses – the girls didn’t like it, so a vote was held, there were more girls than boys, so the class was no longer allowed to talk about killing horses. Topics like death are often censored. And the boys struggled to talk about anything else for a while. Violent video games got a bad rep for being linked to violent behaviour, but now more research is suggesting this link is non existent, and gaming may actually provide an outlet than reduces aggression in ‘real life’. Games are a way of engaging the disengaged.
What games you offer was a more provoking point of Ali’s…. even my beloved minecraftEDU got a rap over the knuckles for being sanitised and not having the zombie pigs. (Even then, kids still do like it, especially younger ones). She suggested not filtering any of the games, and laid down a challenge to find the learning in call of duty or world of war craft.
I came away with 2 main points for me to consider
It is an interesting conundrum – I am not happy with the idea of we need to let boys be boys.
But, my own Mr 5 is currently full of how to kill ‘things’ in games. Whether it be roblox or minecraft, he is all about it. Yet, I have never seen anything about gentleness from him for all living things (except a spider or two, and occasionally the rough and tumble between him and Dad gets a tad rough…). He does still throw spectacular tantrums, but they are getting fewer. There are times when he got really obsessed with death, and I remember his (fabulous) day care teacher telling me that most ‘little’ kids do get really hung up on the idea somewhere between 3.5-4.5 years.
Part of Ali’s argument, as I understood it, was that many of todays teacher were quiet ‘girls’ in school. (lets face it, most teachers are woman, but they didn’t used to be). So they value quiet behaviour, and quiet girls. Boys are not always quiet play house types (neither are girls….) so they get singled out.
So, where is the middle ground. I don’t know. I don’t want there to be less expectations for my Mr 5, but I also want him to be able to be himself.
So I guess it comes down to meeting your learners needs. And making them meet you at least somewhere on that journey
2. There are games, and then there are games
I LOVE gaming, ever since I was 11 years old and my primary school got it first computer for students to use (It was a big deal, we got 4 computers for the whole school). I was a bus kid, so after school while we waiting for the bus we were allowed to play Rockfall. If you died, it was the next persons go. I was hooked – and didn’t realised I was planning ahead, learning from mistakes, working with others….
Later on I developed almost an addiction for heroes of might and magic III. There was a fabulous ‘greek’ map where you could be a ‘greek’ God (I was often Zeus) and cruise round Greece. Every few turns you got an update about what Zeus or his sons had done (Mostly annoying Hera) and as you moved round the map, little information bites popped up (eg the lake Narcissus looked into, or you meet Oedipus, or you paid a dollar to Charon to talk you in a boat to the underword). I am convinced that it was playing this game that lead me to take Classics 101 (greek and roman literature) at uni, and still more, pass that paper (quite well too) without reading all of the books.
I just can’t see how I could let my class play first person shooters…. maybe I need to broaden my mind…. Is blowing each other up in Minecraft really that different????
So yeah, what games are ok? And what games are not? And is it my place to say, or my kids, or my schools community???
I then presented Pip Cleaves work on Action learning projects over two seperate sessions – I think it went pretty well. I really enjoyed learning about Action learning projects and how Pip linked this idea to design thinking. My big take home/s from reading through her work was and presenting it were 1) you have to practice what you preach and 2) it is up to you to make your inquiry/learning meaningful. And a really effective way to do this was to apply design thinking to your own learning goals and to make a ‘product’ based on your outcome. So I am going to re think my inquiry for this year (how to incorporate digitech into my everyday teaching) and put it through a design thinking process, and then make a how to for other science teachers based on my prototypes and trials. And now that I have said I will, hold me to it!!
Learning Action Projects: Don’t get precious about “your” ideas. They belong to the group now to be used, amended or discarded @ibpossum#energisenz2018
Another idea was around holding ideas loosely. Part of Pips work explained how the staff had been surveyed for what they wanted PLD on. This was then grouped into 10 focus areas, or PLG groups that worked on projects throughout the year (with some excellent scaffolding). For this to work though, the school leaders needed to be comfortable with the ideas that the staff came up with – if they were looking into (for example) how to use Edmodo in the classroom and what worked best, then that was what worked best. And if you were in the group, the same went, you have to hold those ideas loosely and watch them grow beyond you sometimes.
This is something I personally struggle with, so it was a good reminder to myself about thinking of the whole, rather than just me. It was a challenge, but a good one, and I learned loads and was hopefully able to share that learning with others 🙂
STEM/STEAM with JILL
After being called into do Pip’s presentations, I will admit this one got a bit neglected, as I know this stuff and felt I could kind of pull it out on the spot. But I also learned some things from Jill, who talked about integrating STEM/STEAM into the early yrs in primary schools. And that is not something you need to ‘buy’ a kit for!!
We really needed more time, as the session was a little to much us talking and not enough people doing things, but I did dig up a fan activity from T col, and got people to make some leaf rubbings.
Which of course is a very simple activity, with some nice ‘busy’ work to cut out the templates and pin them together. I asked the group how they might use this, and showed a video about ‘fighting fans’, to try and express the idea that you shouldn’t let your knowledge limit where your students can take these ideas. But also, fans do naturally lend themselves to angles, which then leads into a frozen hour of code tutorial….
I think one of the most important things when thinking about implementing ‘STEM’, especially for less confident teachers, is to start with something they already know, and are comfortable with. So once you get angles in one way, try another. Once people see how the ideas can slot together, they can start to make it happen for them and their students, rather than happen ‘to’ them.
I full on bunked wellbeing sessions (which included hula hooping, walking, running, yoga and just time to sit) and went for a mini tour of the Rolleston College. I was especially interested in their new lab spaces – they were so small. But as Matt pointed out, they are only for lab work, not class work, so the didn’t need the class space like other labs do. The other thing was the lack of usable ‘lab’ storage space, which Matt agreed was a problem. Health and Safety around storage of particular chemicals does not seem to go hand in hand with open planned learning environments. But it was a lovely space, and I am enjoying seeing how the groups of teachers are using them. Sue from Haeta came along, and there was a colourful comparison of the two spaces.
From 3:30-5 was a designated hang out, have a beer and chat. So I sat with Matt and talked somethings over, and we saw a guy standing by himself, and invited him to join us. Turns out he was Rob Smith from the literacy shed so it was awesome to have a chat to him about the differences between NZ and the UK in education, and just life in general. I then meet up with Ryan Higgins and things took an interesting turn of too many ciders, a trip in a fabulous old mini to my parents house (sorry Mum and Dad) and then out for dinner courtesy of Arnika and Cyclone…..
I was a tensy tiny bit hung over on friday, and very thankful for a hot chocolate and some sphero olympics to get us energised for the day. My group didn’t win, but we had fun and learned a wee bit about how sphero’s can be used in classrooms. I did not know that Sphero’s could ‘swim’ (we had to make some togs as well), that they could paint or that they could be attached to chariots and raced. It was a lot of fun first thing.
I then had my last presentation, and then I went to…
Paul Donnelly – Culturally responsive pedagogy.
Paul is a follow microsofty and I have been amazed with the way the team at St Thomas’s have worked to re-allign their curric and values. Paul had been ‘roped’ into do the presentation after the original presenters became unavailable, and he did a great job. His aim was to affirm good things we are doing, and he freely shared some resources (I poached an extra set) to take back to schools. The big take away from me was to take the time and make the effort to get to know your students, build those relationships and show them that you care. This works for ALL students. Paul also talked about pacifika students, and shared some resources on this, which was super helpful for me as I have mostly focussed on Maori thus far.
This was a lovely relaxed presentation which I went to just to see if there were any little tips or tricks I could pick up – you don’t know what you don’t know right!! And I was glad I went, because there was some good discussion around how people are ‘managing’ data storage in their schools, things like calendars and booking systems and EOTC. All quite mundane, but really important to have right. I picked up a couple of gems, one being an introduction to TRELLO, which I really quite like and have starting using – It is especially good as it can integrate with Office 365 teams!! I am also going to explore pocket…. I often struggling to fund things I have seen and want to follow up on and this does it seemlessly according to Jo and the webpage 🙂 there was also a link to keyboard short cuts and a suggestion about sharing one a week with a class, which I am DEFINITELY going to do with my Yr 10 form class and the Yr 7 digitech class to try and increase there typing and general computer use/literacy skills
And last but not least, was Sylvia Duckworth
I meet Slyvia the night before (I was a bit mortified to be meeting such an educational awesome person in my tipsy state) and she was just awesome. Willing to chat, wowed by NZ, open to questions, and just a relatable person who was easy to talk to. So it was no surprise when her presentation was a little bit the same, she introduced herself by way of a pepeha, she showed pictures of her travel, and some phrases she had learned…
The big take home message was if there is something you love doing, share it with your students. They will be inspired by your genuine interest and passion.
So, it was an amazing two days, full of learning, grunty conversation, meeting new people, catching up with people, being reaffirmed for what I do while still learning some tricks and tweaks and challenges to keep refining what I do, as well as so much fun and so much laughter. A MASSIVE thanks to Arnika and her team for all the work they did to put this together.
And Energise will be in Dunedin next year. Party at my house!!!!!!!!!