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!!!!!!!!!
It is almost a month (where does time go) since I posted about the start of our digital technologies module, and as it finished tomorrow I thought I should remind myself and share how it has gone. It certainly has been a bit of a wobbly path the last couple of weeks, not helped by us being newbies to modules and getting the finishing dates wrong! But we were gained a week, rather than losing a week, so this meant we got to give Minecraft Education Edition a go, as well as doing some hour of code and doing some super cool projects on the microbits. All and all, I think the students have enjoyed it, I certainly have, and I have learned loads :). We have already started making plans for a digital technologies module for yr 8, and how it might look through into yr 9 and 10…. very exciting. Hopefully we can find a way to carry it on right up through the school, and to integrate the ideas more into all subjects rather than being stand alone. But that is a discussion for another post!!
Hour of Code
So, we had just finished up with some basic commands on the microbits, covering ACSII codes and binary when I last blogged. Due to some technical issues getting minecraft to work, we segwayed into using the Hour of Code minecraft tutorials. I was not quite prepared for how much the students would enjoy this. But they really did, and it was a great follow on from the simple coding we had done of the microbits.
In 3-4 lessons, most students finished all of the minecraft tutorials, which reinforced programming tools such as loops, and introduced more complex ideas like functions. Once students had completed each tutorial, they could insert their certificate into their onenote pages to let us know what they had gotten up to.
A really important part of these three lessons was students using trial and error to build their code. Because there is the visual representation right there on screen, it is easy to see where the code went wrong. It is not always easy to fix it!! But Kevin and I tried really hard to make sure we encouraged kids to try things, and then fix them – could they work out where they had gone wrong? What else could they try? What had someone else done that worked?
Then the class had an hour to do an hour of code of their choice, most choosing the starwars option, but some chose frozen (which has come lovely maths/numeracy links) and other made an angry birds game.
Back to microbits.
We then went back to the microbits and set a couple of challenges (Kevin set the challenges, and I struggled to do some of them too…..) The first was could the students make their microbit keep score in a rugby game? This involved using the buttons on the microbit so explored in more depth the idea of inputs.
The next challenge was could we make the microbit do a times table. I REALLY struggled with this one, and was ‘accused’ of writing ‘ugly code’ by Kevin (in a tongue and cheek kind of way) But this was because I ‘forced’ the microbit to show all the 2 times tables one after the other, instead of using a button press. Some students used functions, but then I also learned that making the code too complicated in this way creates problems too. So it was a great lesson for me about keeping things simple without writing things down over and over and over.
Some different examples of students code from their onenote portfolios – some are ‘prettier’ than others. It was a challenging task, but it allowed for a lot of extension for those that wanted to:)
We then had a play with some speakers on the microbits. I think this my favourite, although some of the tunes got old pretty quick. But the students LOVED the sounds, the more annoying the better. Thankfully the speakers were very quiet.
We then set the students some challenges for (what we thought was) the last week
The snow globe was a great idea, students loved making these and making their own patterns, and then adding tunes to go with them. Which was a nice ‘friendly’ extension for less confident students.
and then still further. Which then also dragged other students along as they wanted to replicate what they were seeing.
We then figured out that we had a bonus week, so we put in a BIG effort on the night of parent teacher interviews to update all the laptops in between interviews. It meant that there was finally a class set of laptops that had minecraft EDU on them, and the students were delighted.
It also meant that I got to properly try the code builder, and the pre built world is PERFECT for what we need to do, especially for the first time. As I get more confident I might tweak it or build our own challenges (or get kids to build it with me, or to show me how really…) that maybe replicate more closely something from their lives. For example, rather than getting an agent through a maze, can you get a yr 7 student to the canteen for a juicie!!
So for our first crack, I think it went pretty well. Student feedback indicated they had enjoyed the course, learned some things and they gave us some ideas for what we can do next time.
A few asked for easier instructions, and so I’m working on putting together some screen shots and instructions to go into the onenote so if students are lost they can refer back to it. And most didn’t enjoy learning about binary/bits, even though I thought we aced this part of the course. I guess we could have worded the question differently…. but we will still have a think for the next module.
We also asked the students about generic computer/office 365 skills they picked up
Remembering back to my surprise at the lack of typing skills the students had, I think it is important to integrate the skills we want students to have into the programs. So hopefully this module has set the students up to be able to email, insert pictures etc, and therefore help them be more confident using technology in other subject areas, and help other students to so to.
So overall, I think for a first go, Kevin and I did a pretty good job of our first digital technology module and our first crack at co-teaching. We did put a lot of effort in, but the next modules will be easier as we tweak and refine and work out exactly how it works for us. I am looking forward to making my code prettier, and getting more stuck into the code connection for minecraft education in the next module. Bring it
When I first heard that one of my most favouritist tools Office Mix (an add in for Microsoft Powerpoint) was not going to be available from mid 2018, I had a proper tanty. I LOVE mix, use it all the time, for handy little feedback videos, for relief lessons when I am away, for exam walk throughs, for all sorts of things. It made powerpoint, a fabulous tool which gets so much stick, a really flexible, powerful and essential tool for me, and it made learning rewindable and accessible from everywhere. Flipped learning was a breeze. So, with some trepidation, I made myself check out the new powerpoint recording feature today as I wanted to give some kids some feedback on their practice tasks for an assessment, and I can say it was perfect. Just as easy, with a nice interface, easy options for saving videos once you have made them, the same ability to do screen recordings, the inking worked superbly, it is awesome. You can find out how to access the recording tab in powerpoint 2016 via this link. You do need to have Microsoft Office 2016 installed, and if you are already logged into powerpoint, it automatically finds your stream account to upload the videos too. Given that you can add Stream tabs into teams, it is an easy way to share the flipped learning videos with students. Almost seems too easy.
So, what does it look like?
The recording tab has all my favourites from office Mix. I mostly used record slide show, usually with images of student work or a past exam question. Sometimes for a particular concept or idea….
The recording space is straightforward, and there is a nice range of colours for inking. You can choose a camera (or none in this case)
I liked that any notes added in came across from the powerpoint slides, and that you could change the font size 🙂 But you couldn’t add notes from the recording end…
Considering it is early on in the recording tabs days, there are sufficient add ins just sitting there, and I will have an explore of other options available in the store. But being able to add a PhET simulation is awesome, especially for relief, as you know it will work from within the powerpoint/stream format, where as sometimes the animations can be a bit browser specific which can cause a relief teacher some confusion and concern. It is also really awesome to be able to embed the web viewer into the presentation too – again it saves having to send the students too many places. And given that this whole thing can be accessed via teams, it will save a lot of clicks (and hopefully confusion and/or side tracking other browser windows open) for those students 🙂
You can also still make a screen shot or a screen recording (handy for tech tips for teachers!! or students – I can see me making a few for minecraft and microbit coding tutorials), or put in a video, and then there are the export/save options. It did take a few minutes for each video to upload (maybe 10 minutes for a 5 minute video) but then I did have about 10 different browser windows open and was trying to do about 50 things at once, so maybe it is faster if it can just do its job.
So I am really happy with the recording tab in powerpoint (even if it is somewhat begrudgingly). It has almost all of the features of Office Mix that I loved, and it worked seamlessly first try with Stream, which allowed me to email students their feedback straight from the stream interface. Given it slots into teams so well, I think I will end up using this an awful lot this year.
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
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.
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 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)
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.
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!!
On Friday, I was in Wellington for the PPTA ICT committee meeting. As usual, it was a full on day, leaving home to be at the airport by 5:50am is always fabulous, and then I got home a little after 9pm. As usual, these are my interpretations of what was said, and I am happy to be corrected if I got something wrong.
This time was a little different, and I am celebrating a beginning. A small beginning, but a beginning and a success of sorts. After all, there are so many non events, that even the smallest glimmer of hope needs to be celebrated 🙂
The TELA laptop scheme and centralised purchasing.
For some context, for a while I had been concerned about the lack of access some teachers have to good PD, and fit for purpose devices. As I blogged about recently, the digital divide is not just effecting students. I pondered on how best to make a change to this – realistically, what was the best way to make an impact I could think of. So in late 2015 I approached my local PPTA branch with concerns I had around the access to ‘fit for purpose’ devices for teachers. I felt that the TELA laptop scheme was not meeting the changing need of educators and learners. I made it an equity issue so that it could be realistically within the unions range of activities. They listened sympathetically, and suggested two options 1) propose a conference paper and 2) write a letter to the ICT committee. So I wrote my letter in early 2016 (March), and wrote a ‘blog’ for the PPTA magazine and this BLOG, and hoped some-one was listening.
I was invited to attend the ICT meeting where TELA was coming to talk about the scheme in June 2016, and it was a massively eye opening experience. (You can read about my impressions HERE) The way the different departments manage/run different facets of education is quite astounding, and it is a very complicated web of trying to figure out who is responsible for what, on top of what can be mandated, central purchased, or what is considered impinging on a schools right to be self governing. I then applied and became the ICT rep for Otago Southland, and have been to 2 meetings so far this year (reflections from the first are HERE) and on friday.
Amongst a whole lot of other things that were talked about, the representatives from TELA said they were looking at updating/changing the scheme, and thanked us for our input, asked for more, and said they were asking for other interested parties input too.
Which is massive. MASSIVE. I felt like a landslide…. there is still so much to do, but the first stones might just have started tumbling. Even if it would have happened anyway, even if there are others (and I’m sure their must be) pushing it along, I might have got somewhere.
So of course I will keep kicking up a stink 🙂
My notes for the rest of the meeting where not anywhere good enough as I floated in some sort of ‘did that really just happen’ cloud.
Other items on the agenda for TELA were central purchasing of software – specifically plagarism software for schools. With the increase in digital assessment submission, just blindly copying and pasting is easier (to quote someone from round the table – at least you used to have to take the time to copy it out by hand….). It is a really delicate balance – if the ministry purchases software central, it can be seen as a) endorsing the software and b) telling schools what to do. As much as I hate being told what to do myself, if there was a central purchase of software it could save schools MASSIVE amounts. So it is still being thought about, the but the ever increasing squeeze for funding, and the rapid change in pace of technology, and that for a lot of software (eg photoshop) you no longer buy the software, but a LICENCE it is a growing concern.
SLANZA is the group for school librarians in NZ, and it is fair to say many of them are having a pretty tough time. Yes, the role of libraries is changing, but it is still a really important part of any community, including schools. Bought up during the discussion was the reminder that often libraries are not just for learning, they are safe spaces for cohorts of kids. And librarians are pretty kick arse people, who are deeply passionate and skilled. I also had no idea it was not compulsory for a school to have a library, it is up to individual boards. So it a really sad thing to hear that so many schools are closing their libraries to try and squeeze budgets and find spaces.
COOLS seem to have been less in the news of late, but they are still simmering away in the background. ‘New’ cools will not be operational until at least 2020 as they need to be regulated (I asked why…. because students need to be enrolled in a school till they are 16 there needs to be processes in place to track this). There are still loads of questions around costs, platforms, quality and pastoral care, but despite these questions things are continuing to roll along.
There was some interesting, and at times quite technical, discussion around the digital technology curriculum changes, and I think there are a few people working REALLY REALLY hard in the background on this. I’m a little bit gutted (as I have mentioned before) that the assessment was the starting point, and that the Level one Achievement standards are going to be rolled out next year while there is still no curriculum goals (or learning progressions as they are going to be called) for the junior school. I did go full ‘out there’ at this point and question why so much time and energy was being invested in these ‘qualifications’ when 1) digi tech moves incredibly fast, would they be defunct in 2-3 years anyways and 2) when the head of NZQA goes on record saying the future of education is not assessments, why are we still doing them?????? Which I off course believe, but it did divert from the discussion somewhat.
There are also going to be issues around training for staff, what will happen to the ‘unit standards’ and is there still a need for word processing type courses….. as well as cost. The comment was made their had been a massive effort to ensure $500 robot kits were NOT a requirement – but then if you are using a $15 arduino you do need a bit more skill level.
So the jury is still out in my head about this – HUGE potential but also lots of unanswered questions.
There was some general discussion around the cost of professional learning and how some staff are feeling pressure (real or imagined) to gain a master qualification. This is NOT a requirement, yet some schools/areas represented did comment that it was an important consideration for them when employing new staff. The issue of PLD funding is (again) a complex one, and just where the responsibility sits is confusing.
There was also discussion linked to many things around support in schools for teachers. Schools can be very heirachy based, and often those doing the grunt work do not get the best devices/classrooms/timetables. Linked to this, in some subjects, access to PD and/or money hungry resources is impacting students ability to achieve – an example was sound quality in media studies impacting the overall production.
So yeah, another really informative and busy day. Lots of ideas, lots of productive discussion, and a nice reminder that there is hope.
And I do need to thank some people, who advised, supported, critique and listened as I started out on this ‘vendetta’ to get better access for teachers to fit for purpose devices and PLD. MY PPTA rep Alister MacDonald, the local Otago branch, Tom Haig (who helped me understand how processed work and to be patient), Lynette O’Brien who is a real workhorse and also incredibly patient, and the whole ICT committee for being so passionate and interested (and for tolerating my ‘out there’ comments). And also my family for listening to me rant and storm, and supporting my with the hours I’ve poured in, and to me critical friends, especially Nikkie, for helping me find the language I don’t always have access to which helps explain to other why this is so important for our teachers and learners. And thanks too to those who have followed along reading my blogs, got in touch when they have seen the articles in the magazine etc. Hopefully it makes a positive impact for the teachers out there – I’ll keep fighting for it. Kia Kaha teachie friends.
I have really enjoyed Microsoft classroom, and school had been enjoying a high rate of uptake from staff and students. Despite a few teething problems that any new system will have, the roll out school wide as a learning management system had been successful. Some departments or individuals decided that OneDrive suited their needs or tasks better, while others opted to stick with Office 365 groups that they set up last year. But most are using Microsoft classroom as an LMS, and it has worked really well. So I did have a feeling of dismay when I heard that classroom was being replaced by Microsoft Teams – or more specifically Microsoft Teams for Educations. But after having a play, and seeing a couple of demonstrations, I am certainly feeling brighter about the prospect of unveiling Teams to my staff, and there are certainly some exciting new features that will really boost the classroom performance and adaptability of Teams EDU. For now, I am just itching to get my hands on the teams EDU to have a play around myself.
To kick start the process of upskilling myself, I have had a play with the teams app. As a ‘place’ for almost everything 365, it automatically grabbed events from calendar, files from onedrive, and it was easy to create new teams and add members.
So my initial verdict on teams was that is was positive but it felt VERY corporate. It looked to be a useful app for personal use, but to be honest, I wasn’t super sold on it as a classroom replacement.
And then I saw a preview of Teams EDU via the surface expert call and on a Microsoft call which went into a bit more detail. It is fair to say I was blown away by the additional features – although still not quite sold on the names 🙂
Some vital stats are listed below – the summer referred to below is of course the Northern Hemisphere summer, I am REALLY hopefully NZ gets this in winter to try out before our new school year starts in Feb 2018.
The following pics are either screen grabs from the call or from the MEC site. Because I still don’t have access to Teams EDU, I’ll have to make do with explaining the demos’s I’ve seen.
Highlight ONE – INKING
So, firstly Teams EDU comes with a classnotebook, that will be populated via the data sync. In fact, all class ‘teams’ will be populated this way. This is a massive tick from me, as it saves considerable time for all teachers, and because it is done for them, it really does increase update of use. The Classnotebook looks great, and the fact that it opens within the team environment is another tick – it saves leaping from tab to tab. And the ability to ink right in teams – will that is just lovely 🙂
Assignments and Planners
These don’t quite get a highlight status, but they looked practical and a little more ‘friendly’ than the assignments tab in classroom. The ability for students to add activities or assign tasks to planner also looked like it could be an excellent tool for increasing learner agency and/or chunking larger assignments into smaller tasks for students.
HIGHLIGHT TWO – KAHOOT
This really was a massive selling point for me, and I’m pretty sure it will help me sell the change from classroom to teams to the staff at my school. The ability to embed a kahoot app into the team environment, and play it right there looked pretty sweet. As did the ability to have a chat window open, so students can still ask questions or give feedback as they go.
Kahoot is an example of the apps that are available to be added in to the teams EDU environment. The demo list of apps was not as extensive as the list I could add to my generic team space – not sure if this was due to it being a preview, or a deliberate restriction of apps. I suspect the IT admin will be able to control the apps available within teams EDU (but don’t quote me on that). The presenter on the call also said Microsoft will continue working with partners and this list could keep expanding. The apps all stay within the teams environment, and show up as an additional tab across the top.
Also within teams is a ‘Teacher Space’, which looks a bit like a PLG group from office groups. There looked to be a very nice power BI dashboard that could work really well for data analysis. There was also space for shared planning, resources, readings, and a cool meet now feature where you can ‘skype’ within the team environment to have a virtual meeting. As someone who does a lot of work from home once the small person is asleep in a department with similar people, I can see this being a useful feature (as well as a possible great distraction!!)
So over all I am really hopefully that teams will deliver on the promises. And that it will be similar enough to classroom and groups that I will be able to assist teacher become confident users without too much trouble. The really big highlights for me were the inking and the app (kahoot) integration. And that it looks like the SDS process will be similar – getting the data out of KAMAR (our SMS) is still going to be a significant task, but a doable one for a good end result. If your an admin person, there is some good info HERE
A last piece of info – if you have set up classroom in your school, the handy chart below explains what will happen to things stored in their. The bottom point is probably the most important – make sure you have those grades back up!! The chart below came from HERE which has some useful info on the changes from classroom to Teams.
So, all in all, I’m feeling pretty positive about teams. The name is a little corporate, and will possibly be the hardest sell with teachers. But the way it works looks really good. Bring on 2018 🙂
In the holidays, I went to the ENERGISE conference (A while back, Arnika Macphail asked me if I’d be keen to present at Energise, and I was like ‘hell yeah’. Then she asked if I’d like to co-present with Steve Mouldey, who I had never yet meet in the flesh and I was like ‘HELL YEAH’). Energise had a Educamp feel, so while the presenters were set, it was not about the ‘big names’ and more about the connections, ideas and challenges. While it was acknowledged that Cyclone was behind the conference, the team did a great job of not making it about things to ‘buy’. It was being hosted at Shotover Primary, so it was a good chance to visit a ‘new’ school and gain some insight into how it works. I had an amazing time, caught up with people, meet some new people, learned some new things, got challenged to ensure I was not just using ‘e-learning’ to engage student but to enhance their learning and was challenged around am I doing enough for my students.
Another interesting moment for me was during the ‘drum’ session. We had a really fun and amazing drum session on the second morning of the conference. I was sitting with 4 of my favourite educator peeps and laughed so hard. But it reinforced a funny idea for me. Do we really all need to be in time? Do we really need to be conforming to the same beat? I’ve been told I am reading to much into this type of activity… but I just wonder. So then of course it turned into us being ‘naughty’ and whacking the drum next to us out of time….. do we sometimes need to break those ‘rules’ to start something new?
BUT mostly energise got me thinking we really do need to change how we approach professional learning/development for teachers.
The pondering around changing PD has really stemmed from about 4 sources that were building before the conference, but these really bought it to my attention.
Presenting with some-one you have never meet
I meet Steve for the first time the night before – drinking warm Sake in a (very nice) Japanese restaurant watching ‘magic’ tricks.
That said, I have ‘talked’ with Steve loads online (As it turned out, this was a great way to introduce our session – a genuine we meet online gag 🙂 )We were given the brief ‘ Creating a STEAMULATING environment’ and were then basically left to our own devices on what to present.
We set up some collaborative docs (funnily enough a MICROSOFT OneNote and the GOOGLE slides…), had a skype and some twitter chats, and it just came together. I think (hope) because we were both open minded, coming from slightly different places and experiences, but willing to let these ideas be shared and compliment each other, rather than drowning each other out.
And despite my nerves, the presentation went pretty well I think. I’m not confident we ‘nailed’ it, but we definitely got some good discussion going, engaged our group, warmed up as it went on, and tried to avoid ‘us telling, them listening. Although we did still fall into the trap of saying what we did…. instead of listening to all the voices
As always with presenting, I benefit enormously by trying to explicitly describe what I am trying to achieve for my learners and myself – it is hard to put into words some times. And having another person to bounce idea off, especially from another school and ‘a different silo’ was especially helpful. So presenting with some-one I had never meet was a completely new experience for me, and I feel I learned loads. Which makes me think about ‘groups’ of teachers going to PLD – do we really get the same benefit if we only really talk to people from our schools rather than pushing ourselves to incorporate different points of views.
The reason I don’t feel I/we nailed it is because I wasn’t sure/confident we meet our learners expectations. Some people seemed to enjoy the discussion, while others seemed to want more from us – I don’t like the term spoon feeding but I do think some teachers expect this at PLD. Which leads into point number
2. What do teachers expect from PD?
The second day of the conference I went to a session that Steve ran on bringing empathy into learning conversations. He talked about how teachers see PLD, and loosely categorised teachers into some PLD stereotypes. As part of this, we were sent to ‘spy on/observe’ other sessions and see what we could see. And the stereotypes were there – Steve had outlined in his talk some in his talk, and I’ve added a couple
the teacher who wants something they can use in their class on monday
the teacher who came for morning tea
the teacher who came to meet and talk to people and build connections but is not really into the sessions
the teacher having an AHA moment
the teacher who obviously doesn’t want to be there
the teacher who is taking so many notes they couldn’t possibly be processing them, it is just verbatim. Will they ever look at those notes again
the teachers tweeting (usually me….)
the teacher catching up on emails.
the teacher obviously in presenter rapture and having a professional crush moment
All of which reinforced times when I have been in PD (honestly, I have been all the teachers above and more) and when I have delivered PD. The stand up the front and talk at people model doesn’t really work. And yet, we are still doing it. Which leads to point 3….
3. Why, oh why, do presenters still sit behind a laptop, sitting at a desk, talking their way through their slides..????
I went to a session like this, and could not cope. The person presenting obviously knew there stuff, and I had a great discussion with them afterwards that almost made up for the presentation. But it was so so so so so hard to sit through that 2 hours of slog. It felt like a slog. Even though I was learning new things, and interested at some points, the rest of the time I switched off.
We have learned that this is not working in our classrooms. Surely we should have learned that it doesn’t work for PLD.
And surely we as teacher should expect and demand more. Which leads me to point 4..
4. Why do ‘some’ teachers still expect PLD on a plate?
This constantly annoys me. I always try and make the most out of any opportunities that are provided to me. So I pay for my own PLD sometimes. I buy books and read them. I read blogs and talk to people. I also apply to different places for funding, and really make an effort to get to free stuff (I will drive to Christchurch for the educamp in Term 3 for example.) I also make use of free PLD on line – there are loads of MOOCs, courses, youtube videos, and of course the microsoft educator community (and the google one).
So I do get a bit pissy when people say to me, oh, you were at another conference. I go to them because I choose to, I often self fund, and I value them. Probably because of this, I have had several awesome opportunities to attend conferences paid for by other people. And if I got to those, I make sure I work every damn minute to get the most out of it for me and for the people attending. It is also why I started scichatNZ (along with Matt and the team) because I was frustrated at the lack of support for Science teachers wanting to break the mould….. and almost talked myself out of a ‘job’ when I’ve come to the conclusion that I really don’t want there to be subject silo’s….. sigh
So I do get hot and bothered when people attend PLD paid for out of precious school budgets and either 1) don’t get quality or 2) don’t put an effort in. 2 very different problems, but with a similar outcome – professional learning goes on the back burner as too hard, too much time, too expensive for what you get……
Changing the culture around staff professional learning in many schools is a challenge I don’t see going away any time soon, despite the efforts of many outstanding educators out there to change that mould.
So all in all I had an amazing time at Energise, and am really thankful for the opportunity to attend and share. It was definitely a ‘different’ type of teacher conference and I hope we see more of them in the future – I’m already looking forward to energise 2018.