Posted in Teaching and Learning, random ramblings, Digital Technologies

Putting some technology into our digital technologies module

Last year, Kevin and I taught a yr 7 digital technology module based around the digital technology curriculum. (If you like, you can read about our efforts here and here). Part way through last year we got a new Technology HoD, who has ‘encouraged’ us to include more from the technology curriculum, and we are reporting based on the technology curriculum rather than the progress outcomes like we did last year. This was a real challenge for me and took me a bit to get my head around – being a science teacher I knew the sci curriculum pretty well, and I have spent a lot of time working on being more familiar with the digit tech curriculum. But the technology curriculum was a whole new experience and initially I really struggled to get my head around it, especially ‘planning for practice’.

So, I went and tried to learn up. And slowly but surely I think I’m finding my way – a work in progress shall we say.

Planning for Practice

The CD for Tech (who is awesome, fyi, it has been good to be challenged and have crunchy conversations and to try new things) asked if we could ‘assess’ on planning for practice so across all the yr 7 and 8 modules they have a range (our modules are 6-7 weeks with 4 periods a week).

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And with a bit more detail, thanks to TKI

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I also used this resource from TKI which explains planning for practice in a bit more detail, and got some exemplars from TKI and from the other technology teachers in the school

Essentially, I figured out that Kevin and I already did some of this without making the learning explicit. To try and make it more explicit, I modified a TKI resource and asked the students to do a little more planning around the minecraft design than last year.

We got some nice examples of planning and work 🙂

 

But (there is always a but!!) there were a couple of things that hindered us this time. One was the students got SO excited building in Minecraft that they often forgot to record changes they had made, or progress they have made into their Onenote. We have a policy of if it isn’t in the Onenote it doesn’t exist, but in this case there has been some fabulous learning that didn’t get recording. So I am having a wee think over the next 2-3 weeks (before we get to this in the next module which starts on Thursday) of how else I could record this? There were such rich discussions occurring with the groups building collaboratively that I just didn’t capture…..

AND I need  to modify our template a little more. I hadn’t used one like this before for this purpose, and see now it doesn’t quite fit….And we also ended up running out of time to do this properly, we thought we had 6 full lessons and ended up with 4 (because schools have things come up!) so we will try to get a full 8 lessons for the next module

Fortunately, we also did some planning with algorithms and coding with the microbits so we can make a holistic judgement around students abilities to reach an outcome from their evidence portfolios. And we will tweak it for next time 😉

Technological systems

So, again to ensure that across all the junior modules, we adapted the module to cover inputs, transformations and outputs.

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And again some more details from TKI

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This was way easier to incorporate, given we had already been doing a lot of it without realising.

Through out the module we spent a little more time on inputs and outputs around the microbit, and when introduced the topic. We also included some questions in the ‘form’ we used for an assessment

 

Progress outcomes for digitech

We still also incorporated progress outcomes from the digitech curriculum around computational thinking. We covered data representation with binary and ASCII code. We walked through algorithms (love making toast) and did some coding. with hour of code and with the microbits. Kevin put some of this into the assessment as well so we had a bit more ‘hard data’ around whether the students understood the aspects of code in addition to their evidence portfolios. It wasn’t a memory test, students were encouraged to copy the code and test it to see what it did.

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What the students thought

We gave an end of module survey, and generally got positive feedback. Minecraft was a clear favourite with the students

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And it was really heartening to see that some students picked up on prototyping and multiple ways, although most felt they gained skills in simple coding and using office 365 (which is awesome, as these students are new to TC this year and getting them upskilled with office 365 is really awesome as an ‘offshoot’ of the module.)

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So overall I think it was a good first go. We do need to tweak the planning template, and I’d like to find a way to get students to design a success rubric (we ran out of time this time round). And I’ll keep working on building my own confidence and understanding of the technology curric.

Would love any ideas/feedback as we work through, or happy to talk it through if you are doing something different

Have fun

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Teaching and Learning, random ramblings

Having a go with flipgrid to explain graphs

I have been a little bit slow to jump on the flipgrid wagon – I have used it a few times when I have been part of a project to give my response, and have had a look at other peoples flipgrid ‘grids’ when they have gathered responses. You can learn about flipgrid from the website https://flipgrid.com/. When I used it, I made a tab in my classes ‘team’, as the flipgrid app is one of the apps supported by Microsoft Teams. This meant students could use the app within the teams app on their phones, or some of them used the flipgrid app on their phones too. Both apps were quick to download, and while some had a few issues with the different between a microsoft account and an office 365 account, most were quickly logged in and found the app easy to use.

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There are loads of apps available to use within the teams environment, this is the apps I use most often

The tasks I asked my students to complete was around graphing. I have a competent class, and drawing lots of practice graphs was getting pretty dry pretty quickly. So I asked my students to make some videos explaining what a ‘good’ graph should have.

And they (mostly) did really well. Some students took some chalk outside and drew some graphs on the concrete to demonstrate the important points. Some just used some example graphs in their books they had previously drawn. Some drew new graphs, and one group drew a ‘bad’ graph on the white board to demonstrate what you should not do.

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It was a really nice way to check for any misconceptions, and while most students enjoyed the task (and some REALLY Loved it), all of them feedback that the talked about and thought about what they needed to do for graphing more than if I had just given them another practice graph. It also made for a really nice piece of work to share at our recent parent teacher evenings, just a 30-90 second snapshot of some of the work we have been doing.

So my class agreed that this was a ‘sometimes’ activity for everyone, and a few of the students asked if they could use it more often, as they found it really useful going back and looking at other peoples videos and seeing how they explain it. My next step will be to try it with my yr 8s, giving each group a different type of ‘cloud’ to explain, and hopefully we can get some cool cloud videos for the group to share.

Have fun

 

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Boiling water

Today I got a gentle reminder to look through my students eyes a little more often that I do. It was timely as all those classroom routines and tasks start to bog down all that beginning of the year energy.

On Tuesdays I have my delicious yr 13 Chemistry class, followed by my energetic yr 8 Science class. Yr 8 start the year looking at weather, and today I had planned to boil some water so they could learn, be reminded, or I could check that they could read a thermometer. It also gives a chance to practice drawing a graph. But really, in my eyes, boiling water is as dull as a dull thing, and I remarked to my yr 13 Chem class about how I wasn’t especially looking forward to yr 8’s and boiling water, pondering how else I could practice using thermometers. And one chap piped up with

‘I loved doing that in year 8’

I looked at him to see if he was being sarcastic, and he wasn’t. In response to my raised eyebrows he reminded me that back then Bunsen burners were super exciting, and it was new to him and he did really enjoy it. Lighting a match was fun, and they all used to fight over who got to.

I suppose it was also a timely reminder that just because you have done something before, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it again. Obviously there might be tweaks or changes you make, but making sure I make those changes for the correct reasons.

So, when the year 8’s filled the room as my yr 13’s left it, I had an increased spring in my step. We set up gear, lit matches and measured, and compared tap water with water with ice cubes. The students did love it, as they do every time. And I enjoyed it more than I might have, because I remembered to look through the eyes of a year 8 learning new skills rather than a 36 year old teacher who has done it before.

 

 

Posted in Digital Technologies, Professional learning, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Integrating digital technologies – computational thinking, designing digital outcomes, and Dichotomous keys

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

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A dichotomous key for identifying sharks – thanks wikipedia 🙂   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shark

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.

  1. 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.

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The over view for digital outcomes for the NZ digital technology curriculum  http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Teaching/Curriculum-areas/Digital-Technologies-in-the-curriculum#js-tabcontainer-1-tab-4

 

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.

And I will report back on how it goes in Term 4.

Have fun

 

 

 

Posted in Digital Technologies, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Integrating computational thinking – Mystery Skype.

When I first did a mystery skype with Kyle Calderwood, I remember thinking this is a great way to encourage students questioning skills as well as for them to learn about other people and places. The premise is that during a Mystery Skype, students will ask questions to locate where the other class or person is. You skype a class, ask some questions and figure out where they are. (Or you could figure out which element they are, or which historical figure…..) These questions have to be yes or no questions – for example where do you live is not an acceptable question, but do you live in the southern hemisphere is. When prepping students for mystery skypes, and supporting them during, I’ve tried to focus on what sorts of questions can narrow down answers and what information can you use to ask more useful questions. What I didn’t realise until recently was I essentially showing the students how to build an algorithm to narrow down a search term to find a specific piece of information. Which fits really nicely with the expectations of the curriculum.

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Computational thinking (as defined by the New Zealand Digital technologies curriculum) http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/The-New-Zealand-Curriculum/Technology/Learning-area-structure#collapsible2

A beauty of this is that the ‘algorithm’ or questions asked change depending on the circumstance. So, for example, I have ‘trained’ my students to ask are you in the northern hemisphere (yes/no) and it is between 12midnight and 12 noon, or after ‘noon’ so they can figure out a possible area (time zones are more important for the northern hemisphere calls when you are from NZ – most of the southern hemisphere except Australia is in night time during our school day). But then as you zoom in on a location, the questions have to match the area (eg are you south of this city, or this highway, or river), so no set of questions is ever quite the same. But you are still breaking down the questions, coming up with yes/no answers and using evidence to inform your next question.

It is also a really useful way to support students to use search features on their computers really well, as well as how to look a geographical features. Not only for where they are searching for, but where they are. In order to answer truthfully, kids need to know where places are in relation to them, and so learn more about their own place as well as learning about others.

So I thought I would try a mystery skype for our last digitech lesson as part of the current module. In preparation for todays call, I got my students to pair up, one with a laptop searching where the other class was, and one looking for us, to make sure we gave truthful answers for where we were based. We practiced yesterday by guessing where in the world Mrs Chisnall was thinking of (The new Optus Stadium in Perth… I am a cricket fan). It was a good chance to review algorithms, how to ask specific questions seeking the important information (eg are you in a park is a very vague question, as lots of things could be a park. But then a student asked do you have to pay to get in which was a helpful question around what to search for attractions in the area.)

And so even though todays call was a flop because of connection issues (I suspect our internet or firewall was to blame….) the students still did get something out of the practice we did, and I will definitely look to try again with the next digit tech module. And next time I do a mystery skype with a ‘general’ class, I will focus my prepping questions slightly more towards the thinking behind asking the questions, and how computational thinking and algorithms can be used to solve problems.

 

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Reflections from the #NZMIEEHui18 Part 2

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

  1. 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

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Step 1 is to go to insert and then hit zoom

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then select the sections (or slides) you want

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Which then gives you a summary slide, which you can then click on to go into more depth into that section

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Bring it

 

Posted in Digital Technologies, Professional learning, Teaching and Learning

Re thinking Chemistry (identifying ions) with Computational Thinking

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)

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An excerpt from Jeanette’s Article

Google also has a good computational thinking resource…. Which has some specific Science examples around Genomics for algorithms, bouncing balls for algorithms, and classifying for finding patterns which also goes into decompositions. Funnily enough, I had never really thought about 20 questions being decomposition, but in this example it works well, and made me more tolerant of my L3 chem students playing it when they should be doing other things!

This article from American Scientist (it is jargon rich, but well worth the read) talks about experimenters and theoreticians and how computers now mean they work more closely together than ever before – with scientists often designing new software and algorithms for make new models and predictions. This article from EDUtopia is much more user friendly.  HERE is another jargon filled example leaning towards STEM.

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.

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Students get a flow chart like this one in the assessment to help them identify the ions in different solutions – this is for cations, and there is another for anions.

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

Wish me luck

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Myth busting Napoleon’s buttons

I am sometimes reminded of how small things can be so important. Making connections, learning new things and questioning things said can make such a difference to learning, engagement and interest, including mine. So this a wee story about some buttons, some exploring, some learning and some fun.

Recently the Science Learning hub posted a tweet about Napolean’s armies and how their coat buttons succumbed to ‘tin pest’.

I didn’t know that Tin did this, and was immediately intrigued – as were a couple of my L3 chem students I talked to about it.

So I tweeted back, and we put some tin in the freezer

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But nothing happened….

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and got this reply

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So…. we left it for a bit longer…..

But after a weekend at -19 C, it was still just tinScreen Shot 2018-06-15 at 12.01.32 PM

So then we melted some tin 🙂

But it still wasn’t enough….

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In the middle of this discussion, the plot thickened with some more information about tin pest and solder…..

So of course melted some solder to make another ‘button’

And some discussions around purity of tin

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Then Science learning hub popped in again with some more ideas and some more people to contribute

And the best upshot from my kids point of view was when my students went into the university as part of 3.1, they got to play with some dry ice….

The current update is the tin is in a -80 C freezer somewhere – or maybe still on Dave’s desk.

So in a very busy couple of weeks, with internal assessments, report and all sorts of chaos and disappointments, this was just awesome. My students and I were ‘chatting’ with world class chemists, doing some experiments, having an explore, in no way related to credits. It was awesome – we skimmed over history, weather, complex chemical structures, alloys and physical properties related to structures, more history learning about expeditions across Antartica, pipe organs and archeological digs. My students loved it, and so did I.

And we will let you know what happens with the tin 🙂

 

Posted in Minecraft, Professional learning, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Lighting fires with the Chemistry Add in for MinecraftEDU

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.

 

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I tried to freeze the water fall, but the water just flowed over it….

 

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…

lab book

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

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We then took the chloride salts and crafted the lamps…. and it was awesome

The coloured lamps rocked

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So, of course we had to make some coloured flaming torches for real….

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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.

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Reflections from the PPTA ICT meeting April 2018

There was a pretty full on agenda for the April meeting of the PPTA ICT committee, and I got myself wonderfully wound up over several points. Much discussion was had of hard issues, and of course, hard issues have no easy answers and there is not always a clear pathway to follow. So if you have any thoughts, opinions etc, feel free to sing out and I will pass them along. And, as always, I hope I have the information correct, but it is my interpretation of what was said, and I am happy to be corrected and/or put you in contact with people who know more than me.

  1. Acceptable use policies

Make sure your school has an update to date acceptable use policy for school devices. This is one of these things that isn’t an issue until it is an issue… and the field officers had loads of horror stories of teachers being caught out. So if you don’t have one, get that done, and if you do have one, check you know what is in it. If you aren’t sure, ask. Your PPTA field officer will have more info.

2.  Tela

The new scheme has rolled out, and I was pretty happy with the range of devices available, and obviously time will tell around tech support etc for the new scheme. some issues around screen sizes were shared by other members of the committee. However, cost remains an issue, as does equity of access. So (on a personal note) the next big challenge for me is to think about how teachers can be educated on the fact they have a choice of devices, and somehow get schools to be more supportive of ‘diversity’ in device choices for teachers. I think at times it is a little ironic that all teachers needs to be on the same system for ease of admin, when we are pushing so hard for personalised learning for our students….

But back to the point in hand. There was a robust discussion about how to get more funding, including ideas around do schools pay the base line price and if teachers want a fancier/more expensive model, then maybe they can pay the difference. Tied in with the discussion of personal uses of devices and acceptable use policies, I could see this being a viable option…. Say the base line is $30 a quarter, and the top of the line, $90, then for $240 a year having an option for a better device is still a reasonable option. Or perhaps departments could pay the difference. But then because the device is linked to the school, if that teacher leaves, who foots the bill. This discussion was linked to needs versus wants – but it is a chicken egg situation, for example, a teacher with a device that can ink might use it, where as a teacher without that capability in a device definitely won’t. It also lead into a discussion around school infrastructure – many round the table schools did not have sufficient infrastructure to cope with the devices joining the networks at any given time – if everyone has a laptop, a phone and maybe an ipod, fitbit etc that is connecting, it bumps up the usage pretty quick.

3. Plagiarism software

This conversation was more of the same from last time – we need it, but who pays for it. Suggestions a centralised model may be coming. There was a more robust discussion about how this type of software should be implemented – how do we educate students and teachers about what plagiarism actually is? (I don’t really know myself) How do we support teachers using it? Examples were given around how with some software, a teachers effort to make an original piece of writing still showed a result of 30% copied, simply because some common phrases are often used. So what is an acceptable level?? As I have no experience with this software, it was interesting to listen to those that do and how it impacts what they do, most comments were positive, but there are some pitfalls also

4. BYOD

There was a brief conversation around BYOD devices – many schools who rolled this out for juniors were now finding the devices (Chromebooks were mentioned, but I don’t think it is an exclusive problem to those devices) were no longer grunty enough for the senior school. Is it fair to ask parents to pay for 2 devices for 1 student moving through school?? What about feeder schools – different primary schools may have different device choices that tie into one or two secondary schools that use different devices? What about if kids move schools? Some schools present provided devices for students at a cost to the school. Others had COWS or the like for juniors, and BYOD for seniors. And some were full BYOD.

Again, my perspective is schools need to be more flexible and adaptive to providing support for different devices, but am more than willing to acknowledge how challenging this is at a tech level, and I probably only know about 10% of the problems!!

5. NCEA review

The person sharing had a lot to say, but not a lot that can be shared publicly. Sigh. BUT again rather a lot of discussion was had, including some frantic hand waving from yours truely to be included some-how. There is a Consultation process occurring from April to July that we were strongly encouraged to participate in and share, so I will be doing so with great gusto. Hopefully it is easy to find when the time comes 🙂

The discussion I can share around this was mostly in two arguments. Work load was one (obviously, being PPTA!!!) and student wellbeing and ‘credit’ counting was the other. There was also some discussion around what NCEA results are used for – I know from a personal perspective, at L3 chem my students are desperate for internals so they have UE before exams, and would gladly do no externals, even though the externals are the most important for many first year chemistry papers. And while not every student doing NCEA goes to uni, many doing L3 chem do, and managing the expectations is something I really struggle to do. There was also discussion around hoop jumping, again despite my best intentions, I often find myself saying things like – to get excellence in an exam you need to stress the bonding electrons in electronegativity discussions….. sigh.

6. SISI

The student information sharing initiative is still rumbling away in the back ground. Again most of this is confidential, but the discussion was around feasibility, timelyness and the ‘weight’ of privacy over health and safety. Get in contact if you want to know more, but also there is not too much to tell as it rumbles away.

7. Spark Jump

John Leslie Smith came to talk to us from Spark about Spark Jump – a service that provides prepay internet for families who can’t afford/access/other wise get wifi at home. Worth checking out if you know of any vulnerable families who would benefit https://www.sparknz.co.nz/what-matters/spark-jump/ 

8. Digital Technology curriculum

A lot of the discussion was aimed around the achievement standards, which made me a little cranky. BUT that does not diminish my appreciation for how hard the team working on those standards and the implementation have been working. There are loads of teething problems predicted (a favourite was a standard involving social media use that many school block on school networks !!) but a general feeling that the standards are aiming for quality skills. I noted with some disdain that it is a shame the assessment drives the learning… but it does for chem too so pot calling the kettle black I guess!!

There are some upcoming PLD days via regions and connecting nationally via zoom scheduled for May 12, so look out for those. There should also be a national digital readiness program ready from the end of this term. There are also some new resources on the TKI pages and technology online. And some webinars and online courses from various sources.

There was also mention of some support from the ‘Digital technologies for All Equity Fund’ but it seems the furthest south this will come in CHCH… sigh.

I asked about the ‘compulsory’ aspect of the curriculum, and of course nothing is compulsory!!! But it will be a priority…..

There was also a challenging little comment that has stuck with me as a ‘beginning’ teacher of digital technologies. I was talking about levels, and how I had some kids in the (brand new) course Kevin and I are teaching doing simply amazing things…. but the comment around this was that yip, some kids are learning and going really deep into one area, but they have huge holes in others that can create issues further on. To be honest, I hadn’t considered this, but on reflection, it does worry me a wee bit. I know how frustrated I get with ‘non chemistry’ Science teachers teaching all sort of simplified ‘nonsense’ (it isn’t nonsense really, but it doesn’t make my job with L2 chemistry students any easier) and couldn’t help but wonder if I will end up doing the same thing. Depressing thought, but also a we reality check to try and keep upskilling myself, and think about just how I check for understanding in a situation where I have no understanding myself. And how, while we should all be teaching kids, specialist knowledge is REALLY important.

Now to find a way to get those with the specialist knowledge into classrooms!!

9. Digital Examinations/NZQA

The aim for 2020 is still on. much discussion around logistics, infrastructure and is it a measure of typing speeds over knowledge

A much more interesting (from my eyes) discussion occurred around any time any place learning, and digital learning in general. Which tied into the COOLS debate which followed on from this, so I’ll bring it in there

10. COOLS

A change of government is an interesting thing it would seem, and it was bought up a few times throughout the day. But it seems that COOLS will be reshaped in someway or another, as there are some benefits that can be seen to autonomous learning.

There was a discussion around the research commissioned on online learning, which was summarised as for the top 20% of students, building an online learning platform where they can succeed is relatively straightforward. But for the bottom (FYI, there was no indication of what the criteria was for top and bottom) 20%, it was ‘REALLY, REALLY HARD. The idea that relationships are important was highlighted (I was cheeky here and asked if the report even half suggested teachers where actually a useful thing), and for struggling students, having a person or people checking in on them was critical to their success.

The rep from Te Kura had a useful perspective here. She is super experienced with online learning and strongly expressed that students who connect do better. Te Kura have some face to face gatherings, and students who can attend some of these fare better in their success and happiness it would seem. Online mentoring is not an easy model, but there are some benefits. There is also questions around the role of correspondence school – at the moment entry requirements are (from my understanding) flexibly fixed – you do need to meet certain criteria to enrol. So how would opening this up work???

This lead to a discussion around funding. Many schools have distance learning options for students if a teacher is not available, or for time table clashes etc. But this is not a perfect model either, who is teaching the student, the ‘VC’ teacher, or the supervising teacher?? And if students are half time in schools, and half time online, where does the money go?

Around all of this, and along side a few other topics was this idea of what is the big picture. If there is a substantial review of NCEA occurring, why the big push for the new digital technology standards? Likewise, if big changes happen to L1, it seems a great shame to have had SO MUCH WORK go into the new digit tech curriculum and standards that maybe won’t be used in the next 5 years… But also is the shift in assessment what we need to shift teaching and learning into a new place? I’m almost sure that ironic is the right work to use when I constantly battle assessment driving my own teaching and learning, but if digital assessment does become ‘take an exam when you are ready’ situation, then that will dramatically change the way classes are ‘taught’ and teachers support. Which might not be a bad thing…. personalised, independent learning. Still leaves the question of what to do with a kid that passes everything in a week – but with the right glasses on that could be an amazing opportunity and I hope it can turn out that way.

11. Tomorrows school review

There was a lovely history of tomorrows schools (if you haven’t read Cathy Wylie’s book, do it) and how the unintended consequences of competition have marred what could have almost been a useful model. But this is under review with some big names on the panel, so it will be interesting to see their recommendations and see what sort of school will be coming our way next. I’m not sure of dates etc, but it could have a serious impact, along with the other sweeping reviews taking place, education could look quite different in 5-10 years, and I hope we are ready for it.

 

So, as usual, lots and lots of content, debate and ideas. I was quite riled up at a few points, and need to remember for my sake and those around me that getting wound up is not always the best course of action!!! There was a feeling, and comments, that many of these ideas and arguments are not new, and ‘we’ are not making any headway on them – but I guess that is always going to occur when you are dealing with a multi headed hydra like education – so many stake holders, so many other impacting factors, and so much as stake.

Have fun, and as always, free free to get in touch if you have any questions 🙂