Makerspaces moving ahead at our school

Makerspaces continue to develop at St. Anthony and St. Luke.  Last week, our teachers met with Alison Evans Adnani of Maker Junior.  Her main point – get kids creating, you don’t need to be a technical wizard of have a huge budget, just get them in there making.

We continue to work on this.  We are hoping to get more lego soon and we hope to have a lego wall.  We are also planning to add calligraphy and knitting to the list of activities available to our students.  We are learning more about how to use Makey Makey kits and we would love to add Minecraft to our makerspace soon.

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The great thing about all this is that the possibilities are endless.  Kids love the opportunity to create and innovate and they love the freedom to explore.

Here are a collection of comments and photo and video material from recent visits to the makerspace at our school

Myan and Elise:
“We love coming to Makerspace“! We made a back massager using the pulse bit from the LittleBits kits and you can change the speed of it.
Justin:
“This is my first time and I love Makerspace”!
Ngun:
“I made an intruder alert with LittleBits but it wasn’t loud enough so I used a Lego
block and it worked, it made it louder”!!
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We are looking for learning partners!

I guess we need to take a new approach

We are just coming off of a major national campaign to revive our old schoolyard. We’re not sure of the results yet, but it has been a hard slog, encouraging support and voting every day. If we make it to the next round it will be by the skin of our teeth!

Here is the concept drawing that was developed for our yard - we will get this done!

Here is the concept drawing that was developed for our yard – we will get this done!

 

We have applied for grants throughout the fall, but this doesn’t seem to be the right approach. Grant writing takes a long time and usually the results are negative.

So, today, we start a new approach. We are going to promote all the great things about our school and our community and see who out there wants to work with us!

What do we have going for us?

We have great kids, totally engaged in learning, happy for what they have who display daily a love of learning and a joy for living.

We have a great, dedicated staff who really work hard with our kids. The results show in the provincial testing where are kids consistently score above provincial and board averages.

We have a great supportive community with all sorts of services for struggling families and for those who don’t speak much English or French. Right now, we have a cooperative daycare in our basement and a new community agency room on the second floor housed by groups connected to the school and open to finding ways to engage our parents in our school.

We are developing a vibrant makerspace through a generous donation from our superintendent. The makerspace is supported by an ‘innovations groups’ made up of profs from the university of Ottawa, student teachers, local entrepreneurs and a few principals. We don’t have much equipment yet, but we hope our group will come up with more resources as we look for second-hand lego and other materials.

Our kids are also mad about Minecraft!  We want our own server so we can run the program on Minecraft edu, safely for all our students.  They have great ideas on how this can be used for education and have done some great writing about how we can bring this into the classroom.

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We are running a terrific arts program.  The kids have all taken part in hip hop lessons and there is much more to come.  They have worked with a local artist to create a beautiful mural right in the entrance to our school.  The mural is an expression of how the students see the community – we are all really proud of this. We will go beyond hip hop and add music and storytelling as the year progresses.

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our mural and our artists

We are also experimenting with a computer lending program.  We have old Dell Netbooks that aren’t being used much anymore.  We are starting to lend these out to students and families for the year so that they can continue to work on programs like Raz Kids, Mathletics and Dreambox.  We need more of these machines to give out and we have to ensure that the machines are hooked up to the internet.

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looking for machines like this to send home

We are also working with our partners to develop a parent outreach program.  School Board in other jurisdictions like Hamilton-Wentworth and having lots of success offering parent workshops at the same time as they offer student tutoring and enrichment.  We would like to find a way to do this here.

So, are you interested in working with us?  We would make a great partner!

Minecraft – what do students say?

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One of the great things I  learned this year at the ECOO 2014 Conference is the power of Minecraft.  I never really understood the importance of this game and its potential to unleash creativity and innovation.

I took in two workshops on the topic and learned a few things:

  • Minecraft is like an unlimited amount of lego – unlimited amount of math manipulatives at your disposal.
  • you can purchase Minecraftedu – downloaded to each computer. I haven’t figured out the importance of the server yet, working on it!
  • There is a tutorial for use – sign me up for this!!
  •  Servers on-line – if students  have an ip address they can join other worlds and other people. Then you can join other servers – have to be mindful of servers you join.  This is why having a school server sounds like the way to go.
  • You can create an ip only accessible to the students in your class.
  • Regular Minecraft ips will not work with Minecraftedu – so it sounds like edu is certainly the way to go
  • Really need to use a laptop for this – will not work on chromebooks. Ipad apps also not as effective. So – I need to get my hands on a few more regular laptops – not the way we are going right now at our school!  This will help us with Arduino as well – it doesn’t work on chromebooks either
  • Fraps Video – make your creation into a movie.  This is a great resource so we can share what are students are making!
  • Amazing collaborative tool – encouraging high-level thinking because they are working together.
  • Great tool for collaboration for real life problems.

 

When I came back from the conference, I started asking our students about what they do with Minecraft.  I asked some students to write about what they could learn from the game.  The hope is that our own school board will get its own server so we can offer the game to students safely for free.

Here is one response, unedited from one of our grade 6 students – I couldn’t say it any better!

 

Let’s see what the students can do!

 

To Whom It May Concern:

I think that Minecraft  Is a good game for learning about architecture.  From playing minecraft I myself have learned that I am  good  at building. For example, I have built this structure.

 

My second reason for having  Minecraft is that there is something called Redstone. Redstone is a material that is used for a lot  of stuff  like this

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the red dust thats Redstone and the torch- looking thing is going to make the light light up.  The redstone helped me learn about electricity.

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Minecraft is also a game about responsibility. When playing Minecraft you also have take care of the animals. Here are my two favorite animals: a dog and we all know dogs are man’s best friend, and a cat who is very purrsuasive.

 

So as you can see Minecraft is a good game for  our school.

how are students using Minecraft in your school?

ECOO 2014 Some of what I learned – part II

I was really struck by the keynote by Ron Canuel.  I have never heard him before, but I could listen to him all day.  What great ideas!

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Here are some of my notes and my thoughts since then -the italics are my comments tonight.

Impressive But not convincing – this was the name of the talk

Technology and integration into the classroom – this was the key point – technology is great, but how is it implemented?  This should be the major challenge for the administrator
If teachers are not on board, nothing happens. Average number of teachers a child will see K-12 is 55. Teachers have an enormous challenge.

You want to move an agenda forward? Surround yourself with people more intelligent and talented than you – to really move things ahead. A good note for all admin

CEA – Transforming Education – research-based , best practices based organization. We do not  base practice on solid research – this is what we need to do. Join us!  Excellent point – what research do we have to know that we are doing the right thing?  What really is effective, what do we really know?

 

Domains that we need to focus on:

Student engagementyes, but what about parent engagement
• Teaching the way we aspire to teach
• Challenges to change – a keynote in itself – covered very well by  George Couros’ keynote on the Friday
• Effective integration of technology into classrooms – what is effective? Nothing worse than bringing tech into the classroom and doing the same old thing.
• Neuroscience and the classroom
Technology that is transformational –

Students and teachers have done great things with chalk, pencil, etc technology is a portal to the imagination – who is on the other side – the student. What an important point!

Tech is not a tool – it is a portal to students – a really good point, we can’t see our new technology as ‘just another tool’ it is so much more than that!

“The more you trust teachers and decrease regulation achievement goes up”  What a great point – do boards listen to this , does the province consider this?

“The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge”
Seymor Papert – this is the basic idea that motivates the work we are  doing on Makerspaces

Constructivism, Technology and the Future of classroom Learning – – quote on change in teaching methods http://ww.alicechristie.org/classes/530/constructivism.pdf
technological changes that have swept through society at large have left the educational system largely unchanged. In the course of 20 years, a dramatic rift has opened between the process of teaching and learning in the schools and the ways of obtaining knowledge in society at large, a rift made obvious by the fact that the process of teaching has not changed substantially, even in the past 100 years everything that you do has to be in moderation – it has to be in balance – 10% effective integration over 90% mindless implementation

Four common strategies from resistors of change: John Kotter Phi Delta Kappa magazine Dec 2010/Jan 2011

• Fear mongering eg. Wifi is harmful
• Death by delay eg. Pilot projects – what happened to that idea? Piloting create a very specific base of teachers trained – what happens when they move? We have to train the base, not jus a specific group of teachers.
• Confusion eg. Media focus
Early adoption – we have to see, how will it transform practice?

Blaming current technology on declining relationships in schools is disingenuous, to say the least – totally agree – technology connects people, helps kids to collaborate

Machines have nothing to do about encouraging positive relationships – this is what the teacher does.

We are in a structure that was created in 1894 and 1895 – designed to mimic the industrial system at the time.  When will we finally act on this and change our structures??

Students value teachers more on who they are than by what they say.

Learning how to think differently is what is important

Are students engaged? Rapid decrease from grade 5 to grade 10 -we need to change this, why are students not engaged – a question for all of us.

No courage = no change

Early adaptors don’t convince mid-adaptors do -what a key point!

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ECOO 2014 Some of what I learned – part I..

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This is my favourite conference.  I come away with great material each year and I make face-to-face connections with people I follow on Twitter and truly admire.  Some quick highlights in this category.  Sitting at a keynote and realizing I am sitting next to Donna Miller Fry who I have learned so much from this year.  Talking to George Couros just before his keynote and getting his words of wisdom, “man you really need to change your Twitter photo, no one can see you”.  Doug Peterson, my hero then chimed in “your photo is rather dark”.

These seem like very simple exchanges, but for me they show how much I have learned in the last year from these great educators.  We have barely (or never) ever met but there is a shared intimacy that comes from being part of the writing community on Twitter.

Some of the best learning at conferences for me now comes just from these quick connections.  They will be enough to sustain our on-going on-line relationships where I will continue to be enriched by their experience on an almost daily basis.

I talked to lots of vendors and attended as many keynotes and workshops as I could when not doing registration, but I think there is huge value in all the conversations with committee members (a truly wonderful group of people), vendors and twitter learning partners.  It is amazing to me that after 30 years in education, my learning experience is richer than ever.

We hear it now lots in workshops – to be an isolated educators really makes no sense anymore.  I truly lived that over the past four days.

I have lots more to write about, but as George says – relationships are key, certainly the most important aspect of the work we do.

Thank-you everyone, great seeing you all!

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this is the way to finish a conference – what a great group!

BIT 2014 Day One

As educators, we need to be constantly enriched by new experiences and new learning.  Our  first day at the 2014 ECOO Conference certainly did this for all of us.  We started before 7:00am at the registration desk and were soon into the first keynote and then the half and full-day sessions.

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I love the Minds on Media full day session – I really think it is one of the highlights of the entire conference.

I was able to take in four sessions throughout the day.  I find you really need to sit and talk with the presenters to get a good sense of what they are presenting.  Unlike the next two days where we will be running from workshop to workshop, today there was time to sit and talk to the presenters, try out some new tools and pick up some incredibly valuable resources.

I probably spent the most time in the Mindcraft session.  I am certainly no good at playing the game, but I am starting to get the concept.  Like makerspaces, one of the ideas is to give students a creative outlet to express their ideas in a new and innovative format.  I am starting to see all sorts of applications back at school.  I now have a great set of resources and a wonderful contact person to go to when I get bogged down.

I also learned about Ubuntu and how this operating system can be used to breathe life into old, slow laptops.  I can’t wait to try this out with some of the old machines we have kicking around our house.

 

Loading screen from Ubuntu 8.04 and 8.10.

Loading screen from Ubuntu 8.04 and 8.10. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s lots to learn talking to the vendors as well. I had some great talks with vendors from Northern Micro, Copernicus, Antidote, SmartpenCentral and Read & Write. I already have resources that I want to purchase for our school that I hope will benefit students and teachers.

The networking possibilities are endless.  Tonight, the learning will continue with a dance back in the main convention center.

 

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BIT 2014 has started!

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Standing room only at first keynote of the day

 

We  have started with our first keynote speaker and the regular schedule is just about to start.  You can see all the events planned today on Lanyard at http://bit.ly/1x7J2k2

Very exciting to be back here.  We started registering delegates last night and closed up at 10:00PM.  This morning we started again at 7:15 and are still registering people now.

Wednesday is the only day where you sign up for sessions.  Some are the morning only some go the entire day.  The wonderful vendor room opens at 10:00am.

I love the Minds on Media session.  It starts now and will go nonstop until 3:30pm.  It is a great opportunity to sit with presenters and try out the programs and products they are featuring.  But, don’t take my word.  Just follow the #bit14 hashtag today.

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