Time to go 1:1 with Chromebooks

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We are taking the leap into 1:1.  We are close to this already at the junior level (grades 4,5,6) and we feel it is time to move to a Chromebook for every student.

Today, we have put in an order for 20 more Chromebooks.  This is an experiment we are taking part in with another school with similar demographics to ours.

My job will be to offer staff all the support they need to help this work.  I am already working on more PD sessions that I hope will help the  teachers adapt to a 1:1 environment.

Once the machines arrive, each student will be assigned a machine.  The students will then have to take the machines home and bring them back the next day.  Not bringing a machine to school will easily be the equivalent of not doing your homework.  I have also purchased six more tech tubs to help with storage.

Having the machines at home is really important for us.  Many of our students do not have computers at home and it is difficult for us to extend the learning going on at school if students have limited or no access to computers.

We will probably make mistakes, but we will learn together.  There are lots of good articles out there from people who have already gone down this road – we will take our direction from those who have gone before us.

I will use this blog to document how we do.  I really believe this initiative will bring about significant change in the way we teach at our school.  Now it is time to find out!

Here are some of the articles I will be re-reading:

Devices Need to Support Learning – 

Technology can close achievement gaps, improve learning – Stanford University

Five Steps for Implementing a Successful 1:1 Environment – Edutopia

Why 1:1? Why Chromebooks? 

The Logistics of 1:1 Chromebooks at Leyden

 (really important article – note the date 2012!)

Teachers Manual to a Paperless Classroom – Educational Technology and Mobile Learning

My Livebinder Collection on 1:1

Click here to open this binder in a new window.

http://livebinders.com/play/play?id=1351806&present=true

From Makerspace to Maker Faire – a collaborative project

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We have been experimenting with our makerspace for the past six months.  There is no question that the club we are currently running has been a major success with the students.  Now it is time to take it to the next level.

We are planning our first school-based maker faire.  This will involved several elementary schools, the University of Ottawa and some really innovative makers here in Ottawa like Maker Junior and other groups.

The maker faire tradition in Ottawa is growing.  Last year, the first  mini-maker faire was held and over  6000 people attended over the  two days.  The first full maker faire is now scheduled for next November 7-8  at Lansdowne Park the organizers are expecting 10,000 participants.

We work closely with another school – St. Luke.  They have done some amazing projects including the construction of an entire city in their learning commons.  At our school, we are trying to figure out how Arduino works and we are hoping to use Raspberry pi as a server to get Minecraft working in the learning commons.

We have yet to see a 3D printer or build any robots, but we are hoping that the school maker faire will move us all to the next level.

This project calls for lots of collaboration.  We have developed an ‘innovation team’ that includes elementary school principals, high school teachers, university professors, Faculty of Education students and local makers.  It is a group with lots of talent, resources and ideas and it will be this group that puts together the maker faire at our school.

We also have a new partner – students and teachers from Kitigan Zibi school in Maniwaki.  We have never had contact with this school, but it will be great to have them as partners in this project.  We have just been introduced to some of their staff through the Faculty of education at the University of Ottawa.

What will the day look like?  We are not entirely sure, but we know we want the students to have the chance to explore and make new things.  We want to expose them to the best of maker culture here in Ottawa.

So far, we want the students to learn and actually use 3D printers.  We will be getting a supply through Luc Lalande, the Executive Director, Entrepreneurship Hub at University of Ottawa and a real champion of maker culture here is Ottawa.

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Luc is a great supporter of innovation here in Ottawa

We have also discussed hands-on workshops involving Ardunio kits and Leggo and additional workshops involving Makey Makey kits.

Rick Alexanderson from St Peter High School will volunteer CARL the robot at the maker faire and  bring the Robot and provide information on workshops provided free to students by Carleton University.    Further CARL the robot will be then donated to the makerspace.   This is a line following robot and can do a few tricks  –  it is also a kit so teachers can look at the parts and see how this easy snap together the robot.  Rick works on really innovative projects with the Carleton University Department of Engineering.  

The workshops will be an hour long and we hope to have five options for students to choose from.  Each students will be able to choose three out of the five workshops.

The event will take place on April 30 and will probably be held from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.

We are really looking forward to this, the maker faire will really push us to collaborate with many diverse partners and it will challenge all our students to really develop a better understanding of how to build, create and innovate.

We will use this blog to keep a running record of our progress as we work towards our April 30 deadline.

Lots to look forward to!

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Why Minecraft?

There are many blog posts and articles on how Minecraft can be used as a learning tool in school.  While I have attended demonstrations on all the great things Minecraft, I am no expert on how it can be used.

We decided to ask some of our grade 5 and 6 students how Minecraft would be of value in the classroom.  Here are their answers addressed as letters to our school board.  We always need to look for new ways to release the creative potential of our students – obviously, Minecraft is another tool we should be accessing in our classrooms.  Their answers show a great deal of insight.

What are we waiting for?

To Whom It May Concern:

I think minecraft is super cool! What I think about Minecraft is something you can think outside the box, being creative or exploring all around that world. It would be so fun if we can use minecraft to learn. We can use Minecraft for measurements, patterns or even on free time! You can also use Minecraft for projects like building a model of the CN tower or a model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  That’s why we want Minecraft in the at our school.

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To Whom It May Concern:

You can use Minecraft for architecture and symmetry. Also, Minecraft is good for being responsible because of the animals. I hope you have read this.


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To Whom It May Concern:

I think it would be a good idea to use Minecraft in the classroom so we can show the school board how we want the school to look like. We would also make the new editions we want in the school like slides and swings and other things. It would help you with building because in Minecraft you build a lot of things and it will help with pets because in Minecraft there are lot’s of animals.

Thank you for reading my letter,

To Whom It May Concern:

Hi! This letter is about Minecraft. I have a Minecraft account myself. I have had Minecraft for 7 or 8 months. I have pretty good experience with Minecraft to be honest. Minecraft is a sandbox game and it has endless possibilities to do. Minecraft consists of Pros and Cons.

The Pros are that you can show your creativity and you can build projects.(ex: Planets,Houses,Towers etc.) The Cons are that if we have a private server, students might rude language to other students in the chat box. Students might build inappropriate things. I’m just saying that these thing could happen.

Thank you for reading this letter.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing this letter to explain why it is a good idea to have Minecraft at school.  Minecraft is used to be creative and to create structures. If we have Minecraft we can create all the different schools in the school board. We can use it to learn new things and to use our creativity. We can work together as a school community to create many things like farms, houses and other things like that.

That’s why I think it’s a good idea to have Minecraft.

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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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