Revelling in STEM – a week of activity to immerse teachers and students



In our experience real tangible opportunities for teachers and students to be immersed in technology is key to enabling integration.

We have raised money to support a STEM initiative which involved a range of new gear. We used a some external providers to help enable a week of immersion. Here are a few snapshots from a week of activity. 

Advertisements

Tomorrow The World! – Future Schools 2016 

  
Recently we had a group of our Year 6 students participate at The Future Schools Expo at the Sydney Technology Park in Redfern. This great experience to participate in a Makers Playground was provided by Future Schools organisers in conjunction with Datacom and various supporting sponsors.
Our involvement wasn’t haphazard. Student activity commenced last year months before the actual event. Our students, then in Year 5, participated, identifying a number of authentic problems to solve (educators provided by Datacom lead this process). Four of the problems were selected by the students as authentic challenges for the Future Schools event. A series of videos were then created by the children outlining the problems to be addressed.in the Makers Playground, at the Expo. These videos can be viewed at http://www.futureschools.com.au/makers_playground.html

Much of the equipment provided by sponsors in the Makers Playground, at Future Schools, would be new to our students so a little time on lead up was provided to develop familiarity with various maker space technologies. This proved to be valuable and it was interesting to see how intuitive the children were in working with the different technologies. We are starting to build resources ourselves and this was a great opportunity to see possibilities that these new technologies might bring. 

Types of resources provided in the Makers Playground included: Little Bits, Spheros, Arduino, Edison robotics, tablets, Laptops, Scratch, Craft resources, Activity mats etc.

The conference delegates experienced authentic learning in a “Makers” environment. Delegates were able to interact with student teams working on the solutions for the four challenges. During the sessions, Datacom’s Professional Learning consultants (Maker Mentors) played the role of ‘teacher’ in supporting student Makers in using the range of technologies / resources to design, build, record and report on solutions in this dynamic, just-in-time learning environment. For both the delegates and the children the experience was really a rich one. Our students certainly worked effectively, productively and collaboratively. It was great to see the students interacting with delegates sharing their experience. Our teachers accompanying the children were also actively involved recording, supervising and more importantly in experiencing / learning. 

While this was not a competition, evaluation and feedback plays a big role in any Makers project. FutureSchools provided a great opportunity to model this with each team presenting their solution to a panel of experts (Maker Magistrates).

1. How well did the solution address/solve the problem? 

2. How innovative is the solution? 

3. How well were the ideas presented? 

4. How well was the technology used? 

The resulting solutions were a great testament to the making process. I will post more about the process and the solutions produced in response to the challenges in a seperate post.

  
I often attend conferences and as adults we browse around asking questions and looking, but rarely do I see adults really doing “hands on” experiences. The Maker Playground provided that sort of experience for the delegates. 

Interestingly I took a small group group of students around the various exhibits. The children were all about “hands on”. They touched and played with everything (thanks to the generosity of the exhibitors). It was such a different experience looking at the vendors displays with the children. They gave everything a work out and judged quickly the value and productivity of resources. For the children it was like the ultimate “play” arcade. For me it was a great way to really see the possibilities of otherwise relatively static displays.

What did the students engage with the most? 

Virtual reality goggles 

The NAO robot

The Romo Robot

The live reptile exhibit

The Promethean multitouch interactive panel 

  
Another component of the Makers Playground experience was the parent / student activity. This was conducted late on the first day and was open for parent and student participation. About twenty families from our school joined in to do an “Edison” maze challenge. Again this provided a great collaborative and powerful learning opportunity for all involved.  

For any school interested in developing STEM capabilities the Future Schools Expo is a must. Looking forward to 2017. This year too we are sending several teachers to EduTech which is being held in Brisbane – very worthwhile when the opportunity for real immersive professional development is so great. 

Learn more about The Future Schools Expo here:

http://www.futureschools.com.au/pdf/NationalFutureSchoolsExpo_2016_Brochure.pdf
Learn more about EduTech here:

http://www.edutech.net.au

  

   
 

Bringing Computational Thinking Into Classrooms

  
One of the challenges for us has been how we can make what we are doing with technology and innovation a simple and natural part of what occurs in classrooms. We have certainly achieved this, in some considerable measure, via our 1:1 iPad program. In our learning environment iPads are, for the most part, a bit like a pencil case. They travel everywhere with students and they are pulled out for purposeful use as required.

Like many schools we have tended to hang things like robotics, coding, Minecraft, 3D printing on as side bits – extracurricular or co curricular. What we are really striving to see is classrooms filled with options naturally incorporating coding, robotics, Minecraft, 3D printing, circuits, recyclables, crafts etc – maker spaces which entice, inspire and enable.

So how do we hope to achieve our vision?

Firstly the vision is dependent on developing pedagogy to enable the learning environment. We are committing ourselves to fairly major shifts in thinking as we recognise that we need to be providing more authentic challenges, cross curricular project based learning, physical environments which change learning dynamics, making thinking visible and gaining insight through effective formative assessment, along with differentiation and more personalising learning opportunities. This is not to say that these are not in play already because they are occurring in varying degrees across our classrooms. The shift just needs to more universally enabled and embedded. The circumstances are right for us to pursue further change and our more innovative teachers are seeking opportunities to enhance their classroom and challenge their students. 

The plan below is dependent on two funding streams. The first allocation is towards professional development and the provision of release time so that teachers can explore and learn. The second funding stream is directed towards hardware and software acquisition.

The program would aim to:

  • Map learning activities associated with coding / robotics to Curriculum Outcomes
  • Provide students authentic learning opportunities using code / robotics 
  • Identify first order barriers to implementation in the classroom
  • Identify effective enablers for teachers and students
  • Consider ways to differentiate and personalise learning for students
  • Provide a roadmap for future development and improvement 
  • Engage and excite the school community about a STEM infused learning environment.
  • Measure the learning outcomes and engagement of students through empirical and anecdotal measures

Phase 1: Acquisition

Aim: To provide a broad understanding and provide teachers time to focus on an area of particular interest based on potential integration into learning programs.

A pilot group of teachers is identified (4 teachers – one teacher per year group). Provision of training and development e.g. Scratch, Tickle, Orbotix, Sphero, Lego Robotics, Xcode etc (we are actively exploring options).

Pilot/lead teacher(s) will be released to examine makers kits and rate them for suitability for different age groups – vendors to demonstrate their products. Teachers will choose from amongst the coding/robotics options the applications that they believe will have most application with the Stage 2 and Stage 3 class groups. 

We recognise that teachers may have a stronger connection or see greater potential with certain applications and this can be accommodated providing the teachers have a broad functional understanding of others. We are keen to see provision of diverse options for students in the longer term. It is expected that the pilot teachers would consider ways in which coding / robotics might be incorporated within existing learning programs.

Provision of 2 full days release per teacher.Provision of professional development resource personnel as required – providing specific training re coding and robotics. 

Phase 2: Implementation

Aim: To provide project based activities to engage and facilitate learning in a “Code Camp” – for students and teachers.

Pilot teachers develop a “Code Camp” series of lessons which target basic code and robotics skills and knowledge based on their experience in Phase 1. These will provide immersion opportunities for students and other teachers. Code Camp sessions would aim to provide for differentiated learning and would be run by the pilot group collaboratively with different class groups during our alternative activities week, which runs each year at the end of Term 4. Activities e.g. creation of a robotic dance, developing a solution to an authentic problem, or a solution to an authentic challenge. 
Provision of 4 days (one day per teacher) release time for pilot teachers to enable development of Code Camp activities etc. 

Evaluation of Code Camp Series. This will provide guidance to teachers for the development of programs that will leverage code / robotics in Term 1, 2016.

Phase 3: Application

Aim: To integrate Code / Robotics into learning programs and activities.

Participation of our students and teachers in external events / maker spaces e.g. Future Schools. Partnering with other schools etc.

Teachers work to integrate coding / robotics into one or more of their learning programs during the next three school terms. This may apply to Science and Maths specifically or may be a part of integrated Project Based Learning e.g. Challenge Based Learning, Problem Based Learning, Inquiry Based Learning etc. 

Enter groups in ICT Young Explorers 2016 and other learning challenges (Measure of success – if coding / robotics feature strongly as part of student work).

  

Update progress  to date: Stepping Out With Robotics and Coding | Learning Journey