3D On The Horizon

It often takes a little time for innovations to mature enough to be considered viable in our learning environment. We have limited resources and we need to be confident that there is an educational need and affordability. By way of example it took us about two years before we were confident that “Stile” had matured enough to a viable learning platform and for us to be certain that our infrastructure would support the to and fro of files which “Stile” enabled. True, too, of our very complex journey to adoption of a 1:1 iPad solution across our classrooms. I mention these because we have toyed with introducing 3D printing into our school for some time. Certainly the 3D printing concept has appeared pretty regularly at conferences that I have attended over the last three years. The Horizon Report has also suggested that 3D printing is on the horizon too. 3D printing also fits well with STEM (or STEAM) and the growing demands of the Australian National Curriculum.  

I also recently attended a session with Gary Stager at The Museum of Contemporary Art. He is a leading proponent of “MAKING” and clearly 3D printing, along with building circuits, coding and robotics etc, fits right in. We are certainly committed to the idea of STEAM and recognise the need to involve “MAKING” as a part of what we do in classrooms. 

  
Above: Gary Stager at Museum of Contemporary Art (May 2015)

One of the providers that we have partnered with, for professional development, Datacom have also helped us to connect the dots. They have 3D packages via Makers Empire

  Above: Datcom display at AIS Conference in Canberra (May 2015)
The software crucially, for both student and teacher users, is simple to use and surprisingly powerful. We have learnt that for adoption to occur technology needs to be simple and intuitive to use. Certainly I am feeling that both the software and hardware have developed considerably and are now more accessible for students and teachers. Importantly, for us, the software is iPad enabled for our 1:1 iPad classrooms. Here I must note that 3D printing is a rapidly evolving technology and there are a variety types appearing. I would be cautious about investing too much in hardware yet. 

Our approach towards adoption will be purposeful and cautious. Enabling teachers will be crucial. Teachers will need to understand how this technology might fit into learning programs and how students can benefit. As with many new initiatives I envisage that some teachers will champion the innovation. Because we are interested in challenging students and providing more open ended learning opportunities we have asked Datacom to run a series workshops which will model an inquiry based approach to the 3D learning experience. Hopefully this will not only develop capability, but importantly will engage our teachers in a collaborative, purposeful learning environment themselves.

The second phase will certainly involve a small commitment to 3D hardware. The extent of this will be informed by the reaction of our teaching staff to the 3D printing workshops that are referred to above. At this stage it is about providing capability and opening possibilities. What we are hoping to see is 3D printing becoming an option rather than a necessity. In much of the more open ended learning, which we are encouraging, it is about providing choice. Certainly as problem solvers, thinkers and designers we want to provide choice and 3D printing could be a powerful option. 

Teaching Gen Tech – a response to questions posed by “Stile”

Recently I attended a conference day with Stile – Teaching Gen Tech  http://blog.stileeducation.com/events/2015/5/1/stile-learning-community-conference
  
The organisers posed some questions. Below I have provided a few thoughts in response. I hope to have reflected attitudes of my teaching colleagues here to some extent.

1. What are some of the challenges your teachers are faced with in the classroom?

Student engagement, surface learning rather than deeper learning due to the demands of a crowded curriculum. Challenging students with authentic learning tasks is key. 

Teachers feel the pressure of time especially. They are contending with a new Curriculum with all the demands that that brings regarding reinvention, construction of new programs etc.They are also finding increased exposure to parents via digital connection and expectations for immediate response. Teachers are also being asked to be more proactive in their formative assessments of students and in improving their own practice. Much of this is positive and works towards improving student outcomes, but on mass places teachers under increased pressure. 

Certainly for Year 3 and 5 the narrow confines of NAPLAN testing creates a conflict with the idea of a rich engaging curriculum.
2. What’s the single most exciting thing happening in education right now? 

The easy access and possibilities offered via technology in particular the open source – learning e.g. Moocs, iTunes U, eBooks, movies,  Kahn Academy etc. and easy access to data / information e.g Google, Wikipedia, news outlets etc.

3. How have student expectations changed in the last five to ten years?

There is a sense of immediacy and an insatiable need for purposeful activity. Students can be more motivated than ever. Technology when teamed with authentic, challenging and exciting learning opportunities can be a catalyst for deep learning and student engagement. Ideas around project based learning, design thinking, challenge based learning can be powerful ways to engage and enable students. 

4. How is technology improving learning at your school? Is it there yet? Where do you want to get to?

Technology is enabling individualisation and differentiated learning. 

It is empowering teachers and students to do things differently and creating opportunities to do things that were difficult, impossible or even unimagined a few years ago. 

Because of the easy access to (enabled) mobile devices in our classrooms the children are able to: 

Record their learning easily and powerfully. 

They can use applications to create. They have rich open ended applications such as iMovie, GarageBand, Explain Everything, Book Creator, Popplet, Comic Book, Puppet Pals and Pic Collage which can work alone or be teamed together to create rich workflows, 

They can curate information, images and data. They can create surveys and graphs and reflect on the information and data.

They can communicate and collaborate within and beyond the local environment. 

Teachers have tools such as Evernote to record learning of students.

They have Stile which enables easy delivery of content, media, and which can provide a canvas for student production. Stile has revolutionised our ability to easily track students, provide feedback and assessment. Where it has been used well it has revolutionised the student teacher interaction. 

Our aim for technology is more about enabling teaching and learning than it is about the technology itself. We should always be seeking to do things better. There isn’t really an end point to our journey. 

5. Could you give us an example of how you’re using Stile? 

In our classrooms Stile is used to direct, inform, engage and challenge students. Stile is used across the curriculum and it has enabled students to easily deliver a diverse range of activities and assignments – a few examples are listed below.

Book trailers

Audio

Movies

Texts

Scripts

Discussions

Assessments

Drawings 

Mind-maps

Completing visible thinking strategies

Responding to teachers videos

Stile is enabling:

Flipped learning

Receiving feedback written and oral

Working in groups to collaborate on tasks

Completing differentiated, individualised, personalised tasks

Gathering and reacting to formative assessment

Work collection 

Curation of student data

Stile: http://www.stileeducation.com/

Reinventing Spaces

In a previous entry Journeying in a Sandbox I had discussed our intention to innovate our learning spaces and how initially we wanted to trial furniture in our Year 6 and Year K spaces. 

Our motivation for innovating spaces was based on changing pedagogical needs. Ubiquitous access to technology spurred by our 1:1 iPad Program was enabling our teachers and students. Effective, meaningful integration of technology into teaching programs was expanding opportunities and changing the way that we worked. Our classrooms needed to accommodate the more diverse needs of both the students and the teachers. Project based learning, blended learning, authentic learning tasks, differentiation, personalisation, collaboration, workflows, potential for real time feedback and formative assessment and the possibilities to redefine (SAMR) were surfacing across our school and we were starting to feel the constraints of our boxed traditional classrooms. Change was necessary. 

To a certain extent we were blind and uncertain about making furniture choices. It is easy to recognise the need, but much harder to translate that into real furniture. Remembering here that we weren’t changing the architecture (yet). The classroom spaces that we were seeking to reinvent did at least have the capability to open walls which meant that one large space for each year group was possible. We had visited other innovative schools and had explored literature extensively and so this combined with the knowledge of our furniture partner ‘Furnware‘ enabled our initial reinvention.  

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Above – Year 6 (Featuring Furnware furniture)

Below – Year K (Featuring Furnware furniture)

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The Year 6 classroom space has certainly been applauded by the students and the teachers. They really love their space and are taking enormous pride in an area which is really unique. The thing I notice most, about their use of the space, is that it is constantly changing throughout the week and often throughout the day. The space is really fluid and can adapt to the needs of the users really well. Here I must add that the program of learning in Year 6 is very dynamic leveraging PBL with authentic learning tasks and collaborative learning. The teachers team really well injecting direct instruction as required. Their management of the space is artful and purposeful. 

Similarly the Kindergaten space too is open plan and fluid. It is exciting to walk through the space when the dividing wall is open and the children are working in stations or interacting in group activities. The open nature of the space is a shift for the teachers as they move away from a more traditional model. It will be interesting to observe how the use of this space evolves as the children mature and the teachers innovate further.

I am hopeful that during Term 2 the teachers in both these areas have the opportunity to visit other schools to see how other teachers are working in innovated spaces. Being able to learn from others and improve our own innovation is vital as we move to innovate spaces more widely across the school. 

Creative Book Builder – A Year 5 student talks about his work.

A short video explaining the creation of an iBook about Microorganisms using Creative Book Builder (app) on an iPad.