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

 STEM / STEAM In Action

Is this a school or a SCIENCE LABORATORY?

Over the last few days I have had the pleasure of observing our Year 3 Students at work. I enquired about the experiments underway.

“In Year 3 we are learning how to investigate a specific part of the universe known as Heat. We learn what heat is, how it moves through the world and what kinds of things can be changed by heat. We have created our very own testable questions about heat, and then designed and carried out experiments to try and answer these burning questions about thermal energy.”

What struck me was the focus of the children purposefully at work and the seamless, natural use of iPads to record and reflect on their observations and conclusions. What I was seeing, from these nine year old students, was real scientific process and authentic learning occurring. 

This short video gives a small window into the great learning being experienced. 

 http://youtu.be/AzDDRik1i9s 

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A few steps away in another learning zone, this time Year 5, I found students in action conducting experiments on microorganisms. Here too I was seeing real scientific process as the students tested conditions which might influence the growth of mould on bread. Here too I was struck by the richness of the learning and by the engagement of the children as they conducted their experiments. 

  
And then off to one side I stumbled upon a bizarre group of petri dishes also in various stages of growing “something”. Here was, as it turned out, a great and unexpected example of Science and Art at work. The Year 5 students were attempting to grow microorganisms in patterns to create works of art. It was clearly an example of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) in action. The other aspect which I found particularly exciting was that the Year 5 teachers had brought a Scientist from the UNSW and a working Artist into the learning experience. These “real life” participants brought a sense of authenticity into the classroom. Being able to bring professionals into learning environments is now easier than ever before. Technology breaks down the physical barriers and opens great possibilities. 

 

Frenetic Activity – PBL in a Year 6 Classroom

  

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my current role is visiting classrooms and working alongside our wonderful teachers and students. Last week I spent most of the week working with our Year 6 group. For much of the time the children were engaged in a project based learning environment which leveraged their open plan activity space, collaborative groups and technology (iPads and MacBooks). 

The children’s work related to Science – Natural Disasters. Students had selected events such as tsunamis, bushfires, cyclones etc. The children were investigating their chosen event and then worked together to produce information / script, a stop motion claymation and a news report. 

Apps used: Pages (word processing), Stop Motion (animation of claymation), iMovie (combining video, sound etc.) , Safari (research, connection, collaborative tool), Stile (content delivery and upload), Veescope Full Live (green screen – news report scene creation).

This short video shows activity underway in our Year 6 classroom.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stbaWzIbvFg