Wainhouse Whitepaper on the Role of Soft Skills in Education I was most fortunate to be asked to contribute. Turns out they quoted me numerous times. Who would have thought when they also got contributions from great people including Lord Knight (who introduced me at BETT), David Whyley (who I work with at Pheasey Park School and ISTE), and Boris (who keeps pushing me to think about global collaborations).. I find it so interesting that I interact with this group of people on a regular basis and that a third party research groups sought out teachers from a world of educators and we came together..
My physics students have always been encouraged to investigate mysteries. 3D printing brings a new dimension to creativity and mystery investigation.
When I was a student and did the Wave Table Labs, I was given a very specific and detailed procedure designed to get students to the physics learning quickly and efficiently. However, it did not give me a chance to explore or create. We were little robots learning what was also written in the text book. The advantage was that it was quick, easy to test and we could get many more chapters done.
As a teacher, I gave my students an opportunity to be creative. Their groups were given vague instructions such as, “Discover something about how waves reflect. You will need to collect some data and include a graph in your report”. Students would often bring some things from home such as Lego to build walls. Every year they demonstrate creativity in the way they measure amplitudes or create computer programs to track waves in a video. They were always limited in the kinds of barriers they could have. This style of teaching takes much more time, so we cannot cover as many chapters and the grading scheme is based around experimental design rather than a particular law or piece of knowledge.
This year, a new level of creativity and problem solving became possible. Now students are having the next level of conversations. “What would happen if we had a barrier that looked like this? I wonder if the energy would be focused if we had a wall like …?” In the past, that was the end of the conversation. But now, students are taking extra time to learn Tinker CAD, design their own barriers and then using them in the next iteration of their labs.
The design process of the new barriers became a whole new group activity where individual creativity became a group discussion. Although they gathered around the SMARTBoard so that they could work together, the person at the keyboard and mouse operated the software. The SMARTboard and Tinker CAD were not that compatible for direct interfacing with the software.
The 3D printer gives students a quick chance enact their creativity and grow their brains.
Preston Middle School asks its students “how are you going to change the world today?” They believe that learning is meant to make people lives better and students should not wait until tomorrow to make an impact.
John Howe and Tracey Winey of Preston Middle generously shared an idea for a way to bring purpose to the science 9 class. Students would learn circuits, not because it was on the curriculum document and the to write a test, but rather people will have lesser lives without their learning. They inspired Philanthropic engineering.
Today, Leah, one of my students, spoke to all the grade 9 classes about her experience building houses in the Dominican Republic. She impressed upon us how happy these people were and how they made the best of things despite having very little.
Leah spoke about how Maria and Hailey are studying very hard to become doctors so that they can help their village. However, because of rolling blackouts, they only have electricity every second evening. This greatly inhibits their ability to study and therefore their chances a medical school. They need a source of light to study from.
The grades 9′s have been tasked with studying series and parallel circuits to help them design a light source. The BBT class are tasked with designing a case. The end result should be some light sources that will be delivered in March.
From a teaching point of view, we will have a purpose for learning the science and hopefully empower kids to use their schooling to help others.
I am very much looking forward to how Preston and RHS students can work together in the near future. I learn and am energized every time we interact. Thank you John and Tracey.
The RHS Arduino Automated Greenhouse project was accepted by the Microsoft Partners in Learning as a learning resource for its many members. Special thank you to all the partners including NBCC Moncton, Agora Mobile and Blakney Electric.
That makes two. I think we are almost ready to to enter our whole school as an innovative school.
SMART tweeted this article that I thought had some great points. Reminds me of Brown Book Coop learning from my BEd way back in 1996.
I had a great time attending and speaking at Learn East 2014. It is full of teachers and administrators who give up their summer to be there at their own cost.
Spending time with Jeff Whipple and Bryan Facey are always so encouraging and inspirational. I feel like a better person just standing around them.
The highlight to me was Jacob Lingley’s Keynote about MakerSpace with Brilliant Labs and how we are starting to approach what was recently thought as Science fiction in Star Trek. I loved his definition of Maker Education as students interacting with technology to be creators and not just consumers. He then talked about how 3D printers, arduino, make-makey etch.. can be used to have students create.
I wonder if the participants saw it as a bit bigger school wide vision, more like Preston Middle School, where the school uses English, humanities, sciences, arts and engineering AND TECHNOLOGIES like 3D printers, arduinos, digital art, work, and iMovie to solve real problems for their real community. That is where the “A” (arts) and the “H”(humanities) are added to STEM to evolve into STEAM and SHTEAM.
Jacob’s talk setup my talk very nicely where I asked the question what school might look like if there were no classes for at least a little bit of the day. I then gave the Preston Middle School Animal Guzzler story, my Automated Greenhouse project from RHS Science 12 and my XenoTransplant project from RHS Science 12.
I did get a chance to catch a portion of a session about SMART Boards. It was FULL. It is technology that they all have but largely still do not know how to use. I thought my talk about high level SMARTBoard collaboration was over used at this conference and that participants would be bored. However, the Tech Mentor who was presenting on SMARTBOARDS was doing a good job demonstrating things like the Screen Shade, how to add a browser to the screen, how to make a my content folder. The teachers were eating it up.
Next year I will apply to give multiple sessions. Session #1. Document Camera’s and augmented reality with SmartBoards, Session #2 SmartBoards as Collaboration Hubs, Session #3 Workflow in small group work with SMartboards. This will combine the how, to use them, will give the tech mentors some space to do their things and then give them the “why” we should use them.
I received notice that my newest research proposal will be partially funded by AMTEC Trust Fund through the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education.
The project looks to investigate the impact of 1:1 technology on student learning, work flow, communication and collaboration. This is a great step forward, as this grant is meant for university level research.
The recent flurry of recognition by a variety of organizations from Corporate to Research, (SMART, TELUS and AMTEC CNIE) is encouraging that I am on the right track. There is a critical mass growing to create something special, but we are not there yet. I need some more funding to upgrade aging tech, to help pay for third party participation to bring scientific credibility to the research, and to present the work academically and corporately. All this is important for our current and future students, it is outside of the mandate of public school system. I need a partnership. I need to find a PATRON. Any takers??
Yesterday, I was awarded one of the TELUS Classroom Technology Grants.
Ironically, I had applied for the grant to get a 3D printer, not knowing that SMART was also going to give me one. I think that there is enough work to go around that 2 printers will not be enough. It seems like there is a convergence of ideas happening. This is very exciting.