One year after “Rm 2042”

Almost exactly one year ago, two individuals were extremely generous and took time to write a letter of proposal. PLEASE CLICK !!

Room 2042 April 2, 2015

Since then, SMART Technologies donated 7 Interactive Flat Panels and 2 KAPP Boards. Nureva installed a 20ft SPAN Interactive Wall system.

My vision from a decade ago is almost complete. All I need now if for students to have their own connected devices and upgraded computers that will run today’s software.

Thank you to all of you who have contributed over the years.

Lessons for Engineering Brightness from Princeton U

RHS Engineering Brightness students attended the IEEE Integrated STEM conference at Princeton University in New Jersey. The theme of the conference is around how we can merge the arts and sciences together FOR PURPOSE. When you say for Purpose, that has many different definitions for many different people.

The first lesson happened in the hotel lobby. We gathered for a dress rehearsal. What were the three stories? It is not just about making lights for students who cannot study after sunset. IMG_1990IMG_1979

There is also the collaboration between an elementary school in the UK, a middle school in the US and a high school in Canada. There is the idea of using Philanthropy for motivation for learning. Different audience members would want to hear different stories. We practiced handing out business cards and how to tag team delegates. Two students could chat with one group while the other two students await to engage another group when they arrive. The learning is not about science, but about communications.


The second lesson came from watching the presentation before mine. Each talk was scheduled for 15 min. Mine was about to begin and the previous group was still going strong. Five minutes into my time, they handed the mic over to the last member of their group who then rambled for an additional 7 minutes about little. It was frustrating to the audience, disrespectful of the other speakers and interfered with the whole day’s schedule. My students found it surprising that they had not practiced to know the time. Their teachers cut them off when time is up. Now it makes sense why. My talk was practiced at 14 min and the actual talk took only 12 min.


The third lesson came from the placement of their poster. They were at the Friendship Center early and had their choice of poster placement. Location, location, location. They chose the board directly beside one of the exhibitors, right at the Y in the hall. As participants came down the hall from the meal and bathrooms on the way to the stairs, their poster was the first one in line. They received a bunch of traffic. Although they were tasked with getting rid of all of their business cards, there were fewer delegates than expected, although quality was important. They had great discussions.


The fourth lesson came from a PhD candidate in communications. Their poster told a story with few words and lots of pics, large font with high contrast. They were praised for their poster as compared to a lab report on a large piece of paper. There is a time and place for both styles. If you are in front of the poster, so many words are not necessary.


Many of the delegates sought me out of the masses to congratulate me on my students. They told an engaging story in a logical manner with competence and confidence. It was so wonderful to see different personalities take hold. One student who turns bright red in answering a question in class all of a sudden came to life, was animated, good pacing, looked people in the eye, and spoke as opposed to reciting. Some ot the other students already had that ability. It was also interesting to see that some who are vocal in the small peer group took a quieter behind the scene role in the crowd.

At the end of the day, it was VERY empowering for them. They saw how the many different disciplines are required. I cannot just be a science, or engineering or arts person. All talents are needed. They also figured out that they can compete with the world’s best. Small town New Brunswick Education belongs at prestigious Ivey League schools, despite what they sometimes hear from the media and their friends.

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S.T.E.(A).M at Princeton U

RHS Engineering Brightness students attended the IEEE Integrated STEM conference at Princeton University in New Jersey. The theme of the conference is around how we can merge the arts and sciences together FOR PURPOSE. When you say for Purpose, that has many different definitions for many different people. I find it interesting that we write it as an acronym with S.T.E.M as opposed to a single word like STEM, STEAM or ESHTEAM. I wonder if the periods between the letters are part of our subconscious that wants to keep each piece in their own silo. Is the “A” in STEAM just an add on to STEM or is it an integral part that makes something fundamentally different?

Is STEM by itself move us towards Einstein’s quote?


It is a fine line between throwing pieces together and saying that the different disciplines are integrated and having the pieces being dependant on each other. A bunch of athletes who are working out in a gymnasium does not make a team. I was discouraged when one presentation was celebrating how they integrated the arts and STEM. They talked about a book that students had made, but then added a couple of cheezy LED’s to the book. This frustrated me to think that I came all the way to Princeton and that was the level of integration that was presented. My unhappiness was short lived. I was VERY much ENCOURAGED when the same presentation showed the next iteration. It was a teaching tool for the blood flow of a heart. Students had to choose a disease to explore. This group chose a heart defect. The created a nice model of the heart, complete with different colour paint for oxygenated and deoxygenated blood. They also used LED’s to show the flow of blood in the healthy and defective heart. NICE!! The art and science came together for purpose to create a useful tool. The art and science are interdependent. There is synergy. Each is not as good without the other. I was so happy that is was at least one level higher than the bottom of the spectrum of integrating STEM and the ARTS.

Lucinda and Rob have rightly identified that there does not seem to be any kind of formal way of assessing the quality of the intersection between arts and sciences. They are trying to collect exemplars and distill the best practices. Lucinda hopes to produce a matrix that would help educators move from low level integration to high levels.

It was obvious that many of the delegates looked at S.T.E.M and S.T.E.(a) M. I think the periods between the letters are barriers between the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math and arts. Many teach these disciplines, but do so in isolated silos. It also shows that the “a” is lower case, again showing that the arts have a diminutive role to play. Running a STEM themed school and throwing a music or graphics arts class in there does not make for high level integration. Many think that they are at the top of the game, when in reality there are many more multiple levels that they have not yet considered.

These words are words not acronyms. You should not be able to tell the difference between one and the other. They should flow together. If you take a letter away, you should get something different. I was able to sit beside John Price, the VP of INTEL Ed, during the award ceremony for Preston Middle School getting the “middle school of the world” award. I found it interesting that Jon, who was one of the evaluators, was surprised when one of the teachers was identified as an English teacher. Jon said, ” I thought he was a science guy. Now that I think about it, he was always talking about language”. The language and the science were so integrated that it was difficult to distinguish what class it was. This is what we must aspire to. It should not be “S.T.E.(a).M. but rather “STEAM”. Each piece should have synergy, more than the sum of the parts.

I wonder if Lucinda’s matrix will help open the eyes of educators and help them move from low level integration of the disciplines to high level. Over supper, I had the pleasure of chatting with Lucinda about the RHS projects like Xenotransplant, Saxby Gale, and Engineering Brightness. She suggested that we would compete with the highest end of the spectrum. These projects take STEAM to a whole new level.

At a Program Director’s for SHAD International ( meeting a few years ago, we were talking about how STEM is incomplete, and even though STEAM was starting to catch on, it was still missing something. Paul, from SHAD Waterloo, came up with the word “ESHTEAM” purposefully pronounced similar to ESTEEM, to include Entrepreneurship, Humanities and Esteem. The projects that we have in our back pocket bring all of these disciplines together naturally for real purpose. Any real problem is going to have multiple facets that need to be addressed. The Xeno, Saxy and Engineering Brightness projects all fit this bill.

I wonder what will happen when Lucinda’s matrix is done. The theoretical framework of the matrix will need to have some practical examples along the spectrum. The advantage to having only a few sources of examples is that one does not need to worry about offending anyone when one project is at the bottom of the spectrum and others are at the top. Between Chris and I at RHS, Tracey and John at Preston and a few other friends and SHAD, we should be able to populate the book quite nicely.

Hopefully, we can move away from S.T.E.M and towards ESHTEAM and “… awaken joy in creativity expression and knowledge.”

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Nureva SPAN

Last week, NUREVA installed a 20ft meshed interactive surface that uses two solid state projectors. Finally, I have the digital real estate to capture the large complexity of a whole unit, or a multistep problem or allow students to organize their own schedules for the semester, or ideate the solution to a problem.

I wonder how VIZWIK will look on such a large screen. Will we be able to arrange multiple scripts on one screen so that they are all visible at the same time?

Mr Armand Doucet used the SPAN wall system to have his students create a rubric for their final project. This makes him unique in many ways. Yes, it is true that now there is the tech to make this large messy process possible. Most importantly, it is his DESIRE to ALLOW students to create their own rubric and deal with the chaos that is most unique and difficult. Most would see the creation of the rubric as a distraction from their content and not considering that the building of the rubric might be more important than their content and might engage them more in their content. Again, the tech is necessary, but it is the teaching style that is MOST IMPORTANT.

In my SCIENCE 12 class, there is no course code, no curriculum document, no formal assessment and no grades. Imagine, learning for the sake of learning!! They used the SPAN system to organize their semester. They informed me that they wanted 4 days of optics, 3 days of quantum, 4 weeks for a project, 2 weeks of coding etc… The large digital space in the SPAN system made the logistics quick and easy, allowing us to spend our time discussing and thinking. Again, the tech allowed the process to happen easily, but it was the TEACHING STYLE that is MOST important.

I fear that innovative ED tech companies have double the struggle. Not only do they need to build great tech along with the business side of things, they also need to change teaching pedagogy, which is a difficult beast to move.

SMARTTech Interactive Flat Panels

Nine years ago, I had a vision for my classroom where small groups of students would leverage Social Constructivism to solve word problems, coauthor labs and solve simulations. The first step was the Collaborative Classroom, which has grown to almost 100 around the world.

Recently, SMART Tech provided multiple 55inch and 65inch IQKAPP Interactive Flat Panels. It took me a month to get them mounted on the walls. Now I have the great surfaces, but the computers running them are out of date. One of them is Windows XP with a 3.5 inch floppy drive.

I am looking forward to having students co-create and solve simulations in small groups. I am hoping to connect each surface to PASCO Probeware. I wonder if the size of the surface matters.

Every adult that walks in the room says that they surfaces are mounted too low to be seen by the whole class. My response to them is, “They are meant to be student centres, useful to the small group only.”

There are lots of new technologies coming out on the market, from very large screens to mirrored individual devices. It is my firm belief that the SMART Interactive Flat Panels are by far the best solutions for small group collaboration. The mirrored 1:1 devices, even to a cloud space is not the same as being able to all point and interact with the same screen.

They also provided a 48 inch and a 84 inch KAPP Boards. I am not sure how these are going to be useful at the moment. Students do not yet have wireless access. At the moment, we will need to capture what is written on them onto USB and then upload them at home for students. In the future, we will be ready when BYOD finally arrives.