Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Going with the Flow

My students and I arranged to connect with +Carlos Roque and his grade 5 students today. Last week Carlos and I connected via email about having a hangout between our classes. We talked about setting up the hardware component of the hangout (computer set up, etc) and what we would chat about during out hangout.

When the time came for us to connect, we found ourselves alone in the hangout. The students and I wondered what happened to the grade 5 class - did they have a technical issue? Did Carlos not get my email in time with the link to our hangout? Did something happen at their school that got in the way? We were unsure but as we talked about what we were thinking, we decided to make the best of our opportunity and record a message for the grade 5 students.

The students and I talked about what we should say in our recording, they quieted down, and I hit the "broadcast" button. We went live so I could record the hangout and then send the link to Carlos and his students. We took advantage of our situation and created content for our friends. Great learning came from the hangout that didn't happen. Check out our message to our Cambridge friends:

A few minutes after recording and sending this video to Carlos, we got a call from him and his students! We answered the call and connected!! It turns out that they had some technical issues. This was their first time in a hangout and they did a great job. As we spoke to the students and they spoke to us, I could hear Carlos in the background talking to his students about proper etiquette and supporting them throughout the experience. It was wonderful to see my colleague in action as he broke down the walls of his classroom and continued to teach his students how to do things right. 

It was great to connect the two classes (two of my current students know Mr. Roque and some of his students) and look forward to connecting again soon to do some Math together.  

Friday, October 7, 2016

Connecting with other Classrooms

This school year I am part of a core group of educators working to connect classrooms in order to improve teacher practise and student learning. The goal is to break down the classroom walls and use a variety of tools/techniques to bring teachers and students together to learn and share.

Over the past few years I have been fortunate enough to connect with other teachers using google hangouts and social media but it has never been as planned and strategic as it will be this year.

With these thoughts in my head I decided to email a couple of my colleagues to see if they wanted to connect today for a short time. One of the teachers is relatively new to the use of technology for things of this nature and the other is a seasoned veteran. They both agreed to connect via hangout as an "introduction" to this school year and for my class to share their learning in math at the current time.

The first hangout didn't go as planned. My colleague's camera didn't work, she didn't have a mic, and after few minutes my mic stopped working. Technology is great, isn't it? Thankfully, we used the chat feature to communicate with each other and I used my camera to show her class what we were talking about. 

This 'failure' was great for a couple of reasons. First, my colleague, her students, and my students got to see what things look like when things don't go right. This is an important experience as it provides an understanding of all the little things that need to come together to make something like this happen. My students saw me preparing for the hangout and they knew that I wasn't purposely trying to fail. Second, everyone involved got to see my reaction when things stopped working. I know that glitches like this happen from time to time  so it was important for me to remain calm and go with the flow as much as I can. Although things didn't go as planned, failure (issues that are unexpected) is part of the process. 

Having some fun and showing my students the options that Hangouts provide before connecting with another class.

The second hangout was a lot more successful than the first. For starters, I got myself a new mic to make sure that I would be heard on the other end. The teacher I connected with has experience with hangouts and has experienced difficulties along the way - between the two of us we could trouble shoot out way through a hangout to make sure it worked. 

With audio and video working on both ends, we talked about our learning in Math, with a focus on Math representations and 3D technology. It was neat to present our work (grade 4/5) to a grade 7 class. The hangout was about 5-10 minutes long and served its purpose. 

The students were pretty happy to have experienced seeing and speaking with people outside of our classroom. We are already looking forward to connecting with other classes in our system, and beyond, to share our learning and to experience the learning process with others.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Learning will be Epic (and Innovative in and of Itself) #IMMOOC #RollandChidiac

The path that has led me to the #IMMOOC has been an interesting one. I'm hoping that it is an indication of the great learning that is to come. In June, some of my colleagues ( +Jessica Weber  and +Amy Shantz)  who were taking a course together, decided that they wanted to have a book study over the summer months. I read about it on Twitter and told them that I was interested. Next thing you know, I've got a copy of +George Couros' 'Innovators Mindset' book in my hands. However, that was not my first interaction with the text. Months before the local book club opportunity, I was part of a Voxer chat group (thanks to +Jennifer Casa-Todd)  about the book - where I got to interact with a variety of people from around the globe about their thoughts and experiences with respect to the Innovators Mindset. Even thought I hadn't read the book yet, I was blown away by the learning that was coming out of the chat.

While I was participating in the Voxer chat, I experienced something that I can still visualize today, with crystal clarity. I was at a meeting with a group of people above my pay grade (consultants, principals, and senior admin) and one of them had the book. You could tell that it was being used extensively - it had sticky notes falling out of it and it looked worn - great indicators of the value it held for this particular person. Anyhow, I engaged this person and told them that I was participating in the Voxer chat group about the book.  They began to share their learning with me and anyone listening to us could see and hear the passion with which this person was talking about their experience.

This next part is what has stuck with me over the past few months: this person said to another person (both of whom I respect and look up to) "If you're not learning, you're dying" and the response from the other person was "well, that would explain all the corpses I have been seeing lately!". Wow! That is when several things hit me. First, I thought, I need to get myself in gear and keep bumping up my learning journey. Second, I knew that I needed to put the Innovators Mindset book on my learning journey.

I started reading the book this summer and then I saw a tweet referring to a post that George wrote to see if people were interested in participating in an Innovators Mindset MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). I filled in the form and crossed my fingers that enough people would do the same so that George would proceed with his idea. I shared this opportunity with my District by posting it to our Google + page and told my close friends about it. You can imagine how happy I was when I found out that the MOOC would be running!

The Facebook Page for the MOOC is buzzing and people are posting links to their blog posts about joining the MOOC and what they hope to gain from it. I am looking forward to connecting with people, learning with them, and sharing my learning so I can establish an innovators mindset. I believe that it is worthy of making this mindset a habit. What I am loving so far is that we are already establishing an Innovators Mindset by trying new things and pushing ourselves in order to learn and grow in a way that we may not have experienced before. People are leveraging Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Voxer, and who knows what else to learn and connect.

The learning will be epic. Looking forward to connecting and growing with you.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Students Leveraging 3D Technology

Shortly before school ended in June, the students and I talked about the personal projects they engaged in over the school year. The personal projects were our version of 20% time/genius hour. They engaged in a variety of projects and used them to learn about new things and practise the skills they learned. 

In the last couple of weeks of school, I encouraged the students to think about what types of personal projects they would like to participate in next school year. We talked about a variety of things and many students showed interest in personal projects that would be a service to others. They took the time to start brainstorming what they might want to engage in next year.

A group of students put a plan together and brought it to me. They wanted to do something that would help cheer up young people who are in the hospital. They wanted to design and 3D print something that the children in the hospital could wear/hold on to for inspiration - a reminder that they were not alone. They created and printed the following:

We ran out of time to write letters and get these to the hospital but I am certain this will be taken care of when the school year starts up again. The students are proud and excited about their idea. I look forward to having them make what they need and continue to leverage the resources they have at hand to make their ideas come to life.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Guest Blogpost: Beginnings in 3D Technology

As part of our TLLP learning and sharing this school year, I connected with several teachers to bounce ideas off of and gain a variety of perspectives about our learning and ideas for new learning. One of the teachers I have been working with is +Jessica Weber, an Intermediate teacher in Kitchener. She recently had an interesting experience with respect to 3D printing - actually, her first venture into the 3D technology world. Below is her blogpost about her experience. You can connect with +Jessica Weber on Google + and Twitter.  

This year I have been fortunate to spend time with +Rolland Chidiac-WCDSB at different points of his journey incorporating 3D printing into his grade 4 classroom. A few ah-ha's for me include the role of discovery, tangibles as gateways to student learning and improvement, and the inevitability of failure (and how we use it to feed-forward).

This opportunity to learn, discuss, ideate, and share has been especially beneficial as I am being provided with a 3D printer in my classroom next year as part of a research study on spatial reasoning. One of my goals is to explore how mathematical concepts (eg. scale) and the design process can be intertwined to improve students' spatial reasoning skills. I also hope to discover ways to incorporate design thinking into other subject areas (with students leading the way I imagine). 

The chance to get started with 3D printing came before I knew it. 

As a final culminating activity in history, students were challenged to synthesize their learning from the time period explored in any manner they choose. Ideas included creating virtual timelines, counterfactual videos, and news broadcasts. A pair of students thought that they might like to create a monument commemorating the War of 1812. This intrigued me and I thought it was a great opportunity to give TinkerCad a try. The two boys were more than willing to experiment! 

Below is a screenshot of their TinkerCad design.

The gates on each side represent the countries and the chain represents an unbreakable bond. I noticed the depth of thought as the students worked away on their design. Each element carefully considered and adjustments were made throughout. 

The students were quite satisfied with their design remaining on TinkerCad (which highlighted for me that the ability to print was not necessarily needed required). They projected their design on the whiteboard and shared their ideas and design with their classmates. 

To their surprise, I asked +Rolland Chidiac-WCDSB if he would print the design for them. I was able to download the .stl file and send it to him (woot woot)!! To my knowledge, he needed to make a few adjustments to their design so it would print properly (and in a reasonable time frame). Aspects I need to learn more about next year. 

A few days later it arrived in the courier! 

In one of his previous posts, Rolland stated something that really stood out for me.
"THAT is where the rubber meets the road."

It's the THINKING behind the artifacts that is truly powerful. All made possible by giving students opportunities to design and create in ways that bring meaning to their thinking. 

Back to my 'ah-ha's:

The role of discovery: Rolland didn't know all the answers (or all the questions for that matter) when he started with 3D printing. He discovered alongside his students. This is empowering and motivating for all students. 

Tangibles as gateways to student learning and improvement:
 Who doesn't like to see their ideas come to life? Rolland shared many instances where the tangible object facilitated learning. An example of this was the characters they created as part of storytelling. He noticed what a difference it made having the 3D printed objects on their desks during the writing process. This was evident with my students as well. When I showed the students the printed monument, their faces lit up. I could see the pride and excitement in their eyes. 

The inevitability of failure (and how we use it to feed-forward): 
Rolland's blog on failures was my very favourite. Things don't always go according to plan. Sometimes we end up with just a mess of plastic. We need to adjust and move on. One of the students who designed the monument stated that he was disappointed that the gates did not fit perfectly into the arch. He had included small slits in the arch that were suppose to hold the gates in place. His slits were not quite big enough, so without careful balancing, the gates fell over. He went over to his laptop and changed it on his design. Awesome! 

A big thanks to Rolland for his willingness to share and discuss! 
Looking forward to collaborating on design projects in the future!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sharing the Learning and Learning from Sharing

I recently invited several educators to visit our classroom to see our 3D technology setup, look over student work, and to reflect on their visit by providing my students and I with some of their "wonders". It was a pleasure having +Kellie Grant, +Jennifer Duarte+Mary Diemert+Diane Laverty+Michael Leonard, +Katrina Gouett, +Sean Ferguson, and +Jessica Weber participate in looking at the ideas my students brought to life and helping me reflect on the learning that my students and I have experienced this school year. 

Prior to our visits and meetings, my blog posts about our learning journey were made available to them to provide some history and context. I have spent a lot of time sharing our learning and gathering feedback about it via social media and face-to-face conversations with people at my school. It was a treat to meet up with and share the learning with educators in my school board who I consider to be cutting edge, open to new learning experiences, and critical thinkers who don't hesitate to ask tough questions about what they encounter. 

As a result, my students and I have been provided with a lot of great "wonders" to reflect on and address. My students and I are grateful for the different views/perspectives that "outsiders" have provided us with. We are using their questions and comments to build our capacity and assist us in growing as we wrap up our time integrating the 3D technology into learning and demonstration of learning. Here are some of the wonders that our visitors provided us with:

  • Did most students catch on to Tinkercad easily? 
  • Is it difficult to find the time to print all of the 3D objects during school time?
  • How does integrating technology, in particular the 3D printer, “meet the multiple intelligences?” (Visual-Spatial; Bodily Kinesthetic; Musical; Intrapersonal; Interpersonal; Linguistic; Logical mathematical ).
  • How did students who have difficulty visualizing establish a ‘design mindset?’
  • How frustrating was it when the 3D design did not work?
  • Did the students ever build a 3D design with other materials?
  • The narrative story looked like a lot of fun. I liked how their characters came to ‘life.’
  • Were the characters created on the 3D printer before writing or after?
  • If before, was it easier to write the narrative?
  • I’m curious about the cost of the 3D printing post TLLP budget, is it expensive?
  • What made some students use clay etc instead when doing social studies Early Societies representations? 
  • Are students aware of the differences in the process between using the tech and using their hands? 
  • Can they articulate why they choose the format they did?
  • If you can code can you Tinkercad?
  • Did your students have any experience with coding before your project?
  • What were some of the challenges when using Tinkercad?
  • How did your students handle their successes and failures?
  • Did your students rely on each other to problem solve?
  • I would think perseverance would be a trait that your students demonstrated through some of the activities. Was it difficult for your students to picture their characters in 3D form and transform that image into real life?
  • What will your students do with their new knowledge? Can they apply this knowledge to other subject areas?
  • The 3D printer really made me wonder about how I could best use it in visual arts and integrate it with measurement in math (cylinders and circles).
  • I wondered also what types of paint could be used on this plastic? (model paint, nail polish, etc).
  • I also wondered how using a 3D printer would propel students forward in a growth mindset.
  • Because of the newness or ‘novelty’ of this technology do students overcome the failures and challenges of design with ease?
  • I keep wondering if this is something I could financially pull off in my class...thinking about funding options that might work.
As you can see, we have been provided with a lot of great questions to consider. What I have been doing is posing one or two of the questions above to my students each day. We form a classroom meeting circle and I ask the question. At first the students felt a little worried about the questions - they wondered whether people would judge them based on their thoughts/opinions. I reminded them that the purpose of questions were to help us grow as learners, that there is as much value in being able to easily answer the questions as there is in struggling with them.

Taking risks and trying new things has been an over arching theme in our class this year. I reminded them that I think of myself as the chief risk taker in our classroom and that when I invited my colleagues to enter into this process with us that it was a big risk and that I felt the same as them. I also reminded them that my growth and learning has benefited because of the risks I have taken and that my teaching practice will improve from the feedback I receive.

We are lead learners in this area now and as responsible citizens and life long learners, we have a duty to lead and teach others. As we go forward, my plan is to continue to integrate 3D technology into my classroom community and into the general population of the school. This year's group of students know that I want them involved as we move forward - that I expect them to assist in teaching and mentoring the students who start to integrate this type of technology into their learning during the next school year.

With a little less than two weeks left in the school year, we will be spending a lot of time processing the questions above and figuring out what we know, what we don't know, and what we want to learn. I am confident that our reflections will lead us to great insight about ourselves and the directions we want to take to improve and how we want to keep sharing our learning so other will do the same.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy 3D Father's Day!

As we were preparing for Father's Day, the students and I wanted to do something unique. We started with a quick Google search that led us to the stereotypical Father's Day stuff that almost everyone has seen over and over again.

As we searched and discussed out options, one of the students suggested that we print something using the 3D printer, as we had for Christmas with out ornaments. The students agreed that it would be a good idea. Since we didn't have a lot of time on our hands, we searched for 3D files that already existed and found one that we liked - a key chain!

At this point, the students got together in groups and started talking about what we could do to the file to make it our own, to customize it a bit and to make sure that we could print 30 or so of them so that everyone would have one.

The first thing the students suggested was that we shrink the key chain so that it would take between 20-25 minutes to create. Then we talked about print quality to make sure that even though it was small, it would still look good. After a couple of test runs, we had our key chain set to be made in about 23 min with a regular print quality setting.

Everybody got one and we even printed one for an older student who saw what we were doing and showed interest. I picked up the key rings from the Dollar store and tada, Father's Day 2016 would prove to be a unique one for all of our dads.