Talking Devices

Let’s talk about which devices for which age group. During March, I attended a Digital Technologies 7-10 professional learning workshop which deconstructed the Western Australian Curriculum. It was a great opportunity to see what other teachers were doing in their schools and how they interpreted the DT curriculum.  For myself, one of the presenters, Maria D’Cunha from Hampton SHS, shared a story that gave me some confidence in how my journey was progressing. Like many of us, Maria was building her own Digital Technology skills and knowledge, she acknowledged that she was also learning, and not just her students. However, the biggest thing which she shared and which hit home for me was that she knew her students, she recognised that coding was something that many of her students knew nothing about and she started from that point. It didn’t matter that they were high school students, she gave them time to play and experiment with devices which many have labelled as being useful only for Early Childhood and Junior students. In Maria’s case, the devices available were BeeBots. BeeBot_blinking

So, why is this a big deal? Well, in my journey I have sat and listened to many teachers sharing their stories, and I have listened to the expectations of those developing the WA Digital Curriculum, and the message in some cases has been that within a high school setting students should be learning and using a scripting language. Now, this is doable for those students lucky enough to have had experienced a thorough ICT background with a passionate, qualified teacher and the available hardware/resources but not all students have had this opportunity. In fact, many students may not even have access to a computer or device at home, nor internet access. Starting your program at a lower level is ok and will give students time to develop the confidence, skills, and knowledge which they need. I am not saying don’t challenge students just put some time into introducing the basics, give them time to experiment and explore the new devices, software, and applications, before setting higher level tasks. We want students to develop a passion for Digital Technologies and not be turned off and frustrated by attempting tasks beyond their initial abilities.

So, what do you start with? If you are lucky enough to be in a DETWA Primary or District High school you would have received in Semester Two, last year, a Digital & Design Technology kit filled with robots and maker gadgets. This came with a document outlining which device/gadget was suitable for which age group, very handy for getting started. However, many schools are still in the process of purchasing suitable devices and it is a little confusing as to what may work for which age group. What can be recommended on device websites may not always work in the classroom setting or be appropriate for the curriculum. If you are hoping to reduce that frazzled teacher feeling (wishing you had extra limbs to be able to help all students at once) and you want students working independently with devices, it is worth putting in some time doing a little research.

My suggestion is to use your teacher network to gather information from those in the know who have used the devices and have hands on experience using them in the classroom. Having used several robots and devices myself I thought I would share my devicesopinion and what I had been advised by other educators in my professional network. I have created a document that compares the advice of the companies, DETWA and those in the classroom. If you are interested you can access it here in the curriculum resource page. It is a work in progress and if you feel you could contribute further information based on experience please take the time to email me. All suggestions and advice would be very welcome and helpful in completing the document.

Please remember that this is based on personal experience and just a suggestion, your own experience and the experiences of others may be completely different due to many factors, including student prior knowledge and the reliability of the technology infrastructure within your school.

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Books for Little Bots

Over the last six weeks, I have attended several Digital Technology professional development workshops and met some great teachers. One of the discussions which keep popping up is the integration of digital technologies into other subject areas. It is becoming a necessity due to the limited availability of DT specialist staff in most schools, and the crowded curriculum which is stretching classroom teachers to the limit, best not even mention the two hours of LOTE which we will soon have to cram in as well!

So, to ease the pressure on us all let’s look at texts which could be useful in supporting DT knowledge and skills in Early Childhood and Junior classes, and which may be used as a hook for other teaching areas. Now we all know that robots are not an essential component of teaching digital technologies, however, they are a very good way to hook students into wanting to learn and participate. With this in mind, I began researching what robot themed text is available and how it might fit into other subject areas.

Here’s what I found which looked useful…

STORY BOOKS TO READ:

  • Robots, Robots Everywhere (Little Golden Book) by Sue Fliess.robots robots everywhereThis cute little book could be used as a hook to get students thinking about robots in our world, where do we find robots? Do we use robots in our daily life? Students could select a real world robot and draw/write about what it does, perhaps create a flow chart which outlines the steps/sequence that a real world robot goes through. Or use it as a hook for writing a narrative about working with a robot, then have students illustrate their work (labeled diagram or artwork), or perhaps build a robot sculpture.
  • Power Down, Little Robot by Anna Staniszewski. This is a good text to introduce power downalgorithms, a sequence for a procedure. The book is about a little robot who does not want to go to bed, he runs through his stalling program to avoid going to bed, something which all young children can relate too. Students could write and illustrate their own bedtime routine, which also fits into the health curriculum. This text also has a song and mentions some technology terms: error messages, circuit, power modules, and sequence.
  • The Robot Book by Heather Brown. The hardcover book has interactive parts which the robotcan be moved, such as, spinning cogs. With only 5 pages, it outlines the very basic parts of a robot for little children, in the search for the most important part (the heart). What is the heart of a robot? Useful for ECE classes when designing a robot, and could be used for covering social and emotional content. It could also be used with older students as a sample of how to design a book with moving parts.
  • The Robot and the Bluebird by David Lucas. robot and birdAn emotional story about an old robot who can’t be fixed but finds a way to save a bird. A story that can open many discussions and writing tasks. Warning: You may need tissues.
  • Pete the Cat: Robo-Pete by James Dean. Pete the Cat builds a robot, he programs the robot to be like him in order to have someone to play the games he likes. Mentioned is Robo Pete having a homing device, which you robo petecould use to open a discussion about mapping and GPS, students could create a story map of the text or develop their own grid ‘hide & seek’ map of the playground or school. Where would you hide? Students could code a path using directional arrow symbols and direct a robot friend to the secret spot. Or use the gridded maps to play a game similar to battleships, can you find the hiding spot?
  • Sometimes I Forget You’re a Robot by Sam Brown.forget your a robot This is a lovely story about friendship and could be used in ECE to develop student awareness regarding how we speak to people in a positive way and how we are all valuable in different ways, plus jobs that robots could do.
  • The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara. This is an adaption of the famous ‘Three Little Pigs’, it would work well in a text comparison activity (with a Venn diagram) and lends itself well to incorporating any space travel activity. The end pages show the planets, all labeled with their names. Not really useful for DT but I really liked the big bad robot and his scary face.
  • R Is for Robot: A Noisy Alphabet by Adam F. Watkins. r for robotAnother text with great robot illustrations, each letter of the alphabet has words which describe sounds. It would be great for any narrative writing task or animation project where students were being encouraged to include sound within their text. Watch this clip to get an idea of the content.
  • Clink by Kelly DiPucchio. clink2This book has lovely end clinkcovers illustrated with very detailed plans of how to build a robot, a great example to show students and encourage them to add detail to their diagrams. The story line features an outdated robot whose programs no one wants and how he tries to gain the attention of the shoppers in hope of being purchased.
  • Little Robot by Ben Hatke, little robotis a graphic novel suitable for junior and middle school students. This text is a perfect hook for comic book making, students could create their own comic book text using an iPad application or website. Comic book creation is a great way to demonstrate creating a sequence. See Ben being interviewed and talk about his artwork.

MAKING BOTS BOOKS

  • Cool Robots by Sean Kenney. LEGO extraordinaire Sean Kenney has developed a few cool robots 2texts with instructions for building simple robots. You will need to check his block list and make sure you have the required pieces, otherwise, use the text as inspiration and have students construct their own robots. Perhaps they could even create their own instructions, another way to teach about sequences/algorithms.
  • Cool Creations in 35 Pieces by Sean Kenney. This book has several robot designs. You can purchase the 35 pieces on this website. What might be interesting is using the robot creations to create a short film/stop motion, after designing and creating their robots students could create a storyboard sequence and then use a green screen app to produce their short film.
  • awesome legoAwesome LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have by Sarah Dees. Another useful LEGO book featuring several robots to inspire students to get creative with design and make their own. Build some math activities into the project, perhaps collating and graphing data about the blocks used or set a criteria challenge and limit what they are allowed to use.
  • Papertoy Glowbots: 46 Glowing Robots You Can Make Yourself! by Brian Castleforte. This book looks like loads of fun and Papertoy-Glowbots_covercontains enough robots for each child in your class. You could easily merge this text into your Science program about light or use it as inspiration for a Design and Technology project. **Please note: there is a warning about potential fire hazard for some projects, make sure you go over any safety issues with your students and have a plan in case anything should occur (ooh…another Health lesson, fire safety).

Well, this robot needs to power down after developing RSI from working too long on the computer. I haven’t even looked at the great non-fiction robot text available, perhaps next time. Just a little shopping tip before I go…

My favourite site for searching for books and the best price is booko.com.au, it gives both the cost and delivery postage rate for most online books sellers. The Book Depository, Abe Books, and Booktopia are usually the cheapest option for us Aussies. Happy reading!

 

hAPPy holidays

Happy holidays to all. We are halfway through the silly season, if like me you have been madly cleaning, cooking, shopping, wrapping and hosting during the last few weeks, you should be enjoying the calm before the New Year celebrations.

For me this means couch time, yes, the ultimate lounge lizard, with a few dips in the pool, some Xmas rum balls and holiday bubbles (champagne), my iPad and a few new books…heaven! So, what am I reading?

Online I have been catching up with some of my favourite topics and websites, or exploring new ones. First up, Brightworks-an extraordinary school. I love to read what the staff and students have been up too during the last few months. This school to me is the ultimate STEAM school with a whole school broad focus topic, CHOICE-freedom in teaching/learning for students and staff, plus technology integration with purpose. The dream school which many of us long for, or are trying to create through our learning programs.

I also checked in on Rachel Van Dyke’s blogs, Rachel focuses on teaching ‘Real World’ and STEAM art projects. Once again, building creative thinking is high on the agenda, as is using available technology and software to build design skills. Rachel has three blog sites, Teaching Elementary Art ( STEAM projects), Teaching Real World Art and Design (for High School) and her personal artworks blog.

gamestar-mechanicI have also been looking for websites and ideas on gamification and game making, and came across a great lesson on the Bloom into Ed Tech blog site. The lesson focuses on using Gamestar Mechanic to build knowledge on game design and build game design skills by creating your own game. The Gamestar teachers link gives a good run down on how to use the software, and recommends it suitable for Year 4-9 students.

The last online share is this great Prezi Edu production created by Clint Stephan, in 2014. It is a rundown of 60 Apps in 60 Minutes, well, actually 74, to use in the classroom and for your own teaching and organisational purposes. I found it to be great for any newbies, 60-appaas there is a whole range of apps to meet a range of teaching and learning needs, and also a few gems which may have passed us experienced iPad users by. It is a good reminder of what is available, I found several apps that I hadn’t used in a while or had forgotten about, and quite a few that were new to me. A great way to add to your own professional learning, download and trial a few apps for the new teaching year, in 2017.

If you are looking for a few Digital Technology and STEAM focused reads, these are what I am reading on Kindle (and hard copy):

  • 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Computing (100 Ideas for Teachers)  This is proving to be a great read with lots of different ideas for teaching and learning technology/digital technology knowledge and skills across the curriculum. 
  • From STEM to STEAM: Using Brain-Compatible Strategies to Integrate the Arts  Hhhmm…coming from an arts background I can understand some of the negative reviews regarding this book, however, for the everyday classroom teacher it gives very good examples for science and math focused creative activities. 

  • Stem by Design  A great text to get you started designing STEM lessons and projects. It gets into the nitty gritty, the why and how, about developing STEM programs.
  • Classroom Activities for the Busy Teacher I bought the hard copy, as it is a great resource for those using EVO3 LEGO robots, which we have in our school. It may also be useful for other robotic devices, as inspiration, for you to adapt the lessons to work with your school’s selected robot.

iPad…tick!

 

Using an iPad these days is common practice for many of us. For me it is a vital tool which I carry with me and am never without. Every day I use it for a variety of personal, work and educational purposes. Yesterday it helped me to research and purchase a new oven and dish washer, find an appliance store, watch a movie online, contact a friend, share some documents, check out my weekly lesson plans, catch up on social media, read a book, look for new teaching resources, download worksheets, and wake me up! Much like a mobile phone, iPads have become a must have tool.

Many schools are using them on a 1:1 basis or sharing classroom sets. This of course means that both teachers and students are having to learn how to use them. Luckily this is usually an easy process as iPads have been designed with the user in mind. Students quickly learn how to operate the iPad, they share what they know with their peers and often teach their teacher tips and tricks.

Recording what skills students can do with an iPad can be useful for assessment purposes book-creator-for-ipad-iconand also guide you in what you need to teach them next, with regard to operating an iPad. A couple of people had asked about check lists, so that we can tick off what they know, record the data and move on. I have created two different versions, Version 1. has the basic operating skills which all students should learn, plus skills often used when using a creative application (app) such as Explain Everything or Book Creator. explain-everythingVersion 2. has more complex operational skills which you would expect your older students to accomplish, and also has some browser skills. How you use them is up to you, a simple tick would work to indicate the student can independently use each operating feature or you could use symbols, D for developing, A for achieved, etc.

checklist

The checklists can be found on my resources curriculum page, I would suggest printing them out as an A3 document. I hope they are useful, feel free to share them around. I will be creating other checklists for various digital technology learning areas in the near future.