Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer Time = Curriculum Planning

It's Summer and the time when my hubby gets jealous and annoyed that I have time off.  However, I always feel that I am working.  This summer I have two curriculums to write, two curriculums to review and adjust to a new schedule and one to refresh myself on since I haven't taught it in a few years.  In addition I am taking two MOOCs one that I am seriously behind on, and attending three conferences.  This is stuff I can not get done during the school year but can during the three hours in the morning that the toddler is off to summer preschool.

The two curriculums I am writing I am excited about.  One is Designing Emerging Technologies (DET).  This is a class to come after Intro to Programming and offer students a chance to blend hardware and software together.  It really is a MAKE class.  The class will look at designing something (up to the students).  My plan is to take the girls to the Makerfaire in September so that they can see what is out there to get the creative juices flowing.  I also plan on including some Makey Makey, Ardunio components and some building of circuits.  It is a trimester course so it runs for 7 cycles, I like to plan per cycle for the courses that are trimester to make sure that we can fit everything in.   There are two cycles before the Makerfaire so I plan to introduce the major topics of electronics during this time.

My Rough outline so far looks like this:
Cycle 1:  Electronics
Cycle 2:  Ardunio Play
Cycle 3:  Plan a Project to create
Cycle 4, 5, 6 Create Project
Cycle 7  Wrap up with a display and possible mini project.

The second curriculum is Computer Science Principles (CSP).  This course is based on the proposed AP course Computer Science Principles. Therefore it already has lots of ideas out there and in fact, I am right now taking a MOOC that is all about CSP.  This is the MOOC, I am massively behind but I am hoping to catch up since there is also a break coming up in the course.  This course I am still wrapping my head around as it is teaching abstract ideas of Computational Thinking with using very little of a actual programming language.  This is a full year course and the idea is to blend the six big ideas of the course together in units. The six big ideas are Creativity, Abstraction, Data and Information, Algorithms, Programming and the Internet.  The idea of the course is to be collaborative and project based.  I am looking forward to designing it but am still gathering information before I outline the course.  I am hoping the MOOC and the Collegeboard conference will give me some good ideas for the units and activities.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year Resolutions....

At the beginning of the school year, I always start with vigor and excitement.  Then as the school year becomes busy and hectic and some of my ideas seem to get placed on the back burner.  Winter break gives us a chance to rest and regroup.  Then New Year gives us time to think of resolutions.  I decided to make a few as an educator.

I resolve to:

Experiment, and Explore:  The past two months, I keep remembering something my daughter's pediatrician stated to me at her last check up, "You have to let her be herself."  Students need the time to be themselves and learn for themselves.  They need to be able to experiment, explore and learn on their own.  They need to be able to try things and if it doesn't work ponder why.  Students need the time to discover on their own and be themselves.  I resolve to give my students time to explore, try things, learn from their mistakes.  In addition, I plan on taking risks with my teaching and trying new projects.

Reflect:  Often we spend less time on the reflection than we should.  Students need to reflect on their own work.  They need to be able to evaluate themselves effectively and spend time learning how they learn best.  Reflection allows them to start becoming independent learners.  As they start to reflect on what works and what doesn't work as they are learning, they can then help begin to develop their own learning plans.  I also plan on spending time reflecting on my teaching and lessons in order to refine my own skills.

Find Balance:  Everyday over break something crossed my path about having balance in life.  Taking time to be with family, how to get organized to spend less time cleaning, how not using technology at times is good thing, how exercise can help in more than one way.  I think it is important to help students find balance and relax.  They often stress over the demands of school, parents, classmates, college acceptance, tests.  I would like to help my students find balance with their work load and I can start with mine.  I resolve to have check ins with my students about the work load, remind them if they miss a day or a homework assignment it isn't the end of the world.  They need to know that it is okay to not work some days and have some fun.  In fact we, as educators need that too.  We need to demonstrate in our own work days and loads that having balance is important.

I hope by making only three I can uphold and maintain them.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Engaging students through Photoshop.

In the MOOC, Adobe Training for the Trainer,  week three we are to reflect about "how to encourage educators to engage students through Photoshop.  Many students find Photoshop editing a fun activity and a "neat thing" to learn.  I find that they are always engaged when they are learning.  In fact for World Arts day in the Middle School, I will do a workshop that helps students learn the basics of layers, selecting and simple color matching by placing their faces into famous works of art, this is always a hit.

I think it is a matter of helping teachers design projects or adapt current projects for use in Photoshop. Creating collages and posters, for example, can now become digital.  A former colleague used to do an "About Me" project where students started with a photo of themselves and created a collage to describe how the world sees them, or how they would like to be seen by the world.  I can see that in a Health class or English class as a visual poem.

I have also helped students create their own logos for a social justice project using photoshop (yes illustrator is probably better but they seem to find photoshop less difficult).  Likewise I have helped students build French buildings of their dreams by putting various pictures together.

As I was reading the forums one teacher discussed how they teach students how to create diagrams with overlays on the pictures, arrows, text etc for their reports.  I never even thought of this but I like the idea especially for science and math classes.  They can create many cycles, diagrams from their own pictures to add a bit of creativity.

Civics classes have created election posters through the use of photoshop.  Students can create magazine covers, cover pages, super impose various pictures through out history that are all about the same theme. The possibilities are endless with just basic knowledge, time to explore and some creativity.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Why is Creativity Important?

Today I started a MOOC (Massive open online course) through Adobe, Train the Trainer.  The goal of the course is to help incorporate the Adobe platforms into curriculums and build creativity and digital media and visual story telling into education.  For more information see the overview.  The course asks during the first week to reflect on "Why is creativity in education important?"

I thought this would be a good way to get into blogging again. I fell creativity is important because it fosters risk taking.  When students feel they are being creative they tend to try something new, or stretch themselves to achieve the overall goal that they envision in their minds.  It gives them a chance to relax and learn with out realizing they are learning.  As they take risks to try something new students also build self confidence.  It amazes me when I watch students learn new technology so that they can produce a video, animation, or brochure for a class.  They aim to have it look like they envision regardless of their skill level.  I get to watch many of them try new techniques they never thought they would try.

Creativity also helps them research these techniques and learn to follow directions (at least in the digital world).  My mind comes back to the past PBL where the girls learned how to add close captioning to their you tube video.  They needed to figure out how to do this by researching it, following the directions, and this would not have been done if it wasn't for the creative video that was produce.  Many of them reflected on the skills they learned when they were being creative with the video.  The creativity gives a ownership to the students in their learning.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bring back the Makers

Fabrication Lab at Stanford
This past week I spent two days learning about digital fabrication and the maker subculture.  The conference was held at Stanford University and was called FabLearn.  According to Wikipedia "digital fabrication is a process that joins architecture with the construction industry through the use of 3D modeling software and CNC machines."  The maker subculture is defined as "the technology-based  extension of the DIY culture." (again according to wikipedia).  For two days I spent time on Stanford's campus discussing FabLearn, how to bring these two ideas into education.  How these two ideas are part of the movement in education where students need to be come creators and makers, not just memorizers.  For two days I looked at how creating projects from the design up can help students become better learners.  Many projects were interdisciplinary and teachers spent time teaching other disciplines as well math, art, history, science were all pretty interwoven.  The time spent was giving me flashbacks to my middle school shop classes: woodworking, metal welding, and print making and my home economics classes.  These are the low tech versions of what I spent the time learning about.  These have also seemed to slowly begin to disappear from the education setting.

I sat in a class that was similarly designed like those Middle School classrooms with huge workspace tables where four or five could spread out metal drawers underneath us where tools were stored, and open space.  The difference was that around the edges were 3-d printers, laser cutters, ventilation systems and more than one computer.   We spent some time in processing computer language using pre-existing libraries to design a lamp made from paper (you could make it from other materials but paper is low cost for workshops).

Laser Cutting out the Lamp 
Computer Program (photo by Phyllis Wright)
Our presenter was the creator of the software and a student working on her masters degree at MIT.  We created a "codeable object" as she called it.  I must admit it was a lot of fun.  I was able to manipulate the code using mathematics to build various designs that then using the laser cutter I cut out on paper and built the lamp.  The whole process took about two hours.  There is a downfall that it took a very long time for all of use to use the laser cutter.  Depending upon the design details it took about 10-15 minutes to print, plus the top and the tissue paper that was about 30 minutes per person.  I did not time it but it was a lot of down time, that everyone in the class noticed.  Since it is also a laser, you can not leave it unattended, there must be someone there at all times.  We talked about how some schools have open times where students can come and print, others stager the projects so multiple items are happening at once (this is not as hectic as it seems), others just live with the down time.

I could see having the students multi-task with other assignments for the class they are in.  They could be working on multiple items in the class at once so that during down time they have something else to do as they wait.  Classrooms become chaos but a controlled chaos since you need to plan for this. I could also see use in showing how math, science and art are all intertwined.  Even in history, I saw some amazing 3-D models of historic times such as Rosa Parks on the bus.  All complete in proportion to the space they had.  Could it have been done without the digital aspect? Probably. Did that help add another discipline and learning experience   I tend to think so.

Putting together the lamp (photo by Phyllis Wright)

I loved how math created such a beautiful lamp and with out the science there isn't any electricity.  I saw how we could begin to build interesting engineering and design courses that could give students an idea of how to discover and make their own items.  Find an need and create.  I think that is so important as we have this shift in education, students need to learn how to be creative, they have so many tools at there fingertips it is time we allow them to utilize everything to learn about the world around them and invent the future.

Me and My Lamp (photo by Phyllis Wright)