Tag: STEM (page 2 of 2)

Code Breakers Presentation Slideshow

I’ll be sharing some info on getting kids started with coding at the Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Digital Learning Conference tomorrow and Thursday. The short slide show is below, as are links to all of the sites referenced (and a few more).

DENapalooza Presentation and Links

Presentation and updated links from this weekend’s DENapaolooza event in Austin, Texas.


Resources for developing innovation and creativity skills:

  • Scratch–free, online tool that introduces students to programming using a drag-and-drop interface and share projects with a global community.
  • MakeyMakey–electronic “invention kit” that allows users to turn any conductive objects into computer input devices.
  • Picoboard–expands scratch by allowing users to incorporate input from a variety of sensors, including light, sound, and more.
  • Arduino–open-source, inexpensive prototyping platform that can be programmed and used to build endless electronic devices.
  • Raspberry Pi–$25 Linux-based computer; great tool for introducing students to computing, programming, inventing.
  • MinecraftEDU–educational resources and lesson plans for using Minecraft in the classroom.
  • Hopscotch–easy-to-use iPad app that teaches programming skills with a drag-and-drop interface
  • Tynker–Scratch-like programming site with ability to create classes, assign and monitor projects.
  • DIY–site with dozens of categories of challenges to promote creative and inventive thinking.
  • Squishy Circuits–conductor & insulator Play-do type dough recipes & projects
  • LittleBits–child-friendly, no soldering electronic activity kits and components.
  • Lego Robotics–robot kits and supplies for primary (WeDo), intermediate (Mindstorms), and advanced students (TETRIX)
  • MyAtoms–electronic modules that can be used with Legos to create animated objects.
  • BuildwithChrome –virtual Legos; create Lego buildings or objects and share online–requires Chrome browser.
  • Hummingbird–robotics project kits using electronics and cardboard.
  • Lego Digital Designer –free tool from Lego lets students virtually design their Lego and Lego robotics creations.
  • Circuit Scribe–pen that writes with conductive ink, letting users draw electrical components and creations.
  • MIT App Inventor–free, Scratch-like tool lets students design and test their own Android mobile apps.

Other resources:

  • Makezine–online magazine of the Maker movement, great source for project ideas.
  • MakerEd–resources for incorporating Maker ideas into the classroom.
  • Growing Innovators–resources for a variety of innovative technologies for the classroom.
  • Scratch 2.0 Starter Kit–resources for teaching coding using Scratch and other tools.

Mistakes Are Not the End

"...fail as fast as you can." -Whurley

“…fail as fast as you can.” -Whurley

Among the hottest trends in education right now is this idea of teaching students to  embrace mistakes. For decades, researchers have known the value that can be gleaned from errors and missteps. Today, scientists can even watch as the brain learns through trial and error. However, until very recently, education had few practitioners who actively applied the researchers’ conclusions. The numbers are still relatively small, but they do appear to be growing. The basic thrust of the idea is that we learn from our mistakes, and we shouldn’t be so mistake phobic when it comes to our students’ work. This is admirable, but there are some who justifiably worry we might be creating a culture that over-glorifies mistakes at the expense of good work. The difference, I believe, is where we place mistakes in the learning process. A typical classroom process might look like this:

  1. Teacher presents lesson.
  2. Students complete assignment.
  3. Teacher grades assignments and returns them to students.
  4. Teacher and students move on to the next lesson.

In this scenario, the grade is the ultimate conclusion to the teaching and learning process. Students get their one shot to impress with their levels of mastery. Mistakes come at the price of a reduced grade. This, of course, can have negative consequences, such as failing courses, being held out of extra-curricular activities, having the X-box taken away at home, etc. Little wonder that students therefore dread mistakes and the resulting red ink.

Some schools are implementing changes to this decades old practice. Mistakes are not seen as the end of the process. Rather, they are seen as steps along the path to mastery. The process might look like this:

  1. Teacher presents lesson.
  2. Students complete assignment.
  3. Teacher grades assignments and returns them to students.
  4. Students examine and reflect on errors.
  5. Teacher works with students to correct errors.
  6. Students re-attempt the assignment.
  7. Teacher re-assess student work.
  8. Process is repeated until mastery is achieved.

Mistakes gain importance because they provide insights into students’ learning and mastery levels, and they are stripped of the negative consequences of traditional assessment. This is more in line with the way research confirms that we naturally learn. It also reflects more accurately the way that most important innovations, inventions, and creative ideas come to be.

Image source: http://blog.inventright.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Chaotic-Moon-Labs.jpg

Image source: http://blog.inventright.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Chaotic-Moon-Labs.jpg

This weekend, Seguin ISD held our 11th annual Technology Fair. One highlight was a presentation by William Hurley (@whurley). Whurley is an energetic bundle of creative energy. He shared several projects undertaken by his successful Austin company, Chaotic Moon Studios. A recurring theme of the presentation was the value of mistakes as part of learning and innovating. He encouraged students to “fail as fast as you can.” Whurley shared through story after story how Chaotic Moon embraces and expects mistakes along the path to innovation and invention. A video of a smart shopping cart being developed by the company showed numerous missteps, such as the cart not understanding commands or almost knocking over a display of wine bottles. It also showed how truly creative ideas have to master the art of reflecting on mistakes and trying new approaches until success is achieved.

Now more than ever, in an educational environment of high-stakes assessments, no-pass-no-play policies, and stressful hyper-importance placed upon grades and class standing, ed tech can lead the way to a new appreciation for mistakes. Students who are given the opportunity to create, to code, to tinker, and to invent with technologies have unique opportunities to engage in productive mistake-making. The processes involved in writing a program, building a robot, or creating a 3D object with software and a printer are inherently mistake-laden. All one has to do is note the frequency of updates to a computer’s operating system or the apps on a smartphone to see how developers respond to and learn from mistakes. When we give our students hands-on, sometimes messy opportunities to use technology in these kinds of ways, we are preparing them for something bigger and more important (no matter what a state agency might believe) than being able to pass a test. We are equipping them to be the minds of tomorrow who will stare down society’s problems and create solutions that obliterate them. So, in the spirit of Whurley, let’s get our kids out there making mistakes as often and fast as we can.

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