Monday, May 28, 2018

Book Review: Rosie Revere, Engineer

For a while I've been eying several books that would help support STEAM or Maker activities in the classroom. Rosie Revere, Engineer has been one that I've wanted to get for a while, so a few weeks ago, I ordered it off of The Book Depository. The story itself is a very nice tale of a shy girl who used to create a lot of creative and different inventions, but has been silenced because of the reaction of a family member. She learns later, from a family member that it's not about getting things perfect on the first go. This fits in perfectly with both the idea of Growth Mindset and the Design Thinking process.

There is a lot of potential for this book to lead into many different learning opportunities and ideas. It would be a great way to start a project where children build or create something.

But that's not all. There is also a companion book, Rosie Revere's Big Project Book for Bold Engineers, which gives an incredible amount of ideas to build upon the first book. You can find it at The Book Depository as well.

Though the book is primarily meant for individual children (it has many places for a child to draw or write) it can easily be adapted for a whole class to get them thinking in new and creative ways. As an adult, I was personally excited about the things in this book and potentially trying some of them on my own.

In the book there is a good deal of supporting information about engineers and engineering, as well as some advice about organizing your own "treasure" so that you can make your own inventions. There are also some step-by-step instructions to make a few different creative things (a small catapult and a solar oven).

The genius of this book does not end there though. There are also many real world challenges where the book asks readers to try to solve a specific problem in their own creative way. It also highlights the importance of "flops" and making mistakes.

At 94 pages this definitely is a recommended purchase for any classroom trying to bring out the creativity in children. It not only encourages children to build and invent things, but it gives them a few different methods and tons of inspiration.

There are a few other books in this series, so perhaps look for the reviews of those in the near future.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

TED Talk: Adam Grant - The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers

A long time ago I downloaded the TED Talks app on my tablet but in all the years it's been on there, I've not actually used it. The other day I opened it up, which caused it to start giving me some suggestions. I've watched a few of them in the past few days and here's one I feel is worth sharing.

It's all about what Adam Grant terms Originals - that is creative thinkers. He tells a story of how he missed an investment opportunity that would have paid off immensely for him because he didn't recognize that the ones who offered it to him were going to be successful.

A big part of the talk is how (moderate) procrastination can lead on to more creative responses. he says (and it's backed by his research) that if you put of completing a task it gives you more time to think and more time to come up with more ingenious solutions or responses. I found this to be very empowering as I do tend to be a person who procrastinates (and in fact, this blog post is a semi-procrastination from working on one of my Coding Across the Curriculum videos), but I also tend to come up with creative solutions. It's nice to see the connection between the two. It's also nice to be able to support those children who (again, moderately) procrastinate with their work - to give them time to think and mull over ideas. 

A second idea that he discusses is the idea that original people are full of doubt and fears. What is different however, is that the doubt is not self-doubt, but idea-doubt. That is, that original and creative people doubt that ideas will work, but don't give up on solving any problems. Many people doubt themselves so much that they don't even put ideas forward. This is not what originals do. He discussed the fact that you can (almost) predict the creativity of a person based on the internet browser they use (I'll let you watch the video to find out more on that though). The argument with that is not that your browser makes you creative, but the way you choose which browser you'll use reveals a lot about your mindset (so just changing browsers does nothing, I'm sorry to say to you Internet Explorer and Safari users - whoops, I just ruined the surprise).

The final point that he makes is that creative and original people produce a lot - and that a lot of it isn't their greatest. Most people who have done great and amazing things have got their because they tried many, many things. It is through those attempts that eventually they have discovered new and original ways of doing things. This ties into the whole idea that failure and mistakes help you grow (also doing an online course where this is being stressed - more on that when it's done).

Here's the talk below. It's definitely worth 15 minutes of your time. If you are one of the people he is describing then this can be very empowering. If you are not, then it can give you some insight into how you can be like that AND how you can recognize those people who are. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Organizing an ILE (Part 3)

One of the challenges (or opportunities) that exists when teaching and working in a large space with many learners and many educators is that sometimes the children don't get to know all the other children. In a massive group, surprisingly enough, the same children tend to work with each other when given the choice.

As learning coaches, when we saw this we weren't too sure that this was the best for our learners. We wanted them to develop social skills that would enable them to work with anyone. We also wanted our learners to be able to reflect on their work, with someone who was a safe friend (or even a critical friend).

So we came up with the idea of having learning buddies. The idea was that whenever we had the whole group of them together, they would be sitting with their buddy. If we asked them to discuss anything, it would be with this buddy. So we made a list, which we started rotating every week and thought it would go smoothly. I guess by now I should know that nothing every goes smoothly. Some of our learners were doing as we asked and trying to have conversations with the correct buddy. But others were bringing their buddy with them and sitting next to their friend and talking to their friend. There was a lot of frustration.

Our initial thought was to put a forced seating plan in place so that they couldn't sit by their buddy. But cooler heads prevailed and we took advantage of a day when half of the learners were out testing to run a mini design thinking workshop. We identified the problem to the learners and we examined why this particular response was occurring.

The overall theme to the responses was that they didn't know their buddy and that they were more comfortable with their friends. Some of the buddies were goofing off so they wanted to make sure they talked to someone. We identified that the main problem was that they didn't have enough time to get to know there buddies. So we framed our How Might We question as:

How might we get to know our learning buddies better so that we talk to them and not our friends? (it may not have been exactly this wording).

From there were had the children do a crazy eights activity to come up with some possible solutions. Each child picked their favourite and pitched it to a partner. Each pair chose their favourite in that group and then pitched it to another pair. This continued until we had two ideas facing off against each other.

To be honest, all of the ideas were pretty good, but I liked both of the final two the best. The first was to have the buddies interview each other and the second was to have the play a game together. We combined both and changed the turnover rate between buddies. So every two weeks when they got a new buddy, there was a list of questions to ask each other AND we gave them a task to complete with the buddy. Those tasks were things such as: make a secret handshake, make something out of 10 lego pieces or design a logo for you and your buddy.

Things went a lot more smoothly after this. I can't say whether or not that was due to the fact that we did some interventions or the fact that the children were actually heard and empathized with (which is a big part of a design thinking approach). Either way, as the term went on, we as learning coaches did notice some interesting interactions and a growing sense of community amongst the learners. This effort was only a small part of our larger efforts but the idea itself AND the trouble shooting we did with the learners clearly has had some impact on the way our habitat runs.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Official Launch of The Monthly Maker

It is with great pleasure and after lots of last minute scrambling that I'm able to announce the release the first issue of The Monthly Maker. Due to an issue with gmail, I've moved distribution over to Google Groups for some subscribers today. Everyone should have received an email so if you didn't please check your spam or junk folders. There may be some emails in the coming days to add the remainder of the emails to the group for distribution. Apologies while I sort out the technical details (though admittedly the timing was great as I was able to get help from an actual Googler!)

You can access the newsletter below by clicking HERE.

Anyone who would like to receive future issues, you can subscribe HERE.

Feedback is always welcome.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

This past week, I attended the Whangarei EdTech Team Summit. After a few years of presenting (and having recently brought my learners to present at the Auckland Summit) I felt it was time to put my hand up for some new things. So when I got an email from the event organizer asking for someone to do an Ignite talk, I put my hand up and replied straight away. It was something I was starting to become keen on over the last few months. I had actually committed to doing one at Global Education Day during ISTE this coming June, so I thought this would be a good intro and first go at it.

Then, at the Summit, there was a call for presenters to do a Demo Slam. I'd never done one of those, so I thought I'd give that a go to. I was extremely nervous about both talks, but I managed to get up in front of everyone (how much harder could it be than a regular session) and do my best.

The first one up was the demo slam. You're meant to have 3 minutes, but I feel like I only used 1 of them. My demonstration was about how you can link Google Slides from one file to the next if you copy the pages. An interesting time saver if you track a lot of progress from learners and don't want to open 20 or 30 files at a time. It didn't win, but the one that did (from a wonderful new member of my digital tribe - Lindsay Wesner) hit right to the heart of a pain point for educators - marking.

I was pretty nervous and probably went through my demo too fast. That's what happens when you're nervous, I guess.

I didn't have much time to fret about that as I had to finish up my Ignite talk and slides. I spent a good amount of time practicing my pacing, and cutting out the unnecessary words.

The next morning I was pretty nervous for the talk, but I felt ready. I sat through the first two ignites and very quickly, it was my turn. We're all our own worst critics, so I was pretty hard on myself, but I also went about it with some perspective. So I'll start with the positive:

I think my message was good, and for the most part cohesive and what I said followed a logical path. I think that I adapted well when things weren't working properly (the slides weren't advancing as easily as I thought they would, and I had some initial trouble with hooking up my chromebook, though I'll attribute that to nerves).

There were, however, a few areas where I could improve upon. For starters, I felt as if I had my head buried in my tablet (which had my script on it). Normally when I talk, I wing it. Every time. I know the main points I want to say, but often ramble and go in an illogical way. An ignite talk is meant to be short and precise. So I made sure I did that. The problem was that I wanted to make sure I said everything as planned. And due to nerves and a lack of confidence, I had a hard time taking my eyes of my script.

That being said, I had at least two attendees give me some really positive verbal feedback. AND while reading, I kept on seeing a lot of twitter notices come up, which meant I was getting a lot of positive feedback online.

Have a view of what I said. Feel free to give me any more advice that I may have missed. It was a scary thing to do, but I'm glad I did it and I'm looking forward to doing it again in another capacity, somewhere.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Book Review: Code in Every Class

When I went to Sydney last year for the Innovator Academy, we were all given books. I was lucky enough to be given a book that related exactly to my project: Code in Every Class by Kevin Brookhouser and Ria Megnin. I only recently got around to reading it, which is unfortunate for me, as it has proven quite useful when it comes to wrapping my head around certain things.

The book aims to be a help to all educators, regardless of their skill level when it comes to coding and computational thinking. A beginning will take away a lot from it, but so, too, will an educator experienced in teaching these concepts.

The bulk of the first few chapters deals with the rationale behind teaching coding in class and how teaching coding to everyone is something that we must pursue - even if those learners will never code another line in their lives. The arguments and ideas set forth are extremely helpful in persuading those who would put barriers in front of those of us who want to teach coding.

The authors explain how coding can and should be integrated across the curriculum (hey, doesn't that sound familiar - at least I know I'm on the right track) and it gives a lot of foundation information that will help any beginning get a foothold. And what they don't give (or don't have time and space to give) can be found in the many links shared throughout the book.

The last section of the book has a large number of activities that can be done, ranging from beginning lessons to quite complicated ones. Again, there are many links shared so that the reader can get more information.

I would definitely recommend this book to any and all educators, even if you already are using coding (or more accurately, computational thinking) in your practice. It will help you spread the word and more likely than not, give you many ideas to begin or transform the way you teach coding in your classroom or with your learners.

It can be found on Book Depository and Amazon.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Another Phase of the Journey

Earlier today I did something I have been meaning to do for ages: I applied to be a Google Trainer. I have been working towards this for at least the past year, though something else has always come up (for example, I applied for and was accepted to the Google Innovator Academy) but I have been chipping away at what I needed to do.

I figured that since I am presenting so often, and starting to create a lot of videos for my YouTube Channel, that Trainer was definitely the next logical step. My hope is that having that certification will 1) give me the key to another group of educators who can grow my own capabilities when it comes to all things Google and 2) open up some opportunities that may not have been available without it.

A few weeks ago, I made my trainer video. It's not as flashy as my Innovator Video, but I'm pretty pleased with it. Have a look at it if you'd like.

I should know in 4-6 weeks whether or not I've been accepted.