What does Assessment look like in Makerspaces?

Makerspaces provide new affordances for learners and creative types to explore new and exciting branches of learning, creating and exploring from 3-D printing, e-textiles to computer-assisted-design. This leads me to wonder about the role or best stance for educators in this environment. According to Barniskis (2014),

“…many teachers are used to teaching a large group of children to work on one project at a time. However, in a makerspace environment, each student may be working with different tools and processes. The teacher needs to be comfortable with a considerable quantity of chaos in such an environment, as well as skilled with all of the tools and able to switch gears quickly.” (p. 6)

In particular, it is the “switching gears” where educators assess learner proficiencies to inform next steps that is the subject of this paper. First, we’ll examine makerspaces pedagogies and consider the teacher’s/facilitator/coaches role, then explore and analyze the use of “traditional” assessment strategies in makerspaces, and finally, suggest three assessment strategies that seem well matched within a makerspace. Overall, we will consider the role of assessment in makerspaces and how does it need to be modified or adapted in this setting to help our makers?

Makerspace Pedagogies

In makerspaces, the role of learner has evolved from a passive recipient of information to the learner as an active creator and/or maker. The new affordances like 3-D printers, programmable robots, e-textiles, among many others provide a new and increasingly complex canvas for digital designers to build and make. With externals like MakeyMakey, Lego WeDo or Mindstorms, a makerspace can also be an environment that encourages makers and creators to computer program using languages from with “low floor” like block-based Scratch, or text-based Arduino or beyond. Yet, even with these tools that encourage creativity and design where students and makers might pursue their own projects, the role of the coach/educator/facilitator is crucial. They can encourage students to not only learn new skills but also feel comfortable and confident to create, make and perhaps even innovate. Striking a balance between teaching established and traditional elements and principles of design and also encouraging them to innovate can be tricky. The role, stance and practices of the educator are critical so that makerspaces can become a unique place for creativity and design and not simply another room where a specific a set of instructions are “delivered”, then copied and then assessed. Perhaps in critically examining our assessment and evaluation practices we can find approaches and practices that best support our makers and creators in makerspaces.

Current Assessment strategies

Being evaluated is a key and yet sometimes challenging experience for most students (and perhaps everyone) historically and today. Yet educators acting as mentors can have a vital role in helping others develop their ideas and improve the design and functionality of prototypes. The role of mentors or coaches requires a modified approach than a traditional – teach then evaluate model. A review of makerspace literature and research seems to indicate that traditional evaluation and assessment methods continue to be considered as indicators of progress. For example, in some studies, the focus of assessment has been less on creativity and more on specific measureable outcomes determined beforehand by the teachers and curriculum designers. While determining key concepts and core fluencies is critical, perhaps a more flexible learner-centered approach would seem to be a better strategy than one based on immoveable standards. This is especially important in spaces that encourage creativity, innovation, design and perhaps arts. In regard to e-textiles, Peppler (2013) emphasizes art first “… that the e-textile designer is less concerned with coding efficiency—having as few lines of code as possible—than with achieving a particular artistic effect” (p. 38). Assessment remains a critical strategy to help mentor our makers and creators to extend their learning through their Zone of Proximal Development. (McLeod, S. A. 2012 para. 1). Yet in some studies, the justification for makerspaces seems to fall back on numbers to quantify students’ outcomes and progress.

“When we analyzed their final Scratch programs using Brennan and Resnick’s computational thinking framework [2], we found that 100% of the projects used sequential statements, loops, conditional statements, event handling, and 85.7% (or 6/7) of the projects used operators.” (Davis, 2013, p. 440).

Here is another example “…when the multimeter was used, boys had the equipment in their hands 75% of the time on average to only 25% for girls.” (Buchholz et al., 2012, p. 283).

These quotations seem to focus on specific quantitative measurements (i.e. use of specific computer science skills and use of a specific tool by gender.) Both these measurements are important as ONE form of analysis yet neither evaluation indicates a focus on creativity or innovation. Furthermore, they may actually be only a small step from a mark-based assessment with such narrow focus. For example, a student might earn an “A” mark for simply including a certain amount of loops in their project.  Perhaps a model where students and teachers negotiate shared objectives would encourage more creativity. Kohn (2011) seems to reject any traditional form of teacher determined grades in educational spaces saying instead “…students can be invited to participate in that process either as a negotiation (such that the teacher has the final say)…” (p. 6). No doubt, the promotion of computational thinking and gender equality are critically important indicators for success, but perhaps assessment in makerspaces should be specifically focused on creativity, innovation and digital citizenship (helping others) above other specific technical requirements. In other words, a successful project might not include all the computational requirements nor be in the hands of a specific gender and still produce a creative and innovative prototype. Perhaps then assessment strategies should focus away from marks as indicators and instead look towards more qualitative methods that demonstrate a maker’s thinking and detailed progress. In addition, it is unclear whether a grade reflects the “potential” of an idea or a “snapshot” of the project at that time. Subsequently, this type of mark-based assessment in quantifiable terms obscures rather reveals student progress, creativity and potential.

Three Methods of Assessments

Perhaps makers and educators might instead work collaboratively to critically evaluate designs based on principles like Design Thinking that encourage both process and final product through a variety of activities and practices. Based on research into makerspaces and practices, three types of assessment tools seem to be good fits for makerspaces: design journals, reflections and badging.

Design Journals

A design journal can be either physical or digital and is a place to notes and instructions about a particular prototype or program. With prompting, students can not only write about the process but also be prompted to engage in new forms of thinking and processes like design thinking. Design thinking is an excellent process to solve challenges and promotes a similar mindset to makerspaces with its emphasis on creativity, design and iteration. One excellent example of a design journal is found in the project page of in the web-based Scratch 2.0 site. Scratch is an excellent tool for block-based coding and has both Papert’s “low floor (easy to get started) and high ceiling (can be used for increasingly complex projects). (Resnick, 2009, p.63). In addition to a page to create block-based commands is a project page which could be a design journal. Each project page (Figure One below) has three sections for writing: instructions, notes and credits and a comments stream. The first area provides a place for instructions critical for those wanting to run the Scratch program. This area explores the use of each sprite, backgrounds and other commands.

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Example of a Design Journal Figure One

The Notes and Credits section provides a place for the programmer to comment upon the design of the program including sources for resources used, a brief summary of their thinking, current progress and next possible steps. These possible next steps might be influenced by the comments section (which can be toggled on or off) by fellow programmers and Scratch users to provide feedback for the original programmers. Comments have the potential to be a shared and logged conversation about programming and specifically Scratch. In its highest level, it is collectivism where programmers and designer collect their best ideas on programming and designs in the Scratch forums. In Scratch, an ultimate form of flattery is the re-mix where programmers make a copy and tinker with a new iteration of the program which also includes a vital and transparent record of the original creator. This “built-in” design journal provides excellent opportunities for assessment as educators can observe not only the program but the programmer’s dialogue with themselves and others. Educators could even join in the collective conversation embedded directly in the project with comments, suggestions and encouragement of their own. According to Nichols (2015), “as students document their thinking they are supported by community partners who act as mentors to promote their thinking and give them the real-world exposure and experience they need to overcome challenges” (para. 5). Nichols calls them “thought-books” and they could serve as a hybrid design journal and place for reflective writing. It is important to note that design journals could be in many different forms from traditional physical books to more sophisticated online creations like the OneNote Class Notebooks. (See Figure Two below for an example from one of my classes).

ON

OneNote Class Notebooks provide a sophisticated tool for designers and educators as the digital format would allow the curation of a notebook that could include embedded physical sketches, notes, photos, animations, documents, videos, links to 3-D designs (i.e. Tinkercad) and even involve audio and video conversation as either a shared private conversation or even public if shared online. Perhaps the OneNote ClassNotebook moves the Design Journal up the ladder up in the SAMR model on technology integration from the substitution ring towards the augmentation or modification stages. (Puentedura, 2014, p. 2). Not to suggest that this amount of complex technology tools are always necessary and may even “get in the way” through diverting focus. After the potentially and rightfully “messy” of a design journal, the next assessment tool for educators allows for more focus on thoughts and words.

Reflective writing

For more depth into the thinking of learners in makerspaces, reflective writing could be another assessment tool for educators to explore the metacognition of makers and creators. Using tools like physical notebooks or even digital forms like blogs, makers and creators share their goals, process and experiences from their perspectives. If this reflective writing is shared, then educators and mentors can potentially have insight into the “black box” that is a learner’s thinking. Access to this form of writing allows mentors and educators to help learners “level up” and reach the next stage for their progress or even when to “move on” to something new in the Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86). In short, makers and learners need to focus on the process being as important (or perhaps more) than a “final” product. Reflective thinking and writing should take place at various points (say beginning, during and end) as creation and making is occurring so that educators can see the process of student thinking and suggest next steps or extend thinking further when needed. Educators and mentors can leverage reflective writing of makers and creators to provide feedback in the form of constructive dialogue. They can also use this tool to plan next sessions and provide learning materials and guidance for the specific needs of makers and learners. Indications of progress and identifying next steps are part of the final assessment strategy using badging.

Badging

The awarding and distribution of badging can be one way to facilitate the conversation between makers and mentors through the awarding, earning and sharing of micro-credentials. “Digital badging recognizes learning and growth wherever it happens and helps people connect their accomplishments across institution types.“ (Fontichiaro, 2015, What is digital badging? para 2) Digital or physical badging has the potential to recognize and indicate learning outside of traditional classes and in unique environments like makerspaces. These tools are new to education but have been successfully used in organizations like Scouts or even objective-based video games. In other words, some students would have prior experience with badging in both physical and digital badges forms. However, bringing this assessment into the new and evolving “anywhere classroom” including a makerspace offers new opportunities for learners and educators to record their progress.

Badging could be an excellent indicator of the wide variety of skills, abilities and progress made by learners in a makerspace. However, there are a few criticisms that should be examined before utilizing badging for our makers. Some like Seliskar have cited badges as a motivating tool, yet I think that using badges only to motivate could have the opposite effect. (2014, para. 1) They might serve as a motivator in the short term but might be better served as a digital indicator of learner progress as issued by educators, mentors and specialists. The idea of a “badge economy” is a much more powerful concept with a longer timeframe as they provide a record of subject or skill mastery. In a “badge economy” student earns a backpack of badges with each carrying everything needed (i.e. metadata) to understand the badge (who gave it, what is it for etc.) Sunny Lee, a product manager from Mozilla suggests that  “(t)he digital backpack enables the learner to be able to curate and manage the image that they want to represent to the rest of the world…the idea is that we’re kind of laying down the plumbing for this badge economy to flourish. Now, we need some badges circulating around the economy to jumpstart it.” (Ash, 2012, p.28) Makerspaces would seem ripe for the creation of many badges (i.e. mBot programmer) that learners could add to their backpack. (See Figure Three below for example badges.)

Figure Three Sample badges

 

In this assessment model, students acquire key knowledge from a curated list by educators, curriculum designers or specialists in order to earn teacher-created badges. Teacher created badges are essential as they could serve as indicators for makers/creators or programmers to “level-up” their skills. For example, educators could indicate and celebrate students’ initial progress on a particular tool (i.e. Level One) but create a scale to encourage them to explore the tool and their own creativity in more detail (i.e. Level Two…)  According to Grier, “… the best approach to scaling digital badging is not to focus on students, but on their teachers.” (2015, para 3). Teachers can provide the expertise to encourage next steps and extend thinking.

Perhaps an even more student-centered approach is a co-creation model between learners and educators to create a unique learning pathway for makers. This co-creating model has the potential for students to demonstrate core competencies but leaves room for creativity and innovation so critical to leveraging the potential of makerspaces. Like “stepping stones’, learners navigate their progress throughout a specific area of focus with badges as indicators and then earners decide to keep private or share (with interested parties) along the way. Teachers might help students create a “…portfolio that reflects the skills and knowledge they have developed, as well as evidence…” (Grier, 2015, para. 11).

These badges could then be shared online at the discretion of the badge earners. Ash states that “…the badge earner must be responsible for managing his or her own badges.” (2012, p. 28). Putting the sharing permissions in the hands of the learner is critical as no doubt in their mind or the minds of others (institutions, employers, even peers etc.) some badges will have more weight than others. This is certainly a valid criticism but the metadata in each badge will indicate the date, issuer and skills learned and demonstrated for clarity. This metadata is a clear indicator of learner’s progress with sharing permissions at the discretion of the learner. The transferrable and sharing potential for badges through sites like credly.com or badgelist.com and housed on wikis, blogs or websites provides new opportunities for learners to share their progress, learning and success. This not only allows learners to find success but also to create a strong digital footprint potentially leading to future learning and collaboration opportunities in global settings. The Mozilla Open Badges might provide this global setting as place for learners to collect badges earned and issuers to add badges in a learner’s digital “backpack”. (See Figure Four below) However, the appealing nature of the issuing of these micro-credentials is that earners can decide to showcase and share the progress and achievement through the web to interested parties (i.e. recruitment for makers) in global market place of the internet.

 

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Figure Four – Sample from digital backpack or eportfolio

More on Collaborative Assessment

Collaboration beyond student- teacher relationship also offers opportunities for makerspaces. The successful collaboration of educators, curriculum designers, researchers and specialists will aid learning environments and makerspaces that emphasize design and making through varied perspectives on student progress and perspectives. “If teaching artists partner with the shop teachers, home education teachers, and computer science educators in schools, a multifaceted makerspace can emerge.” (Barniskis, 2014, p. 7) Makerspaces can be a good gathering point for conversations between learners with many different types of specialists and experts on next steps and sharing of progress.

Design journals, reflective writing or badging need not be public but can be the basis for crucial conversations concerning next steps between makers and peers or makers and mentors. Educators might plan out time for makers to have these conversations which will only help the makers in their learning but also provide evidence for educators on the progress of students. Even the conversation could be used for assessment, which might be recorded through a page in a design journal, written reflection or even a badge. Making a “pitch” and hearing feedback from peers or experts are an important element in the design thinking toolkit for educators and makers.

Finally, conversations with other parents, guardians and other important figures in a student’s life can have an impact on learning and assessment as educators gain a wider perspective of student progress. Creating connections between home and school through open communication between educators, parents and students can be important to help educators create authentic experiences for students to learn and make progress.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Based on research into makerspaces and practices, three types of assessment tools seem to be a good fits for makerspaces: design journals, reflections and badging. Design journal and reflective writing are two strategies that emphasis metacognition and encourage learners to self-evaluate their progress in makerspaces. Learners can then choose what to keep private, or share with peers in a co-learning or collaborative structure and finally, engage with experts globally. Use of reflections at different stages of projects with a variety of audiences can also be critical to encourage increasing authentic feedback, assessment and evaluation for makers. Reflective writing and design journals are powerful tools for design thinking strategies. Badging is another pedagogical strategy that might serve to clearly indicate the desired outcomes (i.e. design, computer science as well as an implied gender balance) and yet encourage students to explore a breadth (and depth) of maker tools in an open-ended way. In addition, these forms of assessment are easily incorporated into design club routines and workflow. (see Figure Five below) If makerspaces offer new pedagogy and opportunities for students, then challenging and critically evaluating our assessment practices is vital if we are to encourage student success and innovation.

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Figure Five Workflow model

In terms of assessment, I do not mean to suggest that creativity and innovation should be the only focus in a makerspace as no doubt equitable access, student enthusiasm, gender equality, computational thinking, curriculum expectations, digital citizenship are vital. In fact, the powerful affordances in makerspaces may even allow makers to make progress regardless of the stance of educators. However, switching between a teacher-centered to student-centered stance and using assessment practices like design journals, reflections and badging allow for mentors and educators to better explore the “black box” that is the mind of the makers. These tools could provide the necessary support for makers to grow and flourish. According to Fessakis et al. (2013) “… the teacher’s role during the proposed learning activities (computational) was critical. She encouraged and supported the children to overcome their difficulties, controlled the various coordination issues that came up (e.g. the next player’s turn) and handled the cases where the children seemed not to be able to deal successfully with.“ (p.86). Overall, makerspaces offer learners to opportunities create a unique pathway with new and exciting experiences for learners and mentors who can support, assess and even co- learn.

References

Ash, K. (2012, June 13). Colleges Use ‘Digital Badges’ to Replace Traditional Grading. Digital Directions, 05(03), 26. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2012/06/13/03badges.h05.html?tkn=SPOFHItvuFGEOUO0jyGFYbA5FMSXhWNiR5R8&print=1c

Barniskis, Shannon, Crawford (2014). Makerspaces and Teaching Artists, Teaching Artist Journal, 12:1, 6-14, DOI: 10.1080/15411796.2014.844621 retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com.uproxy.library.dc-uoit.ca/doi/pdf/10.1080/15411796.2014.844621

Culutta, Richard. (2011). Zone of Proximal Development. retrieved from <http://www.innovativelearning.com/educational_psychology/development/zone-of-proximal-development.html>.

Davis, R., Kafai, Y., Vasudevan, V., & Lee, E. (2013). The education arcade: Crafting, remixing, and playing with controllers for Scratch games. Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children, 439-442. New York: ACM. doi: 10.1145/2485760.2485846

Fessakis, G., Gouli, E., & Mavroudi, E. (2013). Problem Solving by 5-6 Year Old Kindergarten Children in a Computer Programming Environment: A Case Study. Computers & Education, 63​, pp. 87 – 97.

Fontichiaro, Kristin, and Angela Elkordy. (2015 26 Mar). Chart Students’ Growth with Digital Badges ISTE. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?article=Chart%2Bstudents%2Bgrowth%2Bwith%2Bdigital%2Bbadges&articleid=320&category=In-the-classroom>.

Gerstein, Jackie, (2013, March 16th) I Don’t Get Digital Badges. Retrieved from https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/i-dont-get-digital-badges/

Grier, Terry. (2015, 31 Oct.). So You Want to Drive Instruction With Digital Badges? Start With the Teachers. EdSurge News. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-10-31-so-you-want-to-drive-instruction-with-digital-badges-start-with-the-teachers.

Horvath, Joan and Cameron, Rich, (2015, May 5th). The New Shop Class: Getting Started with 3D Printing, Arduino, and Wearable Tech, Apress, Technology in Action

Ito, Mizuko, Kris Gutiérrez, Sonia Livingstone, Bill Penuel, Jean Rhodes, Katie Salen, Juliet Schor, Julian Sefton-Green, S. Craig Watkins. (2013). Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.

Kohn, Alfie. (2011) The Case Against Grades. Educational Leadership: November 2011, Retrieved from http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/case-grades

McLeod, S. A. (2012). Zone of Proximal Development. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/Zone-of-Proximal-Development.html

Moura, Karly, (2016, January 17th) Gamifying our STEM Lab Challenges.  Retrieved from  http://karlymoura.blogspot.ca/2016/01/gamifying-our-stem-lab-challenges.html

Nichols, Garth. (2015 Sept. 10th) Inquiry & Design Lab. The Teachers Guild. https://collaborate.teachersguild.org/challenge/how-might-we-create-rituals-and-routines-that-establish-a-culture-of-innovation-in-our-classrooms-and-schools/ideas/inquiry-design-lab>.

Ostashewski, N., Reid, E., and Reid, D., (2014). Introducing 3D Printing to the classroom using inquiry: A case study describing implementation, challenges and successes. pp 1597-1605  EdMedia  Tampere, Finland

Puentedura, Ruben R. (2014, November 12th) SAMR: First Steps. Retrieved from http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/2014/11/13/SAMR_FirstSteps.pdf

Seliskar, Holli Vah. (2014, May 16th). Using Badges in the Classroom to Motivate Learning.” Faculty Focus. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-with-technology-articles/using-badges-classroom-motivate-learning/.

Siko et al. (2013). Disappearing Future 2. Educational Processes. Retrieved from http://www.wfs.org/futurist/2013-issues-futurist/september-october-2013-vol-47-no-5/top-10-disappearing-futures/disap-0

Turri, Dan et al. (2013). Disappearing Future 2. Educational Processes. September-October-2013  Vol.47-No.5

Resnick et. al. (2009). Scratch: Programming for All. Communications of the ACM November 2009 Vol. 52, No. 11, p. 60 – 67 Retrieved from http://web.media.mit.edu/~mres/papers/Scratch-CACM-final.pdf

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Wiley, David.  (2012, June 12th) Iterating towards Openness. Retrieved from http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/2397

Putting Students First: Using Learning Theories to update Projects and Spaces

build own countryCollaboration is often cited as a key 21st century skill yet students rarely get a opportunity to observe educators in the act of working together. In my role as a technology integration specialist, I consistently collaborate with other teachers, openly when possible, so students can observe and model. The creation of clear, transparent and shared projects between educators aids learning goals and student success. Add in access to creative, technological tools and students have powerful ingredients for learning. Shared objectives not only reinforce the work of a classroom teacher but also validate the learning from the student’s perspective. They might say “this is important as we are exploring it in two different subjects, Information Technology and Social Studies (perhaps more!)” This cross-curricular and integrated approach has been a fundamental aspect of learning and progress in my classes, in computer labs or increasingly anywhere tablets (and wifi) take us. However, my recent thinking, research and discussions on learning theories have led me to acknowledge that much more is needed to put the learner first. How much can I “learn, unlearn and relearn” my approach? (Toffler 1970) More specific connections with learning theories and leveraging vital collaboration with the collective intelligence of peers and colleagues in my current course of study, would improve learning and teaching in my learning environment. This “levelling up” approach has been applied directly to my current and future curriculum and project planning with students. “Upgrading content requires deliberate provocation…what content should be kept,…cut,…created.” (Jacobs 2010) Using experiences with Grade Five students, I will explore benefits of current approaches and leverage established and evolving learning theories, specifically humanism, cognitivism, behaviorism and constructivism in order to upgrade the learning environment for my students.

In the third term of Grade Five, students are often expected to more formally present a researched topic in Social Studies. Taking the pre-2013 revision of the Ontario Social Studies curriculum as a guide, Ancient China was the topic and students were assigned to research martial arts, food, clothing etc. Students were then asked to present their discoveries. When critically examining this project from a humanist lens, it is clear the students might have to “manufacture” their connections to topic, especially when they are assigned by the teacher. Yet connection with the material was a vital assessed element as manifested through enthusiasm, performance and creativity. In fact, much effort was made for teachers to find the right topic to fit specific students with understandably mixed results. These are clear signs that although assigned presentations were appropriate for meeting curricular goals, some tweaking and updating would be necessary to engage students from a humanist perspective. In fairness, our curricular documentation has reflected this change in the 2013 revision with an emphasis on an inquiry-based learning model where students are encouraged to ask questions and research using a variety of sources (primary, secondary etc.) and assumingly leverage new web-based search tools when appropriate.

From a behaviourist perspective, students were encouraged by a secure environment and often felt safe and supported by a variety of educators, peers and parents. Not surprisingly, students loved showing martial arts movies, dressing in beautiful silk and eating Chinese delicacies too. At times, students would use handouts with crosswords, games, stories  and other techniques. We often used presentation tools on the computer (i.e. Power Point, Voice Thread etc.) for engagement and interactive purposes (i.e. Jeopardy, online commenting) These last two strategies were often a great help when exploring more facts-based material (Emperors, Religion etc.) From this analysis, I would argue that students were aided by behaviorist perspective with praise, support and even scaffolding when appropriate. Students were encouraged by the teacher to demonstrate their observational learning skills by leading the class through materials in a teacher-like manner. (By Grade Five, they have much experience observing many teachers in action to use as a guide.)

From a cognitivist perspective, this project has challenges as students are assessed on their performance of their research rather than emphasizing a more gradual accumulation of knowledge, thinking skills, organization, project management or even collaboration. They could also be much more potential for input upon the accumulated scholarship or collective intelligence on a particular topic. In addition, this accumulation only built upon prior research skills (in Grade Four) and towards skill development for future research (Grade Six). In practice, projects were often discarded at the end of the year with little option for retrieval beyond an occasional video recording. Perhaps its place in a portfolio, (digital I would suggest) would add retrieval options, give more clues to thinking processes, knowledge acquisition, accumulation and assimilation. Assessment based on the performance/product alone would give educators less data than a performance combined with analysis of the process through documents like a portfolio most importantly accompanied by comments on the materials. Idealy, this might provide clues to a student’s metacognition and perspective. In fact, Piaget might see this project as more about accepting the research of others rather than “…creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify.” (Piaget, 1952)

From a constructivist approach, our presenter’s performance and ability to engage the students would be based in their “radical constructivism” as suggested by Glaserfeld. In other words, students would be more interested when they can construct meaning to the material with their own inquires. Their ability to accommodate and accumulate puts much pressure on the student to construct and present the materials in an appealing, thought provoking and simulating manner. In fairness, much scaffolding, support and guidance for this was provided by a variety of educators. In fact, students were encouraged to be creative could build or construct their presentation in any manner (i.e. story, drama, multimedia presentation, game, demonstration, samples etc.) However, perhaps a more inquiry-based model is more student centered and would be better supported by constructivist theory.

Our latest project with Grade Five students is less performance based and provide a more opportunities supported by a variety of learning theories and approaches. This “levelling up” or upgrade to the curriculum allows  students more choice (Humanist), while maintaining a consistent level of encouragement through a supportive environment (Behaviorist), provides an emphasis on the analysis of thinking skills in both the process and product (cognitivist) and finally, allows students to create and construct their own meaning and learning (constructivist). Finally, this new approach has the potential to tap into the collective intelligence of our class of digital experts, online sources and eventually when comfortable connect (connectivism) with others.

In specific, students were asked to create their own country after learning and profiling elements of the Canadian Federal government as an observable example. The key components were a “thought book(sample) and a website creation tool (Google Sites). Unlike the prior individual project, students worked in pairs to create their My Country web pages as emphasis on social learning would also benefit students as they can help and aid each other when needed. “Hence, the principle and method of ICT integration in education is as follows: ICT is a means to organize paired interactions in the problem solving process as well as a means of cooperative educational activities in the classroom (teacher – student – group of students).” (Kalas 2010)

Each team was asked to profile their own country based on the criteria from their research and their own creativity and imagination. Scaffolding on using the technology to create pages  was provided by videos (YouTube playlist), links, resources and students were encouraged to work collaboratively. Time was spent encouraging and modelling good collaboration as mentioned above and has foundation in Bandura’s social learning theory. Creating a the videos worked well as an opportunity for students to work within their zone of proximal development (ZPD) as students could watch, pause, rewind and play steps to complete their objective like changing the theme or adding images and links. In addition, teacher-led mini lessons or collaborations with supportive peers aided students to progress in their ZPD. The assessment process was changed from an emphasis on a final performance/presentation towards a gradual process enhanced by technology options like “revision history” and practices like “check in’s” to monitor students progress.

In addition, students were awarded badges (my list) rather than marks based on their creations and these badges were awarded throughout the process than at the end (perhaps too late!) Probably the most exciting element was the opportunity for the students to inspired (and potentially create) badges of their very own based in their interest, achievements and ideas. This appeals from both a behaviorist (“I’ll have that badge I created please”) and humanist perspective (I have designed success myself through the creation of my own badge. Here is my conversation with a student (video only viewable by FDJ) on this and my screencast in student-inspired badges. Based on this conversation and  observation of him leads me to believe that he and his partner is demonstrating Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” when working on this project. Finally, The “final” product being web-based is easily archived, shared and retrieved as both an exemplary for next year’s students and as part of a digital portfolio for the student.

Overall, a reimagining of all our projects and activities through the lens of all learning theories suggested that the learner is at the center rather than the curriculum content. The learner is supported by collaboration from a number of sources including a dedicated partner, educators in a variety of disciplines, other supportive peers, links to learning materials online and specific step-by-step screencasting videos for modelling. In addition, the opportunity in this example project encourages students to be creative on their web design while demonstrating necessary social studies learning goals. Accessing this project online through access to a lab, tablets in the classroom and even at home provides opportunity for anytime tinkering, iterating and creating. However, applying this example further and situated in learning space dedicated to building and construction could be even more powerful for learners. Being surrounded by the “buzz” of creative individuals in the act “flow” no doubt helps too. In fact, here are no limit to the possibilities for this project to include a variety of mediums including digital (paint and sketching (i.e. Flags), audio recordings (national anthem), animations (promoting the country, video, incorporation of web gadgets (a calendar of holidays), even programming through applications like Scratch (a web based games about the country) to Papert’s programmable drawing in Logo. Also physical creative mediums like painting, building with wood, plastics should not be ignored as they can be easily added to the web space through embedded video or photo. Finally, digital to physical mediums like 3-D printers or performing robots provide a new medium for learning. In short, our learning theories tell us that creative learner-centric activities in well designed spaces like makerspaces provide students with the opportunity to self-actualize.

Mini Maker Space 1
Sources

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:. TED talk. (Feb. 2014.) “Flow, the Secret to Happiness.” http://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow

Glasersfeld, E. von, (2001) The radical constructivist view of science. In: A. Riegler (Ed.),Foundations of Science, special issue on “The Impact of Radical Constructivism on Science”, vol.6, no. 1–3: 31–43.

Jacobs, Heidi Hayes. (2010) Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development,  Print.

Kalas, I. (2010) Recognizing the potential of ICT in early childhood education © UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education, http://iite.unesco.org/pics/publications/en/files/3214673.pdf

Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas, New York, Basic Books

Piaget, Jean. (1952) The origins of intelligence in children. International Universities Press

Pink, Daniel H. (2009) Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. New York, NY: Riverhead,  Print.

The Ontario curriculum – Social Studies Grade 1 to 6 (2013 revised) http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/sshg18curr2013.pdf

Toffler, Alvin. (1970) Future Shock. New York: Random House,  Web.

Tsu-Raun, Christian (Jan. 2014) Creating a Mini Maker Space 

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wyatt, Valerie (2009) How to Build Your Own Country © Citizen Kid, Kids Can Press http://www.scholastic.ca/clubs/images/activities/HowToBuildYourOwnCountry_2029_teaching.pdf 

What is the place of Papert’s “microworld” of Logo in this era of programming, coding and making?

mindstorms bookOk, let’s spare the suspense here. Yes, I think Logo has a place as a valuable programming language with primary and even intermediate learners today. Papert’s Mindstorms book has had a tremendous influence on my thinking and I must admit to being profoundly impressed since it was written and researched in 1980(!) In this book, Papert explores the potential of “world building” through a computer language that he and his team created called Logo aimed at “world-builders” AKA all learners and explorers.  The digital turtle serves as a learning tool manipulated and programmed by students using specific rules in the Logo environment. As learners manipulate the turtle in creative ways, they are in the act of constructing a world of their own. As a Computer Science teacher in 2015, I wonder what is the place of Logo on teaching and learning in this era of creating, coding, making and of course programming?

In specific, I have been revisiting Papert and his team’s “microworld” of Logo with primary learners using Microworlds Junior. I must admit that the majority of my attention and Computer Science lessons with primary and junior students have been focused on Scratch and Blockly through the code.org site. However, Microworlds Junior especially has been an excellent gateway tool for programming, drawing and digital tinkering for learners in Grade One to Three. When evaluating their projects, I asked our creator to consider the perspective someone “playing” their file using three questions. Is it clear what to do? Is it fun? Can I replay? These questions provided tools for self and peer evaluation and potential next steps although they are certainly not the only criteria for success. In below pictures and videos, students had the choice to create an animation, story or game on a topic of their choice.

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More sample videos using the new Microsoft Sway software.  https://sway.com/s/BGlbiBqM0x8cASfZ/embed 

Here are a few strategies that I hope are inspired by Papert’s research and demonstrate good pedagogy for encouraging creativity, design thinking and help prepare primary learners for more advanced programming skills.

1. Demonstrations are very powerful: Get the turtle moving (forward 10+repeat) on screen and ask simply what should the turtle do next, what would happen if two turtles collided? Answers from students included “turn, dance, turn into a ballerina, explode(!), says “I’m cool” etc.) I found it fascinating to try help make their ideas, no, matter how crazy, work. Finding a way to incorporate their creative ideas using the rules of the MicroWorlds Jr. (pendown, multple pages, if then commands etc.) become an amazing challenge for them (and me as an instructor!)

My hope is that this model of experimentation which encourage learners in our class to adopt a similar approach…

2. Avoid teaching a recipe. “Now we going to get the turtle to draw a square” Instead of show them turtle art websites designed by others and ask them which one they like best (or invite them to re-mix the the program or others or create their own design)

3. Celebrate their achievements: I use my SMARTboard to showcase their progress, constantly video recorded their programs using a camera, iPad, Surface and smartphone (I kept running out of space quicker than I could say “upload to GDrive, Dropbox, OneDrive etc.”)   OR create sites like this one Turtle Art site.

4. Encourage failure as an opportunity – F.A.I.L. is simply the First Attempt In Learning or put another way “We are only working with current best idea.” which I attribute to Heidi Siwak from the #bit14 conference last year.

5. Allow collaboration. I let them help and teach each other so the class is a busy and active one.

What cannot happen is that Logo (or other programming tools) should be used to explore traditional teacher-led pedagogy. If Logo is taught as “content” then I think is loses it potential as an amazing “playground” or “sandbox” for digital play, program creation and innovation.


For further reading on the ideas of Seymour Papert, Logo and Programming…

Check out Jim Cash’s excellent post (backed up by much academic research too!) critically examining the work of Papert in the context of the recent increased interest in the coding and making movement.

and the work of Peter Skillen as a fun and experienced advocate of Logo and the work of Papert.


Here are a few sample teaching slides I assembled for classes.

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Here is the link to MicroWorlds Junior site.

Finally let’s end with…

Gary Stager’s excellent TED Talk on Seymour Papert” Inventor of Everything!

How might Digital Badging impact the future of learning and assessment

There is no question that marks or grades remain a constant in education in both the lives of students, teachers, administrators, parents and politicians in 2015. Yet today, we have many tools to document, assess student learning and achievements with a remarkable level of specificity beyond a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA). Futurist Turri, believes that “the grade point average (GPA) will no longer be the primary instrument to validate academic achievement.” (Turri, Disappearing Future 2. Educational Processes) How would such a transition from a marks-based to a standards-based approach in education impact assessment processes? How can we leverage sound pedagogy, learning theories and technological tools to aid students to achieve and learn with rigor yet allow them individual expression and reflection? Could instructors and institutions use strategies such as badging or digital portfolios to measure student progress for future learning opportunities and even offer them as admission standards for future learning or employment? Would a standards-based approach aid graduates given how critical self-directed and lifelong learning will be in our increasingly complex times.

Digital badging is one new practice worth examining for its potential benefits for teaching, learning assessment practices in both formal and informal learning settings. “Digital badges are an assessment and credentialing mechanism that is housed and managed online. “ 1 (http://www.macfound.org/programs/digital-badges/ )

This YouTube video from Mozilla explores the reasoning, practices and potential methodology behind digital badges.

This diagram I designed showcases the Badges Ecosystem as described by the Mozilla Open Badges video above and John Foster’s article. This diagram has the learner in the middle, who is awarded a badge from an issuer (a respected authority figure on a topic or subject) which is stored and displayed as part of a collection and ideally as part of digital portfolio. The critical step of this ecosystem must be the potential link between the badge and specific evidence of the individual’s results and achievements. Jackie Gerstein states this in her blog post “I Don’t Get Digital Badges!” (ed. note – I believe she actually likes them, but offers a fair and critical review of badging as an indicator of student progress and achievement not a replacement.) Finally, badges are stored in a public place like a digital portfolio, blog or websites for interested parties (i.e. admission officers, potential employers etc.)  to access and review.

Some of the benefits of digital badges are: they provide a method to showcase the skills of learners beyond traditional structures like academic transcript marks and degrees. As we live in increasingly technical and complex times, surrounded by evolving technology, organizations and knowledge, lifelong learning becomes an essential ingredient of success and productive citizens. Badges are one strategy to measure and recognize new learning in a transparent manner. When badges are linked directly to evidence on eportfolios or websites (i.e. video, photos, documents, testimonials etc.) etc. potential employees, partners, administrators and evaluators will have a better insight into a individual’s abilities beyond marks, transcripts or perhaps even a short interview. For educators, eportfolios and badges can aid the assessment process by providing a more complete pictures of a learner’s progress. A digital portfolio (i.e.blog, wiki, site etc.) can also provide a rich platform for dialogue and asynchronous communication between educators and learners through comments and messaging. As learning becomes increasingly specialized, badging offers a new and potentially unique pathway of learning for each student. In other words, an educational system based on badges in a higher institution might allow students to register for specific courses only previously available to a specific degree. Alex Halavais, a college professor uses badges instead of a traditional grading system in his university course on communications. “It’s an index of your learning biography,” he says. “It allows you to stitch together your [educational career] in interesting ways.” (Ash , Colleges Use ‘Digital Badges to replace Traditional Grading.”

A good critical analysis demands that we address some of the challenges with badging. In specific, some might say that students escape rigor through a “easy pathway” of courses in higher institutions. (i.e. B.Sc. students could avoid the dreaded “Bio-Chemistry” course, Social Science students avoid Math heavy statistics course or Arts students avoid learning a second language as prerequisites for graduation.) Critics might say such gaps could undermine the reputation of the institution by potential employers who expect employees from a particular course to have a specific set of skills. However, such a pathway would be a learner’s choice and employee with access to badge information could examine a canditate skills in more rather than less detail. Finally a student in Halavais course from above wonders “whether the system would be too unstructured for a less motivated younger student. ” (Ash, 2012) In response to that criticism, I would suggest that good curriculum design and lesson planning could allow K-12 students, who I would argue love choices, to experience an equally rigorous pathway.

Badging has the potential to increase motivation in students. Badging is definitely a form of operant conditioning, which educators can use positive reinforcement of awarding badges to encourage students to learn and excel. Instructors can utilize badges as positive reinforcement for learning and success. However, as students get older this form of positive reinforcement may lose its impact especially if not accompanied by increase credibility for badges from outside sources (i.e. potential employers or admissions officers.)

Examining badging through the lens of a humanist learning theory, reveals that badges could provide a authentic record of learner’s pathway of  exploration, understanding and interactions with others. Badges would be an excellent method to map out and articulate Malcolm Knowles’ ideas on self-directed learning. This pathway of learning could also include a wide range of interactions and connections that demonstrate curiosity and the active journey to change society as Freire suggests. Perhaps through reflection and detail provided in a digital portfolios, full of badges, visitors might even be able to see evidence of the journey towards self-actualization at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In short, the opportunity to have a clear record of specific learnings beyond traditional methods like degrees and marks helps individuals present a more accurate expression of themselves, perhaps even approaching the ideal self.

From cognitivist and constructivist perspectives, a collection of badges might provide a map of the “black box” of a learner’s brain. In addition, badges when accompanied by a collection of writing, thoughts and reflections perhaps in digital portfolio format could provide a road map of a learner’s journey through Piaget’s stages of development. Such a format is an excellent artifact for examining a learning’s thinking as they assimilate and accommodate new learning. Learners, dependent on age and stage, can also be aware of their Zone of Proximal Development through examining and planning their learning pathways and through collaboration between teacher and learner on a portfolio. Learners should definitely be able to view, question and explore the criteria for earning specific badge in order to consider next steps. Finally, the link between play, gaming and learning is reinforced as badging is often a huge element in recording a gamer progress in the completion of the game. Critical to this connection between gaming and badging is providing a non-linear structure for learning where learners can “unlock” badges and a variety of learning pathways that appeal to them.

Badging has much potential to aid teachers and students if grounded in good pedagogy, fully supported by parties internal and external to organization, as a reward for rigour, student success and achievement. Such student progress MUST be accompanied by specific evidence, perhaps a embedded in a portfolio or badge itself or as a open link. Considering learner motivation towards is challenging because “(I)t is beyond argument that we cannot crack open a learner’s head, insert a magnifying glass, and make direct, error-free observations of what the learner “knows.” (Wiley, 2012) My experience with badging seems to indicate that this strategy of portfolios and badges will motivate most but not all. However, in the differentiated classroom, educators must leverage a variety of tools to appeal and in some cases motivate all the individual learners in their class. Through the lens of learning theories, I would argue that badging and digital portfolios need to be continually examined critically but at this time have potential for a positive impact on learning. Experiences with badging in three environments, junior students in Grade 4, senior students in Grade 11 and 12 and finally educators seem indicate that badges and digital portfolios provide an asset for both educators and learners in the assessment process.

“Advocates of this vision for K-12 contend that such badges could help bridge educational experiences that happen in and out of school, as well as provide a way to recognize “soft skills” such as leadership and collaboration. Badges could paint a more granular and meaningful picture of what a student actually knows than a standardized-test score or a letter grade. ” (Ash, 2012)

Sources:

Ash, K. (2012, June 13). Colleges Use ‘Digital Badges’ to Replace Traditional Grading. Digital Directions, 05(03), 26. Retrieved HERE

Chuter, A. (2015, February 6th) Digital Badging: a valuable addition to aid assessment practices. https://ict4kids.ca/2015/02/06/digital-badging-a-valuable-addition-to-assessment-practice/

Digital Badges (2015) http://www.macfound.org/programs/digital-badges/

Siko et al. (2013) Disappearing Future 2. Educational Processes http://www.wfs.org/futurist/2013-issues-futurist/september-october-2013-vol-47-no-5/top-10-disappearing-futures/disap-0 

Foster, J. C. (2013). The promise of digital badges. Techniques, 88(8), 30+. Retrieved here

Gerstein, Jackie, (2013, March 16th) –https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/i-dont-get-digital-badges/

Turri, Dan et al. (September-October-2013 Vol.47-No.5) Disappearing Future 2. Educational Processes)

Wiley, David (2012, June 12th) Iterating towards Openness http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/2397

Tools for Issuers of Badging 
Credly.com

Classbadges.com

Mozilla Open Badges

Digital Badging: a valuable addition to assessment practice

Badging sample
Why Badges?

There is no question that kids (and adults) love shiny new toys and for educators, digital badging is trending as a practice to aid motivation, learning and student achievement. Anyone familiar with boys or girls scouts (my son is a cub!) know that badging is not really new and like the military serves as a critical element in their programme. Badging is used as motivation for encouraging their members to learn, achieve and is proudly displayed on sashes and uniforms during ceremonies or special occasions.

Today in education, students today of all ages can have access to a (free!) digital space (call it digital portfolios, blogs, websites or even cloud storage) where earned badges and achievements now have a place to be displayed to a potentially global audience. Dependent on the age of the student, their digital space can be teacher or student-curated. The opportunity to modify the degree of sharing from private or public and access to specific groups like parents or experts in between. However, I cannot help but ask whether digital badges aids motivation to learn or even diminishes it? I was inspired to this critical analysis from my own experiences, discussions in a class on Behaviorism and Jackie Gerstein’s well articulated blog post called “Why I hate digital badges.” (Spoiler alert: She doesn’t but is rightfully critical and cautious that badging should not replace evidence of learning among other ideas.)

However, I find that badges can aid the assessment process when used to celebrate, recognize and motivate student achievement and learning. Offering badges can offer students choice to earn, achieve and learn but should be not linear in their application (i.e. one badge at a time.) This experience will be familiar to those students who commonly unlock achievements in video games. (And I have a sneaking suspicion we all know might know a few student gamers in our classes:) Allowing students the option to complete tasks and curate projects in any order I believe replicates a differentiated instruction strategy of choice boards and would be appealing for students. And like games, some badges would be easy to earn than other more complex requirements.

I also like how badges can be a tangible reward that might be placed on blog, wiki or social media site. And after reading Jackie Gerstein’s article, I agree that the matching of badges with a digital portfolios or web spaces is essential so that interested parties can “click through” hyperlinks to examine related photos, videos, files and creative work for specific evidence of learning at a level of detail dependent on the observer. However, I am admittedly reluctant of the place of badges when transferred from one class to another. In other words, even the most well designed and transparent badging system is best used over the course of one school year with one teacher. Although Mozilla hope to apply standards to badging through their open source Open Badges initiative. (So watch this space!) Even higher educational institutions are getting in on the badging act.

Badges allow students to be rewarded for selected and specific achievements within a unit or course of study. In a mark-based system of assessment with rubrics, students may be reluctant to work towards something that is not marked. No question and full disclosure here, some students do struggle with the idea of shifting from a mark-based model to a standards-based one. Badging can help with the assessment process as students are able to be recognized personally for their achievements when achieving a badge by the instructor and can be key collaborators for peers interested in earning a particular badge. On that last point, badging is also a differentiation tool as like all initiatives Roger’s bell curve applies. Having badging will motivate some students (and I would argue a large majority) but may not be for all and I think that is ok. An educator might have to use different strategies to motivate, inspire, support and teach. (Yes, badging is certainly “no magic bullet” but can an evolving practice that I argue offers benefits to all involved in the learning process.)

I have been experimenting with badges in both Primary, Junior and Senior environments and find them a useful to aid the assessment process.

Below is a diagram of workflow in my classes and badging would enter in between Stage 5 and 6 of the process where projects are commented on, assessed and returned. As for platforms, I have been using KidBlog (sample) with primary students and Google Sites with both junior (sample) and senior (sample) students. Although, next steps with Grade 12 students would be to use services like Squarespace and the Adobe Creative Cloud as requested (Their requests and they are right…)
BVG Workflow sample 2014

How to create badges

Creating using Power Point

Creating using Credly.com

Also classbadges.com is an excellent resource for creating badges and even collecting embeddable options. For me, I have a folder that I use with all my badges in it (HERE) and create and collaborative with colleagues on Google documents with the requirements for each badges.

Further discussion on badging

I look forward to sharing my continuing practice with badging and eportfolios but remember that as assessment change, adapt and evolve (hopefully for the better) celebrating and encouraging student achievement is fundamental.

Here are a small sample of sites on badging. I look forward to further discussions and chats on Twitter and specifically at #badgechatk12.

Using badging with K-12 – http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-with-technology-articles/using-badges-classroom-motivate-learning/

Higher Education example – Masters in Education through Badging – http://etale.org/main/2014/09/07/you-can-now-earn-a-masters-degree-in-edtech-through-competency-based-digital-badges/

Shelly Terrell’s slidedeck on adapting assessment to be missions – http://www.slideshare.net/ShellTerrell/meaningful-elearning-with-digital-badges-missions

Jackie Gerstein’s blog post with a critical examination of digital badging – https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/i-dont-get-digital-badges/

Kate Ash’s features of digital badging – http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2012/06/13/03badges.h05.html?

Nellie Deutsch’s post on badges as virtual rewards – http://www.emergingedtech.com/2013/06/the-evolving-use-of-badges-in-education/

Our Hour of Code ’14 and Computer Science Week

The Hour of Code is a great way to encourage computational thinking and Computer Science for learners of all ages. This year’s Hour of Code was only possible thanks to a great team of colleagues and students who made it so much fun (and busy!) On the week of December 8th to the 12th, we implemented a school-wide initiative with students participating from three divisions K-5, Grade 6-8 along with our Grade 9-12 programmers taking the lead. Our goals were to encourage students to use computer technology as a creative programmable tool and prepare them for the programmable times that we live in today and tomorrow. (I like this Wired article by: Bill Wasik!) Needless to say, this was a popular event as almost all primary and junior students, when given encouragement and support, love using technology and for some this opened up new possibilities of learning, expression, creativity and sharing on devices familiar to them.

Some of our events and highlights included:

1. Our Hour of Code led by our Grade 11 and 12 programming students who partnered with our Grade 3 coders to explore apps such as Scratch, Lightbot and the code.org tutorials. Having Scratch 1.4 as a backup proved invaluable when connectivity was slow or unavailable to the code.org site. (This happened as our Hour was the first Monday of Comp. Sci. week at 9:00am!)

2. All our K- 8 students completed their Hour of Code on a variety of programming and coding applications during ICT classes. Students from SK and up explored Lightbot, Scratch (Why write a holiday card when you can create a holiday code?), and the multitude of programming activities at code.org. Outside of classes, students were lined up the door to get a seat at our lab computers to complete our coding activities. (Enough to bring a tear to this Computer teacher’s eye…although no time for that, too busy helping and encouraging 😉

2. Competition  – After much discussion prompted by exploring the videos on the need for Computer Science in the K-12 curriculum, students were encouraged to create a program using Scratch. Some excellent ideas…Link
scratc2

3. We met and partnered with a local Computer Scientist, entrepreneur and CEO who supported our efforts and told us the journey of her career in Computer Science and some of her successes, challenges and adaptations to the always changing (and always exciting) field.

4. We also presented at Assembly including the famous Loop Dance and a popular visit from Sphero (so much buzz, I think I might have sold a few and or had the Sphero added to student’s lists for Santa…:)
loop1

5. Most importantly, our programmers from Grade 3 and up went beyond One Hour of Code and were keen to continue their programming journey through the code.org site especially when they could login and save their progress using their school Google accounts.

By my very, very rough estimate, I would say approximately over 10,000 lines of code were written over the week. Here is a link to my simple Scratch program and presentation at assembly!
scratch1

Probably, my favourite takeaway from this event was that we encouraged all, including our teachers that students can create and curate computer programs (like visual-based code like Scratch or text-based code) to demonstrate their learning and understanding in any topic. Learn to program or program to learns(?)…how about both!

How can Technology be used to help keep education relevant at all levels?

“For more info about the video:

http://shifthappens.wikispaces.com/

This video presents a glimpse of what the current situation is in terms of information, technology and knowledge generation around the world.   It presents a situation.  As we discussed, if a “problem” is the “gap” or distance between a current existing situation and a different maybe more desirable one, then what you need to do here, is to look at this and first of all decide if “education” as a social project in its current form, meets its own objectives.  Is it and will it be relevant to it’s own context (the current situation and it imaginable short term future)?

More specifically, if digital technology is having such an impact on all domains of human activity, how can this technology be used to help keep education relevant at all levels?

You are asked to discuss this question and try to clearly identify the associated “problems” in this forum.  Maybe start by identifying clearly what the situation is currently and then what would be a desired situation.  Following this, you should likely work on establishing what the “gap” is (and maybe even assessing if it is within the ZPD of each group?).  Each of you is asked to choose a specific perspective (thread in this forum) that you will adopt for the purpose of this activity only. Hopefully we can get a few people looking at each one?  (We will rotate the groups for the other “problem” activities so that you can experience at least four different perspectives during the course).

  • Students
  • Teachers
  • Parents
  • Administrations
  • Politicians”

From Francois Desjardin’s class on September 15th 2014

Along with full time teaching. I have focusing on my Academic studies, so feel free to check out my Academic Research pages.  Each week we are encouraged to explore the perspective on the above list. My Learning (B)log here for EDUC5101g will be recording my progress as I learn and explore. Feel free to explore my latest posts here.
~Anthony

My #summerofpd – A few activities to “level up” my #edtech skills

A summer break for teachers is definitely a privilege and an opportunity for growth.  The intense, 24/7, always on, crazy schedule during term time sometimes demands a complete break to rest, recover and recharge!  I definitely get that and felt that I took enough time to feel refreshed but also decided to use this time to explore  a number of opportunities to “level up” my #edtech skills through some self-initiated studies. (Perhaps the absence of my enthusiastic camp-bound kids was a significant and contributing factor!)  Here are some of initiatives I explored during this time I dubbed the #summerofpd.

1. Certified as a Google Educator
ARC Google Educator Aug.2014

This site offered teacher-created screencasts with accompanying documents for educators to explore how Google Chrome, Docs, Drive, Calendar, Gmail and Sites can aid teaching and learning. The Level 1 tests were straight forward with everyday experience using the apps but the Level 2 questions  proved challenging as their specificity really tested my revision and study skills. (I’ll have to remember that feeling come December when my students mention all the ISP’s, exams, activities, clubs, teams, events presentations on their to-do list.)  Here is a brief summary of my particular favourites. (More detail to come as I can’t give away all my future blog posts!)

Gmail – Added tabs and tags to sort and organize my messages easily (i.e. academic studies, receipts, notifications, personal etc.)
Google Sites – Created student portfolio templates (Hapara Dashboard makes the process even easier)
Google Calendar – Built shared course calendars for myself and students and ready to assign project calendars student led collaborative assignments
Google Chrome – Created distinct users (home vs. school) and pinned tabs to keep important sites keeps separate yet easily accessible, also some added great apps like Powtoon and extensions like Clearly or goo.gl URL shortener
Google Drive – Collected a number of a good screencasts on using Google Apps. I focused on Google Forms and Google Drawings which were relatively unfamiliar to me. Here is a Google Drawing I created as a model on how Google Classroom (another recent release to explore!) will adjust the workflow in my classes.
BVG Workflow sample 2014

Overall, I passed all the exams and that felt good! Here is the proof. Next steps, will be to include my learning into my professional practice and then share with colleagues in my PLN internally and when appropriate externally too.

The link to the Google Certification site is here and even if you do not decide to pay for the tests, there are some amazing teacher-created videos on many Google tips and tricks.

2. Became a Graphite Certified Educator

The Graphite Certified Educator programme appealed to me as an excellent strategy to review and explore the exponentially increasing amount of educational apps, software and websites now available. (I think of this site as Wikipedia for educational technology.) With so many educational technology resources released frequently, this opportunity to “crowd-source” and collect reviews and experiences of educators is invaluable as a tool to stay “current” in busy times and be able contribute my own ideas and suggestions when inspired. I am lucky enough to explore much educational technology in my professional practice, academic practice and self- professed GeekDad moments (i.e Right now its all about the Sphero 2.o with my two but I digress…)

The Graphite site has many features but here are the sections I would like to emphasize.

Field Notes – Here educators create and share their reviews of  educational technology (#edtech) resources (apps, websites and software). Through crowd-sourcing and the work of many, there is an excellent opportunity to collect a vast database of information to benefit those interested in reading reviews from educators with experience with the technology. (After all, how many of us spend time “clarifying” things on wikipedia.org! I think I have a problem as I have to “wikipedia” EVERY form of media (book, article, movie, show etc.) I read or watch 🙂

Boards – a perfect place to curate Field Notes and educational resources (apps, websites and software) together on a particular theme. I built a board called “Kids Can Code” that allowed me to collect reviews and links on programming for kids from familiar ones (i.e. I even added my Scratch review too) to unfamiliar software  and everything in between in terms of familiarity and quality.

App Flow – A place to share “gourmet” lesson plans which integrate technology successfully into lessons. I like the emphasis on a “Hook” too as an important element for all exemplary lessons,  as can be an overlooked element for successful learning. (I think Daniel Pink covers this in his A Whole New Mind book.) App Flows could be excellent resources for teachers especially when just getting started with a particular #edtech resource. I hope to share my best “gourmet” lessons and resources from my professional practice when appropriate. Sometimes an app, software or website gets even more interesting when you read the specifics on how educators uses it to successfully enhance learning. App Flow provide the app and how is integrated successfully in the class. Helpful!

3. Completed a MOOC ” ICT and Primary”

Full disclosure, I was encouraged to explore a MOOC in a recent graduate course but I signed up for it as it was completely relevant to my professional practice (and I finished the whole course too!)  Here is a link to a full blog post on my takeaways from the MOOC called “ICT and Primary” from the University of London.

In addition, to these opportunities, Twitter and LinkedIn continued to be excellent places for “micro-PD” to collect resources, explore new ideas and connect for professional discourse. Overall, I am deeming the #summerofpd a success (You can do that when it’s self-initiated!)

~Anthony

Reflecting on my first MOOC – ICT and Primary – University of London & Coursea

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In June, I enrolled in my first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) and I am pleased to say that I completed all six weeks earning a certificate (with distinction no less!) in this self-directed learning opportunity. Here’s why?  Well, basically, the stars aligned for completing this MOOC for me: as the topic mirrored my everyday professional role as an ICT specialist, MOOC’s  were a recent area of discussion in my latest graduate course and probably the main reason, June means the end of term here in Canada so with some of my own children off to camp I actually had some time to spend on it. And boy was it worth it…

Here are top 5 takeaways from the course. (A link to my full course journal is at the bottom of the page.)

1. ICT provides much opportunity for student learning.

Dr. Laurillard suggests in her book Teaching as a Design Science (Laurillard 2012) that ICT provides learning types or opportunities in the following categories (acquisition, discussion, investigation, practice, collaboration & production.) This model will be helpful for me and my PLN for future lesson planning, collaborations and discussions on technology integration. In the course, there was considerable emphasis on a student’s ability to learn, play and create as a core foundation which resonated with me. Although technology skills are increasingly proving vital for student pursuing academic studies and eventually finding employment, the emphasis of the integration of technology should be primarily focused on creating the best learning opportunity for students.

2. Much can be learned from exploring globally how primary schools integrate technology. 

As teachers we are always so focused on our own schools and students (pupils) that the opportunity to peek through classroom walls (and schools), hear directly from leaders and review specific case studies was a powerful learning opportunity in this MOOC. In particular, a school in Singapore had an excellent 1:1 model which comprehensively involved all members of their learning community. I also liked the emphasis on ICT in UK primary schools away from traditional ICT skills like word processing  towards an updated curriculum emphasizing computational thinking and creative tinkering using technology. Robot arms, Beebots, Probots and other educational programming. Yes, please… In fact, one of the assignments was to make a technology decision for your school, my proposed suggestion was to add more computational thinking opportunities through apps like Scratch Jr., Kodable, Cargo Bot, Hopscotch, Move the Turtle and Daisy the Dinosaur and hardware like Beebots, Probots and Lego We-Do and Mindstorms.

3. I reaffirmed the importance of Computational Thinking and its place in the primary curriculum.

(OK from my blog, you probably figured that I was sold on this one but there are so many interesting resources that I plan to champion in school.)
Here are a few computational thinking resources that I explored in the course.

Developing Computational Thinking. Some interesting ideas and resources from Bosany, Slovakia. Their exploratory approach of Beebots with primary students was helpful and definitely worth adopting.

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National curriculum in England: Computing at Key Stage 1 and 2 Wrote about this in my presentation on Scratch at last year’s ECCO conference but the UK is making some bold moves in updating its curriculum to promote programming which is quite commendable.
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Computational thinking video by ISTE

In specific to my experience, I would love to implement Beebots, computational programming apps for primary students like Scratch Jr., Scratch among others  and extend use of programmable Lego like We-Do and Mindstorms. This should make for an exciting year.

4. Collaboration and teacher support is vital for the successful integration of technology.

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This theme was echoed in forums, discussions and projects throughout the course. In one part of course, an Australian ICT teacher named Sarah Hill worked side-by-side with teachers at all stages of integrated projects, starting with an initial professional training and development session, followed by collaboration and team teaching when necessary. Although not mentioned in this specific video,  the need for reflection and evaluation after integrated projects is critical but often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the busy classroom and lives of teachers. I try to emulate this practice in my collaborations with teachers emphasizing support and student needs over any of my technology preferences. Other resources explored in the course include Learning Designer, Diigo and Twitter as excellent online tools for teachers to connect and share resources for the successful integration of technology. Increasingly the creation of a online and growing PLN both inside and outside the school is a helpful strategy for teachers.

5. Children love learning with technology. (I can echo this from over 15+ years as an educator and as a parent of two primary digital tinkerers!)

I believe children see technology as “their” medium with so many opportunities for them to explore and create. Even traditional subjects are more motivating when explored through technology. Here is a research paper from UNESCO on the perspective of children.

Read Chapter 7 ‘Students’ perspective’, of the UNESCO Book ICT in Primary Education. Volume 2: Policy, Practices and Recommendations.

Here is a link to a Padlet with some drawing, pictures and perspectives shared by teachers in the course.
‘Children’s Voices’ Padlet Wall: http://padlet.com/wall/wbarmwiy24



My #summerofpd continues, next up, a more “MOOCy” madness for me. I have signed up for a fun MOOC on the history of  Beatles (Bring on the (pub) quizzes!?) and on a more professional note off to get my Google certification… (More tests !?)

Here is a link to my Course Journal from my Academic research tab.

~Anthony

New – web based learning tool on creating new learning environments with the Microsoft Surface Pro

Feel like ALL the tablet guides on the internet are about the iPad ONLY. Me too! The iPad is great as a learning tool but definitely does have some limitations. Hello Flash! Exploring this web based learning tool encourages educators explore the benefits of a Windows-based tablet (I use the Microsoft Surface Pro 2.)  as a full laptop replacement.
http://surfaceandbeyond.wordpress.com

This tool explores…

1. Using the Microsoft Surface.
2. Why Tablets? What Surface?
3. Creating a vision for use
4. Resources for communicating that vision  
5. New pedagogies and approaches to learning.
5. Implementation resources (i.e. carts, 1:1, posters, handouts, lesson ideas.)
6. Next steps with tablets.

Thanks in advance for your ideas. Join the conversation!
Click below to begin.

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