Musings from a Makerspace newbie

In the Library, my role requires some very distinct pieces – one of which is collaborating with staff and students.  Within this role, I have always worked to innovate and “think outside the box” (cliche yes, but stick around… I promise there’s more than cliche’s here!)

My favourite opportunities come up when teachers come to me and say “I don’t know what to do with…”.  To me, this is an invitation to try something new!

As a Teacher-Librarian, I make a concerted effort to evaluate and adapt my practice always. I’ve done Genius hour in the past, and have had success with classrooms I have introduced it to  – but to my knowledge, it hasn’t really ‘stuck’ with any classrooms yet.

Makerspaces has been in the back of my mind for a while (I’ve previously blogged about this).  It’s been a long time coming, and I’ve gone back and forth and back again about logistics, what to include, who to include, and the best duration.  I actually got so caught up in looking for all the answers that my Makerspace month almost never happened!

Ultimately, I made a connection, which led to an expert coming into the school a few afternoons- so I went for it!  I posted a schedule, and asked classroom teachers to sign up for as many (or few) times that worked for them.

The Good 

What were the positives for Makerspace madness month?

Logistics:  I asked classrooms to sign up with their buddies (bigs with littles) – the most successful maker times were when these groups were working together.  Additionally, I had them set up as 45 minute blocks

Students were engaged in the activities!

I should qualify this, it is not just my perception that students were engaged – we had roughly 50 students at a time participating, and on more than one occasion, more than one teacher came to me and shared that they saw all of their kids engaged!

Oh the problems that they solved!

On any given day, I had about 6 stations set up.  The main-stays included: Lego building, ‘Tech Space’ (using Sphero’s, Makey-Makeys…), Computer coding, and cardboard creating.  Additionally I had, paper crafts, origami, beading, duct-tape, 3D printing pens, clay-creations.

The first week was a completely open week (go where you want, play and create)!  Subsequent weeks saw ‘challenges’:  Week 2 included creating structures at any of the stations, Week 3 was creature creation week, and Week 4 allowed students to revisit any of the previous challenges they didn’t previously do.

I was also fortunate because each time our expert visited, he taught/challenged students to use some of our ‘tech tools’ differently.  Students used Spheros, and attempted to guide them around tracks, they learned how to complete a circuit to set up Makey-Makeys, and used the Dash and Dot.

What was really remarkable about students using these tools, is that after having a little support from the expert, they were able to utilize what he taught them, and problem solve to go further!  Student’s created drum sets with banana’s (on their own), they were able to make the Dash and Dot robot speak (something neither the expert nor I knew it could do)!  This was learning in action – and it was tremendous to see!

What should be done differently?

Following Makerspace madness month, I immediately asked the teachers who participated (and their students) to complete a quick feedback form.

Some of the feedback included:

  • they would like more time so they could experience more stations
  • it may be nice to display student creations somewhere
  • more supplies (beads, legos, and additional crafting supplies)

As I considered this, I realized that I was worried about the students becoming ‘bored’ with stations, so I was switching them out each week, however, it seems that might have been too quick.  Next time, I would try keeping the same stations on a two week rotation so students can really have the time to engage with more of the stations.  How do you run your maker stations?  Do you change them out at regular intervals, or are they ‘permanent’?

Displaying student creations has me thinking two things:  1.) I was posting different creations and activities via Twitter, is that enough?  2.) If I display student creations, will that limit or ‘direct’ students thinking as to what they should create?

The biggest piece of my learning for this month came on the logistics end – if you provide it, they will use it!  In addition to the supplies I was able to gather from staff, there were several trips to nearby dollar stores throughout the month – and even though it was the dollar store, it was not a cheap month!  I was running short of supplies often, and even when I thought I was buying more, I was still running out of things from time to time.

One possible solution, which I didn’t do this time, was request supply donations (craft supplies) from families to help defray the costs.  Aside from that, I’m wondering if anyone has some creative ideas to help defray the costs associated with Makerspaces?

 

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The last hoo-rah (my summary)

Well, this is a bitter-sweet post!

This post signifies the last step in completing my Masters – it is literally THE light, at the end of this (almost) 3 year journey for me!  I saw Ashley was looking to start a hashtag for the ECI alum – and I have to say, I’m excited to find out what we’re going with because I have found such a great community in all of my classes! But-I suppose I should get on with it…

This summary has been a really exciting one for me.  I really wanted to push myself to try something I hadn’t done before.  So, on January 11th, I took to the Twitter-verse and started asking for help with my summary of learning.

It was scary, I mean, really I lost all ‘control’ in that moment (I mean, don’t get me wrong, I could have you tube’d a karaoke version if this didn’t pan out) but just trusting that someone would be willing to donate their time and effort to create music for me- it took faith (ironically, so did the other project we did this semester)!

(Ok, I may have preemptively branched out into other forms of Social media…and  at a staff meeting- but it was just once)!
 Thankfully – I got a response from each realm that I put a request out!  Facebook, Face to face and Twitter (how could I have ever of doubted the power of my PLN)?
This time around, I also pushed myself in my video editing capabilities.  I utilized Audacity, a recording tool, and I borrowed a Samson Meteor mic from a friend.  I’m sure we could scan all of my blog posts and find out the many areas in which I am cheap- but I will say if podcasting or recording vocals were in my immediate future, I would definitely consider spending the money to purchase this piece of equipment.  The sound quality is far superior to my previous recordings (plus it was more fun singing into a mic)!
Aside from all of that, I also discovered this time that Movie Maker didn’t necessarily have all of the editing tools that say IMovie might have – and so my vision for the video changed a few times throughout the process.
Initially, I purchased the DoInk app, (and given my aforementioned cheap-ness), if I’m spending money on something (no, it doesn’t matter that it was only $3!)  I’d better be using it!  So, in the end, I decided I might as well attempt a green screen video – who knows, it might be ok…
Most of the pictures used in the video were my own (I had to get a picture of the statue seemingly taking a selfie!), Ryan gave me permission to use pictures from his website, and anything else in the video was from the public domain!
Just in case my lyrics are muffled, feel free to read them here.

This semester was a challenging one.  I found it difficult (to say the least) to transition my thinking as an online student to an online teacher.  I think many would assume it’s “easier” to teach a course online – however I can honestly say there is significantly more thought put into the planning (at least there should be, in my opinion), because when you are missing the face to face interaction part, there are a lot more things you need to be aware of and concerned about (for the sake of your learners).

In the end, I learned a lot about LMS, adapting/considering the things I put into my blended learning prototype, and how to use my PLN in a more productive/interactive manner!

Thanks for another great semester filled with learning!

It’s the final prototype post!

This semester, we joined forces in order to stretch our thinking and create a blended learning prototype for grade 2 students.  

The journey was a long, hard, rocky one, with many ups, downs and even a few ‘AHAs’!

In the beginning, we knew we wanted to focus on younger students, so we set our sights on Grade 2.

Which learning management system was best for our prototype was a question that we spent a lot of time considering and debating, before we eventually settled on Weebly.

This decision ultimately led us to our Grade 2 Science Weebly page.

Within our Weebly, you will find a Course overview page which discusses our rationale as well as how we expect the course would run.

The development of this course did not come easily, and we had many discussions surrounding things such as:

 

 

Below you will find our responses to the feedback we received:

 

 

 

‘Cause I gotta have faith (faith, faith)

I’m taking my lead from my classmate, Liz this week (so you can thank her for the catchy song that may be stuck in your head now)!

Next is my ode to being a Grad student who has a “big, unknown” project to complete: 

Made with Storyboard That

(and it seems as though Logan can relate to the multitude of emotions experienced throughout this project)!

Just as Liz mentions in her blog, for Nicole and I, this week is about going over the finer details of our project.  Do the links work, are the right things opening as needed?

In addition to that, I’ve had to try to have ‘faith’ that Nicole and I have accomplished what we set out to do:

Plan a blended Science unit for Grade 2 students in Saskatchewan!

I’m not going to lie, there has been a lot of discussions, PLN polling, texting, researching, (and maybe a little bit of worrying) that has gone into creating this module.

Given that my ‘canvas’ was kind of blank to start (in regards to teaching an online/blended class), I am working to suppress the urge to add more and expand on what we’ve done!

In addition to having ‘faith’ that we’ve planned a blended Science Unit for grade 2, I need to remind myself that we followed a logical planning process with good pedagogy, and a purpose (read: the LMS was chosen after much discussion and consideration, we planned what our site would include/not include and why…just to name a few).  So I will trust and have faith that not only is our module ‘good enough’, it is in fact a really good example of what blended learning can (and does) look like at a grade 2 level!

Looking forward to seeing what has been developed and created for all levels of learners through this class!

and just in case you missed it…you gotta have

 

Does Open equal authentic?

So, how do I feel about Open Education?  Quite frankly, I love it!  

There’s always some flexibility in what I learn, how I learn it, and who I learn it with…but wait, let me clarify a little.

I am an adult learner, meaning I chose to be here and I want to learn.  The sometimes ‘unstructure’ of Open Education, to me, is exciting, challenging, and a way for me to discover what I am passionate about (in a somewhat directed way).  In addition to that, I get to learn from others’ perspectives while I am considering my own (which I would argue, helps me to better understand what I am learning about in ways that I might not otherwise).  Additionally, it is the ‘unstructure’ in the forums and postings that really broadens my understanding of the topic.  When classmates aren’t all answering the same questions in the same ways on their postings, and instead are considering it from a perspective that is meaningful to them, the breadth and depth of learning increases greatly.

As an adult learner, I have also experienced classes done through a Learning Management System  in my experience, these classes have been done with a ‘one size fits all’ mentality (everyone do the exact same readings, answer the exact same questions- in this many characters or less, and respond to 3 of your classmates thoughts).  For me, as an adult learner, I DON’T need someone to control how a discussion flows.  I don’t need to be limited as I am trying to acquire (and make meaning of) new information.  I want as much information as I can find, I want to understand how others understand the information, and I want to engage in meaningful interactions as I am piecing my understanding together.

That being said, am I against LMS in a K-12 setting?  Absolutely not.  There is something to be said for scaffolding and teachers having the ability to organize and manage courses (and students) as they learn to maneuver the online space (and their digital footprint).  

Does that mean that forums in K-12 settings must all be contrived and controlled?  Does that mean that students should all read the same material and respond to the same questions and a set number of people?

Maybe it’s just me, but that kind of seems like it’s on the lower end of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Additionally, I’ve been there as a student, and I don’t think it is as authentic or engaging.

blooms
via Flickr

Can conversations in ‘closed online spaces’ be authentic for K-12 learning?

I think there is absolutely potential for this to happen, but it depends on the systems you choose to use, how you set the space up, and as a teacher, the amount of control you are willing to give up.

For instance, can we implement SeeSaw and open the space to families? Can we connect two or more grade 6 classrooms (in the same school or not) to collaborate on Google+ community?  These can be ‘closed’ forums that still allow for an audience and interactions (even beyond the walls of our classrooms).

Also, as the instructor/facilitator are we giving one black and white question to consider for the post?  Are we giving multiple options of things to consider?  Do the questions we pose have a ‘right’ answer?  Are we limiting how much our students have to say about a topic (ie. 250 words)? Are we dictating how many interactions they need to complete in a week, or are we allowing them to respond to the things they connect with?  
There’s always more than one way to solve a problem (or explain your thinking), and as teachers I think it’s our responsibility to let students find their voice.   

It’s all about the interactions!

giphy.gif

via GIPHY

Interactions, in an Educator’s line of work, are pretty important.  Interactions are, after all, the basis (in my opinion) for what teaching thrives on… relationships.

What is the best way to build and form relationship and interactions with our students in an online realm?  How do we make the interactions meaningful and appropriate- and how does that transfer into appropriate learning tasks?

Nicole and I are working toward a blended learning course for grade 2 students.  Our focus is Science, but we initially struggled over what blended learning looks like in a grade 2 classroom.

We decided on a pseudo-LMS with Weebly as our platform (don’t get me wrong, Weebly is an LMS, but the way in which we are using it is the reason I call it ‘pseudo’).  Our LMS is really more of an information hub than it is an ‘interaction’ hub.  I think we have created a visually appealing space which is easily accessible and not overwhelming, but this is ultimately a space that students will take from, not contribute to (very similar to the ECI 834 weekly schedule platform).

For the interaction part, we have decided to utilize SeeSaw, there are a few reasons that this platform was at the forefront for us.  We both work for Regina Public, and currently all our Pre-K and Kindergarten students use this platform in their classroom to share, this seems like a logical, scaffolded step to have students manage and post in a more independent manner.  Secondly, in Regina Public, our Early Elementary students (will) have technology access with iPads in schools.  Additionally, the platform seems like an ideal one for our younger students because they can begin to write and interact with (and for) a larger audience (families) in the online space. This will allow us, as teachers, the ability to manage the audience while our students are developing their digital footprint and digital citizenship awareness.

SeeSaw also provides a multitude of options for posting content, students can draw, video, add notes, pictures and even audio recordings to share what they have seen or experienced.  Additionally, the Facebook feed like format allows for comments/likes etc., which has benefits for the ‘outside world’ interactions.  As we are attempting to implement a ‘flipped classroom’ sort of feel, the modules will each dictate what is required of the students.

My specific module will require students to complete an experiment at home, record their observations (on SeeSaw) in the format they choose.  Then, we will have time in class to see what others observed in their at home experiment and discuss the different findings in class.  The lesson I chose is about determining why liquids take the shape of the container they are in.  This lesson will be formatively assessed based on what the students are posting and what conclusions are drawn in our full class discussion.

What are your thoughts?  Are we on the right track?  Will the platforms we have chosen be supportive of developing authentic meaningful interactions-is there another platform that might be better?  Is there anything that we should be thinking differently about?

‘Defining’ blended Learning

Very shortly after determining what our group project was about this semester, Nicole and I determined that ours would be a blended course.

I mean, I know what blended learning is, I took a blended course in University so I know what it looks like- or do I?

I came across an article Alec had tweeted, and as I read through, I realized that perhaps my experience as an adult in a blended learning setting, might not be the only way to ‘do’ blended learning.  Perhaps there is more than one way to approach blended learning – and maybe it has more to do with the learners then it does a rigid format…

Unfortunately, my request for assistance from the Twitter-verse yielded no responses, so I had to try other avenues to gain some understanding!

When I am trying to gain an understanding of something, I always first turn to the definition.  Wikipedia defines blended learning as:

Blended learning is an education program (formal or informal) that combines online digital media with traditional classroom methods. It requires the physical presence of both teacher and student, with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace.[1][2][3][4] While students still attend “brick-and-mortar” schools with a teacher present, face-to-face classroom practices are combined with computer-mediated activities regarding content and delivery.[5][6] Blended learning is also used in professional development and training settings.[7]

A lack of consensus on a definition of blended learning has led to difficulties in research on its effectiveness in the classroom.[8] Blended learning is also highly context-dependent and therefore a universal conception of it is hard to come by.[9]

That last part… the “lack of consensus on a definition…” part, has got me feeling pretty good, because, to me, that means that my inkling about blended learning not being rigid and prescribed (done in a set format) means that it can look different in a grade 2 setting!

Next, I revisited some of what Bates discussed in Chapter 9.  It seems, while there is a lack of theory surrounding why blended learning is beneficial, it is important to circle back to student needs, and teaching preference.

Additionally, Bates mentions that there are a variety of designs for blended learning to take place which range from technology as a classroom aid (which I would argue fits in the ‘S’ category of the SAMR model), incorporating a LMS (which I think could fall under the ‘A’ or ‘M’ category, depending on how it is implemented), and lastly a combination of hands on learning followed by virtual learning/discussion in an online format (which you guessed it – seems to fit in nicely with the ‘M’ or ‘R’ category).

So, now that I have a clearer idea of what I have gotten myself into with saying I am going to develop a blended learning course, the question remains:  What is the best approach and application for incorporating blended learning in a grade 2 setting?

I have to ask that question, because when I first started this course and we settled on blended learning, I had visions of creating a completely online module that students would independently interact with at home, and would respond to online either at home or in class (because that was my experience as a student with blended learning).

I know blended learning in Grade 2 is possible, people like Kathy Cassidy, Erin Benjamin, Nicole Reeve (to name a few), do it all of the time!  However, all of my reading and defining has got me wondering, in grade 2, is it fair to expect all learners to jump in at the ‘Redefinition‘ phase, or does it make more sense to start with ‘Augmentation‘, and build from there?  To me, it seems as though Bates would argue the latter:

The research also suggests that these skills of independent learning need to be developed while students are on campus. In other words, online learning, in the form of blended learning, should be deliberately introduced and gradually increased as students work through a program, so by the time they graduate, they have the skills to continue to learn independently – a critical skill for the digital age – Tony Bates

I also found this great video outlining the benefits of blended learning, which nicely details the opportunities of moving further along the SAMR continuum: