The phrase ‘hands-on learning’ often becomes a placeholder for many things. If it does not involve experiencing the subject matter, then it’s still theoretical.
There’s a school in San Diego that doing something really amazing with teaching through experience – or ‘learning by doing’ as some call it. (It is featured in ‘Creative Schools‘ by Ken Robinson.) At High Tech High, subjects are intensely focused on real world challenges. One project, for instance on Urban Ecology is described this way.
Students will discover how humans interact with nature in urban ecosystems. They will understand the terms sustainable and efficient in order to apply them to designing improved modern cities.
Students end up publishing an ‘magazine’ on the Urban Ecology, talking on publishing roles.They hold staff meeting with their Editors-in-chief, who are none other than their teachers!
Is this EdTech? Is it a computer class? Can this be used to demonstrate ‘rigor’? Yes to all three! But looking at their class structure, and philosophy, it seems that this kind of pedagogy is very different. In the end it’s not about exams, but about preparing for the real world.
This year I’m using VR both as a project, and as a motivation tool – to create a brochure. My 6th graders understand some editing and formatting skills. So to raise the bar, I got them to research and put together a brochure on Virtual Reality.
Granted it’s a lot of work. Understanding VR itself takes some time. They must create content for the 6-panel document, look up content, find pictures etc. As work progresses, there is a parallel discussion of what VR looks like, using a few cardboard headsets I acquired. One student even brought in two headsets. (One had cost him just five bucks!)
The incentive was that any student who showed me they had three panels formatted, and with required content, would get to experience a VR roller-coaster ride. Didn’t think a 40-minute class could move so fast!
Funny how sneaking in a piece of tech into a lesson can accomplish much more than a hand-out!
I found an interesting way to use Google Earth to enhance a lesson. It’s called TourBuilder. It’s set up like a slide deck, and is quite intuitive. You need to have a Google account to log in and use it.
Ideally you need to have your images and videos ready to use. But you could search and embed them from other image sources – including yours, if your images are searchable. I tried my hand at it, creating a story based on a fascination with geology, and photography of rocks, canyons, geysers, and gorges. The ‘tour’ starts in Arizona at the Grand Canyon, hops across to Wyoming to Yellowstone, and then to Ithaca, NY.
It’s possible to use this as a way of documenting a road trip, for instance, and attach specific dates to each stop. A great way to supplement journaling, and deeper, and richer than FB posts or tweets.
So as #Flooding and #StormSurge is on everyone’s mind with havoc from hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it is unhappily timely that robotics in schools and clubs across the country are wrapping their minds around an H2O challenge. Specifically, ‘Hydro Dynamics.’
It’s this year’s theme for the FIRST Lego League that will culminate in tournaments between November and December. (Interestingly, the theme of the FIRST Global ‘Olympics‘ in July was H2O Flow ) Alongside the work on building and programming a bot to run missions, students must work on a research project. How water is sourced, conserved, distributed etc. They must also come up with a solution that ‘adds value to society’.
Right now there are a myriad of issues that experts and government officials are wrestling with. Could students hypothetically solve some of these in the future? Dean Kamen’s FIRST outfit has been doing an amazing job of using robotics to build a new cadre of engineers, designers, and problem-solvers.
As I watch my school team assemble the missions in my lab, it’s evident that each mission (built of Lego pieces) is more complex this year: There’s a ‘Pump addition’ mission, a Water Treatment model involving ‘Big water’, and others involving Pipe Replacement, and Sludge Removal.
Here is what the field mat looks like.
I liked the original Google Classroom, for how it simplified how a learners could belong to a ‘class’ even though they may not be in the same building. Or country.
But the latest improvements to Classroom take it further, letting anyone who plans to teach create a lesson and connect with students. I just created a class as an experimentt. It’s a class on Writing and Publishing — the basis for a project this summer.
Lots of potential in how they hand over the tools to engage students, and receive feedback.It’s evident Google is staking its claim on a sector ready for disruption. Especially since Khan Academy has prepared the ground for it.
As the New York Times put it, Google has practically out-maneuvered Apple in the education market. More than half the nation’s primary- and secondary-school students now use Google education apps, it says.
Have you ever left a restaurant and received a message on your phone asking you to review the service? It’s very creepy. But it’s also what agree to when we use certain phone features or an app. (Sure, the app is ‘free’ but we pay for it by allowing some organization to grab our data, and /or track us.)
If you haven’t already done this, try Google Maps Timeline once you are logged in to Google. It pulls up a map of where you’ve been. It lets you click on each date in the past few weeks, and (if your location setting was on) you’ll see how Google has recorded exactly what time you stopped at any address, and left. So if you crossed a border, it will give you precise times when you passed through the border.
Of course this information is supposedly private. Or at least the Personal Identifiable Information (or PII) is. Of course you could –or rather should do these things:
- Change your default settings on your phone.
- Go into Google’s settings and delete your location history.
- Avoid using clicking on the location icon if you could help it.
But we often forget. Or worse, think this information is harmless.
This is the kind of information that students ought to know. Not just to become paranoid about Google, but to become more aware of our data. Especially when it seems like logging into Instagram and Snapchat is a pre-teen default setting in itself.
Just had to share this. 4th graders using nothing but the tools in Microsoft Word. Are they ready for Adobe? See some previous work, here.
In my class I make sure they feel comfortable making mistakes, and starting all over again. It’s always inspiring to see a child who professes he/she cannot draw, use color and symmetry