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Dont give up! But if you do… know why: Resilience

April 7, 2018

Ive been teaching in  Grade 3 a lot this quarter. Learning a lot being back in the classroom. Great kids. Great school. Great learning values and dispositions. Resilience is something we strive for with our kids. Adults too. As a community resilience is a pretty important disposition to develop. How much is the key. See point 1.

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So, at what point to we simply give up? Throw our arms in the air? Or leave until later. Or seek experts or give thinking time to something that is challenging? Surely this is not new, but I’ve found over the years that resilience is one of the most challenging things to grasp. To recognise. We naturally look for the path of least resistance, water does so why dont we right? No one likes to struggle, but I’ve found that  struggle is exactly what we need to learn.

Learners need to be:

  • comfortably frustrated
  • guided not spoon-fed
  • invested in the struggle
  • allowed to fail (relax you can always go back to it)

As a teacher, it’s easier to give answers. It’s harder to give time to think, struggle and learn.

Thats where the learning  happens.

Learn ‘How to…’Workshops for Kids

February 8, 2018

This idea came from a Grade 5 student. He asked for ‘training’ more or less on how to use some of the tools he needed to complete his iTime project. We came up with this idea together. ‘Learn to..’ workshops for kids. We thought of a few ideas and I added a few that might be useful and of interest and created the posters below to promote the idea to classes.



Im still working out the logistics of it all, I will begin with a small group of kids. I imagine that these are a ‘niche market’ but time will tell. I can always run another session if there is enough interest. These workshops pertain to skills to help them with iTime projects or Makerspace that they will need. It also gives exposure to kids to try something new that they would never have a chance to do- like soldering or using a hot glue gun. It needs to be short as it will be at lunchtimes, at least at first. Maybe I can even get into classes to do these.

It would be great for this to be student led, where the kids are the experts and teach each other. After a few workshops I will be in a better position to see what the future hold for this type of professional development.


Learning Partners – Our 3D Printing in iTime

February 3, 2018

Im pretty new to 3D printing. About 3 months ago a few Grade 2 students asked me if they could print something on the 3D printer during their iTime (See this post by Kath Murdoch on iTime). I was pretty excited to use the 3D printer in an authentic way to help students in learning and wondering. This post is from my notes from the experience.

We’ve been engaging in iTime at my school for a little over a year now. It’s exciting and challenging at the same time. I am fortunate to work across the primary school assisting teachers and students with technology integration. We didn’t just set out to print something but had a carefully drawn up plan or attack. As Kath puts it:

We need to be crystal clear about the broader learning intentions of such things as passion projects or iTime. This means, amongst other things:

  • taking time to develop clear criteria and guidelines with students
  • agreeing on ways to ensure accountability
  • explicitly identifying the skill sets accompanying the learning tasks students design
  • building self assessment and reflection into the process

Kath Murdoch (2015)- Seeing Beyond the Cupcakes- What iTime Should Really be About 

Our criteria and guidelines for this project is briefly outlined below.

Session 1: We sat down and brainstormed and made some agreements on the way forward and what we would achieve in our meetings. Students had all sorts of questions about how the 3D printer worked. To them it seemed a minor miracle that I printed a Yoda Head that I hadn’t designed myself but merely found the .stl file on Thingyverse. Cool nonetheless right? I didn’t see much value in just finding something and printing it.  Whatever these 4 boys wanted to print there had to be some sort of independent design and thought involved. For session 1, we drew, talked, wondered and examined the 3D printer in the Makerpsace that happened to be in action printing something (no, not another Yoda head). At the end of the session, we had many ideas from 3D printing a drone to a ‘mini me’ statue to a robot. We wrote about our blue sky thinking in our Easyblog Learning Stories for documentation. Skills: communication, critical thinking, asking good questions. Dispositions: Resourceful

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Session 2: I had pondered the kids ideas all week, they were imaginative ideas but not so practical. Session 2 provided more clarity for us all.  Over the week, the learners had (thankfully) changed their minds and wanted to print..a fidget spinner! My first reaction was ‘gah’! but I sat and listed to their proposal and they had some crude drawings on their plan. The had some sound ideas. They also had a few more questions of 3D printing. We addressed some of those questions and misconceptions first through teacher guided research. Then back to the plan. I had listened to the kids discuss how they could make the spinner, and then what I heard surprised me a bit, they were talking about math. Measurements to be exact. I had some sealed bearings on hand and we grabbed a ruler and measured the bearings, and roughly figured out the spinners dimensions (with my help). One of the biggest things I learned is that I had to give the kids TIME to explore the materials they needed (like the bearings) which led to more wonderings like- how does a ball-bearing spin? What is inside it? How can we open one?….The kids were stoked and couldn’t wait for the next session to print. Skills: communication, numeracy, Dispositions: Resourceful, Resilience.

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Session 3: Students were a bit disappointed to learn we weren’t printing today. We hadn’t designed it yet! We used Tinkercad to make our design (I had to take some time myself to learn how to do this first). We used our accurate measurements and plugged them into the design starting with the basic shapes they drew. The kids did this by themselves but took a while as each learner had their own part to design on my Macbook which was super impressive. This process was again recorded on their iPads then put in Easyblog to record their progress. Skills: self-management, patience. Dispositions: Resourceful, Resilience.

Session 4: Print Day! We hurried down to the Makerspace to print our spinners. I printed one the day before just to see if we had the measurements right and it all worked out well. We made 4 copies- 1 for each learner in the project and began the print. While it printed, we had time to further observe, record and explore our wonderings and reflect on the process. Skills: communication, data gathering, observation, asking good questions. Dispositions: Resilience

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Session 5: Play and Presentation. I cleaned up the prints for them as it required sharp tools but let them struggle a bit with the tight ball bearing fit. They were pretty happy with their design and and final product. We debriefed a bit, examining the challenges, what we would do next time without over analysing it all, however the presentation part of  this  I wish we could have done a bit better. More celebration. Maybe even showing our spinners at a school assembly or making a little video clip of the process to share with the school community. Skills: communication. Dispositions: Reflective

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One of the students wanted to improve the design and make a more complicated spinner, different shapes with more bearings while another wants to make a car to attach a motor to it and make it move. All 3D designed and printed of course. I’ll have to do my homework and figure it out myself because I dont really know how to do it yet. The best part of working with kids in this way is that I often don’t know myself and I need to learn along WITH the children which essentially makes us learning partners. I must admit it’s pretty fun.

I’d like to thank my 2 awesome colleagues @janeinjava and @hugoindratno for inspiration and teamwork as I love stealing their ideas and seeing the cool stuff they make with 3D printing and design. Worth a follow on Twitter and Instagram if you are interested in levelling up your maker skills.

Engaging Young Learners through Voice and Choice

January 28, 2018

Younger learners must have hands on learning. They must experience through all senses to learn and understand the world in which they live. Working with our hands should be our priority as early years educators. Experiential learning as a foundation that builds upon other conceptual skills later on in life is paramount to learning how to learn and inquire into the environment around us. The more we make connections to, the better we can create and learn.

Though passion projects and individualised learning, students can have choice and voice in what and how they learn. So what are passion projects? Passion projects are student driven. They are individualised learning where the teacher takes the role of a guide, assisting the learner along the way. Allowing the student to make mistakes is an essential part of passion projects as this allows for deeper understanding and thinking on the part of the student. Passion projects can be daunting for the teacher as well. Often both student and teacher are required to learn together. The teacher may not even know how to help the learner initially and this is all part of the excitement of passion projects. Both teacher and learner are learning partners and work together to inquire into something that may be unknown to both of them. Passion projects usually start with a plan that includes the idea, list of resources needed (if known) and some research. Resources include materials and people. The plan must be carefully crafted and requires teacher input at this stage as the teacher needs understand what the learner wishes to achieve. For example, a student who is really passionate about drones wishes to build one however the teacher needs to guide the child to first understand the shape of the drone, how a propeller works, how it flies or how a motor works before building a drone. There are a lot of complexities in building a drone and to be successful, complex projects must be broken down into manageable and achievable chunks. This is where the teacher or other experts as resources can help.

Passion projects are a great way to engage with integrate many learning areas such as science, technology, art and mathematics. A child may need to use mathematics in an authentic way in order to bring the passion project to fruition. It is this authentic learning through choice that makes this type of learning so powerful. Some examples of passion projects include creating a video game with coding, making a puppet for a play, knitting a case for mother’s mobile phone or learning about basic circuitry to to make a toy where the eyes light up. It is not about the technology but about the learning process. Through the power of inquiry, students must plan, investigate, find out, sort out, understand and take action. Not all projects are successful and failure is not seen as negative but another opportunity to learn, or challenge our thinking. This is probably one of the biggest barriers to the maker – mindset. Failing is very much a part of making, of passion projects and through failure students build resilience. Passion projects require choice, interest, guidance, resilience and patience. To  quote Seymour Papert, the father of the maker mindset, “I am convinced that the best learning takes place when the learner takes charge”

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