Transforming “Screen Time” with MakeyMakeys

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As an EdTech Coach, I’ve been questioning the quality of screentime happening in many classrooms and schools. For the past few years it’s seemed that more and more schools continue to purchase devices, without properly thinking about how it should be used to enhance not replace teaching. While I still preach and model how tech can enhance learning for students, I’m wondering how much longer laptops and iPads will simply act as substitutes for teaching and learning.

Some anti-tech colleagues were recently discussing the ‘harmful’ effects of computers on learning, referencing this article by the BBC:

[Sean Coughlan discusses findings from an OECD report]:

The [OECD] report says:

  • Students who use computers very frequently at school get worse results
  • Students who use computers moderately at school, such as once or twice a week, have “somewhat better learning outcomes” than students who use computers rarely
  • The results show “no appreciable improvements” in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in information technology
  • High achieving school systems such as South Korea and Shanghai in China have lower levels of computer use in school
  • Singapore, with only a moderate use of technology in school, is top for digital skills

“One of the most disappointing findings of the report is that the socio-economic divide between students is not narrowed by technology, perhaps even amplified,” said Mr Schleicher.

Articles and studies like these are only further evidence of the misuses of technology in schools. They will further hinder an overall change in mindset about the importance of embedding effective and purposeful practices that promote digital citizenship in the classroom.

What do kids do with technology
CC Image by: Bill Ferriter on Flickr “Technology is a Tool”

 

For this reason, I am thrilled that new educational products are coming out to help bridge screentime with core subjects. MakeyMakey is one fantastic example of enhancing screen-based coding and programming on Scratch to related outcomes in science and math. These ‘invention kits’ also reinforce creativity, problem-solving and collaboration skills as students work together to create. I decided to introduce these ‘invention kits’ in G1-G5 to see the potential in classrooms.

I first used MakeyMakeys over the summer at the STEM Playground during the Apple Distinguished Educator‘s Institute in Netherlands. There were a ton of other amazing toys to play with and exlore, but I immediately saw a multitude of connections for MakeyMakeys with Science, Tech, Music, Math. I created this video below to showcase some of the ‘newer’ tech products on the market that allow students to engage with hands-on real-world programming, for all ages:

At first glance, the MakeyMakey Keboard looks intimidating. But the set up and instructions at their website are so straight forward that it was no problem to figure out on my own.

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Screenshot from “How To MakeyMakey” website

 

MaKey MaKey Kit Photo on Grey, Closeup on MaKey MaKey
CC Image by: jayahimsa Flickr

 

Grade 1 Unit of Inquiry: Investigating Light Energy

I knew that Grade 1s would really enjoy the MakeyMakeys but the purpose of using them in class was to initiate dialogue about how electricity flows.  For this reason, I set up certain ‘provocation’ stations with the MakeyMakeys, with the alligator clips, bananas, Play-Doh, and Tin foil already in place.

Students inquired into how to make it work (I didn’t tell them about the ‘Earth’ Tinfoil bracelets at first) and they were excited when they did manage to make sound come out of their computers, or make the game work. At some point I did need to indicate the importance of holding onto the ‘Earth’ tinfoil bracelet for the circuit to be complete, and for the game to work.

Some of the questions that came up were: Where does the energy go? How does it travel? Why does the Banana Keyboard only work with the Tinfoil bracelet? The video below shows their thinking as they investigated electricity through the MakeyMakey & online games:

Grades 3-5 After School Club

Tuning In

When I introduced it to Grades 3-5 students during our Digital Design club, I gave them a chance to figure out how it works first. It was interesting to see what they already knew about circuits, power sources, and how electricity flows. Still, it took some guided instructions from the website for all the students in my club to get the MakeyMakey up and running with a program.

Finding Out

I wanted students to have a discussion about circuits and the flow of electricity. So I started off projecting the MakeyMakey piano on the Smartboard. Then I connected students to each alligator clip, and nominated one person to be the ‘pianist’. Holding the ‘Earth’ Alligator clip (this can also be a tinfoil bracelet as seen in G1 video above), this student proceeded to slap students’ hands to produce different notes on the piano. I then took the ‘Earth’ clip away from him and he wasn’t able to play the students’ hands anymore. As a group, we talked about what was different and indicated the ‘earth’ clip completed the circuit. We traced the flow of electricity from the power source (battery of laptop) down the USB cord to the MakeyMakey, through the Earth alligator clip on one hand/wrist and out through the other hand, slapping the ‘notes’ (student hands) connected to the MakeyMakey keyboard. (Unfortunately no photos available so hope this description will do!)

Sorting Out & Going Further

Students then had about 30 minutes on their own to try various Scratch games such as Super Mario Bros, Mazes, Bongos and the Piano. MakeyMakey Scratch Studio has many student-created games for these kits.

MakeyMakeys are an exciting way to broaden the scope of ‘technology in the classroom’. It will be interesting to see how ‘tech integration’ changes as more invention-type kits become available to bridge the gap between ‘screentime’ and hands-on science.

 

 

 

Revamped Resume

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Image Credit: Brandy Agerbeck www.loosetooth.com

 

Transforming my resume from Auditory-Sequential Appeaser to Visual-Spatial Pleaser

Inspired by the infographic above by Brandy Agerbeck, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to redesign my resume. Bored of the tired, traditional layout I learnt from my final days in teachers college (nearly 10 years ago), I thought what better time to showcase all the learning that’s happened during course 3…especially since this is a job hunt year for us.

Below you will see the transformation of my old resume to my new, current one.

Let the remixing and revamping begin!

My former resume, while following simple CARP design principles, had a very traditional layout. In short, there was nothing eye-catching or memorable about it at all.

My old resume from 2011 (PDF Here)

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I’m naturally a very visual person and my eye is immediately drawn to colours and photos, as I mentioned in my previous post Drawing for Dummies.  I wanted my resume to represent my understanding of CARP principles of design, and stayed true to the following attributes on my poster:

Contrast: Bold colours, blue against white; black and white photo on blue. Angular text boxes against soft edged shapes (page 1) and alternating between bold text boxes with white writing, and the empty space on the page with complementing blue writing (contrasting with the white).

Alignment: All texts, photos and text boxes align. I really struggled on the second page to find a proper place for my headshot…not sure it’s necessary but in the end it seemed to balance the page out. I really spent a lot of time organising this and trying to find suitable and appropriate shaped text boxes for the different sections. When there was a missing space in the top left of the first page,  (my primary job search focus is to get back to the classroom…now that I’m buzzing with so many great ideas to try from Coetail & Eduro!) I thought to add the summary of my candidacy to balance the page. I think the grey contrasts slightly enough from the rest of the resume so that the eye isn’t immediately drawn to it, but it stands out on its own enough to be recognised. I think this is especially important since I have had so many roles, I want them to be clear which one I’m applying for.

Repetition: Similar fonts throughout: Helveltica Neue (light) and Helveltica Neue (bold). The texture for the background is also copied on both pages, and the colour scheme is the same for the letters and text boxes. I also maintained which texts were kept in ‘bold’ and which were ‘regular’. I hope this draws the readers attention to the key words, such as my certifications and leadership experience.

Proximity: I grouped all my contact and portfolio in one text box so prospective employers could browse the various platforms I use to connect with educators and schools. I wanted my professional development, certification, and leadership to ‘jump’ off the page and thought to isolate them in three similar text boxes with borders. Based on the numerous interviews and job fairs I’ve attended the past 8 years, this information tends to appeal more to admin I think than just which positions a candidate has held.

Revamped Resume (PDF Here)

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New resume for 2015/16 job search

I used Pages to design a template using various shapes/boxes for photos and text. I was initially inspired by the newsletter styles, with large photos and unique text. I chose a colour and texture theme that complemented the photos I was going to include. I also chose two photos to appeal to visual-spatial folk: one of me working in the Early Years with a student, and the second was from this summer at the Apple Distinguished Educators Institute in Amsterdam where I delivered my 1in3 Showcase on Blogging in Early Years. I felt these two photos represented two of my greatest passions as an educator: embedding technology in the classroom with students and connecting with like-minded, innovative teachers.

Revamping this resume was extremely rewarding as I was able to apply many of the Visual Literacy skills I learned in the course and improve it for my job search this year.

Finally I’ve started to design an infographic using re.vu. Since I haven’t had much experience with infographics I wanted to at least create a simple one to summarise some of my experience in a dynamic way.

Check out my updated About Me Page here!

SUCCESs is the key to ZEN

Few things can be more rewarding than connecting with someone, with teaching something new, or sharing that which you feel is very important with others. ~ Garr Reynolds

"Sketch Zen" by tico_24 CC image from Flickr
“Sketch Zen” by tico_24 CC image from Flickr

This week we are delivering a presentation to parents about Digital Citizenship and Responsible Use. I was in charge of developing the slides for our EdTech team (there are 3 of us plus our EdTech Director).

Last year, there were few visuals provided for parents and I often felt that parents got lost in the discussions. Since we’ve been reviewing visual literacy in Coetail I though it was the perfect opportunity to apply my learning and understanding of these design elements.

This is the first parent session of the year so we want to set a precedent for future sessions. We’ve decided to begin each session with discussions and inquiry into the theme. We are also trying to empower parents at home, by giving suggestions on useful websites and resources to reinforce digital citizenship and mindfulness about intellectual property.

I tried to choose a theme that would compliment some of the visuals we were displaying. Following the SUCCESs model from Presentation Zen, I feel this presentation addresses the some of following points in the SUCCESs acronym. It’s difficult to address all since it’s a factual information-sharing session where we’ll be presenting the platforms to parents, rather than trying to convey an opinion or idea to them. Some ideas, we will try to convey in a more concrete way.

Simple. “For your presentation, what’s the key point? What’s the core? Why does (should) it matter? For your visuals the mantra is: Maximum effect, minimum means.” ~G.Reynolds

We’ve used simple images, just one or two per slide to complement what we are describing about the various platforms in our school. During our conversation about Digital Citizenship, we have the images from the websites, so parents can see clearly what the resources look like at Common Sense Media.

Unexpectedness. “You can get people’s interest by violating their expectations. Surprise people. Surprise will get their interest. But to sustain their interest you have to stimulate their curiosity…Make the audience aware that they have a gap in their knowledge and then fill that gap with the answers to the puzzle…”  ~G.Reynolds

My original complementing image for the workshop overview seemed to literally explain what Digital Citizenship meant. I thought it was appropriate because it gave parents a visual representation of what we would discover over the course of the workshop. However, it felt unsatisfying to look at..whether because the colour scheme clashed (it did) or whether it was too obvious (it was).

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After revisiting the SUCCESs elements of Presentation Zen I decided to create a visual that was more unexpected, and perhaps got parents thinking about the content and ideas that would come up during the workshop. It was really difficult to find the right Creative Commons image to illustrate what I wanted…so I had to build this image myself using 4 different CC image searches on Google Slides: Thief + Copyright + Computer + Images. I think this image conveys something more powerful, and will hopefully have parents making connections between the “Copyright” logo, the thief and the images on the computer.

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 Concrete. “Use natural speech and give real examples with real things, not abstractions. Speak of concrete images not of vague notions.”~G.Reynolds

To me this rule is more appropriate for complex ideas and themes. Our presentation is quite straight-forward, but we will still be mindful of how we discuss “Digital Citizenship” so that parents have a concrete definition they can come away with.

Credible.  “There are many ways to establish credibility, a quote from a client or the press may help, for example. But a long-winded account of your company’s history won’t help.”~G.Reynolds

To properly define what a Digital Citizen is and the elements we will teach, I’ve made sure that we are referencing the Common Sense Media platform as our primary resource. Eventually, it would be great if we could have our own Scope & Sequence and definition as a school, but until then we need credible sources that parents can refer back to.

Emotional. “People are emotional beings. It is not enough to take people through a laundry list of talking points and information on your slides, you must make them feel something.”~G.Reynolds

We are using several images and videos to drive home the points about teaching digital citizenship in the classroom. I’ve tried to include at least one video for each of the 3 sections, so we are using the Common Sense Media videos to illustrate how even children as young as 5 can be taught about Digital Citizenship by exploring an ‘Online Neighbourhood’.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUO7t92k4Xg[/youtube]

Stories. “Great ideas and great presentations have an element of story to them.”

Even though this is a fact-sharing session, we can still use examples (in a narrative format) of situations where students were confused about their proper or improper use of technology. We are hoping that through these stories/examples, parents will see how easily it is for children to put themselves at risk, or hurt others. I also think narrative stories are a great way to put the problem back in the parents’ court, for them to make a decision on how it could/should be handled. The story may sounds something like this:

A student came to me last week and told me that she’d been skyping some children at home on the weekend. There were five of them having a skype conference call, and one student started talking about a student from their grade level. The conversation started innocently enough, but before long all five students were making fun of this child, without the child being present to defend him/herself. This particular student feels it was unfair but is unsure how to proceed. How might this situation be resolved? Is it a school or home issue? Does it have to do with the technology or citizenship or both? Should the teacher and/or parent get involved? 

Discussion from this would allow teachers, admin and parents to have a common understanding of the shared role we play in helping children become Digital Citizens.

Presentation Zen is a fantastic resource which has concrete examples and provides guidance for anyone about to step out in front of an audience. It covers the basics of storytelling as well as design elements to create a SUCCESsful presentation. I’ll report back on the success of our parent presentation tomorrow…hopefully they are receptive to this modified version of a slideshow presentation.

 

Visual-e-Literate

This past week I introduced Creative Commons to several different grade levels. To peak their interest, rather than working off the suggested worksheets put out by Common Sense Media (PDF Whose is it anyway?), I created a Google Slides Presentation to engage them and model CARP design principles.

While the slides and images are simple, they follow basic Presentation Zen elements such as a ‘hook’ and very little text on the page. So far I’ve used this presentation in Grades 2 and Grades 5.

Using ‘Minions’ as an example, I tried to hook the audience (my G2-5 students) as we uncovered the meaning of ‘credit’ and creative ownership. I showed them the image of minions and said, “What do you think of my drawing? I came up with these characters all on my own”. Naturally, they all protested that I didn’t create those, and we discussed credit and acknowledgement for the original artists. Next I shared a drawing I did create of the Minions, and an interesting discussion ensued on whether copying an image was breaking copyright laws or not. Based on my previous research and exploration in my post “CC=Common Courtesy“, I think it falls under Fair Use for educational purposes, but I am interested in others COETAILers opinions.

In the older grades (4-5) where individual student blogs will be used to document learning, I shared this video from Common Sense Media. Hearing a fellow student discuss the importance of crediting her work, and other authors, really hit home for the students.  I found the images using the simple search feature on Google Slides, where all images are automatically listed as ‘labeled for noncommercial reuse and modification’ (I love this new feature for students, but wish we didn’t have to click the link to find the CREDIT information):

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Screenshot of ‘Insert Image’ feature on Google Slides

 

I was also trying to model CARP design elements for students in my presentation, by keeping text consistent (repetition), using contrasting colours, aligning images and text and grouping images and text (proximity).

In a follow up lesson with grade 5s, we reviewed CC ‘best practice’ for citing and modelled this format for students:

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Sample CC Sourcing for G5 Students collecting images for Recount Writing

 

I’ll be revisiting these classrooms over the next few weeks as they begin to create a layout for their blogs and posts, and we’ll examine the CARP Principals in more detail.

In general, since I was first introduced to Presentation Zen and CARP design principals a few years back, I really try to keep them in mind for any audience, be it students, colleagues, or conference audience. Haiku Deck is one resource I like to use as it generates CC image search based on key words, and the layouts force you to minimise text on the slide. Below are a few examples of presentations I’ve created that have addressed different audiences:

Topic: Design Principles (2014 Workshop) Audience: PYP & MYP teachers

Topic: Enhancing Early Years (ECIS 2015) Audience: ECIS Participants (Munich)

Topic: Genius Hour Club Intro  Audience: Grades 4 & 5 Students [Slides built using Haiku Deck]

Re-thinking Design Tech: Making MakerSpaces

I recently had the privilege of attending and presenting at the ECIS Tech Conference at Bavarian International School in Munich Germany.

My workshop was centred around Technology in the Early Years, and highlighted key apps and devices teachers could use to support a play-based environment. One of the greatest research-based platforms I found is the TEC Center. Below is my Google Presentation which draws on some theories from Chip Donohue’s most recent book Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years:

Sonya TerBorg also created a visual notes drawing on the key take-aways from my presentation (Photo & Image used with @terSonya’s permission):

VisualNotesJOCELYNECIS

Three key presentations and workshops inspired me to explore the possibility of setting up maker spaces at our school to further promote creativity and the design process in the PYP.

3D for a Cause: Presentation by Sarah Woods

This thought-provoking workshop focused on ways to better integrate using the Design Cycle with students. Sarah focused on the International Baccalaureate (IBO) Middle Years Program (MYP) Design Cycle as an example but it could be modified for a variety of age groups and curriculum frameworks.

Sarah began by discussing how she gets her students excited about design, by presenting them with a problem first. Since I work at a PYP (Primary Years Program) school, this mirrored my philosophy of inquiry-based teaching, by beginning with the ‘why’ first. She described how she engages students by having them brainstorm 100 problems in 7 minutes. She emphasised that these could be vast or small and they need to be problems with no solutions yet. Allowing students the freedom to let their imagination run wild with the various problems they may encounter day-to-day addresses a variety of Learner Profile characteristics as well as promoting communication and group work skills. Once students have their page of problems she has them narrow down their selection to be their focus for the next project. Sarah emphasises that students should start with paper and have their idea mapped out clearly before they begin to explore the software. Nearly half of the design cycle is ‘Investigating’ and ‘Planning’ so she also explains to students that they will be making several designs, and perfection is not the goal. 1

The tools she focused on in this workshop were primarily software for 3D printing. Sarah believes these 3D printers allow students to revisit and improve their design. Some of the software she recommended for Primary and Middle Years students were 123Design and Tinkercad. Since ‘Evaluate’ is another key component in the MYP design cycle, the students spend a significant part of their project time assessing ways to improve and make

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Sarah Woods shares key software for 3D printers, which can often cause frustration and test patience, but ultimately build design and problem-solving skills.

One way Sarah has empowered students to properly assess the success of their product is through shapeways.com, a space to sell and share their products. This opportunity also allows students to understand basic economics as their supply and costs fluctuate depending on the need/want for their product.

Our current school has recently purchased two 3D printers. While the IB Primary Years Program does not include a design cycle yet, we are looking at ways to bring design in through the PYP Units of Inquiry. Currently, there is a large void of science and design technology in the IB PYP and often it is left up to teachers and curriculum coordinators to find where science and design ‘fit’ with the school’s curriculum and the units. There are numerous links to math through the use of such software as Tinkercad, it’s just that many teachers don’t have experience or confidence putting students on software they are unfamiliar with. One of the main take-aways from Sarah’s workshop was that it’s up to the teachers to put the problems in the students’ hands, rather than scaffolding the solution for them. She emphasised the importance of letting students teach each other, and suggested the software be a homework assignment so that valuable class time can be spent on the design process. The skills students learn by cooperating together to solve a problem (such as how does this software work) are much more transdisciplinary than a direct-teacher approach which doesn’t provide any opportunity for students to work together and learn from each other. Introducing new software and devices such as Tinkercad and 3D printers are excellent ways to naturally embed these important problem-solving skills that will promote lifelong learning in all students.

Make Space for Makerspace: Presented by Mark Shillitoe

I was deeply inspired and impressed by what’s happening at Etoy GEMS World Academy, in particular with IT and Makerspaces. Mark Shillitoe highlighted the different programs that were implemented this year, and how the physical space has been transformed into an engaging learning space for students. Mark emphasised the importance of inviting “curiosity and wonderment into your school”, as Kath Murdoch encourages us to do.

Mark expressed that this quote is what drove his vision for edTech at the GEMS Etoy campus. He focused on developing the idea of #techxture when thinking of the role of IT in schools, remembering that edTech is not just about balancing screen time. Mark described the importance of addressing the notion of screen-time with teachers and parents, and differentiating different kinds of screen-based learning.

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Sample Pop-Up Makerspace created by Mark Shillitoe for ECIS Tech Conference

From my experience, this has been the biggest struggle as an edTech coach; understanding that passive screen time and creation-based screen time have very different learning results. Mark added a new element to screen time, the physical connections we can add on to iPads, using new technology like Makey-Makeys. These new tools are simple circuits that allow any conductive object to become part of a functioning circuit.

Mark shared some of his own struggles implementing the Maker-mindset at his school, and came up with the idea of Pop-Up Makerspaces. These makerspaces didn’t infringe on busy teacher schedules, and provoked curiosity among both students and staff. He set up these spaces during break and lunch times and many of the makerspaces were self-discovery focused, meaning any student or teacher could approach and try to figure out the task. Throughout the 2-day conference Mark had set up his own version of Pop-Up Makerspaces and invited conference participants to try out new technologies such as Makey-Makey Dance Mat Pacman and Minecraft using Raspberry Pi.

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Students use Makey-Makey to create a banana keyboard. Photo Credit: CTJ Online via Compfight cc

The idea of Pop-Up Makerspaces is very relevant in my present school context. Currently, we are limited for space, and while a Makerspace would be ideal, proposing the idea of a moveable or Pop-Up Makerspace seems more likely to be approved by administrators. I find a lot of new technology could in fact be taken on by student leaders, and perhaps introducing these spaces to students first, and having them feed back to their classrooms and teachers would be a more engaging and lasting way to introduce the Maker-mindset into teaching and learning. Once teachers can see the science and math links that naturally result from utilising Makerspace tools and coding software, opportunities for curriculum amendments will follow.

UNIS CoLaboratory: Workshop with Francesca Zammarano
This workshop began with a provocative and entertaining clip from the movie Apollo 13, showcasing the moment NASA needed to make a “square peg fit in a round hole” using just the materials the astronauts were presented with on board the shuttle. Francesca Zammarano used this clip as a spring board for discussing the possibilities for creative problem solving using everyday items and basic materials.

This year, UNIS has redesigned their computer lab into a functional and creative Maker Space for students, which they are calling a CoLaboratory. The philosophy behind this space is to help promote 5 key ‘maker traits’: curiosity, enthusiasm, creativity, courage and vision. According to Francesca, the space is more about development of self and less about the stripping of wires and understanding circuits. In this space, students learn what it means to fail and understand that learning comes from failure.

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Francesca took us through the the costs and process of redesigning their IT lab to be a useable space for creation. It was about a $30,000 USD investment to transform the room and add key components such as: whiteboard tables, a tool wall, storage wall, and working space. She detailed the importance of maintaining a ‘safe to fail’ attitude within the CoLaboratory, and she explained how she has students “make friends with failure’” and chant the phrase “Safe to fail!” before the begin projects.

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We were then introduced to a variety of simple, creative projects that students were encouraged to explore. Francesca would present the students with a bunch of materials and ask them to either solve a problem or create something that would accomplish a task. Some of the resulting creations from the CoLaboratory ranged from a simple ‘scribble bot’ (using a BeeBot and markers) to sewing plush animals using conductive thread to explore basic circuitry concepts.

As my current school moves more towards an embedded design and technology curriculum, I see a lot of potential in re-thinking our current spaces and implementing more open-inquiry tasks for students to learn these important skills and concepts.

The second part of this workshop included building simple circuits from scratch using button batteries, copper wire, LED lights and cardboard. We were given instructions for building a simple multiple choice answer board, which could be used to assess any curricular area.

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Materials provided for second part of the UNIS CoLaboratory workshop

 

One of the educators leading the workshop was the French teacher, and he initiated this idea in his classroom to engage students in learning basic grammar rules such as masculine and feminine pronouns.I can see many connections to all disciplines in the PYP, particularly for formative assessments. This simple way of embedding problem-solving and basic science skills is an excellent example of teaching science through other subject areas. Furthermore, it empowers students to be makers and creators, which further develop skills such as confidence, resilience and promotes design thinking.

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My simple circuit created from scratch using the instructions from the workshop (I just needed to add the wires).

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Sample circuit-board game created by 4th Grade UNIS student for French class

One of the greatest take aways was seeing how in just a few months her school has transformed and evolved their curriculum to include key elements of design and problem-solving skills. Francesca shared the revised the UNIS Design Tech curriculum (link) to include characteristics of ‘maker’ students as well as design-thinking skills.