Sunday, November 27, 2011

Learning in Public #6- Moral and Ethical 3D Printing?

My First Modelling Challenge for Myself
40 hours of work into the Makerbot obviously isn't enough. I keep coming back for more! This weekend I was able to spend some awesome time with a friend and fellow ADE Jason Sand. If you aren't following Jason on the Twitter, do it here now! Jason and I were at a Final Cut Pro X training session for two days.

During this weekend of hockey and refreshments and keyboard shortcuts galore we tried unsuccessfully to print an iPad audio megaphone on the Makerbot. I'm going to try to print from an SD card which is highly recommended from the Google Makerbot Users forum.

While driving to the training we talked about things we like, and the fact that we both have the iPod Nano watch clip from Lunatik. As we drove Jason remarked how he uses a second clip for his to keep the bands attached, to which I responded, "We could print that." The conversation continued and more and more anytime something came up about an object we agreed that "we could print that." With a 3D printer at your disposal you honestly look at the world in a different way.

Google Sketchup to the Rescue
With my nano watch case in hand I took to Sketchup to try and model the holder. I'd really like to print the holder in many colours and reproduce it. Most importantly as my students work on designing their first product, a name keychain, I want to show them that I'm learning as well.

I tinkered for about 45 minutes to produce a fairly good model of the watch clip. Actually I'm pretty darn proud of it. It's not to scale, but I learned a lot about modelling today. First, when using Sketchup, it's good to think of everything as a product of shapes being added or taken away. Second, it's way easier to model if you start of one axis and stay on that axis. I started by clicking MODEL>Camera>TOP and then began my model.

My Model with the actual product

My version of the clip started out as a rectangle and from there I pushed, pulled, and figured out the curve tool. I'm excited to share this with my students and model it again after I take precise measurements with some newly acquired digital callipers.

I think a cool challenge for students in my class would be to take an object, and have them take measurements from it, sketch it, model it and try and print as close to the original object as possible. They'd get gain some serious skills and confidence in modelling then!

Implications for Teaching
Copyright, copyright, copyright! What gives me the right to copy an object and make it? It turns out, this is a grey area. An interesting article from a NY Times Bits blogger poses the ethical and legal questions about copying objects in his post "Disrtuptions: The 3D Printing Free For All." In this interesting post there is a comment about the difference between an aesthetic object versus a useful object:

“Copyright doesn’t necessarily protect useful things,” said Michael Weinberg, a senior staff attorney with Public Knowledge, a Washington digital advocacy group. “If an object is purely aesthetic it will be protected by copyright, but if the object does something, it is not the kind of thing that can be protected.” 

So, aren't a lot of ideas basically revised versions of previous products? This is the case of the coffee mug that has been proposed in Nick Bolton's post. Who owns the coffee mug? If it's a useful object, am I going to be sued for copyright or illegal manufacturing? I don't want to be the next Samsung with Lunatik coming after me for reproducing it's product in another colour that I like. 

Where does this put teachers who are using 3D printers in their classrooms? Do we tell students we will not print anything that is an idea taken from someone else on moral/ethical grounds? I'm kind of answering my own questions here, but perhaps my own printing of the Lunatik could be the opportunity for students to reflect about their own designing. I also don't know what different copyright laws have on physical useful objects in Canada versus the USA.

In the end I'd honestly like a student to design their own iPod Nano clip or watch, so perhaps after I'm done this model I will show them some ideas I have to make my own design.

From Days Gone By
What's starting with these economic 3D printers is that people aren't automatically thinking that they need to throw things out. Need a 2003 Dodge Neon Visor clip? Download it and print it!

 Or better yet, take the original design that is shared online and make it better.

I think about when my great grandparents came to Canada and settled west of my home town, Cold Lake, Alberta. When they bought some nails, they expected that they would last a long time. These nails would be used in fences and buildings, and if these structures were torn down, the nails were saved. If they were bent, they were straightened. My grandfather showed me how to straighten nails in the summers we spent at his house, he had a whole coffee tin full of them. Somehow now it seems like it can be my turn to keep things alive in their usefulness. That's a cool feeling.

As teachers we do have a responsibility to help student be aware of ethical/moral issues in what we do. What are your thoughts about students designing products like I have here?

Also, coming up this week we will start out 20% "tinkertime". I'll be sure to share how this goes soon.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Learning in Public Reflection #5

The Makerbot is up and running in full swing. I've printed alligators, dinosaurs, moustache rings and now a moustache cookie cutter. The learning curve is fairly steep, but the work done by others is making this learning so enjoyable.

What's awesome about the 3D printing community is that they are much like my Tweeps: THEY SHARE! They don't judge (too much) and will always point me in the right direction.

Case and point is my cookie cutter print. I've been trying to find the time to get some Google Sketchup practice in, but I'm finding it very challenging. Our Food Studies teacher is getting students to make baked  goods in the shape of moustaches. She got her father (who is an Industrial Arts teacher) to make amazing aluminum moustache molds by wrapping them around wooden shapes and then welding them together. Great effort went into these products. I wish I knew how to weld!

I was inspired to try and make my own cookie cutters from the makerbot. Thingiverse has many of them that are shared. After searching around the web I stumbled upon something that amazed me. On the Guru Blog, by Nikolaus Granwhol, he has created a cookie cutter maker that is a simple node editor that allow background images to be traced! Here's the image I used as my backdrop.

Next the program exported the STL file needed by ReplicatorG to communicate with the Makerbot. Here you can scale it, and move the shape around to get the best fit for the size of the platform.

My first print was pretty decent, with some major errors where you would push on the cookie cutter. I learned within the 11 minute print that my extruder Z height was too high, and that I needed to adjust the temperature of the Heated Build Platform to around 130C. I've been running it at 120, but without a raft this temp hasn't been cutting it.

The second print was more successful and a different colour! 

Things to Work On
Today when I was printing 1 moustache ring at a time for our Movember fundraiser, I was looking longingly at all the extra space around the ring. I need to learn commands such as multiply in the GCode that is generated by RepG and Skeinforge. Thanks to the MAkerbot community online I've received 11 responses in the past few hours! Multiple moustaches will be printed at once tomorrow!

Satisfying Learning, Will Need Second Bot Soon! 
It's so satisfying to have something to look at and analyze within a few minutes. One implication for my class is to have my students print in plastic as a final product instead of printing several iterations of their designs. Printing may be backing up very soon.

One thing I find myself doing more of is taking tons of photos and videos of our class printing. I'm encouraging cells phones to be out for documentation sake and it's generating a nice archive of my journey.

In All Seriousness
I'm going to have to be careful as to my approach. I may even have to just try my approach out this unit and make adjustments as we go along. My wiki I'm starting for Design Studies can be found here. Right now, students are struggling to follow this design process and not jump right into prototyping and modelling in Sketchup. I don't want to stifle their enthusiasm, but I want them to think critically about the evolution of their products. For their first challenge I've given them the task of creating a unique 3D Keychain with their name/initials on it.

Take a look at my wiki and outline of the Design Process I've given them. What could I do differently? What guiding questions could I ask of them?

Keep it awesome!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Learning in Public Reflection #4- Success at Last!

I've been taking a lot of videos and time lapse sequences about how I've taken on one of the largest personal learning projects I've taken on in a long time. Building a Makerbot 3D Printer. Here's a Makerbot 101 video to check out. Below is a time lapse of part of the build.

All of this has been from a post by Dean Shareski who has challenged his pre-service teachers to spend 25-50 hours on their own learning project.  He's learning to play guitar!

During the build I've been reflecting on how my learning translated into how I'm going to facilitate the learning of my students when they start to design 3D objects in a design studies class. Physically I've spend around 20 hours with the 3D printer to date, but I've spent countless hours researching and crowd sourcing problems and challenges along the way.

To catch up on what I've been up to check out my previous posts here, here, and HERE! 

I estimate I'm about 40 hours committed in total to the project so far.

Today was a monumental day. It was the first time I got to see the Makerbot in deliberate action. Just before lunch my work experience student Nathan helped me to test the extrusion at temperatures hot enough to melt the ABS plastic. The result was less that stellar, but it was a necessary step.

Amazing how this failed cube represents so many successes in this project!

Some of my learning:

1. Many 'Failures' 
I thought that I'd be printing 2 days ago, but many things have come up. The filament tension wasn't correct, and I struggled to get all of the end stops on the X and Y axis to work properly. Nathan took apart the entire extruder module 3 times to get it just right. We played with the RPM with no luck. My test prints are really awful, but I see these 'failures' as little successes or iterations on the way to a final goal.

2. Skills vs. Abstract Ideas/Problem Solving.
Dean mentions these two parts of learning in his post, "The Dan Plan". So many times I've gone back and forth between these two. My thought is: are they really separate? I've gained many skills in construction along the way. Could anyone build the physical Makerbot? I truly believe that just about anyone could. Where they might have challenges would be in the gaps in the wiki instructions online, and reality of so many parts and mini-projects that they would face.

The real difference between skills and problem solving can be explained in context of my current project. While I can learn to build and print physical objects, learning about design process, and learning how to take ideas for the physical from conception to the printing stage involves many steps in problem solving. This comparison was made by Dan McLaughlin in Dean's interview with him as the difference between learning to hit a golf ball at the range, or dealing with the stresses of a tournament, including the highs and lows of emotions in between each stroke.

Another way to look at it is from my own sports experience. When I was 19 I started playing rugby. I had a couple weeks of practice getting physically ready for the game, but I didn't have the foggiest about how the game was actually played until I played a real match. So in terms of my own teaching and wanting students to use their skills and be problem solvers, how do I 'teach' problem solving and abstract thinking?

To me, it's the difference between a contrived artificial task versus the real deal. Just like Dan McLaughlin golfing, our classrooms are like the driving range where we develop skills to repeat tasks in learning. So how do I get my teaching and learning out on the course during a tournament?

3. Crowd Sourcing Works: Capitalize on the Expertise of Others
This has proven invaluable. After my unsuccessful attempts to get the firmware for the motherboard and extruder controller working, I went to the Google Makerbot User Group to ask for help. The result was awesome! Several responses within half a day and even an offer of a phone call and personal help from another Makerbot owner! Last night my connections on Facebook paid off when I got a message from a Facebook friend who knew someone in my home town of Cold Lake who has a Makerbot! Within 30 minutes phone numbers were exchanged and I chatted for an hour with him and gained valuable insights into 3D printing.

4. Share Your Learning
When is the last time you had a discussion with someone about what you're enjoying/excited about learning? I really hope that by students watching my project, they will buy in even more. I want them to see their nerdy teacher in action and see that its OK to be passionate about something!

Here's a video that shows my 'Christmas Morning' response to today's 3D printing. I actually made this work!!!!

What are your thoughts about skills vs. problems solving? Can/should the two be separated or intertwined? Do we need to stay on the practice mat at the driving range for a while or do we enter our students in a tournament? More to come about  this soon!

Monday, November 7, 2011

It Began With a Marshmallow

Students were DQ'd if they ate their marshmallow. Some groups used permanent marker to ensure this wouldn't happen.

Today was an awesome day. Hot on the heels of some great collaboration and conversations with colleagues and tweeps I started my Design Studies unit with The Marshmallow Challenge. Huge thanks to Rose Lapointe for guiding me in this way. I now realize that I was the student and she was the teacher during our conversations. I learned so much as we hashed out timing, and supplies, and so many more ideas for this activity. It looked like this on her board:

On Sunday we chatted about the Design Process, and I took more away from that conversation than I had in a week of reading. Conversation kicks @$$! I highly recommend it.

If you haven't seen the TED Talk about the Marshmallow Challenge, make sure you check it out. The challenge is for groups to take a marshmallow, 20 spaghetti sticks, a metre of twine, and a metre of tape and build the tallest free standing structure they can in only 18 minutes. There is also a simple blog page that you can access to view the concise instructions for your class. I would recommend this activity for just about any age level. In fact, one of the findings shared on the TED talk is that Kindergarten students out perform most adults!

I took about 20 minutes to give an overview of the challenge, the rules, and then I set them free. First thing I saw was that out of the 4 groups of 4, almost 1 person form every group checked out right away. Others were busy talking, drawing, and getting ready to build.

I let the students have the 18 minutes and gave time cues on a countdown on the whiteboard on my Macbook. Most groups took 4-5 minutes just to talk and draw. One group grabbed the spaghetti right away and talked as they started making columns for their base. At the end of the 18 minutes they had to remove their hands from the structure. 2 out of 4 failed due to the weight of the marshmallow snapping the spaghetti. Catastrophic failures occurred. The 2 remaining measured a mere 18cm tall and just under 40 cm tall. Not bad for a first try. 

The 17cm high tower. I called this one "the campfire"

37cm tall strength in triangles.

I asked students some guiding questions about their work:
1. How much of your time was spent planning vs building? Most said for every minute planning they had 3 minutes building. 
2. How many of the groups created more than one design in the 18 minutes? None of the groups had.
3. What group dynamics affected your ability to build the tower? Some were told they were bossy, some felt they didn't feel comfortable talking and sharing, groups also said that there was overall, a lack of communication. 
4. What changes would you recommend if you could do it again? Most talked about the stability of the base as the key to success. Planning and communication came up again. 

5. Did you see your tower as a success or failure? Even those who did have a standing tower said yes. They wanted it to be higher. 

At this point in a class I threw them a curveball. I started the TED Talk and stopped it about 30 seconds in. I told them to think of their first tower not as a failure, but as version 1.0, just like an early version of computer software. They then found out that after the video they would get to build version 2.0 with another set of fresh supplies. 

Instant planning started. They were watching the video and sketching, and getting ready to build a tower in another 18 minutes. 

After the TED Talk I let them loose again. There were less groups drawing again, most were building just about right away. This was great to see the enthusiasm of attacking the second round of challenge, but also something I need to be aware of as we move forward. They were learning by doing, and since the last tower wasn't a failure, they took the parts of the previous tower that worked and incorporated them into their new design.

With the last seconds counting down I thought 2 groups would have broken towers again, but luckily they stayed upright. This time 4 of 4 towers soared above the desktops. They measured 18cm, 24cm, 47cm, and a whopping 67.5cm! The team pictured below that had the tallest towered placed a stabilizer string on the tower and fastened it to the desktop with tape at the very last moment.

I told them that I was very pleased and proud that they were able to either improve their tower immensely, or get it to stand the second time around. More importantly, all but two students worked hard in their teams to make their "Marshmallow Tower 2.0" higher than their previous attempt.

The winning tower. 67.5cm tall.

This was their first taste of iterative design and learning from 'failures', which I think we will call 'versions' or 'attempts' from now on in my class. 

Next up is a Transportation Challenge where students have to use the design process to come up with a solution to a BIG problem that I'm calling the Transportation Challenge. How can we get people and other goods across a span safely and efficiently? This is something that in remote locations in the world with fragile infrastructure systems and unpredictable weather, can directly affect communities. People can be cut off from much needed supplies.  Students will be working in class with a 1.2 metre span between two desks to come up with a system that can be installed when existing roads, bridges, and ferries are washed out or impassable.

Tomorrow will start with us reviewing the steps we took with the marshmallow towers. As they describe their steps, students will actually be identifying their actions as parts of the design process. From their I will frame the Transportation Challenge and tell them that their team has been hired to solve a issue about food and supplies not reaching people in need.

How would you use the Marshmallow Challenge in your class? Any ideas for how I can facilitate the next challenge?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Opening Up to My Staff

A few people on my staff know I blog about my class. Most don't I don't advertise a lot on staff that I tweet, read blogs, and collaborate with people outside my school more than inside my school.

This really struck a chord with me recently.

So, under the guise of asking for supplies for my Design Studies unit, I wrote this email to my staff tonight. I officially came out as a blogger and learner and invited my colleagues to have a conversation with me. Here's what I wrote:

"I'm starting a new unit this week with my MM class called Design Studies.

Part of the course is to use the design process to create 'things'- products, etc in Google Sketchup and then model them in 3D plastic. 

I would like to ask you if you could spare some 'stuff' you may have in the recycle bin or garage for my students to prototype physical models: cardboard,  paper towel tubes, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, large foam chunks, etc. Stuff they can shape, bend, cut, old pool noodles... I would like to have a cache for students to access.

Here's what I'm going to be doing. Many of you do know that I'm a nerd and like geeky things. My latest geeky thing that I'm super excited about is 3D printing. I also blog about my teaching from time to time and I've done so about this latest change. My blog really HONEST about my teaching and is a place where I hash out ideas.

Terry Kaminski also shares the great work he does on his own blog: The Transformed Educator. If you haven't checked it out and heard about what Terry's excited about this year by 'flipping' his class you need to check his blog out!

Furthermore, if you have a blog or space where you share your teaching and learning, let everyone know! Conversations about teaching and learning can lead to great things. 

I haven't openly advertised my blog before, but it's time to out myself as a learner. If you take a read perhaps we could have a conversation about any ideas, what awesome things you're doing in the class, or suggestions you might have to my approach. Your comments would be greatly appreciated. Drop by room 1517, I'm the guy with the pathetic attempt of a moustache and new haircut. I've had some awesome conversations with staff members lately about what I'm doing and they'd helped immensely. 

Anytime you might have to drop of supplies would be greatly appreciated. I'm going to become a scrounger. There's a large bin at the front of my room where I'm gathering supplies if I'm not there. 

Thanks so much. 

Yes, I'm going to blog about me telling y'all about my blogging. 


So, have you experienced this with your colleagues before? Have you felt like you've led a double life and kept your learning outside the school and separate from colleagues. I really hope good things can come from an invitation to chat. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Design Thinking: A New Challenge

This is going to be one of those posts where I'm actually writing for me to try and make some sense of a whole bunch of ideas for the next steps in my multimedia course.

Until now, the term 'multimedia' has largely been a farce because I haven't dealt with a true variety of media with students. I'm a video guy, that's where I'm comfortable so that's what we've done. Everything has been about the end product that is due on day X and here's the evaluation rubric.

Now I'm excited to throw that out and start fresh next week.

Wrapping My Brain Around This
With my recent acquisition of a couple Makerbots I'm pumped to be able to take an idea for a product/object/implement that fills a need, draw out some sketches, model it with Google's Sketchup, and then print it in 3D. Take the model, try it out and make revisions as needed until it's completed to my satisfaction. 

The video below is showing part of the 16 hrs of work I've put into the Makerbot so far. 

Basically in a very simplistic way, this is a way of creation through the design process.

Over the past few days I've spent time looking for resources about the Design Process and found a few that were extremely helpful. Here's a Google Doc that I created to share them. It's pretty lean right now, but bear with me, I'll add more this weekend.

I stopped for a while today and thought about where else I could go for resources and inspiration for this, and TED seemed like a logical one. Tim Brown from IDEO gave a talk 2 years ago and it contains some interesting points that I've taken to heart:

"Design thinking [has] rapidly moved on to learning by making. Instead of thinking of what to build, we're building in order to think".

Pretty awesome statement.  He goes on to discuss prototyping as a way of speeding up the process of evolution of ideas. The faster the prototyping process, the faster our ideas can evolve. 

This presents an interesting situation for educators. We don't leave time in our lessons for multiple ideas to be pursued. The teacher traditionally has an idea of what the correct answer is, and is basically waiting for the students to spit it back at them. The students know this, and in order to play along with the game, they simply respond accordingly because it's a whole lot less painful. In essence we've trained passive thinkers. I reflected on this last weekend in a video (skip to 1:45):

Going through the design process with students is going to be tough for highly trained passive learners, and myself who is used to knowing where we will end up. Right now I don't know where we'll end up. Scary, but exciting. Tim Brown's talk highlighted the need for the population to be shift from consumption to participation. This hits the nail on the educational head. He remarks that:

"instead of seeing it's primary objective as consumption, design thinking is beginning to explore the potential of experiences that are meaningful and productive"

From their Educator's Guide, IDEO's Design Thinking Process details 5 steps:

1. Discovery – I have a challenge. How do I approach it? 
2. Interpretation – I learned something. How do I interpret it?
3. Ideation – I see an opportunity. What do I create?
4. Experimentation – I have an idea. How do I build it?
5. Evolution – I tried something new. How do I evolve it?

Bumpy Roads Ahead
Some great discussion ideas and  scenarios have come up in my research and from conversations I've had with Terry Kaminski and Neil Stephenson. 

1. What are the big ideas and  challenges that I can give students? Typically teachers give an end product as the goal of their assignments, such as an essay, a lab report, a free throw. This way of thinking is confining and narrow. I will probably need to have dedicated 

2. Technology might be a barrier to learning. Will JIT Learning (just in time) cut it with creating tangible prototypes once students take their ideas into Google Sketchup and other programs? I will need to spend some deliberate learning time concentrating on their sketchup skills to make sure it doesn't frustrate them. On the other hand, with all the online tutorials out there, perhaps recognizing that more discovery is needed will be part of the process. My job will be to guide them towards that realization. 

3. Reinforcing the process and re-iteration will be keys. Are students going to just want to get it done? How can I pose questions and help them look critically at their thinking, planning and prototyping? 

4. The end result in plastic from the Makerbot isn't what this is all about. It's a nice reward to have something they can physically take with them at the end of the project, but should take a back seat to the process. 

5. Maintaining enthusiasm. I can see several students ripping through the process just wanting to print things right away. This is where phrasing the challenge, and enforcement of the steps will be key. 

6. Balancing individual contribution while working in a supportive team environment. We all were in a group project in school where we were the one who did all the work or none of the work. By creating design teams, with cool names to boot, students can bounce ideas off each other, and then take the challenges presented to them and plan and interpret them in their own ways. Individuals an create their own designs and then present them to the group. The group may be inspired to take components of  several models and incorporate them 

7. Share awesome ideas with students. is buzzing with tons of awesome things to inspire.

8. The BIGGER the idea the better. Tim Brown's Ted Talk  had a slide at 13:50 had some HUGE questions that designers face today. Why not incorporate questions at this level to my students? Do I go HUGE global/issues based, or smaller local, challenge based with students creating household items and products that directly affect them? Start small and build up? What do you think? 

9. Get my class full of stuff. Paper, cardboard, scissors, glue, paper towel tubes, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, anything that students can use to prototype. I need to treat the plastic model as their 'final' prototype. It's not to say that they can't change it once they see the printed plastic model. That would actually be a requirement.

10. Blogging is a perfect fit for this process for students. 

11. Big questions bring big ideas. Is design thinking new? Or are we just quantifying and labelling a process that teachers often do in their teaching? That's another debate for another post. 

I've got a lot to learn still about the Makerbot, Google Sketchup and how I'm going to present the design process to my students. This will continue to be my "Learning in Public" project over the next few months. 

So, I put it back to you, the reader. What's your take on design thinking and implementing it in the classroom? What advice would you give me before I take off on this new adventure?

Monday, October 3, 2011


KABOOM! That's how I would describe my evening tonight. It came in two parts.

Part 1- Trying to Get PowerSchool to Work for Outcomes Based Reporting

I was happily working out how I can get Powerschool to do outcomes based reporting and having some great discussions on Twitter and Facebook about it. Here's what I was up to:

Yes I asked elementary teachers. They do standards based reporting better than most teachers. 

Basically I was crowd-sourcing my research. If you haven't done it, I highly recommend it. If you don't think you'll get a response, ask a Twitter high roller like @courosa or @shareski to retweet it for you. Those guys get results.

Some great advice and conversations came from this so I fashioned a diagram of what I want PowerSchool to do for me. Isn't that how these programs work? Teacher centred? :P

(Click image to enlarge)

What I want from Powerschool is to adjust the scale type so I can use a method of communicating the skills/competency based outcomes from the CTS curriculum. Almost all of them have some sort of verb that can not always be assessed at a percentage in the traditional sense of grading. 

With frequent blogging as their primary source of reporting their learning, along with daily team meetings,  project meetings with each student,  and knowing the outcomes WAY up front in the unit, I hope that this final piece of reporting their 'grade' will be a small portion of their learning. Student will review their blogs with me and we will go over each of the outcomes they have reported on in their blogs. 

More on that in another post. 

Part 2- KABOOM! Holy $h!t! This is amazing! 

I just started to follow @bre on Twitter. Bre Pettis is the co-founder of Makerbot Industries. If you haven't heard of them, check them out online. They've basically taken 3D printing and made it accessible and affordable for almost anyone. I've ordered 2 makerbots with funds a generous donation from Imperial Oil to my classroom. The plan is to use the bots (two or more are affectionately known as a farm) and learn 3D modelling and printing along side the students. Just check out this video where a makerbot user has created a dual extrusion model that is a scannable data matrix. You could actually print a QR code in physical plastic! 

What's amazing about this is that I'm going to get to bring some cool ideas to my class in terms of organization that I've been contemplating recently. One such idea is giving students 20% time on Fridays to pursue modelling and design projects of their own interest. 

Tonight @bre tweeted something FREAKING AMAZING. 

There is a wonderful person named Liz Arum who has created a Makerbot curriculum that is aligned to NY state standards. This wiki has tons of great project ideas for use with the Makerbot. I'm going to have to spend a while searching through it to see how the projects could align with the Alberta Ed CTS courses, but what a find! 

This was my response:

On her blog Liz wants to build up a community of teachers who can share ideas and lessons. I'm so impressed by her willingness to share that I now feel compelled to, and I look forward to contributing to the cause once we get rolling in my class! 

Now if I can just get to sleep after all this! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hitting their stride at RTV

Signs of Success
Today I am home with my son Jack who is sick. After a couple games of Star Wars Trouble and watching an episode of House Hunters International (you like it too) I noticed it was almost time for the RTV News at Cold Lake High School. Our school uses Ustream each day to broadcast our news show. I was pleasantly surprised to watch the anchors Kyle and Tyson present their team's brand of news complete with Wayne and Garth 'party on' sign off today.

Shining Stars Are Developing
Each week students have shown improvement and I'm really proud of the work they are doing. Students this week did pan to keys, two shot interviews, live in house segments, and produced great packages. Both weather anchors are developing their own unique personalities. Adrien is simply known as 'the weatherman' now! Yesterday's newscast was probably their best to date.

While we always have some audio and composition issues, these are items students are conscious of and are trying to improve on. They've become their own critics, and have really stepped up to look at each time they go air as a chance to get better.

The segment that Tyson (2:48) did really showed his hard work. He signed out equipment, went to the protest event and got the interviews. Audio quality aside, this showed he was willing to do the hard work to put his story together. He even called the Walmart store manager for an interview. Here's some background on this story from Global Edmonton. Yesterday he did a live in studio segment. He really knocked it out of the park this show. A possible "muggie" award nominee for September! (each month I give an RTV mug to an outstanding student in the newsroom).

Working on Blogfolios
One thing we are still working on is our blogs. I think I need to spend a bit more time with each student as they are blogging on Friday to make sure they understand the process of communicating their learning and demonstration of the outcomes from our first unit. At the end of each unit I really want students to identify how far they've improved each week and communicate that in their blogs. I may have to change my guiding questions and get some feedback from them on this as well.

We're off to a good start, the RTV news crew should be proud of their accomplishments so far!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

One Year Later...

Note: I started this post over a year ago after listening to Brian Crosby speak. I've mulled over it, and updated much of it. What is in italics is what I wrote originally. What follows is my current situation and how I'm going to address these cold hard truths about my teaching.

This is going to be a blog post with two purposes. A serious look in the mirror at how I teach multimedia, and how I have been doing things for the past 3 years. Some of it is going to be BRUTALLY honest. ALL of it is going to be for the purpose of reflecting and making my class a more engaging place to be for students.

I went to ISTE in Denver this year with some colleagues. After all the sessions I went to, it was TedXDenverEd that stood out as the highlight for me. One talk in particular from Brian Crosby has completely transformed my outlook on education. I think that after 3 years of doing things pretty much the same way it's time to face some hard facts.

Fact 1: After 3 years of teaching multimedia, concentrating on video arts, I feel my program is stagnant and is often boring for students. Those who are intrinsically motivated to create video projects will always do well, but usually there are only 4-5 true "AV Geeks" in my classes each semester.

Fact 2: I have struggled with assessment in video arts. I don't know if I have all the answers yet. Developing quality assessments for projects is tough. Getting buy-in and getting students to be active participants in the process and stages of their own learning is a dream of many educators. Students know the game of school too well...

Fact 3: Students have been 'going through the motions' in my class and don't feel connected to the projects they are working on. New project ideas need to be integrated. 

Wow. There it is. Here's some thoughts about these three statements 1 year later.

What Are You Excited About This Year?
Stagnant Classroom? Get a project. Last year I started RTV with my students. I took over my media arts class and made it happen. It's going even better this year. I believe this made my 2010-2011 school year. I dove head first into an experiment that was bumpy but rewarding for myself and most importantly my students. RTV is now running quite smoothly with some key changes and I look forward to the work that we will do in the 'newsroom'.

However, I do need to shake things up this year. This is why I'm going to introduce something totally different than I've done before: 3D modelling and printing. Starting in November I'm diving into uncharted territory and going to capitalize on students' inner child by letting them learn about design, and then actually getting a tangible plastic model of what they have created in Google Sketchup and other open source software.

Assessment Challenges Ahead
With my RTV students all demonstration of their competencies will come in the form of reflections on their blogs. Assignments are given with the outcomes at the beginning of the project, and student will be asked to give evidence from their project work, team work when creating the daily news, and their own research and investigations. An ongoing part of my life is working on this.

Connections to the Projects
This is one I am still working on. How do I make it real in the confines of a school. People tout about 'real world' all the time in education, but very few actually do it and do it well. In previous semesters we've worked with our Peace Officers to make PSA style videos and we've even editing HD footage of a professional commercial, but all the 'real world' projects I threw at students still seemed a bit contrived. One way of connecting students to projects is for them to guide their own learning in areas of interest. This idea comes from some posts I've read about Google's 20% time. What if I gave my students Friday to work on multimedia projects that they develop, set goals and work towards achieving? I think this will be another post unto itself.

So there you have it. Brutally honest, but with excitement in my words, I'm looking forward to dealing with these 'truths' this year. It's kind of neat to have this post sit for a year and now be able to write back to myself about what I've done to work on each "fact". 

BTW- How could you incorporate 20% time into your classroom?


My Response To

  1. Jared Nichol
    on Sep 25th, 2011
    @ 11:25 am:

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    While I do understand that principals are under enormous pressures from many different angles it seems to me that your frustrations about Facebook are from primarily negative experiences.

    Students who use Facebook to bully and harass others should be dealt with strongly and that is covered in your discipline policy somewhere at the school or district level. Or even the police if needed.

    No doubt students and parents misuse Facebook in ways to slam teachers and schools on a regular basis. Is this any different than the coffee crowd getting together to complain? The coffee crowd is now on Facebook. Let’s meet them online instead of hearing the gossip at PTA meetings and in the stands at basketball games.

    If you were my principal I’d want you to embrace Facebook as means of positively promoting the school with our own school page, and working with teachers to reach students with their own class pages.

    Fscebook is where students and parents are. If you model appropriate use of it from the school it sends a message to all in your community. Get parents to post comments on the wall about he awesome things they think about your school.

    It seems a shame to dismiss Facebook like this.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The 'Formative' Newsroom

First post of the year. Welcome back y'all.

There are some major changes in store for RTV. First and foremost I got my proverbial crap together and purged all my old useless resources that I had and changed my classroom into a meaner, cleaner, news making machine!

But now to the good stuff. Once again, I'm turning my class upside down and starting from scratch with a totally different approach. I HOPE that with the help of my tweeps and my assessment gurus on call that I can help my students to the next level. What is that level? I hope a group of students that are more purposeful and reflective about their work.

Here's the plan.

Where do I Start? I'm new!
Students in RTV Broadcasting will be in one of three levels. These are based on the Alberta Education CTS modules at 1000, 2000 or 3000 levels. Newbs come in doing the lower modules and work their way up.

Two Teams
Students have been placed into two teams. Team Black and Team Gold. It's actually Team Black vs. Team Gold. I would like to have a little friendly rivalry to push effort and help motivate them a bit. Maybe vote off a students at the end of each week like Hell's Kitche
n (kidding). There is a good mix of 1000, 2000 and 3000 level students on each team. (10, 20, 30 in my class).

Are you ready for a Challenge?
On our class wiki each week, students will be given a challenge. These challenges are related to a job in the newsroom and linked from the curriculum. Students will have to work with their team to get the news done as well as complete the challenge at their level. The teams will be given a challenge for the week with instructions for what I'm looking for in the newscasts. We aren't going to be good at the beginning, but we will be constantly working to
be better.

Where do we get the time?
Here's what is new for me. Last year was a crazy pace for our news team. It was time to switch it up. Instead of rushing to get things done daily, each team will only do two newscasts a week. We flipped to see who was going to go first. Team Black starts tomorrow. I have done this to allow teams to have a full day in between to prepare graphics, stories, do editing, promotions, and anything else I throw at them.

When do we get the time to stop and THINK?!
I didn't give students the number one thing they were asking for and that was TIME. So, I'm going to give it to them, but they need to be accountable for this time. Several thing will happen with this time, and most of it is on me. I will sit down with the team after each newscast and give them time to talk about how their efforts ahead of the newscast and during the newscasts contributed to the quality of product we saw broadcast that day. This is where I can give my feedback and talk to individuals about changes they need and to see how their stories and newscast will change for the next day. They will then get the rest of the day to prepare in their team.

The Director will watch me run the first post-mortem of the week and it will be his or her job to run the second one with me present. By the end of the first month I hope that I will only be a fly on the wall in that post-mortem meeting, with small additions to help refocus on the challenges and outcomes.

Reflection Fridays. Putting it all Together.
I've pulled newscasts from Fridays. We have many Fridays off in our district as it is, and I want students to have a showcase of their learning from the beginning of the semester to the end. That's why on Friday they will blog and have lots of ammo to show evidence of their learning.

Here's an example of a beginner level students challenge for the week. I will be showing them about "streeter interviews" and they will pair up with 20-level students to complete a news package. Their challenge is to create the lower third identifiers and tell me why they have
chosen effective fonts and contrasting graphics:

Assignment 2- Our First Week of Broadcasts

Due: Sept 9 by the end of class

Team Challenge: Add lower third text to news broadcast and packages

Outcome: describe the impact of each element on the visual message; e.g., line, shape (2D) or form (3D),

colour, texture, depth (perspective), light, direction (motion), mass (visual weight), tone (black

and white) or value (colour), space (positive and negative)

Outcome: Discuss the use of the elements and principles of design in purposeful text creation; e.g., attention-getting text versus readable text.

1. Read up on what the priniciples and elements of design are here.

2. Read up on font terms. What type of font did your team choose and why?

(capline, topline, midline, baseline, beardline, serif, san serif, ascender, descender, bowl, counter)

3. Comment on the font choice that your team has made. What characteristics of your font choice make it appealing for the news? Use font terminology to explain. How is readability of your text? What other font could you choose? Share it in your post.

3. How can you take what you learned about the priniciples and elements of design and apply them to the text and lower thirds on the news? Give an example of your Team's Text Graphics from this week (photo, video) Embed it into your blog. Evaluate your team's graphics. What needs to improve?

4. How was your first team debrief? What are your team's strengths that you will be building upon for next week?

5. What are you wanting to do to improve personally next week?

6. Share the resources you have found with us in your blog post at the end of the post. Embed the links in text. (I'll show you how).

More contacts, more feedback.

I'm excited will have so many chances to give feedback to students. From their individual packages, to team challenges, to post-portems, to helping one on one with setup/teardown, I hope students will really be thinking about their work each day as a way to meet the challenge and the outcomes. I'll probably need some advice about their weekly blogs so they don't get too repetitive in nature and so their summative reflections remain purposeful and deliberate.

Also another thought for my next post: What if my students can demonstrate that they have achieved or exceeded the outcome through their daily work and reflections? What does an 84% reporter look like? Why is there a mark needed if the student communicates effectively that they know what they know? What happens if a student "doesn't demonstrate" an outcome in the first unit, but does in our second? Shouldn't their mark change for the first?

Your thoughts on the two team idea? Days dedicated in the week for preparation and reflection for the teams?