Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rube Goldberg Leads Our 6th Grade Students through STEM at ISTE

Join the Rube Goldberg Learning Community
Based upon the discussion at the end of our ISTE session, I have created a Google Doc where you can add your ideas and examples about how to engage Rube Goldberg problems in learning.   


How do we teach STEM using exciting and crazy devices like Rube Goldberg Inventions? 

Today I have the opportunity to share my ideas and experiences with doing just that. I will begin by introducing the facets of STEM education along with 8 essential elements for Problem-Based Learning which is the basis of effective STEM education.

Here are some of the materials I used and the resources I have consulted for this presentation.   Some of the materials I will be covering are also covered in previous Dr. Z Reflects postings so you will find some links at the bottom of this post.

Rube Goldberg-Related Resources:

Are Your Educational Games Actually Worksheets with Points? Here are 6 ways to Find Better Learning Games

I was just reading Cool Cat Teacher when I saw this posting.  It is an interesting topic but it was more interesting when I realized that I spent the last couple of days with the author, Kae Novak, here at ISTE.  She really knows gaming and I am learning a great deal as I work with the ISTE Gamers.  I will be movinging forward with introducing gaming into my fall classes and I am learning A LOT.

  1. Understand what makes a good game.
  2. Become a Game Master.
  3. Find good games.
  4. Learning best practices.
  5. Connect with other teachers using games.
  6. Consider how games can teach more.

You should go the the full posting at Cool Cat Teacher to read the rest of the discussion.


Monday, June 15, 2015

4 Fundamental Problems With Everything You Hear About the Future of Education

Jordan Shapiro
I am going to the TIC conference in Dubuque this coming week and the ISTE conference in Philly next week. I have been attending Educational Technology conferences for over 2 decades and have always loved going there.  I learn a lot from the sessions and I get to connect with friends that I have developed over the years.

This morning I read an article in Forbes by Jordan Shapiro.  This article, 4 Fundamental Problems with Everything You Hear About the Future of Education, included some insightful comments that I would like to share with you here. Below, I have listed the 4 myths that Shapiro enumerated along with some of my own narrative. I strongly suggest that you read the whole article connected to the link above to get the full flavor of the message.
  1. Kids are bored and technology will provide better ways to engage students. - I agree with Shapiro when he says that it is about the teacher, not the technology. Unfortunately, the biggest barrier I have with the future teachers that I teach is that many of them have the belief that we need to integrate technology for technology's sake.  Not the case. Technology can provide opportunities for learning that would not be otherwise available but it can still be used badly. We can use video conferencing to connect 6th grade classrooms in different countries but if their activities are limited to teacher-led worksheet filling-out, there is little value. 
  2. More data-based adaptive technologies will lead to child-centered curricula. - Intelligent tutorials are useful devices in building skills, but they aren't the answer to building child-centered curricula. If you have a skillset that your students need to learn, it has been shown that students can learn faster using adaptive technologies.  BUT the key is how these skills will be applied. This can't be done using data-based adaptive technologies.  Problem-based learning can provide the valuable learning experience that students can have when applying those skills.
  3. Video games will finally contextualize academic content - Video games can present problems in a context but does that necessarily align with the real world?  When learners play "against the machine", they learn in the the context that the programmers provided.  When learners play against each other in a game like Civilization, they are provided a context within which they are working with other people. The game provides the playing field and the contestants provide the human emotions and decision-making processes from which they will learn. Experiencing the actual decision-making process that a person will undergo when negotiating a treaty or deciding about attacking a fortress can provide insight that couldn't be learned from a book.  When students have these experiences together, they can come to class and discuss their feelings and learn more about what historical figures might have done.
  4. Learning should be more fun. - Shapiro points out that learning is NOT fun. Learning is an experience where you are stretched.  It is a situation where you are drawn from your comfort zone and expected to succeed. Can this happen in games? - Yes.  Is this necessarily fun? - No. It is challenging. Being challenged and having a safety net so that you can try new things without the chance for a huge loss can provide a sense of accomplishment but it doesn't need to be fun. 
While you can see that Shapiro and I don't see eye-to-eye on everything, you should read his article.  It has a lot of good points in it.

I just downloaded the .pdf of his book, The Mindshift Guide to Digital Games and Learning.  I haven't read it yet, but look forward to experiencing his advice.

What do you think about these points?  Please provide a third-leg to our discussion.

Z

Monday, June 08, 2015

Are YOU a Helicopter Professor/Teacher?



What do you do when you decide to move from "Sage on the Stage" to "Guide on the Side?"  Typically, you spend a GREAT deal of time setting things up so that you can create a learning environment where students learn by researching and doing new ideas instead of listening to you telling them these ideas.

A part of being a Guide on the Side is that you may feel like a 3rd wheel while you watch your students work together in class.  It's ironic that the best way for your students to learn can be to learn on their own with you "out of the loop."  You may not be directly involved in their learning experience, but you are guiding them through the learning process. You are taking a different role in the classroom.

This is an example of Teacher Lead - Student Driven

I just read an article in Faculty Focus where Berlin Fang is suggesting ideas that will provide your students with the "proper balance of challenge and support."  

This article, How to Avoid being a Helicopter Professor, provides six suggestions:
  1. Allow Chaos
  2. Embrace Desirable Difficulty
  3. Increase Accountability
  4. Reduce Redundancy
  5. Remove Crutches
  6. Mix Push and Pull
Dr. Fang introduces some interesting concepts in these 6 suggestions. He discusses Free-Range Assignments that are individualized competency-based challenges. He suggests that we should help students but don't teach helplessness. This sense of self-efficacy is accomplished by starting with scaffolds to support new learners, but methodically removing them so that students can learn to stand on their own.

What do YOU think?  Did that article hit the button with you or are you still a Helicopter Educator?


Photo: Mark Ludy

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Kids Give Tips on Writing Quality Comments on a Blog


Here are some quality tips on how to write quality comments on a blog that you just read.  I learned a lot.  Maybe this will be useful for you and your students.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Finding the Speed of Light with Peeps - Science Experiment

Yes, I know that this is different than the typical discussion on Dr. Z Reflects, but I just had to share this wonderful science experiment.  



This 5-minute video shares a wonderful demonstration of applied mathematics and science. Using a tray full of peeps, you can actually demonstrate how wavelengths move across a microwave. 

The experimenter (couldn't find his name in the credits) places a tray of marshmallow peeps into a microwave and turns it on for a couple of minutes. He pulls it out and then looks for the specific places where the peeps have really melted. These places are about 2.4 inches apart.  Based upon the assumption that the microwaves are melting the peeps in places where the wave actually travels through the peeps, it is possible to use these calculations to compute the speed of light.

I can see 10 year old students doing this and suddenly having a realization light going off in their heads by this demonstration.   This is a MUST WATCH video and MUST IMPLEMENT in your classroom.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Another Rube Goldberg STEM Session at UNI Elementary Literacy Conference


What do Rube Goldberg, STEM and Literacy have in common?  

That's a good question. I have been invited to share our Rube Goldberg experiences as a Featured Speaker at the UNI Elementary Literacy Conference.

Interestingly enough, I will be sharing the stage with Dr. Beth Van Meeteren (STEM in PreK-3rd Grades: A Reason to Develop Literacy); Marcy Seavey (Finding the Citizen Scientist in Every Child); and Rick Vanderwall (Media and Drama Integration with Literacy)   It will be an exciting opportunity for all.

Today I will be sharing our Rube Goldberg experiences in the 6th Grade Waverly-Shell Rock Middle School.  We will discuss the explorational process that we experienced while creating our own inventions to accomplish simple tasks.  These tasks might be turning off a light, erasing a blackboard, or popping a balloon. These may seem like meaningless tasks, but its not about turning out a light.  The emphasis of this process is the creative problem solving that our students experienced while they were building these inventions.

If you want to learn more about my presentation, you can refer to my other posts in DrZReflects.  The Slide Show is available in the list below as well as some of the other resources that I used in preparation.
STEM
Project-Based Learning 
Do you have more resources you want to share?  Please add them to the comments below.

Z