KidzTek Article

Earlier this year I was invited by Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria (DLTV) to consider a role as Associate Editor for their online journal. I was quite flattered by this offer, as I have worked closely with DLTV and one of its founding organisations, ICT in Education Victoria (ICTEV), for many years. Of course I accepted! In accepting this position, I decided to write an article for their upcoming journal about my KidzTek program, to share my thinking behind how it was formed. Please find my full article below.

 

KidzTek logo

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KidzTek: Full STEAM Ahead in the Early Years Classroom

“Play is the highest form of research.” – Albert Einstein

Last year, after a number of years teaching older students, I made the move to a grade 2 class. Towards the end of 2013, I requested this change due to my observations when working with the junior levels as a Digital Learning coach. I saw a need for more support and guidance in using technology in creative and innovative ways. Having led the 1:1 iPad program in grade 6 for three years, where students used their iPads as a way to enhance and showcase their learning, I felt it was time to provide the younger students with this same opportunity.

 

Walker Learning Approach

One of the biggest differences I noticed in my move to an Early Years level, since the last time I taught grade 2, was the implementation of the Walker Learning Approach. This is an Australian developed pedagogy, designed by Kathy Walker, that engages students in personalised learning experiences. For more information about this learning and teaching approach, please explore the following links:

During the Walker Learning Approach, or Investigations, as we refer to it at my school, students are tuned into their learning experiences for the day, move to and between a number of centres (with intentional provocations) where they investigate a range of skills, then reflect on their learning at the end of the session. The centres the students explore include reading, writing, mathematics, science, collage, construction, block construction, dramatic play, sensory and tinkering.

Art-BallerinasThroughout the year, I noticed how much my students loved working at the mathematics, science, collage and tinkering centres. My students often asked if they could draw pictures at the writing centre too, which led me to setting up an art centre. Having an art background myself, I would often talk to my students about their personal interests, then share artists and art works they may be interested in. For example, my students interested in ballerinas explored the works of Degas.

These experiences and conversations helped me see that my students were keen to explore STEAM concepts, aka Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. I thought long and hard for quite a while, trying to develop a way to build on my students’ interests in these areas so they moved between centres similar to the Walker Learning Approach, yet had more freedom in selecting what they wanted to do and explore. This is how KidzTek was formed.

 

KidzTek

KidzTek was created primarily to expose my students to elements of STEAM. Unlike the Walker Learning Approach, the centres, or rather activities, don’t necessarily include skills the students are learning or consolidating throughout the day or week; the activities actually reflect the students’ interests on that particular day.

When I first introduced KidzTek to my class last year, I asked my students if they knew what STEAM stood for. They didn’t know, which is what I expected. I wrote the letters down my whiteboard, with the corresponding learning area represented by each letter. I asked the same question again. After many guesses and prompting, my students were eventually able to identify most of the words. Engineering was Stop motionthe one they stumbled on. We listed the types of activities they could undertake in each area, and, not surprisingly, many of the activities reflected those already at centres for Investigations. As a result of this, and as a means of providing my students with new opportunities, I listed a few additional activities. These included coding, stop motion, K’Nex, marble runs and Rube Goldberg machines, which were actually part of my initial brainstorm, as documented in my KidzTek blog.

My students were really interested in knowing more about these activities, as they had heard about some of them, but hadn’t seen or explored them. I thought about talking through each activity, so my students had a clearer picture of what each was about, but decided not to. I felt that this would have impacted on my students constructing their own learning and collaborating with their peers to work through any challenges. I did, however, share a short clip with them, Audri’s Rube Goldberg Monster Trap, as way to reinforce design, construction, prediction, evaluation, perseverance, resilience, failure, success and reflection. The clip was a big hit and, you guessed it, my class was buzzing with excitement and enthusiasm to explore, create, learn and share.

 

2014

During term four, when I introduced KidzTek to my class, I ran the session weekly – each Friday afternoon. My students were always excited to participate, often coming back inside from their lunch break with a clear intent regarding what they were going to do.

easyblogjrEarlier in the year, I set up a class blog, after being contacted by an app developer. The app, Easy Blog Jr, allows you and your students to post text, photos and videos directly to your blog with only a few taps. Please refer to my posts for more information. I wanted to capture my students’ learning and thinking during KidzTek, so I decided to link the app to my KidzTek blog too. Each week, my students would ask for my iPad, take a photo, voice record a recount or reflection, show me for approval, then press submit. I loved the way my students were becoming global authors. They would often play back their recording and record themselves again if they felt their message wasn’t clear, prior to sharing their post with me. I embraced this independence and reflection, and encouraged my students’ ability to take control of their learning.

Last year, one young boy, who transitioned to my class during term four from my school’s onsite support (specialist) centre, was the first student to create a closed circuit that lit a globe and played music. Through perseverance, he also made the ‘helicopter blade’ fly. You can’t even begin to imagine how proud he felt when the class cheered on his effort and achievement.

Coding3Two students decided to explore some coding apps on my iPad. During the following session, one of these students connected my iPad to the Apple tv and began teaching a larger group of students who wanted to learn how to code. She demonstrated what to do, then passed my iPad around, watching the tv screen and providing support. Coding became quite popular after that session, with around 10 students gathering each week to learn to code together. The amazing thing about this is that I did not show any of my students how to code. I only showed them where the coding apps were located on my iPad.

This experience, or rather program, has shown me “what is possible”. I have seen my students welcome STEAM concepts and thrive on exploring them further, on their terms, at their pace.

 

2015

This year I have introduced KidzTek to my new class. They, too, have welcomed the experience. Surprisingly, though, they have different areas of interests. Maker spaces and tinkering is more their style. My classroom is bursting with boxes and old circuit boards. My students’ parents are amazing in topping up our supplies. Active imaginations also run high. One student pulled apart a circuit board and used the parts to create a remote, similar to the one in the movie ‘Click’. It was great when his peers and family played along with his ‘invention’ and commands, e.g. pause, rewind, fast forward. Another student made night vision goggles, whilst another made a Transformer.

DashandDot-LabeledforReuse2I’ve shared with my class my interest in robotics. I have ordered ‘Dash and Dot’ and cannot wait for them to arrive so my students can have a play. In the meantime, I am setting up some ‘simple robots’ kits. These include materials similar to those I used during a workshop I attended at the FutureSchools Expo in March. Shortly after working with Daniel Green and Dr Sarah Boyd from the Macquarie ICT Innovations Centre, I came across a kit posted by Tinkerlab on Facebook – Make Your Own Tinker Box & Build Robots. This has been my inspiration. It contains many items you can purchase from stores like Jaycar, e.g. springs, wires, globes, magnets, plastic ties, etc. Mine also includes battery holders, hobby motors and insulation tape. I’m looking to add copper wire too. I cannot wait to see what my students create when I introduce them!

 

I haven’t been able to run KidzTek sessions as frequently with my class this year, due to timetable constraints. This, however, hasn’t affected my students’ enthusiasm. If anything, it is feeding it. Interestingly, my students from last year have asked if I plan to run KidzTek as a lunch time club. I am definitely considering this, as clearly there is a need to provide students, particularly primary aged students, with opportunities to explore STEAM concepts. Imagine the possibilities these experiences will create!

Hello 2015

I am always amazed at how time flies. I tell myself that I will be able to post weekly, or even fortnightly, yet, due to the demands of my job… and the down time I need to recover and re-energise… I am seeing a pattern where my good intentions just aren’t happening.

This year looks to be the same. I cannot believe we are in March already… and the end of term 1 is nearing!

To give you some background information, this is what my role involves:

  • I am a grade 2 classroom teacher and the grade 2 team leader.
  • I lead 8 staff and approximately 110 students.
  • I am my school’s eLearning leader and I assist my school’s Assistant Principal with the direction of eLearning within my school.
  • I am a Digital Learning Leader (coach). I am released an extra 3 hours a week to coach staff with integrating iPads in their learning and teaching program.
  • I support the other Digital Learning Leaders in my school with how to coach, as up until now, I’ve been the only one in a formal ICT peer coaching role.

Add to this the conference presentations and consultancy work I do external to my primary position. This makes it clear for you to see that I am quite time poor. In saying this, though, I do need to make a change… a change for me… a change where I can stop to smell the roses, whilst still pursuing my passions.

 smell-the-roses-live

So, for me, it is clear that I need to write down my goals and share them with the world. I believe this will make me more accountable towards achieving what I want and need to do…

Here goes… This year, I will:

  • post to my blog at least once a fortnight
  • continue to explore STEAM and introduce new approaches with my class
  • continue to explore coding and provide my students with opportunities to expand their skills
  • reconnect with my passion for robotics and provide my students with opportunities to create simple robots
  • continue to run my KidzTek program and share the successes and challenges my students and I face
  • ensure I have some down time so my work/life balance is not so one-sided.

I look forward to sticking to my goals and sharing my journey with you. Please feel free to comment and ask questions along the way 🙂

Easy Blog Jr – Week 1 Reflection

After a week of using Easy Blog Jr, I can confidently say that I think the app is fantastic! As I’ve stated in previous posts, it is so simple to use.

rubysmovieI truly love how easy it is to post to my class blog. I love that you have the option of setting categories in profile settings; in my case, this is each student’s name. In one week, almost all of my class posted to our blog. That is amazing! And each post is categorised, meaning visitors can click on a name under the “categories” heading to filter results. I’ve already had a parent access our blog and comment on her child’s video using this method. She was thrilled to see her daughter’s work. Another parent mentioned that she loved the way the students spoke over their pictures. It meant more to her than a sentence or two under an image.

These comments got me thinking about how to use my class blog and the app for another purpose. Initially, my blog was to share with parents the learning that’s happening in my room, but by categorising each post, to a degree, I am also creating a digital portfolio for each of my students. We have student led conferences in a couple of weeks. How great will it be for my students to share our class blog with their parents, if they haven’t already done so at home, filter the posts to just theirs, and speak about what they were learning when they took each photo. Their digital portfolios are being created by them during class when they are completing activities, not during a stand alone “work on your digital portfolio” session. They don’t need to sift through work samples to select to include, they are rather sharing their learning journey as it happens. Students are commenting on their work sample at the time they are creating it. This app allows you to capture real-time learning. How awesome is that!? 🙂

I cannot express how flattered I am to have been contacted by one of the app developers to trial this app. I can see its potential and will continue to use it and sing it praise throughout the year. I’ve asked a few colleagues to trial the app in their classes too. I look forward to hearing how they go and sharing their experience with you and the developer as well.

Easy Blog Jr – Day 2

easyblogjrMy students and I have been using the app, Easy Blog Jr, for two days now and I must say we “absolutely love it!”

At the moment I have everything, i.e. all student profiles, set up on my iPad. Throughout the day, my students take photos, voice record a caption, review their recording, then publish their post to our class blog when they are happy with it. They are in control of the whole process. To them, publishing a post is very similar to creating a one picture project in Adobe Voice.

I have been amazed to see that with little instruction, my students’ posts are moving from a simple description about what they are doing towards what they are learning. This is exactly what I was hoping for. It is clear to me that this app has great potential in being a fantastic reflection tool. I can’t wait to see how my students’ reflections improve over the term.

categoriesI was sharing the app and my class blog with my pre-service teacher today. She asked if it was possible, once students had posted multiple times, for parents to easily access just their child’s posts, rather than scroll through everyone’s – Great question! This got me thinking of an easy way to “filter” the posts. When setting up each student profile, there is an option to add a category. I have decided to add each student’s name as a category. This will mean that as soon as students publish their post, it will be categorised under their name. Parents will then be able to click on their child’s name under the ‘categories‘ heading down the right hand side of our blog… So, problem solved! 🙂

I can’t wait to explore this app some more with my class over the coming weeks to share what we think, discover and solve 🙂

Educreations

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m teaching a grade 2 class this year after 3 years in a grade 6 1:1 iPad classroom. I initially thought there would be a big difference with assigning tasks and students completing these using any app/s they wanted, but to my surprise, there isn’t. My little darlings this year have proved to me that student voice and choice is just as alive in an Early Years classroom!

educreationsCurrently, Educreations is the app of choice! My students love creating movies and video clips, as well as tutorials with it. They particularly like the way they can record themselves, press pause, add a new slide or two… then record themselves some more. They often critique the end result and re-record themselves to ensure a high quality product. For 7-8 year olds, this is AMAZING! 🙂

With so many recordings, I needed to think of an easy way to view them all. In the past, my older students have created their own Educreations accounts and emailed me a link to view their work online. Rather than ask my grade 2 students to do this, I decided to set up individual school accounts for my students, where I can log in via the Educreations site and access their dashboards. It did take a while to set this up, but in the long run, it is worth it, as now I don’t have to sift through copious emails to find what I’m looking for.

Hello 2014!!!

Wow! What a crazy 7 months it has been since my last post! Towards the end of last year, I was run off my feet organising the Grade 6 Celebration (Graduation), writing end of year reports and coaching for a DEECD professional learning initiative, Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century. This year, I have changed year levels – I’m now teaching grade 2! – so I am getting my head around a lot of changes. To say I have been busy is an understatement!

ipadsTo provide you with a brief overview, at my current school, Manor Lakes P-12 College, we run 1:1 iPad programs in Prep, 1, 2, 6, 7, 8 and 9. I’ve been leading the 1:1 iPad program in grade 6 for the past 3 years (2011 – 2013), so it is a welcome change to move into an Early Years classroom to share my experience and vision with a new team and group of students. I worked with this cohort and their teachers last year when I was an ICT peer coach… and I am excited to be released a few hours a week again this year to continue coaching. I love this part of my job 🙂 I was trained as an ICT Peer Coach by DEECD, in conjunction with Microsoft, during 2008 and 2009 when the school I was working at, Dallas Brooks Community Primary School, was one of 9 state schools recognised for best practice in effective ICT integration. During that time, I held the positions of ICT Co-ordinator and Learning & Teaching/eLearning Leading Teacher.

Since beginning in grade 2 this year, I have reviewed the recommended school apps and have created a list of “must have” free apps to support our learning and teaching program. Over the year, there is no doubt this list will grow. I just felt that in order to begin to use the iPads in a purposeful way now, it was important to provide a list of free apps to students and their parents so we can start the ball rolling. The uptake of paid apps has been quite poor in the past, hence the reason for a list of free equivalents 🙂

While I’m on the topic of free apps, I have also updated the list of free apps I use with students at my school. I will be talking about these at an upcoming conference. This morning, I spent an hour or so downloading some more cool free apps. I look forward to sharing these with you in future posts 🙂

Twitter + Tales = Twales

Ever since I first set up a Twitter account, back in 2009, I’ve thought of ways to incorporate this form of social media in the classroom. Please refer to my earlier post: Twitter.

Over the years, I’ve created a class Twitter account where my students and I have interacted with our approved “followers“, aka other students, teachers, classes and parents. (I’ve always protected our class tweets, for privacy reasons.) My students have also created “protected” accounts, with parental permission, and have tweeted about their learning. This has really supported the home-school relationship as parents have been able to see what their child has been learning at school.

We’ve engaged in question and answer type activities amongst ourselves, as well as with other classes and teachers. We’ve also responded to tweets by those we follow. Like an activity I was involved in during a Professional Learning session, we’ve used Twitter to communicate out in the yard in “An Amazing Race” kind of way, i.e. meet me here at this time, take a photo of where you are now, etc.

I’ve mentioned to other teachers the possibility of writing collaborative stories through Twitter, similar to the activity where you write one sentence, then pass the piece of paper on to the person sitting next to you, but we’ve never really acted upon this. I’d love to trial this with another class or two… or more… Please let me know if you are keen to connect! 🙂

I plan to start “Twales” with my class this week. I’ll write a post about this soon to update how we went 🙂

Feel free to follow us: @6MichelleMegan.

Kids Collaborate

When I first started this blog two and a half years ago, I also set up a wikispace and Facebook page that shared the same name – “Kids Collaborate”. I registered a business with this name as well. For me, at that time, I was very keen to establish a space for educators around the world to “connect, create, collaborate and communicate”. This idea was put on hold back then, as I started a new venture, integrating iPads in a 1:1 setting. Now that I have that under way, I am very keen to pursue my initial plan 🙂

Today, I spent some time updating the Kids Collaborate wikispace. I’ve listed some global projects my students are keen to be part of. If you and your students are also interested in participating, please get in touch with me. More details can be found at the site.

At present, five projects are listed. I call them the “My School” series 🙂 They include sharing images about:

  • your school
  • your classroom
  • a playground in your school
  • the items in a student’s lunch box
  • the view from a window in your classroom

Inspiration for the projects have come from my students, as well as Professional Learning sessions I have attended in the past.

My students are keen to create presentations using the images shared.

This space is available for you to list your own global projects too 🙂

Massive Minecraft Build Challenge

Last week, a student asked me if we could have a “Massive Minecraft Build Challenge”. I had no idea what this meant, but being a fan of Minecraft, I agreed. This student assured me he’d organise everything. He’d even lead the session. Now, how could I refuse a request like that!? 🙂

In the morning, my student beamed as he told me how he spent most of the night before clearing the land in the world we’d be using, and setting up a target board. The target board included topics for the builds. These were to be selected by shooting an arrow. This sounded amazing! I couldn’t wait for the session to happen.

During the day, the class was informed of our plans and tweets were sent out via our class account. Word spread amongst other classes too. Excitement was in the air!

The time came and we projected the world on to the whiteboard so everybody could see and hear the instructions. It seems we came into some problems, though. Only some students could access the world because they had the updated version of Minecraft. Also, only five students could access the world at one time. On the spot, my capable student suggested the class form groups of 4 or 5 to complete the task in their own worlds. The class accepted this idea and my student shot the arrow. It landed on the ‘castle’ square, so the topic was set.

For the next 40 minutes, there was a hum of engagement in my classroom. My students worked together to build their castles and chatted amongst themselves to assign tasks. Students who wouldn’t normally work together were co-operating and respecting each other’s comments and suggestions. I loved this! It was clear they all shared the same vision 🙂

As home time was nearing, students buddied up with peers from other groups to share their creations. They explained their builds, as well as their plans for improvements. I had already mentioned they could continue to work on their castles next week, hence their forward thinking.

Although the session didn’t go exactly as my student had planned, the ‘Massive Minecraft Build Challenge’ was a success. We faced some obstacles, but know what to expect next time.

 

1:1 iPad Program – Tips and Advice

It’s hard to believe I’ve been working in a 1:1 iPad classroom for over two years now. At first I recall feeling overwhelmed by the unknown. I’d been in 1:1 laptop programs for the three years prior to this shift and honestly didn’t know what to do or where to start. At the time, I didn’t even own an iPhone – I was a Sony Ericsson fan, so I couldn’t rely on knowledge or experience from a ‘like’ device as a start. It was daunting, yet also exciting! I found myself in a position many of my colleagues had found themselves in, that being thrown into a 1:1 setting with unfamiliar technology. This was a true first for me!

So, what did I do? I actually thought back to the conversations I’d had with past colleagues and took my own advice, as outlined below:

 

Discovery time

Let your students explore apps. Allow time each day for students to see what they can find out, especially something they think nobody else knows. Use this time to explore apps as well.

 

Share time / Reflection

Promote share time and reflection. Encourage students to share what they have found out with you and their peers. Also ask students to explain how they built on their knowledge of the app. Share your experiences too.

 

Collaboration

Promote collaboration and working together. After all, two heads are better than one.

 

Experts

Highlight the expertise and talents of all students. Make them the “go to” person for the app/s they are familiar with. You don’t have to be the bearer of all knowledge. Don’t be afraid to learn with and from your students!

 

Purpose

Always think about the purpose of the activity. What do you want your students to learn? If technology can support this, fantastic! If it can’t, then don’t force it.

 

Pedagogy is the driver

Just reinforcing the tip and tweet above 🙂 Always focus on the learning!

 

Stages

You are going to go through different stages, as outlined in the SAMR model below. That’s okay. Your students are going to work through different stages as well. By allowing time to share and grow together, you will get there. Be proud of what you and your students accomplish and try not to compare yourself with others and their journey, as hard as that may be.

 

Student voice / Student choice

Promote student voice through student choice. Set the task, but don’t set the way to complete the task. Ask students to share how they plan to complete the task, i.e. the app/s they are going to use. This will help those students who are unsure of where or how start. It also reinforces class experts and supports students’ learning preferences and needs.

 

Creativity

Motivate students to be creative. Ask them to think about what makes an awesome graphic, game, web page, etc. Ask them how they can replicate this in their work. Encourage your students to “WOW” you and “Do better than their best!” Be honest and tell them you won’t accept an image and some text. The results will amaze you!

 

Cloud technology

Take the time to set up a shared space where students can save and share their work. I use Dropbox. I have set up a class folder that all students access, as well as individual folders that only each student and I access. There are many sites available that provide the same service. Find the one that best meets your needs.