Putting STEM education into perspective

The DEC Intranet provides some useful resources around STEM including information about STEM learning and its importance, STEM learning programs and STEM learning resources.

One of the resources is a best advice paper titled Putting STEM education into perspective. The purpose of this paper is to clear up misconceptions about STEM education. I have summarised the key points.

  • STEM is not new emerging in the 1990s in the U.S.A. Much as it is now, the driving forces were economic and political. The original focus was science and maths. Technologies evolved within this framework in the later 90’s.
  • There is speculation about what STEM actually is. Some see it as only pertaining to an interdisciplinary focus (Breiner, Johnson, Harkness & Koehler, 2012). While The National STEM School Education Strategy states: STEM education is a term used to refer collectively to the teaching of the disciplines within its umbrella: science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and also, to a cross-disciplinary approach to teaching (Education Council, 2015, p.5).
  • The paper highlights real world examples of connections between the each. Examples provided include connections between two subject areas to all four.

At the centre of the figure is integration across the four areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Again, using the telescope example, current construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope in the Chilean Andes moves beyond technology to become a mathematical and engineering feat, given its seven 8.4m mirrors and aperture of 24.5m. It is predicted that this mega-telescope and others will increase our current understanding of the nature of the universe exponentially (Spinks, 2016). 

  • In more recent times STEM has been seen as seperate to its four foundational areas making STEM a separate entity. The rhetoric communicated around this view is that unless children or students are building, designing and solving problems they are ’not doing STEM’. 
    • STEM as a seperate entity is often accompanied by the idea that the pedagogy is the focus and this will automatically allow students to learn, for example problem solving, problem based learning, collaboration and group work. Missing from this thinking is a focus on ‘traditional’ content knowledge.
    • There is no educational premise for STEM being a separate entity (taught isolated from the weekly maths, science and technology lessons). When taught as a separate entity the risk is focusing on the associated pedagogies with little thought for content knowledge which is required to successfully explore authentic problems.
    • While these pedagogies are effective, content discipline knowledge is a requirement, as is teacher direction and guidance. In actual fact, using these pedagogies appropriately requires considerable skill and teacher expertise (Rosicka, 2016).

What does this mean for our practice?

  • STEM should not be viewed as a new/separate subject to teach.
  • Depending on your previous practice you may need to adjust your teaching:
    • to create clearer, practical links between the STEM subjects
    • to provide tasks that allow students to apply content knowledge from one or more STEM related disciplines to authentic problems.
  • A lesson of building, making, problem solving, problem based learning (at any year level) is not STEM without the underlying scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical principles being explicitly identified and applied.
  • We have identified a room in our school which staff and students refer to as the “STEM room”. We must be careful not to associate this with where STEM is taught. It is one of the many spaces STEM can be taught in our school.
  • We should not lose sight of the importance of content knowledge, careful teacher guidance and explicit teaching. While Hattie can often polarise educators I think he explains this well in the following video discussing why pedagogies like inquiry based learning can fall down without the supporting content knowledge.

STEM Project – Make your own speakers

Exploring sound in science with your students?

  • How does sound travel?
  • How do different materials absorb sound?
  • How can we amplify sound?

After teaching students about sound and how it works set students the challenge of amplifying your phone. Have students work in groups with each group presenting their ‘speaker’ to the class using your phone as the audio source.

  • What materials worked best?
  • What shapes worked best?
  • What size works best?
  • What other things need to be considered to improve amplification?

 

Click here to access a lesson and resources on sound vibrations.

What is an authentic STEM project? Would creating a phone speaker satisfy the following criteria?

Green Screen by Do Ink

Green Screen by Do Ink makes it easy to create incredible green screen videos and photos. Classroom-tested by kids and teachers, this app emphasizes ease-of-use and simplicity while still enabling fantastic results. With Green Screen by Do Ink, you can tell a story, explain an idea, and express yourself in truly creative and unique ways. DK Pictures, Inc

“Use Green Screen as part of a project based learning unit…highly recommended..” – Teachers With Apps

“Green Screening and creativity go hand-in-hand.. with the amazing DoInk Green Screen app for the iPad.” – UKedChat

“Recording in it is easy as pie and can be used in elementary, middle or high school.” – Examiner.com

“Do Ink’s excellent Green Screen app is a fantastic addition to the amateur film maker’s armory.” – iPad Insight

“Single best green screen app ever produced…” – iPadEducators

This app is on all of our classroom iPads and combined with the green screen and lighting kit in the STEM centre provides an opportunity for students to create some great videos.

Introduction to Green Screen by Do Ink

 How to use Green Screen by Do Ink

Using a laser cutter to create moving models

I wonder if these models could inspire our students to design, engineer and create their own moving models. The only materials needed are rubber bands and wood (and a laser cutter).

The following models were created by Ugears a company formed in 2014 in the Ukraine. The company has an online presence in Australia – to find out more click here. Amazingly I found out about these these models through a local shop in the main street of Moonta just recently.

Sphero Edu App

Thanks to Jackie and Kelly for introducing us to the Sphero robots last Wednesday. As a follow up here is an overview of what is available on the Sphero Edu app. Currently the filtering at PBAS does not allow content from the Sphero website to appear on the app but I have requested that the filtering be changed to allow the content. So be aware that at this point in time you cannot access the following but very soon will be able to.

Home – Feed

This shows the Twitter feed for Sphero Education.

Home – 3D Models

This section allows you to see an exploded view of the Sphero.

 

Home – Settings

The settings section gives you a variety of options including links to the Sphero blog and JavaScript Wiki. So if you are keen to learn about JavaScript (written code) this may be useful.

Programs – My Programs

This is where the programs that you or your students make will be saved.

Programs – Sphero

This is where you can access programs created by the employees of Sphero. When you click on a program you get a written explanation of the program and a video to watch. There will be a link to open the code that has been written. The code will open in the Sphero Edu app and can be used by you or your students. This option allows students to invsetigate and analyse detailed coding. I have included a video below of the Animal Origami program.

Programs – Community

These are programs provided by the community of Sphero users who have submitted their programs to the website. Again you get a written explanation, a video and a link to download the code. To access the community programs you need to sign in with an account. It is a simple process to create an account for yourself.

Activities – Sphero

This section provides activities for teachers to do with their students. You need an account to access these in full. A great source of ideas!

Activities – Community

A huge range of STEM based activities created by the Sphero community. An excellent resource for teachers. I recommend signing in and and having a look at these. They provide step by step lesson plans and extra resources like videos and web links to support the lesson. I have added a video below that briefly shows the K’nex Chariot Challenge. While the video is not brilliant it gives you an idea of what you can expect to find when you access this content.

Robotics at PBAS

As our STEM redevelopment gradually reaches completion we have been able to update our robotics kits to more current technology, reinvigorating our robotics program.

To cater for R – 12 and provide at least two different platforms for students we have purchased the following two robotics kits:

The Mindstorm kits will replace the old Lego RCX programmable robotics kits while the Sphero’s will provide a flexible robotics platform that can be used R-12.

Why Robotics?

The company Tactile Theory explains through their website the following reasons why robotics is beneficial for student learning:

  1. It’s a fun and hands on activity.
  2. Robotics can be taught at any level. The Sphero Sprk robots can be programmed using three different methods – 1. Drawing a line in the app that a robot will then follow. 2. Drag and drop blocks that contain code and 3. Use text coding like Javascript.
  3. Using robotics kits can assist with developing fine motor skills. Children are involved in manually manipulating sensors, motors, blocks, remote controls, gears, joints, switches, and axels (Lego Robotics).
  4. Robotics provides a base for teaching programming. A physical robot allows students to test out what works, and what doesn’t and have a better understanding of the importance of precise instructions.  Research also indicates that by starting children early in robotics, the gender bias in STEM subjects is decreased significantly.
  5. The teaching of robotics allows schools to address a variety of Government and education department initiatives including of the The National STEM School Education Strategy, the Australian Curriculum and the DECD STEM Learning Strategy.
  6. Robotics can assist students to learn skills that are applicable to future employment. Involving children in quality robotics programs can provide students with opportunities to be critical thinkers, innovators, collaborators and leaders while applying scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical principals.
  7. Teaching robotics assists with computational thinking. Recognising aspects of computation in the world and being able to think logically, algorithmically and abstractly.  Robotics can help develop computational thinking by teaching children how to “think like a computer” and use concepts of computer science to solve problems.
  8. Allows students to be creative. By allowing students to explore, experiment and investigate with robotics they can create their own programs, load them onto the robots and watch them perform the programmed tasks before their very eyes.

During our first days back in 2018 Jackie and Kelly are going to talk about the STEM training they undertook in 2017 (continuing in 2018) and take us through some activities using the Sphero Sprk robotics kit.

iOS 11 What’s new (and useful)?

iOS 11 has just been released and it offers many new features some of which I have commented on at the end of this post. The main aim of this post though is to focus on two of the more significant alterations to the previous iOS. These are the ability to screen record and Apple’s new ARKit (augmented reality).

Apple’s new operating system iOS 11 for iPhone and iPad can be downloaded to the following devices (source – MacRumors):

Screen Recording

Being able to record what is happening on the iPhone/iPad screen is a great addition to the latest operating system. As teachers this function could assist us to make short instructional videos, for example showing students how to use an app or how to effectively search on Safari. These videos could be Airdropped across the class set of iPads ready for students to access during the lesson. It also allows students another way to present their learning, for example completing a presentation using Keynote and then creating a video of that presentation with audio.

ARKit

“iOS 11 introduces ARKit, a new framework that allows you to easily create unparalleled augmented reality experiences for iPhone and iPad. By blending digital objects and information with the environment around you, ARKit takes apps beyond the screen, freeing them to interact with the real world in entirely new ways.” Apple, 2017

The ARKit which is part of iOS 11 provides a platform for augmented reality apps to be downloaded from the app store and used with the iPhone or iPad. It is worth noting that to get the full functionality  of ARKit you require a device which uses an A9 or larger processor. This means you have to have one of the following models: iPhone 6s, iPhone SE, iPhone 7, iPhone 8, iPhone X, all iPad Pro models and iPad Air 2017 (5th Generation). For most of us we will be consumers of the augmented reality apps developed to use with ARKit as opposed to creating and developing apps.

The following videos are examples of applications created to take advantage of Apples ARKit.

IKEA Place app

The new IKEA Place app lets you select items from the company’s vast product catalogue and drag them into your own home. Source

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

My Very Hungry Caterpillar AR by Touch Press, the company behind the award winning iOSAndroid and Windows apps based on the book, will see you nurturing your very own adorable caterpillar, playing with it and helping it grow a garden. Source

Shot Pro

For budding CGI blockbuster moviemakers, 3D film visualisation tool ShotPro is taking advantage of the ARKit platform to make embedding dragons and dinosaurs into real locations a simple drag and drop affair. Source

AR Measurekit

Using Apple’s AR framework and the nothing more than the camera sensor in your iPhone or iPad,  the FREE MeasureKit  App can measure just about anything without hunting down a ruler or tape measure. However, unlike a ruler, MeasureKit provides precise dimensions not just for height and width, but also measurements of distance, angle, trajectory, level, square, and more. Source

 

Other cool features

Note: The following information is taken directly from forbes.com

Do not disturb while driving

The Do Not Disturb feature is known for being useful by preventing notification noises while you are sleeping. Apple enhanced the Do Not Disturb feature by providing an option so that you do not get distracted while driving. When you start driving, your iPhone will be able to sense that you are in transit so it can prevent you from being disturbed with phone calls, text messages and notifications. People that try to reach you while Do Not Disturb While Driving is activated will be notified that you are not available right now. Source

Files App

iOS 11 is bringing a new app to the iPad called Files. The Files app allows users to search, browse and organise all of your cloud and locally stored files. This includes files stored in cloud services such as Apple iCloud Drive, Box and Dropbox. You can also bookmark your favourite files in a folder on the sidebar called “Favourites.” The Files app on the iPad now feels more like a computer desktop. Source

New Control Centre

The Control Centre has been completely redesigned in iOS 11. And now you can customise it with different shortcuts and preferences. For example, you can add the ability to dim the lights, control Voice memos and place a shortcut for Low Power Mode. And applying 3D Touch (long hold instead of tap) to the Control Centre presents additional controls. Source

Speaker support for multiple rooms

AirPlay 2 support is integrated in the Home app for iOS 11. And with the AirPlay 2 integration, you can control the volume and playlists for the smart speakers in each individual room from the Home app. This allows different music to be played at different volumes from the one device. Source

Indoor Maps

One of the best new features coming to iOS 11 is Indoor Maps in the Maps app. With this feature, you can view the indoor maps of hundreds of shopping centres and major airports. Now you can see which restaurants are beyond security at airports and the stores that are on each level of the mall. Source

Document scanning in notes

The Notes app now has a Document Scanner function that can automatically detect when a photo of a document is taken. And then the Notes app automatically crops the edges and removes tilts and glares. Plus you can fill in the blanks or sign it with the Apple Pencil. Once you are done editing the document, then you can export it as a PDF or document file. Source

Connecting with Parents at PBAS

There are significant benefits to communicating a child’s learning to parents outside of the traditional term report, take home book and parent teacher interview. This post looks at two ways to engage parents and caregivers beyond the traditional structures schools put in place to connect student learning with home.

The following are benefits resulting from increasing parent involvement in a child’s learning:

  • Children tend to achieve more, regardless of ethnic or racial background, socioeconomic status, or parents’ education level.
  • Children generally achieve better grades, test scores, and attendance.
  • Parents have a better understanding of the teacher’s job and school curriculum.
  • Parents’ perceptions of the school are improved and there are stronger ties and commitment to the school.
  • When schools have a high percentage of involved parents, teachers and principals are more likely to experience higher morale.
  • Teachers and principals report an increase in job satisfaction.
  • Schools that actively involve parents and the community tend to establish better reputations in the community.

To see another 16 reasons why engaging parents with their child’s learning is important click on the following link: Excerpt from Home-School Relations: Working Successfully with Parents and Families, by G. Olsen, M.L. Fuller, 2008 edition, p. 129-130.

The following two communication methods are practical examples of how classroom teachers can connect with parents. Both methods have been successfully used this year by Kelly and Ange.

Kelly uses the Seesaw app  (available on Apple and Android devices) which allows moments in time to be captured via image or video along with student or teacher comments and made available instantly to the parent of that child. If time does not allow for sharing instantly then video, images and comments can be uploaded later at a more convenient time. It allows Kelly to create portfolios of work for each child with control over what is posted, who can see it and when it is posted. These portfolios can be divided into subject folders.

The benefits that Kelly has found by using Seesaw over traditional take home books include:

  • The ease at which information can be sent home.
  • An instant connection with parents. Parents will often comment on their child’s work the same day it is sent.
  • It provides parents with a more regular up date of their child’s progress as opposed to a take home book that only goes home at the end of each term.
  • The regular nature of sharing student learning allows parents to have better informed conversations around their child’s learning at home.
  • Seesaw allows video to be used which is much more powerful (at times) than static work samples or images found in a take home book.
  • Kelly no longer has to store and keep track of a take home book for each child.
  • Kelly no longer has to spend time cutting and gluing work samples into a take home book.
  • NIT teachers for Kelly’s class can be connected to the account and add to student portfolios.

 

On Thursday of week 10, term 3 Ange invited parents in for the last lesson of the day to have her students show parents some of their learning. This began by showing parents Mindset videos students had made around the topic of maths. This was very powerful as not only was it reinforcing the importance of mindset to students but it was educating parents at the same time. This means that a certain level of consistency has been created between what students are learning and what parents understand to be happening in the classroom. Students then took parents out into the wet area and demonstrated their coding skills with the Bee Bots. The students final task was to show their parents two Keynote presentations which had been made on the iPads. Students had to go through their presentations explaining the content they had created. One presentation was on spiders and the other on a country of the students choice.

Ange’s classroom was packed with parents and caregivers all keen to see what their child had been doing. Every child had an adult attend.

Having had conversations with the parents and teachers involved in these communications methods it is clear there has been some significant upside including improved parent understanding of the curriculum and the teacher’s role, improved parent perception of the school, improved parental engagement in student learning and a sense of job satisfaction felt by the teacher.

Makers Empire – 3D Printing in South Australian Schools

Makers Empire are an Adelaide company that produce software and programs for schools in the area of 3D printing. During Feb – June of 2017 Makers Empire partnered with DECD to roll out 3D printing programs in 50 primary schools. The program, titled Makers Empire learning by design involved a 20 hour professional learning program which culminated in schools presenting their completed projects at Grange Primary School. To read more about this click here. To see a list of schools involved in the project click here.

Makers Empire does not supply or sell 3D printers but supplies the training, software, programs and lessons for teachers to use 3D printing in the classroom.

See how the Makers Empire software works

 

Here are some examples of how schools have used the Makers Empire software.

To see more videos from schools and how they used Makers Empire click here.

Parrot Airborne Cargo Mars Mini Drone

Daniel has made a demonstration video using the Parrot Airborne Cargo Mars drone. The video demonstrates some of its features as well as explaining the app Tynker which can be used to program and control the drone. This app is on our class set of iPads. While the app allows you to control Parrot brand vehicles it is also a coding app that teachers may find useful as alternatives to Daisy the Dinosaur, Kodable and Hopscotch.

Please note: I have only recently put the app onto the iPads and did not 
realise extra content had to be downloaded into the app (all the Tynker 
projects). This cannot be done through our filtering. So I will need some 
time to download the programs at home (15 programs per iPad x 30 iPads). 
Once these programs are downloaded they will work without the need to 
access the Internet so our school system will not be a problem. I have 
tried this process with the program Daniel used to run the Parrot Drone 
and it worked. Students can also be save their coding locally to the app.

To find out more about Parrots mini drones click here.

To read a review click here.

To find out a price click here.