Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Student Technology Showcase Post


Each year, student teams and their teachers from around the state participate in the AT&T/MACUL/MVU Student Technology Showcase, an event held at the State of Michigan Capitol Building. This year’s Student Technology Showcase took place on December 7, representing 34 schools across Michigan.  It was an opportunity for teachers and students to present to lawmakers classroom technology projects designed and created by students at all levels of K-12 education.  
Through these demonstrations our lawmakers see the importance of technology integration into the classroom firsthand, hearing straight from students themselves.  The event was also a chance for teams to move about the rotunda of the Capitol to explore the work of teams from other districts.  These new connections helped students grow their digital literacy knowledge while discovering the possibilities of other technology integrations into school projects and curriculum.
For most students, this was their first experience meeting and speaking with the legislators that represent their community.  In doing so, they found out that it is not so scary to be a part of the political process. Students had the opportunity to practice speaking skills as they explained how they use technology to help them learn, resulting in an increase of confidence in speaking with adults; even if that adult happens to be Rick Snyder, the governor of Michigan, who visited many tables during the showcase this year. 

Governor Rick Snyder talking to a student team member from Warner Elementary. Photo by Dave Trumpie.

Sometimes students leave the Student Technology Showcase with unexpected experiences. For example, ​Sen. Marty Knollenberg paid special tribute to the team from Royal Oak Middle School by inviting them to the Senate floor!
The student projects were as varied as the regions of the state they represented.  The Hamilton High School team demonstrated their process to create infographics and many of their finished products.  An overall passion for robotics was evident from many schools:  from the elementary students coding with spheros and dash robots, to the high school students who shared the robot that competed in FIRST robotics competitions.  
Western Middle School students took this to an even deeper level.  They coded EV3 lego robots and used sensors to demonstrate possible car safety solutions.  This is the type of deeper learning that can happen when thoughtful technology integration collides with sound practice and student curiosity!

Western Middle School student team with their display on how robots and sensors make cars safer.

We at MACUL hope that all Michigan educators will consider taking a team of students to future Student Showcase events. The structure is in place and the environment is perfect for educators and students to share their unique stories with state legislators regarding the importance of students having ongoing technology-enhanced learning experiences. Students are our best advocates!

Authors

Joe Rommel (@jrommel): Educational Technology Consultant for the Berrien Regional Education Services Agency (RESA) in Berrien Springs, MI and MACUL Board Member.
Pam Shoemaker (@shoemap): Technology Instructional Coach for the Walled Lake Consolidated School District in Walled Lake, MI and MACUL Board Member.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

2016 - The Year of Maker Beginnings

As most of us begin our winter break, I thought I would take a minute and reflect on how amazing 2016 has been for the team here at Berrien RESA.

First of all, thank you to every single person that allowed us to work with you this year to help you continue to grow both professionally and personally with skills that will continue to flourish in the new year.  One of the most gratifying parts of our job is seeing the smiles on the student's faces that are impacted by the work that we do with each and every one of you.

Second, thank you to everyone for the support of the SW Michigan Mini Maker Faire! In our second year, we had over 1,500 attendees and continue to increase student involvement in the faire.  Please mark down June 3rd, 2017 for the upcoming faire! The call for makers should open soon after the new year.

Third, as I sit and reflect on all of the amazing activities that we have done with all of you, I thought i best to write it in a short list below:

  • Brought drones to middle school students to construct and fly!
  • Ran a maker day for Brown Elementary where students developed stop motion animations, coded robots, and flew paper rockets.
  • Google, Google, Google! Together, we did over 80 Google based training sessions to help everyone grow.
  • Helped with students 3D printing boats based on the Christmas tree boat that used to service Chicago.
  • Facilitated Breakout sessions with tons of classrooms and helped students develop critical thinking skills.
  • And even more things that I am sure I have forgotten!
Thank you to all of you for being awesome and we look forward to working with you in the new year! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

FlyBrix Drones for your Classroom


Berrien RESA is excited to bring drones to your classroom!  Through the generosity of the Bosch Corporation, and their partnership with Cornerstone Alliance, we were able to purchase 35 FlyBrix Lego drone kits.  Ten of the kits are RC controlled while the other 25 are controlled via a bluetooth connection to an app enabled device.  The FlyBrix app is free!

On Monday, November 21 we were invited to Upton Middle School.  We were able to work with 20 6-8 graders in one 40 minute block of time.   Most students worked with a partner, but there were some groups of three.  This seemed to work well; any more than three means someone would not have their hands in on the building.  We learned a lot and are ready for the next classroom.  Below are our biggest takeaways.

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1. Kids were super engaged throughout the building process.  They picked which of the three FlyBrix designs they wanted to build and used flybrix.com/build for directions.  Most were finished building within 15 minutes.

2. A typical classroom probably is not large enough for making this many drones at once.  We were lucky to have a media center to work in.  This went well as we all started at the tables and then spread throughout the space to fly.



3. These drones are not easy to fly for a novice ... but they are made of Legos, that means kids can fly, crash, and create!  The students enjoyed getting them off the ground (most radio controlled groups were successful) and quickly learned that throttling up slowly allowed for much greater control.



 4. The bluetooth connection process proved to be difficult with a group because each board emitted a signal of numbers and letters, but we did not see anywhere on the board that matched.  Once more than one person was attempting to connect we had problems.  This was a source of frustration for our students that had app-enabled drones and not radio controlled modules.  So for next time ...



5.  To make it easier to connect via bluetooth in the future we knew we had to develop an identifier.  We brought them back and plugged them in one at a time.  Each time we would write down the start of the code on the box for that drone.  This should allow the students to identify which drone they are looking for when they go to connect.

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If you are interested in bringing these Lego drones to your school, contact John or Joe at Berrien RESA.  We look forward to learning with your staff and students!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Waffle Bytes: Google - Reset a Form for Reuse with the new Schoo...

Our colleague Melinda Waffle from Calhoun ISD has put together a timely tutorial on how to reset those Google Forms you will be reusing!



Waffle Bytes: Google - Reset a Form for Reuse with the new Schoo...: There are many times I want to re-use a form that I have used in the past, but I want it tied to a "clean" (new) spreadsheet, whil...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Google My Maps

You may have noticed that 'Google My Maps' have shown up in your google drive.  I was able to attend a session at MACUL's Googlefest this past month and picked up some great tips from Kelly Kermode, a technology coach for Forest Hills Schools.  

Below is an overview on how to import data into a Google My Map.  Once you have mastered this skill there are numerous practical uses to explore!
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Google My Maps are part of the 'More' panel within the 'New' button of Google drive.
When you launch 'Google My Maps' you have a blank map to make your own.  The quickest way to plot multiple data points is to import them as a layer.  The map view itself can be changed (to terrain for example) by selecting the down arrow next to 'Base Map.'
After you press the import button, you are prompted to find the file you would like to use.  As you can see in the image .csv, .xlsx, .kml, or .gpx files may be used - or a Google Sheet from your Google Drive.  Spreadsheets with concise column headers work best.
I imported a Google sheet from my Drive.  The column headers show up with a checkbox next to them.  The first step now that the data has been linked is to choose where the placemarks will be placed.  You are able to select multiple columns.  In this example I selected city, state, address, and zip.


The last option before the placemarkers are set is to choose how each will be identified.  You are able to choose one column header to use as a title.  I chose first name in this example.


Here is what the finished map looked like based on the data that I imported.  I was alerted that there were several rows unable to be mapped - I went in and checked for grammar and was able to resolve this issue.  I could also have chosen to place the pins manually by selecting one from above and placing it where I wanted.
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Google My Maps provide a great tool for building geographic awareness.  Students could create a walking tour of their local area, visit far away lands, or something in between.  A school leader might map all their student addresses to find the most efficient drop off points for transportation.  A therapist that conducts home visits may use my maps to create a visual guide for planning their travel.  A manager of several employees may map their caseloads to find an equitable geographic balance.  Google My Maps are even accessible within maps.google.com so not only can you create the perfect road trip, you can also follow it.

Google My Maps are another tool for your arsenal, one I encourage you to dig into today!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

My Thoughts on Attending Games+Learning+Society 12 (Part 1)

I just returned from the Games + Learning + Society conference held in Madison, WI at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  I have to say that of all the conferences that I have attended, this was the most thought provoking one to date.  Any conference that gets you excited to attend when you read the session descriptions had to be awesome! Sessions covered the entire spectrum from designing educational games to using game-based theory in your classroom.  

The opening keynote was Ernest Adams, the designer of the Madden football series.  From the start, it was clear that I was in a gathering of academics and Ernest proved that with his first mention of American philosophy vs. French philosophy.  His talk revolved around the battle between logic and feeling in the world of video games.  Many games that are available now revolve around real life situations as it is easier for programmers to replicate real life than to generate in-depth, emotion evoking gaming experiences.  He also alluded to the difficulty in designing a gaming experience that immerses you in the content rather than passively entertains you.  When I was in the classroom I could relate to that statement.  Often times, games would be used to solely recall information (i.e. flashcards) and not to immerse students in a concept.  Some games have broken that model and use sound pedagogical methods to teach students concepts such as Math Snacks.  Even so, this still shows that most games revolve around logic (math, science) rather than immersive storytelling (english, history.)

The other argument that Mr. Adams made was that computers and their use can be related to the invention of the steam engine.  If you reflect on the invention of steam, you can find amazing contraptions and designs that solved the worlds problems using steam. Now, replace the word steam with computers.  He said that society's push for one technology being used to solve everything is called technological determinism.  How often have we seen the impacts of technological determinism in our classrooms?  I know many of you are shocked to hear the technology consultant carrying on about technology not being the solution to all of our ills, but should you be?  Good teaching is good teaching.  There is still a place for the aha moment that comes from a student mixing blue and yellow water and getting green.  But there is also a place for utilizing technology for asynchronous communications with people all over the world!  As Adams mentioned, we have to find the right applications for this technology and maintain a balance.  Computing technology is the new steam! 

It's amazing how I intended to summarize the conference in one blog post but have come to realize that this is getting lengthy and I haven't even gotten to the other sessions, let alone the other keynotes! Let me finish this post with this thought.  Adams suggested that what the world needs is a game designer who not only knows the technical side, but also has the ability to write a complex, immersive, thought provoking narrative, not unlike the Grapes of Wrath.  How can we help our students become this well rounded developer of the future? 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Thursday, April 28, 2016

#BRESATechTalks - 3D printing with JJ Johnson from SeeMeCNC

Announcing the new Berrien Tech Talks podcast! In our first episode, we interview JJ Johnson, Education Lead for SeeMeCNC.  Topics covered include 3D printers, the impact of 3D printing technology in the classroom, how to get started with 3D printers, and much more!

If you have topic suggestions for the future, send them to John at john.phillips@berrienresa.org.
#BRESA Tech Talks - JJ Johnson from SeeMeCNC

Monday, April 25, 2016

EduPaths: Seeking Summer Content Creators

Have you been creating electronic content and putting it online?  Would you like to share those ideas and earn $$ this summer? 
  • EduPaths is looking for educators who would like to create content for EduPaths and share their ideas online and statewide
  • EduPaths will provide you with training and support
  • EduPaths will pay $720 for 1 hour of content that is completed and approved
  • EduPaths will reimburse for mileage – up to 200 miles (round trip)
  • EduPaths will provide breakfast, lunch & SCECHs for your time at the training sessions
  • Find a location near you and put your great ideas and creativity online!
Interested in learning more, check out: https://www.smore.com/a0nq3

Monday, March 7, 2016

How one C.I. Classroom approached Robotics - and What I Learned from Them

I learned today that the state of Michigan has 411 teams registered for the just launched FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics season.  California is in a distant second place with 258 teams.  The robots these teams create are designed, built, and tested by students to complete a challenge while competing against other teams.  They are impressive to see in person.  Maybe too impressive.

I think that teachers often hear the term 'robotics' and believe they do not possess the skills needed to teach students this concept.  Some see a shiny finished product and forget the process involved.  Some are afraid to learn alongside their students.  And some just do not know where to start.  Hopefully this post will give you some ideas.

Steve Swenson and Cindy Chaney teach a cognitively impaired classroom in Berrien Springs Middle School.  They reached out to Berrien RESA inquiring about materials we had to support robotics.  I sat down and talked about using Little Bits Gizmo's and Gadgets Kits and Sphero robots.  They had never taught robotics before, were excited about the topic but nervous.

Their background in teaching their students thematically allowed them to approach robotics in the same way.  They wanted their students to build an understanding and see them in action.  So before they even started building anything they visited Vickers Manufacturing.  Vickers is a local machine shop and here the teachers set the stage for their students see the purpose and usefulness of robots.

When it came time to get hands-on we discussed several starters.  We agreed that the Little Bits were probably the best place to start with the students actually building, as they have very clear directions.  The colorful instructions provided an anchor document for the small, cooperative groups Steve and Cindy utilized.  We knew the students could build a working machine in a relatively short amount of time.  From their they progressed to using OzoBots, Spheros and eventually the Lego EV3 programmable robots.

The students were writing about their experiences throughout the unit and making other curricular connections.  The teachers found benefit in providing their students with some initial time to explore and 'play' with the materials.  The kids needed this exploration time before given a prompt or learning task.

 I think that the approach Steve and Cindy used in their classroom shows a great understanding of student learning.  By creating real world connections for their students, and providing them with authentic tools, they were able to really engage the students with their learning.  In fact, their curriculum director has encouraged them to have the students visit the elementary schools and teach the kids there more about robotics.  I know I learned from their approach to robotics, and hope you will as well.