Saturday, February 23, 2013

Immaginative Bridges - 8 "Space"

How do we create a compelling space for learning and teaching?

After completing the readings I doubt that much thought went into the design of my school or classroom by the folks who designed the school and made the budgetary decisions when the school was built.  And, I now not that much thought has gone into the upgrades and upkeep since then.  The number one concern then and now is money.  Our school was built on the factory model of education.

Not much different than a prison.  And, yes I actually worked in an office that was in located in the former state prison in Jackson, Michigan before it was turned into a National Guard Armory.  Although, the Army National Guard gave me more leeway in choosing how I painted the walls in my office than my current school district allows me.

The school has exposed building material too.  Bricks, that is.  Standard 8"X6"X4" cement blocks painted either white or blue.  A 30' X 30' square room with a chalkboard at the front flanked on each side by a 4' X 4' bulletin board and don't forget the 1' X 1' tile blocks on the classroom floor and the 5' X 5' blocks in the hallways.  Each classroom was designed to hold 30 students and 1 teacher.  All student desk are facing forward towards the chalkboard and the teachers desk.  Regardless of how you rearrange your room during the year after the custodians and maintenance crew finish their summer cleaning it will magically reappear this way in the fall before the start of the school year.

So how do we create a compelling space for leaning and teaching?

It's left up to the individual teacher to best make this bad design fit into his or her teaching style.  Some still look like they did when the school first opened in December of 1976.  Others have changed to meet the needs of technology.  Our former typing room is now a computer lab.  Set up basically the way it was when I went to school their in the 1970's.

Others have be reconfigured to break the standard mold but most have not.

In a perfect world those building the school would listen to the teachers and students and create a space designed for learning.  Not for production.  Although my fear is that  the common core and more standardized testing are leading us to use this factory model school to create TEST TAKING FACTORIES.  Yes it's that time of year again.  ACT/MME Testing at my school next week.

The "STAR" Effect

Just to wrap up our look at the bridges between Television and Film and education I would like to mention how the stars of theses shows and sporting events compel people to watch, participate or emulate their behavior.

This is something I feel we may be able to replicate in while trying to create compelling educational experiences as well.  Our younger students tend to look up to our older students and they some day want to be like the older students.

We have tried to leverage that in our robotics program  in Stockbridge.  My high school students routinely work with elementary and middle school students and classes.  The younger kids love to work with the older students and believe it or not the high school students enjoy sharing their knowledge with the younger students and it's not just the girls.  The guys in my robotics class get a lot out of working with the younger students as well.  Both groups of students are able to learn quite a bit through this.

This week our Elementary teachers asked if we could help their students build a claw for their competition underwater robot.  So we decided to teach a group of their students to build the claw and have them return to the elementary school and teach or show their peers how to build their own.

High school robotics students demonstrating robotic gripper(claw) with wrist joint

High school students working with elementary students to build gripper

Elementary students building gripper with wrist joint

Hard at work.  This went on for 3 hours during my high school robotics class and then carried over into my accounting class.

The elementary students took pictures on their IPad and made videos of this process on their Ipad so they could relay the information back to their classmates.

Heritage Exploratory Academy video of gripper demonstration

By having high school, middle school, and elementary school students work together on similar, complimentary projects we can leverage this "Star" effect to the benefit of all students.

The younger students love learning from the older students and the older students can demonstrate their knowledge my teaching someone else.  In this case my high students learned how to build a gripper and improve the grippers performance by adding a wrist joint.  They built their own and installed it on their ROV.  Then they taught the elementary students how to build the same gripper and wrist joint.  The four elementary students went back to their classroom and taught their teacher and classmates how to build a gripper and wrist joint.  That is project based learning and cooperative learning at its best.  Not to mention a multiage classroom.

The elementary students showing off their completed gripper with wrist joint before heading back to Heritage Elementary school.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Imaginative Bridges - 7

Film and Television.

The pacing of the images used in my video helped to create interest and suspense.  I teach in a 90 minute block.  Much to long to lecture.  Plenty of time for large projects.  The key to using and managing in the block is to chunk it up into smaller bite size pieces.  Then push the pace to keep the kids interested and wanting the next piece of the puzzle.

On another note.  Today is Presidents day.  Yesterday one of my students messaged me and asked if I could let him and 3 other students into the school to work on their robot.  He said that this week was spirit week and he new they wouldn't get a lot done with all the distractions and they wanted to have the frame rebuilt before our next pool test.  He reminded me that we only have 31 days left before we leave for Palau.

How many teachers get calls like this?  Not many.  Kind of cool.  So what compelled these students to want to come in on their day off?  I would like to think it is our project.  More than likely it is a combination of the the project and a great work ethic.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Compelling Video

PATH TO PALAU (My Compelling Video)

I was trying to create the sense of adventure.  The hardest part was making it fit into a 30 second package.  I thought I had a great one but it was a minute and nine seconds long so I ended up redoing the video several times to shorten it up.  The first seen is almost in black and white.  The dive boat heading out of Malakal harbor in Koror, Palau as the adventure begins.  Then I move to scenes on the boat with my students and their guides.  Once again each one of these clips were cut down.  I tried to keep it moving along without losing to much of the sense of adventure as I edited.

The titles that I used to transition are not up long enough.  I almost wonder if I should have removed them rather than shorten them?

I added some stock sound from "IMOVIE"  it seems to go with the plot of the video.  I feel like I created the sense of adventure.  My hope is that this can be used to get my students motivated to edit and display more of the video we have taken in class.  Just this week we shot over 3 hours of video.  How do we edit it to share project????

I actually loved this project.  This is what I've been after my students to do for the last six months.  In all fairness to them our school computers are garbage.  But, they will not have that excuse much longer.  We received a $2,500 grant from Touchstone Energy this week to buy a new laptop and that is what I used to create this video.  I've used PC's since the early 1980's and this is really my first experience with  a MAC.  I should have made this switch years ago.  I was able to create this "IMOVIE" and learn the software and computer in about three days.  My students are going to love it.  My tech director will pitch a fit though because I bought it outside her system and I'm not letting her touch it to install all the crap they have on the school computers.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Revised 2 Minute Moment Project #1

Revised 2 Minute Moment Project #1
Public Speaking

The Nature of the Experience. 

I feel public speaking can be a very compelling experience for myself and my students.  I also hope to make it compelling to the audience.  I feel the beginning of this video/presentation is not compelling because it sounds like it is going to be just list of facts and events without much feeling behind them.  The first part was even hard for me to deliver because it was the same old information about the project we have told for the past year and a half.  We had to use it to set the scene or give the background necessary for people to understand the second half in context. 

In the second part of the video/presentation I try to make it more compelling by interjecting more feeling and more personal details about the Expedition to Palau and what my students accomplished.   The second or more compelling part of the presentation made me feel proud of our accomplishments and I could see and feel the audience being drawn into the story.  

The Design of the Experience.

Some background first, this was an ignite presentation.  The format required us to give a five minute presentation with 20 slides and the slides were set to transition automatically without any control by the speakers.  If you haven't given this type of presentation before you should give it a try.  It was fun.  

I narrowed this 5 minute presentation down to 2 minutes for this project.  I kept the beginning of the presentation which is basically and introduction to who we are and how we got started.  Just the facts so to say.  We have said those words over 20 times in public and we are beginning to say them with little feeling and it is starting to show. Thus the first half is less compelling to me as a speaker and to the audience.  For this project that is what I wanted for the first half.  

For the middle I placed a slide from the presentation that explains our mission in text format.  Not very compelling either. 

The second half of the presentation is the part that is more compelling to me as a speaker.  I tried to show this by emphasizing the personal side of the story.  The photos in the background are also more interesting to look at but it is the heartfelt story that makes this part compelling.  I feel proud to tell this part of the story and how this experience changed me and my students.  

I used the same camera and setting because I feel that we have to be able to tell a good story.  Sometimes we have very little control of our speaking venue and our audience.  We present where we are asked to present and we make do with the equipment and the room.  But, the story has to come from the heart and draw people in both visually and as a personal heartfelt story.

I feel the key to transforming a presentation into a compelling presentation is being able to tell a personal, heartfelt story and relating this to the audience in a way that they to can feel a connection to the story and the speaker.  It was my intent to show this with this video project.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Imaginative Bridges - 6

I still keep coming back to the idea of having a real demonstration of proficiency in front of a real audience.

Thursday my students took their ROV to the Chelsea pool and were testing it's performance and conducting drivers training in preparation for our up coming Expedition to Palau in March.

This was supposed to be a routine day of practice at the pool and it turned into much more.  The pool was busy and their were alot of younger children at the pool for swimming lessons and some home school students were their for the open swim.  Our practice session turned into a chance to tell our story.

One thing we have tried to do through out this project is to get my students out in public and have them tell their story this was an impromptu opportunity to do just that.  I have also tried to have them teach younger students in our district about ROVs and include them in this project and this was just another opportunity to do that. I guess they still call them teachable moments but they are compelling watching the students interact with adults and then younger students.  Being able to teach others about the project really shows how much they have learned over the past year.  More then any standardized test could hope to accomplish.

Imaginative Bridges - 5 (Film and Television)

Film and Television.

Can we use the same methods that film and television directors use to hook our students?
Can we use these methods to create a compelling experience for our students and our classrooms?

Hopefully yes.

How do we set the scene for our classrooms and our students?  The typical first day of high school class is usually filled with administrative dribble and classroom rules.  NOT COMPELLING, for me as a teacher or for my students.

Can I get them focused on something compelling in the class right at the start of class and forego the administrative trivia, that's my hope for this semester.  This semester I sent my students all of the administrative forms, syllabus, assignments, projects and directions before the class started and asked them to read them ahead of time and to drop the class if they were unwilling or unable to participate fully in the class and the underwater robotics competition.  This includes missing several days of school and their other classes.  An overnight trip to Alpena on a Friday and a Saturday for the Great Lakes Regional ROV Competition and possibly a trip to Seattle in June after school is out should they be successful in the Regional Competition.

I also set the grading standards for an "A" specifically high.  In order to get an "A" in the class they must qualify for the International ROV competition by placing 1st or 2nd at the Great Lakes Regional Competition and they must attend the Great Lakes competition in order to receive a "C" or high in the class.  This tends to weed out those who are not serious about being in the class.  The Great Lakes Regional Competition includes teams from Michigan and Ohio.

I started this class by showing the following video talking about the competition.

This video shows the 2012 MATE International ROV Competition and shows the students what to expect in the coming months.

I did this to focus the students on the COMPETITION.  Not on the school work.  I want them to focus on the mission and how they will show that they have met the expectation of the class.  They will do this by demonstrating their proficiency at the Great Lakes Regional ROV Competition and the MATE 2013 International ROV Competition.  I want the students to form an emotional attachment to the competition.  To their ROV and their TEAM.

Once I had them hooked I talked about the school work.  The project and class has four major assignments.
1.  Design, Build and Operate and ROV.  Then use it to complete the 2013 ROV Competition.

2.  Prepare a poster presentation.

3.  Prepare and deliver an oral engineering presentation to a group of engineers.

4.  Complete and submit a twenty page technical paper explaining your design.

The 2013 Great Lakes Regional ROV Competition will be held on Saturday, April 20, 2013 at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Alpena, Michigan.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Imaginative Bridges - 4

What makes high school sports teams a compelling experience?

In addition to teaching, I am also a high school coach. I coach wrestling and soccer.  Sometimes I wonder why can't we get the same kind of enjoyment out of classroom experience as we do out of our athletic events?  I think we can.  It just takes a change in teaching methods and strategies.

So, what is different?

1.  Time.  The kids who are on my athletic teams spend much more time working together than they do with their classmates in their academic classes.  We practice 2 to 3 hours a day after school and then we have game days either after school or on Saturday which gives us more time together.

2.  Team Work.  Real team work.  Not working in partners in class on book work or some made up simulations.  Real teams of interdependent personnel working together for a common goal.  We are all in it together win or lose, Athlete and Coach.  Not so much for student and teacher in most situations I'm sad to say.

3. An Audience to perform for and a real mission.  On the athletic practice field we know we will eventually be competing in public and our success and/or failure will be out their for everyone to see.  Not so with most academic work in the high school.  It all happens behind the closed doors of our classroom and most of our students work is never seen by anyone.  Failures and successes remain hidden and the consequences and/or victories remain hidden behind closed doors.

4.  Parent Involvement.  Parents talk to me more about their children's participation in athletics than their participation in school.  I have more parents show up for athletic events then school events and parent teacher conferences.  I have had more parents ask me why their child is not starting in a game then I have had ask me why their child is struggling in class.  May be it's just me but most of my teacher/coach colleagues have expressed the same sentiments.

5.  Resources.  We have athletic booster who help to raise funds for sports teams.  At the high school level fund raising for academics is left up to the teachers.  It appears that in the elementary schools the PTA/PTO or Parent Teachers Association or Organization's attempt to raise funds to help get resources into the classroom.  Not so at the high school level, at least where I work.  We replace athletic uniforms and equipment more frequently than we replace obsolete classroom equipment and resources.

As I put together my Advanced Underwater Robotics Classes I have kept this in mind and I look for every opportunity to make it as public as possible.  The class functions more as a team than a traditional class and our successes are shared with everyone.

The things I think about to and from wrestling meets........

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Imaginative Bridges - 3

While working on the 2 Minute Moment Project I began to think about several bridges.  I think most of us teachers hope to create a compelling educational experience for our students and most students would like to spend their day engaged in something truly compelling or worth while.  We work in a less than perfect environment to make that happen though.  We really have very little control over who are students are and in most cases the students have very little control over which classes and teachers they are paired with (or stuck with depending upon how you look at it).  We work in schools with sparse resources and some work in communities that are economically disadvantaged.  Yet some teachers are able to make it happen.  Most of us have those ah ha moments from time to time that keep us going, hoping that they happen more frequently,  and closer together.  That is one reason I took this class.

How do I make all of my classes compelling and more engaging.  How do I make them more like the experiences I've been having with my Advanced Underwater Robotics Class, my Underwater Robotics Class and my Robotics class.  I have had compelling moments in other classes but they are usually few and far between.  So, how do I know it's compelling?  Both the students and I care about the topic.  We want to keep pursuing it even when the class is over.  Students want to come in during their lunch period and continue working on it while eating their lunch.  Students want to come in before and after school to work on the project or class and not just for a grade.  Actually grades are the least of anybodies concerns on these types of compelling experiences.  It's about the project or mission that the class is working on and "WE" become totally immersed in it.

What keeps you awake at night?  When I'm involved in a compelling experience it does.  Not bills, not lesson plans or grades, not taking the garbage out.  The experience does.  I'll wake up thinking what it we change this? or why don't we try that?  How do I get the kids to do this?  Can I get them there?  It becomes a totally engaging experience.

For me this sweet spot in education or the "compelling experience" is more about the experience than the individual subject.  It is the center of the storm or activity.  It's hard to get excited about preparing a budget and a price list or talking about buoyancy with out context.  Most of my less compelling experiences are taught in isolation.

This is one way that I like to explain it:
We have traditionally taught high school and college like this:

Each individual subject all by itself with very little interaction with the other subjects.  Much the same way we have since the 1800's.

It's my belief that the compelling educational experiences' I've had have happened in a classroom or situation that more resembles the Venn-diagram below:

In my classes the sweet spot at the center of everything is the STEM Project.  I base everything around one big project and try to tie it together through out the class.   So, while public speaking may not be what the students want to do they do it as part of the overall project and they have a stake in it.  They live the project and in order to keep living the project they learn to speak in public and the better they get the easier it becomes and they see this a may to share their work and raise money to continue their project.