Tag Archives: technology

The CMK Series – Part 1

After taking a hiatus to facilitate a PD institute at my school, start exploring my Google Glass, attend Constructing Modern Knowledge (CMK) and most recently have my wisdom teeth removed – I’m finally taking time to publish my blog posts!

July has been jam packed, primarily because it began with me heading off to new adventures in New Hampshire for the CMK Institute. If you haven’t heard of it before, CMK is an amazing professional development opportunity for anyone interested in making, electronics, Project-Based Learning and Reggio-inspired classrooms … or simply anyone looking for a new learning experience that will push you to think outside the box!

robot_poster

There are too many takeaways from #CMK13 for me to fit them all into one post so I’m going to break them into a couple of reflections. To start, I want to focus on time.

Time was a unique variable at #CMK13 because it was both a constraint and a mobilizer. Time was specifically scaffold to support discovery, meaning that “project development” was a core part of the institute program. Instead of spending time sitting in sessions, waiting for things to begin, or listening to lectures, time was dedicated to learning through doing. With this freedom, we were inspired to let go of our worries about making every minute productive and soaking up as much knowledge as possible from other experts. Instead, we were able to construct our own knowledge by inviting experts to engage with us when we needed their support and utilizing a plethora of resources and materials available for everyone to use.

Time became a mobilizer, that empowered us to use it as we wanted. We could start and stop our work as needed, taking time to pause and reflect, to furiously scour the web for ideas, to “gossip” with new friends or old colleagues, and to play with burgeoning ideas that we hadn’t yet fully formed or understood. Having the opportunity to decide and schedule things as simple as meals made time feel more flexible at #CMK13, it was something that we could mold and shape in the same ways we were molding and shaping the new projects we would create.

Interestingly enough, we were also constrained by time. The looming Friday deadline, when we would need to present our project and ideally have something concrete to show for all of our work and time spent on project development, put a certain amount of strain on everyone. There was concern and worry about having something meaningful to show and being successful in producing what we had set out to make. As most of us work in education, things like grades and assessing achievement came to mind.

Luckily, I think CMK achieves a delicate time balance. Time is enough of a constraint to push participants to actively engage and dive into something they might have otherwise avoided or put off (e.g., learning to program an Arduino or make a cardboard robot). Yet it’s flexible enough that participants begin to realize they can actually redefine success and that while it can be nice to have a “finished project” for the last day, the project can be something that’s completely different than what was originally envisioned. For example, a group that started out thinking about how 9 month old babies could complete circuits ended up creating an interactive crib with a possible build-in camera, light up (zombie) doll, and other awesome features!

Reflecting on my #CMK13 experience, I want to consider how this delicate time balance can be achieved in the classroom and other makerspaces with young children. With constraints like grades and deadlines, how can we make students comfortable enough to try something new and empowered enough to take risks? My school works on a 12 day cycle which makes scheduling a challenge and consistency difficult for both students and teachers. Is the best workaround to have a Maker Club after school that works outside those time boundaries and can allow for the time constraint (club meeting) yet mobilizing (freedom to make and try anything, week after week) balance?

Making New #MediaLabCourse Creations!

One of the things I was really excited about when I learned of the Learning Creative Learning course through MIT was the list of activities students would be asked to complete. Since I have just started exploring Scratch with the Super Scratch Programming Adventure! book (I’m only on Stage 3) I appreciated the opportunity to try using Scratch for a different purpose through this course. Likewise, I had emailed the creators of TurtleArt earlier this fall to ask for the software after seeing some project examples at a conference and I was excited to have a reason to try out the programming.

For the Scratch activity, we were asked to “create a Scratch project about things you like to do, then share it” in the course gallery. Below is my very quick attempt at sharing some things I like (technology/computers, beaches, playing and playgrounds).

Scratch Project

Learn more about this project

In week four, we were asked to “Create a project with TurtleArt, and reflect on any “powerful ideas” you engaged with in the process.” I spent some time exploring different TurtleArt commands but all of my creations felt pretty basic. Next, I considered starting from an existing project and then re-mixing it to make it my own, something that could tie into this week’s topic in both this course and #etmooc of Open Learning. I ran into some technical issues and wasn’t able to import any projects so I took some more time to just explore. Then, I decided to use the TurtleArt Cards to mashup some of the different projects into a new creation. I experimented with adding my own ideas along the way and eventually came up with what I called a Garden Maze.

TurtleArt

As I sat outside at a local park and finished reading Papert’s paper on idea power, I took in my surroundings – children laughing and climbing on various structures, sun shining brightly onto my iPad where I was reading, and city sounds whizzing by on either side. Ensconced in this little spot of nature within the busy streets of Philadelphia, I reflected on how valuable these safe spaces for play, exploration and discovery are for all of us in our development as thinkers and idea constructors.

To me, the idea of these spaces is powerful because they remain valuable across domains and it’s an idea that’s also fairly easy to understand, since most people have been exposed to some type of space like this during their lifetime. And of course, this idea is personal because it is something I have discovered through my own experiences. When I have the ability to help create a safe space for play, exploration, and discovery on my own (which for me, involves both quiet and noise, warmth and sunshine, people and solitude, time and a sense of freedom – to try, to learn, and to fail), I consistently engage with ideas in a more meaningful way. I am able to push myself to try new things, to test out Scratch and TurtleArt, even when I feel like I don’t know exactly what I’m doing.

park

Throughout my lifetime, there have been a range of people who have helped expose me to these types of spaces and scaffolded my understanding of them so that I could begin to construct my own understanding of what was necessary to create these spaces. Certain environments, like parks and playgrounds, have supported my experience in learning what these spaces can look like and the different components they often entail. When I think about Papert’s quote, that  “when ideas go to school they lose their power,” I think of the need to change schools and make room for the spaces I spoke of above.

Luckily, I seem to be one of many people who have seen this need and found power in the idea of safe spaces for exploration, discovery, and play (work) because the Maker movement is already working to bring Makerspaces to schools and communities. Hopefully, in time, these spaces will become more accessible and equitable so that all children can have places in school where they can play and explore resources that facilitate the empowerment of ideas again. Just as Papert was a proponent of integrating computer programming in school to help children carry ideas, I think it would be powerful to integrate makerspaces or any space that is safe for children to explore, discover, play/work, fail and try again.

How Bitty Baby Began my Focus on Early Childhood Learning

After reading Gears of My Childhood by Seymour Papert for the MIT Learning Creative Learning MOOC I’m participating in, I started think reflect on: What object from my childhood interested and influenced me?

"Duckie" - My favorite childhood stuffed animal

Me and “Duckie” – my favorite childhood stuffed animal

As I considered this question, my first thought was that I wished I had access to all of the pictures that were taken during my childhood so I could literally see them to recall my memories. I pulled out a few that I had and as I thought some more, I considered my favorite stuffed animal, which traveled with me everywhere and is in probably almost every photo of me as a child. Ultimately, I decided that while well-loved, my stuffed animal wasn’t really an object that pushed me to think differently. I continued to reflect on the question and I realized that one of the most influential objects from my childhood was probably my American Girl Bitty Baby doll.

That might sound like a pretty generic choice but thinking back, I think my interest in the doll was an indicator of my current passions and an interests in early childhood learning that continues to exist today. I don’t remember exactly when I first received the doll, or Caitlin, as I named her, but I think it was probably around my 6th birthday. For the next few years, I spent hours and hours playing with her, dressing her in different outfits, having her interact with her accessories and playing out different scenarios of early childhood play. As I grew older, I became frustrated that there weren’t more accessories and began designing my own furniture and toys (I even submitted my ideas to American Girl!). I’m not sure if they were ever received but I felt better knowing I was doing something that would hopefully contribute to other children’s play by letting the company know about things I felt were missing.

Caitlin in a crib I constructed for her, with her accesseries underneath

Caitlin in a crib I constructed for her, with her accessories underneath

Even as I grew older and other toys became more popular with my friends, I still held on to Bitty Baby as one of my favorite childhood objects. I was completely intrigued with the early childhood stage in a person’s life, a period where so much care taking is necessary but yet there is also so much play and exploration. I remember vividly reading to my doll the board books that came with each new set and testing out each of the related toys (the beach and garden sets were some of my favorites) and considering whether they were good and would engage my doll.

Although Bitty Baby has now been put away in a box to save for my own children one day, I am still essentially doing very similar work. I am constantly thinking about how young children learn and what toys (learning tools) would be best suited for different areas of classroom study or learning goals. Of course today, many of the tools I am examining involve technology (e.g., a Toca Boca app or a Voicethread presentation) which were certainly not part of the American Girl line when I was little. But like Papert, I think the same three factors: having a feeling of love towards my doll, not being told to learn about or play with her, and being young when I was first introduced to it, all affected my interest in early childhood learning. I’m intrigued to think more about the value of love and relationships with an object like a doll or gears. I want to consider how these relationships can affect a child’s learning or interest in a subject and how vital it is to expose children to a variety of objects at a young age (including ones that might seem beyond their understanding).

Walking Through the #ETMOOC Browser

Here it is! My post about another new tool that I tried as part of the digital storytelling focus in #etmooc that I promised to share in my last post about flip books. After seeing someone else in the course suggest using Moquu, a free app that lets you make animated GIFs from your photos, I decided to test it out. Until recently, I had never created a GIF and my first ones were made from videos. So this time, I wanted to create a GIF from still images.

I heard many reports from the #etmooc community that GIMP (a free software that you can use to turn your images into GIFs) was pretty challenging to work with and since my time was limited, I decided I would try starting with a user-friendly app instead.

I found Moquu pretty easy to use, although I was confused for a bit about the difference between the app and “MultiMe” which is included in the getting started instructions but is actually a 0.99 cent add-on. The app has a fairly detailed introduction that you can always revisit by pressing the “i” icon. The instructions explain the different icons and app capabilities over a few screens although some things, like “onion skin” are not explained. I did find another neat animation site by looking it up though! The discoveries I make when I get stuck and go searching for solutions or new ideas is one of my favorite parts of learning with educational technologies.

Some advice I will offer after a few attempts at trying to make my GIF in Moquu:

  • The app hasn’t gotten the vertical video syndrome notice and doesn’t seem to record vertical GIFs well 
  • If you get an error message uploading/sharing, close the app and try again
  • There are 3 shooting modes: Single, Burst, Timelapse
  • You can re-order your photos on the editing screen and delete individual images

Once I figured out the basic tools, I moved on to making my GIF. After one of the scenes I saw in the #etmooc lip dub, I was inspired to create something using the #etmooc blog as my subject area. I also thought about this quote that has spoken to many of us involved in the course:

I decided I wanted to convey some part of that idea through my GIF, so I took shots of opening my laptop (door) onto the #ETMOOC homepage, the central node from which we have all been connected to this community and the place from which we have each gone out to create, connect, and share some more.

etmooc laptop

And although the laptop closes as the GIF loops, it always opens again. That’s kind of how I think of the #etmooc community. It lives in a space that’s primarily virtual and therefore it’s always open and waiting for me to ask questions, to engage and interact, to learn and share and to support me. This GIF tells the story of me opening or walking through my browser to enter the #etmooc community and join in on our shared thinking and learning. How do you visualize and tell the story of walking through the door and joining #etmooc?