Saturday, 25 October 2014

Giving Technology a Reason

Since the beginning of the school year I've been continuing my adventure with an amazing class of technological enthused children - they've taught me so much.  It has been a blessing having the same children again this year as it has meant I can build an everything I did last year.

I've been striving to make sure that the children have real connected purposes for learning in our classroom again this year.  Linking as many skills from as many subjects in one project is so very important.  I feel this is essential for learning in every classroom, whether in Primary or Secondary schools.  

Children need to see the point of learning these skills - "what are people using these skills for right now in the world and what can I use them for?"

Thinking more about the outcome and then working backwards to find the skills needed is something we need to do more in our schools.  Don't runin the surprise for the children, allow it to be a a surprise.

Don't start with a learning objective, start with a question and see where is leads.  

So what have we done so far?

I started the year with the children getting enthusiastic on Edmodo and starting to suggest ways in which we could use Minecraft in school - read about it here. Well the child who suggested the Science investigation has completed his findings and has been sharing his learning on Edmodo for the class to see.

It was great watching him carry out his investigation in class as he'd planned it and was so very excited to do it.  It was pleasing to see how he'd thought it through and planned to use his findings to help him in the game.

We predicted that the diamond sword was going to be the quickest, but I asked him for evidence and he provided it by following a scientific investigation.  

He used the techniques we'd learned in school to plan and carry out his investigation. A true test of application of skills.  To add to this he even published his results using a bar graph - a good use of his maths skills.  If you're interested or you have any 7 year olds who are, here are his results:

I've no idea why he chose 28 cobblestone blocks, but crucially he kept it fair.  

Added to this, he was using a stopwatch on his iPad to time the experiment to two decimal places, "just in case it's really close."

He is planning other experiments as we speak!

Using Minecraft allowed him to carry out a real life investigation using the skills he'd learned to solve a problem that he was interested in. He wanted to find out once and for all which was the best pickaxe.  We now have the scientific proof that a diamond pickaxe is better at mining cobblestone in Minecraft.

Area and Perimeter: Using Minecraft

We started to investigate Area and Perimeter in mathematics this week, built on the idea that architects need to use this information to build our houses and schools. 

The children wanted to know how buildings were constructed and how their homes had been designed.  What did those designs look like?

Building on from this question, we started to think about why are kitchens are one size, but bedrooms and gardens are another size.  Using Minecraft and the idea that a bed takes two blocks, we could start planning room sizes in creative mode.

We used the blocks to calculate the area of the rooms we built by counting the blocks, a simple but effective way to calculate the area of a shape.  We then quickly made the leap into making our calculating more efficient by thinking about how arrays worked and how we could multiply the length by the width to find the area.  

We moved onto splitting irregular shapes into two or three shapes and used different coloured block to calculate.

The children then took this 'playing' into their maths books and demonstrated a clear understanding of how to find the area of regular and irregular shapes following a formula they'd discovered.

Makey Makey, Circuit World and Building Traction Cities.

Looking at the buildings we live in we wondered how the electricity moved around our homes and schools. Investigations into circuits and switches was needed. We started by researching circuits. Using our flipped learning model I posted a link on Edmodo and the children used the website to learn. They brought their thoughts and ideas to school and we started to discuss what we could use this learning for.

We had already planned to design and build Traction Cities from the book Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve.  Why couldn't they move?  Well, actually why couldn't we make them move?

The children could not be more excited! They had a reason to learn.  We began using an online circuit design application to try and test our circuits. This proved to be a master stroke, as any primary teacher knows that the electricity box form the cupboard only contains dead batteries, stripped wires and rattling bulbs.

Have a look at it here - Circuit World  It really could be used by children in the early years, thanks to the friendly symbols.  

The children started to design their own circuits for their traction city motor and tested them using the website.  We then took those working circuits and built them using wires, wheels and motors.

We have almost finished building our models and we will then work out how to attach the models to them.  This process has been a great learning opportunity as the children have failed at so many points and had to adapt their ideas and designs.

By flipping my classroom I was able to spend more time applying the knowledge the children acquired  outside the classroom. Without this model we would have needed to spend more time researching the knowledge behind these circuits and spent less time designing, building, failing and adapting.

On top of this I had one child who worked at home and produced their own video based on the idea of conductors and insulators.  They even made a digital clock work using a lemon and some zinc.  How inspiring is that!

Makey Makey: Circuits to control computers.

We've not done massive amounts with Makey Makey yet, but we've had a play whilst we were investigating circuits.  The children have built a Pear Piano and used pencil and paper to control the games they've been designing using Scratch.

We plan on developing this more after half term by using it to control the games they've been designing - read about those games Making Coding Relevant 

They are wondering if they can design a control system using their feet, basically jumping on pieces of tinfoil as it conducts electricity - good links with the circuit work we've done. 

I really like Makey Makey, it's again another piece of kit that encourages children to design, fail, and improve their thoughts and ideas.  It'll be something I will be investing lots of time in over the next school year.

What's next for the digital natives?

After half term the children will be researching a city of their choice (flipped model at home) and then writing travel guides to them in class.  We'll then use those guides to publish a travel guide app on the app store and google play, so the whole world can use them.  I wonder how many downloads we could get? I wonder if we can advertise it anywhere to boost downloads?  

The children have a purpose to do this, it's a real life task. People are doing this right now across the world. Why can't these children learn this process now?  So look out for the Travel Guide in the app store before Christmas.

What have I been up to and what's next for me?

I'm really proud that article I wrote on my Flipped Classroom has been published and is now available from The Teaching Times Website - here

I've submitted my article for Teach Primary and it'll be available in shops in November so look out for it on your staff room tables.  I've written about flipping Art and English lessons in Primary Schools.

I'm also hosting training sessions in December and March for Subject Support. You can find out more here

I've been invited to present at The BETT show 2015.  I'll be presenting Pause, Rewind My Teacher: Primary Flipped Learning at 10.00-10:45 on Saturday 24th January - see you all there!

I've also been invited to present at The Digital Education Show in London on Tuesday 30th June alongside some great names like Sir Ken Robinson, Sugata Mitra and many others - Find out more.

Keep following on Twitter @chriswaterworth

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