Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Child Driven Learning - Meet Sugata Mitra and his school in the Cloud

Yesterday I watched this great TED Talk by Sugata Mitra.  I've seen one of his talks before when he explained his research involving the 'hole in the wall' computers.  I found that talk fascinating and this talk is just as good.  I was particularly intrigued by his explanation of the Victorian 'global computer' made up of people and how schools were designed to produce people to become part of this global network. And, perhaps more importantly, the implications of this for contemporary classrooms and what can be done to help teaching and learning evolve to meet the needs to current and future students.  Take 20 minutes and watch it.  He's wonderful, funny and so inspiring!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What do you make as a teacher?

For anyone who has ever had that dinner conversation about being a teacher ...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Maker Machine turns your schools classroom into a high-tech workshop!

I was really excited to receive an email last week from a pair Melbourne Industrial Designers, Sam Nikolsky and Jethro Pugh,who are the brains behind Maker Machine. Maker Machine transforms the traditional classroom into a high tech workshop by bringing around a van is equipped with 3D printers, robotics and all the tools needed for children to engage with technology in a creative way and bring their artworks to life. How cool!

Maker Machine is a mobile makerspace that brings 3D printers, DIY robotics and interactive art to primary schools, libraries, museums and youth clubs. They are currently fundraising for a tour of Australia at Pozible.com to bring their workshop to schools around the country.

Here's what Sam and Jethro have to say about their venture ...

Sam:  We started Maker Machine because we are both passionate about making things, and bringing emerging technologies to the wider community.

Jethro:   We noticed that there are new technologies being released almost daily to the maker community via platforms such as Pozible and Kickstarter, all of which have huge potential for teaching younger generations about how the world around us works as well as engaging them with the workings of technologies they interact with everyday.

Sam:  After speaking with local teachers it quickly became apparent that very few of these tools were finding their ways into schools due to teachers either not being aware of them, or simply being subject to time and budget constraints.  

Jethro: We were invited to a local vacation care program to demonstrate a 3D printer we had built we saw how excited the children were to see the application of maths and science.  We also feel that it is important to teach young people to be inventive and creative as these are key skills in an increasingly technological age.

Sam: We decided to combine our passion for making gadget and experimenting with new technologies, to put together a mobile workshop that can bring these tools to children anywhere in Australia.

We are currently raising funds to bring our workshop to schools and communities around Australia, and are offering rewards ranging from simple robotics kits, workshops for your local school or community, through to unique designs 3D printed in sterling silver.

Like I said, how cool, right?  For more information on the tour can be found at Pozible, and on the Maker Machine website.

I definitely recommend that you check out this project and support Sam and Jethro if you can!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A few quick shares ...

I've had quite a few ideas that have been pinging around in my brain this week that I've wanted to write about here, but currently they are rather a jumble of odds and ends. Rather than let them swim around in my head anymore (and potentially get lost!) then try to write an individual post about each one, I decided that it would be better to just get them all out now so you can get reading with your morning coffee.

So, enjoy:
  • This PowerPoint presentation by Rebecca Binks (Consultant, Adjunct, National Louis University) about teaching inference. It really clearly explains the concept of inference and gives lots of great teaching ideas.  My class are loving discussing my daily 'Far Side' cartoon - what they can see and what they can figure out from it.  There are some other great inference links here.
  • Kevin McLaughin's blog today. It's www.ictsteps.com and it's a pretty interesting read.  Check it out!
  • At my school, it is tradition that the Year 6 students are involved in a musical production. This year they performed of The Wizard of Oz and as a result, my class are totally mad for anything Oz theme at the moment. We're reading the book, studying script writing in English and we've been integrating it into Maths too with our work on 3D shape.

    Further to that, this week, my students have created their own birds' eye view drawing of what they think the city would look like and now they are making a 3D model of the city using nets of their own design.  Another great activity they are working on is building a Tin Man out of nets and calculating his surface area and volume.  I found the Tin Man activity here and it is just brilliant.  Pretty tricky for Year 6 students, but mixed ability groupings works well. There are some other 2D and 3D shape sites to check out here, here and here.  My Enrichment students are even mastering circumference and surface area of circles and I used this as a starting point.  I've got lots of photos and a full post to share with you once these two projects are finished.
  • Somewhat unelatedly, my Weekly Planner is currently on SALE over at Teachers Pay Teachers. Go here (now!)  
  • Hopefully next month, my blog will be hitting 100,000 views and I'm planning on hosting some kind of celebration.  If you've got a blog or a great product on Teachers Pay Teachers, please get in touch be part of the fun and shenanigans!

Friday, May 17, 2013

How to make your own Picasso style portraits of August Pullman

Earlier in the week, I shared some of the different activities that I used with my class while we were reading RJ Palacio's book Wonder.  At first my class of boys were a little apprehensive about the book at first, laughing and joking around about it, but by the end of the story, they were cheering for August and it was amazing to see their empathy develop over the course of the story.

One of the most commonly asked questions during our time reading the book was "What does August look like?"  Whilst we talked about his condition and the power of not having pictures in the book, the kids were still desperately interested in his appearance.  It was at this point that I decided that perhaps we should create our own pictures of August to get their ideas out of their heads and onto paper.  I decided straight up that realistic 'life drawings' really wouldn't work for this activity - even August says in the book that however awful you imagine his face to be, the reality is much worse.  So I decided that the pictures needed to be stylised in some way - enter the Picasso style portrait!

These worked so well!  I can't even begin to tell you how pleased I was with the finished products.  The best thing about them was that every child could easily express their ideas without the constraints of it having to look too real.  The finished portraits looked amazing up on the windows and got a lot of comments from other teachers and students around the school.  As they were up on the windows, I also got my class to write some poetry to go on the back of the artworks so that they were double sided.  We did some simple 'senses' poetry, from the point of view of August:
I am August Pullman
I see ...
I hear ...
I taste ...
I smell ...
I feel ...
I am August Pullman
To make some of these great portraits with your class, you'll need:

  • A4 white paper
  • Pencils and erasers
  • Oil pastels
  • Black markers
To begin, introduce your students to Picasso and his cubist style. There is some great kid friendly information about Pablo Picasso out there.  Then show your students some examples of pictures done by other students.  There are some great ones at Oil Pastel Picasso Faces and Watercolour/Wash Picasso Faces. Students could then have a play with Create your own 'Picasso head' to get the creative juices pumping!

With my class, I then demonstrated some of the techniques they might like to use on the board.  For example, draw an oval for his head and then draw a 'nose line' - a line straight down the middle of the oval from top to bottom with an angle for the nose about 2/3 of the way down.  This divides the face in half and students can then add an eye, ear, etc on each side of the line.  I draw myself usually in these demonstrations (and make myself look totally crazy!) and the kids find this hilarious.

Once they have done their design in pencil, they then need to go over it in black marker.  Finally, they color in every space in colored pastel. My rule is that they must leave no white space (apart from whites of the eyes!) on their page.  I also suggest that they stick to one color per section, rather than trying to shade with pastels.

And the results are just fantastic!


Have you tried this activity with your class? Or something similar?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, May 13, 2013

The wonder of Wonder - Great lesson ideas for your middle grade class reading this book!

So, for those of you who don't know, I'm absolutely in love with RJ Palacio's book, Wonder. If you haven't read it, go down to your local bookshop and buy yourself a copy.  Seriously.  It's a life changing book and the kids in my class are so much the better for having read it together. It looks like this:

Or the adult cover:

Now I don't really have time right now to go through every individual activity that I did with my Year 6 class, but I thought it might be useful to share my list of activities as a starting point for things that you could use with your own class when reading this book.  Best thing is that you can use these activities with ANY book that you read with your class, so that is a massive win quite frankly!

So, here goes:
·         Character profiles (Each part of the book is narrated from a different perspective so students )
·         Hot seating (hugely valuable for this book as it helps the students develop empathy with the characters) and write in a role
·        Vocabulary thermometer   
·         Diary writing (retell events from an alternative perspective)
·         Story mapping
·         Individual or group research about an aspect of the story to then present and educate the class about that element (eg. Star Wars characters, Manhattan, etc)
·         Author’s Apprentice (Give students a section of the text and they then need to write the next few paragraphs)
·         Write a news report about one of the events in the book
·         Write to the author (or come up with a list of possible author interview questions)
·         Conscience Alley
·         Class debate/discussion – moral decision making and choosing a position
·         Art response (This was easily my favourite activity that my class did this year in response to this book!  I'm going to do a full post about how you can do it with your class, but here are some of the 'Augusts' that my Year 6 boys drew.  They looked absolutely amazing up on the wall!)

Other useful links that you might like to take a look at:
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