Laura is a smart cookie. For months, I’ve been content to wrangle as many K12 Maker folk as I can find into my Twitter feed. Laura had the bright idea to anchor a Twitter chat and try to bring all of those voices together.
That brings us the first #makerEd chat – Tuesday 5/7 at 6p EDT, 3 PDT, and 6a for @briancsmith in Hong Kong.
I’ve had several opportunities to speak about K-12 Makercultre recently, and I find that those groups are fascinated by the material stuff of that intersection. The things we use in our Makerspace, whether it’s an Adafruit kit our in-process MendelMax or the warren of stray cardboard, may dictate our products but they have little effect on our learning environment.
Our goal for #makerEd is to shift focus off of the stuff.
Although the growth of the Maker Movement has been fueled by commodification of certain tools, Maker Culture is not just about 3D printing, mobile devices, or Minecraft. For schools, a Maker Space serves as an incubator for new fascinations, as a STEM Lab to explores the foundation of our connected and mobile lifestyle, and an studio for crafts still being invented. A Makerspace empowers students, responds to their choices and curiosity, and highlights the gaps between a school’s curriculum and its mission.
In answering emails this morning, I found a trend: SBG is not about grading, it’s about backend managing asynchronous learning #sbgchat
— Shawn Cornally (@ThinkThankThunk) May 6, 2013
What Shawn observes about #sbg is equally true for #makerEd. Restocking a K12 classroom with Arduino projects or robots or 3D printers is a much smaller hurdle when compared to relearning how to teach in the diverse, student-driven #makerEd environment. If you’re interested in taking any steps into this space, join us on Tuesdays for #makerEd. If you’re already living and teaching in this space, and you’re struggling to honor student engagement and vision against the realities of schedule and classrooms, then you should absolutley join us for #makerEd.
Last Saturday, I drove too many hours to Keane University for St. Hacktrick’s Day, the first (?) EDU+GoogleAppScript focused hackathon. It seems like a simple formula; coders + teachers + pizza = new tools for Google Apps. Its now three days later, and I feel like if I don’t blog through my memories and reflections now, the important stuff will vanish into the haze of History of the World in 100 Objects podcasts. Because, dude, I listened to a LOT of those in the car.
Unlike StartUp Weekend, which focused on bringing developers and entrepreneurs together with teachers and EDU ideas, the coders for St Hatrick’s Day were primarily undergrad CS students from local-ish schools. Educators were invited to submit project ideas when they registered, which were then vetted and selected by coding teams. This amounts to serious labor from Andrew Stillman (organizer, coder/edu hybrid, author of Doctopus), but it was the critical effort allowed anything moderately functional to emerge from the “short” 8 hour session. A few groups formed up as the day started, and the gap between their demo product and the teams who started meeting and planning through G+ Hangouts earlier in the week was striking.
The other feature that sped up the usual hackathon research-write-fail-fix cycle was the presence of Arun Nagarjan from the Google Apps team. There was a line three coders deep waiting to ask questions about specific GAS behavior, best practices, or hidden resources. Having an authoritative voice about the coding platform in-house reduced the number of StackOverflow searches by a factor of 10, at least. Especially for GoogleAppsScript, which is an evolving Google product*, which means that even good advice has a distinct shelf life. I’d bet that a quick word from Arun saved each team a few hours of work down less productive paths. It only took him 30 seconds to look at my outstanding problems with the Learning Center Reports and devise that the proper solution is to rewrite the entire UI in HTML Service. That was one of several factors that left me hankering to sit down and code for a few hours at the end of the event, which is probably a good sign for hackathon style events.
While the undergrads were coding away, there were two breakout sessions designed for educators. Andrew Stillman ran the first one as a tour of how to install and use mature scripts from the GAS Library as classroom tools. Even using Doctopus as a model, which has a well-structured and specific installation process, it was clear that this wasn’t going to be a quick process for teachers. The big hurdle is that GAS scripts all depend on particular data structures**, manifest in the Google Apps environment as spreadsheets and folders and all identified by UID. Specifically, the process of manually gathering all of the UIDs from the Google Apps URL scheme seemed really daunting to teachers, and adding another tool (GClassFolders) to manage that process didn’t improve matters much.
A bit later in the afternoon, I took my best shot at an AppScript 101 lesson for teachers. My GAS code is way, way uglier than Andrew Stillman’s, and this presentation was definitely a Rudy Huxatable maneuver. I started too deep in existing code, but after some great (and very direct!) audience feedback, we rolled back to a blank form and wrote a simple email script up from scratch.
Yeah, ok nerds, I recognize that this is deeply in “I made a pizza using only $20 and a cell phone” territory, but that doesn’t diminish it’s worth for educators. Imagine living in a world full of pizza delivery and mobile phones without that basic skill! Twenty years ago, there was a flourishing culture of school specific software, written by interested teachers or staff to solve problems unique to their environment. That was followed by decades of cruft, as either the software became completely intertwined with the individual who maintained it or it atrophied into non-existence. What can make these AppsScript tools different is a broader base of educators with enough computational literacy to ask questions, request features, and help shape the tool rather than molding their practice to it’s strange demands. Events like St. Hacktrick’s Day are essential for that vision of an engaged and literate teaching population. Most teachers won’t learn to code because codeacademy sounds cool, but they’ll learn what it takes to make their classrooms better. For that reason alone, I’m ready to start planning for a Hack4ed event in the DC area this fall.
At the end of the day, groups presented their demos to the room and there was a flurry of voting and prizes. I appreciate Google’s willingness to support the event by providing these prizes, but I’m still enough of a Kohn-head to wince a bit when rewards come out and winners are separated from losers. For an EDU focused event, one designed to create new tools not new companies, I’d really prefer an end-of-day event that pushed all of the code bases into a publicly accessible repo. None of the tools created were in a useable state, and I worry that the finality of winners and losers (combined with undergrad priorities) lowers the chance of anything from St. Hacktrick’s day growing into successful classroom tools.
The end of the event was also difficult to watch as a progressive educator. In a room full of bright kids and dedicated educators (Saturday, remember?) building tools that sort, group and monitor students by simple numeric grades. I recognize that it’s totally unfair to compare these demos to the richness of educator designed tools like BlueHarvest or ActiveGrade, but they weren’t even pointed in compatible directions. It reminded me how much the culture of our schools matter, and how long the shadow of those dehumanizing, reductive routines follows even our “successful” students. One demo product build a simple NFC reading android app, and pitched it as a way to improve the accuracy of classroom attendance systems. Here’s a tool that would allow students to signal their presence from literally anywhere with signal***, and the best use seems like making who sits in what desk more ironclad? If we wind up in a NFC-infused world in a year or so, I’m going to take a system like that to bust kids out of the classroom, let them check in every few hours from the FabLab, the blackbox theater or deep in the watershed. Educators have a role in these events that’s beyond simply making the grisly mandatory tasks of school more efficient. We need to harness those tools to eliminate those systems of control, use the efficiencies to return choice and agency directly to students.
Undergrads can design tools to speed up the schools they remember, but we need educators to design for schools we’re still dreaming up.
* It was the weekend after Reader’s announced demise, so read that how you’d like.
** (The PLT/Racket/Scheme folks would remind us here that all programming stands on a data model, and these hassles are intrinsic to any attempt to backport a given program onto a pre-existing data pile. The proper way to go about this is to carefully build the data structure and then design the program to fit it like a glove. Sigh. So remember to feel bad about yourself when you’re trying to make things actually work in your classroom. )
*** NFC tags are as mobile as a sheet of paper and require no power.
This morning a colleague asked, innocently enough, “have you thought at all about learning badges?”
Combine that simple question with Jim Groom’s great post about #ds106 ‘s unique place on the shifting cost/value curve of higher education, and it turns out that I’ve thought a lot about <obligatory> steenkin’ badgers </obligatory>, especially in the context of a brick & mortar school.
Badges suggests a granularity and flexibility that’s distinct from traditional classroom grades, which are two entirely positive adjectives in my world. Couldn’t we replace the Devastator B+ with a sea of specific and useful Constructicon badges?
That view pushed me towards SBG years back, as I recognized how much information (how much feedback!) I was throwing away when I summed up the question by question analysis of my math tests into one lump score. Not only is there more value for a learner in 12 skill scores, there should be value for teachers, parents and observers as well. Finally, a better response for the parent conference rebuke, “They were a B+ student last year!” If grades describe a student’s understanding*, then more granular grades yield a more nuanced view of that student’s skills and give enough information to teachers to build the right learning environment.
I really want to think that’s true. But to curb my runaway optimism, I look at how much energy schools spend vetting the information shared within our own organization (homogenized exams for all Algebra classes, annual placement exams, restricted course registration) and how little currency that information has for other organizations. I don’t know if an exponential increase in the number of grades would improve things.
At christmas, Jodi bought me a collection of neat nerd badges from Adafruit. While Adafruit has developed a collection of interesting learning resources for their products (and, tangentially, their badges), those exist as fascinating and elaborate backstory for a decorative product. I stitched the oscilloscope badge onto my bag after my first successful waveform reading, even though my Father’s Day scope looks very different. My Adafruit badges live on my bag, not my resume, sitting right next to the chibi Zangief for the exact same reasons. Do you like Street Fighter enough to recognize the Red Cyclone? Do you like oscilloscopes and 3D printers? We should be friends, and have a clubhouse and drink Sunny D!
I have a Daisy Girl Scout in my house, so I have a chance to award some badges as well. There’s a Girl Scout store where you can walk in and buy almost any badge. Girl Scouts have published expectations for how girls might earn each badge, increasingly so as the girls progress through the scouting system, but those are loose associations at best. The sash’s value as a record of learning and experience is derived entirely from the trust between troops and troop leaders. One of the things that enables this trust is the relatively low rewards that go along with most Girl Scout Badges. If a new girl moves into your troop, there’s no obvious incentive for her to forge a flair-laden sash. We accept those badges in good faith and, over time, will see how they relate to her actual interests and skills. For the Gold Award, which is big deal time for Girl Scouts, the standards are more stringent and communication between the girl, troop and council are extensive. A successful Gold Award project generates a meaningful and visible effect on individuals and communities. The strictures of the Gold Award program are scaffolding designed to help young women create something that should be impossible to hide. Any badge, even the Gold Award, should serve as a memento, not an affidavit.
There’s this great Open Badges Initiative from Mozilla that’s approaching learning badges as a big picture social/technical infrastructure challenge. Their baseline goal, to allow individuals to maintain a “badge backpack” that documents their abilities and interests over time, sounds great, doesn’t it? It’s run by smart, approachable people pursuing a vision, building an infrastructure for the next century of learning.
Any system that assigns score or delivers value will attract scams, spoofs, and bad actors over time. Whenever I think we’ve acclimatized to how that law interacts with high school grades, there’s another editorial page hubbub about the loss of the “gentleman’s C” or a news story about schools falsifying test results. Not only does college admissions drive huge chunks of the high school experience, but the push for hyper GPA, continuous test prep, and specious extra-curriculars devalue the student behaviors that admissions metrics were designed to highlight.
Can you imagine how an open badge system would warp under those pressures? Here, I brought it back from the future for you. Entire subcultures dedicated to maximizing the utterly meaningless Xbox Gamerscore number, with all the factional disputes you might expect . True Achievements is like a “make them earn the A” professor, remapping the value of every Achievement so that the seriously dedicated can separate themselves from the pack. (As full disclosure, here’s my TA profile. I am not dedicated)
For gamers in that culture, people who “just play” games without boosting** seem completely irrational, like HS students who eschew SAT prep classes or elite travel soccer teams. In a world where every metric will be maximally exploited in direct proportion to it’s value, the points that don’t matter can matter a whole lot.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that the existence of Gamerscore invalidates Mozilla badges as a project or a product. Instead, I just want to highlight on the difference between a system that serves a small pool of trusted actors, and a truly open one, where participants at every level operate according to their own diverse (perverse?) incentives. I want to use Open Badges as a tool that deepens and gives context to the relationships within our school community, not as a transcript replacement.
Doug Belshaw, an Mozilla “evangel[ist] for Open Badges in Europe,“ describes the badges as “metadata infused credentials.” If that’s going to work for schools, then we need to get to work now on opportunities for our students to create meaningful, interesting bits of data that are badge ready! When students work in public, receive feedback in public, make mistakes and learn from then in public, then the metadata trail provided by the badge not only provides justification, but can serve as a window into the students’ entire portfolio.
Let the protocols simmer for a while. Let’s stay clear of commercial providers, eco-system hustlers and the noxious 1st-gen implementations that offer nothing more than a sickly gamified clown sweater stretched over the Common Core.
All that crap will just annoy human users and set up an even larger fight down the road, when everyone just remembers that “we tried badges and they sucked.”
If OBI develops and pays off, then any school with publicly accessible student portfolios will be able to layer badges over student work as easily as DS106 tags assignments. If OBI withers, if some Kahn/Pearson love child dominates the space and defines badges as gamified micro-grades, then your school will be even better off! Instead of forcing students’ rich learning experience through the PlayDoh pasta extruder, they’ll have built a whole universe of authentic, open, and inhabited portfolios. The tools you need to bring the heart of students’ learning experience onto the open web are literally free.
Badges can serve as markers of identity, reveal hidden interests or skills. Badges can spark surprising connections between individuals and organizations. Even as a marker of assessment, badges can serve to complicate our too-placid notion of what counts as learning or success.
But badges are only lenses that focus on different aspects of the community they serve. Obscure badges can’t create a learning environment that values and celebrates diverse experience. Badges can introduce the founders of Street Fighter Crochet club, but they won’t sustain it.
Many K12 schools are desperate for ways to signal the arrival of 21st century learning, and a augmenting grades with a collection of vector art badges can seem heaven sent. But schools committed to reshaping into hubs student-driven learning will ignore that temptation, eschew the PR bump and focus instead on helping faculty and students to learn, strive, fail, and grow on the public web. Without that library of authentic public learning experiences in readily linkable forms, badges will never be more than weak-sauce gamified crap.
* They don’t
** There’s some fascinating tidbits in boosting circles, surrounded by a vast see of depressing, base competitiveness and desire for identity and control. If you’re looking for further EDU comparisons, consider Microsoft’s mandate that all Xbox games come with a fixed number of Achievement points (100 for retail games), but set no standards for how they’re awarded to players. Hence – Avatar: Burning Earth, a sub-mediocre piece of kids shovelware based the great animated series, notable only for the easily exploited Achievements.
Six years after relase, the 360 version of this utterly forgettable game fetches collectible prices on Ebay/Amazon while the identical PS2 version (with no achievement system) languishes under $5. Does mean 1000 Gamerscore points has a market value of $25?
*** In my last round of reference searching, I discover that Bud posted a similar set of concerns two years back, with far more clarity. Of course he did!
Last time I talked about how our extensive Seven Strategies for Assesment PD got me thinking about what rich, open assesments should ask of students and how to guide teachers in that search. There’s a lifetime of work to be done on that topic, but I feel like I’m at a more grounded intellectual place to pursue that work now than I was before the conference.
My other realization arose out of the cantankerous faculty meeting that simmers away inside my head through any long presentation. Whenever my enthusiasm runs ahead of the pack, the phantoms of every veteran, “seen it all before” colleagues materalize to bring me back in line. They’re a cranky bunch, but they come by it honestly, burned by 20+ years of “new research” and “revolutionary practice” that didn’t improve anything but an administrator’s resume. So while I was getting excited about the potential of a real shift in our assessment practices, the Stadler and Waldorf voices were loudly asking, “so what do we really do?”
If you read the Seven Strategies program sequentially, the first step to clearly define learning targets. There’s a temptation to read that literally, and hand out beautiful “Today We Will Learn…” whiteboards to every classroom.
This is a horrible idea.
When I first encountered SBG, I dove headfirst into the process and tried to break my math and CS classes into beautiful atomic skills. Two years later, I worked with several MS math teachers to skill-ify Algebra 1 and would up with a list radically different than my previous design. One teacher form that batch is still teaching with explicit Learning Targets, but I know he shifts and changes them every semester.
This isn’t a bad thing! Meaningful subjects are NOT naturrally composed of cleanly distinct subtopics and skills. The process of identifying and classifying those topics will continue to be a part of every serious teacher’s planning and reflection process. As a school, focusing too much of your initial energy on creating learning targets generates work for teachers with little direct benefit for students. All other factors being equal, 7th graders see no meaningful difference between Learning Target 12 and Chapter 3-4.
Meaningful feedback is the best place to focus teacher energy and attention at the beginning of assessment reform. I know I’m late to this party, but this wasn’t clear in my head until recently.
Meaningful feedback is the lynchpin that holds the Seven Strategies process together. Let’s be clear, feedback is largely what we mean by teaching. Without personal, directed, constructive, actionable feedback on formative work, you have an edX MOOC, not a K-12 classroom. We start there because it’s what matters most.
Feedback is a skill. It can be cultivated, practiced, refined.
Feedback is also a self diagnostic. Is it hard to be specific in what a student should improve? Maybe you weren’t clear enough when defining the assessment? Students don’t use the feedback? Dedicate more classroom energy to the post-feedback revision process
Good feedback is hard work for teachers. But when it’s more than just hard, when it seems completely insurmountable, there’s likely another structural problem in the class. I have a lot of reasons why I haven’t offered great feedback on particular assignments or in certain classes, but when I poke at those reasons I uncover other weaknesses. I didn’t have a clear set of skills/LTs for the assignment, so I was wishy washy in my feedback. I didn’t have a process for students to revisit and revise their work, so I only gave superficial “great job!” feedback.
Feedback is also something that stats entirley with the teacher. For a first step, have teachers grab a peice of student work and write feedback for it, then bring both artifacts to workshop in the next faculty meeting. Now, with a collection material to read, reflect on, and draw inspiration from, we can move into the substantive conversations around students’ next steps, about classroom priorities, about everything that matters in our classrooms.
With my rant about the vendor-branding pyramid schemes for teachers out of the way, I was left with a more general unease about the weak communication channels that teachers and schools use to find each other. In short, how can schools be sure they’re hiring great teachers?
I’m setting my pedantic phaser very wide here and using a phenomenally broad definition of great. If we view this from a hiring school’s perspective, let’s assume that the institution has a clear mission and ethos which creates a precise and unambiguous profile of “great teachers.” Even with that in hand, how do you approach the labor pool and find the best teachers for your school?
The systems I’ve seen in place over the last decade boil down to epic stacks of resumes, commercial placement services where fresh college grads cull that down to merely giant stacks of resumes, and personal connections.
I’ve clearly tied my future career prospects to the power of the blog/twitter space to broaden the scope of personal connections. I’m a fair-to-middling conference schmoozer, far more likely to pursue brass tacks conversations with peers than career-focused glad-handing. Given that, I can only hope that if I continue to reflect in public, continue to write from the core of my experience and passion as an educator, then those conversations might balance out the missed small talk opportunities. Some point, in the far far future.
Right now, the value of an educator’s public persona is entirely based on the exposure and involvement of the individual or committee managing hiring and recruitment. If the folk reading resumes think that the blogosphere consists of Facebook and the Huffington Post, then that school has no way to identify the brightest and most dedicated educators in their applicant pool.
As an example, right now I would hire Fawn Nugyen in a hummingbird’s heartbeat (if she was looking, which she’s not). I’ve seen enough of her classroom, her teaching craft, her dedication and imagination, the smiles of her students at a pre-Mathcounts breakfast, to know that she’d make incredible contributions to our teaching faculty.
But the school doesn’t know that. My admin doesn’t know that. The dean of faculty shifting through piles of curated resumes might appreciate the material on Fawn’s blog, but the chances of the 23 year old who prepared that stack at CS&A discovering and recognizing that value is vanishingly small. What makes Fawn’s strengths as a teacher so obvious to many of us isn’t as overwhelming in a hurried once-over of her posts. To be blown away by the value she would bring to a staff requires being an similarly active participant in the same twitterblogosphere. At that point, it’s no longer blog-content that’s driving the decision, it’s because we know her as a teacher. That far future has arrived to tiny fragile pockets of blog-social connection, but that seems to be just as fragile and haphazard as swapping cards at NCTM.
My point is that if you’re counting on someone retyping your blog URL from a printed resume, there’s not much to distinguish anyone’s lived, holistic, authentic work from the two-posts a year resume blog.
Clearly** we need an super-trustworthy ecosystem of 3rd parties to swoop in, identify the Top 100 teacher blogs and hand out some gorram badges!
Here’s what sucks about teaching: there’s very few way to show that you’re any good at your job.
This is slightly different than the discussion Dan hosted about the lack of feedback from the system of school that will push you to do your best work, or Shawn’s post about how we systemically reward good teachers by pushing them out of the classroom.
This is about how to capture and share your material strengths (aka, your chops) as an educator with the wider world.
Of course I want the blog to serve as that shining beacon of passion, craft and holistic identity. But the reality of hiring teachers, the reality of communication or simply common language between schools, is so far away from that.
We’re so far away, that amazing colleagues will stress about applications into brand-loyalty programs for giant tech companies. We know it’s not a meaningful analysis of the work that dominates our days, but “hey, it’s something.” It’s something official sounding to stick on a resume, bait for the next admin on a hiring committee that’s trying to judge between a dozen seemingly identical resumes that drone on about 1:1 programs and student centered innovation.
Let’s focus on how asinine this is. In order to bling out our future resume and entice some future administrator to read our blog (or god forbid call us back!), we’ll slog through another application process, create more material that will sit in stacks of thousands and hopefully catch the eye of another anonymous time-pressed administrator.
We feel that we need sponsor logos on our teaching craft just to be visible.
It’s a depressing matryoshka of make-work, only dwarfed by the similarly arbitrary pre-pre-pre-certification routines we force kids to dance through every day.
I was struck by Papert’s reflections on gears and thinking in my first encounter with Mindstorms. What a great example for the advantages of living lower down on the manufactured product food chain. It’s taken me well into adulthood to assemble a mental toybox with anything near that level of flexibility. I’d love to have some ur-nerdy totem to enshrine, but looking back I just see the looming influence stories and games, two cultural forces that shape the thinking of most young americans.
I was perhaps more desperate, or more susceptible to the power of stories than some other kids. I’m an only child, read early, and grew up with nearly unlimited access to books and an incredible amount of leisure time. Stories were just the wrapper, the delivery medium for endless skeletons and frameworks of human relationships. I mainlined these, curated and cataloged the different tropes and modes of interaction, and then walked out onto the first grade playground looking for people living out those structures. Every tenuous friendship, and the inevitable collapse of same, has a direct trail back to some stack of texts. I remember a fractured series of moments where I made the right move (an affected bit of nonchalance from cribbed Judy Bloom, or earnestness swiped from JD Fitzgerald), or the wrong one (because no one really talks like Edward Eager or Elizabeth Enright characters).
I recognize that in the modern context, this sounds like I’m describing behaviors on the Autism spectrum, but that’s not the core of it. It wasn’t so much that I was unable to read social cues, just that by the time I was in a particular kind of social interaction, I had already internalized dozens of models for what I felt was the analogous situation. I’ve commiserated with many other only kids who have similar stories of destroying a friendship because the other people refused to behave like their fictional counterpart.
The books I consumed are tied to a particular time and place, and my relative isolation led me to rely on that corpus to an exceptional degree, but this phenomena is not unique. All kids will model some behavior and relationships based on what they’ve discovered in narrative media. My sense is that that this lasts until each individual has enough (often painful) personal experience that other humans have probably not all consumed the same models, and will not follow the elegant script. It’s entirely possible that what I observed as a child as “popularity” was just several kids finding a mutually agreeable shared narrative frame.
The other set of gears that came to dominate my thinking was games. This meant both the abstract characteristics (advantage, momentum, the distinction between tactical and strategic) and the concrete specifics of particular games. Every adolescent who ever rolled polyhedral dice has probably written up character sheets for their friends, and then argued at length over the minutiae of those approximations.
Again, this is profoundly common. What I find notable is how well this set of gears has scaled over the years. An adolescent recognition of STR-based jocks and INT-based nerds shifted to the realization (via Deadlands) that there was a clear mechanical difference between raw intelligence and actually putting that attribute to use. Unlike the narrative gears, this set gained proved increasingly useful as I become more aware of it. Everything from workplace politics to actual programming became far easier to articulate once I stole the concept of limited action verbs from video game design.
What I didn’t appreciate until I left my nerd-heavy corner of California, is how many people have a similarly rich set of game-based gears that shape their understanding of the world, but limited to televised sports. Every time you’ve had serious work described in mixed slurry of football and baseball metaphors, you’ve witnessed the scrabbling friction of one set of game-gears grinding away against the world’s complexity. I’m sure that Olympic wrestling or baseball or rugby are all rich enough that they can serve as useful gears, but the culture’s dominant sports also serve an easy bridge between gear heads.
The problem with both of these is that they’re not classically Papert-ian gears, in that they don’t provide the individual better tools for expanding their intellectual base. Narrative logic and game literacy can help make sense of human systems, but approaching abstract ideas through those frames is often more limiting than enabling. I worry about this when I hear my daughter, also an only, describe ascending place values on an addition problem as Mamas and Sisters.
I didn’t write a simple iterative loop until I was in college, and that simple tool became a profound tool throughout the rest of my academic career. I’m a Scratch die-hard because I see it as the best way of slipping a few more of those abstract gears into a 4th graders’ rushing torrent of association, imitation and modeling.
Earlier this year, I was invited by Mary Smith and Karen Richardson to share my experiences and reflections on rapidly expanding K12 Maker movement. I make no claims to originality in this work, but it’s something I ‘ve been working towards for a few years. I wound up with something like an expansion of What’s ideal for Middle School Makers post, exploring how schools can encourage student-driven community learning hubs by means other than tool acquisition. I also had a cutsey set of bullet points.
I’ve had watching and translating the content from this short talk on my TODO list since it happened, but I obviously haven’t. I’m posting the rough video here, both to motivate me towards some further action and/or share the work as it stands.
Moving from Keynote -> PPT -> Blackboard presenter munged all of the bullet points, of course. I’ve posted a few of the important slides below as images, so everyone can enjoy the awesomeness of Francessca’s Collabratory.
Once again, I’m posting my bulk email to the Makers class here. This is mainly for my record keeping, but I welcome any conversation about the material, especially from other dedicated Scratch teachers.
For the start of this week, let’s try laying a few different challenges out on the table. As with everything in Makers, you can approach these as something to tinker with by yourself or with a group, or back and forth between the two. This isn’t a competition between teams, but a challenge to make awesome stuff. Any work that pushes us towards more awesome counts as a win.
Extend the “drive train” of the carousel automata. C_2 alread won (yay!) the find-a-flaw challenge by doubling and tripling the length of the main axel. What we’re looking for now is ways to transfer the power that can cope with different physical constraints, like different turns, rotations and elevations.
This one might take a while. Same eight P&tB messages, sent between the 4th floor stairwell (by English) and the 1st floor. This means that the both locations need to be able to send and receive. If an observer standing inside the 3rd floor hallway can write down the message, then it counts as intercepted.
That’s my way of saying that yelling really loud is right out.
aka “Oh, I wanted a different house.”
The LOGO houses were awesome. If you’re looking for some “why?” to that project, consider this a challenge: How long would it take you to make the same house with four windows (ie. clearly 2 floors)? How about changing it into a set of 4 row-houses (door with a single window above, but all stacked together)?
Drawing a house is a nice start, but if all your work is in one giant stack, then changing the shape or scale of the house essentially means building it all over again from Move/Turn blocks. If you compartmentalize different parts of the house with broadcasts for primitives like sq100, sq25, and others for structures like window or door, then it’s a lot easier to plan out and make the necessary changes.
This is the step that I glossed over in my enthusiasm for BYOB/Snap! It’s really difficult to think about a program that will draw a house at any scale unless you’ve separated out how to draw each part.
Because Scratch is awesome, here’s an extra.
As soon as anyone draws a square in LOGO, they love to repeat that action over and over and over. If you put a little TURN in there, you’ll get the classic square-flower (does it have a real name?)
Your art-challenge is to create a program that makes a recognizable piece of art, but one that’s slightly different each time you run it. Look for some examples here or here. Here’s my short, very INCOMPLETE, list of things you can modify while drawing:
Steps (segment length)
absolute position (go to x: y: )
Anything that uses a number can also take another numeric value as input. So you could could Move (Pen Thickness) Steps, or Turn (Y position) Degrees.
Randomness can help, but randomness by itself rarely produces art.