Getting the hang of the EV3

Now I have spent many hours playing with the NXT and using it in class, but I have just received a class set of 15 EV3 Mindstorms kits, I have a lot of tinkering and testing to do before I get down to the planning for implementing them within my class program for the Year 5 and 6 students. First step was to unpack, which with that many kits is long and labour intensive, but with the reward of getting to build, test and play with the new kits at the end it was not so bad.

My one dislike with the NXT was the need to plug in the robot through a USB cable to download the program, but the Lego Education Department have come up with a fantastic app that now allows you to send your program through Bluetooth to the bot and you are able to stop the program instantly over distance from the iPad, which I have found allows for a greater scope with trial and error when writing a program as you no longer need to run, pick up the robot when you have made a mistake and can quickly EV3and seamlessly edit your program on the fly – no USB connection is needed for each mistake, which should be a great bonus in the classroom. Additionally, connecting through Bluetooth was quick and easy and it is simple to rename each of the control bricks, so when there is a class going on there should not be too much problems with students connecting to their brick rather than a classmates.

With younger students the app seems like it is going to make the process so muchEV3 - 3 simpler for getting students achieving instant success. The blocks are colour coded, arranged in 4 separate folders depending on their function and the drag and drop nature of the iPad is perfect for when you are testing and editing a program. Additionally, the app has two entry points, either a work space for creating programs or a set of tutorials that have videos and links to external references. If you add the fact that all the apps are free for Andriod or iPad you know that you are onto a winner.

Now the next step is to spend the weekend playing and testing, reading blogs and watching tutorials then I need to work out if it is 2 classes at a time with one between 3 students or one class at a time with 1 between 1 students. Oh, and how am I going to store them all?

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Micro:Bit – Tinkering with a Micro Processor

The Micro:Bit is a very interesting microprocessor that was gifted to all Year & students IMG_9918in the UK in 2016 – it is said that many were given and never turned on as there were rafts of teachers and students who did not have the time, curiosity or ability to get them working.

The BBC Micro:Bit

I had a short play with one at the FOBIT conference in Singapore earlier in the year and have wanted to explore the device further ever since. After picking one up for $15us on Ebay I have been reading, testing, exploring, playing and tinkering and I only wish that I had a whole class set. The resources are there, they are able to be coded in many different ways (my favourite is JavaScript Blocks Editor, which is Scratch like in design and presentation) and the STEAM applications are immense.

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image from BBC Micro:Bit website

The Technology Will Save Us Blog offers a Lego Challenge and by adding a few bricks I had a device that at the turn of a dial told me the temperature in the room.

Through nesting a few loops I was able to turn my Micro:Bit into a Magic 8 Ball (well Magic 6 Ball) that when shaken provided one of 6 random messages to be displayed across the 5X5 LED screen.

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 7.09.03 PM

Lastly, it may have been a bit messy and fiddly, but I was able to download the iOS app to my iPhone, Bluetooth pair it with my Micro:Bit and then send the code I had written through the airwaves to make the device work in a way that I wanted.

In short… Micro:Bit – Cool, easy to use, I want more for my classroom and so much scope to be used from beginner to advanced level.

Really getting into Coding with Scratch

It has been too long since I have written here (there are dozens of unfinished posts over the past 3 years, but few published). I am now in Vietnam and teaching ICT, rather than a classroom teacher, and it has been a whirlwind of difference. It is a much bigger school, but as I teach most of the students I get to know them all and it allows me to be the kind of teacher that I normally am.

Big change as been, other than having access to Google again, the amount of coding that I teach using Scratch and it can be upwards of 15 hours a week. I feel that I now dream in Blockly and ‘if then’ or ‘forever’ loops. It is like being immersed in a language and it has increased my knowledge beyond all belief.

Year 1 throughscratch-music 3 are using the offline editor and are learning to make instruments play a tune or making balls bounce around the screen and play a recorded sound when they collide. Year 4-6 are making playable video games and now beginning to realise that they are able to create games in their own time (such as the final scratchgame).

Scratch has recently introduced Educator Accounts, for which you need to apply and get approval (a day to wait), but this now allows you to manage multiple online classes, reset their forgotten passwords, add or remove students and sign them up without the need for email addresses to login – such a time s
aver and it may help me keep my hair a few more years.

There are scores of resources out there, any question that you have is answered by a forum post or YouTube tutorial and once you give it a go your students will love it. I know that when they get to Secondary they will be problem solvers, better at logic and reasoning and have a good understanding about how code is laid out and how to change variables and create loops and conditionals.

My first successful game (Even though it has a glitch or too)

//scratch.mit.edu/projects/embed/140541688/?autostart=false

This game was created by a student as part of his International Week homework to teach visiting year 2 and 3 students about Ecuador in a fun way.

//scratch.mit.edu/projects/embed/136647435/?autostart=false

Juxtapose

So simple, so clever, so quick and perfect to compare and contrast images over time. I screen captured two google earth images that were taken 10 years apart, added them to my Dropbox then the website did the rest (and all on the iPad). It gives you an embed code and then you have two images on top of each other and you have the ability to slide over to view one or the other image.

https://juxtapose.knightlab.com/

https://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/juxtapose/latest/embed/index.html?uid=d97ca552-973c-11e6-9008-0edaf8f81e27

Statistics and the connected classroom

Every primary classroom studies statistics several times a year and when it comes to graphs you go through the process:  surveys, tally charts, pictograms, bar graphs,

This Pie Chart was a truly enjoyable lesson, as the students used protractors and their knowledge of degrees to draw the graph.
This Pie Chart was a truly enjoyable lesson, as the students used protractors and their knowledge of degrees to draw the graph.

column graphs, line graphs, stem & blah, blah…

I am one of those who gets their students to make pretty graphs based on a a survey (favourite pet or book or blah..) and I have known for years that it is just going through the motions. The students learn skills (using a ruler, counting hands up in the classroom and colouring in a chart), but do they make any understandings? Maybe you integrate ICT and have a play with Excel, but do they make any connection to the real world or see statistics outside their classroom?


NOTE: Every class I have ever taught has loved making graphs – ruling them, colouring them and presenting them with a couple of comments on what they think the graph is telling them – and I love the lesson as well.  I am just being a bit of a devils advocate with the previous paragraphs, not slandering every amazing teacher who gets their class to make a graph.


So, how do we take a classes questions and ask them to the world? How to we make a survey or questionnaire that has a sample size more than the number of students in your class? The answer is a Google form with some assistance from Twitter, Facebook, Email and a few forceful requests for friends to share the form and off you go.

We created the form from a whole lot of ‘random questions’ (this is how they have been described by many of those who have answered the form) and when the students went to get on the bus at the end of the day I began the sharing process. It did take begging in some cases, but only a few times and by the morning we had almost 200 responses and by our Numeracy lesson we had 250 responses.

The first 30-40 minutes of the Numeracy lesson began an animated discussion full of predictions on what we thought each questions results would be and then pondering why we were so wrong on almost every question. Additionally, as we reviewed the results 10 more people somewhere in the world answered the survey.


They said things like…

Why are the amount of Arabic speakers the same as the amount of Maori Speakers?
-I think Facebook might be banned in a lot of Arabic speaking countries.
-There are Maori speakers because Mr Dyer is from New Zealand.
-I just think that not many people who speak Arabic have seen the survey…
…and maybe if they did the could not read it because it was in English?

Why do over 60% the people answering our survey wear glasses or contacts when less than 10% of our class do?

Why are most of the people who answered Women? Is it because they use more social media or because they take more time to help people?

Why do only a few people like Orange… it’s my favourite colour?

66% of people take a car to work or school – that is two out of three people… That is bad for the environment.

Wow, a lot of people believe in Aliens!


Unknown
Yellow indicates the spread of our survey within the first 24 hours. I wonder how much yellow there will be after a week?

We then looked at different types of questions and discussed how we normally write closed questions, but by giving an open question like “What is your favourite food?” we get to see how truly different everyones choices are, but when we asked closed questions with a yes or no answer or only a few options it does not always give the person taking the survey the option of answering as they would like.

At the end of the first 24 hours my tech savvy and like minded teaching assistant took the data and turned it into a visual world map. Places in yellow are where we have reached already.

So now, after 3 days of the form being online we have reached just over 500 participants and we see the statistics beginning to even out to what we originally predicted. Hopefully over the weekend we will get more participants and as it spreads we may reach across to more parts of Africa or South America. So, next time you are studying statistics and want your class to get a better understanding of analyzing data give a Google Form a try and use all those social media contacts you have to see how far  you can spread your questions.

PLN and Connectivness is Awesome! #EduFriends

Again, Twitter and my PLN has blown me away with its awesomness!

As ICT Lead Teacher I had to lead an assembly and chose the Internet as my umbrella topic. My goal was to express both the ability to connect through the internet as well as make sure that students were aware of how to use the Internet safely and sensibly.

Part 1 – Teacher Quiz
10 simple questions. Two teachers. One teacher has a stack of reference books where all the questions came from. Other teacher has no books, looks sad so is allowed to use Google on their phone.
Result – A few good laughs and students get to see the power of a directed internet search in action.

Part 2 – The connection (This is what it is all about!)
How do you show kids about the true connectiveness of the internet? Sure they have all Skyped a family member overseas, but how could I show them in 1 or 2 minutes?

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 3.48.05 pm

A simple tweet, and maybe a few directed spam tweets, and the ball was set in motion. I was humbled by the replies and the time and effort that was put into the project. Instantly there were promises of a video or a quick video taken in the playground. I had replies from people I was not even following and so new connections were made.

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 4.32.24 pm

Below is the compilation video. I am sorry that not all clips are included, but my computer was fighting with me and not all of the clips wanted to go into iMovie for some reason. But thank you to @NZWaikato @mrs_hyde @mrkempnz @KleinErin @BowlerSarah @jedipadmaster @SamAllison06 @21stCTeaching @MsBeenz @PalmyTeacher @room_ten @tewakatroy @chiaoyinanita @ChezVivian @tsbray @lesal38 @mjbuckland and of course the star of the show… @GrogtheZombie.
(If I have missed you off this list then I am sorry – DM me and I will correct instantly as you are awesome and I am sorry for missing you out, but thankful for your existence!)

Part 3 – Cyber Safety
As most of the students play online games with back channel chat options I chose to show the video I have embedded below. I must say that I removed about 6 seconds of the clip towards the end as I think that I would have had the year 1 classes in tears.
Result – Enjoyable to watch, appropriate to the audience, students become more aware of cyber safety.

KS2 Robotics Club – Surprisingly Successful

It is funny what a bit of success, a few years practice and some more resources can do to the way an after school club is run. I have talked about this previously, but this year is different as my robotics group is much younger (KS3 – Year 3,4&5 or Grade 2,3&4). The groups is right on the cusp of being too big for one teacher at 16 students, but I think that I have carefully managed and planned the sessions so that it will run a lot smoother than when I had teenagers last term.

The big difference is that I have carefully purchased resources from my budgets to build upon what we have and to provide different levels of differentiation and challenge for each student.
Very Beginner – Bee Bots
These are a great resource to introduce programming, quite cheap and can still be used with older kids to get the idea of simple programs.
Novice – Lego Simple Machines Kits So simple, but the best way to show kids how gears work together to make movement happen and gets them following a set of what can be difficult instructions.
Intermediate – WeDoBuild it and then program it. It comes with a motor, movement/light sensor and a tilf sensor and simple Scratch like software to program your creation.
Advanced – Mindstorms You only need to look at various youtube videos to see what can be done with a Mindstorms kit and if you throw a few kits together you have amazing possibilities.

Next problem comes when every group has a project completed and wants a computer to use to program the robot… solution? I have no idea just yet!