Simple Machines

I have started to implement my “Cardboard Automata” unit of work at several schools this week. It has been interesting to observe how the students engage with this open ended construction task. At the moment they are in the immersion phase, understanding the relationship between gears and cams and how they could potentially manipulate this information to make something move. Doing this investigation in cardboard has also thrown up lots of interesting bumps in the road for the students.

Their construction skills, their preponderance to eschew rulers and box cutters and use guestimation and blunt scissors is a sight to behold! We will need to have some deep reflection about their construction process and its impact upon the effectiveness of the outcome, before we move onto the meat of the project! Fun to be part of though.

Students at Howick working on their first cardboard automata

Remote Controlled Gate

I spent the last week in Hokitika working on a DT/HM PLD contract. On Thursday I worked with the STEM teacher from the High School who works with the students from contributing schools. We set up the students with an initial challenge to work out how the radio function works on the Micro:Bits so that the students could send “texts” to each other. Once they had mastered this skill we set the students the main challenge to design and build a remote controlled farm gate.

In the first instance we had to show them how to configure the Adafruit Crickit to work with the Micro:Bit. Once we had led them through this task, we left them to the challenge. This is the end result:

Hamilton – STEAM workshop

We ran a very successful STEAM workshop at Te Ao Mārama School in Flagstaff, Hamilton today. We had 15 teachers arrive at the school, several of whom I had worked with in the past, some a very long time ago! It was good to see old colleagues again. The focus today was on using the principles of STEAM pedagogy to engage students in their learning and also focusing on the soft skills of the NZC.

To focus the teachers on these soft skills we showed them the trailer from the “Most Likely to Succeed” video on Vimeo and suggested that they watch this video to make them consider how they need to adapt their pedagogy to meet the needs of our students to be successful in the workplace of the future.


Trailer for Most Likely to Succeed

The teachers had a great day and they all said that they had a lot of “fun” working on the challenges we set for them. This is how it should be in class!

Food Pyramid

I have had a pretty productive week working with schools to put together DT/HM PLD applications, I hope that they are all successful. In addition I have been working with a number of schools on some very exciting projects for term 3. We have already had a pretty innovative term 2 with our Matariki Star Domes, our AR writing projects and others.

Next term promises to be just as innovative, I have a large interactive games wall in the pipeline that will utilise Makey Makeys controlling coded tumbling dice, solderless electronics and a game board controller made from cardboard, transmedia book studies and this Food Pyramid computational thinking game designed for intermediate students, term three could be even more innovative than term 2. Watch this space for more details and contact me if you want to know more.

Students have to create a fridge that helps the user make appropriate food choices .

Star Dome – Completed

I have been working with several schools this term on my Star Dome project for Matariki. The first project was completed today. The students have been highly engaged and motivated by this project and the results speak for themselves.

Hopefully another Star Dome will be completed tomorrow and an accompanying video should be published with that post too. In the meantime take a look at this first project. The teacher, Devon Hiley has posted the photos to the Primary Teachers group on Facebook too.

Screen shot of Devon’s post to Facebook
Students inside the dome

AIMS principals DT/HM conference

This week we delivered a day long DT/HM PD workshop to a group of Auckland AIMS principals. The day consisted of us unpacking the revised Digital Technologies Curriculum document, including how schools can apply for DT/HM PLD. As the day progressed it became clear that not many schools were fully aware that there is PLD funding to help schools implement the revised curriculum and so they were very pleased with the information we were able to share with them. Already four schools from the day have sought additional support from us to guide them through the application process.

During the day we got the principals to do some practical work too. We showed them the learning potential that can be gained from “unplugged” as well as computer based computational thinking activities. In the images below you can see the principals working their way through one of the two “unpugged” activities we provided for them. In the afternoon we had the princpals, flying drones, creating remote controlled cars as well as programming robots.


AIMS principals at the DT/HM PLD day at the Remuera Club
Working through the CT cycle on an “unplugged” activity
Being stuck was part of the process!

Marching Ants

I do “brain gym” warm up activities with the students I work with. This week I had the children doing one of my “unplugged” CT PO2 activities, Marching Ants. It is an algorithmic thinking challenge, and as an added twist this week I got the students to solve the problem with furniture. The video below is the result.

Auckland and Waikato STEAM workshops

I am for the first time running a workshop in Hamilton in the term 2 school holidays on 19 July. I am running it at the stunning new school Te Ao Mārama School in Flagstaff. Jacqui Sharp and I are also running workshops in Auckland in the term 2 holidays, so if you are in need of some inspiration for integrating coding, computational thinking and STEAM into your classroom, these workshops are for you. You can book your place on either the Auckland or Waikato workshops by clicking on the links below. We hope to see you there.

Building the Star Dome

I posted a new resource a couple of weeks ago, the Star Dome project. Since then I have been introducing it into several schools that I have been working in both at Intermediate level and at Primary too. This week we are starting to get down to the nitty gritty of building the full size dome.

So far the students have learned how to create and test solderless circuits with copper tape and the necessary components required to make their chosen constellation. In addition they have all built a scale model of the eventual dome, so that they know how it all fits together, when they finally get to make the full size thing. Finally they have been researching southern hemisphere constellations as named and used by Māori. It will be these constellations, their significance and purpose that will adorn the insides of the completed Star Domes, later this term. I will post video of the completed domes here, in the meantime take a look at the kind of work the students have been doing so far.

Student created series circuit
Parallel circuit with paper switch

Glamorgan School – DT/HM ToD

I had a great day on Friday working with the team from Glamorgan School at the start of a new DT/HM PLD contract. We spent the day unpacking the Revised Digital Technologies curriculum document and working through lots of “unplugged” computational thinking problems. The end of the day was spent working with Makey Makey’s, which for many was their first opportunity to have a go with them. We made a “cardboard band” using Scratch, copper tape, cardboard and ofcourse Makey Makeys. I think the team really appreciated how simple, yet how powerful the computational thinking can be with the addition of a few well chosen challenges, pitched well and resources with a range of simple and cheap peripherals.