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.

Integrating Makey Makey into Science

I have been fiddling around with paper switches and copper tape over the last few days and have come up with a load of new ideas. Paper switches open up a world of possibilities for students. They are simple to make and add a control or measurable element to any project that the students are working on.

I have recently written a project in Scratch that works out how far something has traveled in a period of time, the basic speed formula. As I wrote this, it occurred to me that this would be a great Makey Makey project for a standard science investigation, but instead of stop watches and inbuilt inaccuracies, paper switches and my Scratch code would give more accurate results.

I have now built this Scratch, Makey Makey and paper switch rig and tested it, it works really well, so armed with this, students can now accurately measure slope angle, slope length and even slope material variables and get fast accurate results.

Now that this has been completed, I am now thinking about how paper switches and Makey Makey or even Micro:bits could be used on projects such as marble runs. The more I investigate, the more ideas I get…

Ball Bearing Maze

It has been a productive few days. More computational thinking and 3DO ideas have come to the fore. The latest is an adaptation of an Arduino project to make a ball bearing maze and control it with a joystick and two servos. I have taken this idea and adapted to work with a BBC Micro:bit, making the entry level for this kind of project much lower and offers the technology opportunity to a wider breadth of students and ages.

One of the slides from the learning resource for this project

Make My Money

It has been a productive few days for me. I have just uploaded another computational thinking resource, this time a PO4 resource, called Make My Money! This is a Makey Makey based activity, linked to Scratch. The aim of the activity is for older students to create a learning resource for younger students to help them learn about making different monetary values from coins. So the maths required in order to do the task is easy for the students doing the coding, but the coding required to make the resource is far from straight forward, indeed it is a PO4 activity, because the successful outcome requires the use of outputs, iteration, variables and comparative operators, several of them. I am looking forward to trialing this one too. In the pipeline is a Te Reo vocabulary coding activity, I am just waiting on having my Te Reo checked before I go live with this one, watch this space for more on that.

Number Bonds / Basic Facts

I have been working with several groups of students in a couple of schools on separate PLD Numeracy contracts recently, on the same problem, the students have very weak understanding of their basic facts of number and how they are inter-related, their bonds. As a result of this, I decided that a way that the students could build their capacity and their understanding would be to create a game that tested a user on the concept I wanted the students themselves to learn. After all the best way to learn is to teach. So I have created this number bonds resource, that leads into creating a game in Scratch. I have yet to trial it, but it was fun to make.

A slide from learning resource created for this activity.

Star Dome

In preparation for Matariki, I have been working on a resource for students to build a Star Dome in their classrooms from recycled cardboard and then populate the ceiling of their Star Dome with the constellations of the southern skies with LEDs controlled via a simple parallel circuit with resistors and a cardboard switch in it, all connected with copper tape.

I am looking forward to testing this resource in several schools in term 2. The LEDS and resistors have been ordered and are currently inbound from China. Just need to go dumpster diving now for the large cardboard boxes we will need to make the 12 equilateral triangles needed for each Star Dome.

Third Merge Cube Tutorial

We have just launched our third Merge Cube tutorial onto You Tube. In this tutorial we show you how to import images from your computer onto the stage and how to add this to the cube. We then embark on creating a simple animation of an object in Merge Cube, using the CoSpaces coding blocks. These first three tutorials will give the average user enough information and skills to allow them to start to build and code their own Merge Cube environments.

We have started to collaborate with others on creating resources for teachers to use, utilising Merge Cube’s AR features. In one school we are creating an integrated literacy resource based around the novel The London Eye Mystery, where the students will have to create 6 key scenes from the novel as scenes on the Merge Cube and they will then have to animate these scenes, add audio voice overs for the characters and finally write a narrators script for the video they will create in the CoSpaces app when their models are complete. Watch this space for the resource once it is complete.

Also in production is the creation of a Merge Cube resource that will allow students to look at opposing views of the same event. 2019 marks the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s landing in New Zealand and the clash of cultures that sparked. We are creating a Merge Cube resource that will allow students to investigate and share their understandings of how both sides of this encounter may have thought and reacted on that historic day, again watch this space for more information on that resource.

Merge Cube Tutorial

I have spent the last week or so creating a couple of tutorials to support teachers through the CoSpaces/Merge Cube interface. Today I have launched the first of these two new video tutorials. This tutorial covers how to manage and edit the cube and how to add and manipulate content from the CoSpaces library onto the cube.

I am trying to keep these tutorials bite sized in order to make them accessible and skill specific. In watching this tutorial through a number of times I can already see that I will need to produce another supplimentary tutorial in order to cover all of the menu features on objects, but that is for another time. The next video tutorial deals with how to add code to an object using the CoSpaces code blocks and should be out later this week.