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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Playing to Learn-- Launching my Digital Makers Playground for educators

Last weekend I had the pleasure of presenting at the CUE NV Silver State Conference in Las Vegas. The CUE NV team did a fantastic job of organizing an diverse event that gave educators in attendance the opportunity to learn a variety of tech skills and teaching strategies from educators/presenters both local and international.

As a frequent presenter, I am continually looking for ways to differentiate content for my audience, who, just like our students, always come to my sessions with varying levels of experience with the content being presented. My session for the Silver State Conference was on digital making and I wanted to find a way to expose people to a selection of resources and tools appropriate for all levels of experience.

My solution-- the Digital Makers Playground!

It was the first time that I'd planned a session of this kind for a conference and I had no idea how it would all work out (especially me traveling to another state with all the equipment that I'd need), but the playground turned out to be a huge success!

I opened with a short overview of what digital making is and what types of tools are out there for digital making. Then I provided a quick description of the tools that I brought along for the playground (Scratch, Makey Makey, Micro:bit, Raspberry Pi) and set participants free to explore at their own pace. I set up my presentation in a hyperslides format, so that those interested could look at lesson examples and read about/watch videos on specific tools. I also brought along activity cards that I've created to help teachers and students get to know a new tool at their own pace. While teachers, played, I had a chance to walk around and answer questions or provide personalized instruction to attendees.

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive! Especially because the thing about learning digital making is that the best way to learn the tools is to just sit down and play. Teachers in my session said that even that little bit of playtime (my session was only an hour long) helped them get a better sense of the possibilities. And hopefully teachers also saw the possibilities in the learning format itself, and how we can use the "playground" structure to better differentiate or personalize instruction in our classrooms.

Session Resources 

(task cards are also found on the "STEAM &CS Resources" page of my blog)

Intro to MaKey MaKey task cards

Intro to Micro:bit with Javascript blocks or Python 3 task cards

Physical Computing on Raspberry Pi with Scratch or Python 3 task cards

*Yes, the CUE NV Silver State Tech Conference in Las Vegas did take place the same weekend as the tragic mass shooting on the Strip. I am thankful to report that all of our CUE NV friends, presenters and attendees made it home safe.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Reflecting on TOSAing in the 2016-17 Year & Looking Forward to This Year

Although the 2017-18 school year has already officially started for me, I did want to take a moment to first reflect on my work from last year. As I'm making plans for this school year, it helps to look back at last year's successes as well as areas in which I can improve my work with teachers, staff and students.

So first, the areas of success...

  1. I partnered with eight teachers last year to write project-based digital making & computer science lessons for their classes, in grades TK-5. Working with those teachers exposed both they and their colleagues to a form of making that most had not seen before, and built excitement for bringing more digital making and computer science into their general education classrooms.
  2. The "Math Revolution" as Jo Boaler calls it, has officially made it's way to CambellUSD. I hosted two 3-day long "21st Century Math" PDs early in the year and had unprecedented interest! Nearly 40 teachers signed up for the first workshop series and about 30 for the second...making these the largest math learning circles, by far, that I've ever held! We talked about everything from visual math tasks to inquiry-based learning, blended learning to student choice in math. And with follow-up coaching and co-planning embedded into both learning circles, I was able to watch math lessons evolving first hand last year. Number talks, Which One Doesn't Belong? and Estimation 180 were some of the most popular tasks to make their way into classrooms.
  3. Breakout mania reached my district in the last month and a half of school after I facilitated a
    BreakoutEDU game for our Technology Teacher Leaders. After that game, I helped facilitate 16 Breakout games in classrooms in a matter of just 30 days! (And several of those teachers that I worked with then went on to co-facilitate with others on their staff in those last few weeks of school!). 16 games may not sound like a lot, but when you're resetting locks and prepping Breakout boxes 3x a week, it definitely feels like a lot! I was excited to see so many teachers and students get so excited about their game-based form of learning.
  4. 110 individual teachers-- wow! My colleagues definitely kept me pleasantly busy last school year and I am excited to be able to to say that in just my second year as a TOSA, I was able to learn and collaborate with so many talented teachers in my district.

Next steps for this school year...

As I embark on my 3rd year TOSAing in CampbellUSD, I have a couple of goals for myself this year, based on the last 2 years of work:

  1. I am super passionate about expanding computer science education in my district, and with just 2 more classes to go to complete the Computer Science Authorization for my credential, one of my goals this year is to continue to grow CS instruction in CampbellUSD. I already have one unit in the works with a 4th grade teacher who reached out the first week of school, and I plan to get in touch with a couple more teachers in the coming weeks to see if they're interested in co-planning & demoing for their colleagues a fleshed out CS integrated plan this school year.
  2. Bring CodeClub to at least one of our schools. Unfortunately, bussing schedules tend to rule the world, but I'm hoping to find a way to schedule either a before school or after school CodeClub at one of our sites as a model for others sites. I also want to invite parents and teachers in to join the students at CodeClub so that they can learn more about computer science concepts hands-on and experience the math, science and ela connections in coding that helps some of our students understand those subject areas in ways they may not have before.
  3. Along with my CS goal, I also want to introduce more teachers to in my district to digital making. I've already included a couple of lessons into our new online personalized PD platform (via Alludo Learning) and, along with continuing to demo and co-teach digital making lessons in classrooms, I hope to plan a couple of in-person workshops for teachers to learn more about Raspberry Pi, Scratch, and more!
  4. Focus my support. I was so happy to work with so many amazing educators last year, but
    it's hard to follow up regularly with 110 people. The most impactful work happened during long term projects and collaboration with teachers. There were 2 classrooms last year in which I worked co-planning & co-teaching with teachers over a significant period of time-- those were the classrooms where we saw the most student growth. This year, I'd like to find 2-3 more teachers who want to partake in a similar support model.
I am excited about the possibilities this year brings, and can't wait to get started!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Inspiration from #ISTE17-- looking back on #MyISTE

Inspired by Kyle Hamstra's ignite on Sunday afternoon, I focused my time in San Antonio on not just attending ISTE, but experiencing ISTE, and spent the last couple of weeks reflecting on the moments and people that stuck with me at #MyISTE this year.

Digital Equity

A prominent topic of discussion at this year's ISTE was digital equity, or the lack thereof in many communities around the world. It is becoming more and more apparent that students without access to a digital device and the Internet at home are at a major academic disadvantage compared to those students who do have access to the Internet at home, and can choose to continue their learning on their own time.

From CoSN Digital Equity Toolkit
One impactful session that I attended in particular was a panel on digital equity and the homework Dr. Darryl Adams, Dr. S. Dallas Dance, Keith Krueger and Dr. Kurt Steinhaus. Each participant talked about the importance of access to student performance (Dr. Adams talked about how graduation rates increased by 20% in his district after he provided every single student in his district with an iPad and access to the Internet at home) and ways in which they addressed digital inequities and homework gaps in their own school districts as superintendents. The panel reminded me that we do not need to take 'no' for an answer; if something is important enough, we can make it happen. What each of these men had in common was their tenacity and creativity in solving a sizable problem within their school districts. I was also reminded that sometimes, "we have to go slow to go fast." Problem analysis, planning, getting to know stakeholders, iterating solutions, and providing intensive trainings for all involved (students, parents, teachers) -- these all take time and are essential to developing an effective program or solution. I can sometimes be impatient for change, so it was valuable for me to hear that the changes that these superintendents impacted did not happen overnight.
gap with

I also learned about the Digital Equity Action Agenda (from the Consortium for School Networking, or CoSN) during that panel session-- a tool that I am excited to take back to my own district. In the last 6 months or so my district's tech team made significant strides in the effort to provide digital access at home for all students, but we still have a long way to go and I think that the CoSN tool kit and advice from the panel might help us grow our program significantly in this coming school year.

EdTech Adoption Chasm

EdTech Coaching

One of the foremost reasons that I appreciate being able to attend ISTE is the opportunity to connect with others like me-- educational technology/innovation/digital coaches who strive towards goals similar to mine, and also struggle through similar challenges. It's a chance for us share successful strategies and help each other brainstorm solutions to coaching challenges we face.

Virginia Satir change process by Michael Erickson
I gathered fantastic ideas from peers about managing our newly developed online personalized PD system at the ChromeWarrior happy hour (our virtual book clubs will get their own game, rather than get wrapped into our main district game, for one...), and was again inspired to get reflecting (and get my teachers reflecting) after chatting with Knikole Taylor and Cicely Day at their "Reflective Coaching" table at the #ETCoaches playground. I got some great ideas about gamifying my coaching and trainings from EdTech Mason during his poster session and was reminded over breakfast with my #TOSAchat friend Margaret Sisler that it is indeed, as George Couros says, about "moving people from their point A to their point B." Sometimes that growth is slow moving (very slow moving), but as coaches we need to honor people's positions on the change curve during the growth process.

Digital Making & Creative Computing

Chatting with the Fullerton crew
As this was a topic I was actively searching out, it was bound to be a discussion that had a major impact on me at ISTE this year. I both presented on the topic and made it a point to connect with others in the field to gain insight on how they were growing computer science and digital making programs in their schools and districts.

As always, I was inspired my friend, Jason Chong's, ongoing work in computer science and robotics in Fullerton School District in Southern California. I had an opportunity to chat with Jason, during his poster session, about how he is growing his district's program and supporting teachers along the way. My biggest takeaway was the involvement of teachers in the process; Fullerton invested in sending teachers to workshops to learn more about robotics and computer sciences to build capacity, and then asked those teachers to work with the TOSAs on developing a district-wide computer science pathway and sample lesson plans.

Although I didn't get to see it live, I did get a chance to follow Carrie Anne Philbin's ignite talk via social media, during which she touted the importance of robotics in a real world context if we are really to make an impact, validating my passion for project-based computer science instruction. And Mitch Resnick of MIT's Scratch made some exciting announcements about Scratch 3.0, including a tablet app, new blocks and formal integration of Scratch X; updates that mean better accessibility for students and classrooms to physical computing projects with Scratch, robotics and creative computing in general.

Presenting & Connecting

I've really only been presenting at conferences and workshops outside of my district for the last two years, but in that short time I quickly learned that presenting is not just a good opportunity to share, but also a great way to connect with and learn from others. And the best part of any conference experience for me is always the people. Doing the digital making panel with Raspberry Pi and my poster session on computer science in TK-5 was a great chance to reconnect not only with the Raspberry Pi community, but also with the computer science and maker communities in general-- some of the most impactful communities that I've connected with in my career so far.

I also had the great pleasure of connecting with friends new and old in less formal settings, and often those are the moments when the most impactful learning and reflecting takes place. Dinner with the Pi-Top and Raspberry Pi teams, happy hour with PBS Digital Innovators and Chrome Warriors, cruising the Riverwalk with my #TOSAchat and #ConnectedTL and #CUE friends, meet-ups at the Bloggers Cafe and Playground sessions... often these are the moments where reflection happens, resources are shared and support systems are developed. It was during these face-to-face, unstructured moments that Rodney Turner empowered me to be bold, Sylvia Duckworth encouraged me to consider taking my CS passions to the next level, Tom Whitby had me questioning how I can get more of my colleagues connected, and Carrie Anne Philbin reminded me that it's not always about badges or certifications-- sometimes all it takes is passion for us to make a difference.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Pi Tote-- a sewing & circuitry project with the Raspberry Pi Zero W

Heads up... it's a bit of a lengthy reflection on the process I went through making my first Raspberry Pi "wearable". If you just want the final code and bag pattern, skip to the end :)

A couple of months ago, playing around with my new Raspberry Pi Zero W and thinking about some of my upcoming summer ed tech events, I decided that I wanted to make something that would fully take advantage of the compact size of the Pi Zero, that was somewhat useful, and that I could take with me and share with my maker friends during my summer tech travels.
Me & grandma celebrating!

I loved the idea of making something wearable and blinky, and also wanted to figure out a way to incorporate the use of my grandmother's hi-tech embroidery machine. Right away I thought it would be fun to embroider the Raspberry Pi logo and from there I realized that a tote bag would be the way to go for my first wearable project.

Now, I know some readers are going to chime in and suggest that I should have used something other than my Pi Zero to create my "wearable", and at first I did look around at some of my other options, but realized that the point wasn't to buy new toys-- rather, I wanted to see what I could create with the materials that I already had available to me.

Here are the materials that I used and the process that I went through to create my first Raspberry Pi "wearable"-- the Pi Tote.

Materials Used:

  • Raspberry Pi Zero W
  • 8" female to female jumper cables
  • 5 mm clear white LEDs
  • 1 yard of heavy cotton fabric for main outer pieces of bag
  • 3/4 yard of patterned cotton fabric for inside pieces of bag
  • 1/3 yard of solid cotton fabric for bottom of bag
  • Embroidery thread and Brother "Dream Machine 2" embroidery/sewing machine 

My Process:

Step 1
Grandma researching
My 1st step was learning how to use my grandmother's embroidery machine to upload a custom design & embroider it in the desired size. Although my grandmother uses the machine regularly, she had yet to create her own designs, and so we did a little reading to see how we might upload our own image and convert it into a pattern for embroidering.

After some playing, we had our image uploaded to the machine and converted into a line drawing. I embroidered my first design and, happy with the outcome, I took it home to start experimenting with the electronics, while I set my grandmother with the task of finding a simple tote bag pattern that we could use to sew our own bag which would include a pocket that I could use to conceal the computer and cords.

Step 2
Embroidered Raspberry Pi logo prototype in hand, I started exploring the different ways that I might be able to make my raspberry light up.

The first iteration involved programming random pulsing LEDs on the Sense HAT's LED matrix, but the square shape of the matrix didn't allow for much flexibility in where the LEDs would be placed and trying to shine the matrix through the embroidery only provided a dull glow from the fabric.

Picademy inspiration
I started thinking about how I could use individual LEDs to light up my design, but wasn't sure at first how I'd secure the LEDs to the bag while connected to the computer. Then I remembered the day 2 project that my team created at the Picademy that I'd attended in April 2016-- Babbage the teddy bear with light up eyes & ears. We'd connected LEDs directly to chained jumper cables, with resistors linked in the chain, and strung the LEDs from our Pi and through the teddy bear. I could do something similar with my bag!

I cut a couple of holes around the edges of the embroidered logo, popped a couple of LEDs through the holes from behind the embroidered patch, and connected the cables to the Pi. I ran a simple blinking program to test the lights and decided this design was a winner!

Step 3
Next I focused on coding the LEDs to blink. I wasn't sure at first how exactly I wanted the LEDs to look, so I started by just making sure I could get them all to blink one at a time. After some consultations with my very creative family, I decided that what I really wanted was for the LEDs to pulse randomly inside the raspberry (which also meant a couple of changes to the embroidery design later).

I'd never used a pulse command, but hoped something existed and went to the gpiozero documentation to see if there was something there that I could use. Indeed, I quickly found information on how to pulse an LED. I tested one and had no problem getting it to pulse-- woohoo! Off the top of my head I didn't know how to make an action happen randomly, so I started off by coding my LEDs to pulse one after the other. This looked okay, but program was getting long and messy and it still wasn't exactly what I wanted.

I started googling for the Python commands that would help me pulse my LEDs randomly and wasn't finding what I wanted. Luckily, it didn't take long for me to remember that Ben Nuttall included tutorials on the 'random' commands in his PiCamera worksheets, so I headed to the Raspberry Pi website to look back at the "Getting Started with PiCamera" lesson. I ended up creating a list of my own for the very first time (called 'lights' and which included each of the LEDs I had connected to the Pi) and programming my Pi to randomly pulse an LED from the list in a forever loop. This program ended up doing exactly what I wanted and was, thankfully, a much neater bit of code than I'd started off with!

Step 4
With my code ready to go, I needed to get moving on the bag itself. My grandmother found a pattern we thought might work for a couple of beginners (my grandmother is a very skilled seamstress, and was a great resource for helping someone like me, with a only a couple of sewing projects under her belt, but she'd never done a bag so we wanted to start with something simple). I picked out some fabric I liked and we started working our way through the pattern. Several days into the cutting, pinning and sewing, as we were working through the steps, we realized that the pattern we'd chosen was not as intuitive as we'd hoped and when we hit a wall that we were struggling to get over, I scrapped the half of the bag we had done and started searching out an  easier pattern... on YouTube.

The first video that popped up looked super simple (a pattern from DIYer Loepsie), so, with just a week before ISTE (the first event at which I wanted to be able to use my new blinking bag) I went back to the fabric store and we started again. I had to do a few calculations in order figure out how much material to buy (a good math test for myself!), especially after making one small adjustment to the measurements provided in the video (I used three fabrics instead of two), but otherwise the instructions in the video were super simple to follow (much more so than the original pattern we bought) and in about 3 hours, we had a tote bag made!

Step 5
Several iterations of raspberry
I decided during my electronics tests that rather than place the LEDs around the outside of the embroidered raspberry, I wanted to insert the LEDs inside the raspberry, so I needed to make a couple of adjustments to my embroidery design. I went back into my digital file and erased out some holes in the design where LEDs could be placed. It took a few tries and test runs to get the holes the right size-- not too big, not too small-- and a thread ripper to jab through the material to open up the holes.

Step 6
Once my design was ready, I embroidered the final Raspberry Pi logo onto a swatch of outer fabric to make into pocket for the bag. The size of the swatch was measured with the intention of having enough room to house my Pi Zero W and the jumper cables needed to attach the LEDs onto the pocket.

Adding the pocket onto the bag design turned out to be a pretty simple endeavor. We sewed lining onto the back of the pocket, hemmed the edges and then sewed three sides onto the center of the bag.

Step 7
The final step was to string the LEDs through holes & test the final product. I ended up sliding the LEDs through the holes on the front of the bag and then attaching the cables from the back side of the pocket. This kept the LEDs securely in place and prevented a lot of sliding around.

The first time I connecting everything, I used a 4" female/female cable attached to an 8" male/female cable attached to the LED (mainly because that's what I had in my tool box). With this setup, the cables proved to be too long and took up too much space in the pocket for me to be able to hide everything as neatly as I wanted. With the pocket so tightly packed with equipment, it also made it difficult to maneuver my hand around and get the LEDs secured. So I did have to do a little more shopping; I purchased 8" female to female cables so that all I needed was two jumper cables per LED, rather than four. This proved to be a much cleaner setup, and left enough room for me to squeeze my hand into the pocket and get all of the LEDs connected to the Raspberry Pi.

Step 8
Editing rc.local file
Initially I planned to use VNC viewer and a portable cell battery to run program headless. The cell
battery worked fine, but while at ISTE I tried connecting to VNC viewer to no avail. Not sure if it was the spotty wi-fi network, but this kink in my plans led me to researching how to program my Pi to run a specific program on boot up. This was something I'd tried learning several months back with no luck. Somehow, this time around, and on a time crunch, I was finally able to find the directions in the Raspberry Pi documentation that allowed me to set up my Pi to run my pulsing light program on boot up by adding just one line of additional text to the rc.local file.

Just a couple of hours before the Raspberry Pi Jam at ISTE, I had my blinking tote bag running beautifully!


Friday, June 9, 2017

Intruder Alert Task Cards for Raspberry Pi

I spent the last 6 weeks of school working with two 4th grade classrooms on an introductory physical computing and digital making project with Raspberry Pi. Both classes were studying NGSS topic 4-PS4 on Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer (which covers the properties of waves-- water, light, sound) and one class had recently done a project in which they were tasked with designing a tool that would help humans who are hard of hearing or seeing.

We decided to link our introductory Raspberry Pi project to the work students were doing in science and landed on "Intruder Alert" motion sensor devices. Using the Santa and Parent Detector lessons on the Raspberry Pi website, I created two different versions of this lesson.

Class #1-- Pibrella & Scratch

In the first class we used Scratch, Pibrellas, Motors, Picameras and Motion Sensors. Students had fun programming the components, but unfortunately we quickly broke all the jumper cables on the motors, and motion sensors weren't behaving while connected to the Pibrellas (I still haven't figured out that issue, as the Motion Sensor worked just fine connected through a Pibrella on my personal Raspberry Pi).

Class #2-- Motion Sensors & Python

In the second class, we decided to program using Python, as the classroom teacher felt confident in her students' typing skills and she really wanted those Motion Sensors working. We struggled through a rocky start on day 1, learning how to connect LEDs with jumper cables while following along on a slideshow lesson. Many students were frustrated and becoming disengaged really quickly. And only having three 1-hour sessions with the group, I wanted to make sure that they had some kind of success before the end of our lessons. I decided that students might be more successful if we stated day 2 with breadboards and LEDs already set-up and if they had printed directions for their teams to follow, so I prepped both of those materials for next day's lesson. By the end of day 3, and using our printed task cards (and with the help of the 3 teachers we had in the room), students had motion sensors working, LEDs blinking, Picameras snapping photos, AND Sense HATs scrolling warning messages.

Lesson Resources

Intro to Physical Computing with Pibrella

Intruder Alert with Pibrella

Intruder Alert Task Cards using Python

(I like to print these out, cut them in half, then create a flip book using loose leaf binder rings)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Minecraft Pi Gold Detector hyperdoc lesson

I created this hyperdoc for a 4th grade class using lessons from MagPi's Minecraft Essentials edition and Craig Richardson's Learn to Program with Minecraft book. It was meant to be part of a cross-curricular unit on the gold rush.

Unfortunately, we didn't get through the entire lesson in the time we had for the project, but I decided to share the hyperdoc anyway, in case someone else wants to try it with their class. If you do give this resource a go, I'd love feedback on how it can be improved!

Minecraft Gold Rush Hyperdoc

Monday, May 8, 2017

Speaking Math, part 2: Improving math performance in 4th grade by focusing on language

Recently I partnered with a 4th grade teacher to co-plan & co-teach a fractions unit. The purpose of this partnership was two-fold: I would get some much needed classroom time to experiment with teaching strategies to support our students performing below grade level, and she'd have another teacher in the room to work with groups of students while she worked on implementing a couple of new instructional models that she wanted to get up and running.

Our work together was framed by 3 major goals:
  • Improving language support in math & language acquisition for students
  • Develop strategies for differentiation (through the lens of UDL & by integrating blended learning models)
  • Improve confidence, grit, and independent problem solving skills in students
Language in mathematics has been a struggle for not just our English language learners, but for all of our learners. This year, I've worked with a handful of teachers on using explicit language instruction in math lessons to help improve math performance. 

Small group work
Has our work been successful? Well, in just 4 weeks, about 50% of 4th graders (many of whom were performing 2 grades or more below grade level) showed growth in the Numbers & Base Ten math strand (based on iReady data) and, as reported by the classroom teacher, students' language has improved immensely as they not only continue to use their math vocabulary more confidently during math time (including students who didn't used to participate in the past, but now feel safer to do so during Number Talks), but also in other content areas and situations, as they make connections related to the math language they've learned.

How'd we do it?

Instructional Practices Reimagined :
Started implementing number talks regularly as lesson opener--
  • This mental math activity is a natural opportunity for students to practice academic language as they're required to explain their thinking and defend their responses orally (Math Practice Standard 3)
  • We also wanted students to practice accountable talk & listening skills, so we started every number talk with a 2 minute review of sentence stems that students could choose to use when speaking, as well as sign language they could use to agree or disagree silently while others were sharing
  • Students needed to practice multiplication skills, so rather then assign more flashcards or fact practice websites, our number talks were around multiplication equations, with a focus on helping students develop stronger conceptual understanding, number sense (flexibility with numbers), and place value understanding
  • We also used this time to work with students on thinking creatively in math and determining strategies for solving problems
Living word wall
Language supports built into lessons daily--
  • During number talks and mini-lessons on new content, we embedded explicit instruction in key math vocabulary for the day. 
  • Each mini-lesson started with a review of the day's learning target, which included vocabulary analysis 
  • Our goal was to teach to multiple modalities, so vocabulary instruction included:
    • Visuals
    • Choral reading
    • Total Physical Response (TPR)
    • Hands-on, realia and/or modeling of definition
    • Sentence stems/frames & vocab card reviews
    • Word wall prominently displayed and referenced during number talks and lessons
Begin Implementation of Blended Instruction--
Flipped lessons
  • Teacher used EdPuzzle to flip instruction with interactive videos (shared to students via Google Classroom)
  • Reflex Math and Zearn were also thrown into the mix from time to time
  • Students were grouped into heterogenous groupings based on data from a unit pre-assessment (custom built around 2-3 essential standards using Illuminate)
    • Teacher worked through practice problems with small groups
    • Others worked independently on their flipped lesson and were encouraged to ask groupmates questions first to keep teacher table time uninterrupted
Multiple Means of Representation (UDL)--
  • Transfer of learning occurs when students are able to make connections among and between concepts; stronger connections are made when multiple representations are presented or accessed
  • Content was regularly presented in visual, auditory and kinesthetic formats
  • Seesaw was also implemented as a tool for: 
    • Allowing students to share their thinking in a variety of formats (text, video, audio, drawing, etc.)... and as a way for the teacher to collect daily formative assessment data that could be quickly analyzed and used to guide planning of the next day's lesson
    • Giving more timid students, or those unsure of their language skills, a safe place to share their thinking instead of having to speak up in front of the whole class (when Seesaw was used during number talks in lieu of whole class discussion, student participation went from about 25% to 100%)

Outcomes & Successes

  • Number Talks & Fraction Talks
    • Students loved the number talks and looked forward to them each day
    • Often these number talks turned into teachable moments and mini-lessons, and served as a great form of formative assessment
    • LOVE hearing students use the accountable talk already
    • Students who don't normally participate in math & participating and excited
  • Hands-on math
  • Using fraction strips & vocab cards
    • Students performed better on math problems when given opportunities to touch, move, manipulate physical items (in our case, fraction strips)
  • Students are slowly becoming more confident problem solvers
    • We trained the students to use the lesson input charts, number talk posters and flipped lesson videos as resources when they get stuck during independent work time
    • They also use the word wall to help themselves read instructions that previously they would get stuck on
  • Seesaw
    • Students LOVE Seesaw & were motivated to participate in math when using the tool
    • Quiet students felt more comfortable sharing their ideas when recorded into Seesaw
    • Daily exit tickets were easy to manage and quickly assess when posted in Seesaw
  • Students' attitudes about math improved!
    • And as attitudes improved, perseverance improved
    • Comments overheard during our revamped unit:
      • "I love math!"
      • "I almost gave up on myself, but I didn't and then I figured it out!"
      • "That started out hard today, but then I got it and it was actually kind of easy!"

Next Steps

  • Differentiate Flipped Content
    • Now that students are used to the blended routine, it would be great to move from all students receiving the same content to pushing out differentiated content to the different level groups 
  • Integrate Collaborative Work and/or Hands-on Exploration into Blended Work
    • In order to train students on the blended model, and to ensure that teacher table time was uninterrupted, students mainly worked quietly on digital tasks during this first iteration of blended instruction
    • Important next steps would be to integrate opportunities for math talk and hands-on learning into collaborative/independent work time away from teacher table
  • Build in Student Choice
    • Student choice is one of the three principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and refers to the practice of giving students choice in how they express their learning; students get to "show what they know" in a way that's most comfortable for them
    • Guided choice (in the form of choice menus or similar) can be used in the beginning to help students figure out what format they are most comfortable using

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Intro to RaspberryPi Physical Computing Task Cards

A couple of week's ago my district hosted our 3rd Annual STEAM Showcase-- a festival of student STEM, music and art presentations, as well as hands-on learning and activities led by students, teachers and community partners.

I setup a hands-on Pi-Top station in our coding playground and wanted students and parents to be able to experience an introduction to physical computing with the Raspberry Pi, so I created self-guided "Physical Computing with Scratch" task cards and set up the breadboards ahead of time. Families had so much fun programming LEDs, buttons and PiCameras in Scratch that the last attendees didn't leave until almost an hour after the event!

Below is a link to the cards I created, including the Python version. Enjoy! And check back later, as I I plan to update the task cards in the coming months with a couple more activities. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Culture, Relationships & Innovation-- Reflecting on CUE17

Culture, relationships and innovation were three of the prevailing themes at this year's CUE conference, and the ones that resonated most with me during my time in Palm Springs.

From design thinking to personalized learning, digital storytelling to STEM, UDL to the arts, the common thread running through most presentations this year was that relationships and culture are the backbone of innovation in our educational systems. 

I think Thomas Murray wrapped it up best in his session on the last day of CUE-- "Innovation cannot happen in a toxic culture."

Toxicity is non-issue at CUE events, and as such, the innovation & ideas seem to endlessly flow over the course of our 4 days at CUE National. Surrounding myself with positive, passionate, like-minded people always seems to unleash my creativity.

On a similar note, Taylor Mali compared CUE National to the Blind Melon music video, "No Rain"-- "When I'm with teachers, I feel like I've found my community of bee people."

People and relationships are indeed my favorite experience at a CUE conference-- being around my bee people or, (as Jon Corippo likes to call us) my fellow lone nuts, had me re-energized and inspired by week's end. Whether it was participating in the inaugural TOSA Playground, or the impromptu Raspberry Jam that my #Picademy friends and I were able to arrange on the fly, being with my tribe always reminds me why I do what I do.

So how, then, does that all translate back to my school sites and district? 

For me, I think that's where empathy comes in. Both Jo Boaler and George Couros centered their keynotes around innovation via empathy. As a Teacher on Special Assignment (or ToSA), developing relationships with the teachers I support is key, and being able to empathize is a major part of the work that I do for, and alongside, my teachers.

This, however, is not the same as succumbing to the naysaying and negativity that can sometimes run rampant in staff rooms. On the contrary, this means empathizing with how others might be feeling and using that information to shift the conversations and emotions in the room. As we talk about innovating education, we have to think first about the culture at our sites and in our district. Thomas Murray reminded us that it's everyone's responsibility to set the culture of a classroom, site and school district. It is a culture of creativity, problem-solving, and support that will breed innovation.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Future Meteorologists-- Building & Programming Digital Weather Stations in 5th Grade

Recently a 5th grade teacher asked if we could use the Raspberry Pi to have students build something for their weather unit in science. With all of the weather happening in California this year-- and damage due to flooding, mudslides, potholes, collapsing roads, and more-- weather is very much a relevant topic for us right now.

Using SH pinout map to connect
Excited about the idea of connecting our project to current issues in our community, I thought a digital weather station would be appropriate, built around the essential question, "Why is it helpful for a community to be able to predict coming weather?"

I worked with a small group of students who, after some whole group exposure to programming with Raspberry Pi, were some of the students most interested in doing more coding & physical computing work. We used the Sense HAT with its built in, and easy to program, sensors so it was just a matter of helping the 5th graders program the HAT to collect some atmospheric data, share that data on the LED matrix and then decide what other features to include.

At the start of our project, we hit one major set back-- trying to figure out how to connect the Sense HAT to the Pi without, 1-- sliding it directly onto the GPIOs (the heat of the Pi itself interferes with the temperature sensors on the Sense HAT) and 2-- without using up all of the GPIO pins (the students were using a really nice Raspberry Pi touch screen display, that needs two pins for power). I decided to have students use individual jumper cables to connect their Sense HAT to the Pi, but it took me a long time to figure out how to do this properly, and that set us back a week or so. Once I finally figured out how to set this up, I created a pinout map for the students to use and we were on our way again!

Students planning their LED pictures
I played around with the idea of having certain weather pictures show up on the LED matrix depending on the current air pressure-- a sort of weather prediction (not the most accurate, but we used the average San Jose air pressure as a benchmark and had certain pictures show up based on higher or lower air pressure readings). The students liked that idea, so we moved forward. To help students understand the way the LED matrix works, I created a planning doc that students used on their own time to "draw" their pictures ahead of time, plan their variables and record RGB codes so they were ready to write those into their code with me.

Students also wanted to include the Sense HAT joystick into their project somehow, to make it a bit more interactive, so we added a line of code to make a joystick press the event that would run the program (actually, this is only partially working the way that we want, so it's still a work in progress).

This being their 3rd Raspberry Pi/coding in Python project, I wanted students to be able to work more independently this time, with their teacher and I acting more as coaches. I put together a hyperdoc that students could use to try and walk through the project themselves, including both science resources about weather concepts (science images & media courtesy PBS & PBS LearningMedia site) and step-by-step directions for writing the code.

Next steps for this project-- we made sure to have all collected data print in the shell window in addition to the LED matrix so that students could collect the data at the end of each day in order to
organize, analyze and graph the information.

Their classroom teacher also wanted to make sure that students focused not just on their final project, but also on the learning process and reflecting on failures that finally led to their success. We asked students to keep track of the challenges they met along the way (which were numerous) and I included independent reflection opportunities within the hyperdoc.

As always, it was great to see the kids so excited about their completed project, once we got everything up and running. Next steps are preparing students to share their work and process at our district's upcoming STEAM showcase!

If you want to try this project with your students, below is a link to the hyperdoc that we used. Feel free to make a copy and edit it to meet your own needs.

(click link above to view/make copy of original document)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sense Hat pinout for Raspberry Pi

Recently I wanted to attached a Sense Hat to my Raspberry Pi without using all 40 GPIO pins. My plan was to attach an additional output device to the pins to use at the same time as the Sense Hat. I'd also read that if I was going to use the temperature sensor on the Sense Hat, the temperature of the computer itself tends to interfere with the temperature readings of the atmosphere when the Hat is plugged directly onto the GPIO pins.

One option-- buy a pin header with extra long pins. Easy access to GPIOs! As I mentioned above, though, if you want to use the Sense Hat for reading the temperature, the Pi itself can interfere when your Hat is too close to the Pi board. If you don't need any of the other GPIO pins, it is also easy enough to use a GPIO cable extender to connect your Sense Hat without attaching it directly onto the Pi itself.

But, if you want to attach additional outputs to your Raspberry Pi, using all 40 pins for the Sense Hat can be a bit of an inconvenience. The good news is, the Sense Hat really only needs 11 of the pins in order to work-- the trick is knowing which ones!

As I started Googling around, a number of people recommended just using the Sense Hat schematics to figure it all out. If you are an electronics novice, though, like I am, the schematics can be tricky to navigate. is a helpful site and got me close, but unfortunately, the Pinout site did not include 2 crucial pins in their diagram (I think assuming those with more experience would already know to include those). Luckily, I found some help from the Raspberry Pi community on the official website discussion forum. From there, I created my own diagram to help me remember which specific pins I needed in order to use my Sense Hat without using up all 40 GPIO pins.

That diagram is below for your use!

(It does not matter which 3.3V, 5V or ground pins you use just as long as you include those.)

What it looks like all hooked up: