Friday, 30 January 2015

TinkerCad 3D Printing

I am very excited to be doing some 3D printing work with both Grade 6 and Grade 8 students over the next month or two. Although we don't have a 3D printer there are plenty of places online to print 3D objects. Many of the sites I looked at for designing were problematic to me - they were either something you had to download, they were not really free, (you had to upgrade to save objects as 3D printable files) and they were not child friendly - TinkerCad however is!

If you have not designed any objects for 3D printing before have a play with TinkerCad. It is super easy to use and you can create some really fun and interesting objects with it. Here's how:

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Lego, Gender and Advertising

Grade 10 recently completed a unit on Lego, Gender and Advertising. This was a great unit and really stirred up a lot of great conversation between students. The two summative pieces of work were they own Lego Billboard Poster and an Essay either supporting or criticising Lego Friends.

We started off the unit by looking at the history of Lego, and focussing on it as a construction toy. Here we watched The Culture Show's episode on Lego and Architecture. After this we looked at a huge variety of different sets available in Lego, including traditional sets like Lego City and Lego Castles through to the more modern sets like Lego Friends, Star Wars Lego and Lego Architecture. Once again we used Lego Brick stacking as a way to show their personal preference, (doing this means that all students are actively involved).

We also spoke about the Lego brand and what it means to each student. They looked at many Lego adverts and discussed if they remain loyal to the brand, showing all the things the students liked about Lego too. It was really interesting to hear their opinions and to see which adverts they loved and hated. It also started up a lot of great conversation and debate! We also looked at lots of adverts for other big brands, focussing on Guerrilla and location advertising. Students delivered a presentation on three adverts they had found - I couldn't believe how creative the adverts my students found were!

 Something else students enjoyed was comparing these four Lego adverts. We focussed on who appeared in the adverts, the language and what the videos say about the Lego brand.

We then looked at the controversy surrounding the Lego Friends series, sparked by the following letter. We listened to the podcast by Pop Stuff, (How Stuff Works) called Pop Stuff Plays with Legos and also watched the controversial Feminist Frequency Lego Videos, (Part 1 and Part 2). My students were great at unpicking the information, analysing the sources and taking things said with a big pinch of salt!

We watched various Lego Friends adverts and looked through their product list. Students did a lot of additional research and created some fantastic essays. Some were for Lego Friends and some were against. Most of them had primary research and some of them had looked at the changes in the Lego Friends brand over time. I was very proud of the work they did and wanted to leave you with some quotes from their essays. To see a full list of quotes click here. To see my unit present click here.

Key quotes from student essays on Lego Friends:

Michele Yulo noted after comparing toy advertisement that "In the commercials for girls there is often a lot of giggling narrated by a high-pitched female whose tone usually borders on squeaky and flowery. The music is typically bouncy and light." While "commercials featuring boy products are laden with heavy metal guitar rhythms and hard, rhythmic sounds in the background along with a male narrator who has a deep, sometimes dark gritty voice."

Even though the LEGO Friends theme is deeply stereotypical it does have some merits.The Friends theme emphasis on sharing, relationship building, cooperation and nurturing which are all important values, but these values are entirely absent in LEGO themes aimed at boys.

Now you maybe wonder why everyone is against pink? I personally agree with Rachel Giordano answer to that question: “Because gender segmenting toys interferes with a child’s own creative expression. Let’s give all children a world of play that includes all colors and all possibilities, and let’s market it that way”

As the University of Maryland historian Jo Paoletti argues “Because the pink­for­a­girl, blue­for­a­boysocial norms only set in during the 20th century in the United States, they cannot possibly stem from any evolved differences between boys' and girls' favorite colors” (Wolchover,2012).

A study conducted by the National Eating Disorders Association, a shocking 42 percent of girls in first through third grade already want to be thinner. (Kelly, 2004) They are brought up to believe this is the way they must look according to society, and the slimming down and sexualisation of the LEGO® Friends dolls are only contributing to this.

This diagram above clearly demonstrates the unnecessary sexualisation and “BarbieTM­tised”makeovers given to the dolls featured in the LEGO® Friends sets. Next to each doll shows what the figures might’ve looked like if kept in style with the rest of the LEGO® universe.

LEGO® play does not only aid with development, but can also provide an advantage to children with the concepts and skills related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. “Legos are a good introduction to communicating ideas with physical objects,” notes Tiffany Tseng, “Putting things together and taking them apart got me interested in how things work, and by the time I was an undergraduate, I knew I wanted to be an engineer.” (Tseng, 2012).

I believe that LEGO® should stop trying to exclusively market to either gender but return to their original approach of a unisex toy for all. This would not only benefit LEGO®’s profits, but also help move our society to a more open­minded one when it comes to gender association with products. LEGO® is a world class product and company, if The Lego Group took these actions, many other companies in the market would follow suit. It would expose more girls to playing alongside boys with toys that stimulates spatial reasoning, creativity and problem solving, thus start a knock on effect of motivating girls to get more involved in the STEM subjects to name an example. As Cate Blanchett’s said when accepting her Academy Award for Best Actress in 2014 “The World is Round People!”

According to The Day, “Guns, cars and war games leave boys feeling it is important to be ‘macho’, while girls who play with tiaras and tea sets are made to think they should focus on their looks,and caring for others.” Women amount to 13% of all science, technology and engineering roles.“Toy manufacturers should stop pressurising children into seeing themselves in such limited ways.” (February, 2014)

“The position of lifeguard has been portrayed and carried out by both women and men in media and in everyday life. And if that doesn’t do it for you, what about ‘Olivia's Invention Workshop?’ If we changed the name to ‘Harolds Invention Workshop’ the only difference would be Harold, the only aspect that makes the either one masculine or feminine is the names. Or what about ‘Emma’s Karate Class?’ This actually involves fighting, a theme commonly found in the “Boys”lego sets”

“To segregate and separate girls into their own pastel coloured niche, was never the right approach. The thing LEGO need to do is to include girls in advertising for all regular LEGO set and include more female minifigs characters into their themes in a meaningful way.”

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

2015 Tech Challenge

Awesome poster created by Urban Teacher!
So far I have completed 20 out of 22!  I am determined to get all of these ticked off so have to complete a MOOC lesson and create a Microsoft Sway - will do so this week.

I am going to make some similar versions of this with Rob. Possibly one for librarians, another for teachers using Google Apps for Education, a risk taking sheet and a STEM/STEAM sheet.

Thanks Mark for always being an inspiration. Have a look at his Hidden Talent website and get involved by joining the Urban Teacher network.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

BETT2015 Highlights Part 1

Once again I did not get to spend as much time as I wanted at BETT this year, but I still saw a lot of wonderful things. I went briefly on Thursday to do a talk about coding, then spent a good four hours there yesterday with my partner Rob, my colleague Elani and the world's cutest baby. I have a bag full of free swag, badges, leaflets and posters to sort through, but wanted to make a post about some of the highlights.

Firstly it was really nice to catch up with people I knew from Lego Education, Raspberry Pi and Britannica Schools and was great to meet some people from Kahoots and BrainPop. Even though we area already using these in our school it is always nice to hear new ideas and to share what we have been doing in the classroom. It also has reinvigorated me and given me new ideas - I'm even attending a Raspberry Pi Jam today with Elani to pick up some more ideas! The only negative thing about BETT is that attending on a Saturday is always a bit dry - the exhibitors are always worn out and actually the centre is pretty dead - I think a lot of people are given time from their schools to go, but not many people take the initiative or want to spend their own time at BETT-which is such a shame, because even just walking around is such great inspiration and helps you develop as an educator.

The only frustrating thing about BETT is sometimes you come across incredible products...but they fit perfectly with units you have just completed. This is how I feel about a new product Kidesign3D. From my BETT2014 Highlights post I spoke about wanting to use a 3D printer for a town planning unit and I am also right now in the middle of this unit, (though without a 3D printer).
Kidesign3D have designed a fantastic curriculum pack to help students use a 3D printer in a meaningful way and to enable collaboration across your whole class! Students are given cards describing the building they have to create, then build it, print it and then as a class they plan out their town. Although we still don't have a 3D printer, I think I am going to run this anyway and print it off site!

(Apologies for the blurriness) Here are some of the great cards. They had great illustrations on them and none of them showed you a building, so students were 100% free to design whatever they wanted.
As a teacher you get the base plate, cards, teaching resources, including lesson plans and videos. Students get their own packs with info about their building and more. You can re-use the kits each year.

The towns slot together beautifully! This actually reminded me of a few board games, like Settlers of Catan and Survive, so gave me more inspiration for my board game unit, (another unit I have just completed, but would like a 3D printer for one day). These models were designed by a Year 5 class and were wonderfully detailed and creative. Also as I will have to print off site, this would be very cheap to do, because the items are pretty small. Also they seem to be offering workshops in schools - I've contacted them about this and will write up a post if I get them into the school.

Anyway - this was by far my favourite thing I saw at BETT. They have just launched this weekend and I wish them all the success in the world - I really thing it has a lot of great potential!

Another stall we spent a far bit of time on was the Grok Learning. Elani and I are keen to do a lot more coding with the students and this seems like a great solution, because students can work through courses at their own level and at their own pace, allowing for easy differentiation - it also enables those students who are overtaking us to do that easily! They also run international competitions, so students can compete with other students across the world easily. At the moment these run in August, (because they are an Australian company-this is not summer holidays for them) and again in November. They may start running the competitions more, but as you have a teacher dashboard where you can monitor your students' progress, it should be easy enough to run your own. We were given a free trial of this, so I am going to test it out with a couple of students and I'll work through the courses myself.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Sharing is Caring - Resource Lists

I know most librarians create LibGuides on a web page, but I have created most of my resource lists using Google Apps for Education. This means I can make copies for other librarians and educators and it also allows me to easily edit them from any device, anywhere. In the future I can also share them with others to collaborate on. Please feel free to make copies of the lists below and please make suggestions for things to add!

The News
This list has news sites from across the world, in a variety of languages. The list includes independent and government owned sites, as well as national and local press. I have also tried to include news sites from around the world that are in English. I think it is important to have students access this information so when they can get many global perspectives on an event. I also hope it helps students feel connected to places they have lived before and helps them with the language studies or to maintain their mother tongue. This list is obviously something which could grow and grow and I will continue adding to this over the next few months!

Databases and Archives
Some of these need passwords to access - the passwords are on a separate document and you must have a Halcyon Log in to access them, but there are plenty of links which don't require log ins. This includes everything from World Bank Data to the National Archives. I will be working on growing this list too, so that it contains archives and databases from across the world and to support all subjects and topics!

Video Learning
Anyone who knows me knows that I like too be busy and I am always multi-taking. I find that learning through videos helps me a lot and I am sure it can help my students, mainly because you can do several things at once. I like to watch these videos while I cook or get ready in the morning, and through them have learnt all sorts of strange things from the ways frogs see in space through to why we are ticklish! I often use videos for homework or to kick off a lesson and have found this list invaluable! I recently shared a Crash Course video about the Great Gatsby with a former student and they loved it so much, that when I shared this list with them they became extremely giddy!

Educational Games and Apps
This started off as a list of games, but because so many apps are games, it grew and grew. I have been trying to use gaming more in my classroom and have been having a lot of success with Kahoots and SimCityEdu. This is the list I am focussing on the most, as I have been reading a huge amount about the benefits of gaming in the classroom and have been seeing the impact it can have first hand!

Hopefully those are useful for everyone.
Please let me know if you have any great resources I should add!

Friday, 9 January 2015

Town Planning - SimCityEdu Tutorial

Unit Overview

I am doing a unit on Town Planning for MYP Design with my Grade 7s and I could not be more enthusiastic about it. Town planing may not sound like the most exciting unit, but believe me it is!

Students will be designing their own towns and will have a lot of criteria to meet. They will have to look at various city systems, from buses to recycling, as well as the needs and wants of the residents, they will decide on their town's main industry,  have to make sure there are enough jobs, homes and schools for everyone and they will have to take into consideration the town's age and geographical features. I think students will find the most fun part will be naming their town and adding in all the little details. I am pretty sure they will  start wanting  to name their towns after themselves and will probably add in far too many leisure and entertainment centres and will of course focus on the needs of young people, but will develop their cities into a great space for all!

We are going to compare an old and new town, (probably an area of London, compared to Milton Keynes) and we are going to look at Celebration, Florida, a town created and originally maintained by Disney! Studio 360 from PRI and WNYC produced a fantastic podcast with an episode called "American Icons: Disney Parks". In this they study Celebration and speak to some of the residents. The podcast itself is wonderfully informative and beautiful to listen to, (as it is full of great sound effects and edited wonderfully), so I will have to use the Celebration section with the students.

Students are most excited about the tools we are going to use, Minecraft and SimCityEdu! Students will be able to design their finished town on Minecraft, (some will opt to do it on paper), and will also produce a poster/leaflet to promote their town! Throughout the start of the unit students will also complete challenges on SimCityEdu, to get them to understand the different requirements town planners and councils must take into consideration when planning and running a town.

We started on SimCityEdu yesterday and they loved it! The game is easy to set up and navigate, but still challenges the students. It also teachers them valuable lessons, like how to create an efficient bus service, while still looking, feeling and sounding like a normal video game. Yesterday students completed a challenge to create the most efficient bus service for their town. All students completed the challenge, with varying levels of success, (measured in bronze, silver and gold medals) and every single student went on to repeat them game to try and create an even more effective system!

GlassLabGames provide great teaching resources for SimCityEdu, not only telling you how and why to play the game, but giving you a range of activities to do before and after the activity. Usually I ignore these sort of resources, as I often use tools and games not in the way they were intended, but these were perfect.

Please watch my video, as I explain what we did and how. This is such a great game for students and I encourage you to try it out too!

SimCityEdu Tutorial

P.S. In the video I said Grade 8, but meant Grade 7!