Help Needed: Robotics Triathlon Ideas

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Clint Hamada

I’ve been thinking for a while about how I’m going to structure my upcoming (and first ever) robotics unit here at YIS. The other night, as I was laying in bed around midnight, I had a spark of inspiration.

First, a little backstory…

Last year we purchased 10 EV3 kits and decided the best starting place was to introduce a middle school activity. The kids who participated really got into it and we did well at our local Robo Sumo Friendly, sweeping the the top 3 places! We’ve continued the middle school activity this year and have our sights set on the next round of Sumo!

Last year I also attended the EARCOS Weekend Workshop on Robotics at TAS and have been thinking long and hard how I can incorporate units of robotics into our MYP Design classes (rather than full-on robotics classes). We are limited by space and resources here at YIS and are trying to find ways to get our foot in the door of robotics.

I have just ordered another 14 core kits, which should give me enough robots to put Grade 9 students into of 3 or 4.

I’ve been looking for a way for students to be able to work both collaboratively and independently. My initial thought was to have each group build a simple base robot (such as the Riley Rover) and then get each member to write their own programs to complete a quest. I could never quite sort it all out in my head though.

Back to my idea…

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Clint Hamada

Last night I thought about creating a team challenge. (I’m still not 100% sure how I will assess it in the MYP flavor, so don’t ask me about that yet!). What if the students competed in a Robotics Triathlon? Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • The three events will be based on speed (a timed 10 meter drag race), strength (a mini sumo tournament), and intelligence (completing an unknown maze challenge).
    • The speed challenge will be focused on engineering and using gear ratios to improve performance.
    • The strength challenge will be focused on design, possible use of gears to improve torque, and simple programming to stay on the board and to seek out opponents.
    • The intelligence challenge will be focused on programming and using the sensors in combination.
  • Each team will work to design three variations of the base robot for each event.
  • Each team will work to code three programs for each event.
  • Each team will be given access to the full array of sensors (ultrasonic, touch, color, gyro) and motors (2 large, 1 medium) to use as the wish.
  • A scoring system will be devised to determine a class champion. Since I teach three sections, we can then have a Tournament of Champions at lunchtime once the class champions are determined.
  • For the final evaluation, teams will need to give a 5 – 10 minute presentation on their robot, their design and programming choices, and what they would do differently now that they are done.

It’s still not a fully fledged unit, so I need your help. Can you give me any suggestions or feedback on the events that I’ve chosen? Any ideas on how I could assess this, both as a group grade and as individual grades? Any links to resources that I might find useful, or that my students can use to help build and program their bots? I’ve still got a few weeks but your help is greatly appreciated!

Thanks to the conversations that I’ve already had on Twitter. Frank Hua has suggested some sort of robot soccer game (possibly controlled via the iPad EV3 app) and Geoff Derry has suggested a color block challenge. Jeff Layman is in on the maze idea and I’m interested to hear what he’s done in his MYP classes with the EV3s.

The Dragon’s Arcade

The Dragon’s Arcade

When I started at YIS, I knew there were certain things I wanted to get involved with: 3D printing; robotics; programming. I’m happy to say that, after my first year, all three of those things are well on their way!

At the start of the second semester, my Grade 9 students embarked on a journey to learn some basics of programming. Most of them had never even considered coding and were only introduced to it through the Hour of Code. There were a few who had taught themselves the basics of JavaScript, and a few others who had taken a course at a previous school or at a summer camp. By and large though, we were all novices!

We started with the question “How can we create a simple computer game that keeps the needs of the user in mind?” I really wanted to focus on the concept of designing for the user rather than the creator so I came up with the idea of creating educational computer games for the students in our Kindergarten. You can read a detailed version of the process that we went through in order to complete this unit on my school blog. One of the highlights of the process was bringing  the Grade 9 students into the Kindergarten to interview their potential clients and get an idea of what they were learning and what their interests were. There is nothing better than seeing the interaction between the high school and lower elementary students in your school!

The culminating celebration for this project was The Dragon’s Arcade. We invited all of the Kindergarten and Grade 1 students up to the high school to play the games that the students have spent the last 2 months creating. There were math games, spelling games, telling time games, music games, art games, all kinds of games! (I’ve add all of them to a Scratch Studio if you want to check them out.) It was a great opportunity for the Grade 9s to celebrate their learning and their creations.

I’m now wondering, besides repeating this unit again next year, what’s next? Where do we go from here in order to build on this experience? App building? Arduino/Pi programming? Any and all suggestions are welcome!

I’ve added a few photos of the day here. You can also check out the entire album on Google+. Below the photos, I’ve embedded a couple of games that I was really impressed with. If you get a chance, it would be great if you could leave them a comment or two! (You can find all the games here.)

Shin shares his game

 

A table of fun!
Rohan helps a Grade 1 student
Jennifer shares with the kindergarteners


The Math Tower


Underwater Music Quest


Baseball Math

Blog Importification

I love having smart friends.

As UNIS Hanoi moves towards a school-wide blogging platform I’ve been looking for ways to make life easier for teachers wanting to implement blogging in class. One of the big questions I’ve had  has been “How can teachers get only the information that they want/need?”

What stuck in my mind was a comment that I heard in passing back at Learning 2.010. Somebody (who???) mentioned using Google Spreadsheets to build RSS feeds. Since most school URLs are predictable, that sounded easy enough. It turned into my own personal Fermat’s Last Theorem though. What seemed easy turned out to take me a few years to solve and then only with the help of my aforementioned smart friend.

@zomoco has rigged up a Blog Importificator for me. Here’s how it works:

  • Teachers create a class list using Outlook contact groups and send that to me. (In the future, this information could also be pulled out of our student information system.)
  • Teachers also tell me what category they want the students to use in their blog posts (grades 6 – 10 use MYP subject related categories that have been pre-loaded on each blog; grades 11 and 12 create the category they are going to use) as well as what grade level the students are in (our blog addresses are dependent upon graduation year for ease of maintenance).
  • I erase the header from the text file they sent me so there are two columns of data: student name and student email/username. I then upload this text file to the Importificator, fill in the category slug, the folder name and the graduation year.
  • The Importificator spits out an OPML file that can then be imported into Google Reader, Outlook or just about any other RSS reader.

From the time I receive the class list to the time teachers are subscribed to all of the blog posts in that specific category: about 2 minutes!

While this particular version of the Importificator is very UNIS Hanoi specific, @zomoco has released his code over at GitHub licensed under ASL and CC BY NC SA. If you use it, please be sure to drop him a tweet and say thanks!

One day, after a few more lessons at Codecademy, I hope I’ll be able to modify the code myself!

Is there a better/easier way of doing this? What do you do at your school to help teachers with their blogging students?

Electronic MYP Gradebooks

As I explain over on my ‘other’ blog, I’ve never been very happy with how electronic gradebooks deal with criterion-based assessment, particularly as it relates to the MYP. So over the years I gradually developed my own for my math classroom using Excel and a few macros. Since then I’ve created versions for most if not all of the MYP subject groups. (Downloads below as .xlsm files (Excel 2007/2010 macro enabled))

Each gradebook should use the correct criteria and attainment levels for your subject so make sure you download the right one. If there is a mistake, or if there isn’t one for your subject, let me know and I’ll try and fix it ASAP.

I’ve also created a few short screencasts using Screenr on how I envision the gradebooks being used. (If you click on the full screen icon, it’s much easier to see!) Because I believe sharing makes things better, feel free to hack away at these and adjust them for your own use. Because I see these as being covered by a Creative Commons license (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-Alike) all I ask for in return is that you attribute me, you don’t make any money off of them and you share what you create as well!

Adding Assessments to the Gradebook

Determining Quarter Scores

Collecting Formative and ATL Data

Gradebook Downloads

MYP Arts

MYP English

MYP Language A

MYP Language B

MYP Mathematics

MYP Humanities

MYP Science

MYP Science PILOT

MYP PE

MYP Technology

The New and Improved Personal Project

I’m just finishing my 9th year in an MYP school. In that time I have supervised my fair share of personal projects. A few have been fantastic, a few have been shocking, but the vast majority have been average at best. With the release of new guidelines for the personal project comes a chance for us to reinvent how we introduce and, ultimately, get the students to think about the personal project.

When Andrea Law, our MYP Coordinator, and I started talking about this, we decided we needed to find a way to get the students to invest themselves in this year-long project and truly make it personal. Too often in the past students chose topics that they thought would be easy or help them get a good grade rather than one that they truly cared about.

Instead of starting with an Area of Interaction (AoI, which, to be honest, they don’t always truly understand), we asked the students to identify problems that they see in their world around them. They could be huge global problems like poverty; they could be problems based on their community like friends not truly understanding the importance of the Tet holiday; they could be individual problems like not having enough space in your room for your stereo and computer.

Once they identified a few problems, students were asked to write down their personal connection to each of those problems. Why did they matter? Possible links to AoIs were established here as well.

Once personal connections were identified, students began thinking about a solution: what could they make or do in order to address the problem. After conferencing with their peers, students then came up with the topic for their personal project.

All of the information about how they came up with their topic (problem, connection, AOI, and solution) was submitted by survey by each of the students. Teachers then read each description (without student names) and signed up to be supervisors based on their own interests as well.

Andrea, Joyce the librarian, and I just spent the morning rotating between the three homerooms talking about important aspects of the personal project students need to address over the summer: organizational details and meeting with supervisors; information literacy and evaluating sources; and the process journal and blogs.

I’m really excited by the quality of the topics that were decided upon by the students. I could immediately tell that the problem solving  approach has made the whole concept of the personal project much more accessible. I think we’ve also helped the students choose topics that they are really interested in. This will have such huge impact on how the view this year-long process!

Image:
Devojka mala AttributionNoncommercial by Sebastian Adanko

Two Days in Yokohama

I’m currently sitting in one of my old haunts – Starbucks in Kichijoji, one of the places where my now-wife and I use to hang out when we first met!

I’ve just spent the past two days at Yokohama International School working with and getting to know a good number of their teachers as they prepare for their Connected Learning Community this coming August.

We spent a lot of time discussing blogs, Google Apps, portfolios, assessment and good teaching practice. I even managed to get involved in a few MYP discussions!

I’ll have a lot more to say on the experience over the next week or so but my fingers are currently getting numb as I sit out on the patio enjoying the blue sky (and cold wind!). Thanks again to Kim Cofino for the chance to work and learn with a great bunch of teachers. And welcome to some new teachers in my PLN, including Brian Farrell, librarian; Adam Clark, counselor; Adam Seldis, Econ and Humanities teacher.

Expanding My Horizons

Excuse me for some gratuitous self-indulgence. It will be brief, I promise!

I’m so stoked to be heading to Yokohama International School in about a week to help with their in-house professional development on:

  • reverse instruction
  • developing a networked classroom through the use of Learning Hub blogging portal
  • understanding how to mix and match web 2.0 tools
  • authentically embedding technology in an MYP environment.

It will be amazing to work with Kim and to spend a day watching and learning how technology facilitation/coaching is implemented in other settings.

I’ve given plenty of workshops to my colleagues at UNIS, but this is my first time working with another school. Needless to say, I’m both a bit nervous and extremely excited!

Image Credit: A Perfect Morning By Extra Medium licensed under CC BY NC ND

Planning for Passion

As so often happens, it started with a tweet:

My response:

For fear of turning into its biggest fanboy, this is one of the things that I love about the MYP. The focus is more on unit planning rather than lesson planning. The focus is not on presenting your content in a specific order; it’s on engaging and connecting with the students.

Everybody (I hope) has a curriculum document that states the content standards that need to be covered. But is there any reason why that needs to be the focus of your unit, with intermittent and ancillary connections made to things that matter to your or your students? Why not start with the things that matter to the students? Ask questions, provoke discussion and debate, get the students invested into the class, all the while knowing where you as a teacher want to end up. That’s what I mean by planning for passion.

Trans v. Inter Disciplinary – A Visual Guide

I’ve been busy preparing for my upcoming MYP workshop in Mathematics and I’ve been getting all ‘Presentation Zen‘ on the slides. Yes, it adds to the amount of preparation (I could just use some ‘canned slides’ for all workshop leaders) but this way

  • gives me ownership of the content
  • makes me really think about what I’m presenting
  • allows me to make something that I’m proud of
  • will be more helpful to my participants (I hope).

One of the ideas that I was really struggling to present was the difference between transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary teaching and learning. I realized it was because I didn’t fully understand the nuances of them myself!

So, with the help of Twitter (@klbeasley, @amichetti, @stangey especially) and our Curriculum Coordinator, I came up with the following visual metaphors for monodisciplinary, multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary teaching and learning. I wanted something that people could recall in their head to help explain the differences between these terms.

All of the original images used were found on Flickr and licensed under Creative Commons. Please feel free to use or reuse them as you see fit!

I have included some brief explanations on the Flickr pages (each image links back to its Flickr page) for each image but have purposefully left them off here. I wonder if those images clarify, to you, the differences? If you go back and read the explanations, does that help?

Any comments or suggestions, either on the content or the presentation of the slides, are greatly appreciated!

Parents, Tablets, and the IB Learner Profile

This week we will be holding an information evening for parents of students who will be receiving tablets for the first time next year. That’s a total of four grade levels: next year’s Grade 5, 6, 7 and 8 will all be getting their hands on the magic next year! This is the third time we’ve run one of these sessions in the Middle School/High School — our rollout has been pretty gradual: grades 10 and 11 the first year, then grades 8, 9 and 10 (plus 11 and 12 from the previous year) and now the entire MSHS.

For this group of parents, I have been tasked with talking about some of the specifics of the 1:1 program and how it will affect their children and themselves. Along with some of the usual big themes – How are we going to support the students?; How are we going to support the parents? – I thought I would use the IB Learner Profile to put the rationale into perspective. As stated by the IBO, “The IB learner profile is the IB mission statement translated into a set of learning outcomes for the 21st century.” Our move to a 1:1 program is an extension of what we have always been doing!

The following images and descriptions are in draft mode. I would appreciate any feedback (positive or negative!) or suggestions to improve them in the comments below. All images are taken from Flickr under a Creative Commons license except where noted.

Title

Inquirers – Students will have the ability to access meaningful, up-to-date and relevant information whenever they need it. Learning environments can be set up to encourage inquiry and discovery.

Inquirers

http://www.flickr.com/photos/broterham/37039048/

Knowledgeable – Students will have the ability to reference facts, skills and resources like never before. Their notes will be searchable and easily organized. Gives an opportunity to show their knowledge in different and authentic ways.

Knowledgeable

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ginnerobot/2549674296/

Thinkers – Critical thinking skills become increasingly important, due to the flood of information available. Students need to analyze and evaluate information.

Thinkers

http://www.flickr.com/photos/62229127@N00/99510423/

Communicators – Allows our students to communicate and collaborate with others, either in our school or across the world.

Two to choose from! Which do you prefer?

Communicators

http://www.flickr.com/photos/herry/2427415538/

or

Communicators 2

http://www.flickr.com/photos/28402582@N07/3117592199/

Principled – Students and teachers must examine what it means to be a principled member of society in a technology-rich world. This is not something we can bury our heads in the sand about. If we (schools and parents) do not teach them, who will?

Principled

http://www.flickr.com/photos/69805768@N00/3292899689/

Open Minded – Nothing yet… Suggestions?

Caring – Increasingly, interaction is taking place between individuals or groups online. It is important for students to understand the consequences of cyberbullying as well as how to be an effective member of digital communities.

I’m not sure how I feel about this image. It seems to show the opposite of caring…

Note: This image is from the University of Alabama and used based on the permission given there.

Caring

Risk Takers – Students, teachers and parents at UNIS are at the leading edge of technological adoption. In a recent survey conducted by Triple A Learning of MYP schools worldwide, less than 1 in 8 schools identified themselves as 1:1.

Risk Takers

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rishon-lezion/21868932/

Balanced – A balanced education is one that takes into account all appropriate learning opportunities. By adopting a 1:1 program, we are not abandoning non-technological modes of learning. We are, however, giving our students that ability to experience learning in a way that is more representative to how students today and tomorrow will live their lives. I’m trying to figure out how to encapsulate Will Richardson’s sentiment

Balanced

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaibara/2811540730/

Reflective – A 1:1 program gives students a wide range of tools that can be used to reflect upon their learning and thus improve the metacognitive abilities of those students. Because of their archive of work, it will allow students to compare their learning from year to year.

Reflective

http://www.flickr.com/photos/34605419@N07/3898110129/

Again, your thoughts and feedback are encouraged!