Returning for #iste17, a conference like no other

Well, in less than four weeks time, I’ll be traveling via Auckland on a 16 700 km journey to San Antonio, Texas. I will be presenting on my students’ learning adventures with Scratch game design and FIRST LEGO League robotics at the International Society for Technology Education Conference. Following ISTE, I’ll be embarking on my most ambitious journey to date, visiting Dallas / Fort Worth, Chicago, Denver, Glenwood Springs, Sacramento, and San Francisco over the course of four weeks.

ISTE15 in Philadelphia, where I took home an ISTE Emerging Leader Award, feels like yesterday. The memories of the people I met, the places I went, and the meetups with locals in Philadelphia, Virginia and NYC are very dear to me. If you plan to be at the conference. or live in/near the cities I’ll be exploring, please let me know. I’m always happy to catch up with Twitter folk, especially if you share my love of coffee, conversation, and/or photography. Especially coffee 🙂

 

My ISTE Presentations

FIRST LEGO League Robotics – Coaches’ Corner

Poster session with Aaron Maurer and Louise Morgan

Tuesday, June 27, 1:15–3:15 pm
HBGCC Tower View Lobby, Table 34

Are you interested in LEGO Mindstorms robotics, engineering, and computational thinking? Come along and meet three robotics coaches from Australia and the United States, and learn how you could empower your students’ STEM learning through the international FIRST LEGO League robotics competition (http://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/fll)

 

The Scratch Game Design Challenge (BYOD)

Wednesday, June 28, 1:00–2:00 pm
HBGCC 006AB

Michael Graffin  
Find out how to extend coding and computer science lessons beyond code.org by using Scratch to empower students to collaborate, problem solve, and share their learning through the creation of animated stories and computer games.

 

Scratch Game Design in Chicago, IL

I will be repeating my ISTE Scratch Game Design workshop in Chicago. If you live in the area, please come along to say hello! All welcome 🙂

Thursday, July 6, 10am12pm

Archdiocese of Chicago
Quigley Center, 835 N Rush St.

Registration: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe2NzAX1VUKRhgIvSfALcBrk0WZRXvSepNc6HWADuqMs9j6fg/viewform?usp=sf_link

The Learning Curve

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It is been a while since I’ve ‘put pen to paper’ here, but it is nice to be back. In light of my experiences and the challenges I’ve faced so far this school year, I’m dedicating this post to the ‘learning curve’.

For me, good teaching is about learning. It is about taking risks, experimenting with new ideas, and collaborating with colleagues to improve the learning experiences and outcomes of our students. As an educator, taking risks and exploring new ideas is not an easy or straightforward process; and without leadership support, you are likely to fail. It is one thing to dream up an innovative idea, it is quite another to implement it within your school community.

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This year, with the benefit of a FIRST Australia grant, and the support of my school leadership team, I found myself teaching an extracurricular LEGO robotics program, preparing two teams for the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competition. I’d never worked with these sophisticated robotics kits before, and I wasn’t sure how the program would run in our school, let alone how I’d teach it. After many hours of internet research, watching YouTube videos, and adapting teaching materials from EV3Lessons.com & Carnegie Mellon University, I set up my Google Classroom groups, and set to work.

Admitting that “I don’t know, but let’s try it and find out” is not an easy thing for a teacher to say to their students.  Yet, this quickly proved to be a common refrain in my robotics class! Learning isn’t linear, and sometimes it can be messy. I based my teaching and learning approach on the idea that we could explore robotics concepts and skills through guided problem solving and hands-on experimentation. If it doesn’t work, let’s keep experimenting, and work out why. I was teaching out of my comfort zone, trying to stay one step ahead of my students. I could hardly pretend to be the font of all knowledge – I was often building and testing programs and mechanisms an hour before my students arrived for class.

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Our FLL robotics program was never intended to just be about ‘teaching girls to code’, or capturing their interest in ‘STEM’ careers, although these were important underlying goals. We were interested in teaching our girls to think, and empowering them to become confident learners and problem solvers. Now, a little over three months into the program, I’m starting to appreciate the impact of this approach, particularly for those girls whose academic results would usually deny them this kind of opportunity.

Learning how to teach robot programming and engineering with LEGO EV3 Mindstorms has been a steep, yet extremely rewarding learning curve. My teaching programs are covered with notes about what worked, and what I’ll need to do differently next year. Yet, by taking risks, experimenting with new ideas, and facing my fears – I am not only growing as an educator, but I am making a difference in my students’ learning.

At the end of the day, that’s what teaching is all about.

Teaching Time with iMovie!

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One of the highlights of 2015 was watching one of my colleagues starting to take big risks with her integration of ICT. In Term 3, I was taken aback by her suggestion that we should teach her students how to use iMovie in Maths, creating movies documenting students’ learning about time.

We worked together to teach students how to storyboard and script their presentations, and gave them some basic instruction in the use of iMovie. The students spent several weeks filming and editing their projects, and some were actively experimenting with the more advanced features of iMovie. We were so impressed with the results that we invited our Acting Principal in for a special screening, and shared the videos with parents on Open Night.

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2015: A Long and Winding Road

2015 was a memorable year, of highs and lows. It was a year of experimentation, exploring possibilities, and learning how to be a coach and change leader. I learned a lot, made plenty of mistakes, and am starting to feel more positive about my future.

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ISTE – Building connections and relationships to last a lifetime

 2015 was the year:

  • I travelled to the United States of America for the ISTE 2015 conference, where I gave three presentations, and met so many wonderful friends and educators from all over the globe.Among renegades, boundary pushers, innovators … I felt at home. ISTE has to be one of the greatest highlights of my professional career so far.
  • I was recognised as an ISTE Emerging Leader, an award I am forever grateful for. Ironically, being only the fifth or sixth Australian to be recognised by ISTE has a significant disadvantage – in that most Australian teachers and school leaders I meet (who aren’t on social media) have absolutely no idea what ISTE is, and what this award stands for.
  • I graduated from Notre Dame University with my Postgraduate Certificate in Religious Education, bringing to an end 1.5 years of part-time postgraduate study.
  • Later in the year, I completed the requirements for my “Accreditation to Teach Religious Education”, which will enable me to continue teaching in the Catholic Education system.
  • In October, after nearly seven years, I became a fully registered teacher in Western Australia. Those currently going through the registration process in line with the Australian Teacher Standards will know just how much work goes into this!
  • I started to explore new learning opportunities in maker education, robotics, and STEM.
  • I learned a great deal about leading change within a school community. Perhaps the most important lesson being that teachers learn in a variety of different ways.

 

What’s been happening with #ipsict?

My new role this year was to work as an ICT integrator / coach, to support teachers’ professional learning with ICT and digital technologies. It was at times exhilarating, surprising, tumultuous, and challenging. Looking back, I see a lot to celebrate, and an opportunity to learn from my mistakes.

Introducing Digital Technologies & the Makerspace

We began exploring new avenues for engaging girls in ICT and digital technologies, with a particular emphasis on coding and robotics. The more I throw at my girls, the more they come back and surprise me.

  • This year, we introduced (i.e. took a deep breath and played with) BeeBots and introductory coding apps in Early Childhood; and started to explore the deeper possibilities of Scratch in upper primary. I was blown away by my students’ enthusiasm, problem solving, collaboration, and learning. One of my more memorable moments was sitting down with a Year 5 girl and basically asking “how on Earth did you do that in Scratch?”
  • The librarian and I started building our makerspace in our library, catching the attention of local university education researchers and the Catholic Education Office of WA. We have big plans for next year – watch this space!
  • I established our Digital Captains leadership positions, working with two Year 6 ‘digital leaders’ to test new robots, lesson ideas, and share our makerspace concept with the community at our Open Night – where they performed a robot fashion show! These two amazing students grew so much over the course of the year, and I look forward to following their progress as they enter high school next year. I have big plans for our next group of Digital Captains – next year will be interesting!

Establishing a new LEGO Robotics Program

In the Term 3 school holidays, I met the Engineering Outreach Coordinator at Curtin University, who roped me into judging the WA FIRST LEGO League Tournament, and generously loaned us two LEGO NXT robots.

In Term 4, we established a lunchtime robotics club with a group of Year 5 students, and applied for – and WON a FIRST Australia / Google robotics grant to set up our own robotics program. Next year, we will be taking at least one team of Year 6 students to compete in the FIRST Lego League competition! This has meant that my role will be evolving next year, as I will be leading the development of our new LEGO robotics extension program.

Looking Forward to 2016

2015 was, in many respects, a challenging year. Yet, I believe we have set a strong foundation for what is to come. As a school community, we’re moving forward … even if it is along a long and winding road.

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