Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Vex IQ Robotics #STEM Education

STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math) is a major push in today's education market. These are key skill areas where students generally struggle and may be far less inclined to pursue in upper grades at an academic level. I think it is important to get students engaged with STEM technology at an early age and to challenge students and present to them opportunities to explore and be successful with technology within the class environment. 

Recently my board introduced us to VEX IQ Robotics, unfortunately I was unable to attend the roll out program but was able to get my hands on the first kit that came into my school and spent this past weekend exploring hands on with the kit at home to see how it worked and what it was capable of.

Overall I was left very impressed with the kit and its ease of use, easy to follow instructions, before giving to students we will need to implement a whole entire system of sorting and storing the different pieces (each kit contains over 850 unique pieces) and we will require a large desk or area on the floor as it takes up some room. These lessons and builds are not quick activities, these will last for days ongoing, I however think we will try a robotics day, I think staying fully engaged in the activities will bring better interaction then off again on again.

The builds themselves require some thinking but direction and images are very helpful, the accompanying website even provides 3D imagery assistance in building your bots. 

Our plan beginning next week is working with my colleague in 7/8 we are going to be introducing programming in Minecraft EDU alongside VEX IQ robotics. When students are not building or programming the robots they will be working on programming inside Minecraft, both skills will build on one another and we hope they will complement their learning.

Stay tuned as I update how this program works and student feedback in the coming weeks.

Here is a clip of my success from this past weekend.



Minecraft & MinecraftEDU

When I began my current teaching assignment 4 years ago I had no idea who Steve was, what a creeper was or had never set my eyes on Minecraft whatever this weird obsession all of my students were constantly discussing. When I finally asked a student to introduce me to Minecraft, to say I was surprised is an understatement, in a world of 3D images, hi-fi televisions, here was a game with block images and nothing over the top imagery wise.

If you have to this point escaped the world of Minecraft, think Lego but interactive and with endless possibilities. Minecraft presents the user with a blank canvas and the ability to create and craft their own world, images, castles, your imagination is the limit.

Our first introduction of Minecraft into the classroom environment was through Ipad, we purchased it on all of our 15 schools Ipads and began exploring it with our students. Ipads allowed students to connect with eachother and build projects together, however with Ipads you are limited by only having 4 users in the same environment. The first year we did some introductory lessons and activities. One of our math projects saw students working in teams of 4 to produce a building to scale, they could select any building, research its dimensions and build it to scale in Minecraft, then present from their Ipad to the class.

After the first year we saw the strong reaction in our students and pushed to transfer from the tablet to the laptop. After some research online I contacted teacher gaming, which until recently owned Minecraft EDU, they have created their own unique version of Minecraft tailored for the classroom. (Last week Microsoft purchased this company and is launching their own Education Minecraft version this summer). For $450 we received 25 user licences allowing us to download Minecraft original as well as Minecraft EDU on our school laptops.

Last year in the first year of having Minecraft on the laptops we started MInecraft clubs, I held meetings 3 days a week, one day for high school students and one for 7/8 Boys and one for 7/8 girls. I made the decision to separate boys and girls in 7/8 for Minecraft based on observations in the classroom, a number of the girls were resistant to participating with the boys but the girls club on its own quickly reached and on some days exceeded the boys club for participation.

Working with high school teachers last year in my school we utilized Minecraft in a number of ways, in high school math to explore area, perimeter, volume and planning for construction technology. In 7/8 we used it for math, history and geography.

There are now updates that allow students to program in Minecraft opening up more curriculum connections and opportunities for students to explore and share their knowledge.

I will be having a page devoted entirely to Minecraft and how we are using it, be sure to check that page for updates and highlights of our adventures through the world of Minecraft.



Gamification

Today's students do not learn or interact with the world in the same way as their parents did, today's students have more media exposed to them in a day then previous generations were exposed to in a lifetime. Students today have access to games on their phones, laptops, tablets and or gaming systems at home. I believe that tapping in this desire for games and the students innate ability to play games and interact in digital environments presents countless learning environments for our students and across the curriculum.

4 years ago I began teaching in an alternative education setting where all students in my class have an IEP and a wide variety of exceptionalities. With the support of my administration, I have been actively working to Gamify my classroom experience with my students. I have done this by introducing Minecraft, RoBlox and even bringing in a Nintendo Wii into the classroom. I have tried to stay alert to new games and applications my students are playing and using outside of the classroom and find connections to bring it into the curriculum.

Last year when all of my students began playing Clash of Clans, I went home and built my own clan and endorsed myself into the world of Clash of Clans. Within 3 weeks we developed a number of classroom ties in, through literacy, numeracy and art. We had students design their own clan emblem, we had students form their own clans in the classroom, name their clan, write and create a history of their clan and reasoning behind their clan name. I loaded the game onto my schools Ipad and in groups the students all began their Clan on the same day. As we did in-class activities students would be rewarded and have 10 - 15 minutes depending on the day to play the game  as well, the feedback was amazing and the students seemed engaged in a topic they were knowledgeable about.

I have followed suit with other applications and games and am always looking for new ways to gamify my learning environment and assess my students outside of the typical paper and pencil variety.

Below is a link to a presentation I gave last year at the EOCCC conference in Ottawa on Gamification in the classroom.

Welcome

Welcome to my blog. I began using Twitter 3 years ago as a way to connect with like minded educators around the world to share ideas and thoughts. This year I am taking an additional qualification course on Information Technology and this blog has been born as a result of this course. My goal for this blog is to produce a digital record of how I use technology in my classroom and throughout my school. I hope that this blog will serve as another tool to share and grow my knowledge of educational technology and connect with others around the world who share a similar passion.