Maker Experiment #3

In our final CEP 811 blog post, we were asked to reflect on our learning from the past eight weeks.  Taking into consideration our final readings from this week along with our experiences with the Maker and Design experiments, we were asked to write a blog post addressing the two areas of Professional Assessment and Evaluation and Personal Assessment and Evaluation.

Professional Assessment & Evaluation:

After engaging with Maker Education for the past few weeks, I definitely see myself implementing Squishy Circuits in my classroom.  I am one of two teachers in my elementary school teaching fourth grade this upcoming school year, and I am teaching both classes Science while the other teacher is teaching both Social Studies.  I plan on using my Maker Experiment 1 and 2 in my Science class to teach my students about circuits.  I believe using the Squishy Circuits is a great way to engage students in what they are learning and empower them to think creatively.  To evaluate the Squishy Circuit’s effectiveness, I will observe how my students constructed their circuits.  In order to accomplish this, students must have a firm understanding of how the insulating and conductive dough works.  In addition, they must have an understanding of how a circuit is made in order for electricity to flow properly.  At the end of the lesson, based on the students’ list of key ideas and strategies for constructing their circuits, I feel like I will get a true indication of how effective the Maker lesson was.

In our fourth grade curriculum, we teach a whole unit on energy transfer.  This includes heat, electricity, and magnetism.  So, I believe implementing Squishy Circuits in my classroom will fit perfectly with what students need to know in Science by the end of fourth grade.  The opportunity to use the Play-Doh, along with the insulating and conductive dough, is a huge motivation for kids.  There are so many awesome things you can construct using these materials, and allowing students to think on their own only pushes their creative spirits and allows room for learning to take place.  With the Squishy Circuits, in order to successfully build a working circuit, “trial-and-error” must occur first in order for students to ultimately reach a point where electricity is flowing.  Because of this, authentic learning takes place.  I am greatly looking forward to teaching this unit this upcoming school year!

Personal Assessment & Evaluation:

I feel that my proficiency in the use of technology has increased substantially.  Previous to my MAET experience, I never blogged and rarely used Twitter.  Now, I consider my blog a great resource for me to refer back to during the school year to get lessons and other ideas to teach with.  Additionally, Twitter has proven to be a great resource for me in several ways.  Not only does it give me my news much faster than any local or even national news television channel, it gives me access to new ideas, thoughts, technologies, and other teaching practices that will undoubtedly serve me well in both my teaching profession and personal endeavors.

I believe the evaluation process for this course is fair.  Considering how open-ended and unrestricted the assignments in this course can be, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to grade them.  With that said, the only suggestion I have is to make the rubric for each assignment more detailed and clear.  Especially when being introduced to new technologies and resources, expectations can vary considerably.  After reading the blog by Grant Wiggins, I think it is reasonable to assume the rubrics were left vague to leave room for creativity.  After all, Wiggins says, “This is a worrisome misunderstanding: students are coming to believe that rubrics hamper their creativity rather than encouraging it” (2012).  If the rubrics were more restricted, we would simply “do what was asked” and not dive deep into the assignments.  Overall, I definitely believe the evaluation process for this course to be equitable.

References

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3).  On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/

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Choose Your Own SoTL Adventure

This week in CEP 811, we were asked to step out and “Choose your own (SoTL) Adventure.”  The acronym SoTL stands for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.  The Office of Faculty and Organizational Development at Michigan State University defines the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning as promoting “…teaching as a scholarly endeavor and a worthy subject for research, producing a public body of knowledge open to critique and evaluation.  Its intent is not only to improve teaching but to create a community of “scholarly teachers” who add to the body of knowledge about teaching and learning as well as benefiting from the SoTL research of others.”  Overall, SoTL is a growing movement of using research methods to improve your own teaching skills in the classroom.  It supports the idea that teachers must be lifelong learners.  Eileen Bender and Donald Gray state in their book The Scholarship of Teaching, “The scholarship of teaching means that we invest in our teaching the intellectual powers we practice in our research” (Bender and Gray, 1999).  It is very important as teachers to research new methods and remain sharp in the classroom.

In our own SoTL Adventure, our objectives are to pick five scholarly resources that relate directly to our teaching practices and interests, write an annotation for each source, and utilize the Michigan State University Library system to search online databases and contact a librarian for recommendations.  I chose to focus primarily on Differentiated Instruction.  With class sizes increasing and the growing diversity of learning styles and abilities, I wanted to research this topic and share what I learned.

Components of Differentiated Instruction – Components of Differentiated Instruction. (n.d.). Sussex Technical School District – District Home. Retrieved August 18, 2013, from http://sussex.de.schoolwebpages.com/education/projects/projects.php?sectionid=396

This resource focuses on the “What,” “How,” “Show What You Know,” and “Where,” components of Differentiated Instruction.  The “What” component refers to preassessing students’ knowledge and skill levels.  The “How” component refers to increasing the ways in which you ask students to learn.  The “Show What You Know” component refers to students reflecting, in many ways, on what they have learned in the classroom.  Lastly, the “Where” component refers to the classroom climate and physical setting in which students are learning.

Design, P. W. (n.d.). Edunators – Helping Teachers Overcome Obstacles and Focus on Learning – Three Easy Ways To Differentiate Instruction. Edunators – Helping Teachers Overcome Obstacles and Focus on Learning – Home. Retrieved August 19, 2013, from http://www.edunators.com/index.php/home/topclassroom/three-easy-ways-to-differentiate-instruction

This resource states that there are essentially three ways in which teachers can easily differentiate instruction.  First, differentiate how students learn necessary course material.  This focuses more on the teacher and how he or she delivers the information to the students.  Second, differentiate how students demonstrate understanding of course material.  This focuses more on the student and how he or she demonstrates mastery and understanding of the objectives.  Third, differentiate what students learn.  This focuses on adhering to the skills and interests of the students on the teacher’s part.  Overall, although these three ways may seem simple, they help lay out a foundation for differentiating instruction in the classroom.

Differentiated Instruction | Classroom Challenges | Focus on Effectiveness. (n.d.). Northwest Educational Technology Consortium. Retrieved August 18, 2013, from http://www.netc.org/focus/challenges/instruction.php

This resource provides a basic definition of Differentiated Instruction, but more importantly, in my opinion, it provides resources for organization in the classroom, practicing patterns in Math using interactive web tools, using web based tools to chart the news, using technology to document learning, and reflecting on and categorizing traits of successful learners.  All of these resources implement Differentiated Instruction.

Rubenstein, G. (n.d.). What Works for Differentiating Instruction in Elementary Schools | Edutopia. Edutopia | K-12 Education & Learning Innovations with Proven Strategies that Work. Retrieved August 18, 2013, from http://www.edutopia.org/stw-differentiated-instruction-replication-tips

This resource suggests ideas for what you can do in your classroom and school in five minutes, five days, five weeks, five months, and five years to Differentiate Instruction.  Some suggestions (in order) are: read students’ files, arrange desks into collaborative clusters or stations, share planning duties with a fellow teacher, get to know the diverse cultures and experiences in your classroom, and cheerlead and coach.

SDE: Using Differentiated Instruction to Implement the Common  Core State Standards. (n.d.). Connecticut State Department of Education. Retrieved August 19, 2013, from http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?a=2618&q=333594

This resource is all about using Differentiated Instruction to implement the Common Core State Standards.  It is set up in two modules examining strategies in which to differentiate within the classroom taking into consideration the many changes to WHAT we are teaching in the state of Michigan and other states adopting these standards.

Interaction with the MSU Library:

  • What questions did you ask the librarian?

I asked the librarian how to find free scholarly articles, how to know if a source is unreliable, the best ways to find information about differentiated instruction, and how to best use the internet to access the MSU Library.

  • How did you contact the librarian?

I contacted the librarian by first emailing and asking the above questions.  My second time corresponding, I used the instant message feature on their website.  This feature was very quick, for I was given answers immediately.

  • How did you narrow your search to find resources that were meaningful to you?

I narrowed my search to find resources meaningful to me by using key words in my inquiries.  Also, once on sources, I quickly skimmed its readings looking for information relevant to differentiated instruction and the topics I was looking for.

  • How do you see yourself using these resources in the future?

In the future, I will likely only use the MSU Library resource for its instant messaging.  Because responses are so quick, I can get the information I need immediately and continue working.  When I was attending MSU as an undergraduate student, I used the library frequently and it was a great resource for me throughout my studies.

References

Bender, E and Gray, D. (1999). The Scholarship of Teaching. Research & Creative Activity, XXII(1). http://www.indiana.edu/~rcapub/v22n1/p03.html

Michigan State University. (2013). MSU libraries. Retrieved August 18, 2013, from http://www.lib.msu.edu/.

Michigan State University. (2013). MSU libraries: ask a librarian. Retrieved August 18, 2013, from http://www.lib.msu.edu/contact/askalib.jsp

Maker Experiment #2

Assignment Description

This week’s CEP 811 assignment is centered on editing and revising our Maker Experiment #1.  In our first Maker Experiment, our task was to create a lesson where students use their Maker Kits (Squishy Circuits) in the classroom.  In Maker Experiment #2, we are using UDL (Univeral Design for Learning) Guidelines to revise and reshape our lessons.  Overall, I am excited to revisit Maker Experiment #1 and revamp it into an even more powerful lesson!

Lesson Plan

Title: Squishy Circuit and Play-Doh Faces

Time: 40 minutes

Subject: Science

Grade: 2

Objectives:

  • Students will be able to create a working circuit.
  • Students will be able to create a face using the Squishy Circuit and Play-Doh materials provided.

Materials:

  • Conductive dough
  • Insulating dough
  • Play-Doh

Vocabulary (these words will be taught prior to the lesson):

  • Conductive: to act as a medium for conveying something such as heat or electricity.
  • Insulating: to cover, line, or separate with a material that prevents or reduces the passage, transfer, or leakage of heat, electricity, or sound.

Beginning

  • The students will read their two objectives written on the whiteboard silently first and then all together as a class so they know from the beginning what will be expected of them to have accomplished at the end of the lesson.
  • The teacher will introduce Squishy Circuits using the following YouTube video as an anticipatory set: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDZo51k2BWQ  This video will help students gain an understanding of the tools they will be working with.  Also, it will hopefully put their minds and anxiety at ease with working with electronics.
  • The teacher will pass out the Squishy Circuits and Play-Doh to allow students to play on their own for five minutes.

Middle

  • The teacher will begin with instructions for the students to create their faces using both their Squishy Circuits and Play-Doh.  The instructions are as follows:
  1. Using the conductive dough first, roll one little piece into a ball.
  2. Now, roll a larger piece of conductive dough into a cylinder shape so it looks like a snake.
  3. Next, roll a piece of insulating dough into a cylinder shape just as big as the one you just finished.
  4. Wrap the insulating dough snake around the conductive dough ball.
  5. Then, wrap the conductive dough snake around the insulating dough snake.  Make sure the two pieces of conductive dough are not touching.
  6. You should have two pieces of conductive dough separated by one piece of insulating dough.  Also, the overall shape should be that of a round circle.  If your shape does not look like this, reformat the dough with your hands.
  7. Using the battery pack, put the black wire into the outer ring of conductive dough, and put the red wire into the inner ring of conductive dough.
  8. Using Play-Doh, students can build their faces on top of their round shape as creative as they would like using any colors, styles, and formations.
  9. Insert the LED lights on top of the face after the face has already been made and placed on top of their round shape.  Insert the LED lights so one leg of the LED is stuck in the outer conductive dough, and the other leg of the LED is stuck in the inside conductive dough.
  10. Have fun, and enjoy your new creation!
  • The teacher will go through each direction step-by-step while walking up and down the rows monitoring students at their individual desks.
  • Scaffolding will be essential with the teacher to guide students in the right direction to making their circuits successfully.
  • Students will be provided with sticky notes at their desks to write down notes about what is working and what is not working in building their circuits.  This will help the teacher identify students’ problems and how to help them better.  Also, this will help students remain focused on their objects and motivated to complete their circuits.

End

  • After creating their Squishy Circuit and Play-Doh faces, students will put all of their materials away and come back together as a class.
  • The teacher will pair students up in groups of two and ask them to take turns explaining the thought process behind the creation of their faces and how their circuit works within their faces.
  • The students will be encouraged to go into detail explaining how their circuit works and the creativity behind their Play-Doh faces.
  • After partnering up, the class will reconvene and discuss whole group what was easy about using Squishy Circuits and what was difficult.
  • As a whole class, the teacher will make a list with students’ help of key ideas/strategies for making a circuit, and what was learned overall will be posted in the front of the classroom for the entire class to see.
  • As an assessment, students will write one paragraph explaining everything they learned about how to construct a circuit and how they created their Squishy Circuit and Play-Doh faces.  The teacher will model this by providing a sample paragraph for students to know what is expected of them.  Students will only be able to see the sample paragraph for one minute to avoid any copying.
  • Students will display their Squishy Circuit and Play-Doh faces in the hallway outside of the classroom for other students in the school to see.
  • Students who have difficulty making their circuit can be allowed more time the following day during recess where more individual attention can be provided.

Reflection

Without a doubt, my revamped Maker Experiment, Maker Experiment #2, is much better and will definitely ensure student learning and success.  To support UDL and revise my lesson to make it better, I added several key components.  First, I added pre-teaching of the vocabulary words “conductive” and “insulating.”  It is important for students to have a firm understanding of what these two words mean before they begin experimenting with the Squishy Circuits.  Next, I added the teacher making a list of key ideas/strategies for making a circuit and what was learned overall and posting it in the front of the classroom.  This addition would certainly help student comprehension.  Next, I added scaffolding by the teacher in the middle of the lesson to limit student frustration and encourage determination.  In this lesson, it is likely students will get frustrated at times if their circuit is not working, so it is imperative that the teacher is aware of this and present in order to provide encouragement.  Next, I added providing sticky notes for the students at their desks to write down notes about what is working and what is not in building their circuits.  This will definitely help students stay on task, and it will help the teacher identify where students are struggling so he or she can possibly stop the class, bring everyone back together, and correct some mistakes students are making.  Next, I added an assessment where students can write a paragraph explaining everything they learned.  In addition, the teacher will model this by showing a sample paragraph so students know what is expected of them.  For shy and more reserved students, this assessment will provide another opportunity for them to express themselves.  Lastly, I added an accommodation where students who are having difficulty making their circuit can be allowed more time the following day during recess where more individual attention can be provided.  As a whole, I believe these additions have made my lesson much more powerful.

I already had several components of my lesson that were in support of UDL.  First, I already had alternate representations of the learning objectives.  Students were learning by working hands-on, watching a YouTube video, collaborating with their peers, and summarizing what they had learned as a whole class.  Second, I had several accommodations already built into the lesson, but they were not explicitly stated in my original Maker Experiment #1.  An example of this is scaffolding.  It is crucial for the teacher to encourage students throughout this lesson and limit frustration as much as possible.  When working with electronics, students can definitely become anxious and agitated, so the teacher must combat this with help and support.  I made sure to add this into my Maker Experiment #2.  In conclusion, UDL Guidelines are very important and helpful to creating a great lesson plan.

References

CAST (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0. Wakefield, MA: Author.

Design Experiment #1

This week in CEP 811, our challenge is to design a 21st-century classroom following the principles of Experience Design.  Tedde van Gelderen describes Experience Design as something we encounter every day.  We all have experiences as we live our daily lives.  He relates these experiences to four specific qualities: time, flow, participation, and emotion (van Gelderen, 2009).  Although van Gelderen does not explicitly mention education in his examples of Experience Design, a classroom, school, or educational setting can certainly fit into “an experience.”  Considering these principles of Experience Design along with using the SketchUp software, our task is to deeply consider the environments in which students attend school and how conducive they are for learning to take place.

Last school year, my 2nd grade classroom was a typical square room with desks aligned in rows facing the front whiteboard.  It came equipped with only one school computer for the students to use, although I did have an interactive Smart Board and document camera.  I believe my classroom was very conducive for student learning, but there were two disadvantages that stand out to me.  First, my classroom always felt overcrowded.  With twenty-five students and the constant transitions that take place at the elementary level, it always felt cramped and congested.  Second, with only one student computer for twenty-five students, I was always scheduling trips to the computer lab and making use of the Smart Board.  We did the best we could with the resources available to us, but I always thought there was more I could do if I had just one more computer or even access to laptops.  As a result, I formulated a plan to solve these two problems and make learning easier in my elementary classroom.

My plan for restructuring my 2nd grade classroom would be very simple.  Instead of desks aligned in rows facing the front whiteboard, I would take out the desks and put five round tables in with five students at each table.   I believe this would promote more group work and collaboration among students.  Relating to the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, incorporating tables for students instead of desks would help with the interpersonal area where students learn from interaction with others to communicate effectively and empathize easily with others.  With desks, in contrast, students were much more on their own and not learning from others.  Moreover, in dealing with the problem of having only one student computer, I would keep the one computer and buy a tablet for the students to use as well.  This would be cheaper in price, and it would allow students to access it in different places around the classroom.  Since our entire school is equipped with Wi-Fi, students would be able to sit on the carpet, for example, and play educational games.  Relating to Experience Design, this would create a much better flow in the classroom, for students would be able to sit comfortably wherever they wanted instead of always being confined to one specific area.

Much effort and many resources would likely be needed to accomplish this change to my 2nd grade classroom.  I, along with my students, could fund-raise to be able to afford the tablet and five new tables and chairs.  In addition, teacher grants are always available, and I could apply for one to get the resources I needed.  Our school P.T.O. (Parent Teacher Organization) is always a great resource that helps with supplying classrooms.  Overall, factoring in the tablet and five tables and chairs, I would need around $700 to make my design a reality.  I believe my design is completely realistic, and it could help improve student learning tremendously.  You can see my embedded imagined learning space below.

Classroom

References

Experience Design. (2013, July 29).  Retrieved on August 4, 2013 from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experience_design

Van Gelderen, T. [ChangSchool]. (2010, February 9).  Tedde van Gelderen on Experience Design [Video File].  Retrieved on August 4, 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB4VFKn7MA4#at=40