STEM and STEAM are H-O-T, HOT, right now in education; but robotic arms, 3D printers, and coding lessons are sometimes out of reach for the average teacher or school. Can a teacher create a low-cost Maker Space in her own classroom? How can she bring the mindset behind making into her teaching? Grab some fellow teachers, a variety of writing implements (“tools”), and a box of envelopes. Then, check out our recent presentation below to learn more!
Teaching with a Maker’s Mind
I‘m going to focus on the literacy part of science literacy for a moment because reading is vital to continued learning. As you’ll see in the the video below, it’s imperative that students continue their reading over the summer to ensure they maintain their skills. In the video, Dr. Guy Trainin and I discuss several reading apps for all ages of students that include both free material, “on loan” material, and paid material. This allows the tools to fit every budget, and every reading level.
The great thing about mobile apps is that they are mobile. Students can read on the go without having to take heavy books with them. Also, many of the mobile apps allow for “offline” reading so that even when there is no internet connection, students can read the books they’ve downloaded onto the device.
Need some ideas on what books to have your children read? I would suggest you look at the local library. Libraries typically have summer reading lists and/or programs broken down by grade or age to help guide your reading choices. For teachers, there are many online resources to help you cultivate a reading list for your students.
- Here’s a list from the Association of Library Services for Children
While I admit it might not seem as though this post aligns with the others, I feel that it is important to share useful technologies. I was asked a couple of week’s ago to talk about an app I really like using for teaching. This past semester, I joined a university wide pilot for the Canvas LMS. There are a million little things I love about this platform, one of the best is that it is fully mobile. Before using this system, I was frustrated by the grading features of other LMS’s and found myself more tied to my desktop than I wanted to be.
In this video, you hear me discuss Canvas with Dr. Guy Trainin as part of his Tech Edge, Mobile Learning in the Classroom. I highly recommend his video series as he discusses useful apps for teachers.
The video gives a small taste of all the features I love about Canvas, but I did have some students who resisted the change at first. Several expressed their dislike of having to learn yet another program. But, as the semester progressed, many of those same students found themselves liking the features and enjoying the platform. The big take away here is to try things in your classroom, and give students a chance to adjust – because just like many of us, they don’t always like change.
Here’s a Short List of Canvas Features I love:
- SpeedGrader – this makes grading so much easier when I’m on the go.
- Calendar – I can easily change due dates/details and the information cascades through the other ares of Canvas.
- Notifications – while these are arguably less useful for the teacher because it can get overwhelming, the students enjoy the feature.
I was recently able to play with the Makey Makey products and it was an incredible experience. For all that I cannot stand the way banana’s taste, they do make an excellent space bar substitute. Using a laptop, the Makey Makey and some fruits, marshmallows and candy peanuts (because, really, who eats those?) I learned how to create a circuit -and more importantly, how to make the circuit work. As I was working though my own experience with the piano app, I found myself forgetting to “ground” the circuit. My background is in literature, so my overall knowledge related to science, and therefore, circuits, is minimal, but my dad has some background in electronics – enough that I’ve picked up some things over the years. One of those things is of course knowing about grounding. With the Makey Makey you, or your students, act as the grounding. You, or your students, complete the circuit. You literally become a part of the lesson, a part of the demonstration. Without you, without your students engaging with the Makey Makey, it doesn’t work. This is the next phase of interaction, engagement in the classroom. Your students can be up out of thier seats, moving around, engaging with the technology, engaging with each other and engaging with you while also learning or applying what they already know about circuits. These types of interactions create meaningful experiences for your students, ones they want to go home and tell their parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors, anyone about. While engaging in play, at any educational level, they are learning. When the piano doesn’t play, they can work with their peers to find a solution – remembering perhaps as I often do, to ground their circuit.
As an educator with a background in mostly humanities, science always presented a challenge. Linking science literacy with the new focus on STEM and now STEAM initiatives felt like such a daunting task. How can educators find ways to engage their students, specifically those not naturally inclined in the sciences? How do you reach those who have been told they’re just not good at it? Or that maybe they’re skills are in something less technical, less “sciencey”. LittleBIts presented to me a new world of opportunities within the classroom and outside the classroom. Here, students are given the building blocks necessary to create something using science without necessarily realizing they’re using science. Through the use of LittleBits, students can explore, can create, can learn in new ways. The focus moves beyond knowing the facts of how a circuit works and transcends to a space of imagination where the classroom becomes a mini rave, or a piece of paper becomes a windmill. For students who struggle with grasping some of the concepts due to ELL or special education needs, LittleBIts can help create a space in which they can explore, learn, apply and express their knowledge in ways not bound by traditional methods of assessment, ways that aren’t hindered by language or learning barriers. Integration of LittleBits is just one way of empowering students to gain mastery of science and technology literacy in the 21st Century.