New! Second Edition of Invent to Learn Released

We are excited to announce that a newly revised and expanded edition of Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom has just been released.

It’s been five years since Gary Stager and I published the first edition of Invent to Learn. In that time, schools around the world have embraced making, makerspaces, and more authentic STEM/STEAM experiences for all children. It’s been fun to be a part of this worldwide phenomenon!

The brand new second edition includes a lot of new material reflecting how much has changed in a few short years. There are many new microcontrollers to choose from, and many more that are better for school use. The fabrication chapter has been updated to reflect how the design process has been streamlined by hardware and software progress. There is an entirely new section on laser cutters and CNC machines.

Programming options have expanded as well with software appropriate for students as young as four years old. Finally, there are some fantastic and accessible environments for programming microcontrollers. When we published the first edition, we were positive that a good block-based programming language for Arduino was just around the corner. Although new software environments emerged, they lacked the polish and stability required to make a difference in classrooms. Now things are different.

There is more research about the positive impact of fabrication, robotics, and coding to share. All of the suggested resources have been updated and expanded. The online resources here on inventtolearn.com are even more extensive.

The additions and updates to the book go beyond mentions of new technology and fixing broken URLs. There are new examples from educators around the world who have embraced making in their classrooms. There is more context provided for the connections between project-based learning and making. We attempt to be clearer about the real reason that making matters—not to build a special room or purchase equipment, but to make schools a better place for ALL students and teachers to learn.

The second edition is now available in paperback, hardcover, and Kindle on the Amazon website and other online retailers. For volume sales, using a PO, or international sales, please contact sales@cmkpress.com.

Infographic: Students have their say on online rights and responsibilities

Check out the results of the 2013 ‘Have your Say’ survey, the UK’s largest ever survey of young people’s attitudes toward online rights and responsibilities. Over 24,000 young people age 7-19 from across the UK responded to the survey, and a further 90 young people explored these findings in focus groups.

Two infographics below with primary and secondary results – these are large files, so why not make a poster! And ask your students what their top ten are to compare.

Sylvia

 

How do teachers make informed decisions in choosing technology?

Larry Ferlazzo writes a column “Classroom Q&A” for Teacher Magazine (part of the Ed Week family of publications) on teaching and technology. A few months ago he asked for my response to a question: How do teachers make informed decisions in relation to a balanced use of technology in the classroom?

This is a really interesting question for two reasons:

1. Because it transcends the “what” to tackle the “why”. Teachers have to balance a lot to create the best learning environment for their students and it’s not always clear how to do that. Especially with technology, it seems that any choice you make will be obsolete too soon as product after product and app after app appear, with new exciting announcements made every day.

2. Because it presumes that teachers CAN and SHOULD make these decisions. Too often, technology decisions are made by people who aren’t in the classroom without consulting teachers. Teachers and students are the stakeholders in this equation, and should be involved in choosing appropriate technology.

Be sure to read the responses Larry collected in this multi-part article. Besides my response, Tina Barseghian, the editor of MindShift, and Scott McLeod, an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Kentucky weigh in.

Here’s my contribution:

The best way to use tech in the classroom is when the technology primarily supports the process of student learning, not the product. Sure, it’s easy to get excited when we find tools that make things easier, but we have to be careful about what’s getting automated. Tools that support deep student creativity may take more time to learn, but in the end, give students access to powerful, creative experiences. The learning that takes place on the journey is the real outcome, and a “push-button” tool deprives the child of that experience.

Just like the writing process depends on giving students time to edit and re-write, technology should enhance a student’s ability to dive into the process of thinking deeply about their own work. Editing, reflecting, tweaking, refining, and even starting from scratch are crucial elements of the learning process – saving time is not. Technology that gives students multiple ways to approach their own work means that students can develop fluency and ownership of their learning.

And if you are thinking, “Who has time to teach my students something complicated?” – I will suggest to you that complexity is different than depth. Sure there are tools that are not age-appropriate or just plain overkill. But educators often overestimate the extra time it takes to learn a new tool. Don’t try to front-load too much information about the tool to the students. Instead, introduce a small project for the students, give them the tool and let them work. Allow collaboration between students to share new discoveries. Encourage home-grown student experts who can answer other students’ questions. Time spent becoming fluent with a tool that has depth is time well-spent.

Sylvia

Overhauling Computer Science Education

“Students from elementary school through college are learning on laptops and have access to smartphone apps for virtually everything imaginable, but they are not learning the basic computer-related technology that makes all those gadgets work. Some organizations are partnering with universities to change that.”

THE Journal has run an important article about the efforts to overhaul Computer Science education in the U.S. (Overhauling Computer Science Education – Nov/Dec 2011.)

It’s long been a mystery to me that computer science isn’t being taught in U.S. schools. No, not computer literacy, which is also important, but often stops at the “how to use application x, y, or z” level. Why are we not teaching students how to program, master, and manage the most powerful aspects of the most important invention of the 20th and 21st century?

I believe there are two reasons, both based in fear.

1. Fear that adding a new “science” will take time away from “real” math and science. In my opinion, the US K-12 math and science curriculum has been frozen in time. It’s not relevant or real anymore, and needs a vast overhaul. But there are lots of forces at work to keep the status quo definitions of what kids are taught. And I do mean to draw a distinction between what students are taught and what they learn. For too many young people, what they learn is that math is boring, difficult, and not relevant, and science is about memorizing arcane terms. This is just a shame and waste.

2. Fear that computer science is too hard to teach in K-12. People worry that teachers are already stressed and stretched, that there aren’t enough computer science teachers, and that computer science is just something best left to colleges. That’s just a cop out. There are lots of teachers who learn to teach all kinds of difficult subjects – no one is born ready to teach chemistry or how to play the oboe, but people learn to do it all the time. Plus, there are computer languages and development tools for all ages, and lots of support on the web for people to try them out.

Please read this article – it covers a wide range of options and ideas for adding this very important subject to the lives of young people who deserve a relevant, modern education! Overhauling Computer Science Education

Sylvia

Student Tech Leadership Summer Camp

Granville Students Attend Regional NYSSTL Training

Five students from Granville Central School District in New York attended a week long New York State Student Technology Leader (NYSSTL) Training Camp at WSWHE BOCES in Saratoga, during the last week of July. At the summer camp, students learned how to become New York State Student Technology Leaders in their school. There were approximately 30 students from WSWHE BOCES regional schools, from as far south at Ballston Spa Central School and as far north as North Warren Central School.

At the camp, students discussed and demonstrated their understanding of crucial contemporary Internet technology topics, including Internet safety and ethics, copyright and fair use, citing sources of information, evaluating websites and checking author credibility, netiquette, cyber bullying, and digital footprints.  They also learned to use new technologies and completed two technology projects using these tools to demonstrate their technology literacy.

As the training progressed, students spent time learning to become peer mentors, so that they can help other students with technology projects at school. They practiced this skill at the camp as they completed work on technology projects throughout the week.

Students were also trained to assist teachers with technology. They were provided with accounts and taught how to access and use their school’s NYSSTL Help Desk which is an online tracking system and communication tool. Students learned how to help teachers request a TAP or Technology Assistance Project, and also how to use many of the tools built into the online help desk.

In addition to discussions, role plays, and working with computers and various peripheral devices, students also participated in recreational games such as competition cup stacking, bocce, ladder ball, and ultimate Frisbee. All students who attended the camp received complimentary breakfast, lunch, and desserts, such as make your own sundaes. They also received embroidered NYSSTL T-shirts, TechYES Technology Literacy Student Guides, 4GB flash drives, and messenger bags, which they decorated with fabric markers at camp.

Granville Computer Technology Teacher/NYSSTL Advisor, Leanne Grandjean, along with experienced Student Technology Leaders, freshman, Josh Sumner, and sophomore, Marc Billow, also went to the camp to lead and support students who were training to become Student Technology Leaders.

Mote here!

Back to School 2011 – Empowering students starts today

Here are a number of “back to school” posts collected in one place!

What tech vision will you share?
What message does your Acceptable Use Policy send when it goes home with students for them and their parents to sign? Try reading it with fresh eyes and change overly complex, negative language to language that celebrates the potential of technology – and students.

Games for collaboration and teamwork
Want to create a more collaborative, constructivist classroom? Instead of traditional icebreakers, try these games that encourage collaboration and teamwork.

What do students want from teachers?
Listen to what students say they really want from teachers. And no, it’s not “more recess.”

Student technology leadership teams for laptop schools
Are you getting more devices this year? Laptops, iPads, iTouches, netbooks or going 1:1? Do you have enough tech support? Enough support for teachers using new technology? Enough support for students? No? Well then learn how students can be a great resource in laptop schools to ease the burden on overworked teachers and IT staff – and mentor other students. Genius bar, anyone?

Student-led conferences
Traditional parent-teacher conferences leave the most important person in the learning equation out in the cold. Find out how schools around the world are using student-led conferences to put the learner back in the loop.

Ten commandments of tech support
Ten ideas for making technology support more learner-centered and less network-centered.

Start the year off with hands on
Think you need to wait for kids to settle down and learn the basics before you let them do projects and hands-on work? Not according to this expert teacher.

Last but by far not least, if you are looking for some inspiration to post on your wall, here’s 8 Big Ideas of the Constructionist Learning Lab. These eight ideas give actionable advice to create opportunities for deep learning for all.

Happy back to school!

Sylvia

Digital Citizenship Includes Rights as Well as Responsibilities

“Although not all American adults feel this way, the United States seems to have more respect for the rights of parents, schools and authorities than it does for the rights of children. And this includes control over what children can see and where they can express themselves by limiting access to certain websites including (in the case of schools) social networking sites. And while I fully understand the inclination to protect children from inappropriate content and disclosing too much personal information, adults need to find ways to be protective without being controlling. That’s a tough balance but one worth thinking about as we struggle for ways to parent and educate in the digital age while respecting the rights of young people.

So, as we go forward to discuss digital citizenship, let’s remember that citizenship is a two-way street. Citizens do have responsibilities but they also have rights.”

via Larry Magid: Digital Citizenship Includes Rights as Well as Responsibilities.

Prairie Elementary Filmmakers Save a Regional Nature Program

From Gail Desler (aka Blogwalker) in a school district near Sacramento, CA.

Prairie Elementary Filmmakers Save a Regional Nature Program | BlogWalker.

“I was there – at the Sacramento Board of Directors – on Wednesday, joining other concerned educators and citizens in a last minute effort to save one of Sacramento’s primo science programs: Spash.

Thanks to Splash, thousands of elementary, middle, and high school students have explored life in Sacramento’s streams and, in the process, have come to understand why taking care of our water supply is so vital to the community. However, the Board was ready to eliminate the program as part of their latest round of budget cuts.

We had our chance to speak out, each person being allotted 3 minutes to justify continued funding for the program. With Splash director Eva Butler leading the charge, I think the 12 of us who took our turns at the podium helped provide the Board members with an understanding and appreciation that for most kids, “Splash is their first experience with relevant science and things that live beyond the pavement in Sacramento’s streams and vernal pools.”

But it was clearly a team of 5th grade filmmakers from Prairie Elementary School (Lesley McKillop’s former 4th graders) who saved the program. In less than 2 minutes, their Saving Splash video (see snippets in the above TV coverage) provided a compelling argument that led to a unanimous vote to save the program.

A huge victory for students all over the Sacramento region – and a powerful lesson to our young filmmakers on the importance of taking a stand and the power of media to sway an audience.”

If you don’t know, California schools are going through some incredibly tough fiscal times. Yes, I know that’s true all across the US, but California school’s are especially dependent on property taxes, and California real estate was subject to some of the biggest bubble bursting in the country. So the fact that these young filmakers changed a decision in these times especially affirms the power of student voice.

Here’s another reason – the subject of water and the science behind it. The city of Sacramento is at the heart of the California Central Valley Delta. This inland water system is the ecological lifeblood of the state and nourishes one the richest agricultural areas in the U.S. On less than 1 percent of the total farmland in the United States, the Central Valley produces 8 percent of the nation’s agricultural output by value, most of it fed by human engineered water systems (source). Understanding water ecology is vital to Sacramento citizens. So this testimonial about elementary school students saving a science program with their media skills is no joke. This is not just media literacy, it’s science, politics, and ecology! This is certainly the “real world” that we want students to experience.

Thanks, Gail, for sharing Prairie Elementary Filmmakers Save a Regional Nature Program

Sylvia

So-called ‘Digital Natives’ not media savvy… so now what?

Ok, so maybe we are ready to accept the fact that “digital natives” doesn’t really mean anything. The New York Times recently ran an article So-Called ‘Digital Natives’ Not Media Savvy, New Study Shows, to which I COULD respond “nyah, nyah, told you so” – because I wrote about this 3 years ago in Digital natives/immigrants – how much do we love this slogan?

But no, I’ll refrain. (I’m assuming you can’t see me doing a tiny little superiority dance in front of my computer as I write this.)

So what does need to happen once we stop labeling kids and start treating them as individuals who show up with all sorts of different experiences, interests, and needs? How do we take students from where they are and introduce opportunities for deeper learning?

Here’s one idea:

The Glitch project, by Betsy diSalvo and Amy Bruckman, deals directly with one of these consumer/producer dichotomies: African-American teen men are among the most game-playing demographics in American society, yet they’re among the least represented in computer science programs. Being interested in playing the technology doesn’t equate with interest or facility in making the technology. Betsy’s great insight is that learning to be game-testers is a terrific bridge from game-player to game-maker. In a sense, Betsy is teaching her students exactly the issue of information literacy discussed in the NYTimes piece below — it’s about having a critical eye about the technology. So, to all those teachers worried about being made obsolete by digital natives, rest easy. You have a LOT to teach them.” – Mark Guzdial, from his Computing Education Blog

It’s like I said in my previous post – “If we walk away from our responsibility to teach them about appropriate, academic uses of technology, it’s our fault when silly, or worse, inappropriate uses of technology fill that vacuum.”

Creating labels like native and immigrant only solidify boundaries and create implied adversaries. It’s simply the wrong mental picture for a collaborative learning environment where teachers and students are all lifelong learners.

Sylvia

Project-ing Tech Literacy

More reaction to the new whitepaper Assessing Technology Literacy: The Case for an Authentic, Project-Based Learning Approach (Read more or download PDF)

From Education Week:

“A new whitepaper addressing recent calls for technology literacy education argues any such education should involve project-based learning, while a separate new report indicates the need for such education may soon increase. The whitepaper from Jonathan D. Becker, a grant evaluator for the U.S. Department of Education, and Cherise A. Hodge and Mary W. Sepelyak, doctoral candidates at Richmond’s Virginia Commonwealth University, insists that, despite contention over what exactly constitutes technology literacy, there is consensus in the 49 states with technology literacy goals that the construct is multidimensional, and that one of those dimensions is acting or doing. In other words, students don’t just observe technology. They interact with it, meaning any instruction involving technology literacy should include students using technology in an active or interactive way.”

via Project-ing Tech Literacy – Digital Education – Education Week.

Although they got Dr. Becker’s job wrong (he’s actually an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University,) it’s a nice analysis of the whitepaper! Hope you read it and share with principals, tech coordinators, and others wondering what to do about student technology literacy.

Assessing Technology Literacy: The Case for an Authentic, Project-Based Learning Approach (PDF)

Sylvia