Makerspaces in a box: An opportunity to create

The first day of FETC was great.  We had a chance to really focus on  important technical innovations that are changing the nature of education.  Google applications to make a paperless classroom, experiencing a makerspace and methods of film-making in the classroom.  A full day!

The three-hour format allowed us to try out some really interesting tools for the classroom.  The makerspace workshop had me totally engaged making circuits using play doh, metal tape and fabric.  Nothing that we were using cost more than $25.00 for a simple kit that uses play doh as a connector.  Other materials cost just pennies, but I really enjoyed having the opportunity to work with these materials to make different circuits.  This is a good lesson for me – you don’t need to have the latest technological gadget to create something new.

my paper circuit – a work in progress

I quickly got caught up in making my own inventions, lighting up diodes and connectiung buzzers.  Each station had a differnt challenge for us and what we created was our own.  What freedom – to simply use your imagination and succeed at making something new.  

Each kit was labeled with its own QR code linking to a website expanding on the activities in the box.

The three-hour workshop just flew by and I thought to myself what would it have been like to learn about circuits and innovation when I was a student, free to invent what I wanted to invent. I never understood circuits drawn on a caulk board.

Although I have understood for a long time the importance of makerspaces as a way to encourage innovation and creativity, I have never taken the time to actually sit and work through some of these tasks.  So simple, but so empowering.

The paper circuit website

The Squishy Circuits site – kits cost $25.00, but you can buy the parts separately 

When I return to school, I will look for ways to incorporate some of these great ideas into our makerspaces.  No need to look for the newest robotics kit – kids can create with some of the simplest materials available.  The key element in all this is simply to let kids create, don’t wait to amass a huge pile of wires and diodes, just get a few simple kits and get started!

 eTextile project – again, very simple materials that kids could use to innovate

From Makerspace to Maker Faire – a collaborative project

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We have been experimenting with our makerspace for the past six months.  There is no question that the club we are currently running has been a major success with the students.  Now it is time to take it to the next level.

We are planning our first school-based maker faire.  This will involved several elementary schools, the University of Ottawa and some really innovative makers here in Ottawa like Maker Junior and other groups.

The maker faire tradition in Ottawa is growing.  Last year, the first  mini-maker faire was held and over  6000 people attended over the  two days.  The first full maker faire is now scheduled for next November 7-8  at Lansdowne Park the organizers are expecting 10,000 participants.

We work closely with another school – St. Luke.  They have done some amazing projects including the construction of an entire city in their learning commons.  At our school, we are trying to figure out how Arduino works and we are hoping to use Raspberry pi as a server to get Minecraft working in the learning commons.

We have yet to see a 3D printer or build any robots, but we are hoping that the school maker faire will move us all to the next level.

This project calls for lots of collaboration.  We have developed an ‘innovation team’ that includes elementary school principals, high school teachers, university professors, Faculty of Education students and local makers.  It is a group with lots of talent, resources and ideas and it will be this group that puts together the maker faire at our school.

We also have a new partner – students and teachers from Kitigan Zibi school in Maniwaki.  We have never had contact with this school, but it will be great to have them as partners in this project.  We have just been introduced to some of their staff through the Faculty of education at the University of Ottawa.

What will the day look like?  We are not entirely sure, but we know we want the students to have the chance to explore and make new things.  We want to expose them to the best of maker culture here in Ottawa.

So far, we want the students to learn and actually use 3D printers.  We will be getting a supply through Luc Lalande, the Executive Director, Entrepreneurship Hub at University of Ottawa and a real champion of maker culture here is Ottawa.

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Luc is a great supporter of innovation here in Ottawa

We have also discussed hands-on workshops involving Ardunio kits and Leggo and additional workshops involving Makey Makey kits.

Rick Alexanderson from St Peter High School will volunteer CARL the robot at the maker faire and  bring the Robot and provide information on workshops provided free to students by Carleton University.    Further CARL the robot will be then donated to the makerspace.   This is a line following robot and can do a few tricks  –  it is also a kit so teachers can look at the parts and see how this easy snap together the robot.  Rick works on really innovative projects with the Carleton University Department of Engineering.  

The workshops will be an hour long and we hope to have five options for students to choose from.  Each students will be able to choose three out of the five workshops.

The event will take place on April 30 and will probably be held from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.

We are really looking forward to this, the maker faire will really push us to collaborate with many diverse partners and it will challenge all our students to really develop a better understanding of how to build, create and innovate.

We will use this blog to keep a running record of our progress as we work towards our April 30 deadline.

Lots to look forward to!

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Minecraft – what do students say?

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One of the great things I  learned this year at the ECOO 2014 Conference is the power of Minecraft.  I never really understood the importance of this game and its potential to unleash creativity and innovation.

I took in two workshops on the topic and learned a few things:

  • Minecraft is like an unlimited amount of lego – unlimited amount of math manipulatives at your disposal.
  • you can purchase Minecraftedu – downloaded to each computer. I haven’t figured out the importance of the server yet, working on it!
  • There is a tutorial for use – sign me up for this!!
  •  Servers on-line – if students  have an ip address they can join other worlds and other people. Then you can join other servers – have to be mindful of servers you join.  This is why having a school server sounds like the way to go.
  • You can create an ip only accessible to the students in your class.
  • Regular Minecraft ips will not work with Minecraftedu – so it sounds like edu is certainly the way to go
  • Really need to use a laptop for this – will not work on chromebooks. Ipad apps also not as effective. So – I need to get my hands on a few more regular laptops – not the way we are going right now at our school!  This will help us with Arduino as well – it doesn’t work on chromebooks either
  • Fraps Video – make your creation into a movie.  This is a great resource so we can share what are students are making!
  • Amazing collaborative tool – encouraging high-level thinking because they are working together.
  • Great tool for collaboration for real life problems.

 

When I came back from the conference, I started asking our students about what they do with Minecraft.  I asked some students to write about what they could learn from the game.  The hope is that our own school board will get its own server so we can offer the game to students safely for free.

Here is one response, unedited from one of our grade 6 students – I couldn’t say it any better!

 

Let’s see what the students can do!

 

To Whom It May Concern:

I think that Minecraft  Is a good game for learning about architecture.  From playing minecraft I myself have learned that I am  good  at building. For example, I have built this structure.

 

My second reason for having  Minecraft is that there is something called Redstone. Redstone is a material that is used for a lot  of stuff  like this

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the red dust thats Redstone and the torch- looking thing is going to make the light light up.  The redstone helped me learn about electricity.

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Minecraft is also a game about responsibility. When playing Minecraft you also have take care of the animals. Here are my two favorite animals: a dog and we all know dogs are man’s best friend, and a cat who is very purrsuasive.

 

So as you can see Minecraft is a good game for  our school.

how are students using Minecraft in your school?

BIT 2014 Day One

As educators, we need to be constantly enriched by new experiences and new learning.  Our  first day at the 2014 ECOO Conference certainly did this for all of us.  We started before 7:00am at the registration desk and were soon into the first keynote and then the half and full-day sessions.

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I love the Minds on Media full day session – I really think it is one of the highlights of the entire conference.

I was able to take in four sessions throughout the day.  I find you really need to sit and talk with the presenters to get a good sense of what they are presenting.  Unlike the next two days where we will be running from workshop to workshop, today there was time to sit and talk to the presenters, try out some new tools and pick up some incredibly valuable resources.

I probably spent the most time in the Mindcraft session.  I am certainly no good at playing the game, but I am starting to get the concept.  Like makerspaces, one of the ideas is to give students a creative outlet to express their ideas in a new and innovative format.  I am starting to see all sorts of applications back at school.  I now have a great set of resources and a wonderful contact person to go to when I get bogged down.

I also learned about Ubuntu and how this operating system can be used to breathe life into old, slow laptops.  I can’t wait to try this out with some of the old machines we have kicking around our house.

 

Loading screen from Ubuntu 8.04 and 8.10.
Loading screen from Ubuntu 8.04 and 8.10. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s lots to learn talking to the vendors as well. I had some great talks with vendors from Northern Micro, Copernicus, Antidote, SmartpenCentral and Read & Write. I already have resources that I want to purchase for our school that I hope will benefit students and teachers.

The networking possibilities are endless.  Tonight, the learning will continue with a dance back in the main convention center.

 

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Learning about robots and the Ottawa Makerfaire

I had the best day – I have never seen so much innovation and cool stuff in one place – ever.

Carleton Autonomous Robotics Learning Centre

 

This was  a pretty amazing opportunity for all of us.  I met Rick Alexanderson – a teacher in our school board – today at the Ottawa Maker Faire – a truly wonderful event that is on again tomorrow (Sunday). I sat on a panel with him and the more I heard from him the more I stopped talking – this is a guy you really need to listen to.  This is a guy who has been around and has seen lots of stuff.  When you meet people like that, it is best to keep quiet and just listen – you might learn a few things.

He is affiliated with Carleton University and they are willing to hold an instruction session for teachers and students who are interested in developing a maker culture at your school.  Rick has found his own partners, he is not waiting for others to catch up – he is making change and offering this to us.

From what I understand, you can register for workshops they he puts on with the university.  After your day,  you and your students return to the school and teach them what you just have learned.  Everyone ends up with a robot – how cool is that!

Rick Alexanderson is the future of education – and educational entrepreneur who is offering the rest of us a chance to learn some amazing stuff.

I could have listened to him all day!

Our informal networks and PLNs are truly our life blood.  There will never again be a good reason to wait for change to come to you – you need to go to the change!

Find a way to start a makerspace.  Get your teachers and students creating – this is what true education has always been about!

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