When reflecting on the design process for my lessons and programs, I know that I draw from the expertise of many consistent sources within my personal learning network (PLN). A PLN includes all the people and resources we draw upon for personal and professional growth, which is particularly relevant in education and can expand greatly through new communication means. Teachers are experts at locating resources to guide us such as blogs, lesson sites, and idea sharing tools like Pinterest, but I realize I often limit myself as to who or what to include in that network. I also realize that I limit the scope of how I use my PLN by only using it for lesson planning. While I do often look for formal professional development, which can be great for immersion in a topic, I could also use Twitter, edcamps and unworkshops to make connections and drive my growth.
I’ve decided to dust off a learning goal I’ve put on hold for at least a year: create PCBs using simple CAD programs and at least reach the point where I could send out a design for printing. This was an idea I explored with students in Hack this Camp, but we stopped at the point of using photo-sensitive copper to have a circuit printed, but never drilled it and tried out the design. Now there are a multitude of companies that will print out user-designed boards inexpensively. I would like to use this skill in order to be able to do projects that would be prohibitively expensive otherwise if we had to buy an entire kit, such as for a Drawdio. A related skill would be figuring out how to program ATMEL chips that are integrated in many circuits.
In my prior revision to the Folds & Fractals lesson plan, I proposed having students use computer software to view and create patterns in order to better understand their fractal nature. I recognized that students would have different comfort levels with this technology due to differences in accessibility to computers in home and school life. Once beginning to view the lesson through the lens of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), I realized that there would be many differences in learning that would have an impact on effective use of computers, and I could not determine a general way to utilize this technology and adapt their use later for learning differences. As Rose and Meyer (2000) state, teachers cannot “provide one-size-fits-all representations but highly malleable environments that provide the right level of support and challenge for every individual student” (p.5).
As stated in the last reflection on the Folds & Fractals lesson plan, I recognized opportunities to strengthen the involvement of students with the use of appropriate technology. The affordance provided with carefully chosen tools “allows students to cross disciplinary boundaries and transfer ideas from one realm to another, deepening their insight into both domains” (Mishra & Koehler, 2009, p.18). This is one of the primary intents of this lesson, and TPACK can be useful in this by formalizing the relationships between content, pedagogical and technological knowledge within the particular contexts I work within as an outreach educator.
This morning’s activity exploring content, pedagogy, technology, and the relationships between them hit me right where much of my thinking is devoted: my stomach and where the next source of food is coming from. It served as a delicious (well done, everyone) analogy and starting point for discussion. Of course, we are taking time out of summer because we also have another type of appetite, one for knowledge that will guide us in becoming more effective teachers and learners. I believe TPACK will be a useful map in guiding us, and if we continue in the MAET program, one that we will refer back to often.
Since I am not a classroom teacher, my lessons take the form of programs, which typically last about an hour, are presented to a range of grades with a focus on middle school, and tries to cram a lot into a short amount of time. I tend to have much longer to ponder and develop these programs than a classroom teacher has to prep a lesson, so the program I chose was created over the period of several months, off and on, and then was taken on the road in Northern Michigan for about half a school year.
A couple popular tinkering activities that we’ve used in the past at the Cranbrook Institute of Science. I’m linking to instructions to where we found the ideas, but then also list how we made modifications.
Equipment (per student):
- 1 Toothbrush head, $0.33/pc, sold in packs of 144.
- 1 Pager/Vibrating motor, $1.95-$2.25/pc, alternatively at Aliexpress to bring cost down if you don’t mind getting them in bulk.
- 1 CR2032 battery or other 3V coin battery, ~$0.25/pc
- Electrical tape
- Liquid watercolor paint (optional)
We’ve used a band saw to remove the handles of the toothbrushes, but can also snip them off. We just use tape instead of two-sided foam tape since we can just create a loop of tape to hold the battery to the toothbrush. We also use a piece of tape to act as a switch, by folding one end of the tape on itself to create a handle that can lift the tape off the battery to turn it off.
I enjoyed working with Susan on a middle school science lesson plan that would allow students to gain an authentic understanding on different forms of energy transfer while developing skills in technology. Students would understand how to use an Arduino as a scientific tool and compare that to traditional classroom techniques for collecting data. As we discussed in class, it was a struggle to find the right context to integrate technology organically, and there were many ideas that were discarded or shelved for another time. I see that process as how it should be. From what I saw with other groups’ lesson plans, the key is start with a great lesson plan and see how making can take it even further.
The science of learning is used by teachers day-in, day-out to determine how to best reach a diverse set of learners, but often we do not take the time to reflect on up-to-date understandings on the nature of how we all learn. I tackled this topic in an essay on learning and its implications for teaching in an essay that can be found right here. I found that many of the strategies suggested by our readings was not being used within my own teachings and in many of my fellow educators, so I hope this will be the first step in changing how I teach to address the needs of my students, in particular the metacognitive skills and preexisting knowledge that may require modification.
Based off a video from Daniel Pink that asked “What’s my sentence?”, i.e. what is one sentence that expresses what each of us has accomplished with our life? After fifteen minutes reflection, I tried to step back and provide a sentence that is not specific to any one role of mine but encompasses the work I do in general, and came up with: Created new experiences to allow others to create.