What is the appropriate age to start students with robotics? Based on my observations from the Lego Robotics Camp I taught recently at Saint Paul’s School, I would advocate no later than Kindergarten! Unless we challenge our students early, we will never know what they can do! Maybe not all Kindergarteners are ready for Lego NXT or EV3, but they probably could do the Lego WeDo. You do not need to able to read to build or program a robot! Take a look at the following video from my camp. There were two 4th Graders, five 3rd Graders, six 2nd Graders, seven 1st Graders, and two Kindergarteners. At Saint Paul’s School in Clearwater, we will be expanding robotics from PreK through Middle School for the next school year.
Teaching at a school that is located on a large creek has many advantages. To study Marine Ecosystems for Science, your field trip is right to your own backyard!
A great STEAM project for Marine Science in Middle School is making ROV Underwater Robots. Constructed out of easily available materials and components, students design and build a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to navigate and explore the local ecosystem.
Utilizing the new Makerspace at Saint Paul’s, students built ROVs of their design completely from kits. We chose to use kits from http://pvcrov.wix.com/pvcrov because of the value and support. The kits provide a better cost value than sourcing the components separately, and the company provides excellent support and guidance.
The project was very successful keeping students engaged throughout the entire process. All teams successfully constructed and operated a working ROV! One team added a video camera to record their exploratory voyage:
Some of my most favorite projects to do in the Makerspace are also the most inexpensive. These projects are great for developing creativity through repurposing and upcycling. Teaching students to source items that may otherwise end up in the trash is a great service to education and the environment!
These two projects are also great introductions to robotics without the need for expensive kits or components!
Toothbrush Battle Bots:
Toothbrush new or used (free or cheap)
3 Volt Cellphone micro vibration motor (Amazon.com approx.$1-2)
As you may have noticed, the domain name for this blog is my actual name. Being an early adopter of the Internet, I registered my name as a domain name almost 20 years ago.
Having an uncommon name was an advantage in the availability, but I am not the only Paul Haberstroh out there. I am sure there are several other people with the same name that wish they registered it before I did.
Owning your name as a domain name is very important for many reasons. Your name is your brand, and your online presence is important regardless of your vocation. Having your own website or blog at an eponymous domain helps get you found and gives you considerable control over your online image.
SEO experts agree that having an exact match domain (EMD) is beneficial to search results in several ways. In addition to basic search relevance, any external links to your site automatically contain the relevant anchor text.
If you have a common name, you may need to get creative with a middle initial or name, or number, or use a subdomain from another domain. It may be available, but at a premium price. Currently, johnsmith.com is accepting bids starting at $50,999.00 on godaddy.com
Parents, please register your children’s domain names for their future. They will eventually need to make a website in school and having a mature presence on the web will impress high school and college admissions as well as future employers. The investment is minimal considering the value of the future implications. I like godaddy.com, their prices are competitive and their U.S. based service is very good. You do not need to do anything with it immediately other than register it, but your child will thank you when they do need it.
Give your student a head start in cyberspace and register their name as a domain name!
December 7-13, 2015 is Computer Science Education Week. The Hour of Code is a global grassroots initiative to introduce students to computer programming. Launched by code.org in 2013 with a vision that “every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science”, it went viral in a short period of time.
To participate in the Hour of Code movement, I conducted the Hour of Code classes for the K-8th graders at Saint Paul’s School in Clearwater. St. Paul’s is committed to teaching computer science to all their students. Pre-K through 5th have regular classes every week in technology and coding is offered as an elective for middle school students. Using resources from code.org, K-8th grade students programmed animations and games using block programming software. The themes that are used by code.org are very popular and appealing to students of all ages. Minecraft, Star Wars, Angry Birds, and Anna and Elsa, are some of the choices new coders may select from. The enthusiasm and participation were outstanding with many students continuing to use the programs at home. Because of the overwhelming interest, we spent several classes exploring some of the other coding resources available.
In addition to the truly excellent resources on code.org, some additional coding resources I like are:
The Hour of Code is a tremendous opportunity for educators, and provides all the resources to successfully conduct the event. No experience is necessary for the students or teachers, and excellent videos and tutorials are provided. Even if you missed Computer Science Education Week, don’t wait another year! These resources are available all the time so you introduce your students to coding!
Developing a Makerspace provides a place for the resources and guidance for students to create. Having a designated space to make things allows students to explore and transform ideas into models and prototypes. A Makerspace fosters the 4C’s of the 21st Century Learning Skills.
Since resources vary, and are often scarce, a Makerspace could be in a dedicated space or it could be part of a shared space. While having a 3D Printer and Power Tools is nice, I have seen amazing creations made from things like empty yogurt cups, pencils, wire, magnets, and potato chips.
Once you designate a space, equipping it can be easy and economical. Reach out to Teachers and Parents, I am sure everyone has some tools or materials they could donate. Old computers and electronics make wonderful projects. Cardboard and packing materials can be transformed into engineering masterpieces. Parents tend to be more generous for hands on activities, and may have resources to share. Ask the local Home Improvement store for scraps of wood and other materials that may get tossed out.
The Makerspace is a place for all classes to share and is not just about STEM. Rather than just read about a Roman Aqueduct, a student will have a better appreciation of the concept by actually building a model of one.
I am very fortunate that at Saint Paul’s School in Clearwater, we have a dedicated space that was created as part of an overall renovation project. While we do have a 3D Printer, much of the other tools and materials has been provided by the generosity of parents and staff.
Following is a list of resources that you may find helpful in developing a Makerspace at your school and joining the Maker Movement! Please contact me if you need any help or advice on developing a Makerspace.
At Saint Paul’s School in Clearwater we have a dedicated Lego® Lab. Having a Lego Robotics program is an essential component of any STEM curriculum and authentic learning experience. Lego Robotics engages students with real world design and engineering challenges. Students build and program very complicated robots. Some of the directions are over 80 pages long just to build the robot! Students also learn computer programming skills and techniques to control their creations. By working in teams that foster collaboration and communication, students learn problem solving skills.
The programming requires students to convert what they want the robot to do into flow chart style programming. For example students must know the circumference of a robot wheel to convert it to a specific distance traveled. The students are learning a higher level of math without realizing it, and because they see the result in motion, they understand the mathematical concept.
If you are interested in starting a Robotics program at your school, please contact me!
Much has been written and discussed about what is obsolete in the classroom and what the 21st Century Classroom should be like. Following is a photo essay of a recent makeover of the Middle School at Saint Paul’s School in Clearwater Florida. Through the generosity of parents and supporters, the Middle School Building underwent a complete makeover to become the model of what a 21st Century Classroom should look like!
Schmidt et al. (2009) present a very detailed study which resulted in the creation of a statistical model to quantify Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge in future teachers. According to tpack.org “Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) is a framework that identifies the knowledge teachers need to teach effectively with technology”. Below is a graphic representation of the TPACK components.
This is an extremely relevant construct for the K-12 classroom in that it can help prepare future teachers in the effective implementation of educational technology. Having a reference point for preservice teachers can help guide professional development to better prepare them for the “21st Century Classroom”.
Having a tool to quantify and help develop TPACK is extremely valuable for educational technology. Lack of professional development is often cited in the literature as a reason for inconsistent implementation of educational technology.
Whether TPACK level improvement can resolve all the barriers remains to be seen. Tsai and Chai (2012) offer a positive view:“We would like to highlight that the key essence of TPACK lies in the dynamic creation of knowledge and practice by teachers when they are confronted with the advancement of ICT and its associated pedagogical affordances. We term this capacity as “design thinking”. It moves beyond the TPACK knowledge perspective, which tends to be associated with codified/justified true beliefs, into the design mode of knowing. Design thinking seeks to change and improve current situations and create what is desired. It may therefore tackle both first and second order barriers as it treats all barriers as problems that need to be tackled and resolved through human creative thinking”.
While professional development is a critical factor in the efficacy of any technology implementation, it is not the only issue educational technology faces. Ertmer and Ottenbreit-Leftwich (2010) identify an important dynamic that is also a barrier to the implementation of educational technology: “For many teachers, possessing the relevant knowledge, confidence, andbeliefs is enough to empower them to integrate technology into their classrooms in meaningful ways. We probably all know teachers who have managed to be successful users, despite facing multiple barriers, including the lack of support (Ertmer, Gopalakrisnan, & Ross, 2001). Yet, for the vast majority of teachers, this is still not enough, as research indicates that innovative teachers are easily overpowered by pressures to conform (Roehrig et al., 2007). “Teachers are not ‘free agents’ and their use of ICT for teaching and learning depends on the interlocking cultural, social, and organizational contexts in which they live and work” (Somekh, 2008, p.450). And, unfortunately, for most, the culture to which they must conform has not adopted a definition of effective teaching that includes the notion of technology as an important tool for facilitating student learning”.
Quantifying and addressing TPACK for preservice teachers is a significant step in the future success of teachers’ effectively implementing educational technology. I would suggest that the TPACK framework studies be extended to include not only more advanced students but also current inservice teachers and administrators. Subsequent follow up studies with the same participants would also prove to be extremely valuable.
Until all educators and administrators have a reasonable TPACK level, there will be barriers to effective implementation and use of technology in education.
Denise A. Schmidt, Evrim Baran, Ann D. Thompson, Punya Mishra, Matthew J. Koehler & Tae S. Shin (2009) Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK), Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 42:2, 123-149, DOI: 10.1080/15391523.2009.10782544
Peggy A. Ertmer & Anne T. Ottenbreit-Leftwich (2010) Teacher Technology Change, Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 42:3, 255-284, DOI: 10.1080/15391523.2010.10782551
Ertmer, P. A., Gopalakrishnan, S., & Ross, E. M. (2001). Technology-using teachers: Comparing perceptions of exemplary technology use to best practice. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 33(5).
Roehrig, G. H., Kruse, R. A., & Kern, A. (2007). Teacher and school characteristics and their influence on curriculum implementation. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44, 883-907.
Somekh, B. (2008). Factors affecting teachers’ pedagogical adoption of ICT. In J. Voogt & G. Knezek (Eds.), International handbook of information technology in primary and secondary education (pp. 449-460). New York: Springer.
Tsai, C. C. & Chai, C. S. (2012). The “third”-order barrier for technology-integration instruction: Implications for teacher education. In C. P. Lim & C. S. Chai (Eds), Building the ICT capacity of the next generation of teachers in Asia. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 28(Special issue, 6), 1057-1060. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet28/tsai-cc.html (Links to an external site.)
Paper Towers is an excellent class project that will help build teamwork, critical thinking, and problem solving. This project is suitable for a variety of ages from elementary to adult.
Goal: To build the tallest freestanding tower possible from a single sheet of construction paper.
Materials (per team):
1 piece 8.5 x 11 construction paper
1 piece of clear tape 12″ long
1. Each tower must be constructed from the paper and tape supplied by the Host Center. No materials or substitutions are allowed.
2. Teams have 45 minutes to construct their towers.
3. Towers cannot be attached to any surface or structure.
4. Towers must stand for 5 seconds upon arrival of a judge.
5. Towers will be measured from the floor vertically to the highest point. Towers that curve or sag may not be straightened and then measured; they will be measured to the highest vertical point while sagging or curving.