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A Maker Space Goldmine of Resources for STEM Educators... Part 1

Welcome to another post aimed at introducing you to engaging STEM ideas and resources that  might be a great part of your classroom. In this reading, we invite all STEM educators to discover  the Makers Movement and some amazing resources to get you started. Please be sure to read and share…  make sure you give us a  follow on twitter at SiemensSTEMAcad .  As always, thanks for joining us at the Siemens STEM Academy!  Now… read on… and  have a STEMtastic week! – Mike Gorman

Are you looking for some resources to get a Makers Movement going in your school? A great starting place might be a STEM related lesson in your classroom. You can start by looking at some of the links we have included below to get some ideas. It is important to look and decide how a certain project just might help students connect to important STEM content. As this begins in your classroom, your students will learn about possibilities, developing some Maker interests, and be introduced to some tools that just might spark some interest in further Making. It might be this type of beginning that brings a Maker Space to your classroom, school, or community. Please take a look at some of the websites below and see if you might just Make something out of it… even if it is just a small beginning.

Makezine – This might be a great place to start. We recommend checking out the projects area just to begin to get some ideas. While many of the projects are prescribed you may wish to find some ways to open up ideas for thinking outside the box and providing for innovation. Explore the different areas including science, electronics, art, and design. How might something you discover allow your students to Make something that will connect to learning?

Instructables – Here you will find ideas to make so many things that could Make a great connection to learning. When first opening the program give the Search Engine a try. Put in some keywords of some possible learning ideas. It might be planets, insects, civil war, or nutrition. You can even filter the results using multiple categories’.  Give it a try… you will be amazed at what you find and what your students might Make!

The Exploritorium Tinkering Studio – Tinkering is at the very heart of formative learning, allowing for iterations that encourage revision and reflection.  Kids develop an understanding of how to learn from failure and setbacks in order to experience eventual success. The Tinkering Studio is primarily an R&D laboratory on the floor of the Exploratorium, but whenever possible they try to share their projects, activities, and developing ideas following an “open source” model. Learn how you too can enjoy their activities in your classroom while allowing your kids to Tinker and Make!

The Exploritorium Tinkerer Collection – Speaking of Tinkering you may wish to introduce your students to some amazing Tinkerers and the occupations that surround them. Perhaps this could be part of a Makers Unit of Study that focuses on College and Career Readiness and 21st Century Skills. It might be fun to see what your students can Make of it!

DIY – Do It Yourself is a  platform for students to discover skills and share what they make and do with each other and the global community. You can explore skill-based learning and introduce collaboration into your classroom – during homeroom, Genius Hour, after school, and even regular classes. Discover ways to blend the DIY Skills platform into the core curriculum, or let students explore new subjects while practicing skills and Making.

Do you want to bring a  Maker Movement to your classroom? All you need a a small start. Perhaps your students are next in line to learn from Making. Take some time to learn more about it, and be sure to consider and plan for those important safety rules that are many times specified at each site. You should also make up your own and enforce with students. We invite you to continue to follow this series  as we have some more valuable resources coming your way in the next post.

We hope you enjoyed reading about these wonderful resources that could be a part of your STEM curriculum.  Please take the time to retweet and pass this information out to other STEM educators you think might be interested!  Now is also a great time to sign up for an RSS feed and also follow us on twitter at SiemensSTEMAcad.  We have more great STEM information coming your way. Have a great week  and take some time to start making your own STEMtastic learning connections… today. – Mike Gorman 

Posted on September 25, 2014 by Michael Gorman
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Making STEM with Raspberry Pi

Welcome to another post aimed at introducing you to engaging STEM ideas and resource that  might be a great part of your classroom. In this reading, we invite all STEM educators to look into a really sweet resource for their students. Rasberry Pi just might be the right recipe for your STEM classroom.  Please be sure to read and share…  make sure you give us a  follow on twitter at SiemensSTEMAcad .  As always, thanks for joining us at the Siemens STEM Academy!  Now… read on… and  have a STEMtastic week! – Mike Gorman

You just might remember computer kits when the personal computer age first took off. In fact, a few of you may have worked with the Timex Sinclair Computer Kit. In 1982 it sold for $99 and had 2K of memory, used Sinclar Basic, and had a speed of 3.25 MHz. It was in direct competition with the Commodore Vic-20 which would later produce the Commodore 64. It is now 32 years later and there are some amazing opportunities for your students to Tinker with computers. It might be time you discovered the Raspberry Pi. This is an awesome tool that can be much more then dessert!

The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that can plug into your TV and an existing keyboard. It is a amazing computer which can be used in electronics projects. It can also perform many of the things that a  desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. In fact, it can also play high-definition video. It is a wonderful tool for students and allows them to learn how computers work, how to manipulate the electronic world around them, and how to program. The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a registered educational charity (registration number 1129409) based in the UK. The Foundation’s goal is to advance the education of adults and children, particularly in the field of computers, computer science and related subjects. Kits start at under $40 and provide a great opportunity for learning. Check out the links below to learn more about how you can bring the Raspberry Pi into your STEM classroom.

As you can see, computers have come a long way since 1982. The power and capabilities of the credit card sized Raspberry Pi are remarkable when compared to the room size computers of the past. Best of all, we can put this power and possibilities in the classroom. This invites opportunity that goes beyond what any classroom of even ten years ago may have had. It might be a perfect solution to get your students learning and Making.

We hope you enjoyed reading about this wonderful resource that could be a part of your STEM curriculum.  Please take the time to retweet and pass this information out to other STEM educators you think might be interested!  Now is also a great time to sign up for an RSS feed and also follow us on twitter at SiemensSTEMAcad.  We have more great STEM information coming your way. Have a great week  and take some time to start making your own STEMtastic learning connections… today. – Mike Gorman 

Posted on September 15, 2014 by Michael Gorman
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Twenty Reason That STEM Classrooms Should Be Making

Welcome to another post aimed at introducing you to engaging STEM ideas and resource that  might be a great part of your classroom. In this reading, we invite all STEM educators to investigate the idea of creating a Maker Space opportunity for their students.  Please be sure to read and share…  make sure you give us a  follow on twitter at SiemensSTEMAcad .  As always, thanks for joining us at the Siemens STEM Academy!  Now… read on… and  have a STEMtastic week! – Mike Gorman

Take a moment to contemplate what it would be like if every school had a Maker Space and it was part of the school curriculum. You may wish to dream of the possibilities for essential 21st century skill development and significant content skill alignment. Think about the aura of engagement, flow, grit, perseverance, problem solving, revision, reflection, and satisfaction in that amazing space. Contemplate parents asking the question, “What did you make in school today?” Now sit back and imagine the answer, and further conversations it would bring!

The thought behind the Makers Movement includes allowing people to imagine, envision, create, innovate, play, formatively learn, experiment, collaborate, share, and most of all dream of possibilities. The idea of making is really not a new concept. In fact, the art of making is at the root and mixed into to the very fabric of our culture. I believe that the amazing innovation we have seen in this country is due to a Maker mentality. We have long been a culture set on dreaming up possibilities, and then taking the action to make it happen. The initial growth of technology has somewhat taken some of our creativity and produced  consumption based thinking. We are now past the initial way of thinking, and the Makers movement allows people to finally use the technology to create and make.

It is encouraging to see that Education Maker Spaces are making space in numerous schools including elementary, middle, and high school. This was evident at the 2014 ISTE Convention in Atlanta with over 16,000 attendees and space for Maker vendors, Maker presentations, Maker playgrounds, and Maker possibilities. After all, childhood has long been a time that allows young minds to play and make. It is important to understand that allowing kids to be Makers opens the doors to personalized and authentic learning. Let me share a list that I feel are positive qualities that schools can Make, as take away ideas from the Makers Movement.

  • Allow for student intrinsic motivation and self-directed learning
  • Support students in a natural connection toward the facilitation of the 4 C’s
  • Engage students in significant content by allowing for connections to curriculum
  • Immerse students in experiences that promote the idea of flow
  • Provide students opportunities that allow then to fail in order to succeed
  • Emphasize to students and teachers the importance of process over outcome
  • Amplify or introduce to students the components of a school STEM disciplines
  • Provide for student opportunities to enhance Project, Problem, Design, Inquiry, and Challenge Based Learning
  • Promote student literacy through writing, reflecting, and journal writing while Making in specific subject areas
  • Engage students in relevance and connections through a authentic learning experience
  • Promote service student learning by identify and inventing solutions to local and world problems
  • Allow students to see the importance and value of the arts
  • Allow students to be a part of partnerships between school, home, and community
  • Create opportunities for students to be producers of content and products
  • Facilitate to students the idea of entrepreneurship through innovation
  • Provide students an opportunity to connect with college and career opportunities
  • Allow for student mentorship between students and also between community and students
  • Give students the opportunity to learn through kinesetic opportunities
  • Introduce students to the iterative process for problem solving
  • Support student inquiry by relaying the importance of good questions and continued questioning

I started this post out with dreams and imagination of what can be. Some schools are already making it happen. Perhaps your school and students are next? It might just begin with some Maker time in your own classroom… or even after school. It really is time  for you  to… Make it happen.

We hope you enjoyed reading about this wonderful resource that could be a part of your STEM curriculum.  Please take the time to retweet and pass this information out to other STEM educators you think might be interested!  Now is also a great time to sign up for an RSS feed and also follow us on twitter at SiemensSTEMAcad.  We have more great STEM information coming your way. Have a great week  and take some time to start making your own STEMtastic learning connections… today. – Mike Gorman   

Posted on September 4, 2014 by Michael Gorman
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Letting go with PBL: Opening Doors to Deeper and More Authentic Student Learning Opportunities

 

Welcome to series of Blog Posts brought to you by some amazing past Siemens STEM Institute and STARs Fellows. Today's guest blogger is David Kujawski who teaches 6th grade science at Bird Middle School in E. Walpole, MA. Take a moment to discover more about David  following his  post. Please be sure to read and share…  make sure you give us a  follow on twitter at SiemensSTEMAcad . As always, thanks for joining us at the Siemens STEM Academy!  Now… read on… and  have a STEMtastic week! – Mike Gorman

I have taught an environmental science unit for the past 9 years as a middle school educator using teacher-led activities with predictable learning outcomes.  I measured student learning with various forms of formative assessments, such as exit tickets, clicker responses, and the like, but there was something missing.  What is it you ask?  I had to let go of steering my students towards specific learning outcomes.  That’s right; opening up true inquiry by letting kids come up with their own driving questions allows them to become intimately familiar with what they were learning about ecology.  As the Buck Institute for Education (BIE) states, the project is the ‘main course’ of PBL, ‘not the dessert.’  In that, we are often tempted to plan content-heavy lessons and then assess learning via a project at the conclusion of each unit.  Additionally, we tend to assign projects that lack authenticity—direct connections to students lives that matter—resulting in uninspired projects that teeter towards busywork.  When teachers plan truly authentic PBL units, students’ questions take center stage as they research their topic, ultimately leading to solving a real issue in their community.  The project is the unit, not the summative assessment that skims the surface of true learning.  And it all starts with a great driving question.

After reading extensively about the BIE’s model for Project-Based Learning (PBL), I delved into the world of authentic learning experiences by asking students—“How do suburban lifestyles impact the ecology of our town?”  This question framed each group’s research of a specific environmental/ecological problem that affects Walpole’s ecology and human health.  To begin, I introduced students to a specific inquiry framework to follow when investigating their own questions about their ecological issue (figure 1).  Students then researched potential topics to investigate and picked their favorite.  They then framed their research by developing a guiding question of their own.   BIE has many resources that you can use to help your students, including a Tubric—a device that serves as a springboard for generating inquiry questions.  Once students have their questions they begin becoming experts on the ecological issue.  The two main challenges that teachers face when planning PBL units include letting go of control and assessment of student learning.

Providing structure with the inquiry process framework helps students focus their studies from class-to-class, but how do educators assess student understanding?  In many ways, assessing student learning is similar to a typical teacher-led lesson, only now the assessment questions might vary from group to group.  Since each group will be inquiring about different topics, such as low water availability or storm water pollution, you can circulate around the room to ask about specific ecology-related NGSS science standards.  Additionally, you can simply ask students what they’ve just learned.  My favorite question to ask is “How has your understanding of the topic changed over the past few minutes?”   This will allow you to “dip-stick” to assess student understanding of content and then see what questions they should raise—a ‘need to know’ list, if you will.  I also like to assign reflections as a form of assessment.  I simply ask students to reflect on their new found knowledge and ask them to create a ‘need to know’ list of topics to frame the extent of their research the next day.  For example, I asked students to pick which energy role—producer, consumer or decomposer—is the most important to an ecosystem.   At first, they have to get a general understanding of each energy role and then analyze the impact(s) that each one has on their ecosystem.  After inquiring, following the inquiry process, they develop a deeper understanding of each energy role and can explain how each one impacts their local ecosystem.  In a subsequent assessment I will ask them to write another reflection about the same question and base their response on the evidence collected during class.  Students realize that each energy role plays a crucial role in their ecosystem; one is not more important than the other.  This is a good time to tie in crosscutting concepts, such as matter and energy conservation, which leads to additional assessments.   For example, I could ask students to analyze a model of a food web to explain the significance of the arrows that connect various organisms.  Most students may initially respond that the arrow signifies energy moving from the prey into the predator, but they cannot clearly explain how much energy transfers from one organism to the other.  Additionally, they may not make connections that matter is also used by the predator to grow.  These shortcomings in their understanding can drive inquiry in subsequent lessons.  You can then ask the same question again to measure student understanding of the content.   The difference is that they will be investigating the topic as it pertains to their ecological issue.  Assessment in PBL actually promotes the incorporation of ELA Common Core Standards, especially those that ask students to formulate arguments using evidence from text.  As more and more schools adjust to adopting NGSS, they may also find science notebooks as a useful tool for tracking student learning.

Science notebooks have replaced binders in my PBL units.   There are many reasons for this, including serving as a place for students to record their ‘need to know’ lists and research findings, record observations from outside field trips where they investigate the biotic and abiotic factors in our schoolyard ecosystem, etc.  However, the main goal for using a science notebook is to prevent me from giving worksheets, as I would be tempted to do if they had a binder.  I still give handouts, but they are in the form of mini sheets of paper—which are stapled into their notebooks—that help guide students with their inquiry.  Previously, I viewed worksheets as a tool for implementing an activity that reinforced the content that I directly instructed during class.  The worksheet assessed students’ abilities to regurgitate information; they by no means inspired learning or made the content come to live.  PBL, however, does enable learning to come to live and has truly changed my perspective on teaching and learning.  I now have a better sense of what inquiry-based learning means and how to incorporate it more effectively.

Reflections on my PBL experiences:  I originally thought that it was impossible to cover content standards through PBL, but that is no longer the case.  In our PBL unit we investigated questions that were teeming with content.  Granted, the content may not be learned in the same structured sequence as in a standard classroom, but that shouldn’t be our concern as educators.  Empowering students, through authentic learning experiences, should be our focus—not vocab memorization or trivial knowledge that is assessed on a quiz and then forgotten afterwards.  If we really want to impact the future of STEM, whether it’s teaching kids to be more connected to their local ecosystem or engineering solutions to problems, we must plan lessons and units that involve real-world scenarios and connections.  Just talking about them isn’t enough, however.  Our kids need to make connections to their own lives and inquiry-based learning makes that possible.

Tips: Planning a PBL unit should start with looking at the NGSS and picking several that you would like to incorporate.  You should then think of what you would like students to do with the information that they have acquired through their inquiry.  In our ecology unit, I wanted to cover NGSS MS-LS2-1 through MS-LS2-5.  The summative assessments assigned for each group included a Pecha Kucha presentation about the issue and how it impacts ecological and human health and they also had to create educational materials that empower citizens to improve their environments by altering their lifestyles.  Pecha Kucha presentations are a new, more engaging presentation where presenters place images on each slide and then have 20 seconds to discuss the slide before it switches to the next one.  It’s kind of like a TED talk meets PowerPoint; highly engaging presentations that allow students to be creative and concise.  I mean, who wants to drudge through class after class of PowerPoint presentations?!  Give Pecha Kucha a try; you will be very pleased with the results.  My students will be presenting in front of actual ecologists, environmental engineers and town officials which adds to making the experience more meaningful, as well.  When it comes to the day-to-day lessons don’t be afraid to stop the inquiry process and implement more structured lessons.  For example, I planned a lesson that had students go outside to survey the biotic and abiotic factors in our schoolyard.  It’s one thing to research ecological issues; it is completely more meaningful for students to actually experience their findings first hand.  So, take them outside, mix it up, see where it takes them.  Most importantly, you need to embrace student-centered learning and let go of being in direct control!  In a way, PBL ties many differentiation tactics, which is another great reason—as if you needed on!—to  give is a try.

I hope that I painted a picture of what PBL can mean for you and your students.  If you would like to know more about PBL please take a look at the resources that I have included below.  An informed teacher is an effective teacher.  Become informed about PBL by reaching out to your global PLC community through DEN, twitter or blogs, and help bring learning to life for your students.  Remember: it’s not about getting through content; it’s about making the content relevant through authentic learning experiences.

Resources:

http://bie.org/ Go here to find information about Project Based Learning

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/10/the-inquiry-process/ This is a graphic organizer that I use to help my students with inquiry based learning

http://www.pechakucha.org/ This link will introduce you to the world of Pecha Kucha presentations

  David Kujawski, East Walpole, MA ... Bird Middle School

Twitter @STEMatBirdMS.

David Kujawski, of Franklin, MA, teaches 6th grade science at Bird Middle School in E. Walpole, MA.  David holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Dickinson College, an M.A.T. from Simmons College and a STEM Education Certificate from Teachers College, Columbia University through the NASA Endeavor Science Teacher Certificate Fellowship Project (Cohort 2).  He has been teaching science for about 9.5 years in formal, informal and higher education settings.  He is a 2013 Siemens STEM Fellow, NASA Endeavor Fellow (Cohort 2) and has been published in the NSTA Science Scope Journal.

We hope you enjoyed reading about making that STEM Tech Integration plan with David.  Please take the time to retweet and pass this information out to other STEM educators you think might be interested!  Now is also a great time to sign up for an RSS feed and also follow us on twitter at SiemensSTEMAcad.  We have more great STEM information coming your way including more STEM ideas from our past Fellows. Have a great week  and take some time to start making your own STEMtastic learning connections… today. – Mike Gorman (21centuryedtech)    

Posted on August 15, 2014 by Michael Gorman
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