Students as Teachers: Week 2 in the Makerbot 3D Classroom

The Makerbot 2X Replicator 3D printer has brought some exciting, vigorous learning into my grade 8 classroom. My room is full at lunchtime and after school with kids experimenting and curious teachers and students observing. On a couple of occasions, I’ve even had to kick a few students out after 5 p.m. I had no prior experience with these printers. While fascinated with the articles I’d read showing how they are used in meaningful ways, I had never seen one up close until ours arrived in my classroom. In a previous post, I wrote about how students dove in, setting it up. We’ve had the printer now for eight days. In this post I’ll share what the students and I have learned together. When the tech department teachers paid a visit to our room, these 13 and 14 yr. old. “geniuses” explained how the machine worked, its maintenance requirements, cost and time of production for each model, their newly acquired vocabulary and their next steps.

Makerbot has an excellent site complete with instructional videos and an expanding page offering uses in education. Last week, when we were struggling with the Makerware download, I submitted a support ticket. The Makerbot support team was responsive and within a few days, and the software fixed, we had the program loaded onto all laptops and netbooks.

In order for students to understand what a 3D printer could produce, we spent a class period touring thingiverse. This is a design community where students can discover what others have created, and because designs are licensed under  Creative Commons, anyone can use these. The students learned how to download and print a few items from thingiverse – guitar picks, hockey stick and puck. Students are very respectful and conscious of the cost associated with printing, and so they weighed and determined the cost of each item based on a filament cost of $58/kg. The time to print each item is determined not only by the size but by the resolution, so they decided to compare the quality and time of a detailed castle in high, medium and low resolution.

Medium Resolution

High Resolution

Comparing resolutions (Left t0 Right): Low, Medium, High

My next door teaching partner, Marc Westra, and I wanted students to understand that 3-D printers aren’t a fad, just used to manufacture toys. They offer benefits to society that most of us haven’t even imaged. As part of a reading activity, students explored Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and sites such as 3DPrinterworld.com to discover a multitude of uses.

This week as more students chose to spend their lunch hour in my classroom, I suggested the kids play with two design software programs, Sketchup and Auto123D (I had no experience with either). They picked up Sketchup very quickly. One student designed an army tank, then the group worked together to determine how to export the file into Makerware and print (export, save as .OBJ file). Once in Makerware, the students decided they needed to add supports for the overhanging parts of the tank which are removed after printing. All of this was happening while I was learning how to use Auto123D from Riley, another gr. 8 student.

During the next class that followed lunch, while I was teaching Language, the printer softly sang out its robotic song of beeps and bells as it churned out “Joey the Tank”.

From design to creation

Yes, there were some mistakes (yeah!) which they’ll solve and reprint. Still, the students were pretty proud of themselves after creating and printing the first original 3D model at Madill.  Skills used: collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, communication and problem solving.

Rear view showing supports

Joey the Tank

In the following class, I had these students introduce Sketchup to 60 of their peers. They’ve written an extension by creating a model for the students to produce in the next lesson. For me,  the most important piece of this experience is recognizing who these “teachers” are. A few are those “C” students who fly under the radar in the regular classroom. Now, they have moved from learner to teacher.

Student teaching students

Some students prefer Auto123D as the design software. Using the app 123D Catch, they discovered how to turn photos into a 3D models of themselves. Their goal is to create their entire class in 3D.  Other designers/entrepreneurs in class want to design and sell (as a Gr. 8 fundraiser) FE Madill “stuff” – iphone cases with the student’s name embossed, guitar picks, and more.  Their list is growing and will lead to another branch of learning including marketing and economics.

Success comes in many forms and pathways. Providing opportunities for students to explore areas of their interests strengthens our connections with them.  While there may be no direct mention of computer design structure in the Gr. 8 curriculum, the critical thinking skills they are developing as they collaborate and share is enriching their self-directed learning. It’s fascinating to experience. I’m looking forward to seeing how students and other teachers in our school use this 3D technology.

The 3-D MakerBot Arrives at F.E. Madill

This morning there were 3 big boxes in the office with my name on them. The sides were labelled with the big M…as in Makerbot. I was nervous – I wasn’t sure I could set this system up. But by the end of the day, at my students’ insistence, and with my teaching partner’s support (Marc Westra), these kids had taken over, finding the YouTube video I’d told them about that guided the process. My Gr. 8’s unpacked and put together F.E. Madill’s MakerBot 3-D Replicator 2X Printer. Some of them I expected to be involved; others surprised me. These kids are fearless; I needed that. Can’t wait to see what our students build with this machine!

The boxes arrive!

The Old and the New. Hope they get along….
The Old and the New. Hope they get along…

The Idea Hive 2013/14 Begins

Today the tag line that follows my blog title “Teaching with technology in a Gr. 7/8 classroom means sometimes you fly by the seat of your pants.” was relived-in a positive light. The Idea Hive, heading into another year, was set for our first Skype call at 10:55 EST.  While my teaching partner, Clarence Fisher, in Snow Lake, Manitoba, has very patiently tolerated the many snow days, and therefore class cancellations, we’ve put him and his students through over the past few years, I’m sure he (well, no one actually) expected today’s potential cancellation due to fog and bus delays, that almost offset our first classroom connection.

Actually, it was perfect! It gave me time to train two of my students, Jake and Riley, to run and broadcast the event live from our internet radio station, 105theHive, which I’d thought of while setting up this morning (there’s that “flying by the seat of your pants” mantra). They were awesome!

And by the time the students arrived and were directed into the largest classroom that could hold all 80 +, we were right on time.

With a grade 8 student body this large, none of this happens without the support of my fellow gr. 8 teachers. Mlle. Riley, the French teacher, offered her large classroom as the Skype site. Mr. Westra, my Language teaching partner, is supportive of jumping our language program into whatever unfolds during this adventure. And Ms. Martin, the math teacher, was willing to give up teaching time, in an unusually chaotic day, so all students could participate. As we re-introduce the Wingham end of the Idea Hive with gr. 8’s on a rotary schedule, we are not only bigger in student number, but in supportive teaching staff as well. I’m excited for this new transition.

Jump over to the Idea Hive to view more pics and listen to the broadcast recorded live today.

New Connections in the Idea Hive 2013/14

Book Club Revisited with HT Recorder

I haven’t done Book Clubs (also called Literature Circles) with my intermediate students for a couple of years now for a variety of reasons (size of class, off-task chatting) but I decided to try them again, with a few changes. Glad I did.

Getting back into Book Clubs was a bit of a daunting task. I have several (many!) boys in my grade 8 class this year who boast about their hatred for reading and writing. Luckily I have a few good books up my sleeve for these tough nuts!

Similar to previous years, I used smaller pieces of work to model and practice making connections, determining emerging theme, inferring and asking evaluative questions. And similar to those boys that say they hate books, their written answers looked like carcasses after the feast. A few bones, nothing meaty.

It’s during the book club discussions where the rich conversations and evidence of understanding usually pour out of many students. I saw the same phenomenon recently, during an observation of a 12U english class where students had to write, then discuss, an issue. The girls wrote and wrote, while most of the guys sat back. When it came time to discuss the work, again, many of the boys said little until they were asked by the girls in the group to contribute and clarify their answers. Then their opinions poured out. With that in mind, I decided this year to take a colleague’s advice and sit in on each meeting rather than having all 6 or 7 going at once while I circulated. I didn’t want to miss any of these conversations which I would eventually be using as a reading assessment piece.

Books were chosen by the students, and groups were formed based on those choices. I set up a small table and chairs at the back of my classroom (yes, it’s crowded). During the week 1 meetings, I was part of the discussion, prompting them to share their written, point-form answers from the Book Club prompts and asking clarifying questions. Their voices low and shy, some of them clearly did not want their buddies overhearing their responses while the rest of the class worked quietly on an independent assignment. And yes, that part took time to establish as well. But by week 2, after each student had been through one cycle of book club meetings, they realized the importance of keeping the room quiet so they could hear each other.

As we moved through weeks 2 and 3, I began to pull back from the conversation as students gained confidence in their discussion skills.  On the 4th and final week, I didn’t sit in on the meeting, but I had them record the discussion using the ipad app, HT Recorder ($6.99). I had already recorded their conversations the week previously so they wouldn’t be distracted by it. HT Recorder picks up even the quietest voice, and skips sections where no one is talking, so you’re not wasting time while listening to the recording later. It’s easy to make clips and share full or partial recordings. Reading a student’s bare-bones written response while listening to their recorded conversation makes assessment much more satisfying as students prompt and question each other for richer, more detailed answers. The fact that I’m not sitting with them, obviously marking them, I think allows for a more fluid and natural, on-task conversation.

HD Recorder

But while my kids sit in groups on a daily basis, it was clear during this book club, they need more work on asking clarifying questions and having the confidence to challenge each other’s answers.  These skills are coming, and we’ll keep working on this in the next round.

While looking for a way of changing up the next book club, I recently read  Mardie’s Muse Literature Circle prompts which I’m going to adapt for my students. Mardie generously describes the process, including examples and prompts her grade 7 students use.

Book Club Novels Used
Skate by Michael Harmon (great for reluctant readers)
A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt
Lush by Natasha Friend
Four Steps to Death by John Wilson
Wounded by Eric Walters
Summer Ball by Mike Lupica
Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

Strengthening Compassion via Half Brother & Project Nim

This year the Idea Hive read aloud featured the book, Half Brother by Canadian author Kenneth Oppel. The Idea Hive is two grade  7/8 classrooms located 2 700 km. apart in Wingham, Ontario and Snow Lake, Manitoba.  The story which was included in this year’s Red Maple selection (and the resulting winner) centres around 13 yr. old Ben and his relationship with a baby chimp Zan. Ben’s scientist parents are trying to prove that chimps can communicate with humans by teaching them sign language. Oppel’s synopsis:

“Ben Tomlin was an only child for thirteen years. Then his parents brought home a baby chimp. It isn’t long before Ben is Zan’s favourite, and Ben starts to see Zan as more than just an experiment. His father disagrees. Soon Ben is forced to make a critical choice between what he is told to believe and what he knows to be true — between obeying his father or protecting his brother from an unimaginable fate.”

Similar to our read aloud last year, my teaching partner Clarence Fisher or I read the novel to the students via Skype or on our radio station, 105theHive. One of us interacted with the students in the chat room while they listened. At the end of each reading, students posted their comments and reflections on an online sticky note. You can find links to all the chats and reflections on the Idea Hive site. Throughout the readings, students were asked a variety of thought-provoking questions including whether or not they agreed with the researcher’s distant approach to Zan, or life lessons that emerged as the characters developed. Some questions dealt with the humourous sections of the story as Ben attempted to win a girlfriend and so they provided relationship advice for Ben.

Once we were finished the book, Clarence and I planned to have our students watch the documentary Project Nim which mirrors the storyline in Half Brother. Before doing so, I posted the following on the Idea Hive website:

Summary from NPR article:

“In 1973, an infant chimpanzee was taken from his mother’s arms and sent to live with a human family as part of a Columbia University psychology experiment. The goal of the project was to see if the animal, named Nim Chimpsky, could be conditioned to communicate with humans if he was raised like a human child in a human household. He learned some very basic words in American Sign Language, but Nim continued to act like a chimp — he bit the children in the house and didn’t understand how to behave like a human child. It was decided that the family could no longer care for Nim, and he was shuffled from caretaker to caretaker for several years.”

Sound familiar?

We will be watching this recently released documentary, Project Nim, over two class periods. Afterwards you’ll be asked to write a blog post addressing the following issues:

What similarities and differences do you notice between Half Brother and Project Nim (characters, story line, setting etc.) ? What surprised you most in the documentary? What were you most disturbed about? What were you happiest about? What did you learn from the documentary that you hadn’t thought of before?

Students noticed a number of similarities, particularly the traits between the two key researchers. They were shocked at the differences portrayed between the chimps’ behaviour. In the novel, Zan was portrayed as a cute and intelligent chimp with a tendency for mischief and the odd bite. In the documentary, the dangerous, aggressive nature of mature chimps was much more evident. Students were disturbed by the scene showing chimpanzees being strapped onto a table for injections. Chimps who were raised as humans were stripped of their comforting toys and surroundings once the research trials had been disbanded. Frank and honest comments were posted on some of their blogs. “They made a huge commitment to Nim, treating him like a human,  and then they left. That’s animal cruelty.”

“We learned about how much of a traumatic change it was for Nim to go from living with humans to living with other chimps.  He wasn’t comfortable with them, and he suffered a lot.” Alyssa

After students had commented on each others’ blogs, they had questions surrounding the ethics of animal testing, so we asked a local veterinarian, Dr. Suzanne Baird, to address these. Dr. Baird visited our Wingham classroom and both classes listened to her either live or via 105thehive and a chat room. Dr. Baird provided a very balanced approach to the topic. Students learned not only about regulations regarding animal testing as well as the advances in human health that have come as a result. You can listen to the entire broadcast: Interview with Veterinarian, Dr. Suzanne Baird. Following her visit, students raised money by selling freezies at their annual ball tournament. This money was donated to Dr. Baird with the students’ request that it be used for the treatment of an animal where finances were limited.

Half Brother paired with Project Nim not only engaged our students, this project forced them to address some powerful, challenging questions regarding issues of animal testing. It strengthened their compassion for others.

#105theHive: Live Student Broadcasting Begins

(Give the files some time to load)

Turnberry 1st Broadcast Feb. 28    Turnberry 2nd Broadcast Feb. 29

Turnberry 3rd Broadcast Mar. 2

This week in the Turnberry Gr. 7/8 classroom, 32 students began their journey into a new learning space, an internet student radio station, 105thehive. In my previous post, I described the purpose of using this new media layer in the classroom, a space brought about by a handful of educators working together. Create a different online space for students to share, develop and support each other’s passions and learning in a safe and supervised place. Our latest idea emerged from the #ds106radio community and focuses on creating a similar internet radio learning space for our students to create live broadcasts and programming.

Prior to their first broad, students had completed a music project which would be the basis of their show. Several volunteered to be the first, along with two radio hosts, Kori and Ethan, who wrote their own programming script. Two student, Brad and Dylan, needed only a few lessons using the software, Nicecast, before feeling confident enough to organize the playlists and transition between itunes and voice during broadcasts.

Using Twitter to communicate the schedule, many supportive people tweeted in during the live broadcast. With the Twitter stream the #105thehive hash tag posted in full view on the smartboard, students began to experience “community”. There were familiar faces they knew dropping by (their Idea Hive teacher, Clarence Fisher, Andy McKiel) and others I’d told them about (Andy Forgrave, Alan Levine, Grant Potter, Jim Groom). Teachers and their students cheered them on from across North America via twitter. Other classes in the school were tuned in. When I took a moment to step out of the classroom, the school halls were literally buzzing with Metallica. Thanks to the ds106radio folks who cross-cast the show on their stream, students had truly gone global. Alan Levine blogged about the event.

Our web host, CentovaCast, allows the user to view current listeners, providing the number and map.

By the second broadcast, students demonstrated confidence in their voice. New hosts, new presenters, and they were realizing the power of twitter. Several who had accounts asked if they could join in the conversation, and so a very quick lesson on hashtags and protocol took place. Our principal, Suzanne Irwin, asked one of the students to teach her how to tweet in. How cool is that?

By end of the week, the students were onto their third broadcast, expanded now to include additions they wanted: a Leaf’s rant, school sports and jokes. They owned the process. And just as we hoped, another class took the stream. After our show, Bryan Jackson, a seasoned ds106radio performer, streamed in his B.C. high school guitar students from GleneagleMusic as they performed their projects. Bryan even created this video intro the previous day so our students could see his students in their classroom space. I love this idea. While the live broadcast was scheduled over our lunch break, several students stayed in to listen and tweet encouragement to students 3 time zones away. The community was growing. Parents and grandparents!! were listening in. One grandparent, listening in from Hawaii, even commented on Alan’s blog.

After the first live broadcasts (and their exuberance had somewhat settled), I asked the students to briefly write their thoughts on the experience. After the third broadcast, I had them add next steps. After all, they were now experienced radio broadcasters, programmers and writers.

Their thoughts… Besides being a ton of fun…

Things we loved:

– monitoring the map to see where the listeners are tuning in from
– amazed how everyone stayed quiet when we were broadcasting
– I was really nervous to go up and talk, but it’s not that bad. No eyes on you, only       ears.
– the hosts wrote good questions for the presenters, which made them feel more   relaxed
– loved listening to the different types of music. It was interesting how diverse we are    (rock, classic rock, techo, pop, classical).
– everyone was organized
– now my parents can hear how smart we are
– we made history today
– reading the twitter stream thoughout the broadcast made me feel a little less nervous

Challenges

– a lot of people were tweeting in, and it was hard for Mrs. D. to keep up and reply
– there’s a 30 s or so delay between the live person speaking and the broadcast

What we improved on:

– spoke with more personality and enthusiasm
– we got better with our timing
– added more segments to keep everyone hooked
– students writing and supporting each other through twitter (and helping me keep up!)
– on the 3rd day, we turned our classroom into the sound booth, and those listening    sat in an another room

Next Steps

– always do a sound check using the built-in server before each broadcast
– rehearse our lines more so we don’t stumble
– speak up when talking into the Snowball (the microphone)
– bring in more guests (teacher, principal, community members)
– create a wider variety of segments (there’s a 105thehive group in the Idea Hive    where students will be posting their ideas)
– convince other teachers from around the world to let their students broadcast here

While I knew the students would take to this new learning space, I hadn’t predicted their level of excitement, engagement and sidebar learning. This was demonstrated by a Friday night tweet from one of my gr. 7 boys:

@105theHive Unfortunately it’s the weekend so no more music projects… But I can’t wait for Monday!!!

or the tweet from another student home sick during the week: “Hey Mrs. D, this is Isaac. Can you broadcast the Idea Hive reading over 105thehive? Brad and I are going to tune in.”

The engagement and learning my students have demonstrated this week is evident. By giving them a place to practice their knowledge on a new oral platform, students become the programmers, experimenting with their peers and interacting with others while developing a new global community. Their enthusiasm is contagious. There’s room for more participants, whether that’s as a listener or student broadcaster. Andy and Clarence’s students will be broadcasting very soon. Consider having your students join in. We’ll help you get set up. Follow 105thehive on twitter for programming details.

Today while channel surfing, I came across, and watched a Marshall McLuhan biography. I think Mr. McLuhan would have approved of 105thehive.

#Radio4Learning

#105theHive Student Radio: A New Learning Space

My Idea Hive teaching partner, Clarence Fisher, and I had an idea.  Our classroom stretches 2 700 km from Wingham, Ontario to Snow Lake, Manitoba. We use a number of online learning spaces (WordPress, TodaysMeet, Google Apps to name a few) where our students connect and create together. Online spaces support the growth and development of global student communities. Depending on how they are used, they provide opportunities for students to share, develop and support each other’s passions and learning in a safe and supervised place. Our latest idea emerged from the #ds106radio community and focuses on creating a similar internet radio learning space for our students to create live broadcasts and programming. Trouble is, we both knew little about how to use it, let alone set it up. But we knew others who did!  With that in mind, my goal over Christmas break was to learn how to broadcast a radio show from my laptop.  With the help of Andy Forgrave, my sons, and a host of other #ds106radio friends, it happened something like this…

Pre-Show Prep: Nicecast Setup
Nicecast provides a way for users to “broadcast music from your Mac. Broadcast to listeners around the world. Nicecast can help you create your own internet radio station or allow you to listen to your iTunes Music Library from anywhere in the world!”

Ten minutes to show time. Fiddles are tuned, music is organized, and Andy is there via Twitter to walk us to the stage.

Living in the country means we deal with bandwidth issues, which meant streaming without losing the connection became an issue. And so when the music cut out numerous times, Bryan Jackson jumped in to help.

 “Although we’ve played in front of audiences many times, there was something unique about this experience; we’re performing for people we couldn’t see.  We were nervous at the start, but after awhile, we just played like the computer wasn’t even there.” Ethan Durnin

     cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by hdurnin

By relying on the support of friends and the generous #ds106radio community, I took, what for me was, an enormous and uncomfortable leap into an online space I knew little about.  What motivated me was knowing my students would also love to someday have the same opportunity in a space they previously didn’t know existed.

After taking the first steps, we were directed to Grant Potter by Alan Levine and Jim Groom (all ds106radio gurus). Grant laid out various options for developing a student radio station. Most importantly, he showed us it is possible and very affordable. Andy, also an intermediate teacher, and I worked together to move the project forward. We decided on the $20/month package on MyAutoDJ. Chatting via Skype, we had the station up and running by the end of the first day. And so began the life of 105thehive student internet radio. Andy took things a step further by setting up a Twitter account  and the beginnings of the web page. We had lots of fun sorting out the details of playlists, station identifications, and streaming URLs, and we were so exited when 105thehive was online!

Last week, my students worked on a music project identifying the elements of music on a piece of their choice. I’ve used a similar assignment in previous years, but there was a noticeable difference in engagement this year. My students know they will be sharing their projects on the radio. On Friday they created radio bumpers together using Myna, part of their Aviary package in Google Apps. The student teacher working in my classroom couldn’t believe it. Twice that day when the bell rang, no one moved – every student kept on working.  They’re excited and together, we’ve come up with many more meaningful ways to connect and share their passions with others in this space.

Live internet radio supports the strengths of our oral learners. It provides a new type of online learning space with an authentic audience where our students can collaborate and connect in various roles. But we don’t intend this to be a space just for Idea Hive students. Next steps involves bringing other classrooms into this community. There’s space for many. In fact, Andy’s students will be broadcasting in the very near future. The ideas are limitless: interviews, radio plays, commentaries, Rich Mercer style rants, public service announcements…  As 105theHive evolves, we’ll be sorting out the protocols such that other interested groups can join in and contribute. In the meantime, we’re just excited to get our experiment up and running, and look forward to hearing our students’ voices grow as they explore this new medium. And the students are excited too. Friday night, one of my students posted this comment on our class wiki: “I’m so exited to get started with this radio station. I hope everything goes well at 105 the hive. I’m also quite excited to hear our final bumper.”

Tune in Tuesday, February 28, 12:00 noon to #105thehive for the first student broadcast. To tune in to 105thehive, point your browser at http://www.105thehive.org, and click on the “Listen to the Stream” link. If you want to go fancy and use a streaming client like FStream or Tunein Radio on an iDevice (or Tunein Radio for Android), simply use the URL 105thehive.org/stream/ to listen in.