PEDAGOGY FIRST, THEN TOOLS – The foundational keystone we rely on before we integrate our mobile digital technology in the classroom
By, Susan Wells
Over three years ago, when I began TechTerra Education’s Foundations training, I started our program by first keeping in mind using the best pedagogy. I still do. I think of pedagogy as a combination of the theory, practice, methodology, and activities of teaching. In order to teach others in a meaningful and engaging fashion, we first have to understand the methods and activities of teaching. We must share this understanding with others in a manner that is relevant and retainable. Our goal is to teach the skills necessary to enable students to engage in creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking.
With a strong pedagogy established as our cornerstone we can bring teaching others to make the best use of technology into the process. We do this thoughtfully by using technology that is available today in ways that will prepare our learners for the ways it may be available tomorrow. Before we introduce a tool into the classroom, we fully explore what that tool can do and how it can contribute to the skills our students need. We actively track whether it is contributing to students’ learning as we expected and we modify our activities as needed if we think a change in use is necessary.
We can look at digital storytelling as an example of how we work with pedagogy first. We want our students to think critically, communicate effectively be creative and collaborate, so we engage them in creating storyboards using tablets - the technology component. We may start them off with a focused question to explore or we may offer a broad prompt. We aim for far more than simple word processing. We want our students to seek information, ask questions, find visual components, look for apps that add elements to their storyboards, and produce a cohesive unique project that can be shared with others. We have hundreds of tools out there today from coding tools, to robotics, to 3D printing that potentially benefit students both in and outside classrooms provided we start at the starting point – pedagogy first.
By, Susan Wells
Founder TechTerra Education
One of the tools we work with and love to use is Makey Makey. Their kits allow users to turn an everyday object, really almost anything that can conduct electricity, into a touchpad that connects to the Makey Makey board with “alligator clips” and then connects to a user’s computer through a usb cable. It is simple and really creative.
We've tried out many everyday objects including fruit, a person, aluminum foil, playdough, silverware, and the list goes on. The concept is to allow pretty much anyone to create and invent almost anything anywhere. You just need the kit and your imagination.
If you are having trouble picturing how this might work, think about this example. Let’s say you want to use your computer as a piano but you want a fun keyboard to play music instead of computer keys. So, you download your piano app. You decide to use modeling clay for your piano keys. You make modeling clay keys any shape you want, maybe you decide to make dinosaurs. Great, with your clay dinosaur keys, you clip one end of an “alligator clip” to each dinosaur. You clip the other end to the Makey Makey board. You connect your Makey Makey board to your computer with the usb cable that comes in the kit to your computer. And now, you play your piano with your dinosaur keys!
It really is fun and easy! And this is pretty much exactly what students did at Iolani School in Hawaii. Take a look at our youtube video with this talented pianist. The creative potential is unlimited. Click on our TechTerra Education video: youtu.be/W_EZKaWD_cs.
I just returned from Ignite Innovation, 2017, a conference sponsored by the Iolani School in Honolulu, Hawaii. It was held at the Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership. I had the privilege of presenting the keynote, A Makerspace Toolbox, Inquiry-based STEM Labs. I focused on purpose and pedagogy of STEM education, and Maker labs in education.
Hawaii is stunning and the weather during my visit was perfect. Iolani School is a beautiful campus with open spaces, a spectacular makerspace, and large innovative places for collaboration. Iolani provides an excellent model for 21st century learning spaces.
One of the particular joys of working on the island was getting to enjoy the welcoming nature of everyone with whom I interacted. It is not surprising, given the setting, that this Iolani Saturday conference had a full house with enthusiastic, engaged educators.
Innovation was the focus of the day’s work. There were many presenters and much to explore and learn. Our TechTerra team was happy to share high tech and low tech tools for creating. The conference was dynamic and inspiring for the participants. It was a further reflection of educators' desire to add STEM and making into schools everywhere across the US and the globe.
In addition to the conference, our team had the opportunity to work with Iolani primary and secondary students. They were highly engaged and really a great group. I also had the chance to visit my nephew, Daniel Mawyer, in his classroom at Holy Family Catholic Academy. He’s a leader in robotics and inspires his students to strive toward their highest potential in STEM.
This coming month is full with conferences around the country. We kick March off with NCTIES in North Carolina, on to SXSWEdu in Texas and then CUE in California. Aloha and keep up with us at TechTerra Education!
Students from Iolani’s first grade giving Primo Toys Cubetto robot a lot of love
Loving Chibitronics STEAM activity, circuitry and art, dragons too
Iolani Conference educators create with Future Make 3D pen
Iolani Ignite Innovation Conference and member of Iolani’s Education Innovation Lab Patti Nagami, Huge thanks for letting us work with you!
TechTerra playground at Iolani Ignite Conference creating geometric big structures with Pitsco’s Large Structures
TechTerra had the chance to share Birdbrain Tech’s Finch robot with students and teachers
Students at Holy Cross working with the Office of Naval Research building underwater robot ROV SeaPerch
Holy Cross math & science teacher and robotics club coach Daniel Mawyer shares his student’s GameMaker projects
There were many new and really amazing edtech learning tools to be found at January’s Las Vegas’ CES, Orlando’s FETC, and London’s BETT. In fact we found dozens of great learning tools we can’t wait to explore. Here are highlights of some of our favorites.
In the area of robotics there were more codable robots, microcontroller and robotic kits than ever before. We finally had the chance to explore KUBO, the educational coding robot. We’d seen Kubo on Facebook and being hands-on with this robot was a pleasure. Our favorite aspect of this learning system was Kubo’s direct connection to literacy and math curriculum.
Another favorite of ours that we have been using for some time, now available in market, is Primo Toys Cubetto. Cubetto is an amazing tactile coding tool that can be used with children as young as 3. With their cube-shaped robot following the coded commands kids plug into the board, Cubetto has expansive versatility.
We also had time to explore Edbot, an interactive and educational robot that we will be keeping an eye on. This robot is for older students; they’re able to code him in Python and other languages. We are excited that a single Edbot can be shared by a full class of students.
We loved exploring KOOV, Sony Global Education’s connected robotics kit. Coding, design thinking, and robotics make up this kit for student innovation. KOOV has great ease of use and a really cool fun factor as well.
3D printers of all shapes and for all kinds of uses were there in force across these three January conferences. The XYZ DaVinci Nano and the XYZ DaVinci Mini Make are among our favorite 3D printers. At TechTerra we’ve been using the XYZ DaVinci Jr for quite a while. We were excited to see the XYZ DaVinci Mini Make, a smaller printer than the Nano, enter the 3D printing world. We’re confident that the excellent quality and high dependability we’ve come to expect with XYZ will continue with this new printer.
In addition to 3D printers, 3D pens have come into their own. A real game changer for the classroom is the Cool Ink 3D Pen by Future Make. A 3D pen that uses “cool ink”, safer and without the danger of the traditional extreme high temperatures of a heated filament, makes this technology a much better option for kids in the classroom.
Virtual reality was everywhere at each of these conferences. AR and VR are taking off in a big way in many different forms all over the globe. Some of the new VR tools we’re starting to work with include Octagon Studio’s collection of tools like their flashcards and wearables.
In addition to these fun tools, we had the opportunity to host SnapBench, a virtual world for collaborative design followed by physical 3D printing. We are extremely excited about this VR software and the ability students have to make anything they might imagine, and then hold that creation in their hands.
While January kicks off the season for new and developing products in the edtech world, February is just as exciting. Keep following our blog as we travel across the globe finding the best of edtech for you and for our schools!
2016 raced by for TechTerra Education. This year we visited 12 states in the USA. We brought our unique approach to Florida, Georgia, Texas, New York, California, Colorado, Virginia, Oklahoma, Kansas, Washington, Nevada, and of course, North Carolina. The first month of the new year kicks off for us in Nevada, South Carolina, and Florida with Texas and Hawaii coming up in February.
On the global front, we visited 4 foreign countries. We took TechTerra Education to Jamaica, Costa Rica, Sweden, and China. Next year we start our international travels by heading to the United Kingdom.
Everywhere we’ve gone, we’ve had the great pleasure of seeing educators and students engaged and excited about merging the real and digital worlds.
As 2016 comes to a close, we celebrate all of the amazing students, educators, and families we’ve had the honor to work with and we look forward to the coming new year!
Photo Credit: A.M. Hönscheid
TechTerra just returned from China. It was an amazing trip with Susan presenting at the Global Education Technology (GET) Summit in Beijing. The work continued with visits to Eduction Technology companies throughout the city and a visit to the Peking University High School's Makerspace.
Susan will be blogging about the trip soon. In the meantime, we thought a holiday post would be fun to get you thinking about STEM and Maker gifts.
The holidays are coming! To help you with your gift shopping, we present our TechTerra Education 2016 STEM holiday gift picks!
And we are doing a big Holiday Giveaway! We’ll be giving away holiday gift picks each week of December. Four lucky winners will be chosen weekly, with the first winners chosen on December 3rd.
You can enter to win now! Share our TechTerra Education Special Holiday Edition Newsletter on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram, and email us at TechTerraEducation@gmail.com with screen shots of your posts or email us your comments or ideas for lesson plans. Click here for giveaway details www.smore.com/ckz8j
Our 2016 STEM holiday gift picks are found below. For a description of each gift, click on the item name to visit its company website, or click here www.smore.com/ckz8j to see our descriptions in our Special Holiday Edition Newsletter.
Here are the names of the picks in the order shown in the pictures about from left to right. Or Control click to open the link. So from the top of the gallery an left to right our picks are:
Hummingbird Robot Kit
Kamigami Robotic Kit
Bitsbox Coding Kits
Kano Computer and Coding Kits
Smart Letters and Smart Numbers
Tiggly Shapes, Math and Words
Osmo Coding - Pizza Co., Words, Numbers, Monster, Tangram, Newton, Masterpiece Games
NextX Nano Quadcopter
GoPIGo2, GrovePi, BrickPi Robot Starter Kits and GoBox USA-Robot Subscriptions
Home Wing™ Intelligent 3D Pen for Drawing
No Starch Press DIY Books
Dinosaur, Animals, Space, Octaland 4D+ Augmented Reality Flashcards
Lightup VR Circuitry Kits
Dash Robots and Accessory Kits
da Vinci Jr 1.0 3D Printer
Chibitronics Chibi Lights LED Circuit Stickers STEM Starter Kit
Happy shopping from TechTerra Education!
This article first appeared as “Kids become creators, not consumers - TechTerra’s STEM makerspace approach nurtures 21st-century learners” in the Pitsco Education Network Magazine, October-November 2016. Reprinted with permission.
ADA, OK – Working for 30 years in public education as a teacher and principal is ample time to build a reputation as an authority on what works and doesn’t work inside and outside the classroom.
So, with that wealth of knowledge and experience in her hip pocket, Susan Wells stepped firmly into the world of technology, STEM, and hands-on learning and started her own company, TechTerra Education, several years ago.
Her goal might be considered lofty by some. “We’re going to change the world,” she said with a tone of conviction. “Really. We’re working on it.” Be skeptical, if you must, but don’t fully doubt her ability to effect change.
It’s through a unique combination of digital tools, nature, science, and technology that Wells travels the world, putting on camps for students and teachers, whom she is preparing for life deep into the 21st century.
“We’ve seen kids begin to be creators, not consumers,” Wells said at the end of a summer camp for teachers in the Pitsco Maker Space Lab at East Central University in Ada, OK, this past summer. The foundation of TechTerra is STEM education, which naturally involves hands-on learning, and that is at the core of any well-designed makerspace.
“It’s hands-on, inquiry-based learning,” Wells said. “They’re putting this stuff in their hands, they’re playing with it, they’re exploring with it, they’re inventing with it. And it’s a totally different experience for them. . . . For four years we’ve run this Camp TechTerra across a number of different settings – private and public schools. It works everywhere with all kids. Kids get so excited and so engaged in this kind of learning.”
As a teacher and principal in North Carolina, Wells witnessed lots of students getting through their education “by jumping through the right hoops,” figuring out the formulas for academic success. But there often wasn’t much depth or meaning in the experience.
“Is that the best we can do in education? Or can we make something that’s really amazing and interesting and personalized for them?” she asked. “We can. We actually can. When the maker movement came out, we had already started an innovation lab. We knew that we had to start looking at kids’ interests. We knew that kids, in fact, have interests, and when they’re interested, they’re engaged.”
As part of the camp at ECU, Wells conducted an open-ended introduction to programming for teachers from elementary through high school. In the new Maker Space Lab in the Department of Education, she found a Pitsco Invention Explore-A-Pak that brought the activity to life. “I’m like, ‘That’s what we need right there, those materials,’” Wells said. “And sure enough, they got them out and you could just see some of the directions people went in with the different materials,” which include dowel rods, spools, basswood, balloons, string, straws, cardboard, and more.
Code.org® has a vision- That every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. Led by founder and CEO Hadi Partovi, and launched in 2013, Code.org is working to make coding and computational thinking accessible across the world for students and for teachers.
I loved the collaborative learning and working environment of the code.org office space, There were no traditional walls to be seen, but instead collaborative meeting spaces, standing and sitting desks, wide open spaces, and plenty of comfortable work areas.
Looking forward to working with code.org’s new coding curriculum.
We’d promised to share some of our favorite education apps in our next newsletter. So here are some useful media search tools and a handful of apps and web-based tools we love.
If you’re looking for a mobile app tool and can’t find it, give us a shout. We’ll give you our best recommendations from our expert teachers.
Search Engines We Use Include:
"The overarching mission of the project is to develop a deeper understanding of the role of mobile applications in Special Education. The project team is currently working on three main goals: a) develop a catalog of existing apps for special education as well as any studies that document the use of mobile learning in special education; b) conduct additional research studies with apps given current gaps in the literature; and c) develop new apps for mobile learning within special education, specifically focusing on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) content."
Some Truly Educational and Engaging Fun Apps and Web-Based Tools:
I've been thinking about kids heading back to school this month, and thinking about the importance of access to a STEM curriculum and to digital learning tools for all children. As a former special needs teacher and administrator, insuring equitable access to curriculum and to innovative learning tools will always be a core goal of mine, Also I've just read the Step Centre's back to school post, and it reminded me of the work they are doing with their special needs students.
Below are some tools we’re using now with all learners. In a future blog post, I plan to write about some of the many apps designed now especially to support special needs learners.
Bluebee Pal is a Bluetooth Interactive talking plush stuffed animal toy that connects to any device. It’s great for all young learners, including special needs learners, offering focus, motivation and support.
Primo Toys Cubetto is a coding toy for students age 3 and up. With no screen needed, Cubetto is a child’s first robot, powered by a real programming language that is tangible, allowing students to learn through play. We’ve been working and playing with this robot for over a year, partnering with Primo Toys in testing and development as they've gone from concept to market, and have found it to be a powerful tangible introduction to coding for all ages. Because Cubetto doesn’t use letters or screens, readers, non-readers and students speaking various languages can all play. Students succeed with this tool.
Copernicus 3 in 1 Interactive Easel incorporates 3 interactive modes in 1 mobile unit, alleviating common space and storage constraints in the classroom. It supports diverse learning methods for group and independent learning. The 3 in 1 is developmentally appropriate for students in Pre K through grade 3, including those with special needs. Students with access challenges are able to participate side-by-side with their peers.
iOS devices, including iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, all include accessibility features,
These include VoiceOver, AssistiveTouch, and Guided Access.
iOS devices also pair with HumanWare Braille Keyboard for Visually Impaired learners.
Step Centre students and staff in their outdoor garden lab.
The Step Centre, a school for special needs students that I visited this spring in Kingston, Jamaica (see my blog post of June 7, 2016 ), was founded in 1993 by students' parents. The Step Centre lives their motto -- Believing in one child means believing in ALL children -- by providing therapy, education, and parenting for children with multiple disabilities.
When I visited I was impressed by these young people and their learning experiences in the digital world. The Step Centre has a computer lab as well as mobile devices and assistive tech tools. I had the chance to see their music and literacy lessons enhanced with technology, and had the opportunity to gift the center with Bluebee Pals for cross-content activities.
The Step Centre is a truly fantastic organization insuring access for their students, with a focus on expansive gardens, technology, and hands-on learning, all individualized for ability and need.
Bluebee Pal’s Winston the Puppy enhancing a student’s communication lesson.
Hilary Sherlock, Director of Schools for the STEP Centre, greets guests.
Circle time at the STEP Centre enhanced with edtech.