http://warrick-mole.com/ is where you will be able to find me from now on. I lashed out this week and bought my own domain.
I will be leaving this here until someone tells me otherwise, so the links will be fine if you have any out there. I have also uploaded these posts to the new site though I have not had the time to update many of the external video and document links yet.
See over @ http://warrick-mole.com/
Well today was the first real lesson this term of year 10 Metalwork, the class I started my PBL journey with last term. So time for a progress report.
I have set every group up with a folder containing all examples, project outline and other useful resources. Every student has their own folder with the project outline and KWL sheets for every lesson. They are expected to complete these every lesson and hand the folders back in so as to achieve weekly XP on top of the finished project XP.
To date each of the groups of around 8 students have had 2 to 3 in the group who have lead and collected all the information they need to make their final project. Unfortunately the other 5 or so students per group have not been so diligent in their work. This in a normal class would be a problem, though for this group of young men it is actually an improvement. I can have them engaged for close to 30 minutes which is 30 minutes longer then it has been previously. Along with this extra engagement, there has been an extreme reduction in whole class disturbances which previously were a real issue.
There are 2 boy’s who are loner’s, nerds if you will. They have no want to be in Metalwork, it was what was left available to them on subject selection night. I have to connect with these boy’s who sit quietly and work through improving their Minecraft worlds having finished the minimum work required. So today I quickly asked around those in the know on Minecraft to see if they could build a Blacksmith’s workshop inside their Minecraft worlds. It turns out they can, so in 2 weeks time that is what I will charge them with for their project.
Now no videos have been developed or produced, though 2 groups actually started looking at which camera to use for their project. So many would say it hasn’t worked, I would say progress is slow, many small milestones have been met and there are many more to come. This class of disturbed boy’s from the western suburbs needs more time, time they don’t have. They have not been taught to learn, they have been taught to follow this, produce that and this your mark A, B, C, D, E. They just need more time.
I should reaffirm that I only have this class for one period out of their allocated four per two week cycle. I have zero control or influence over what happens in the weeks between. This also makes this particular lesson tougher.
The Digital Education Revolution is dead; its death will take place sometime in December 2011 when Kevin Rudd’s original promise is reached and all that will be left is 20 million dollars of support for infrastructure for a two year period. At the same budget reading we heard about a nation wide drive for Chaplains in schools. Where did we as educators go wrong? I have strong memories from 1985 at high school of scripture class as it was called at the time and the issues that caused for those students who did or did not attend. Why is it back and Federal supported and funded at what blatantly appears to be at the cost of future proofing the nation and my retirement?
The death of the revolution will hurt me and teachers who, like me teach Computer Science based subjects. We teach the students how to use the trucks (thanks to Steve Jobs for that gem) that drive the worlds computing. The revolution in NSW brought equity to schools and their students. In NSW the revolution saved me from having to win a fight with my English faculty over spending $20,000 on the full Adobe Creative Suite which I was never going to win. It provided my students with a computer that was not restrained by what is now a 10 year old operating system which is XP, which by the way still has a massive strangle hold on my region which I cannot explain when other regions in NSW already are running the same hardware on Windows 7 and they could take them home and continue to work and learn through complex problems. What makes it even more painful is that this years cohort where the most excited since the revolution began and realised from the start of the limitations of their new learning tool.
These fore mentioned trucks (destop PC’s) have continued funding under T4L and wont be disappearing anytime soon, the only question mark over the T4L is the extra software contracts NSW picked up as part of the revolution and what is their expiry date.
With the basics covered it is time to start looking to the future. Which is quite bizarre given that the revolution is not cold yet. As it happens, on the Thursday after the budget there was this little show going on in the US for developers. You may have heard of it? Google I/O? At this developer conference the world got its first look at the Google Chromebook, most people in the world probably only heard the Angry Birds announcement and rushed to the Chrome Store to install app.
If you have not seen a Chromebook here it is http://www.google.com/chromebook/ Now this is not a revolutionary computer, all it has is a web browser! What it does have is affordability. Google announced that Schools would only pay $20 a month per user. This whole Chromebook army can be external managed similar to how the current laptops are and are updated just like the current Chrome web browser, without the user ever knowing. Now I hear you saying what about all the applications. Well it turns out that there are the Google docs services, Microsoft Office Online services and Office 365 all in the cloud. and thanks to Google and its push for everything in the browser there are more and more applications growing in the cloud. Take a look at http://tinkercad.com/ awesome web tool for simple cad work which can be exported and printed in modern 3D printers used at school.
Now its no truck, but a Chromebook meets the needs of most educators and not just the few. Given we have only just started the true revolution surely we need to move quickly and get on board with this new mode of computing.
Its not Windows! well no its not. Microsoft and its partners (ours being Lenovo) do not offer anything like this, they have us using old technology as new and stuck in self managed servers even though Microsoft could have NSW all cloud bound. Microsoft’s own small machines similar to those found in libraries across the state would not be capable of the same work as the Google Chromebook’s. So given we are one of Microsoft’s largest worldwide partners can they come up with a similar alternative for the same cost? I doubt it though I have been known to be wrong.
Another plus for the Chromebook is that it can also have 3G connectivity built in, therefore closing the equity gap even more if they were offered with a small allowance of bandwidth.
So there you have it Chaplains or Laptops. I choose Chromebooks, you?
Reflection. In all seriousness it is more than likely to early to say this first foray into Project Based Learning was a raging success or even close. However given my experience for the first 9 weeks of this term with this class it was a raging success. Whether that was because they were given something different to the normal research, writing mode or they were actually interested and engaged I cannot say.
Not everyone was fully engaged, this I was expecting; these are hard nuts and they will be harder to crack. Again though there is the however, there was no outright “I’m not doing this”. Instead of having to chase one incident after another around the classroom there were only a handful of times I had to question what a student was doing off task.
I allowed the students to choose their groups given that I set an exact task around a question. This is not true PBL. The groups went closely to what I expected, both the large groups have a god mix of doers and watchers as I call them. One group though thanks to a student who is normally a watcher has collected all the information his group needs about the Milling machine. This student was so pumped at the end of lesson he hung around for nearly half of recess to talk to me further about the project.
The idea of XP, Levelling Up and Prestige struck a cord with these students, many of who play Call of Duty the popular video game. Plus the knowledge that if they participate, contribute and explain what they did each lesson via their KWL they would earn an easy 10XP made sense to them.
I have to keep relating everything I know of this class to five lessons over this first term, only five. Of that five, four were hell one was acceptable.
So yes I am excited, yes I know it can all change next term. If I can catch 12 to 14 students with this change in this class, that will be success. As Dean and Bianca have been explaining to me, it is hard to drop everything and run with PBL and it is also hard to change 10 years of ROTE style teaching to which these students have become acclimatised to.
I am sure I have missed out plenty of information. It has been a very busy couple of days as you can see and so close to holidays I am feeling a little spent tonight.
As promised my actual delivered project is in here. Before going into the delivery of the project I did something I have never done before, I had the work the students were originally asked to complete up on the board and I asked them a question: “In three words describe what you think of this” Their answer were as expected, some however realised that they needed to learn the content; they were just bored with the delivery.
So delivery, I wont bore you all with every detail, just the outline. First this is the video I used as the hook event. Metalwork students enjoy a good video; they even enjoy old ones if they are good enough to catch them. This video had them in two ways, firstly they were engaged by the actions shown of the machine, secondly having had the project explained to them, they could see the potential in their own ideas already.
I followed this with the common craft on “Electing a US President in Plain English”, which also has a web page outlining the how to of this video.
This lead to some constructive class discussion about not only ways on how to make the video, but surprisingly on what and how does the milling machine work.
From there I showed a couple of the following videos on how to – a common craft style video, stop animation, stop animation with Lego, stop animation with movie maker and so on.
So plenty of resources to get started, yet I had not pushed the Milling machine on them. Nearly forgot, I made all these videos and documents available to the students via Edmodo.
At this point I let them decide which groups they would be in and set them on there way for close to 45 minutes. There was the odd over powered scream and the typical ribbing that goes on between 15-16 year old boy’s, however this behaviour was a marked improvement over the previous four lessons we had shared.
At the end I brought everyone back together handed out the KWL forms and went through with them what was required for this each lesson and that the KWL would earn them 10XP if completed every lesson, for now they responded well to this concept. Oh I forgot, I have used words like XP, level up and prestige instead of out of 100 or x marks for this section and also added power ups and power downs for good/bad behaviour.
I wont add my after class reflection in this post, these past three posts have been heavy going. So next post will be my reflection form the morning after.
Before I go any further I wish to make it clear that I am by no means an educational expert or even a teachers teacher. Most traditional teachers leave my classes thinking how did this idiot get a job.
To start where I left off in the last post we actually need to travel back in time a little. I cannot remember the exact time when I first heard the term PBL used to describe project based learning, though I do remember who said it to me. I give much gratz to Dean Groom. He introduced me to PBL sometime last year I think, though it could have been earlier. When I first read a little about PBL my first reaction as a TAS/IA teacher was that’s what we do already. Students learn by doing projects and to some extent that is true. However when you delve deeper in to the structure of true PBL, it is so much more then an end product.
So as I wrote in the previous post, around week 5 holes were appearing in the work and structure assigned to both classes. It was around this time I first approached the approachable Mr Groom about what I could do. Dean immediately replied with a PBL project. At first I left the idea just sit there. Then I saw a tweet by Bianca Hewes, talking about her personal success using Dean’s suggested PBL.
By this stage I was becoming desperate at what I could do in a short time frame for the year 9 class while I was away at the SWSR conference, so I copied the work that had been set into a Google Doc to share again with the ever obliging Dean. Unfortunately for me Dean was also presenting an important Keynote at SWSR, so he was unavailable for the help I needed in the timeframe.
From the conference we now land on Sunday afternoon and my panic at seeing what I was being asked to teach. I decided to stretch my twitter generated friendship to the limit and posted in another Google Doc the basics of the work left with a begging help me please message. As you would expect on a Sunday afternoon everyone is busy with their lives so there was not much action on this front.
So I turned to my friend the Google search. I simply typed in PBL and got all kinds of stuff. The first of which I clicked like one of my students was Wikipedia, though as is the case these days the Wikipedia page had some doubts about it self so I dodged it and went looking for more. So I first ended up here http://pbl-online.org/ this lead to some free documents to download and read. I clicked further and was soon here http://www.bie.org/ plenty to read. Not to keen to sign up to something else I looked at the freebies and stole this page with Evernote http://www.bie.org/about/what_is_pbl for future reading. Then I moved on to the next result in my search http://web.mac.com/khoneycuttessdack/PBL_Lessons/Project-Based_Learning.html, which was full of examples and ideas. I grabbed what I thought I needed, printed off some reading material and quickly tried to grasp the behind scenes of PBL.
Before I go into the meat of my first venture in to Project Based Learning, I feel there is a need for some background to my choice.
Firstly my school like many in Western Sydney is a PBL school. Huh! I hear you say, “the school is already a PBL school, what is he on about?” Well this PBL actually means Positive Behaviour for Learning. This type of PBL is intended to focus on student’s behaviour and not actively on their engagement in learning.
Secondly and the real reason for trying this freaky new teaching method called Project Based Learning.
Last year during the ups and downs of the timetabling process, I had a choice of teaching out of faculty for two periods a cycle or taking two periods a cycle of Stage 5 Industrial Technology Metalwork across both years 9 and 10. So I choose wisely and stayed in faculty. The actual teacher of these classes around the same time chose to move to a four-day week. This then made an issue for my HT with the lines of the timetable, either I had to go out of faculty or go from Metalwork practical over each cycle to Metalwork theory.
He chose theory. This choice at the time was intended for me to influence other teachers in my faculty, not just the Metalwork teacher as a “technology leader”. With this choice the HT made it clear that I would only deliver the work set and not impact in anyway on the topics and assessable work set by the class’s teacher. I was more than fine with this, as I had embarked on a new path with my junior IST and Multimedia classes.