LittleBits @ Maker Faire Amsterdam

LittleBits, the brainchild of Ayah Bdeir, an alumna of the MIT Media Lab, is a library of Electronics dubbed as ‘LEGOs for the iPad generation.’ They are pieces of an electronics  which snap together with magnets to create a working circuit, they have a simple color coding, blue for power, green for output and pink for sensors. You can make all kinds of fun things with them. I had just ordered an extended kit as a prototype tool for the new school I am working on called DNS, when I saw the call to take part in the Amsterdam Maker Festival and thought lets join in. And see what children would want to do with LittleBits.

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They look very friendly.

motor2
Putting together the LittleBits, light, slider, motor.

maeve-motor
Attaching things to the motor to see what happens.

On LittleBits:
It wasn’t really a workshop, we just played together and tried things out, some adults were totally glued as were some children, and kept trying different ways to make things turn bleep and light up.
The LittleBits are easy to work with and everyone young and old found them user friendly, on the down side, they are less adjustable than you would want them to be, as in the motion sensor would need to be in a really quiet room to work, the LED light when connected to a sound sensor mainly responds to high tones and stays on for a couple of seconds before going out and you can’t adjust that.
Another point of concern is the strength of the battery which wore down very quickly and the strength of the fan which wouldn’t really blow a sandwich plastic bag up, maybe only for feathers?

On Amsterdam Maker Festival:
This was a try out version, they put the whole thing together in 5 weeks so fair play. It was held in a perfect location, a former factory in Amsterdam North and there were a number of engaging children’s exhibits to interact with, so excellent for kids. I hope when the full version comes, next May 23rd and 24th, 2014 they will also attract the adult Maker scene for example people like Fred Abels, Plakken en Knippen from the Hague, the Dutch DIY Bio group etc. Looking forward!

See here for the flickr set of photos, from Saturday the 7th of September at Maker Faire Amsterdam

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mLearn 2012, takeaway’s day 2

I’m at mLearn 2012 in Helsinki, a primarily academic conference from people working on mobile learning across schools, higher education, informal learning in both European, North American contexts and South Africa and Bangladesh. I’m interested in both contexts.

Wed October 17

KeyNote Eric Klopfer, MIT Scheller Teacher Education Program and the Education Arcade
Theory of Change?  and App Inventors

Explaining the American context of computer labs, huge lists of contents that need to be ingested by students, the ‘No child left behind’ policy which leads to a lot of testing, all leading to a shortage of students and teacher’s time. Eric and his team at MIT ubiquitous learning have created a series of mobile web games to support STEM learning amongst school going students.
The games they made are designed to encourage short bursts of play repeatedly over time, much like Farmville. The based on the idea that students can play in the times between class, or lunch time.

What? I’m wondering what the theory of change at work here is? Do they not wish to challenge the status quo of chasing grades in old ways. Is this not operating on the presumption that the time in between class and lunch is otherwise empty or useless. Don’t students need time to talk, reflect, play sports, not learn?

In the second half of Eric’s Keynote he went back to his opening statement which I love:
Games or playful learning is not about making learning fun, it should be about showing that learning is fun.
In the games they are designing and measuring Eric’s team are critically exploring the use of badges and what they reward. If I understand correctly he  is advocating for smarter use of badges, we shouldn’t reward behaviour that gamers/learners would do anyway such as just showing up, or simple task but as games designers we should reward solving puzzles of gradually increased difficulty with differentiated badges and rewards such as entering the sandbox.
He says: ‘Structured, goal orientated feedback-driven can be fun. Structure is fun’

Finally Eric promotes the designing of apps by younger students, Yeah!
Using App Inventor created at Google, it includes a ‘block’ interface (such as Scratch) to make programming easier for beginners.
They have the App inventor curriculum. In a few weeks from now there will be a MOOC on app invention and entrepreneurship. Going live in 3 weeks, in Spanish.

Low Cost Mobile Phones for Large Scale Teacher Professional Development in Bangladesh
English in Action
More about the presenters here

I already got good insights into how this program works in Bangladesh, from Marc Stouwe when I was in Dhaka last May, so excellent to get this presentation from the Open University team from the UK.

It’s all about supporting the teaching of English language in Bangladeshi schools. Currently they support 5000 teachers with this program and they aim by 2017 to take this up to 18.000 teachers catering for 10 million students across Bangladesh. So the scale is quite substantial for a mobile learning program.

The technology being used is an interesting model to me, it’s quite like what we do in Afghanistan in the Great Idea project, they use Nokia C1-01, 4GB SD card and portable rechargeable speakers. The premise being that in the long term teacher’s have already these phones, so that is both cheaper and poses no technology adaptation obstacles. The portable speakers, allow for use in off the grid classrooms.

What teacher’s said about the program:
Teachers work in pairs, they often find this a significant improvement in their teaching practice and the other equally named improvement are the video and audio helps which supports the in-school curriculum. (Both primary and secondary) There are 400 audio filesNote, how do they navigate these files?

There are also 4 videos on phones that show both a pedagogical approach to be used in the class which encourages a more participatory delivery style than is perhaps usual currently in Bangladeshi classrooms.

The kind of indicators that EIA has been measuring to check the impact of this program, are: how much of the class is spoken in english language, pronunciation skills of both children and teachers. Assessment was done independently through a large scale interviewing of participants.

Mobi MOOC,
Investigating learner interactions via ubiquitous accessInge de Waard

In September this year Inge ran a MOOC called MobiMOOC (Which I lurked in)
which was a highly informative and friendly Mooc which I thoroughly enjoyed lurking. All the materials are still online so if you want an introduction to a wide range of Mobile Learning topics.

Inge is investigating (alongside providing and moderating the whole MobiMOOC) how well it worked in general and the importance of learner interactions in MOOC’s. You can see her slides here
O
r follow here on twitter @ignatia for her ongoing research into this topic.

Envisaging my Ideal School. User Case in 2015

As part of my course work at THNK.org and my current research into what is a great education, I wrote this imagined User Case & Day in the Life of a student at
‘the World School for Social and Creative Entrepreneurs

User Case, Meet Anne

Anne is 14 years, living in 2015 and she goes to the World School of Social and Creative Entrepreneurs in Amsterdam and Paris.
She graduated from primary school 2 years earlier proficient in reading, writing, spelling, geography, history, sciences, Dutch and English, with a proficiency plus in visual expression and abstract maths and below proficiency in work speed and story telling. She thinks she wants to be a designer but isn’t sure at all.  Her hobbies are climbing trees, drawing and cooking.

Since she joined the World School of Social and Creative Entrepreneurs, 2 years ago she has done 4 major projects, 2 minor ones and set up an online business.
Major Projects are driven by cross topic learning objectives set by school staff and Minor projects are student driven where only the process is set by staff.
Projects are done in groups of 4/5 students, mainly in same age groups but sometimes with mixed ages and between school, such as Amsterdam and Paris.

An example of a major project is ‘Design a curriculum for primary school group 6 on the history of Europe, covering, language culture, politics and economies. An example of a minor project is where students watch a series of self chosen TED videos and subsequently write and deliver their own 9 minute TED talk on a theme of their choosing.

The business Anne set up is called iAnne and it profiles her Lego Architecture and her Plastic Bag Fashions and sells the How to instructions. She hasn’t sold that much but she has learned much about copyright, online selling, business maths and branding and been invited to give workshops in two primary schools.

Next year Anne will get the chance to go to Paris for two months, where she will attend the Paris branch of her school, practise her french and work together with students whom she already knows from a major project on which they collaborated.

World School for Social and Creative Entrepreneurs

The school philosophy

The World School for Social and Creative Entrepreneurs believes that the reason to educate people is

  1. To give them tools for their natural creativity
  2. To believe in themselves and their dreams
  3. To give back to the world
  4. To give them tools to learn what they need to know, understand or be able to do.
  5. To manage their emotional self

So they can live in harmony with themselves, their community, the planet and creatively contribute in their unique way to a better world. See here for the School Manifesto.

The school combines curriculum staples, collaborative project work, individually motivated projects and care for the individuals personal and spiritual development. Students are encouraged to work hard, to discover their dreams, to work in teams and to take themselves and their fellow human beings seriously.

Day in the Life.

Anne gets up with her family at home in Amsterdam at 7.30, she needs to get to school for 9 am. She has breakfast, makes her lunch box grabs her laptop and heads for the bus by 8.30.

Every school day starts with Motion and Focus Class, students can choose between group sports, stretching and in the summertime swimming. Each session ends with focus, which is a style of guided meditation, delivered alternatively by teachers and students.

Anne’s spends every morning between the rest of the morning working on her Major Project, from 10 am to 12 am in her class group. The two-hour session consists of a number of cycles of video or instruction followed by team reflection and making and writing. The subjects Anne then studies would be for example, in the case of the European History project: french language, maths, political systems and European history.

This is how the week schedule looks:

Time Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
9.00 Movement Movement Movement Movement Minor Project
10.00 Major Project Major Project Major Project Major Project Pers. Project
12.00 Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Home
13.00 Minor Project Minor Project Minor Project Minor Project Online Minor
14.30 Personal Project Personal Project Personal Project Personal Project Online Personal
15.30 Group Closing Reflection Closing Reflection Free
16.00 Home Home Home Home Free

After lunch Anne works on her minor project in her group. Her personal project follows which includes a meeting with her mentor. The day ends with a classical group exchange. Anne’s best friend Zoe sings a song for the group, which is a political commentary on the failing of the Dutch green party. It is part of her personal project: in which she is writing and performing a series of songs, on issues that she cares about. On alternate days Anne has a reflection session in her buddy group, there they talk about what they achieved that day, what they are thankful for and what they would like to work on the next day.

Technology Supported

All students have their own light-weight laptop, with access to wifi, and the schools intranet. On the intranet, Anne maintains her learning plan, updates her personal portfolio and links to the major project collaboration spaces. She maintains a list of courses she is following online and the badges she has achieved. There are also group forums, for the class, per topic and for the staff.

Teacher’s and mentors.

Teachers at the World School for Social and Creative Entrepreneurs, have all a specific area of interest about which they know a lot such, have usually started their own social or creative venture, are motivated to share, motivate and care about young people. They believe in the autonomy of young people and their intrinsic talents.

The role of the teacher is to co-develop Major projects and curate the inputs for students. To guide students both as individuals, being their mentor and through student groups dynamics. And to be a role model for students in their life-long learning approach to life.

The teacher works with according to a code of conduct which guides the teacher, student interaction and the safety of students when undertaking real life activities such as setting up a business.

Attribution.

This envisaged school experience, is inspired by a combination of sources including, my own experiences designing education, the curriculum approach at Thnk.org, the Vrij School, Amsterdam the Green school, Bali the UNIC school, Utrecht, the School of Life for atheists of Alain Botton, the Uncollege Manifesto, the Maker Movement, and the FrameWork for 21st Century Learning, the Flipped Classroom, the Mac Arthur DML Badges project, Simon Simek, Mozilla Labs, the Open Education movement and others.

Let me know if it resonates with you!