At the end of last school year I asked my students for some feedback. One of the things that came through loudly was a desire for more hands on time. This was most acute in Year 8, where I had simply tried to sneak in a little too much theory. In response I turned two theory-heavy units into one, trimmed down the content, and gave more time over to hands on exploration. One of the new additions was a lesson where kids could just teardown and rebuild old electronics, which I put at the end of a unit spent fixing and driving remote control cars. Below are some photos of what was a really energetic and well-received lesson, in which I did relatively little teaching. Aside from promoting some individuals to think about what components were for, and why things were design in a certain way, I really just asked kids to think about why we throw so much away, instead of fixing it.
A few of my Year 9s had been away, missing the first lesson of a two-part assignment in which students had to film a creative shot of some kind. Trying to think of how to get these students engaged and up to speed, I came up with the idea of trying to set up a flying camera, which, launched from the first floor, would fly down a cable, filming the action on the playground below.
The students quickly got into the idea, and I called in another teacher (thanks Ben!) to help keep the kids safe whilst I worked with the other groups. There was some creative thinking, problem solving, a few test runs and some iteration in the design. In the end, we launched from the 3rd floor, and got the following shot. The kids stayed into break (thanks Harry, George, Alex & Damien), and we ended up with a crowd of curious students trying to work out what we were doing. Best of all, the final shot was produced using only materials we found around school. So, here it is, our Ultra-Cheap Flying Camera shot:
Earlier this year I asked my Year 8 students to record a 2 minute warning to their parents, aiming to highlight risks which they might face online. This piece of work followed several smaller tasks (such as Me vs Me), and lots of discussions, regarding digital citizenship, what being online means and how we can stay safe. Of all the excellent pieces submitted, I was most taken by work of Chloe, who I believed manage to convey a lot of meaning in an easy to understand message:
Chloe runs a nice blog where she posts some of her other work, if you are interested in taking a look.
Twine fits into a seemingly new product category that I am sure will take off as competition arises and costs drop: small, configurable Internet-enabled sensors. Housed in a small and robust casing and powered by internal batteries, Twine can sense the world around it and take action based on certain user programmed conditions. For example, you might use the moisture sensor to alert you via SMS if your ficus is too dry or your basement is too damp. Although not available until May, the promo materials show an intuitive web-based interface for configuring the device, meaning that it ought to be useable by students of almost any age, and teahcers of almost any ability. If you are interested in facilitating really open ended student projects this may be a worthwhile investment, offering a great way to promote laterall thinking, creativity and problems solving. One question I have is whether Twine logs the data it captures, as this would really enhance its cross-curricular value.
If you are interested in building a similar device from a kit, check out Botanicalls.
This presentation, which I prepared for an assembly at my school, might be useful for educating secondary students about staying safe online. It focuses on the various dangers and how they can be avoided. Thumbnail image by brunogirin on Flickr.
This ingenious project uses readily available hardware to allow photographers to get up close to dangerous, wild animals. It is a great idea to get students to think of different ways to attack a problem, and to ask them to foresee what might go wrong.