Saturday, April 30, 2011

hReview of MAMS ITeam site

Mentor led documentation

Apr 30, 2004 by SC Spaethphoto of 'Mt. Ararat MS ITeam Site'

Provides a useful overview and activities of the MAMS ITeam. Shows some student work on projects. Needs to provide more complete coverage of activities. Would be helpful to have students more engaged in the creation and management of the site.
Meta: I write this review to test the microformat tools for hReview.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Harriet Beecher Stowe on Child Labor

Harriet Beecher Stowe is most famous for her writing of Uncle Tom's Cabin. But her indignation against slavery seems to be matched by a similar feeling about child labor. A correspondent from England complained about a reference in Uncle Tom's Cabin to labor conditions for children in England. She responded as follows:

Beecher Stowe moved from Brunswick several years before the beginning of the Civil War. So, it seems unlikely that she would have seen this ironic outcome of her advocacy for the abolishment of slavery:

WANTED! 120 Girls and Boys to work in Maine cotton mills for 9 hours per day. L-A Museum and Maine State Archives.

Saturday, April 9, 2011 testing via Crocodoc

I have been testing the editor for Arduino. It works reasonably well in its current form but I need access to some features before I invest a lot more time into it. I have documented some of my work as part of a learning process record and had a screen-shot lying on my desktop that I use here to test Crocodoc:

The Annotation tool did not display when I examined the sample doc that I embedded in yesterday's post. The Annotation tools came as soon as I uploaded a document of my own. This seems like a useful tool for remote collaboration on a broader range of document types than Google supports.

The comments that I make on the screen shot describe my reactions to both current status of the development and features of Crocodoc.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Highlighting and Annotating Collaborative Work

Theron bookmarked (Diigo/Theron_d) a page from Crocodoc, a html5 based document rendering engine, that supports high-lighting and annotation of pdf and other challenging document types. While Google is improving its capacity to support this kind of collaboration on documents, they can use the competition.

The chunk of text below came from a copy and paste of a selection on page 22:

 The longest path is the
shortest and the shortest
path is the longest
The shortest route to learning the craft
of a field is the one that, at first glance,
appears the longest.To really learn
something, you must understand the
basic concepts of your field.If you
try to skip,

I copied and pasted because the tool did not seem to work when I tried it.

Inevitable. But how to get there from here?

Maine ASCD invited Bea McGarvey back for their Spring 2011 conference. She will promote the Mass Customization of Learning. MAMS ITeam and Capstone participants explore this frontier. I try to identify and develop opportunities for students to find a compelling interest and develop it as individuals or small groups. But the approach is so different from most of students' other experiences in school, that many find the transition very challenging. When I see evidence of students getting the idea, I try to have them show-case their accomplishments.

At yesterday's ITeam meeting, I tried to help the whole group look at the Minecraft explorations as an example of what it means to find an engaging creative medium and then spend time outside of school to explore and develop that interest. The Minecraft explorers seemed to appreciate the recognition of their efforts but the robotics crew dismissed the idea because they are not interested in it at all. And, when conferred later, they wanted to know what they should do next because robotics were interesting but didn't sustain their engagement. When I turned the question of what to do next back to them, some waxed nostalgic for last year's student-teacher ratio. I reminded them that we have to find an approach that doesn't rely on favorable ratios.

Erik Kramer share the link to the following video:

Meg and Alex are developing lessons through CREA that they plan to share with elementary school students at Bowdoin Central and Woodside Elementary Schools. Can older students learn Squishy Circuits and similarly share them with young children?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Learning Analogies

SAT Question of the Day:

Redstone Circuits : Minecraft :: ________ : Arduino Robotics
  1. LEDs
  2. AppInventor
  3. Editor
  4. Cellbots and Servers
  5. All of the above and more!
We use a project-based learning approach for ITeam. I want students to engage with the work so that they choose to spend time outside of school to work on their projects. So, I give them latitude in selection and encourage them to shoulder part of the project management responsibilities so that we can customize their learning. Since many have never learned this way in school, we have challenges making the transition to this way of learning. One of the biggest challenges is getting them to document the work they have done in ways that we can share with stakeholders and other interested parties.

Our recent foray into Minecraft originated in student engagement that they used to convince me that I had misinterpreted the genre. I saw the chopping as destructive and did not yet understand the real intent of the activity as gathering raw materials for creating new materials and artifacts.

Now, I am learning that some middle school ITeam members are setting up multi-user Minecraft servers at home and are developing the ability to tune-them to meet specifications that support our learning needs. Coby told me today, that he has shifted his focus from creating objects and structures in Minecraft to understanding and creating tools for others to use. He clearly has established a Pre-Capstone Project that shows potential for transferring what we are learning in the MTA Capstone Project to middle school and beyond. Clearly, we are shifting roles and moving toward authentic co-learning.

How can we help all students at all levels to take more responsibility for helping to manage their own learning?

The answer is clearly 5. All of the above and more!

Now, if I can just keep up with them. But, Coby described getting help from the Minecraft admin community in setting up port-forwarding in his network settings. So, I hope we have reinforcements ready in the wings in the form of mentors in new cultures of learning that David Thomas and John Seeley Brown describe in their book the New Culture of Learning:
In this connected world, mentorship takes on new importance and meaning
Where traditionally mentoring was a means of enculturating members into a community, mentoring in the collective relies more on the sense of learning and developing temporary, peer-to-peer relationships that are fluid and impermanent. Expertise is shared openly and willingly, without regard to an institutional mission. Instead, expertise is shared conditionally and situationally, as a way to enable the agency of other members of the collective.

Learning from students and others

Members of the MAMS ITeam shared their interest, engagement and creativity using Minecraft. But when I ask them to connect their work in Minecraft, with learning in school, they don't provide compelling examples or analysis. I tried to illustrate last week with the high school students' example of creating a model of a cell in Minecraft as a high school biology assignment. I don't know how effective that was.

Paul Soares, Jr. posted this link to a video (that showed up in Joel Levin's blog) of Minecraft project that illustrates more compelling connections to desired learning outcomes:

Does this exemplar help students to understand what we are trying to develop? Last year ITeam members tried to use Alice to meet Mr. Hale's social studies assignment to create a town. They used the libraries of available objects to create responses but the medium seemed to lead them away from his assignment and toward something that it could support. Does Minecraft provide more generic materials that can be used to meet assignments to represent various time-periods and cultures?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

MinecraftTeachr talks about elementary learners

Get Flash

Minecraft FM interviews Joel Levin, Mindcraft Teachr, about his use of Minecraft with elementary school students. Points to Minecraft In School, a PBWorks wiki, as another resource. Using multi-player server otherwise just playing. Wants the collaborative activities. Using Craftbukkit with plug-ins for managing what they can and can't do.

The press continues with an interview at KQED

Levin’s words, “exactly what is so appealing to me about Minecraft as a teaching tool. It’s so open ended and extensible. I really think of it more as a canvas than a game. I’m able to construct these elaborate experiences, settings, and stories for the kids to move through. Rather than having to shoehorn a lesson around a game, I’m able to think about what I’m trying to teach and then design an entire world around that.”

and another at ArsTechnica.

"l chose Minecraft specifically because it's so open-ended," Levin told Ars. "The game presents you with a huge open world and you can do any of a dozen different preset activities. Or you can go off and create your own content. That alone gives me a ton of freedom to invent content for the kids to engage in. I don't let them just play the game however they want. They must follow a path I lay out for them, which allows me to carry out lesson plans."

One of the elements that Levin requires is that students all work in a Multi-user setting and that the challenges he poses strongly encourage collaboration. Would a multi-user environment help to foster communication and collaboration among ITeam members?