Saturday, November 7, 2015

Mathematics and our 3D Artifacts

In Mathematics the students are adding and subtracting 3 and 4 digit numbers. They are engaged in a variety opportunities to gain knowledge, problem solve, apply their skills, and communicate their understanding, or lack thereof. They are talking, drawing, and using manipulatives as they work through problems. Sometimes they work with others and sometimes they work on their own. As I move around the room I listen to what the kids are saying, watch them work, and ask them questions about their ideas and the processes they are following to solve problems/complete a task. They seemed to be on the right track so I decided to add another layer to their learning.

I put the students into groups and explained that they would need choose a 4 digit number, create a representation of it using Tinkercad (3D software), print it, and then present it to the class. Based on my observations and discussions with the students, this seemed like the perfect time and task to integrate the 3D technology in a way that would allow them to use a design mindset to apply their knowledge and skills to create physical artifacts of their learning - to bring their thoughts and ideas to life. This task would also allow them to be collaborative and creative in order to complete the assignment.

I created the groups strategically. Each group had the following:
  • a natural/compassionate leader
  • someone skilled at using Tincercad
  • a student unsure of what to do
  • confident/competent student with the "Math"
I also let the students know that I would be moving people around if I felt that they had been placed in a group that wasn't working for them. There was a bit of grumbling, but once they got started things seemed to be going smoothly. Once or two group changes were made (personality conflicts) and then things were really underway. Each group had a Chromebook to access Tincercad and as usual they were free to work anywhere they wanted to within the classroom. 

While the students were working I was moving from group to group - listening to them and watching them go through the process of expressing their ideas (discussion, 2D drawings), representing them (using the software to take 2D drawings into 3D drawings), and then creating them (3D printing their representations). I was also listening for references to what they were learning in our current unit of study, past unit, and future units. From my perspective, I got to see and hear the four areas of achievement in such a natural way. The students were providing me with great data about what they know and what they can do as they engaged in this activity. 

The students were given two "Math" periods to collaborate and create and then we printed their work. 

Here are some photos of them working through the process:

Here are some screen shots of their work in Tinkercad:

Here are some photos of their 3D printed representations:

When the time came to present their work, the students were very excited to share what they had done. They talked about what worked, what didn't work, and how they dealt with design problems. They talked about their experience using Tinkercad and about new ideas that have come from this experience. EVERYONE in the group spoke and had something to offer. They even made sure to let me know who they might want to work with next time and who would like to lead :)

This was their first time they went through the entire design mindset process - from beginning to end. They have a lot of experience using the Chromebook and a significant amount using Tinkercad but this was the first time they printed their work. Having printed their work and actually held a product of their thinking in their hands, they now have some insight into how the printer puts together their design and what they might do differently now that they know how the printer does its job. 

This experience has provided my students and I with a new and exciting layer to our learning journey. We could feel a shift, an evolution, as we worked through the task that was given to them. They have a taste of the amplification that this type of thinking and technology can provide their thoughts and ideas. We are looking forward to what comes next and I can't wait until the next time I share our experiences with you.

I would love to hear about your thoughts and ideas about our experience. Please feel free to leave a comment below, and/or connect with me on Twitter or Google +.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

On Their Own Accord

My students really enjoy engaging with their learning at home. They are accessing their GAFE accounts at home, on their time, without my prodding or prompting.

Each week,  I receive 2-3 email notifications (in the evening) that my students have shared their work with me. They want to share their work and seek feedback. They enjoy using the GAFE tools and are blending their own learning.

As a teacher and parent, I am delighted to see this from my students. I love that they are using their own time to practice what they have learned at school and use digital tools to continue their learning and to share it. Regardless of what I say to them, they take risks and push themselves to "get it".

I have written about this before - when I was teaching grade 2. The grade 4's are taking this to a whole new level for me and had to share again.

We need to keep teaching our students to learn to help themselves. To know that they can collaborate and create when they feel the need and to share so other can benefit from them.

Here is an example of what I received last night:

It always brings a smile to my face!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Today Was THE Day

Today was THE day - the day where things seem to come together in such a way that gives me joy and hope for the future. Let me try and provide you with a window into what was happening in our classroom today. In Writing, the students are working on generating and ordering ideas about a chosen topic in order to communicate their knowledge/interest in a written form. Through modeled, shared, and guided writing, they are experiencing the writing process in order to create great pieces to share with their classmates and families.

Throughout the writing process, many of the students asked if they could type their work out - one of the ways to polish their work and make it look suitable for publication. I introduced them to Google Docs and the cool things they could do to their writing in order to quench their creativity and allow them to collaborate and share in ways that are different than pencil and paper activities.

The students were working feverishly to complete their work - as if they had a major deadline to meet. Every few minutes I would hear, "Mr. Chidiac, I just shared my work with you!" and someone would come over to me and show me their progress and patiently await for my praise and feedback.

Here are some examples of the work that was shared with me:

One student, who proclaimed that he hated writing, completed this activity the other day. In fact, he was the first to reach the word processing phase and set the tone for the other students. As they were meeting with me and revising and editing, he was on a Chromebook smiling and talking about what he was doing as he was typing out his work, searching for images to include in his writing, and sharing his work with me and his mom. I found a moment to make a comment on his work and soon after, his mother, at work doing her job, got an email notification that he had shared his work with her which led her to make a comment on his work (which put him over the moon!).

Today, this same boy spent the first and middle recess writing out a short story about Sonic the Hedgehog. During writers workshop today he said the following to me, "Mr. C, since I am finished my paragraph writing, can I type out the short story I wrote today?". I responded by showing him a digital "Choose your own adventure" story that one of my grade 2 students created last year using Google Slides. I asked him if he wanted to create a digital story by transferring what he had already done - from his paper and pencil story book into a digital format. He said yes before I could even finish trying to sell it to him. Today was THE day that things would change for him.

Here he is, working on the digital version of his story:

Another student, one that has special needs when it comes to writing and not much confidence, learned how to use Google Read and Write today. I have been working one-on-one with this student, building his capacity by chunking his work and scribing for him to keep him interested and feeling good about his progress. Today was THE day that he would discover and use assistive software to get his idea on the screen and have the computer read his work back to him. Today was THE day that he said that HE completed an assignment on his own. Today was THE day that he asked if we could print a copy of his work to take home to his mother. Here is the work that he shared with me today:

There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a student feel success and satisfaction while they are in the process of learning. It gives them the boost they need to excel and allows them to build up their resiliency to help them deal with failure. They have so much to offer and need to believe in themselves. They are learning what it means to be 21st century learners - to leverage technology for their benefit, to be creative and share their learning, to work with others to improve their learning and that of their classmates, and to be responsible life long learners who can do whatever they put their mind and time towards. Today was THE day.  

No Matter How Small

I learned something "small" yesterday. It isn't mind blowing or earth shattering, but for my students and I it is an inch of learning that has opened up a highway for us. My students spent some time learning to use Tikercad, a simple, online 3D design and 3d printing tool for anyone and everyone. We got to the point where they wanted to start printing some of their creations but without an input device attached to our 3D printer we had to figure out how to get Tinkercad designs to print on our MakerBot printer. 

A couple of emails and some time to play with the MakerBot software on my home computer and voila - success! I learned how to convert common 3D files into ones that MakerBot recognizes. That afternoon I returned to the classroom and shared my learning with the students. 

I provided them with every detail of the process I went through to solve the problem that we faced. I wanted them to see that the obstacle placed in front of us could be overcome with some time and energy. I wanted them to hear (and they have heard me talk about it) that we could work through this and that our journey this year would involve many obstacles - and that the obstacles we work through will lead to a feeling of success and satisfaction. 

After all my blabbing, they wanted to know what file I converted in order to print via our USB flash drive. Here it is:

It's a bobble head Creeper - a Minecraft character! How could I not oblige my students, they have a love and fascination for Minecraft!! There are three parts to it and it took a couple of hours to print it out. 

Stay tuned for more good learning and some artifacts of our journey!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Online Gold Mine: Connected Educators Create and Share

Have you seen +Kasey Bell 's latest creation? Visit her site,, and check out the Halloween Magnetic Poetry activity she made using Google Drawings. It's absolutely fantastic!

Kasey is a connected educator who creates and shares a lot of great stuff to support educators and students around the use of GAFE. It is not uncommon to run into her tweets or G+ posts on a weekly basis. If you don't catch her sharing her work first hand, you will most certainly see her resources as they are shared and spread around by others.

My students recently started talking about Halloween and have expressed interest in having more Halloween texts in the classroom as they prepare for October 31st. The Halloween Magnetic Poetry caught my eye as it is something that I knew they would love to work with.

During our tech time today, I introduced it to them by placing a link to the activity in our D2L site. I showed the students what they had to do to access the Google Drawing and make a copy of it so they could start writing and reading using this great creation. They were fascinated that the magnetic poetry was created in Drawings. I could see the wheels turning as they started thinking and talking about things they could create based on Kasey's work.

Aside from the reading and writing they were about to engage in with respect to Halloween (a topic that they are very interested in), they have a genuine interest in using digital tools, such as Drawings, to create and innovate.

They have a familiarity with Drawings already so when they discovered that some of the words they needed weren't included they went ahead and made their own words....using the same font! Wonderful to see them think through problems and work together to find solutions.

Here is some of the work that was shared with me today:

Friday, October 16, 2015

Establishing a Design Mindset

In Science we are studying Rocks and Minerals. We have been having a lot of fun learning about a topic that all of us thought was going to be a bit dry. With the help of Google Drawings and Tinkercad we have been having a lot of fun!

We have been using Tinkercad often in order to learn how to effectively use the software. It's safe to say that the students have been thinking about how to integrate it into our learning as much as I have. Well, they came up with a great idea when we were talking about the properties of minerals. The students and I thought it would be a lot of fun to "create" our own minerals. Using the anchor chart on how to identify minerals, the students put their learning into practice by applying what they learned to create their own minerals.

As they considered properties such as lustre and hardness, they started imagining what their mineral would look like. They started using Tinkercad to create a 3D design of their mineral. They worked hard and put the software to good use but it wasn't enough to satisfy them. They seemed to want to do more than just design a rock/mineral.

This is where I suggested we take a step back - leave the 3D software for a bit - and use Google Drawings to create  a design and be able to add text and share their work with me and their classmates. The students welcomed this opportunity and their effort and interest stayed the same.

Here are some examples of what they created:

As the students worked on their task I observed them collaborate, create, and share their ideas, issues, and successes. With many of the invented minerals complete, the students are talking about their designs and how they can apply what they did in Drawings to the 3D software. 

They are establishing a design mindset as they work on taking their ideas and bringing them to life. Having experienced the amazing things students can do when given time to experiment and follow their interests I am making more of an effort to step back and enjoy the ride more rather than focus on our destination.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I Like What I See

I dedicated some time today to "digital boot camp" - essentially allowing my students to become familiar with their logins and passwords. This time was also provided to them so that they could continue to discover and figure out the Chromebooks. Generally speaking, I'm noticing a huge difference between grade 2's and grade 4's with respect to the speed at which they can accomplish things and their trouble shooting ability. Coming to grade 4 from from grade 2, I think I am used to a slower process. My students this year are picking things up fast and quite engaged when given "boot camp" opportunities.

I introduced them to Google Drawings today. Drawings has proved to be a powerful app, allowing students to create things that they couldn't create without the technology. I was not disappointed. After a quick tutorial on the basics the students started experimenting and were off to the races. They even shared their work with me and began asking me to visit their work and comment. They were mesmerized by the fact that I could access their work instantly and display it on the interactive whiteboard. I have seen this amazement before and it always brings a smile to my face. It's like a whole new world has opened up to them!

After a bit of time on their own I started giving them specific tasks to accomplish. Some tasks were easier than others but a commonality that emerged was the fact that students assisted each other in getting the tasks done. I would assign it and then they would work on it - and help each other out as needed. This is a great sign, and something that I have seen before.

As the students become more familiar with the tools I will begin to assign tasks that go beyond the tools. I will move them away from tasks that revolve around the tool to tasks that involve design thinking, problem solving, and collaboration. They need to spend time 'playing' with the tools before they can push the tools to their limit as they create and work towards demonstrating their understanding around the learning they are engaged in.