Encouraging Growth Mindset in Students with Robotics

In 2015 our Preparatory School teachers began integrating robotics into the curriculum. We have blogged about it previously here, and here. 2016 has seen the continuation of introductory sessions with all year 7 classes, where they investigate the basic functionality of their EV3 robots – such as making the robots move forward, and turn.

Of particular interest to me, was how has this initial enthusiasm for robotics manifested itself into the everyday curriculum delivery of the Preparatory School. I was excited to hear about the way a Year 7 teacher, Mrs Kelly McBride, was

Mrs Kelly McBride

Mrs Kelly McBride

utilising the robots to help her students apply their knowledge of regular polygons.

Developing Growth Mindset Through Perserverence

Having spent some time teaching her students the characteristics and properties of various polygons, Mrs McBride set the class a challenge – ‘Can a robot draw a perfect polygon?’

In order for Technology to be appropriately integrated into planning, it is important that the tool selected complements the desired learning outcomes. Having introduced the new learning, the children were now required to apply it, and integrate it with their basic knowledge of robotics.

The development of a Growth Mindset is facilitated by resilience, and a love of learning. The first lesson in this series became a trial and error session as students had to persevere to respond to the slight differences in response between individual robots, in terms of the amount of turning they observed in response to particular programming commands.

“It was great to be able to develop a task that incorporated three different aspects of learning; a growth mindset, application of Robotics, and their learning about the properties of Polygons” – Mrs McBride

Robotic Polygon

Year 7 Students drawing a square with a robot

Getting the Robot to Draw

Once the students had ironed out the nuances of their robots they were able to meet their first challenge – to get their robot to draw a perfect square. This challenge required even more perseverance for the students to complete perfect right angles with their squares. Mrs McBride observed students completely engrossed in their tasks, as they strove for perfection.

“It was fun having to actually calculate the degrees and try and get the robot to do it – try and fail, try and fail….then finally succeed.” – Grace, Year 7

For the groups that tasted success early, they were presented with a second, and much more complex, challenge – to get their robot to draw an oval, or a hexagon. This challenged the students to apply their understanding of these different shapes, and the properties of each, before then programming their robot to produce the shape.

“Instead of boring old maths, we had fun working out how to get the robot to draw for us”  – Reeve, Year 7

Successful Integration of Technology into Teaching

It is easy to introduce an engaging tool like Robotics to students. What is more difficult, and what I am much more interested in celebrating, is when a teacher can take that tool, and create a series of lessons which authentically integrate that particular technology into the curriculum. I feel that that is exactly what Mrs McBride has achieved here. She has planned an engaging, relevant, and scalable task – which has challenged her students to contribute to their own learning.

“The students lost track of time they were so engaged – working until they had solved the problem” – Mrs McBride

Networked Projectors Offer Easy Access

This post was originally published on the Interface Magazine Online website – you can read the original post here.

How often do you want to access the internet but can’t because your device is connected via Wi-Fi to the classroom projector? It’s one or the other … but not both. St Andrew’s College has worked with Epson to find a way to do things differently.

stAndrews_epson“Epson gave us some sample units, and we trialled some existing units in our preparatory school before we did a major upgrade,” said the College’s Director of ICT Sam McNeill, noting the units were in place for six months. “We wanted proof of the concept.”

By Term 4 last year, the College had rolled out 35-40 Epson EB-535W short-throw projectors.

“One of the key drivers for upgrading to networked projectors was our use of OneNote,” explained McNeill. “We’re gradually becoming a compulsory BYOD school and the majority of teachers now choose a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 or 4. Because we use OneNote, everything that goes up onto a projector screen also gets automatically saved for later in the students’ notebooks.”

Two underlying needs for a projector upgrade were also present, the first being teachers wanting not to be tethered to a projector by a VGA or HDMI cable. The second, more importantly, was St Andrew’s experiences with other technologies.

“We’ve played around with WiDi and Miracast devices, and had varied results.

“The Netgear Push2TV worked okay but still had interference issues because we had 30-40 devices in a classroom,” recalled McNeill. “The ScreenBeam dropped out from time to time, and had some security issues. Also, the pairing process between Miracast and a Windows 8.1 or 10 device was challenging for some teachers.”

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Epson’s EB-535W projectors are networked and have their own IP address which is displayed on the projector’s screen, and a signal is received from a teacher’s Surface Pro via the school’s wireless network. Rather than going from one device to another (point-to-point), this allows for a highly stable connection, not unlike live internet streaming.

St Andrew’s separates all projector traffic on to a separate VLAN (with a dedicated switch), meaning it was isolated and would never affect general school-wide Wi-Fi speeds. All installation of the projectors was done by the in-house ICT team.

Enticingly, Epson’s projectors did not require a network upgrade, they could be used on the existing wireless infrastructure.

“We wanted to be able to use them for the internet and project the teacher’s screens at the same time. What we like about the Epson is, you don’t have to fiddle around with the Windows configuration. It has its own standalone software (EasyMP), and it just works.

epson_EB-485Wi

Just one downside has come with the roll-out of Epson’s projectors.

“The trade-off in all of this is that video frame rate is reduced,” added McNeill. “If a teacher wants to play a movie, they’ll need to connect through HDMI for an optimal experience.”

St Andrew’s is using Epson’s advanced networking solutions with its projectors in various ways.

“We have the central management software, which allows us to see how the projectors are running, when bulbs blow, and see how teachers are connecting, all from our ICT office. We even have a scheduled off function, in case teachers forget to turn theirs off.”

Currently, the projector network is only accessible by teachers, not by students.

“It is possible, under moderator control from the teacher, but we haven’t had the teacher demand for it at this stage. Perhaps when they become more fluent and familiar with using wireless projectors, they’ll see the value in students’ BYOD devices projecting to it.”


St Andrew’s College is in Merivale, Christchurch. With a roll of 1,350, it’s a fully-independent, co-educational school for pre-school to Year 13 day and boarding students.

Staff Profile – John Quealy

John Quealy

Mr John Quealy

Throughout 2016, I am going to be profiling a number of different St Andrew’s College staff. The first of these was a post that I wrote a few weeks ago about Ms Donna Jones, in the English department. The subject of this post, is Mr John Quealy, a teacher in our Mathematics department.

We have previously blogged about some of the great Teaching and Learning that occurs in this department. This week I had the pleasure of chatting to Mr Quealy, and the Head of Department, Mr Mitch Howard, about the work they are doing to redesign the content and delivery of the Year 11 General Mathematics Course. This course focuses on the practical application of mathematics in everyday life and achieving Numeracy. For students working towards level 5 of the New Zealand curriculum with the opportunity to progress to NCEA Level One Achievement Standards.

Mitch Howard

Mr Mitch Howard HOD Mathematics

Due to the nature of this particular Year 11 course, and the specific learning needs of the group of students enrolled in the course, a few deliberate changes have been made in 2016. As this group of students are in a 1:1 computing environment, the decision was made to increase the role of the device in the course. The pleasing aspect of this course development was that this increased use of technology was not simply as a direct substitute from the original textbook and exercise book model used in the past, but included the deliberate integration of technology into specific, and most importantly authentic, learning tasks.

Working collaboratively, Mr Quealy and Mr Howard identified that these particular students would benefit from more practical and hands-on learning. An example was the Number topic that they are currently working on.

Practical applications of Number in Mathematics

OneNote clip Maths

Example of a student’s food diary, ready for analysis

To give this topic a more practical application the decision was made to embed this important learning into a wider topic around food, and food labeling. Students have been using Microsoft Excel to keep a food diary, which they have embedded into their OneNote class notebook. The benefit of this was that it allows Mr Quealy to access the students’ work and provide the extra feedback, and assistance that certain students require.

The second benefit from using Excel in this situation was that the students were able to develop the basic skills required to complete basic formula, such as percentages and decimals, and data display within Excel through tables and graphs.

“It is great to be able to engage students with real life activities that they can hook onto and see the relevance of life long skills” – Mr John Quealy

Y11 Maths Screenshot

The content library in the class OneNote being used to model what is expected.

 

Mr Howard shares the same sentiments, particularly about the benefits of these students engaging with their devices.

“Numeracy is about being able to use numbers in an everyday setting. If this is the last Mathematics course that these students do, we want it to be useful and practical. We want to be able to teach these students how to use spreadsheets for calculations and organising their thinking. Also if a person is comfortable using a spreadsheet, they will be comfortable using most software that they might be asked to use in a workplace.” – Mr Mitch Howard

 

The benefits of Collaboration between classes

Another clear benefit of this new, computer based course, is that it allows the teachers of both Y11 General Mathematics courses, Mr Howard and Mr Quealy, to collaborate in the planning, delivery and reflection stages of the topic. By having access to each other’s class notebooks, they can keep in close contact, and share ideas, all while obviously maintaining the differences that their individual teaching styles, and student’s needs require.

“It’s also great to be able to collaborate with John, bouncing ideas off each other and seeing which ideas have worked or not. John’s architectural knowledge will be great for when we do our measurement unit on autocad.” – Mr Mitch Howard

A department constantly developing their practice

Within the Mathematics department there are an increasing range of eLearning tools being utilised. There are a small number of staff who run flipped classroom, while others are experimenting with Microsoft Surface tablets. What I particularly liked in this example was the fact that the technology is being used to allow teachers to work more closely together, and use their shared expertise and experience to improve the learning, and engagement, of their students.

It is great to see the increasing engagement with Technology within the department, and I look forward to documenting their innovations in later Blogs.

Introducing Blair McHugh – Teacher of Digital Technologies

Licensed under Creative Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons

Recently I took the opportunity to sit down with Mr Blair McHugh, our new teacher of Digital Technologies at St Andrew’s College and discuss his previous experiences and vision for the subject. What became apparent was Mr McHugh’s passion for the subject and how his approach to teaching programming aims to dispel the common misconception of a sole programmer working in a darkened room eating pizza!

Prior to joining the staff at St Andrew’s, he had taught for 9 years at Burnside High School and before that at Cashmere High School. Importantly, however, he has industry experience with Fujitsu NZ primarily in networking and infrastructure and it is these skills he aims to impart to students at the College.

A coding language is just a tool – if you’ve not solved the problem before you begin the actual coding,  then you’re probably not going to solve the problem.

Mr McHugh will be teaching students the Python coding language, however as the above quote suggests, there is significantly more to this subject than just learning one of the many programming languages that exist these days. The steps students are encouraged to follow are:

  • Plan – understand what the requirements of the job are, ask the right questions and formulate an approach to solving this before you start coding. Analysis like this early on helps to ensure future success in the project.
  • Code – once you have fully analysed the problem and planned an approach, only then attempt to write some code.
  • Test – execute the code and see if it works!
  • Review – check how it has all gone
  • Repeat – go back to the planning and analysis to see what may need to be improved, re-work the code accordingly, and test it out. Keep repeating this process until you have it working and the problem is solved and the key outcomes from the planning stage are met.

One of the key messages Mr McHugh has to remind students of is the need to avoid “programming on the go” as this almost invariably leads to wasted time:

Time is the biggest and most precious resource available to students. There is little cost in ‘real’ resources when churning out code, but time spent aimlessly coding is too important to waste

To achieve an Excellence in Level 3, students need to demonstrate real efficiencies in their code – there should be no “blind corners or dead ends” – and the easiest way to avoid this is effective planning and regular reviewing of the code.

To further enhance the students ability to plan efficiently, he promotes a very open, collaborative environment where students are not just expected to participate and inter-relate with each, they are required to. This is supported by the banning of headphones in class – students can not be an individual silo separated from the rest of the class. The rationale behind this is that increasingly in the workplace, programmers need to be talking to stakeholders, clients, fellow programmers and communicating effectively to all of these individuals.

Sec_T1

The Term 1 2016 DPR Value of “Honesty” works very well in Digital Technologies

Whilst discussing this, Mr McHugh pointed out how well the Term 1 DPR Value (Developing Positive Relationships) worked in his class. He expects students to be honest when they’ve struck a problem with their coding or analysis and be able to ask other students for input.

Key Competencies

The Key Competencies from the NZ Curriculum

 

Consequently, the Key Competencies from the NZ Curriculum play a major role in his classes, in particular  Participating and Contributing and Relating to Others as students interact and collaborate together. In the words of Mr McHugh:

 

No one codes alone in a silo in the real world – being part of a team and coding on a bigger project is a critical skill to learn in school.

To further support this, students practice sitting around a table, asking questions of each others’ projects. Asking the right sort of questions is an essential part of problem solving and developing critical thinking skills. Along with these skills is the continued importance of a strong mathematical foundation to be a successful programmer.

Too often, students do not think maths or physics are necessary in coding, however to start doing advanced 3D graphics a strong grasp of matrices and geometry is critical:

Students can still do 2D platform style games, Angry Birds etc, without strong maths. However, it’s the 3D graphics in games like Halo that really spins their wheels and attracts their attention … BUT you need great maths ability to do that sort of thing.

Following on from the work of Mr Phil Adams, Mr McHugh will continue the lunchtime Code Clubs for those students who are not taking Digital Technologies as a subject.

I’m really looking forward to seeing some of the projects that students will work on this year and hopefully writing about them on this blog.

Guest Post: Arduino Adventures

This is a guest post written by three Year 8 students from the Preparatory School: Imogen, Archie and Marshall.

ArduinoLast week, twenty students from Year 8 were part of an Arduino day run by FutureInTech. Arduinos are open source microcontrollers that can be programmed to do various things. The fact that they are open source means that anyone can use the software and hardware for whatever they want, as long as they follow the license.

There were five tutors from Airways, Dynamic Controls, Allied Telesis and Meridian Energy: a computer scientist between four, working in pairs. We took turns programming and plugging into the microcontroller. Our first project was to make a LED flash. From that, we progressed to making the LED flash at different speeds, using a button to make the LED flash, and connecting a buzzer. In the end, some of us had managed to make a doorbell: when you pressed a button, a LED would light up, the buzzer would go, and on the screen would appear “Someone’s at the door!”

detail 2 (Small)

Overall, we had plenty of fun on the day and learnt some new skills. We would definitely like to do something like it again if we had the chance.

Code Clubs @ StAC

2015 has seen two Code Clubs start at St Andrew’s College with Mr Phil Adams running one in the Secondary School since the start of the year and Mrs Vicki Pettit alongside Mr Wilj Dekkers starting one in the Preparatory School during Term 2.

Preparatory School:

CodeClub_LogoThe Preparatory school are using the resources provided via Code Club Aotearoa and there are around 20 students that attend regularly, within which there is a reasonably even break down of beginners and intermediate coders with 2-3 advanced coders.

The resources on the Code Club Aotearoa website are perfect for beginning and intermediate students however, Mrs Pettit is exploring options for the more advanced students and in what areas they can possibly start to apply their skills e.g. robotics, Raspberry Pi projects and possibly entering them into the Canterbury Core Education Digi Awards. The other pathway recently made available to these Prep students is Monday lunchtimes with Mr Adams in the secondary school code club.

Secondary School:

In Term 1 2015 Mr Adams started the Code Club for students that were interested in learning more about programming and were prepared to attend during their lunchtimes. His motivation was twofold:

  1. There was currently no option in the Junior curriculum (Years 9-10) for programming which means when students can take this at Year 11 they are often being introduced to the concepts for the very first time.
  2. There were a number of very keen students who did not have an avenue for support in their coding unless they persevered by themselves and were essentially self-taught from online.

Whilst there was an initial surge of enthusiasm from students, this settled into those that were committed, keen and prepared to give up a lunchtime to learn more. Having looked at the formal code clubs that existed (such as Code Club Aotearoa above), Mr Adams also reviewed online offerings such as Code Academy and Code Avengers which were useful, particularly Code Avengers which aligns with the New Zealand NCEA standards. Ultimately, however, he decided that students could continue to access these in their own time and that the focus of the Code Clubs at StAC would be slightly different.

python-logoThis alternative was to focus on teaching the students the very basics of Python so that they could create their own scripts and taste success early on. The reason for Python was quite simple as Mr Adams explains:

As a text based language the syntax is not complicated and it is very logical. Therefore, the learning curve would not be too steep for our new students. An alternative language such as C or C# would be too challenging for them to start with.

As students learnt the basics, Mr Adams focused on creating a team culture where students could learn from each other: the beginners seeking help from more advanced students, who in turn could reinforce and demonstrate their understanding of Python by teaching the beginners. Through this approach, it is hoped the Code Club will become self-perpetuating and independent with a positive and interactive culture.

With a few weeks of the basics out of the way, the goal became to progress students with the introduction of logic into their coding e.g. a basic guessing game such as this one:

An example of a number guessing game from Hana

An example of a number guessing game from Hana (click to download the Python script)

Hana, who created the above script, had the following to say about Code Club @ StAC:

I used to do coding at my old school, Selwyn House. There, it was a big thing and we did robotics and Hour of Code. The code club at StAC is super fun. Mr Adams is a really good teacher and he always lets us figure out why our code hasn’t worked. 

Coding a basic guessing game is not too difficult and yet it can easily be extended with the introduction of more logic that would require students to be able to calculate the average number of guesses it takes people to correctly guess the number each time. To support this extension, Mr Adams has created numerous tutorial videos on his YouTube channel that students can access, such as this one on how to create a list within a list using Python:

Paper, Scissors, Rock by Louis (click to download the code)

Paper, Scissors, Rock by Louis (click to download the code)

Louis, who also attends the Code Club @ StAC, created a game of Paper, Scissors, Rock in Python. Like Hana, he is also enjoying attending:

I am attending the Code Club because I enjoy coding in my own time (I also have done some robotics coding and other things) … 

I have learned things with Mr Adams (We are doing python at the moment, I have many other languages including: HTML, CSS, PHP, UNIX Terminal, Command Prompt, and JavaScript)

Next Steps:

Mr Adams has some clear next steps identified for the students in the Code Club, with the ultimate aim getting them to work collaboratively on a project together, all contributing code to a repository such as GitHub. This would enable replicating a “real world environment” where multiple people all work on much larger projects. This mirrors the message from Old Collegian Claudia Pottinger, who shared her experience as a Google Intern writing code in Python last summer. It is apparent that some of the students in the club are already thinking that far ahead, such as Jack who is in Year 9:

I go to code club because it is something I feel will benefit me in the future, and it is my intended career path. Computer programming is one of my passions, it is something that I enjoy doing in my own time.

It is extremely fun, learning new things and being able to help others who do not know so much.

A project I just finished recently was the year 12 internal exam, where you make a program in python that allows a user to select, order and store different pizzas with a range of flavours and prices.

I feel that in the future Programming will be a large part of nearly every job.

Jack's Pizza Ordering script (click to download)

Jack’s Pizza Ordering script (click to download)

Another idea to extend the students is to introduce activities from Project Euler – a website that describes its motivation as being:

The motivation for starting Project Euler, and its continuation, is to provide a platform for the inquiring mind to delve into unfamiliar areas and learn new concepts in a fun and recreational context.

To complete the activities on the website, students will need strong mathematical ability but also programming skills. One example from this website that Mr Hilliam, Maths and Statistics teacher at St Andrew’s, has used with his students is to write code that identifies the sum total of all prime numbers under 1000.

With keen students in the secondary school, along with increasing numbers of students coming through from the Preparatory and other feeder schools, providing an avenue for students to learn coding at St Andrew’s College is essential.

Guest Post: Excel-lent! A Smart(ie) Take On OneNote & Excel In Maths

This post was originally written by Ms Briony Marks, a teacher in our Preparatory School, on her teaching blog that you can read here. I liked the post so much, and her natural integration of technology into a Year 6 Maths lesson, that I gained permission to reblog it here – enjoy.

The setup of the class OneNote & the W.A.L.T. for the lesson.

The setup of the class OneNote & the W.A.L.T. for the lesson.

Now that the school year is well and truly underway a few of my summer pipeline plans are taking form inside my classroom which is exciting, and it feels like a long wait is over!

As a member of the eLearning professional learning group in the Preparatory School I have been trying to integrate the useful and purposeful use of computers and the Internet into my lessons and I am endeavouring to document my reflections as I go along to feed back to the rest of the group.

Last week I set up a class OneNote to use with my Year 6 and Year 7 Maths groups using the Class NoteBook Creator App (I think I’ll do a blog on this once they are underway and being used in the longer term – I’ll share how I’m using it and how effective it is in a class without their own devices). We finally got started using it in our maths lessons this week and I was really pleasantly surprised with the results.

Student graphs showing analysis of their Smartie investigations (note the feedback comments from Ms Marks to the right of the graphs)

With my Year 6 class we were undertaking the age-old Smartie statistical investigation. I decided, like many teachers, to use this opportunity to introduce the class to Microsoft Excel. My aims were to show students how to use AutoSum; to see if they could understand the benefit of this function and the advantage over using a calculator and to make simple graphs. Next week we will be adding the results of other groups to take a Mean and use a comparative graph feature to support our analysis of the results.

There were plenty of resources on the Internet (TES.co.uk had a plethora!); wonderfully detailed PowerPoints or Word documents with screen shots and arrows showing the students a step by step method. I chose my favourites and adapted them slightly (one needed modernising to the Excel 2013 we run on our school netbooks and other details such as where to save and open the Spreadsheet were made more suitable for the school systems).

instructions

Example of OneNote NoteBook with the Excel instructions printed into it

What I chose to do next was not particularly intentional but it worked fantastically. I copied the Powerpoint into our Content Library on our class OneNote. Once those students who were savvy were online they took themselves through what was essentially a step by step tutorial, with minimal assistance, and self-taught how to use Excel.

This allowed me the opportunity to work with a smaller group of students who were not so familiar with OneNote or Excel.

Children assist each other before I can get a look in!

Children assist each other before I can get a look in!

The children were able to help each other and often a question was asked and before I could get to the child to assist, another member of the class had jumped up to show them where to find the answers on OneNote or how to do it.

I can’t wait for the next lesson and to see how they deal with the next set of skills.