Archive for the category “STEAM”

End of Year Magazine article

We have to get in early to write our end of year College magazine article. I like what we’ve accomplished at St James this year. Here’s my article. I’ll add in some links to make it more relevant.

Technology 2017

What a year! I set the bar low this year: better than 2016. And man, did we deliver.

bbvtp0406The college production War of the Worlds, although not being specifically part of the Technology department, had sets built in Woodwork, moving gears powered by the Year 7 Engineering and Design course and animations coming out of Year 8 DigiTech.

The first year of the Breakfast Club before school on Tuesdays and Thursdays was incredibly successful and the new Apprentice program being run through the Wednesday program was a huge win. And again, in the background, the Year 9 Digital Technologies course was working to digitise the order system, ready for 2018.

STEAM was the buzzword for 2017 and St James College demonstrated that we are well and truly STEAM-powered (I am never going to get over that pun).

This is also the first year that the Year 10 Game Design class took to the skies, programming drones in preparation for our inevitable takeover of East Bentleigh.

All in all, it was a spectacular year. I’m not sure how we’re going to top it in 2018.

To specifics:

Year 7

Paige Mitchell joined me in Engineering and Design this year. She took to the robots like a mechanical (and waterproof) duck to water. Her class programmed the NXT robots, built some spectacular robotic dragsters and evaluated the St James Spheros. They were so excited about the project that a number of them brought their own in. Here’s Paige:

The Sphero is a small spherical robot that is capable of rolling around on different surfaces and controlled by a tablet. Over the course of the semesters, students have had the opportunity to have a go at using the Sphero’s. The students were asked to design an obstacle course in the classroom for the Sphero to travel around, have a go at using the Sphero and controlling it via their I-pads, we then created a competition to see who could control their robot the best around the course. Students were amazed at how fast the Sphero could travel and how hard it was to control.

Student reviews-

I had so much fun playing with the Sphero robots we could do jumps over ramps, play tag and we could race them on the basketball courts and in the class room over all I had great fun playing with all of the Sphero robots – Riley 7B

Playing with the Sphero robots was fun and exciting, sometimes it’s quite hard to control them because of invert controls but other than that it was a blast – Oliver 7B

 The Sphero’s are a very fun and can be used for many things such as doing jumps and chasing people with. They are also very easy to control. They can do lots of tricks such as doing little hops and touchdown dances -Lachie 7B

 Sphero’s are great robots for teaching. They are really interesting to use and have lots of features such as you can change the speed it travels, the colour of the robot and you can do jumps. I learnt a lot from using them and really enjoyed the lesson – Kristian 7B

Year 8

yr8gamedesignDigital Technologies this year was broken into 3D Design/animation and Game Making. There are some incredibly inventive students in Year 8. After creating a basic Catch the Clown game and a more complex Maze game, they finished the semester by preparing a game for the STEM Games Challenge. I assessed them on their preparations and a demo version of their game, but one group decided to complete their game and enter it into the competition, after working on it over the holidays and well into Term 3, so well done to Rad, Ed, Richard and Christian.

The students in second semester are entering their major projects into the ACMI Stream It Challenge. I’m writing this well before the due date, so fingers crossed that they won something.

Year 9

9digitech19digitech2The Year 9s have been trialling a brand new subject called Digital Technologies and Web Design. The idea behind the subject was to create a web-based application that allowed students and staff at St James College to order food from the canteen online. The students had to learn how to use HTML, CSS and SQL, along with the FTP server to transfer everything onto the website.

First semester was a bit hectic, with technology teething problems being solved by the esteemed Matthew Marcos as they appeared. Second semester ran a lot smoother. We expanded our client base to include the Wednesday Program and the Breakfast Club and, at the time of writing, five budding web development companies are busily interviewing clients and putting together mocked up screen layouts. Once they’re familiar with SQL, they’ll program the back end and get some testers in to make it work.

Year 10

Mr Bell, sick of me stealing his best ideas for my Year 8 class, has again improved the Year 10 Game Design subject. Students are creating games completely using code within GameMaker. There are some very impressive games coming together at the time of writing.

The standout success for the semester was his drone programming unit. The students explored why drones are being used, before jumping in and programming one of the College drones to perform a task. It’s an excellent way to demonstrate sequencing in a real environment.

2018

Technology is expanding. Digital Technologies are spreading out like a computer virus through the school. Maths is taking on programming as part of the curriculum. The whole school will be filled with STEAM (there I go again). We’re running a DigiTech Projects course at Year 10 – an open-ended subject where the students choose the project and I focus on teaching them the skills to think through the problem like an IT Professional. Also, God willing, the Certificate II in Creative Industries will run again next year, giving students access to VCE Units 1 and 2 at Year 10.

The Come and See program this semester involved Food Technology, so my little family of subjects will grow, and a new generation of boys will go to university knowing how to do more than cook toast and boil eggs. Home Ec saved my life in High School. I still have my copy of Cookery the Australian Way.

And Materials Technology is an article in itself, so I’ll let Barry and David tell you about the triumphs carved in wood in 2018.

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Pokemon Go.

damoballI’ve got another Pokemon Go article happening over at FindingDamo.com. I just wanted to look at it from an educational perspective as well, a year on from my last look at the subject.

A year later, my huge dreams have come to nothing. I haven’t created an AR scavenger hunt. I haven’t made the virtual St James College Paintball stadium.

But I’m still playing Pokemon Go.

It hasn’t lost its fascination for me. A year on, I’m still walking ten kilometres over a weekend to hatch some eggs (and to stay fit). I go on raids with total strangers to catch legendary monsters that I can’t fight by myself.

The concept is a good one. The merit of game-play that doesn’t rely on controllers or even being inside the house is excellent. Surely it is something we can use in an educational setting.

Imagine (and feel free to make these apps happen with my blessing):

What’s that bird? 

You hold your camera up to a bird in the wild, it scans the shape and colour and if it finds a match, adds it to your Bird-watching field book. Gotta see ’em all!

Ghosts of the past

A virtual historical landscape that overlays our actual world. Hold the phone up and see what your block looked like one hundred years ago. There are apps out there like this already – the Vic Heritage app on iPhone shows you pictures of places around Melbourne when you get close enough – but it isn’t augmented reality as much as it is pop up photos using GPS.

With the focus on STEAM and Digital Technologies, there is an excellent opportunity for keen teachers with time on their hands (ha!) to work with their students to create games that don’t just emulate stuff already out there in the world, but to create something completely new, with an educational bent.

How about virtual art galleries? I’ve been working with our Art department on trialling QR codes and AR hotspots to bring up explanations, rough sketches and videos relating to student artworks in the College gallery. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could lift your phone to an artwork and see it in sketch form? Or see a video of the creator explaining their process?

We’re only scratching the surface of the possibilities here. Mostly because any teacher interested enough to make something like this happen already has too much on their plate to take on something new.

But still, have the conversation. Delegate. Get the students to do it as a project. They’ll probably do a better job than you would anyway.

And keep playing Pokemon Go. That Lugia won’t catch itself!

PS. Check out TheSTEAMReport.com.au – I am editing this for Minnis Publications and you can subscribe for a monthly (soon to be bi-monthly) email newsletter containing bitesize articles for your STEAMy pleasure.

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