Legos and Technology – Learning out loud

Heather and I attended two sessions at the November Learning annual conference last Monday and Tuesday (July 14th and 15th.)  The first “Making Students Think Visible” focused primarily on using apps and other tech tools to get students thinking and talking about what they see.  The second “Teach less, learn more” started to be about learning while doing, but devolved into a discussion that wasn’t terribly focused.  That said, I had takeaways from both…

The Lego exercises (from Day 2) are ones I’ve done before in different forms – we were asked to follow specific instructions in a group of three first to make a Lego duck, then to make a “boat” that could float and hold pennies.  Throughout the exercises we mixed up our groups and had to explain and reassess the situation with our new colleagues.  We were also encouraged (as you all saw) to share this work with the world beyond our classroom.  I like this idea but I wish we had followed up on how to best use email, text, Twitter, Facebook to share work and seek feedback.  None of this was groundbreaking but it was a good reminder about the value in talking and explaining, switching groups, and hearing other points of view.  The learn-by-doing factor was high and it should be relatively easy to tailor this kind of activity to our various subject matters.  While it wasn’t specifically related to blended learning, it was student-focused and could be easily recreated making videos or other recordings.

The discussion that followed the Lego exercises took a variety of turns and in the end, the most valuable resource we found was Challenge Based Learning, which puts the Lego duck example into a bigger scale. (CBL – Take action and make a difference)

I’m working backwards here… so going back to Day 1.  The first workshop was primarily student (participant) centered and we were asked several times to contribute and image, video or voice recording to a group project.  (We used the app Phonto to take and annotate photos and we used various voice/video recording devices as well.)  The facilitator then collated the contributions into various programs (Keynote, Audacity…) and we discussed each other’s work.  While I could have done without some of his flashy tech tricks (he was very tech savvy and enjoyed showing off) – a lot of the ideas could be feasible and useful in our classes.  Heather pointed out that the first exercise we did was essentially PechaKucha – 20 slides x 20 seconds.  This would actually be great in French class.

The biggest nugget of advice I took away from the first day was that we need to focus on the ratio of thinking time to technology time.  Thinking, talking, design time should be much much greater than time spent with technology.  This speaks to my interest in sticking with a limited number of flashy apps/programs so that the kids have less to master and can focus more on content.  I am hoping to use some of these ideas for illustration of vocabulary and then to promote risk-free (or limited-risk) small group discussion in response to various prompts.

I am traveling this week but look forward to getting back to my classroom and applying ideas to the content I’ve been researching.  I have planned out the year in terms of units/timing and will focus on developing the particular assessment (both formative and summative) for the first two units, roughly 9 weeks of school.


One thought on “Legos and Technology – Learning out loud

  1. Liz pretty much covered it. I add my observations here and two links to ancillary resources that were made available.

    November Learning Blended Learning Conference in Boston. July 2014

    The first, entitled, “Making Student Learning Visible,” was billed as a workshop on how to use innovative technology to creative formative assessments of students learning.
    Darren spent a good hour at the beginning explaining QR and QR code generators. This was a part of a hands on activity that involved an app called Phonto. Phonto is an application that allows you to take a picture of something and put text over the picture. We all made one that was meant to be a metaphor of what learning is. Then he showed us how to put all of them into a slide show. Then he showed it and we each had 20 seconds to say where the image was from and what the text was meant to communicate.
    We did a similar exercise with video and audio recordings that Darren showed us how to put background music to and to. I asked if these were examples of formative assessment. He said they could be, or they could be summative assessments.

    The second conference was called “Less ( teaching) is More ( learning). It really should have been called “Different (teaching ) is Better ( learning). We discussed a number of ways to create more student centered, risk safe learning environments. We made Lego structures in groups and shared ideas about how to engage collaboratively. We also discussed the importance of normalizing struggle reshaping students attitudes to failure, releasing responsibility as teachers, and creating challenges that are scaffolded in ways that make student achievement difficult but possible.

    Both presenters created pages that had a lot of ancillary material. Here are the links to those pages.


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