Tag Archives: Creativity

Make Club Arrives

One of my biggest fears before make club was that we would have more adults than children. You see I broke the soft launch rule! In struggling for a #28daysofwriting topic I wrote about Make Club. Now that combined with a little twittervertisement caused a bit of a flutter and I had a worry that we would have a couple of kids and lots of adults.

Was I wrong!

A full house for Make Club Debut
A full house for Make Club Debut

A jam packed room and two teachers leading parallel sessions in scratch and tinkercad. Yes pretty basic to start with but if you want to get into some MakeyMakey you need some basic Scratch. If you want to get into rapid prototyping you need some CAD. We had parents and students shoulder to shoulder learning together.

One of the best things that principals experience are the moments when staff shine. Now Make Club is the result of hard work by Kimberly Baars and Paula Hogg but today Kate Davison shone! Her attention to detail her and her preparation was superb. Guiding children  aged 8 – 13 (and their parents) to create a multi-level maze game in under an hour was absolutely masterful. There was support for those who needed it and challenge for those who were getting hang of things. I saw success, I saw laughter and I saw sharing.

a maze game in scratch
a maze game in scratch

We made sure that toward the end of the session that the two groups shared their learning with each other. We then gathered feedback from the kids about what they liked and what would make it more awesome next time.

Now we want sustainability, and the test will be who comes back next week. But judging by the feedback and excitement in the room I think there will a number of kids back. We are in this for the long haul, this club isn’t a flash event designed to ignite imagination. This make club is a long term investment in sustained imagination, creativity and making.

pondering the feedback
pondering the feedback

Well done to the team from Ministry of Make – I can’t wait for next Thursday!

Make Club – a debut

I am looking forward to the opening of our Make Club on Thursday 12 February for a number of reasons. I have long been a proponent of schools and communities using facilities outside of the regular 9am – 3pm day.

analogue and digital meet
analogue and digital meet

Make club is a mid-term event in the bigger journey of turning our technology centre into a community maker facility that is open 24/7. Make Club will be open to students, parents, teachers and any adult who likes to tinker, build, create, make and more importantly share knowledge.

We have had an amazing response after informing our community, with numerous people wanting more information and asking if children can come along. This is fantastic, not just for the fact that we will have lots of minds to set free but because of one of our founding principles for Make Club. All kids who attend must bring a parent/caregiver. You see Make Club isn’t a glorified after school care programme where you pay your money and leave. We believe that parents and kids creating and learning together can’t be a bad thing.

This club is also open to teachers. Teachers who want to learn about new technologies. Teachers can join in and learn alongside others and it is an extension of our experiment with ‘Staffies’ last year. Teachers have an amazing capacity to see an idea and then just run with it. We have all experienced a time when we have sparked of each other and come up with some amazing experiences for kids.

More importantly make club is open to makers. Adults who want to turn up and share. Experts who want to pass on their knowledge. We have been very lucky to have range of people visit our school over the past few years giving their time and energy. This is because we value collaboration and encourage people to join in.

Make club is the result of Kimberly Baars (Design Tech Teacher) Paula Hogg (BoT Chairperson) and I saying “wouldn’t it be great to…” Kim and Paula have done all the work though and without their input and urgency it would still be an idea. We don’t yet have a website for Make Club… but maybe the kids will fix that up for us, as we really want authentic contexts to be the backdrop for making.

Our hope for make club… to build community, to build capacity, and to build stuff!

MoM_header brand

From Urgent to Important

The possibilities, new directions and different ways of thinking and being in schools deserves time. But time is a killer for thinking about what could be. The everyday life of teachers and school leaders is full. We have children who are there in the now and we are constantly dealing with the unexpected, the unplanned and the magic of the teachable moment.

Being able to suspend the now, the urgent, is a challenge. At a recent staff only day I shared one of my favourite quotes…

maintaining an eye to the future
maintaining an eye to the future

I wanted to surface the idea that as teachers (indeed substitute teaching for leadership in the quote) we need to take a breathe and try to look beyond the waves and see the horizon whilst we are treading water furiously – because if we don’t we may be swimming in the wrong direction.

I try to do this. I try to focus on the vision and allow myself time to think about possibilities. But it is tough and does take a discipline that I lack, as I had started this blog with the express intent to write regularly. The initial inspiration to blog came from a number of colleagues who were writing as a reflection tool. I was also amazed at the quantity and quality of Steve Wheeler’s Blog – sometimes two or three significant posts a day. When Steve was in NZ last year I asked him how he does it, all of those posts! He talked about making time to cement an important reflective habit.

Hence my commitment to the #28daysofwriting challenge.  I need to get back into (OK in all honesty – start) a writing habit. To perhaps think about the important, the big picture for 28 minutes in each of the very busy and urgent days that exist over the next month. But this term at school is one of the busiest I have seen. Our Associate Principal takes study leave, we have several presentations and workshops to prepare for schools and teachers around the country. I also need to work on a TEDx talk that will hopefully make it to the stage mid year. Combine this with committing to the Programming in Scratch EdX MOOC, oh and leading a school and things are going to be tight.

So getting back to the Hamal and Prahalad quote… Hopefully the action of daily writing in this forum (ok and the gamification of the writing tasks I set in todoist that increase my karma rating) will enhance the capacity to think and imagine the unexplored.

Innovation – fresh initiatives through creative means

If we are really honest with ourselves our schools haven’t really changed a great deal since the idea of compulsory schooling began. We are all aware of the numerous ‘21st Century Learning’ presenters who talk about 19th Century production line education turning our standardised products for the industrial age. Trying to break free from the constraint of established buildings, systemic structures and engrained mental models of how things should be done can be a challenge.

Having fresh ideas and new ways of doing things can be challenging to established norms but necessary if we are going to progress learning to the ideals espoused by many proponents of 21st Century Education. One of the stumbling blocks to innovation is the notion of Best Practice. This very idea that there is one state or way to do things is from a stance of a Fixed Mindset (Dweck, 2012). Sometimes the pursuit of ‘Best Practice’ can be to the detriment of ‘Better Practice’. An iterative, growth mindset approach leads to better practice.

Innovation for us is all about deepening our pursuit of effective learning. Over the years we have implemented many innovative ideas including Student Led Conferencing, Bring Your Own Browser, Robotics, Coding, 3D printing, e-textiles, student driven timetables and maker culture. All these ideas have come from being connected to others, professional reading, and conference attendance. These initiatives have (or currently) started small in a trial environment before slowly scaling them up. Enabling teachers to connect and share via social media (especially Twitter) and face to face encounters provides a rich source of ideas, energy and enthusiasm from a variety of places and industries. As leaders we need to model the use of these vehicles for sharing ideas.

It is vitally important that innovation is a not linked to one individual, it needs to be part of the culture. This year we established an innovation team who are charged with finding new practices that will align with our school vision and deepen our understanding of effective learning. This team is lead by two teachers and has a voluntary component to the team composition. The team is not limited to teachers – board members, parents, scientists, IT brains, business people are welcome. The leaders of the team are given one management unit each ($4000) to coordinate the ideas, generate feedback loops and plan next iterations. The innovation team leaders report to the Leadership Team about their progress and thinking. As principal it is my job to coach these leaders in how we package and implement these new ideas in a way that will get maximum buy in and engagement from the school community.

Staffie coding session

A very recent outcome from the Innovation team is the ‘Staffie’ – a regular voluntary gathering of staff in an ‘unconference’ approach where we learn from each other. This was the result of our innovation leaders attending numerous educampsunconferences and non-edu events that highlight our belief that the knowledge is in the room. Innovation, and therefore better practice, starts with an inquiring teacher given permission to think, act, reflect, re-design and share.


Image Source http://pixabay.com/p-223322/?no_redirect Author: geralt


Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential. [eBook version]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com

Roselinde Torres – Leadership

Roselinde Torres asks key questions about ‘Great Leadership’ in the 21st Century Digital age…

  1. Where are you looking to anticipate change?
    • How are we expanding our horizons?
    • How do we share these insights to shape our future
  2. What is the diversity measure of your network?
    • Capacity to develop relationships with people who are different to you
    • Diverse networks create different ways of thinking
  3. Are you courageous enough to abandon the past
    • They dont talk risk taking they do it
    • They align with people who think a little differently

How can her findings be applied within the educational context to improve schooling outcomes? 

You cannot learn leadership practices in one day seminars, leadership in the 21st century is centred upon change and anticipating the landscape. Diversity of thought and action means that our leadership teams are distinct leadership units where strength is found in the diverse skills and abilities of those in the team. We need to question the status quo and not be tied to traditional models or ways of being based upon the notion of ‘that is the way we have always done it’

How does this TED Talk connect to our leadership experiences?

It is important to foster links and networks with those stakeholders in our community. It is crucial to reach out to further networks of people in the pursuit of diverse ideas – cultural, gender, thinking, business, different education thoughts and perspectives. We must encourage diverse thought and ideas amongst staff and value diverse thought in members of the BoT. We need to ensure that leadership teams have collective skill in areas of leadership across all fronts (Marzano’s 21 aspects of leadership). Upon reflection I am not averse to looking to change our current successful practice in the pursuit of better ways of doing things. I see the rise of Maker Culture and Design Thinking as the next phase of curriculum development we need to consider, yet these are not on the radar of the majority.

What are your thoughts? What resonated with you? More importantly what didn’t and why?

Mystery Teacher Only Day

I thought I would try something a little different for one of our Teacher Only Days this year. The letter I send to all staff each year details the staff only days and what we want to cover. This year it said – Mystery Day (wear comfortable shoes) and that was it. The faces when we met the day before did show a little concern. I have often said we should do Paintball as a staff, or a High Ropes course. Those words ‘Comfortable Shoes’ had some a little uncomfortable.

A clue and a Public Transport Card
A clue and a Public Transport Card

At the end of our first Teacher only day each staff member was handed an envelope containing a clue, a Public Transport Card, Inner City Map, a coloured hair tie,  some chocolate, and a Bridge Climb Bungy Jumping brochure.

I hoped people would get in the spirit of things and the next day I was pleasantly surprised. Teachers made their way via ferry, bus, train and car pool to Britomart and their morning challenge began with finding their teams.

Great to see some Taupaki Tee Shirts too!
Great to see some Taupaki Tee Shirts too!

Once all the colours were grouped the task was handed out and the Taupaki Amazing Race began. I spent the morning wandering the streets watching where the teams were heading. I saw Conga Lines formed, Busking attempted, Photos with famous people snapped, Negotiations of high vantage points for photos. I saw smiling and I saw teamwork. Everyone arrived at the first checkpoint and I was amazed at the level of competition for the trophy!

National Library of NZ Auckland
National Library of NZ Auckland

The next phase was a little more sedate – a short bus ride to the National Library for a tour and a Digital Literacy/Citizenship session with Andrew Cowie thank goodness for Bean Bags in their Modern Learning Environment as the preceding race was a little tiring. The resulting dialogue will serve to give more background to our development of digital literacy in our children.

The afternoon saw another bus ride to The MindLab where we met up with Chris Clay for some programming using Scratch, then taking the digital to the physical with MaKey MaKey musical instruments using everyday objects. The creativity of the teams was superb.

The robotics challenges really tested the logic and problem solving skills. Teachers needed to program the robot to accept bluetooth commands from a remote control to then race around the grand prix circuit.

The final challenges saw teams programming their robots to be autonomous search and rescue machines that could grid search using photo-resistors. This produced a lot of frazzled brains yet some considerable success for some teachers who had never experienced programming or robotics! After a long day we settled in for some well deserved pizza and beverages!

So why the need for Mystery?

Well – apart from the fact that I like surprises – this was a lesson in what children in class experience when they have no idea what is in store for them. As teachers we need to remember what it feels like to have someone else organise and plan your day. Some of our staff would have absolutely hated this experience! Some jumped at it, others followed along. Some withdrew, others helped. I kept people in the dark because I wanted them to experience uncertainty and confusion and not because these are bad things but because they are necessary elements in learning. This was about people working with their colleagues doing completely random things! I bet Kim and Rochelle have formed a life long bond after busking with the Fresh Prince Rap (I must get that video online!).

I hope the team enjoyed their day. There are some MaKey MaKey kits on the way thanks to the team at Mind Kits and hopefully we can get them into an outdoor maker box as well as look at an interactive sensory sculpture… more fun ahead.


3D Printing in Schools

We have had 3D printers for a couple of years now. We bought our first Up3D printer a few years back for about $4500. Then at the start of 2013 we made an active decision to use the technology of the day in our technology centre with a client school. We bought (leased) another two Up Printers and one Up Mini Printer along with a pod of 8 MacBook Pro laptops so that we could look at a design focus in addition to more traditional forms of technology education.

Within the first three months of 2013 the Hard Materials technology teacher and I had built two Version 1 DiamondMind printers which used a more sustainable form of filament (PLA), open source software, and off the shelf electronic components – all in a kit set form from Mindkits.

Build your own printer
Build your own printer

These printers were under half the price of the UP printers, over double the print area, made in New Zealand and most importantly – you could fix/tweak them yourself! You also have the ability to print your own printer as these printers fall into the RepRap category.

A home built solution
A home built solution

These printers were featured on Breakfast on One with our school providing a little of the education context for the printer. We have had students using a variety of applications for designing in 3D and the printers provide the physical result of that design.

Why 3D printers – they are a gimmick, right?

3D printers are not new technology – in fact in using 3D printers we are not preparing kids for their futures – we are just using the technology of the day – the here and now.

3D printers are more than printing plastic models and must be seen in the bigger picture of thinking digitally in 3 dimensions. Being able to print out the end product is a bonus.

Wind Turbine prototype
Wind Turbine prototype with Scott from TTS

I see 3D printing as creation – we can design / draw in Google SketchUp (remember NZ Schools get your 2013 Pro version codes from Datacom – no need for an .stl plugin), FormZ, TinkerCad, OpenSCAD and then have that design built for us to use. At our place the printers have been used to produce attachments for robots, stands for devices, key rings, buttons, moulds for chocolate, replacement plastic parts – even hooks for school bags (normally $15 per hook for metal under a dollar to produce your own!) Hydroponics containers, modelling prototype wind turbines.

Awesome decoration by Danny Dillon
by Danny Dillen

Art projects in a virtual world can become physical through the act of printing them out – vases, bracelets and functional artwork. Imagine being able to produce or replicate your digital creation in the physical world. However the tool is only an instrument of the creative person behind it. As teachers we need to focus on unleashing this creative potential in a digital age.

The power comes when you combine the printing with other maker technology like Arduino (micro-controllers) and electronics. I witnessed an example of this when I had a group of kids putting together arduino light sensing robots from @zombiebothq, the robot has no body – it is over to the kids to make this out of cardboard, lego or wood or as one 10 year old said “I could take measurements of the arduino and the breadboard and draw a case for it in SketchUp then print it out!” –  CREATION!

As always the teacher is crucial – let us look at the normal laser colour printer – yes you could download resources from Sparkle Box and print them – is that creation? The same with 3D printers, you can download from Thingiverse, you could scan using 123DCatch and print out someone’s head, or you could CREATE.

This is the new frontier, do you remember getting your kids to design an amazing playground? As teachers we usually said let’s build a model of it to sell the idea to the Board of Trustees. The resultant model looked rubbish as it was made of tooth picks, cardboard and toilet rolls. Kids know that the model is budget! But design it virtually in 3D and then have the bonus of printing it as a scale model? The product actually looks like the design. This increases engagement.

We will be printing our own spare parts for everyday items within 5 years – these will be downloaded to your home printer and then printed. Our kids must be able to work in a 3D virtual space in order to be creators.

To those who say ‘I can’t see the point’ I answer with a statement of my own – I can’t see the end to the possibilities.

The key to the question is not the technology – in fact leave out the technology full stop! The real issue is us teachers – how are we creating opportunity for creative, innovative authentic learning using the technology of the now?

It is a journey of professional freedom…

My Breakfast on One 15 sec sound bite was never really enough to capture the essence of why we do it. I wish they had used the “It isn’t really about the printing it is about thinking and manipulating in the virtual 3D world” comment as it would have made me sound more intelligent than the “our MoE visitors liked it – great engagement!”

I am a firm believer that there is one killer app in education – A thinking Teacher who adapts to change. We are like every other school, we have teachers who are groundbreaking in their approach to using technology and those teachers who doing a great job – the second wave if you like. The biggest factor has been professional freedom – freedom to experiment, fail, redesign and try again. With any resource, technology, or plan it is the teacher that ‘makes the magic possible’

The key for me as a leader has been to play and tinker with the technology. I had no clue at the start of the year I would have built a 3D printer (even though it was under expert supervision) I had no idea we would have students coding, Junior School kids using Scratch or Senior students collaborating with another group of year 8s in another school on the their own video game using Unity. I had no idea of the impact that arduino technology would have on my view of bridging the analogue and digital worlds. More than anything the maker movement is having a powerful influence over my thinking about curriculum.

The potential is huge! I cringed when a Member of Parliament and Honorary Fellow of the New Zealand Computer Society Maurice Williamson said 3D printers are dangerous as they can print guns. As a maker friend of mine said “if you want to build a gun you wouldn’t use a printer” This technology will be pervasive and, as with any technology, we will have creators and consumers – our kids need a creator mentality. I loved a comment from an 11 year old in my Zombie Robots group – “Hey Mr L I mucked around with the code look what we can make this circuit do now…” As teachers we need to ‘muck around with the code’ are we using the technology of the day, today? Are we relying on the technology to do it for us? Are we the slave to the technology bound by its apparent limitations or are we the masters of the technology making it bend to purpose?