katherine zagotsis
Highly Accomplished Teacher. AAC Communication Partner & Advocate. Mum of one. Accidental Leader. Reflectionist, Mentor and life-long learner.

Engaging Now! 7.4

Demonstrating 4.5

EC17

October 3, 2017 | Focus Areas: | | | | | | | | | | | | | 2 COMMENTS

EC 17

On the 27th and 28th of September, I attended EC17 after being invited by Selena to be part of the Edufolios team.  I initially found this a little hard to get my head around: that I was there for two purposes.  One, to represent a project that I’d been a part of, that has completely changed the way I think about my teaching practice and given me a quiet confidence and two, for my own professional development.  EC17 is described as an ‘education festival that allows educators to curate their own learning experience’ and this suited me perfectly.  So often I’ve attended conferences where the expectation is to sit and listen to one speaker for 6 hours, there is little interaction between participants and I end up fidgeting, questioning the relevance and whether the content is worth adapting.   This was completely different.  Both days began with speakers on the main stage, but we were able to choose whether we attended or not and where to go throughout the day.  It really reiterated for me what a self-directed learner I’ve become.  I began both days with Markeeta listening to the keynote speakers, then we would both go back to the Edufolios stand and a while later, break away to attend the smaller workshops that we were interested in.  Markeeta works with students who have been affected by trauma and I work in special education, so while there is some cross-over not everything was going to be relevant to both of us.  (How often do we get to say as a teacher at PD “This isn’t really relevant to me.  I’m going to go and do something else?!”).  I also had my own questions to be answered after realising that I would have the opportunity to learn about things that I had little knowledge about such as: robots, scratchpad and code.

IT, Digital Technologies Curriculum, Robots and Code

I’m aware of the gaps in my knowledge regarding IT because I’m a connected educator and I see the hashtags on Twitter: #code #beebots #STEM #hourofcode   I’ve also been having professional conversations with colleagues at my site lately, based around a similar thought process:

We are falling behind in IT.  We don’t have a background knowledge of what STEM is.  If we went back to mainstream education, we would be lacking in skills.

I can understand where this idea is coming from, but I don’t completely agree with it.  If myself and my colleagues are concerned, we have the opportunities available to us to update our knowledge.  I know that that there is a STEM expo through DECD coming up for example and other IT skills are easy enough to learn, especially if we know what is in demand.  And this is easy enough to find out by looking at job descriptions and following social media.  In the back of my mind however, is to approach these words with caution.  I’ve been teaching long enough now to realise that like everything, there are trends in education.  Last year there was a lot of talk of ‘growth mindset’ in mainstream education contexts.  When I first started in special education a few years ago, Boardmaker visuals and PODD books were the more common tools for communication.  This year they seem to have been replaced by ProloQuo2go.  Change is certainly not a bad thing.  I just don’t want to get caught up with buzz words and shiny new toys for no reason.  I was just reflecting on this morning when I happened to stumble across Selena’s post Unpacking the Digi Tech Curriculum. She explained further my niggling concern: ‘The media seems to be focusing the general public on Robots and coding but the digital technologies curriculum is so much more. It’s about how we can use digital technologies to solve problems.  That involves critical thinking, computational and systems thinking as well as data use, coding and neat little robots.’  Which made me realise that my understanding of the Digital Technologies Curriculum is limited, likely on par with that of the general public.

Target: Explore Digital Technologies Curriculum as well as ICT as a General Capability, in relation to my students which is likely to be Foundation level or below.

I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to play though. The aim was to change how many degrees the robot turned.  We were given no further instructions besides for “It’ll be more than 400.”  I typed in 410, unplugged it and took it back to the table, where it over-corrected.  The presenter  from robokids directed me back to the computer to try again, where I had to ask her how to save the directions (press play on the robot and it saves automatically).  It wasn’t until the second try that I realised that the table was set up like a maze crossed with a road, including zebra crossings, stop signs and end points.  Which made me realise what a steep learning curve this was for me!  I was finding it challenging to make it turn, whereas the end goal was to direct the vehicle through the maze.  This was the most complex robot shown.  I then observed an 8-year old girl engage with Milo the robot.  Her instructions were “How many seconds do you think it will take to stop to get to the line?”  I watched her as she found the button and typed in 8.  She was then able to test, where the robot fell off of the table.

“Do you think that was maybe too far?”

“Mm, yeah.”

“Try a different number.”

She typed in 5 and the robot almost fell of the table again.  This time the instructor said “Emergency stop.” and directed her to a red button.  At no point was she told that she was doing it wrong or given the answer.  She was given a suggestion though of typing in 4.5 rather than 4 or 5.  She did so and was successful in directing the robot to the line.  I found it really interesting to listen to the language used and watch how confidently changes were made to the instructions. The presenter then explained to me that after the students had been successful in completing this task they were able to create their own builds.  I then asked her what robots she would use with given that I work in special ed.  She showed me these: Bee-Bots which are designed to teach young children to code by using the arrow keys to move and turn.

The next day I had a conversation with a young guy from CodeClubAus, who gave me specific strategies on how to start implementing coding with my high-functioning students with Autism.  The first was to see if they could follow directions on a grid.  I haven’t done a lot of work on positional language (left, right, above, beneath, inside, behind) with my students this year.  Particularly with my children of higher academic ability, I’ve been making the assumption that they already have these skills.  But I have a feeling that I’ll need to check.

Target: Focus on positional language activities with A, J and C in Term 4.

If they are able to grasp this, I can then implement similar activities, but move them to a grid-based format.  The next step after that mentioned was sequential language, such as when making a sandwich.  There’s already a lot of this sequential language visually in the children’s environment such as steps for toileting, blowing nose, unpacking bags and making toast, so I’m hopeful that this will be a skill that the children already have and are possibly strong in.  I’ll need to decide which direction to go in next, whether to invest in at least one Bee-Bot or if scratchpad is easy enough for my students to use.

Target: complete scratch project myself during my NIT

Target: create a Digital Technologies differentiated unit plan for Term 4 (possibly co-created with Deb).

2 responses to “EC17”

  1. Wow! I am actually tearing up… I am a sook but this post is just so powerful. I didn’t know all of the story you have shared here and I am so proud of you! I’ve always known you as someone with enormous skill who is also a tall poppy. Now I know that, that’s because you’re a natural born teacher who is quietly full of grit and determination.
    I’m so glad that Google led you to Edufolios and that you were brave enough to be an early adopter. I learn so much from our conversations and I am humbled to be a part of our little (but pretty powerful) community of practice! Thank you for sharing so much of yourself in this post 🙂 xxxx

  2. And I’m tearing up reading this comment! I’ve read it several times and I still don’t know how to respond, so just….thank you xx

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