Monthly Archives: September 2015

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I actually titled my first post about Spheros and my July EdTechSA conference workshop as "Meet The Robot That Got Me Interested In Robotics." It's true. I have neglected the area of robotics and programming for a long time. It was a personal blindspot and one that I felt guilty about but willing to leave because I felt that it would be outside of my comfort zone. I even felt like a fraud being a so-called leader in ICT or eLearning who had yet to properly engage in the STEM arena.

I'm getting better and I know that it is important. I even went along with our Lego Robotics teaching guru, Mel, to our state Lego RoboCup event. I still don't know a lot about being hands on with Mindstorms gear but learnt a lot by watching the two teams compete in the Soccer division and the Rescue section.

The good thing about my school is that we do have teacher leaders who will take ownership of initiatives and run with them with little more than moral and budgetary support from me. Our Beebots are used widely in our Early Years classes with a couple of teachers taking the lead - and we have had our kids use them for learning Vietnamese!

But Spheros in our school has been my own journey. I have added to the original 15 Spheros that I bought in March, bringing two Sphero SPRKs and four Ollies in as additions. I just want to reflect on what else I have learned since the last post when I was still just working with my Digital Leaders.

This term, I started to work with some classes within my own building. I am line manager for four classroom teachers and my office is based in that building. I am also the self appointed Sphero maintenance person - I keep them secure, charge them prior to use and kept tabs on the apps needed on the building's squad of 10 iPads. Just prior to starting with the first class, I saw a tweet about an app called Tickle that uses a Scratch style interface to program a number of connected robots including both Sphero and Ollie. It is easier to use than MacroLab and as I was about to introduce programming robots to Year 3 and 4 students, it was the perfect tool to use to set some simple programming challenges.

I listened to a great podcast on Teaching With Sphero Robots which I found via Wes Fryer, where I picked up a great tip about numbering the Spheros and the iPads and pre-connecting them so that when woken up, there isn't the Bluetooth configuring or misconnections that can happen when multiple Spheros try to connect to multiple devices simultaneously. This was fine except for when I had a flat Sphero that meant grabbing a new one, waking it up and connecting it out of this carefully planned sequence. I lined up Digital Leaders to help out in the classrooms and we made a start with three different classrooms.

The students used a checklist sheet that was based loosely on the badge system I had been using with Digital Leaders and a skills sheet I used with staff during a Student Free Day professional learning session. Basically it works them through at their own pace to gradually move from using the Sphero as a Connected Toy over to using it to Program. I set a simple programming Challenge as the first step for using Tickle.simple tickle challengeThis was very engaging and I was surprised at how quickly kids adapted to the app and completed the challenge. For those who were struggling, some help from a Digital Leader gave them the confidence to persist and work through. The next step was to design a maze and program your way around that maze using Tickle. I created an example maze using a large Nerf Gun box but one of the teachers I worked with, Salma, suggested that masking tape on the carpet would work just as well. The common area between the classrooms is now covered in a variety of challenges! Again, watching how some kids went into a flow state of trial and error as they tried and adjusted and tried again until their Sphero was following their predetermined path and changing through a planned sequence of colours.

This was really pleasing to see. The checklist sheet become the self directed learning sequence, and kids would call their teacher over to see them achieve the next skill and have it signed off, so the formative assessment angle was working really well.

Using this sort of technology will always have its issues and you just have to be flexible and adaptive. If you are patient and just work through ways of solving a problem, the kids see that approach being modelled and immediately reduce their own agitation when things "go wrong" or "don't work". Sometimes a Sphero wouldn't charge properly and it would mean getting a spare and helping them get connected so they could get back on task. Sometimes Tickle would lose connection with the Sphero and so a process of shutting down open apps and then re-opening them would solve the problem. The great thing was that all three teachers picked up their comfort levels using these robots and didn't require me to lead their following lessons  but were more than happy for me to be the person to ensure they were charged and organised!!


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I find the internet to be a very interesting place. There are bits of me floating all over the place - here on my blog, in the comments of a myriad of other bloggers, in social networking nooks and crannies, in online events. And it never really goes away - stuff you think is gone can be tracked down and revisited, even if it is in an altered form.

A couple of days ago, I received a comment from one of my favourite all time bloggers, Claudia Ceraso. Claudia lives in Argentina, is bilingual, and does not post very often on her blog but her posts were some of the best and most thought provoking that I had read. The ideas she was exploring about networked learning, about online identity and the way ideas and thinking can be shaped by online interactions were ponderous and helped remold my own thinking. And so her comment prompted me to go back and check out how our online exchanges helped shape out emerging ideas.

Another of her posts linked back to a post from Alan Levine who I was lucky enough to have a meal with about 8 years ago thanks to Michael Coghlan. Alan does great stuff online that I aspire to and that I feel represents all of the potential the internet offers learners. Alan is open, he shares, he experiments, he openly documents and he creates. He interacts with all who cross his virtual (and real life) paths without any pecking order. When I read educators on Twitter seeking to stake their names next to virtual events, or to package up and promote their piece of entrepreneurial digimedia (no links as to not cause controversy or get others offside), I think that Alan is the antithesis of that state of mind. His spirit and his innovative approach is where I want (or would like) to be at.

Another blogger interacting with Alan a few years was Jennifer Dalby. In my opinion, she was a great blogger. Awesome thought provoking stuff that she seemed to be never really happy with because she ended taking the whole lot down. Jen wrote this really awesome series about online communities, social media and networked learning called the Onramp Installments, and when she pulled the plug on her blog, it seemed to disappear. However, a quick Google of "injenuity onramp" found them neatly archived at her blog which was a pleasant surprise.

What I was going to suggest was the use of the Wayback Machine which is an amazing meg-archive of a lot of digital stuff. As long as you know the URL of a long lost site, you can punch that in and see what was captured over the past decade or so. If I type in my blog's URL, I can see 206 captures since 2006. It preserves quite a lot including the theme I was using at the time.


Another one of my favourite bloggers was Doug Noon, an elementary school teacher from Fairbanks, Alaska. He hosted his own blog so when he took it down, it was gone for good. Except I can still revisit his writings on the Wayback Machine. Thankfully, he still freely posts his beautiful pictures of Alaska via his Flickr account. Now I don't know what prompted him to wind up his blogging so I won't be be linking to any of his digital contributions here but suffice to say, if you have any digital digging skills there are many, many sites that can come back to life via the Wayback Machine. Odds are that eventually it might be the only place to check out this post in the future!



My blog had its tenth birthday last month. And probably, as I treat my actual birthday, I didn't really pay it much attention. I had thoughts about doing a post on the actual day but didn't really have something to say. I even thought about doing a give-away or a competition, but I have a feeling that the days of readers numbering in the hundreds (probably down to single figures now) are long gone.

But ten years is a significant slab of time. I started writing here because my school at the time had just installed interactive whiteboards and I figured that blogging might have been a good way to connect to others to get ideas and advice in their best use for learning. What I did stumble into was networked learning, exposure to innovative minds and a handy ringside seat into the broader development of educators delving into social media.

I don't blog now nearly as much as I did back then. But I have been able to interact with many great thinkers and innovators - some who still influence my thinking to this day. Certainly, there were many well established edubloggers around when I started this journey so I am certainly no pioneer. Along with Michael Coghlan and Mike Seyfang, I was one of the earlier South Australian bloggers flexing our developing social media muscles. When I think about the early edubloggers I was reading, many were well established in their craft - if you aren't aware of Stephen Downes', Nancy White's and Alan Levine's amazing bodies of work, then you need to take the time meander down their well established digital paths. George Siemens may well be hailed as the mind behind Connectivism as a learning theory, but Leigh Blackall deserves as least as much acknowledgement as an active mind developing awareness about Networked Learning. If you don't believe me, check out the Revision History tab on the Wikipedia entry to see how much time he has put in there. He (along with Alex Hayes) was the first to expose me to the concept of "free ranging" showing how one's learning can be stored in a range of digital depositories. This was a concept that he continues to use - it might explain why his work isn't cited by "experts" because he actually practices his ideas rather than just theorise from a traditional academic viewpoint. I strongly believe that Leigh's name and ideas should be more widely known and acknowledged in the Australian edtech community. But I suppose he isn't founding edtech Twitter hashtags, or being an "edupreneur" so the importance of his ideas are somewhat neglected.

Speaking of Twitter, I was an early educator user, signing up for my account back in March 2007. No #hashtagchats, no "Welcome to my PLN" autoreplies, no inserted ads or "while you were away" reminders. Not many Australians in the first few years either - and my Twitter connections were basically bloggers who I was already reading. After a year or so, I did start to see some clever Twitter only educators start to leverage the tool in new ways which has led to the massive info-stream that you get nowadays. I've always thought that you only add a connection that adds to your learning so I have never felt the need to follow back. And if I don't add much to your learning, then perhaps I should be cut loose from your Following list as well.

It is pretty cool that I can look back at my state_of_brain over the period of ten years. I have engaged with so many digital learners and my own learning has been super fast tracked that I take the connection for granted. Even in 2015, I encounter adults who are amazed at how quickly I can find what I want online, how I can reference some many other great thinkers so quickly - and I am amazed that what I do isn't just commonplace in educators anyway. It should be - I am no one special. If I can be connected and learning, anyone can. Ten years here at my favourite Edublogs haunt proves it.