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2015

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We started revamping our science curriculum a couple years back as a part of a big STEM push as an institution (complete with a new building). Lovingly called STEM 1 initially, now Science 9: Chemical and Physical Systems, the course Freshman take comes in two flavors: standard, and accelerated/math intensive. Both include a healthy dose of instruction and projects involving programming, with a Springtime focus on programmable circuit boards in conjunction with a unit on electricity. Enter the tiny little circuit board that could: the Arduino.

 

I love Arduinos. If you’ve never witnessed what one of these can do, you need to get yourself on the InterGoogles and search for Arduino project examples and prepared to be wowed by the internet of things. Obviously, we weren’t expecting the students to create some of the complex examples you might find online; we were simply going for exposure initially, with a little application of their electric knowledge gained from the accompanying unit thrown in for good measure.

 

Canvas turned out to be an excellent platform to present the instructional content for the Arduinos. We introduced students to a series of Modules, the first being an overview of the circuit board as well the the development environment. We had them blink an LED (of course!), control an LED with a potentiometer, then had them modify the code to cause some type of change in the system. The second Module was a series of separate tutorials centered around a particular sensor or programming concept. For example, the RGB LED had an in-depth look at “for” loops, while the bank of LEDs looked at arrays. Each of the mini activities in the second Module contained Canvas Pages with an instructional video discussing the program sketch, an overview of how to construct the actual circuit on the breadboard, an Assignment that challenged them to expand on the example circuit, and a badge.

 

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CanvaBadges was an interesting experimental piece to the project. I created a badge for the intro Module, and separate badges for completion of each of the mini activities in the second Module. Success and student interest in badges was directly related to how they were presented by the separate instructors. In one class, the teacher almost cheesily over emphasized them and the students followed suit; they had a fierce competition for who could collect them the fastest. Yet in another class, badges were more of an afterthought, so students really didn’t care. In hindsight, I should have prepared faculty better with strategies to get students excited about badges. It was mostly a bust that year, but showed potential.

 

The final piece of the project involved a student-designed Arduino circuit. Groups were challenged to build a circuit that collected some kind of data that would cause another component to respond in some way. They were given a small budget and were pointed to an online tech store to order parts. The default sketch that many of the less adventurous groups defaulted to was a temperature sensor that caused an LED to light up at a certain threshold. We had some absolutely awesome projects though. One group created a series of LEDs that flashed based on the beat of an audio track, while another created a laser-based attendance tracker that counted up whenever the beam was interrupted by someone walking by!

 

Canvas was an excellent tool to use for our STEM 1 Arduino Project. All of the instructional content rolled up into Modules provided a “home base” so to speak for students to get everything they needed to succeed - from remedial programming help, to inspiration for project design!

 

Has anyone else done engineering or tech project Modules in Canvas? Please share!

I was speaking with a high school metal shop teacher the other day.  He had what I thought as a neat way to use Canvas in his lab.  The students must demonstrate how to safely use various pieces of equipment throughout the semester.  When a student is ready to demonstrate a proficiency the following happens:

  1. Student goes and gets teacher
  2. Teacher has student login into Canvas on the teacher's iPad and hand the tablet back to the teacher
  3. Teacher navigates to a quiz, for example; Demonstrate Knowledge of Safe Use of a Lathe
  4. Teacher enters password to begin quiz
  5. Quiz has questions like "Student wore appropriate safety goggles" [Yes/No].  As the student works through their demo, the teacher 'answers' the questions.


I thought this would be a great technique for nursing programs, lab classes or any course with a field component. 

Looking for ways to increase teacher collaboration in your school?

 

Lucky for us Canvas is a perfect tool to increase teacher collaboration within and across disciplines! Here are a few ideas!

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1. Develop a teacher course housing Professional Development Modules  with ample discussion and collaboration pages for staff to use. Model the use of these pages within the PD itself whether delivered solely online or in person. This is relevant as well for department heads sharing information in weekly meetings or PLC time.

 

2. Add teachers as collaborators in your course. This is a great tool for CWC courses or co-taught classes, as well as departments that want to share ideas and strategies. In this way great minds work together instead of struggling to design innovative lessons on singularly.

 

3. Add a co-teacher to your course to work across disciplines in specific modules. For instance, perhaps Greek Mythology and Astronomy want to collaborate and share a module in their courses on finding Greek stories in the stars and the science behind the stars. Materials can be added to the Commons and shared easily with one another.

 

4. Add special education instructors and paras as observers of the students' they serve in your courses. This easily helps them perform tutoring tasks and other needed support like printing of material for visually impaired students into appropriate formats.

 

5. Share material within a department. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. (whew!) If you have a stellar module in your course, upload it to share with others in the department.

 

6. Use Canvas for faculty meetings; encourage the reading of relevant material and interactions through discussions or creation of staff wiki pages before F2F meetings.

 

These tips have worked well at my high school this year, our first year using Canvas. Not only are staff jumping on board to share and create materials together, but they have become more easily sold on the idea of using Canvas when they see all of the ways it benefits them as teachers. The biggest benefit these ideas offer is the efficient use of time.  And let's face it, time is one of the greatest gifts we can give back to our overworked teachers.

 

"The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives." Robert John Meehan

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