Grounds of future play

21 09 2010

Two weekends ago I went to an education resources expo at the Brisbane Convention Centre – mainly as a bid to get freebs. I arrived a little late but still managed to catch some of a seminar, a few free posters, petted a snake and a lizard, and entered in as many lucky draws as possible (and possibly signing my boss up for swades of spam – sorry…).

Two things caught my eye in particular. And I’ll share one now – The SmartUs Digital Playground (their Finnish website).

The whole set up is very futuristic. Kids are issued with RFID smart cards that can be recognised by readers scattered throughout the playground. They login at the main portal and are assigned a task (run from point A to B via C three times, or something more complex) and the computer records their time. This time is recorded on an international online network where kids from different schools, or even different countries, can compare each others times and records.

Additional tasks and learning can also be integrated by assigning different nodes answers to a multi-choice quiz. This also comes into play by the presence of a dancepad hooked up to the main video monitor of the playground as well. This can be used for quizzes, fitness, dancing or simon-type games.

In Finland, it even became the basis of a family/children’s gameshow which involved celebrities and national atheletes, called FunTzu. Again, these TV scores were uploaded online, so schoolkids could challenge their idols. Unfortunately I can’t find any videos of the TV show – but after some searching I have found a news item of Asia’s first SmartUs playground in Hong Kong which shows how it works.

Tapping into children’s natural competitive behaviour, and then combining it with social media and massively multiplayer gaming Lappset have really hit the mark (or market). The only real downsides to it I can see are the initial outlay costs (which you can guess would be quite high) and also the pitfall of having ‘standardised cookie cutter playgrounds’ that don’t have their own individual community flavour. There also might be other hudles here in Australia given EQ’s stance on students and social networks.

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Let’s Dance

18 08 2010

Beach Ballerina Girl by Mike BairdOne of the things about being prepared to teach primary school is that, with a few exceptions¹, you are expected to teach across the curriculum in every area of learning.For many of my fellow students this meant the fear of being asked to teach Maths, Science, and Technology. No sweat for me, I’m a biologist. But how about something like the Creative Arts?

Luckily, I consider myself a bit of a homo universalis – and dabble a bit in the Arts myself. I was on Australian Idol, thank you very much. You can look at my Flickr to see I enjoy visual arts – mostly photography, collage and sometimes drawing. I also did senior Drama at high school, enjoy the occasional roleplay, and will compulsively consume any movie available to me. But then there is the final dimension of the Arts – Dance. Now some people might consider my singing pretty bad, but that’s nothing compared to catastrophe produced by the uncoordinated disrhythmic spasms of my lanky frame to sounds.

Despite around four years in the schools music tour group, the grace to perform dancing more complicated than a rocker’s headbang tended to elude me. Luckily though, it was gracelessness, not denseness that prevented me from carving up the floor, so the general theory of dance as well as handful of moves from country, jazz, ballroom, hip-hop and other genres still lies buried within my neocortex – so I can fulfill the age old teacher’s mantra – Those who can’t, teach.

Below is my basic dance lesson for middle to upper primary students (8-12 year olds), which could probably be adapted for lower secondary. I used it in my government interview portfolio to demonstrate, that while I am the highly desired young, male math and science primary school teacher, I am oh so much more (and modest, too!²)

Using curriculum language, the lesson aims to give students the opportunity to create with peers a series of simple rhythmic patterns of swinging movements with various body parts to a 4/4 time signature to synthesise a short movement sequence for presentation to the class.

Read the rest of this entry »





It is voting time again

17 08 2010

That’s right, I am crawling back to blog about important happenings this week in Australia.

It’s National Science Week.

It seems I’ve missed out on alerting you to vote for your favourite Aussie scientist for the Eureka prize (I would have been supporting Evans and Smith for proving the intellectual and communicative exploits of chickens).

But it is not too late to start voting for your favourite new Aussie species discovered this past year. Given that this year’s theme is biodiversity it’s a pretty appropriate poll.

Place your vote here.

Nominees are:

  • Opera House Barnacle (Calantica darwinii)
  • Kimberly Froglet (Crinia fimbriata)
  • Sea Spider (Paranymphon bifilarium)
  • Steve Irwin’s Tree Snail (Crikey stevirwini – I kid not!)
  • Spinifex Ant (Camponotus triodiae)
  • Pink Handfish (Brachiopsilus dianthus)
  • Cape York Amber Fly (fossilized) (Chaetogonopteron bethnorrisae)
  • Bacchus Marsh Wattle (Acacia rostriformis)
  • The Bandalup Buttercup (Hibbertia abyssa)
  • Truffle-like Mushroom (Cribbea turbinispora)

More new species and biodiversity stuff at the bushblitz website including a free teacher booklet (just in case your school somehow missed out, or your from another country).





Jim’s Story: Engine bodies and body engines

15 05 2010

This is taken from my Science Education textbook, The Art of Teaching Science. Is this a science lesson gone wrong? or a science lesson gone right?

Snapshot 10.1

Jim (not his real name) was explaining homeostasis to his Year 12 biology class. Homeostasis is the process where bodily inputs and outputs are balanced to maintain a constant internal environment. To model body temperature regulation, Jim used a car engine’s cooling system to show how heat input and output are balanced. Read the rest of this entry »





Away and be gone

10 04 2010

The big wide world of the future looms ever closer with every passing moment.

Every time some one reminds me that June, practicals, and then graduations are only “a few months away” I sense it.

Thankfully some stress can fade away this week, as I have finally gotten away my application to Education Queensland. Hopefully they will see it within in their graciousness to bequeath upon me some kind of position to tide me over until my sister’s wedding next year, and the money to reach Canada for it.

In the pre-service teacher careers seminar I attended the EQ representative did say that “early February” was a good time to submit applications to maximise the chance of mid-year appointment. Perhaps I am a little late. But, given this seminar occurred in late February, I am not sure quite what I was expected to do about that. Read the rest of this entry »





Creativity unleashed

22 11 2009

I mentioned in my last school post (the one about set ups), that I’d used a modified version of The Future Is Wild‘s animal design activity.

While TFiW is more focused on evolution and decent with modification, my class was currently focusing on a more ecological unit – what roles do different organisms have in an ecosystem, how do they interact and how do we classify them.

Previous lessons had gone through self-made classification schemes, traditional classification schemes (e.g. The Classical Greek), and scientific classification schemes. The two scientific classification schemes were taught in my classes. Read the rest of this entry »





It’s the set up (You need this)

5 11 2009

The major lesson learned over the last month is that no matter how awesome I am, I am not a magician.

Teacher’s cannot expect to walk into their classrooms, open their box of tricks, and have children play along gleefully (not even with music and white powdery ingestables).

What is really important for setting up a classroom for a smooth and successful learning journey^ is just that – the set up. It is so easy to gloss over this, and I certainly have been a lot. I mean these kids have been in school for eight years already, they know how a classroom learning environment works by now*. Reminding them of that is not my job as a middle school teacher, right? I should be able to just dive right into my lesson, yeah? These guys should know how to work in groups already, surely?

Wrong. Wrong. And more wrong. And apparently “group work” needs to be replaced with “co-operative learning”. Read the rest of this entry »