Saturday, June 28, 2014

ISTE Day 1

I'm a planner. I like to have all the details of a trip completely organized before venturing forward. So, in preparation for ISTE 2014, I read the blogs, downloaded the apps, scoured the ISTE2014 website, and listened to podcasts.  There were still too many unknowns for my taste, however: How would I get from the airport to my hotel? Where would I eat? (I'm kind of particular about my meals too.) Was the Invent to Learn workshop really at a sports bar?

Well, the fact that I'm currently blogging from the Georgia World Congress Center, in the ISTE Blogger's Cafe, should be an indication that everything turned out fine and I worried for nothing. The shuttle from the airport to the hotel was so simple and easy to find. My hotel room is great, and I had a yummy sushi dinner last night. I ran in the fitness center this morning and decided to walk the 1.4 miles from my hotel to the Invent to Learn workshop (yes, it was in a sports bar, but a very nice one nonetheless). By the way, the weather during my first day in Atlanta has been very nice - not nearly as hot as I thought it would be, and the humidity is comparable to Minnesota in the summer (sticky, but bearable). My walk this morning was really nice.

Anyway, onto the Invent to Learn workshop...

When I received the e-mail about this workshop this spring, I felt that this was an event I needed to take a chance on. I've played with some Maker-ish things with my own boys (Mindstorms, Raspberry Pi, Scratch), but I've been wanting to see what this "Maker Movement" is really all about. Is this something that we should incorporate more into our own school? So, I took the leap and registered, not knowing much about the event.

The workshop was run by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager, authors of "Invent to Learn" (I'll admit, a book I have started, but not yet finished).  Both of them are very passionate about the Maker Movement, and inspired me with some of their introductory comments.  Here is what I tweeted out during the workshop intro:

"Kids should have the ability to solve the problems school never anticipated."

"Young people have a remarkable capacity for intensity."

“Programming gives kids agency over an increasingly technological world.”

“Making is a stance! Write, don’t just learn about writing.” Do science, don’t just learn about science.

One of the main ideas that resonated with me is "making" allows those kids that might not be "school smart" to pursue a different type of passion and feel success. In one of the videos Gary shared with us, a boy was standing, pumping his fists in the air, excited that he had gotten something to work. It brought back memories of our Jr. FLL season last year and how my son could hardly contain himself from hopping around as they programmed the robot.

After the short intro, we were given the rest of the day to play with all sorts of Maker stuff.  Here's how I spent my day:

I made some "wearable tech." This bracelet was constructed by sewing a snap to a battery to an LED to another snap with conductive thread. When the 2 snaps are connected, the circuit is closed and the LED "should" light up. Mine did not light up, but I intend to keep working on it to see what I can do. This was the last project of the day, so I ran out of time! 
This was my first experience with Little Bits, which I learned are a more "mature" version of Snap circuits. We played with a couple projects: making sound waves in milk by connecting my iPhone and playing music, triggering a light sensor with an infrared LED. These "bits" are especially nice to use because they're magnetic and therefore can't be put together the wrong way. The problem-solving we had to use to figure out some of our glitches was a lot of fun.
One of the components for Little Bits - I just thought it looked pretty!

I finally got a chance to try out Makey Makey. It was also a lot of fun, and it's a good introduction to circuits for kids. Once you get past the initial "I can make a sound with a Bagel," though, the fun in Makey Makey has more to do with the programming behind it (Scratch) and not as much with the interface. Which is fine. I'm just curious to know if kids will take it this far. I think I want to purchase a Makey Makey kit for our Jr. FLL team to use at one of the early team meetings as an introduction to programming.
I'm forgoing the Ashley Judd keynote for tonight to write this post (although I am overhearing some conversations of people saying we might be able to hear it here), but afterwards I'm headed to the poster sessions.  Any wonderful things I learn there will have to wait until tomorrow's post.

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