The Manaiakalani Clusters connects us to a powerful network of learning. At a cluster level we are all close geographically, but because we are often all so busy there is not time for us to connect face to face. In our cluster we are also a diverse group of primary schools, a kura kaupapa, a Special school, a catholic school and a high school but what we have in common is the Manaiakalani kaupapa and pedagogy. By keeping in touch digitally we are able to relate to others and it gives us a sense of belonging.
This network of schools and clusters has now grown wider to encompass learners from the far North to Christchurch and the West Coast in 11 clusters. We all have a shared language which leads to an instant connection to a powerful network of so many teachers and learners. Even though we haven't met personally we are all committed to this incredible journey together and it is this cohesiveness that is so important. Teachers share resources, toolkits and PLD and have an on line facilitator. Similarly students interact and connect with other students using their blogs and Tuhi Mai Tuhi Atu where classes connect and comment through their blogs.
As educators we need to see the importance of blogging. It is through this two way process of giving and receiving that we connect. It helps us to stay connected and to be creative and not just consumers of content. Effective connectedness can not happen in isolation. It is like a jigsaw needing all pieces to be present to maximise the effectiveness of it.
A team from OMG Tech introduced us to the future of technology and what it means to our students. The team wants children not just to have their faces turned towards a screen but to look outwards and use their curiosity to light up a pathway that will transform their lives. New Zealanders have a unique way of looking at things and this is reflected in how so many famous New Zealanders have gained notoriety for example Rocket Man, Weta Workshops, Britten Motor Bikes.
The only way to get more people into the technology field is to educate our children to ensure they have a voice in the technology they use. We need to care about technology today so that when the key computational thinking ideas in the technology curriculum are introduced by 2020, our children will be prepared to be makers and creators of technology that reflects our distinctive New Zealand values and culture. And we as teachers need to be prepared to teach our students from year 1 to 13 the theory of how technology works and how they can use this knowledge to solve problems.
Using games was a great way for us, as well as for children, to be to introduced to the subject of computer science without using a computer. A large chequer board was used to demonstrate moves of how to get from one position to another. It showed that computers only understand exact instructions and can only do as they are told.
Sorting data into order makes it easier to work with and made a great team activity. We sorted numbers from lowest to highest by doing 10 passes to get ourselves into a line from lowest to highest.
A sorting networks game was a great way for us to learn about "flops" and I could see that children would enjoy this games by working together to move at the same time.
The introduction to Binary and Data representation also had some exercises to do first using tokens to show that columns were completely full or completely empty and then writing down the binary number. We then looked at hexadecimals and converted binary numbers into hexadecimals which children need to understand in year 7 and 8.
Learning about programme outcomes is a bit like learning grammar and the fact that you do need to understand how to use it as a tool before you can use the basic knowledge. We then moved on "Scratch" and looked at the tools needed to build a maze and control an animal going through the maze. I can understand the fascination that children find in creating games with "Scratch" thinking about the characters, the setting, sounds, looks, events, sensors and controls that one can build into a game. There is a lot of thinking behind each instruction. Scratch Junior for 5 to 7 year olds might be something to look at for our juniors.
Looking at the year one component of the digital technology curriculum, it has teacher led activities to develop an understanding that computers are built by humans to store and share digital content. Using a simple drawing activity to get children thinking about what lies underneath the case of a computer or getting the children to draw how they think the internet works would be a popular activity. We all need to use our imagination to think of what lies behind the case of a computer!
To aid our own thinking of what lies inside the case of a CD Rom we were able to dismantle a CD Rom. Looking at the tiny motors a stepper and a DC universal motor along with all the other components and tiny screws was fascinating. I think most of us would be fascinated to look inside a computer to see how it really works. Imagine how engaged children would be going to Makerspace and fixing a computer!
We were also introduced to 3D fabrication, watching a 3D printer and using a 3D pen. The pens were easy to use once you were able to manipulate the flow of the pen and could be used to create so many things. I hope we can inspire our school's Makerspace to invest in some of these pens so that our children can be creators in the 3D world.
You never know, it may just be the thing that inspires, connects and engages the next New Zealand great engineer to create something to change our lives in the future.