I can have no complaints about the technology that I have available in my classroom. Through dollars from my school division and different grants that I have managed to win, we have a full slate of tools available to use. Big items I have include:
– 20 Windows laptops (with some of my students bringing their own machines from home, this makes us a 1:1 classroom)
– cameras that can be used to shoot stills or video
– 6 sets of Lego Mindstorms robots
– A Printrbot Plus 3D printer
– 5 mini Android tablets
– Headsets with microphones
On top of all of this hardware, I also have an online classroom community, Google drive accounts, wikis, blogs, a flickr account and a stable of software.
Even though I have access to all of these tools, each year, I try to renew and expand what I have available for students to use and learn from. Working in a small school, I need tools for a lot of different levels, kids and courses. I teach grade 7/8 for most of my time, but I also teach a few highschool tech courses and work with kids who are interested in programming, animation and electronics. I don’t have a separate makserspace, and I need to be aware of safety issues and ventilation. This does place some limits on what we can do.
All of these factors have led me to focus my tech purchases for next school year in a few places.
1.) Printrbot Plus upgrades and filament – Brook Drumm and Printrbot have really impressed me this year. Beginning as a kickstarter project, Printrbot is growing into a company committed to education and open hardware and software. These are values I support and agree with. Besides this, Printrbot makes a great product at a reasonable price. Once we got through our setting up and the “getting to figure out how this machine actually works” phase, my printer hums along steadily with few problems.
2.) Arduino Starter Kits - I’ve got students who are interested in programming and electronics. While I’m not an expert on these topics, I’m learning on my own, buying books, taking MOOC’s, and most importantly, playing. My summer goal is to spend more time with these specific topics. I actually bought one of these starter kits for my own 14 year old son this year and I recommend them as a great place to get started.
3.) Polargraph – I learned about Polargraphs on twitter and was instantly interested. The possibilities of tying art, programming and electronics together was too much to resist. I made contact with Sandy Noble, the man behind Polargraph and was even more convinced that this tool would be a great addition to my classroom.
4.) Arduino Robot – This is one I considered long and hard. I’ve got Mindstorms robots, but I needed something for more advanced students to work with. I wanted them to have more control over the programming components. As well, with Arduino, we can add shields and boards of our own to expand the capabilities of this machine.
5.) Smart Citizen Station – Living in a small, remote community, we actually don’t have a local weather station. We have to get our weather forecasts and information from a larger community two hours away from us. The Smart Citizen station will allow us to place a small, solar powered station of our own which will monitor temperature, pressure, humidity, noise and other factors. We can publish the results online and monitor everything from a web space or an app.
6.) Odds and Ends – On top of these more major items, I’ve bought some electronics supplies and tools, small, more consumable pieces we can use on a host of different projects.
These are the pieces of tech that I am adding for the upcoming 2014 – 15 school year. I hope that they keep the focus on making, on coding, on building and problem solving. I want these to be some of the main themes that kids get in my classroom.