Valentine VEX

IMG_0892We run three VEX robotics events a year here kindly funded through the Cleveland Scientific Institute. Today we had the teams from eight schools working on a. series of Valentine themed challenges. The children were faced with decisions around which challenges to attempt in which order knowing it was unlikely they could do all but some challenges were more tricky but offered higher points scores! It was amazing what was achieved in the short time available. Even the teams building their robots from scratch managed to at least get them fully operational by the end of the day: no mean feat. You can see from the images below how engaged these children are and their resilience was tested to the limit. Every step of today required a focus on solving problems, identifying what was working, what was going wrong and how to move forward. These children did this magnificently and it was a real credit to the teachers that they provided encouragement, the odd word of advice but largely let the children work out issues for themselves. One or two did get quite competitive though: you know who you are! Our next event is in the Summer and we already have some new challenges planned for them.

Impact on Learning

I was asked yesterday, not unreasonably, ‘what impact do you have on young people in the area?’ I mentioned the number of pupils who come here (nearly 3000 now since September) and the number of obvious hits from home engaging parents that occur after each of our events. What I was unable to do was explain the direct impact on pupil progress or attitude to learning. In fact, very few people can. There is a lot of research suggesting that including creativity, authentic challenges, teamwork based learning, and employer engagement has a huge impact long term on pupil outcomes…..but I cannot hand on heart say that a child who is here today will be better off in their future life. The statistics suggest their day here will have that effect but proving that in numbers will take 20 years and involve so many variables as to be unreliable.

So what do we do here? Why bother putting in the huge time and effort with so many thousands of children every year? Well I wish you were here in the room with us today animating with Y1 and Y2 children from Oakdene and Newcomen. The buzz of activity, of excited teams all vying to get their film created in the short time they now have is palpable. As I type I have had to ask several children if they could give me a few moments to finish this while they continue with their animation. All they want to do is [roudly explain what they story is and how they will make it. They are so engaged in their learning it is a joy to watch. One of the teachers yesterday told me that it was days like this that ‘re-energise the children’s attitude to learning, and the teacher’s too’. In fact they are taking it in turns at their school to accompany the groups of children who come here in multiples of ten. Actually, that is how these sessions were originally conceived of. Teaching teachers how to use different approaches to learning in a creative and ‘off curriculum’ way. We have such large waiting lists, such fully booked days that clearly the demand is huge. And look at the pictures below. Positive attitudes to learning, resilience (they have failed and learned to succeed multiple times today), effective listening, working to a plan and all those other tacit team skills are part and parcel of what these children have been doing….explicitly because we constantly remind them about it all day long. The work they have produced is stunning; from a standing start of moving a letter across a table to creating short narratives with fixed backgrounds, a clear plan and even appropriately timed speech bubbles. They have risen to the challenge. They should be massively proud of themselves. I am proud to have had that impact on them.

Purposeful Animation

IMG_0794We love a challenge at Inspire2Learn and when an additional 30 children arrived this morning to an event booked for 60 we rose to it as a team! Once settled into the task though all the children from Acklam Whin, Newcomen and Chaloner Primaries have taken to their tasks magnificently. Working through the basics of the brilliant free app StopMotion, they quickly got to grips with frame rate, how much to move characters and how to create space for labels and speech. Usually we challenge the children to create a short story on these events but we always like to freshen things up and today’s challenge was to take something that they had been learning about in science and animate it. As usual, team work skills such as effective listening, effective planning and time management were focussed on to ensure that the children achieved what they had been tasked to do. And what creative ideas they came up with!

And here are some of the animations, some more finished than others!!! More to follow tomorrow.

Scientists of the Future

sirius_logoWell, you could say of the now!

Today marked day three of our fantastic Science Ambassador training for Y5 children across Redcar and Cleveland. Kindly funded by Sirius Minerals it was delivered by the ever energetic Lorraine and Jenny from the Ogden Trust based at Durham University. The 22 schools that attended over the three days have all given amazing feedback and the children have learned about some key science concepts, some activities they can do with other pupils in schools and worked hard on their presentation skills to get complex ideas across. We will definitely look to run this again in the future because the quality of the experience and the feedback from schools has been exemplary. As often happens we were also helped by the brilliant STEM Ambassadors from Hillsview Academy next door. Their support for work with primary children over the past six months has been fantastic CPD and confidence building for them and also provided brilliant role models and support for the primary children.

See for yourself:

And the brilliant Nunthorpe Rap written in 15mins about how sound is picked up by the ear!

Really virtual

Another ‘Altered Reality’ Day here at Inspire2Learn, today with the fantastic pupils from Acklam Whin and Saltburn Primaries. As usual the day is a mix of AR/VR experiences as well as some focussed tasks that highlight how 3D animation and virtualisation are becoming a part of the local economic scene. From a Minecraft Edu session to create a new colony for mankind beyond the stars to using the fabulous Assemblr App by Octagon, we aim to inspire the children on these days but also help them understand that there are real careers behind the tech and many of them can be found locally.

Showing Enterprise

It’s a big word Enterprise. I mean it has lots of different meanings in different contexts but today we challenged pupils from two schools to think about developing a new product. The focus was being able to target an idea towards a specific audience by identifying what value propositions would be most appropriate in each example. Through analysing existing adverts, then developing their own ideas, we ended with a challenge to develop a new LEGO toy aimed at a very specific audience. Watching the level of co-operation, compromise and discussion that went into the tasks really brought home what a fabulous event this always is. The skills that the pupils develop will be essential in any team situation as they progress through life. We also had a real mix of ages with Rye Hills sending a great group of Y8s alongside some lovely familiar faces from Y4 at Rift House:

Although time was short, all the teams managed to create a new toy that was aimed at the defined audience and identify why the features would attract that type of person as a consumer. The models below were created by Rift House. At the bottom of this post are the videos that the Y8s and two of the Y4 groups managed to create in the short time available to them. Considering they had about 20mins to storyboard, script and film their adverts using an app they had never seen before (Clips on iPad) I was astonished by what they had achieved. It provides powerful evidence that a challenge based approach to learning skills really does produce awesome results.

Coding masters

Another busy day here at Inspire2Learn with pupils from Acklam Whin and Newcomen Primaries taking part in one of our robotic coding days. We have built up a fair range of coding resources here at I2L both for our own events and for schools to borrow and days like these are an opportunity to showcase a range of approaches. The fabulous @WonderWorkshop robots Dash and Cue featured heavily today in various guises along with the amazing range of resources that make up the Swift Playgrounds that are found on every Apple device. The pupils adapted to each different way of working magnificently and it was clear that challenging them to think algorithmically in such a range of contexts really helped to embed the key ideas. Alongside this is always the development of teamwork skills. I challenged the pupils in some session to work in slightly larger groups. This meant that they HAD to work collaboratively in situations where they perhaps would have wanted to just forge on with their own ideas. Speaking to the teachers they were appreciative of our approach and my constant reference to it when introducing and reviewing the challenges.

Marvel at their skills:

Going Loco

Somebody hold them back! We have Thornaby C of E, St Paulinus, Acklam Whin and Saltburn primaries here today attempting the loco maths challenge. In some ways calling it ‘Locomaths’ implies it is a maths challenge. It is…..but a whole lot more. As always, the tone was set from the moment we started by focussing on effective teamwork skills. From effective time management to creating clear job roles and tasks, the children have been expected to be in charge; and they very much have.

By 2pm they will have worked out three costed routes for a proposed new train line, created designs for trains and stations that we want to use and prepared information around balancing the environmental impact with the obvious destruction that the new line would cause. You will see the presentations here at 2pm (ish!). They will be expected to present their ideas in a simple form but with evidence to back up their ideas, especially the costing. An essential part of the task is to identify how they will present their ideas. This is not an opportunity for them to all to stand in a line and read a few words each just to be on camera.  Let’s see how they get on. In the meantime here are some photos of them at work. I’ve actually just been told by one of the teachers that during their juice break the groups she was with took the opportunity to discuss where they were all up to with their assigned roles so that they could be more effective after break!

Creating Reality

Tees Valley is one of the leading areas in the UK for developing AR/VR. Not only do we have rapidly growing companies that seem to expand every few months but we also have Teesside University with a world renowned digital range of courses on offer. Graduates regularly pop up in games and virtualisation companies all over the world. It is one of the reasons we have the International Animex Festival here every year with speakers from companies like Pixar and Disney. Surprised by this? Well the surprise is that many people in the Tees Valley don’t even know this!

Our Altered Reality days are an opportunity for schools to bring pupils to experience some of the latest tech and learn about careers and companies locally that work in this sector. We also build in a virtual task that requires collaboration and effective teamwork skills.

Our new Oculus Go headsets worked really well today to complement the more ‘in depth’ Vive that really transports the children into the virtual world. Alongside that we had a visit to the 360 projection dome and some Google Expeditions.

For the session we became human pioneers. After being blasted into space as a colony crew, we found a planet and built a new society. To ensure we planned it effectively Georgia (Wynyard Primary) and Gabriella (Acklam Whin Primary) were elected as joint mayors and directed building works for different aspects of the new town. This was then created in Minecraft Education Edition with every child contributing to the city with assigned roles. The level of co-operation, effective listening, compromise and co-ordination to achieve this was evident from the first moment and the two mayors worked really effectively as a team, ensuring they kept each other in the loop with decisions they had made. They told us that the end that it had been a really hard job Bec cause with the role came the responsibility of making a decision and potentially upsetting someone. I can honestly say that after watching them come up with effective solutions for the best part of an hour from a constant stream of requests, the world is in safe hands when they grow up!

Here are some of the pupils’ constructions despite only having half an hour or so to plan and build. Amazing.

Game of Actual Life

img_0535How on earth do you learn to run your life from a financial point of view? Most of us make it up as we go along(!) and yet every time we open the debate here for pupils to tell us what they feel they really need to learn at school, this aspect of learning comes up near the top of the list every single time. Simon Carson Soccer Schools has been working for several years on a programme that schools can buy into that addresses this and I challenged him several months ago to see if we could make it a meaningful experience in a day. So, several months later we have 120 pupils from schools across the Tees Valley: Reid Street and Whinfield in Darlington, St Cuthbert’s in Hartlepool and St Therese of Lisieux in Stockton highly engaged in an experience here at I2L doing just that. The pupils have looked at different aspects of expenditure: putting a roof over their head, going places, days out and so on in half hour workshops brilliantly supported and delivered by their SCSC own staff and volunteers from Hunley Hall, I2L and Prismatic Wealth. The final session gives the children the opportunity to work out what their ideal lifestyle will cost them and what sort of jobs will pay those levels of salary. It is a fabulous idea and whether children do it in a day as great experience or even the more in depth programme, they appear to get a lot out of it in terms of their realistic aspirations and motivation to achieve. We are not exactly Kidzania (but if anyone wants to help us set one up…..) but for a day at least personal finance has been on these children’s learning curve.