Sunday, 11 November 2018

Raranga Matihiko 6 months in: Working with schools




Raranga Matihiko has been running for 6 months now here at Waitangi. It's one of these things where time just flies. I look back and can't help but think 'wow, what a ride'! There are a lot of different ideas swirling around in my head at the moment; I have decided to spread them out across a few blog posts to keep clarity in my own head and hopefully for any readers.
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blogged about RM back in June, before our first class was due to come in. So what has changed?

My current elevator pitch has slightly morphed into something like: "I work with teachers and students, and together we apply computational thinking and we create digital learning objects (DLOs) so that students can share their learning with others in their whānau, their community, Aotearoa / New Zealand and the world. Through this experience students and teachers pick up and share skills that are necessary for learners to be successful in the future, no matter what field they enter after they leave school."

You might see above that my most recent elevator pitch doesn't focus on museum content, because in Raranga Matihiko we try to build on whatever the class is already learning at school. Ideally (for us) the topic fits easily with what we have on display here at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, but we have found many connections with less obvious topics like Space, Kauri Forests, Patterns, Story Telling, Forces etc.

Some people might find it surprising that at museum which ultimately is in the business of  the past and 'old things', we use all this modern technology in our work with students. There is more to it, though: Museums are in quite a unique position to enhance the learning at school with their special artefacts and displays across a wide range of contexts. Looking at the six Future Focused Themes, museums can be very valuable partners in learning. To retain relevance in 21C, museums are looking at digital technology to help them engage young (and older) visitors. And thanks to the vision of Tara Fagan and her team at Te Papa, Raranga Matihiko has brought together a team of passionate facilitators who want combine the old and the new, while supporting the implementation of Digital Technology | Hangarau Matihiko. For me personally it's ultimately bringing together many aspects of previous roles: Supporting teachers by working with them and their students, using digital technology to effectively share their learning about things that matter to them, supported by the taonga and exhibitions here at Waitangi.

Over time we as RM facilitators have also developed our own understanding and skills further (see my previous post on Computational Thinking). Sometimes trying to figure out how to make the children's ideas work is half the fun :) We work across platforms and OSs, and over the last six months here at Waitangi we have regularly used the following apps and programs with our RM classes:

  • SculptGL (a digital sculpting web app): Allows you to sculpt, carve and paint 3D objects and add backgrounds to these objects. We often export objects as .obj to import them into Tiltbrush (VR) - though be warned, the mesh file does not transfer, so all SculptGL objects arrive in Tiltbrush in white. Note: We prefer to use the downloadable standalone version (available here) as it works best with the Surface Pro pens; when children experience success with this technology they are more likely to persevere even on a device where they need to use the mouse or a track pad for the sculpting.
  • Paint 3D: Many of us have used Windows Paint in days gone past, Paint 3D is taking this a completely new level. A Windows 10 application, it combines the good old painting functionality with 2D and 3D objects, stickers, textures a library of existing 3D models etc. The use of the Surface pens makes painting really easy for the children, but the coolest part in my eyes is the integration of Mixed Reality MR! Now if they could only add an 'export as .obj' option, that would make integration into Tiltbrush possible...
  • Tinkercad: Creating 'regular' 3D objects is quite easy with Tinkercad. While it is officially a 13+ programme, we monitor use very carefully, and the only reason for the age restriction I can imagine is the option allowing you to send your file to a 3D printing company and / or the option to share a screenshot of your creation to Facebook. Again we export .obj files from here to Tiltbrush. I have a couple of wishes on my list for Tinkercad, I would like to be able to add a background image to a 3D creation, and while you can create projects (folders) within your account, I would like the creations to be only visible within these projects (we currently have more than 200 creations in our account, and trying to find anything in there is a nightmare).
  • Dash robots: Most children love them, they look very cute and programming them is very easy via the Blocky app. We looked at some of the other compatible apps, but this one seems the most versatile for our purposes. While the app works on smartphones, the screen is rather small so you might struggle with a long algorithm. Every now and then I have run into issues with the program disappearing when another window opens on top, maybe someone can explain to me how to save a project in a way that you can return to it later to continue it?
  • My favourite app for Green Screening was and still is Green Screen by Do Ink, the best investment ever of NZD4.99. Even young children find it very easy to use this app. None of the other program we have experimented with come close regarding ease of use. I have gone away from videoing children within the app, sometimes I get better video quality just using the native camera app on the iPad (or another device), and then we just use the Do Ink app to put it all together.
  • Stopmotion animation: We started out with Clapmotion, a Chrome app, which I still like but you have to watch for it freezing. Also, the resulting stop motion clip saves as .ogv and then needs to be converted to .mp4 - doable when you are confident with technology, but a hassle if you are more reluctant / less confident. We have lately started using Stop Motion Studio which is available across several platforms and it looks promising.
  • Tiltbrush (VR): Most children love 'the VR', and Tiltbrush has become an important finishing tool in our kete. Depending on the topic and the paramenters given by the teacher, we can use it to combine objects and images created in different other programs into a finished product.
  • Occasionally we have also used Google Drawings, esp. when a school has Chromebooks for students, and sometimes we use Moana from Hour of Code in addition to Blockly and the Dash Robots.
While a lot of time is spent on Designing and Developing Digital Outcomes, every child gets to explore some form of coding during our Exploration (Tutu) Session; while they create their DLOs, they also apply a lot of Computational Thinking CT (see my previous post). However, for the second year of the RM programme we plan to make CT the main focus.

I just had a quick look through our Google Drive for some of may favourite projects, and it's so cool to be reminded of the hard work the children put in there. Please remember that we have been working with 5 - 12 year olds, the older they are the more freedom they were given to complete the projects how they wanted to do them. Here are some examples, all of them videos sitting in our Google Drive, so please follow the links:

Stop Motion Animations:
Telling stories:

Whole class projects:
  • Patterns (whakairo=carvings, kowhaiwhai paintings, tukutuku panels and waiata performance combined in VR)
  • The legend of Moehuri (Tinkercad creations, Paint 3D images, Tiltbrush drawing, SculptGL carvings, Google Drawings)
  • Te Whare o Paparore 
There are plenty more examples, apologies to all our awesome creators whose work is not on the list above! 

So what's the point of all this?
  • Students get away from Waitangi with a deeper level of learning, closely linked to what they have been learning at school.
  • They get opportunity to explore = tutu with new digital tools which they might not normally have access to.
  • They get to make decisions about how they will share their learning with their audience (which might be their school community, their whānau / family, the wider community, Aotearoa / New Zealand or the whole world), including using the best tool for the purpose.
  • Teachers and students gain more confidence integrating digital tools in 'everyday learning'.
  • They become experts for the rest of the school to support the other students and teachers with integrating Digital Technology | Hangarau Matihiko into their learning.
I think I have the coolest job :) and we are making a difference - what more could anyone want?

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