Multi-faceted Refractions

Thoughts and Reflections from Vinnie Vrotny

Multi-faceted Refractions

An Truly Amazing Day

March 20, 2014 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

It is the first day of spring. The last Thursday before our week-long spring break. This winter has been exceptionally harsh. Bitter cold that doesn’t seem to like it is ever going to give up. Snow that seems like it will never melt, although I am starting to see my front lawn.

Yet the day is full of energy, excitement, and discovery. A day when one is thoroughly exhausted as they leave the building, more than the winter has sapped from its relentless assault. Why?

Today was as busy and chaotic due to the shift in mindset which has occurred due to the addition of our Innovation Lab. The transformation of this space and the accompanying shift in the attitudes and possibilities brought by this shift of mindset has created a buzz and energy which is infectious. It coaching and guiding students to push further then they thought was possible. Giving so much to help others make, build, and create.

Want a glimpse? Here was today’s schedule:

8:30 – 9:00
Work with a 4th grade student whose teacher is piloting 20% time in the classroom. This student is wanting to build a robot with parts that need to be soldered. I work with this student to assess their soldering skills. This student definitely is not a beginner and has a solid foundation

9:15 – 9:40
Work with a team of 5th graders working on a project for math class. This project is on fractions. These students are using Minecraft, specifically the PrintCraft server to create objects to serve as the manipulatives for their project. They are excited because I was able to replace the extruder cable yesterday which will allow them to print. They complete the project and start the print, but today the active cooling fan catches on the build plate and breaks off. So close, yet so far away although I believe that their project will need supports that they have not planned for.

10:00 – 10:40
Working with one of our 5th grade classes as they come into the lab to continue creating their dragon universes in Minecraft. This is part of a larger year-long study. They are actively building, since they will only have 6 or 7 weeks to complete their worlds. They are working, building moats, creating mountains out of molehills, and doing demolition to create the terrain so that their worlds can match their vivid written explanations of the universe.

10:40 – 11:30
I spend my “down” time reviewing the 8th grade projects. This trimester of our new STEAM class, normally focused on computer science, is being replaced by Creation and Innovation. Each student, or a team of students, is planning their final projects. I am reviewing the task lists that they are creating and creating the shopping list of materials that the feel that they will be needing to complete their projects. Again, they only have 18-20 class meetings over 6 weeks when we return from spring break to complete them. The projects range from building the Primo robot (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1039674461/primo-teaching-programming-logic-to-children-age-4), DIY Google glass, virtual DJ’ing, developing a prototype of a mobile app, creating duct tape dresses with LED and Lilypad accessories, and laser cutting a “wood” record. I feel like I am the curator of a mini-enterprise zone, with mini-start ups. So much fun.

11:30 – 12:30
Two 8th grade students come and want to go into the Innovation Lab to cut materials for their 8th grade art project, Monument. For this project, their culminating art project, they are to create their own monument. In this project, they need to build a testament to their passion. I love this project. Other students will be 3d printing (once working) and last year, several students built theirs in Minecraft. I love that the art teacher allows each student to choose the medium of their choice. Right at the end, the laser cutter behaves unexpectedly. Major bummer

12:30 – 2:20
Lunch, catching up on the academic technology side of my job, and spending my time with both Makerbot and Epilog technical support to figure out how we can get our machines working again. Success with Makerbot, the part is being shipped. I will need to do some testing tomorrow on the Epilog, but it may be ok. Crisis averted.

2:45 – 3:25
8th Grade STEAM class. Today’s section is the 8th grade girls. They get to work on their projects. Their deadline, the dance, is coming faster than they realize

3:25 – 3:35
I have to race to get set up for the Minecraft After-School club. At the same time, I meet with an 8th grader who is overwhelmed by his project. Agree to meet with them before school, tomorrow, Friday morning

3:35 – 4:30
Minecraft After-School club. 19 students, from 2nd grade through 8th grade, continuing to either build on their creative server or build their community and culture in our survival server. The servers are running a bit glitchy today, especially the creative world. Maybe the server, like I, need spring break more than can be communicated.

At the same time, I am advising two 6th grade students, who are going through the process of uploading an an iOS app they have created, to host Clean Minecraft Videos in the Apple Store. Earlier in the week, I downloaded the new version of XCode for them to work on this. They hit a snag.

4:30 – 4:50
Meet with one of the 6th graders working on the iOS app project. Trying to determine why they are having a problem, which seems to be a billing issue. Find the support phone number so that they can follow up on their own, since the parent is the one backing this project.

4:50
Head home. Thankfully, it feels like spring, which arrived at 11:57 local time today. The sun is still shining, the weather forecast is calling for 60 degree temperatures south of the city tomorrow. The last day before spring break. Tired, somewhat exhausted, but feeling good about the day and the projects undertaken. Disappointed, but happy that my NCAA bracket will not net me $1 billion so I don’t have to make a decision to step away from this adventure.

It was an excellent day. Full of awesomeness. I cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings.

 

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