3 articles Articles posted in Always Learning

My Year Teaching Year 10 MYP Product Design

Students independently working on their products.

Last school year I took on a new professional challenge. The MYP Design department at NIST needed a someone to teach one more class, so I put my hand up to help out. I took 10E Design in the design lab for a year of product design. It was fun to transfer my knowledge and understanding of MYP Design to an older age group in a new field and it was a great opportunity for me to refind my teaching skills in a new setting. I also learned a LOT about all of the tools we have available to the students, from laser cutters to 3D printers, bandsaws to drill presses.

The boys working together to use the laser cutter.

It was also fun to see these students so much more often than I was used to. For 5 years in Munich, I was teaching MYP Design on a rotation basis and before that, I was in Japan where I taught technology classes, but I would only see each class once a week. So seeing 10E every other day helped me to developed some really great relationships for the first time since I was an elementary homeroom teacher.


Using the bandsaw to cut some wood.

The students inquired into some really interesting problems, developed some creative solutions, where they designed, built and evaluated some high quality products. They developed a range of skills throughout this process, from specific things like bending acrylic, to transferable learning skills like planning out long term assignments. I was extremely proud of my students, they taught me so much and authentically engaged in the design cycle process so well.

Bending acrylic.

As a learning coach, you see so many roles and positions I would like to pursue further as a future career path and being an product design teacher is definitely one of them, especially after getting a taste last year. I just wish I could clone myself so I could teach all the classes that interest me.

The girls working together to create wood joins.

Robotics In The MYP Design Classroom

Last year I took over the robotics program at my school. There are compulsory classes for all grade six and seven/eight students. In grade 6, all students do five different rotations of design, with five different teachers doing five different units for approximately seven weeks. The students work with wood in the wood shop, they work with plastics, they cook in the kitchen, they do a digital creation project and they do robotics with me. In grades seven and eight, they do longer rotations spanning closer to 13 weeks which makes it six units over the two years. The units/topics are similar to grade six, with one elective making up the sixth class at the end of grade 8.

In grade six, the students get give a simple, real world problem that they must create a robot to solve. But in grade seven and eight, I give the students a range of different possible real world problems to solve. One of the most popular problems is a robot alarm clock. The students have to design, build and program a robot that uses a sense other than sound to wake up the user. So I decided to give this problem a go myself and build a robot to address this issue. Here is my robot and an explanation of how I programmed it.

In the pictures below, you can see the dock I built for the phone, along with the sound sensor (the orange piece on the front left of the robot) and the pressure sensor (red) at the front to detect obstacles.


You can see from the bottom view below that there are two motors at the back to make the robot move. Two motors are used because it allows the robot to move not only forward and back, but also left and right by moving one motor forward and the other backwards at the same time. There is a metal ball at the front as a third contact point so the robot rolls and to allow it to move in any direction, without resistance.evernote-camera-roll-20161012-155427

If You Want To Build A Ship: The Importance of Vision and Philosophy on the Success of PD and Technology Integration

If Somekh (2008) was correct when she wrote “radical structural changes to education systems are needed if schooling is to be transformed by ICT” then school leadership are the only ones that can do this (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010). They must use PD to generate the change in our schools that is so much needed (Somekh, 2008). That change should not be focused on technology, but to change the pedagogical approach of teachers (Bain & Weston, 2012; Matzen & Edmunds, 2007). As a result of change in pedagogy, teachers and students will have to use more technology for exceedingly more transformative tasks (Matzen & Edmunds, 2007). Armfield (2011) and Matzen & Edmunds (2007) both suggest that to put this into practise and to make technology integration a success, school leadership must create a clear vision for all stakeholders. If you think about it, Antoine de Saint-Exupery expressed it perfectly:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

When we take all of this into consideration, we are approaching a much larger elephant in the room. School leadership, management, educational philosophy, vision and direction are much more important than professional development for staff. One way to successful communicate an educational philosophy and vision is through PD, but it is just one means to do so. The philosophy and vision must first be developed collaboratively between leadership, teachers, parents and students. Everyone must be on the same page before anyone can move forward. One way to articulate this vision, is through professional develop programs for teachers to help them meet the vision that was developed. So what do you think? Is it time we all developed a shared vision? Do we all need to believe in the same approaches to education before PD can be successful? Can the same be said for educational technology?


Photo by Luca Laghetti, 2015Photo by Luca Laghetti, 2015


Bain, A., & Weston, M. E. (2012). In the learning edge: what technology can do to educate
all children. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Ertmer, P. A., & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. T. (2010). Teacher Technology Change: How Knowledge, Confidence, Beliefs, and Culture Intersect. Journal Of Research On Technology In Education, 42(3), 255 – 284.

Matzen, N. J., & Edmunds, J. A. (2007). Technology as a Catalyst for Change: The Role of Professional Development. Journal Of Research On Technology In Education, 39(4), 417-430.

Somekh, B. (2008) Factors Affecting Teachers’ Pedagogical Adoption of ICT. In J. Voogt and G. Knezek (Ed.), International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education: 449-460. New York: Springer.