MSOE Hosts Workshop for Zoo Train Challenge

MSOE played host to students participating in our Zoo Train Challenge for a workshop on structural considerations for water towers.  To accommodate all of the teams in a format that allowed students a chance to discuss design concerns, MSOE ran sessions on Thursday and Friday this week.  MSOE faculty provided a quick overview of several factors the students ought to consider. Following the presentation, MSOE engineering students joined the faculty in responding to student questions.

Number Talks Workgroup – October Meeting

We had the first meeting of our Number Talks Workgroup on Wednesday at the Milwaukee Succeeds office.  This was a chance for teams from our pilot schools as well as teachers from other schools working with Number Talks to share how things are going as they work to embed Number Talks as a regular practice within math lessons.

The coaches at both schools put together a plan for the first 20 days of school to kick off the practice at the start of the school year.  Here’s how things are going…

What’s working..

  • Having a 20 day plan allowed teachers to know where and how to get started.
  • Coaches have been able to model Number Talks in class
  • Student response to the practice has been positive, with several teachers reporting that students are excited about math and look forward to Number Talks
  • Teachers are able to leverage the discourse practices of Number Talks in other subjects, or when reviewing student work
  • 2-3 times per week seems to be the right frequency, with Number Talks used to build understanding of topics that have already been covered in other lessons.
  • Students are able to verbalize their thinking which has helped teachers better assess their progress.

What’s they are running in to…

  • Some teachers are comfortable doing Number Talks with smaller groups of students, but are still struggling in whole-group settings. This is particularly true in higher grades, where there is a wider spread of abilities and some students are less willing to share their ideas.
  • The 20 day plan got teachers off to a good start, but they are now at a point where they need to figure out what problems to pose given the range of understanding among their students.
  • Balancing where students are in their understanding (the basis for selecting Number Talks problems) and what the pacing guide for the curriculum tells teachers they should be covering at this point in the semester.
  • A few of the teachers in our pilot groups are teaching new grades this semester and are still working to recognize where students are in their understanding.
  • The ability to maintain a poker face in response to incorrect answers is a new skill.
  • Figuring how to draw kids who are reluctant to share their thinking into the conversation.

What teachers could use help with…

  • Guidance on finding the right entry point for students given their level of understanding
  • Options for professional development focused on Number Talks
  • Funding for additional resource materials
  • How to help other teachers move past their existing routine to be open to Number Talks
  • A quick reference with sentence starters for teachers to use during Number Talks.

Our next session is coming up on Wednesday, November 14.  If you’d like to join us, let us know:

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    Collab Lab 21: Recap & Notes

    Building Computer Science Talent

    Over the summer we met with Ryan Bennett from SafeNet Consulting and Ryan Osterberg from Brookfield Central to talk about the CS internship program they put together for high school students.  That program leads teams of high school students to develop custom applications for other local non-profits. Over the past 2 years, they’ve developed an effective way to engage students in meaningful, high quality work. They have started a new non-profit, Code The Way, to carry on the effort and reach a broader pool of talent.

    In the same way that having a real-world project helps sharpen the thinking of students, having a real-world program as a case study helped us talk through a number of the issues around developing CS talent in K-12.

    We began the evening with an overview of the Code the Way program, how it is structured, and the key aspects of the approach that make it a valuable experience for students.  Our initial set of small group discussions focused on the aspects of the approach participants found most compelling.  Those key aspects fell into the following categories


    • Building a pathway from high school to college


    • Context matters (real-world projects)
    • Encourages failing forward
    • Changes the role of teachers/shifts traditional learning models
    • Facilitated Learning


    • Teachers don’t feel confident in teaching computer science and those trained gain confidence and leave
    • Preparing students for future careers involves all students learning fundamentals of programming
    • How do we develop basic technological literacy skills across the student experience


    • The program/curriculum currently caters to top students.  How do we reach all students?


    • Having real world applications for community organizations is critical
    • What other opportunities do we have available in the Milwaukee area for partnerships with corporations

    We then moved on to talk through barriers for each of these areas and what we might do to move forward…


    Key Issues:

    • Time available for professional development, collaboration
    • Lack of incentives
    • Institutional barriers
    • Lack of platform to support collaboration


    • Educational policy on CS curriculum
    • Data on tech job growth (to make the case for resources)
    • Connect with business priorities so they are invested in schools


    Key issues:

    • Time
    • Intimidating
    • Buy-in
    • Resources/training
    • Incentives to continue up-skilling
    • Mismatch between what’s being tested and what industry needs
    • CS is not integrated with curriculum priorities


    • Invite community leaders to an hour of code
    • Help teachers know it is ok to fail
    • Give teachers a chance to experience the learning module or lesson before going in front of students
    • Recognize opportunities to integrate curriculum– saves on time and adds context
    • College STEM/CS ambassadors
    • Offer more coverage time for teachers so they can learn, explore, collaborate, etc.


    Key issues:

    • Prioritization of problem solving vs content (aka CS knowledge)
    • If we want students to solve real problems, what content do they need to do so?


    • Build partnerships/mentors from the “real world” who can inform/provide content, software, etc. which becomes the means to how students solve problems– thus balancing problem solving & content.  So… tap into TEALS  & leverage new partners
    • Quick wins… Talk to TEALS, reach out to local business.


    Key issues:

    • School access– courses are offered within K-12
    • Qualified instructors
    • Paid or unpaid internships vs guaranteed income for students (who can’t afford to go without a summer job)
    • Representation of diverse K-12 demographics
    • Issues related to geography & transportation


    • Centralized platform of program offerings
    • District level talks of scope and sequence for CS for K-12
    • Survey to identify CS offerings
    • Paid internships & provide a pipeline for college & job (stipends/apprenticeships)
    • Opening your doors to see what challenges you have on site. Provide opportunities for others to help/diverse help
    • Privide transportation or bus passes; offer courses within students’ neighborhoods


    Key issues:

    • IT vs CS
    • Reciprocal accountability
    • Equity in service
    • Institutional silos
    • Lack of social responsibility
    • Wanting only “cream of the crop”


    • Focus on student’s stories
    • Engage smaller businesses
    • Talk up success, MPS through suburban districts
    • Invite partners to see what is going on
    • Understand the customer
    • Strong message
    • Adjust model to fit more kids
    • Teach that failure is an option

    Thanks again to The Commons for providing the space and to our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

    Ryan Bennett — Senior Consultant, SafeNet Consulting
    Dennis Brylow — Associate Professor, Computer Science, Marquette University
    Karen Green — Computer Science Coach, Milwaukee Public Schools
    Ryan Osterberg — Computer Science Teacher, Brookfield Central High School
    Mark Zacher — Milwaukee Regional Manager, TEALS


    You can find an overview of Code the Way here: http://learndeep.org/wp-content/uploads/Case_statement.pdf

    The Milwaukee Tech Hub Education Workgroup is a team of community volunteers committed to addressing barriers that will prevent our emerging workforce from accessing opportunities that will allow them to secure and sustain employment in an era of unprecedented technological change.  The group’s first deliverables were 1) a presentation to make “A Case for Change in K12”, and 2) web content that might help those charged with building a Computer Science program in schools.  Please review these resources before the Collab Lab as they might help spur ideas during your small group discussions.  If you have suggestions on how to improve these resources or have questions about the workgroup’s collective efforts, please email MTH.Education@gmail.com

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