Collab Lab 23 Recap

The idea for last night’s Collab Lab came from Chris Willey after a conversation we had last summer.  Chris runs UWM’s Immersive Media Lab, and had recognized that there are a bunch of organizations in Milwaukee doing interesting work in innovation and entrepreneurship at the edges of K-12.  He suggested we use one of this season’s Collab Lab as a way to help educators understand what the organizations are up to, and uncover areas for collaboration.  We started with a list of organizations– UWM’s Immersive Media Lab, MIAD’s Open Lab, Kohl’s Innovation Center, The Commons, 88.9 Labs, Islands of Brilliance, Brinn Labs, and brought a group together to talk through what this might look like.

Collab Lab regulars know that our aim is not to talk at attendees, but to foster conversation among them, so a series of presentations was out from the start.  Since real collaboration requires alignment of more than just short term interests. Real collaboration comes out not just shared goals, but shared values.

This notion gave us both the first step in our process– having participants describe what it is that drives the work they do– and the idea to have Marvin Pope come in as a guest facilitator.  Marvin’s passion is helping others understand and share their purpose, so it was a natural fit. We were delighted that agreed to do so and was willing to work with us to refine the process he’d lead participants through.

Here’s where we landed…

To start, Marvin asked each participant to capture in a sentence or two, their purpose, and the work they do that is guided by that purpose. Participants then shared what they had written, first with whomever they were seated next to, and then within their discussion group.

We followed that by asking participants to note what they need to keep moving forward with their work. This too was done first individually, and then shared within the discussion group.  One of the goals here was to illustrate that it is not just educators who need help getting to where they want to be.  Representatives from each of the organizations were part of each discussion group, and they talked through their purpose, work and needs as well.

In past sessions when we’ve led discussions about how to move past barriers, these focused on the common barriers to common goals of the participants.  Last night we focused on the specific needs of each participant. Participants had been documenting their thoughts on paper form we created for the session.  At this point we everyone pass their forms to the right, to gather ideas from each of the other participants within their discussion group. Once those made it all the way around the table, we let the groups talk through what they had written. The most interesting feedback I got was after the session ended when one attendee, commenting on this process noted “I was expecting a lot of You shoulds.  What came back was a lot of I can help withs.

We wrapped up the process by having attendees jot down what their path forward now looks like. At the end, the form they completed, told the story of the purpose behind their work, the hurdles they face, the help they can get within the community, and where that help will take them. We invited participants to share their story with the group as a whole, by posting their form on the wall, or telling their story on a digital voice recorder to be shared more broadly.

Sorry, no big, overall summary of the discussion to report, just the good news that the process seemed to spark a lot of ideas around how attendees may work together to get where they want to be.

 


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

Marvin Pope – BU

Tarik Moody – 88.9 Labs
Bill Pariso, Becki Johnson, Pete Prodoehl – Brinn Labs
Nick Grbavac – The Commons
Mike Klug, Tanmay Mhatre, Josh Delzer – Kohl’s Innovation Center
Mark Fairbanks & Amy Mason – Islands of Brilliance
Chris Willey – UWM’s Immersive Media Lab
Ben Dembroski – MIAD’s Open Lab

Zoo Train Challenge – Conceptual Design Review

Teams participating in our challenge to design a replacement for the wooden water tower that services the Zoo’s steam locomotives presented their concepts at MSOE on Monday.  We have more than 65 students involved, representing ten teams from six high schools.  Given the number of students involved, we ran parallel sessions for the reviews, with each team presenting before a panel that included civil engineers from Excel and MSOE, experts in railroad history from The Center for Railway Photography & Art and the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (our partner in this effort), and the staff which maintain and operate the Zoo’s train.

We asked teams to cover, not only their designs, but how they organized their efforts, alternatives they considered, and where they need additional help.  Students from Elmbrook’s media program stepped up to record all of the presentations for students and teachers to review.

  • Elmbrook Launch Team 3

After a short break for lunch we pulled everyone back together for a recap session with all of the reviewers.  That provided an opportunity for the panelists to summarize what they saw in their session within a few broad themes.  One of the most interesting things for us was to see the different ways schools with larger groups organized their teams– by functional area of the tower, expertise of the team, member, or into smaller teams who would each produce a design concept.  We used the recap session to engage students and teachers in a discussion of how that worked and what it felt like over the course of the semester.

We’re pulling the teachers together next week for a debrief to guide adjustments we’ll want to make as we go into the detailed design phase next semester. That work will begin and end with visits to UWM– first, for a chance to play in UWM’s structures lab, and, on May 2nd, for the detailed design review where the review panelists will select an approach to be fabricated and installed.

We are very grateful to MSOE for hosting the event and working with us to get everything in place.  They provided a beautiful setting with the 4th floor conference area inside the Grohmann Tower.

The Journal Sentinel was also on hand to cover the event. You can find their write up here.

Number Talks Workgroup – December Recap

Number Talks Quick Reference CardThis month we joined the Milwaukee Area Math Council at City Lights Brewery for conversation about math and math education. We were also able to distribute copies of the latest version of our Number Talks quick reference card, which Milwaukee Succeeds had printed for us.  We’ll have the final version laminated, but we’re taking advantage of a mix-up when the printer forgot to laminate these.

The unlaminated versions make it much easier for a teacher to highlight key things they want to pay attention to or write additional prompts. We’ll check back early next year with the teachers these have gone out to to see how they may have modified them and what other feedback they may have before we finalize the design.

If you would like to get a couple of the quick reference cards for yourself or colleagues, let us know. We’d love to hear what you think.

 

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Have Stuff, Need Stuff?

As we continue to test ideas around up-cycling, we have folks offering to give us material and run across others who can make use of what we have.  To date we’ve gathered and distributed equipment for tear-down activities, parts salvaged from that equipment, and everything from postage stamps (cancelled) to plywood (new).

We don’t want to be the warehouse for everything that might come and go.  Since it gives us a better view into what schools can make use of, we are more than happy to facilitate an exchange.

If you need materials for a project or have something a school might use, let us know.

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Number Talks Workgroup – November Recap

Wednesday night’s meeting of our Number Talks workgroup was focused on addressing two issues raised at our last session– producing a quick reference card for Number Talks that teachers new to the practice could use to help guide discussions, and second, helping teachers understand how to select Number Talks given the range in abilities they see within their classroom.

Quick Reference Card

After our October session, we created a draft version of the quick reference card, which coaches from Brown Street Academy and La Causa were able to share with their teachers.  From the feedback received from teachers and some ideas that came up in last night’s discussion, we made a couple of revisions and sent it back out for feedback. If all looks good, we’ll work with Milwaukee Succeeds to print and laminate a stack of these we can share with teachers working with Number Talks.

 

Choosing Number Talks

The First 20 Day plans used by Brown Street and La Causa teachers laid out a set of Number Talks for the start of the semester. This allowed teachers to get comfortable with the routine at the start of the year without having to give a lot of thought as to which problem sets would be most useful for their students.  Since one of the goals of Number Talks is to build understanding where students may have missed something, teachers can’t simply choose problems based on the pacing guide for the curriculum, and instead, need to target number talks around the gaps in understanding that students have.

We began our discussion with the hypothesis that if we identified a set of common misunderstandings, we could match those to one or more math strategies that help illuminate the misunderstanding.  Since our references for Number Talk problem sets are keyed to the strategies that are useful in solving the problems, that would allow teachers to follow a path from misunderstanding to strategy to problem set.

As we talked through the approach, however, it became clear that mapping this out in a way that accounts for both the misunderstanding and the skills teachers are trying to build (getting away from counting on, for example) would result in a complex index.  Further, even if one could produce such an index, if teachers simply followed that by rote, it would not help them build the skills that allow them to recognize where a student is and the best exercises to guide students’ understanding.

At this point, we took a step back. We want teachers to get practice choosing number talks and for them to understand the signs that led to a good choice. We also wanted to ensure that they had the right feedback to develop their skills in charting the thinking of students during Number Talks. Here’s the approach we settled on to test out over the next several weeks.

  1.  The coach will work with grade level teachers to select one or two strategies to focus on for the coming month from Math Strategies guides for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division produced by MPS as part of a GE Foundation grant.
  2. For each strategy identified as a focus for the current month, grade level teachers will pull a sets of Number Talk problems from the  guides produced by Boston Public Schools which groups Number Talk problem sets by the math strategies they are likely to invoke. Three guides cover first, second, and third-fifth grade.  Since the schools we’re working with have kids with a wide range of skills, teachers will focus on problems appropriate for where their students are.
  3. Grade level teachers will select their own problem sets, but as a team, will select at least a couple that will be used by each of their grade level colleagues
  4. Teachers will document student thinking on chart paper rather than smart/white boards so they may easily be shared at grade level meetings with the math coach.  These meetings will provide a venue to walk through how student’s thinking was charted, which number talks worked well given where students are, and how those observations can help guide the selection of the next round of problem sets.

As we stepped through this approach, we also recognized the need to list a few signs for teachers that Number Talks are going well:

  • Students were willing to talk
  • Students were willing to take risks
  • Students tried a new strategy
  • Discourse was respectful
  • The problems were just right— not too easy and not too hard

This resulted in the “Pats on the back” section of the quick reference card.

One other big decision came out of the discussion– we shifted the time and venue for our December 12th meeting to join the Milwaukee Area Math Council at City Lights Brewing at 6:00 pm.  Join us if you can.


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Collab Lab 22: Recap & Notes

Collab Lab 22 was focused on how can schools leverage a greenhouse/aquaponics facility to provide a rich set of authentic learning experiences for students.  We structured the session as small group discussions focused on goals, the opportunities presented when these facilities are available to students, and what needs to be in place for educators to move forward.

Here’s what we came up with:

Goals

  • Develop authentic learning experiences
    • learn how to think systematically
  • Create a micro-economy
  • Tie into multiple areas within STEAM
  • Create tangible applications to drive student engagement
  • Pull in a new audience (of students)
  • Create a focus/spur for community development
  • Show students and colleagues what is possible
  • Create memorable, hands-on experiences for students
  • Aid local pantry
  • Develop a common language
  • Develop systems awareness
    • Circle of life– acquire food; manage waste; your role
  • Develop productive, self sustaining responsible adults– personal and work ethics
  • Collaborate for learning and greater benefit to community
  • Sustainable educational program
  • Included in educational curriculum standards
  • Equitable access to learning
  • Build literacy for the value of science

Key Takeaway:  The goal(s) for the facility should drive design

 

Opportunities

  • Cash crops
  • Allow students can see what one plant can provide
  • Build transferable skills
    • scientific illustration
    • ecosystems
    • problem solving
    • environmental law/policy
    • public speaking
    • making decisions
  • Tap into kids’ passions
  • Experiential learning — e.g. things break
  • Therapeutic effects/mindfulness
  • Chance for students to see small successes
  • Chance for students to collaborate with peers they would not otherwise interact with
  • Learn culinary skills/safe food handling
  • Build a connection to food/compassion for food systems
  • See something new
  • Experiment with sensors and controls
    • Live monitoring of system: pH, water usage, temperature
    • Build numeracy skills
  • Ag marketing apprenticeship
  • Healthy eating
  • Cooking with kids
  • Community engagement
  • Add meaning to field trips
    • Water/ponds in Milwaukee
  • Tie in to solar energy
  • Public policy implications
  • Develop aquaponics curriculum to build understanding of
    • systems thing
    • food production
    • scientific literacy
  • Inventory of best practices to share and collaborate
  • Accessible exposure to systems– e.g. turn the facility into a demonstration of a closed loop system
  • Composting to teach waste management
  • Start in elementary level to create mindset and culture

 

What is needed to move forward

  • Cultural norms
  • Buy-in from risk management, facilities & maintenance at the district level.
  • A teacher champion (and a backup)
  • A student champion
  • To be around people who know how to do this
  • Broad understanding of the value to students
  • A network of schools working with greenhouses/aquaponics
  • Revenue to cover costs/justify program (reduced need for field trips)
  • Build the case for academic ROI
  • Knowing how to measure behavioral outcomes
  • Regulatory knowledge– how to navigate contracts
  • Celebrate success
  • Space
  • To just start — learn from imperfections
  • Fundraising to expand/upgrade
  • Pioneers sharing their learning
  • Partners with knowledge, experience, funding
  • Colleagues who are motivated to take initiative
  • Tell the story– market the exciting things that are happening to the wider community
  • Create relationships to introduce accountability

 


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

Charles Uihlein – Teens Grow Greens
Joe Jenna – Waukesha West High School
Sam Rikkers – Tiny Earth
Matt Ray – Fernwood Montessori (MPS)

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

Collaboration

  • Building a pathway from high school to college

Pedagogy

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

Curriculum

  • 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

Equity

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

Partnerships

  • 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…

Collaboration

Key Issues:

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

Strategy:

  • 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

Pedagogy

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

Strategies

  • 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.

Curriculum

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?

Strategy:

  • 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.

Equity

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

Strategy:

  • 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

Partnerships

Key issues:

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

Strategies:

  • 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

Resouces:

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

Zoo Train Challenge Kick-off

Our Zoo Train challenge kicked off this morning with close to 70 students from 6 area high schools meeting at the Zoo. This year students are taking on the design of a replacement for the wooden water tower that services the Zoo’s steam locomotives. The tower has been in place since the train was first installed at the Zoo 60 years ago. At that time it was positioned between the two sets of tracks that run past the station. When safety requirements dictated four feet of clearance between the train and the tower it was moved to its present location, near the gate where riders exit.

On hand for the event were Davidson Ward, from the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR), and Ken Ristow, who has worked as an engineer for the Zoo train for the past 20 years. Davidson provided background on CSR’s bio-fuel testing at the Zoo. CSR is working with the University of Minnesota to develop a fuel to replace coal for recreational steam railways like the Zoo’s. Ken was able to address what it’s like to work with the current water tower, where they’ve had to make do, and what they’d like to see improved. That includes the educational display which currently stands near the water tower.

Student teams had been given a set of guidelines for the project at the start of the semester, so they came well prepared with questions for us, CSR, and Zoo staff.