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Diary of a Lead Teacher: Episode two - first workshop taught!

Author: Nick Trussler

I expect that most of the Digital Schoolhouse Lead Teachers are experienced and of course have developed and run a million different types of lessons, training sessions, conference lectures etc. etc.  But there’s always room for worry and nerves and in this spirit I found myself massively overpreparing for my first ever Digital Schoolhouse workshop which happened last week! I have created my own workshop around the theme of algorithmic design called ‘Make Steps and Build a World’. I thought I’d describe the workshop in today, and in my next blog post. 

I am a very visual planner liking to have a mapped-out master plan to glaze my eyes over and have used various mind map style pieces of software to do this over the years.  Most recently I have found myself favoring software which runs in the cloud (we use GoogleApps a lot here at school) and found some nice cloud based mind mapping software called ‘Coggle’ to develop an overview of the whole workshop with different sections.   Visually enabled, I then used this masterplan to set out mini lesson plans for the different parts of the workshop. In the end I settled for four different parts, starting with Paul Curzon’s excellent workshop demonstrated on one of our London based training days - the ‘Emotional Robot’.  This involved printing (A3) and laminating two different eye shapes, some eyebrows and making up a mouth using electrical conduit tubing (in my case). Six students hold the different parts and are asked to react to particular noises from the rest of the class by changing the expression of this emotional robot (head).  This enables me to set the scene at the start of the workshop by illustrating a computer’s INPUT (Audience noise) PROCESSING/Software (The ‘head’ following instructions on how to react with different expressions) and OUTPUT (Using the ‘hardware’ that is the different printed parts). This part of the workshop went very nicely with the children going on in small groups to create one other ‘Expression’ per group on pieces of paper (outside of the three already given). The other half of the group then swapped to become the face - and tested the new expressions out.  I loved their idea of using fingers for teeth in a variation called ‘Sarcastic/Bored’!

For Part 2 - I used a mini-workshop from the Digital Schoolhouse website the ‘Lego Duck’ and all the children made a lego duck from the exact same six lego bricks (Total cost £13.24 from the Lego website).  Duck-like as well as ridiculous student-ducks ensued, and having struggled through explaining exactly how to re-build their duck to a partner while back-to-back - students then used the website ‘Mecabricks’ to reconstruct their exact duck on-screen.  The software allows you to screenshot to a new browser tab, so after making the duck on screen they were able, to delete out bricks one at a time screen-shotting every time and ended up with a series of browser-tabs of the duck being constructed from the ground up. The quicker ones were able to copy-paste these into a table in Google-Docs to create a set of visual instructions and we were able to discuss the importance of creating accurate steps/instructions for other people to follow. We then introduced the word ‘Algorithm’ (Yay!).

That constituted the first half of the workshop after which we took a 15 minute break and went and played on the monkey bars for a while.  Actually I chatted to their teacher because I think my monkey bar play-days are regrettably mainly behind me… I will describe the second half of the workshop next month and all being well should have done workshops 2 and 3 by then as well - I will let you know how I got on. 

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