“Learning to write programs stretches your mind, helps you think better and creates a way of thinking about things that I think is helpful in all domains.”
– Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft)
It is with pride that we can say students themselves have taken the lead to engage and dispense their knowledge in a range of student-run coding ECA’s. The activities are Learning to Code with Java led by Year 12 student Sid Charaschanya and Machine Learning with Python led by Jason Yeon and Ken Ngampraserthsith also of Year 12. The ECA’s have garnered the interest of students and a few members of faculty and have a promising future for students learning from each other and extending their understanding of a variety of concepts. If students are interested in being a part of these innovative topics and approaches to education, they can find the Java-based ECA every Wednesday at 3:40pm in room 4502 and the Python-based ECA every Thursday at 3:40pm in room 4502.
Welcome to the good old days of Virtual Reality (Michael Abrash, Facebook’s top VR researcher, Oculus Connect 6, Sept 2019). VR technologies are in the midst of a period of rapid growth and expansion across many industries, but we are still very much in the early days of VR development. This is an ideal time for NIST students to be entering this field where the growth of VR technologies is predicted to expand at exponential rates driven by heavy investments and rapid growth in consumer devices (Statista, 2019). Industries such as gaming, automotive, transport, manufacturing, film, animation, cinematics, architecture, engineering, & construction are incorporating VR strategies into new ways of training staff, creating, prototyping, imagining and play.
VR technologies, therefore, offer infinite independent pathways for NIST students.
NIST has recently purchased an HTC Vive VR headset to test out some of these possibilities. Our aim is to:
- Learn the technology,
- Explore available content,
- Play with content creation (read more here).
Since the beginning of this school year, students & teachers from across the school have had the opportunity to explore VR. For some, this has been their first experience of VR while for others this has been an opportunity to extend their understandings. We have been playing with Beat Saber, painting in TiltBrush, designing in 3D with Gravity Sketch, experiencing 3D storytelling, testing our VR games in Rec Room, watching 360 videos in Within, building professional networks in AltSpaceVR and walking the world with Google Earth Street View. Most exciting has been students developing their own 3D worlds using Roblox Studio which they are then able to enter and experience with the Vive headset.
If you have VR experience and knowledge to offer or if you would like to test out the possibilities of VR yourself, please contact Philip Williams in the MLC elementary library at firstname.lastname@example.org
This week we’d like to celebrate one of our longest serving NIST employees who just so happens to work in one of the most well-liked spaces in the school, the elementary MakerSpace! Khun Siew has worked at NIST since 1996. In this time she has been the secretary to the Head of Primary, and an academic assistant for EY 1, EY 2, Y1, Y4, and Y6. As the elementary MakerSpace began to take shape, grew in popularity, and saw consistent and regular use, we saw a need for a full-time staff member. Khun Siew was tapped to fill this role. As soon as Khun Siew started in the MakerSpace, she brought a new level of organization and experimentalism. Khun Siew keeps the MakerSpace fully stocked with the various materials and is very resourceful in utilizing a variety of sources to find relevant materials. As a result, the Makerspace affords teachers the time and space to explore innovative hands-on learning experiences with their students.
When asked what she likes most about working in the Makersace Khun Siew said:
“I love crafting and making things, so to be able to help guide and support students with their creations is fun and rewarding.”
In a community as large and vibrant as that found at NIST, there are often many events and activities running simultaneously that it is difficult to take it all in. To assist us all to get a better understanding of the breadth and depth of our community, NIST created the position of Visual Storyteller to help capture some of what makes NIST unique. The position is an innovative way for the NIST community to share its many stories in video form.
May Thatun – NIST’s new Digital Storyteller
NIST’s Visual Storyteller is May (Su Lay May) Thatun. Originally from Myanmar, May went to elementary school at Ruamrudee International School (her mom was a teacher there), then went to Melbourne and East Malaysia to finish off her secondary education. May has a degree in Communication Arts and has been particularly interested in film making. After earning her degree from Stamford, she did an internship at The Home BKK on Soi 23. The Home hosts events that focus on food, sustainability, art and design and sound. May was responsible for capturing the events on video at this space.
May’s inspiration to take on this position is her love for storytelling. When she was younger, she always liked to write stories and poems. She graduated into writing songs as she learned to play the guitar. Then, after she got a camera, she started created videos. May prefers video because it includes both the audio and visual elements in the storytelling process.
To see some of May’s work (Buddy Time, Fuga’s Gymnastics Story, Introducing our Year 5 Story and more), take a look at the NIST Facebook Page.
During the month of August NIST has distributed nearly 800 new MacBook Airs to students as we refreshed our MacBooks. The new machines are smaller yet have great battery life. We hope the students enjoy the enhanced display, audio, and TouchID security. More important than new machines is the reason that we use them. NIST teachers and students use technology as a tool to enhance and deepen their learning. We wanted to take this opportunity to remind our community of this vision. We feel that it is also a great time to point to a few resources which we have to help parents understand more about our laptop provision. Click this link to view Devices for Learning – Frequently Asked Questions.
This year, Year 5 students are excited to be working in a more flexible learning environment called the Year 5 Learning Community. The Year 5 teachers began preparing well before this school year to create the conditions for success. The learning space was designed by educational architectural firm Fielding Nair with input from NIST teachers to allow for more collaborative flow between students and teachers. The purpose of the Year 5 Learning Community is not only to offer students a more flexible learning space but also to offer more flexibility with time and learning contexts. In the Learning Community, students will have longer periods of uninterrupted time to engage with their inquiries—thus encouraging a state of learning flow.
Learning in the Year 5 Learning Community will be based on authentic inquiries where students collaboratively explore transdisciplinary concepts through the NIST curriculum. It will also provide opportunities for students to personalize where, how and through what lenses they engage with NIST’s learning outcomes. The learning pathways students choose will be reflective of their passions, interests and goals in skill development. The Learning Community space will strive to offer learning experiences that align with the school’s vision: NIST will provide individualized and authentic learning pathways for students to flourish and positively impact others.
In a future where global citizens and workers will need to be more self-directed, goal-oriented problem-solvers, the Year 5 Learning Community will seek to give students an opportunity to practice the skills, attitudes and dispositions to be agile and resilient learners who can lead change in a rapidly evolving world.
We started the 2018-2019 school year with some beliefs about how we will use data (or evidence) to enhance student learning. A few key beliefs were that:
- learning is deepened when educators and learners act responsively to a variety of evidence,
- in using agreed, school-wide protocols and processes to collect, analyze, take action, and reflect, and
- teachers and students should be empowered to engage meaningfully with evidence.
To help make progress in this area, a voluntary Evidence-based Learning Committee was formed (click to see the members) which met a number of times and collaborated with many teams around the school using a new, school-wide protocol for looking at evidence objectively to decide upon next actions. The committee also developed some goals and action steps towards these goals for the 2019-2020 school year.
- Trial a clear evidence-based framework, that students, teachers & leadership use for learning and decision making processes.
- For teachers and students to use and interpret data from formative assessment to evaluate learning objectively and inform the next steps of learning.
- To understand and support students (learning and wellbeing), we will utilize structures and processes (e.g. the Evidence to Action protocol) to make informed decisions.
- Developing a shared culture of evidence-based conversations.
The committee is very much looking forward to making even more progress next year.
Year Five students are involved in a “How the World Works” unit where the central idea was “Exploration and innovation in robotics is changing society and the environment.” Students are inquiring along these lines: exploring and investigating robotics, impact of robotics on society and the environment, and creativity and innovation in robotics.
One theme we see in student thinking is how robotic innovation can solve problems. One of the tasks of the unit is to have students design something to solve a problem. They do this by prototyping with physical materials together with SAM Labs wireless electronic ‘blocks’ such as buttons, light sensors, motors, and LED lights. Solutions involve inputs, processing, and outputs. This is one of the fundamental parts of computational thinking. Students are also learning problem-solving by decomposing big problems into smaller parts in order to create a solution for each of the parts. They also find that iteration helps to reach a solution and that it is best to change only one thing at a time to see the effect.
This month, Mr. Cristóbal González took his Year 7 Spanish class on a tour of Madrid, without leaving the comfort of his own classroom, through the use of Virtual Reality (VR) and Google Cardboard. The students were learning Spanish vocabulary around cities and directions, so the tour was perfect to immerse them in this language and put it all in context.
The tour showed the students many famous sights in Madrid, with an oral tour in Spanish, so the students could look around and listen to an explanation of these famous places. Many students were standing up, looking around the city, commenting on the different landmarks and helping each other find the interesting features of the tour. As you can imagine, this was an extremely memorable learning experience for the students and another example of how our teachers at NIST are innovating the learning in their classroom.
Coding. Everyone is talking about it. Experts are saying that we need to teach our kids to code to prepare them for jobs of the future. But what is coding? Coding is transforming actions into a symbolic language which can be run by a computer. The fundamental concept that underpins coding is computational thinking, made up of four main skills: decomposition, pattern recognition, pattern generalisation and designing algorithms. Experts say that strengthening skills in computational thinking, which can be taught through coding, will prepare students with the skills they need for the future.
Many people say that computational thinking is now just as critical as knowing how to read. Computational thinking is an essential skill for future careers, so we believe that every child at NIST should have the opportunity to explore coding and robotics. But what about in the Elementary School? Computational thinking is simply the ability to follow a step-by-step process to solve a problem. We do it every day in our daily lives- when we tie our shoelaces, when we make a sandwich, or even when we get ready for school every morning. Algorithms, or step-by-step procedures, are a part of our daily lives and they don’t have to be taught using computers or robots. Unplugged activities, using physical, concrete approaches, are a great way to introduce the idea of coding and programming to our younger students. Computational thinking skills are then further developed using apps such as Kodable, Osmo, Bloxels, Scratch and Swift Playgrounds, where students explore concepts such as sequencing, conditional situations, repeat loops and variables. Dash and Sphero robots also provide our Elementary students with a chance to write programs and see the effects of their programming.
Over the past two years, we have worked to develop the Computer Science program in the Elementary School at NIST. While computational thinking is vital to prepare for future work skills, we have been mindful to integrate learning experiences into the curriculum. Computational thinking connects to the curriculum through the IB Approaches to Learning (thinking skills, social skills, communication skills, self-management skills & research skills), Maths (shape and space, algebraic thinking, algorithms, logical thinking, problem-solving) and Literacy (giving & receiving clear instructions, writing using words & symbols, positional/directional language and procedural writing).
What does computational thinking look like in the Elementary School? Coding activities create opportunities for students to plan, take risks, problem-solve, iterate and persevere as they design, build and solve problems in a playful way. In the Early Years and Year 1, students have had a lot of fun exploring communication skills and directional language through coding unplugged activities (offline, concrete activities), such as checkerboards, maps, and cup stacking. Students as young as Year 1 have learned to write code and use symbols to communicate directions. These learning experiences have helped to develop mathematical communication skills through visual, concrete approaches related to mapping, the position of objects in space, and the relationships between different objects in space. Our younger students have learned to give clear directions, follow directions, and develop critical thinking skills. While working together in partners and groups, they have developed their cooperative skills and gained greater empathy for others. Debugging (identifying and correcting errors) also requires a lot of persistence and analysis, which helps students increase their metacognitive skills and develop perseverance.
After exploring coding unplugged activities, Elementary students have had the opportunity to further examine computational thinking, such as sequencing and conditional situations, through coding apps such as Kodable and Osmo. Our Year 2 to6 students have continued to develop their coding skills by exploring Bloxels, Scratch and Swift Playgrounds on iPads, leading up to more advanced coding capabilities, such as loops and functions. Dash, Sphero and Beebot robots have also been used to support Units of Inquiry, Mathematics units, and storytelling. Year 5 and 6 students programmed Spheros to perform tasks and move through mazes, while Year 4 and 5 students have used Dash robots to create polygons, solve riddles and draw figures using coordinate grids. Students in Upper Elementary have also explored the Swift programming language through Swift Playgrounds, which can be used to build their own apps.
This year, many Elementary students have been fortunate enough to work with Ms. Kim Tresohlavy, our Secondary School Computer Science teacher. Year 5 and 6 students have had the chance to program Sphero robots in the Robotics Club, and Year 5 students have created robotic solutions to problems around the school or in the world around them, using SAM Labs components. Elementary students with a passion for robotics and coding have also had a chance to advance their skills further, delving deeper into Kodable, Bloxels, Scratch, and Swift Playgrounds.
Coding may be the latest buzz word, but there’s more to it than that. We’re not only developing computational and mathematical thinking, but also literacy, social and metacognitive skills too. Computational thinking is a part of our daily lives and everyone can learn to code!