On a quiet night is there anything better than curling up with a great book? However, when that book is an iBook titled "Happy" by Tuniversity which allows the reader / participant to learn from Pharrell Williams and dissect and remix his massive hit song, the night doesn't stay quiet for long!
When tasked with creating a song for the movie Despicable Me 2 Pharrell did not disappoint. In a new iBook experience by Tuniversity called "Happy" we are all treated to not only Pharrell's personal process, but also detailed examples of how every musical aspect of the song was created by the hit artist. Aspiring artists and seasoned professionals can all learn something from this very interactive book and so can our students in K-12 classrooms! Students will read about developing the parts of a song and even try their hand with arranging and producing a hit song on their favourite iOS device.
No, not that S.T.E.M. education. One of the rarest resources in the world after four-leaf clovers has got to be a musical artist's audio stems. These elusive unicorns of music education encompass all of the polished tracks that make up a complete song, isolated for our remixing pleasure. Horns, vocals, drums, strings and even hand claps among other stems are the soul of a song and rarely provided for free. Tuniversity allows users access to these audio stem files for educational purpose giving complete production access and artist freedom to invent their own "Happy."
Once your students have created their "Happy" and you've clapped along (If that's what you wanted to do), you may be left temporarily searching for enrichment or similar experiences. Tuniversity has suggested this is not a one-off iBook and that more experiences are coming but in the meantime I strongly suggest you explore Indaba Music. They've been around forever and I remember fondly remixing my favourite band Weezer as well as Bran Van 3000, Marcy Playground and numerous rap artists' songs. Competition is the name of their game as artists provide audio stems and select winners with the best remix for swag and cash. Any student showing remote interest in Tuniversity would appreciate the personalized learning opportunity given by you through an Indaba Music contest suggestion. Soundtrap like GarageBand is a huge player in the educational audio production space so if you don't have an Apple device explore their device-agnostic solution.
Audio production and remixing is a personal passion of mine which when incorporated into my job represents my "Happy." You see students every day who share this passion and if you intend on sparking their educational flame you can't go wrong with Tuniversity, GarageBand or Soundtrap, Indaba Music and Pharrell Williams! I'm Happy!
Personalized Learning has been heralded as the future of a successful education system. It is hard to argue with this movement as most of us would prefer to have learning experiences designed specifically for our interests, skills and needs. With the emergence of "Personalized Learning" and advances in educational technology a powerful opportunity for students in rural school and other disadvantaged areas has become possible. Virtual Co-ops are a fascinatingly powerful way for individual students to take full advantage of high school hours and graduate with university and college as their back-up plan!
Speaking At The CyberNB CyberSmart Summit Where I Introduced My Concept Of The Cyber Garden!
After attending the "CyberNB CyberSmart Summit" in Fredericton New Brunswick it became obvious that our province was positioning itself to be a world leader in this industry. Representatives from San Antonio shared success stories about how under the right conditions students were able to walk into cybersecurity careers right out of high school. I thought "If they can do it we can too!" Then I realized my school was not located in a major metropolis but rather a tiny rural town of about 1800 people. Finding opportunity down the street was going to be impossible and all signs pointed to giving up on this challenge. Enter the Virtual Co-op advantage!
We reached out to a New Brunswick cybersecurity leader Bulletproof Solutions who jumped at the chance to get involved in the plan I was formulating for one of our students. Liam is entering grade 12 and wants to become involved in the cybersecurity industry. Our provincial student scheduling allowed just enough flexibility for Liam to enter into both Career Explorations and Co-op Education for a total of 2 hours a day for the full year. Now that we had the time and the partners we had viable conditions for a Virtual Co-op success.
Liam will study CISSP certification standards all Summer long independently. He will return and immediately engage in the virtual relationship and co-op role with Bulletproof Solutions including their mentor contact. Liam will be given real work to complete for the company while studying for his CISSP certification exam throughout the year. He will blog on www.CyberEDU.ca and share his experience and media. Bulletproof has indicated they will cover the cost of his exam writing and they have already supplied him with studying resources. Liam is positioned for success in both cybersecurity goals and personalized learning goals.
Liam setting up his ideal cybersecurity workstation for Virtual Co-op 2017
After learning of the experience that Liam and I had crafted for his personalized learning opportunity there was immediate interest from other sectors of the province in the Virtual Co-op process and how it could look for students pursuing their skills and careers. The Canadian Welding Association has asked that I present in July 2017 my vision of how Microsoft HoloLens and Skype could foster virtual co-op welding education opportunities for rural students in New Brunswick. With our cybersecurity venture not even at its launch date I now find myself planning a cutting-edge welding experience for students involving mixed-reality and immersive environments. It is all making 2017-2018 look like an astonishing leap forward in New Brunswick Education starting with our efforts and tiny rural school.
A demo of how a virtual co-op Welding Program could be enhanced by HoloLens!
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are Global Goals and an organized call to eliminate poverty, boost prosperity and peace and protect Planet Earth. These 17 goals allow us as educators to create projects and experiences for students that have an impact on the real-world. In return student engagement levels rise during the years in school where they would traditionally decrease. Before discussing one of our experiences at Caledonia Regional School in New Brunswick take a look at the 17 goals courtesy of The United Nations Development Programme.
Tiny House Sustainable Development Program
Our students recognize that Tiny Houses are a direction our world must take to create sustainable communities, protect our lands and oceans and to encourage affordable and clean energy use. This project targets goals 6, 7, 11, 12, 14 and 15 from the above diagram. As a technology and skilled trades program we can produce between one and six Tiny Homes a year keeping the cost for the entire home below $30,000 CDN. Academically our program spans four years and includes over 100 students in the process.
In grade 9 students use design software Sketchup to design efficient and sustainable Tiny House models for northern communities. They then can explore their designs in real-life size within the computer lab atmosphere using the Microsoft HoloLens Sketchup VIewer App. See a few examples of this powerful technology here:
In grade 10 students get hands-on and create scaled models of their team researched and created designs. Teams consider price, road regulations, building codes and life in the upper Northern Hemisphere as they build. Math dominates the curriculum in this project while the real gems in education, the 21st century skills are also supported fully! Students can't create a scale model tiny house in teams without developing their communication, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and character skills. The entire project's ability to address Sustainable Development Goals includes a huge dose of citizenship growth opportunity as well..
In grade 11 and 12 students get experience building real tiny houses for real clients. Students must work in various weather elements, meet deadlines, deal with arising problems and not exceed the project budget. This is real-life training for real-world problems. Sustainable communities of the future start here today with our students creating low-cost yet reliable and luxurious living solutions. Alternative energy considerations as well as resource consumption and management occupy every waking thought. Students get real experience addressing many of the SDGs needed for a better world while contributing to their communities and ensuring a better world for tomorrow! Check out the following news attention earned in just the first year of this program and visit www.TinyHouseEDU.com for the full build!
Every few years a technology comes along that helps learning opportunities evolve. Examples include the computer, the internet, the mobile device and now the Microsoft HoloLens. This wearable computer comes packed with ample storage, spatial audio, all-day (school day) battery and is comfortable enough to wear for hours. The limited apps already available (mostly free to education) are jaw-dropping, inspiring "Oooohhs" and "Aaaahhhs" from adults and students. If students and teachers simply just consumed the media being made for this device it would be revolutionary. But, the Microsoft HoloLens offers so much more!
Apps like ActionGram, HoloTours, and RoboRaid offer tools for learning and creative entertainment that can keep users learning for hours. ActionGram offers hologram special effects possibilities for budding film makers and HoloTours takes virtual field trips to a level unimaginable 5 years ago. RoboRaid and other games can work up a sweat for users and may represent the future of physical education. Being digital consumers is perfectly fine and with these apps for the HoloLens and are certainly suggested for classrooms. However, it is when we turn to student development and STEM education that the team at Microsoft really earn their stripes!
Engineering and STEM education get a major lift from Sketchup's Viewer App that allows students to use Sketchup 2016 Pro or later to create 3D representations of anything and using the HoloLens view them in the learning environment for further exploration and refining. The above video shows an example of what my students see as they examine their creations in all sizes in the classroom. The next series of media show a Vimy Ridge 100th Anniversary Memorial being manipulated and explored easily with Sketchup Viewer for HoloLens.
Consuming and creating hologram media offers the highest possible student engagement opportunities in education. In future blogs I will write about our experiences creating holograms with Unity 3D. If first impressions last forever then HoloLens will benefit for a very long time!
Special thanks to Sketchup for supporting our program with Sketchup Viewer for HoloLens and to Brilliant Labs for supporting our HoloLens program.
For a year and a half now I have worked with my high school students as they learned Apple's Swift coding language and their development software Xcode. Students begin by using Apple's Swift Learning Resources for both students and teachers and then branch off to develop specific interest apps. The final project that students work on is an app with a purpose. An app that will make the world a better place.
To steal a quote from Steve Hayman of Apple who has been instrumental in supporting my students and I, "Life has enough flashlight apps." This is our mantra and each student is tasked with coming up with their own purpose to develop iOS and Apple Watch apps.
Meet Nathan and Liam. These grade 10 students asked if I would give up my prep period daily so that they could work with Swift and Xcode and develop apps. I agreed and the boys started by making a browser app that loaded my website and an Apple Watch flashlight just to prove to "Steve from Apple" that it was a good idea. Then came the difficult task of making an app with global purpose. Nathan and Liam set out to make a soundboard app called "MyVOCA" which would be used by non-communicative students. Colourful, large buttoned and loaded with a selfie cam extra, this app worked flawlessly on the test iPads after hours of intense, but character building work. These two would take their new found confidence steps further pitching their ability to create apps and novel app ideas at innovation and entrepreneurial competitions! In grade 10 they were competing against 30-year-olds! You can watch these pitches here or skip ahead.
The confidence shown by Nathan and Liam sparked a series of app ideas in our school and though some used modelling services and not Xcode and Swift the idea was always to hand off the iOS app work to our computer science kids. Here our grads show off their idea for a "Safe Grad App" with the special feature of a fake phone call from Mom or Dad to get them out of tricky situations.
Alex became another highlight of our Swift and Xcode program at Caledonia Regional very quickly. When I asked him what he wanted to do for an passion project he replied "I want to make a translation app for my Syrian classmates to help them better adjust to school life." And then Global News heard about it. Watch this!
At the time of this blog post Alex is still learning his way through Swift and Xcode updates but his resolve to complete this app has not diminished. After all, the app has a purpose!
What I've learned
Creating iOS and Apple Watch Apps with Xcode and Swift is not easy. Apple has supports that make it as easy as it can get but it is difficult. However, when students have a global purpose for their app there is nothing that can stop them. Creating iOS apps builds student skills such as character, citizenship, critical thinking, computational thinking, creativity and in a team atmosphere communication and collaboration. I build my entire program at Caledonia Regional around these 21st century skills I call "The 7Cs." If you are looking to start allowing students to create iOS apps in K-12 education it can be done. I recommend starting early with the newly released "Swift Playgrounds" app and reaching out to Apple for support which has proven priceless for our work. A New Brunswick provincial innovation organization called "Brilliant Labs" was also responsible for giving our students opportunity and support. Connect with me on Twitter for more information! Happy App Development!
I'm an experienced Global Minecraft Mentor, Published Educational Researcher, Microsoft Innovative Educator Fellow, Apple Distinguished Educator, TeachSDGs Ambassador and grade 6-12 technology teacher. @BBTNB