7.16 Deconstructing the design


I had the pleasure of visiting the new Pixar exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. The exhibit is a teacher’s dream! It showcases the science, technology, engineering and math concepts that go into creating a Pixar movie, in a hands-on, information rich environment. Visitors can explore each one of the steps in the Production Pipeline with computer generated simulations, design software,  3D characters, cameras and so much more. It truly blows the mind to think of all the time and expertise that it takes the Pixar engineers to create every scene of every film. It also blows the mind to  imagine the expertise of the education staff and exhibit designers, who had to digest this complicated process and present it to people of all ages with varying levels of experience. Teacher magic I tell you!

Something that I thought was a great touch, was the exhibit also had computer stations where guests could hear about specific jobs within each one of the departments at Pixar. The videos allowed guests to connect to the people actually doing these jobs and better understand the skills and expertise needed to be successful. I heard numerous middle school kids talking about “how cool it would be to be an engineer for Pixar” and then watched them turn around and play with a program used by those very engineers. Visitors saw the whole process from start to finish through the Production Pipeline, grappled with the STEM concepts and also saw the real world application of having a job that required those specific skills.

In my mind, this exhibit offered the trifecta of learning experiences, the project, creating the film,  was super interesting and relatable to the kids, they all love Pixar films. The Production Pipeline clearly highlights every step of the design process, and the exhibit walked you through each one, so that the STEM content could be explored. Finally the connection to the real world application through the voices of the Pixar team and the final product of the films. How worthwhile to be able to harness that structure and transfer it to the classroom. For example, introduce the content with a project or challenge that students are interested in, use a Makerspace, PBL, or Three Act Task .  As part of the lesson, make design thinking visible to your students and create a process for learning.  Ensure that students understand that learning is not linear and requires them to revisit steps along the way. Show them all of the steps in the process, and give them markers to understand when it’s appropriate to go forward and when they need to go back.  Support the content with multiple opportunities for exploration, rich information and plenty of collaboration. Finally make a connection to the real world, showcase why the content is worth learning by dialing in an expert to share their experience, or finding authentic audiences to comment on student work.

Thanks Pixar for being so inspirational! Pixarlogo-750x469.jpg



7.5 Partnering with Students


There were over 1300 sessions offered at ISTE this year and you know I tried to attend them all. I was however forced to focus my efforts, so I concentrated on Personalized Learning, Math Pedagogy, Design Thinking and Professional Development.  I also had the privilege of attending some of  the student presentations and of course hanging out in the interactive Playgrounds. There were a few showcases that highlighted newer technologies like AR and VR,  if you have a minute check out the videos of zSpace in the classroom, so cool! I was happy to see that Makerspace and Maker Faires continue to be a big conversation with the intention of having students create solutions to real world problems, then taking their solutions and working backward to explore the math, science, and other content areas that were applied.

Something else that struck me this year, was a shift in framing the relationship between educator and student as more of a Partnership. A partnership that requires a constant balancing act of support and learner self management. We know that students perform better when they have voice and choice in their learning, so we need to partner with them to develop that student agency.  We see it in our own model of Teacher-Led Instruction vs Student Driven Learning with Mathletics and understand that it is a cooperative effort based on what the student is ready for. There isn’t a time frame on when learning can be completely student driven because new content and new processes are constantly being introduced and they require a learning curve for both the teacher and student. But the idea of a partnership that moves the student to a place where they are able to assess their own progress, make decisions about next steps and have ownership of their own learning is definitely an ideal worth working towards and a partnership worth working on!


6.27 Small Bytes

Small bytes of best practices heard at ISTE that can be applied to Mathletics.


Encourage teachers to bring the class together to view the embedded content videos before the students begin an activity, to answer questions and address any misconceptions.

Encourage teachers to use student math journals along with Mathletics. Students can explain their thinking during content activities, offer alternative paths for solving Rich Tasks or have students write reflections on their learning.

Encourage teachers to have parents sign-up for weekly email updates to maintain visibility with student progress and promote co-usage.