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Agenda for research and teacher participants at C15

C15 workshop in Athens April 15-19 2016

The intention behind this workshop is to consolidate on the work that has been done so far in the CONSTRUIT! project towards providing useful skills and resources to support school education. The opportunities that we have had to work with school teachers in Athens in May and September 2015 have been particularly valuable in clarifying what we are aspiring to do and what is problematic. This workshop will focus on what needs to be done to fulfill the ambitious goals of our project, and to ensure that the benefits of 'making construals' can be appreciated even after the end of the project. A key objective is to create open online resources that can be used by teachers in the future. At C15, our team will be once be again organising face-to-face workshops sessions with teachers and students whilst working in parallel sessions to consider how best to provide resources that can be usefully deployed in conjunction with an open online course and in virtual workshops. Resources developed and under development for this purpose are listed below.

The schedule for the C15 meeting is as set out here. The rich agenda to be addressed is described in more detail below. The content of the sessions has been determined only in part and will be developed interactively as our meeting develops in response to input from participating researchers and teachers.

There are several messages about the potential for using making construals in the classroom that we tried to put across in the previous workshops at C14 and C2. They include:

  • making construals can give live support for the stream-of-thought and act as a trace that can be recorded.
  • construals can be blended and flexibly re-engineered to an unprecedented degree: they support a Use-Modify-Create paradigm (Hamish) that is not typically available/accessible for conventional implementations.
  • in principle, teachers can develop OERs from a construal without deep specialist knowledge of software development and computer programming techniques, building primarily on their specialist domain knowledge.
  • construals offer unprecedented scope for collaboration, both synchronous and asynchronous, in the development of OERs, in respect of Using / Modifying and Creating.
  • the principal characteristic activity in making construals is 'making connections in experience'.
  • making construals potentially makes a fundamental contribution to our understanding of constructionism, experiential learning and perhaps also inquiry-based learning (a bold claim).

These are ideas that have gained much greater credibility over the course of the project so far, and the teachers' workshops at Athens have been most influential in stimulating deeper understanding. But this progress is most evident in the publications and the improvements to the environment - it has not been reflected by significant practical progress in disseminating the ideas behind making construals. To address this concern, since the last CONSTRUIT! school workshops in Athens last September, the computing environment for making construals (the 'MCE') has been radically revised (as described here). Amongst several iimportant innovations, one of the most significant has been the introduction of an online repository for construals and scripts that is open for everyone to use and develop. The benefits of this repository are particularly relevant to the two themes that are the primary focus for this second year of our project: the collaborative construction and evaluation of construals. Other significant features of the new environment include much better error checking and reporting and new features to allow larger construals to be developed from small components.

In preparation for C15, our pedagogical consultants led discussions at Warwick to explore other issues that may inhibit dissemination to schools. We considered how to better engage teachers and students by getting them to take the initiative, discussing their ideas on "how we might use play in learning?" with us and with each other with a view to establishing a context in which our proposals for 'making construals' could be better appreciated. An important concern is to situate making construals in the broader perspective of learning theories (such as experiential learning and constructionism) and to explore the educational contexts in which it may be most effectively deployed. This short presentation prepared by Piet Kommers serves as a scene-setting presentation. His most thought-provoking characterisation of making construals is as "obstetrics for didactics" - helping to give birth to new ways to teach and learn.

A central idea in CONSTRUIT! is that making construals is a new digital skill with the potential to support paradigms such as experiential and constructionist learning in ways that are much more systematic and well-grounded than more traditional approaches to computing. The limitations of our software cannot be denied (they are after all the product of largely unpaid work of ten or twenty computer science graduates and students from Warwick over three decades) but there is evidence for their novelty and fascination. The student workshop at C2, led by Antony Harfield, which focused centrally on learning basic use of the MCE, was well-received. On that basis, we shall be re-running that workshop for students, appropriately updated, at C15 and devoting part of our workshop with teachers to trialling and discussing the feedback from the C2 student workshop.

As far as possible, we wish to base the teacher workshop around practical work with the MCE. We have not yet been able to demonstrate the relevance of our approach to the secondary school STEM curriculum as well as we would have liked (though we are conscious that most of the teachers who attended our workshops last year specialise in this area). We hope that by consolidating the resources and ideas that we have been developing their broad applicability and potential may become clearer. Possible topics for which practical resources can be found in the MCE repository include:

A "giving change" construal: directly linking learning and programming with observation. How would you teach a child to give change? what observational scafffolding is required? (see item 4 in the repository index below)

Noughts-and-Crosses-related construals: we can find many activities with mathematical/computing content that can be related to the construals developed in connection with the MENACE construal (see item 10) - would like to discuss and illustrate some of the possibilities here.

Studying ratio in a maths education context: Ratio and proportion are topics that present a challenge for many school-children. There is a subtlety in the concepts that can be traced to Euclid/Eudoxus, and there are a number of psychological issues that are recognised as difficult for some learners to grasp (such as "having more, but proportionally less" or interpreting statements about ratio that are cast in natural language). (See items 7 and 8.)

Construals for arithmetic and elementary number theory: Construals of the natural numbers as a 'line' are well-recognised to be significant in understanding arithmetic. We might think of a number line as a source of underlying experiece that informs more abstract mathematical concepts. We review some construals related to number in various ways and consider different ways in which these can be deployed in a learning scenario (see items 9 and 8).

Deriving open educational resources (OERs) from a shopping construal: There are many ways in which a Shopping construal can be adapted for different educational purposes. This is illustrated by the resources that have been developed in connection with previous teachers' workshops in Greece and are here assembled within the project repository of the new MCE. They include guided walks from construal to game, adaptations to create teaching aids, and a vending machine construal. Why we think the principles of making construals offer new scope for teachers to adapt OERs without needing specialist knowledge of programming. (See items 1,2,3,16 and 4.)

There are miscellaneous products of making construals that may be useful for a specific educational purpose (see e.g. the Bezier curve demo, numberline game, triangles construal - items 6, 18 and 19 in the inventory below). There are also construals that have been developed with recreational actiivies that are outside the core school curriculum in mind: these include a piano keyboard construal, construals that can be integrated with Arduino, a Mario construal and the construals of hex colouring, a light-box and the game of NIM that were developed for the Joensuu Scifest meeting in April 2015.

The variant of the MCE that we shall be using deploying is the latest version, which is

The topics discussed above relate to an inventory of resources that have so far been placed in the MCE repository (the codes are the names of the source scripts in the repository - see the guidance in item 4 below to find out - or remind yourself - how to access the construals if necessary). Construals that are available from the MCE repository include

  1. The purse construal - purse/tutorial
  2. The Shopping construal, shopping game and OER extensions - itag/shopping/readme
  3. The 'from Shopping construal to Shopping game' guided walk - itag/shopping
  4. The 'Giving Change' construal - see
  5. The 'makefromscratch' / 'vending machine' guided walk - makefromscratch/tutorial
  6. The triangles construal - examples/triangles
  7. SBR's ratio construals - sbr/ratio/construal1 and private variants
  8. The SimonSophieRatio construal - sbr/ratioSimonSophieEx
  9. The number representation construals - wmb/numberreps
  10. MENACE and Noughts-and-Crosses related resources - c6/menace/intro
  11. The hexcolouring construal - hexcolouring/worksheet
  12. The NIM / NIMcoins construal - scifest2015/nimcoins
  13. The solar system model from the C2 student workshop - c2/solar
  14. The Lightswitch and Electrical circuit construals from the C14 teacher workshop - c5/lightswitch and c5/circuit
  15. A construal of some basic concepts in linear algebra - wmb/linearalgebra/experiential/intro
  16. SBR's Scenes which accompanied Shopping - itag/shopping/sbrscenes
  17. Peter Tomcsanyi's Freehand sketching tool - c5/peter/freehand
  18. Peter Tomcsanyi's Bezier curve demo (work-in-progress - under review) - c5/peter/bezier
  19. Antony Harfield's numberline game - examples/numberline
  20. The revised version of Antony Harfield's worksheet for the student workshop at C15 (latest draft here)
  21. The piano construal - scifest2015/piano with some hints about possible activities with the construal and a skeletal JSPE presentation

If time permits, we shall also discuss the resources available in the repository to enable teachers to adapt construals for teaching purposes - e.g. making interactive worksheets or presentations, and how to make, store and share their own construals.