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Plans for C15

Plans and resources for the C15 workshop in Athens April 15-19 2016

The Athens workshops at C15 are now imminent. I have quite a busy time between now and then, and it may be difficult to do as much preparation as I'd like. Last week, we discussed the possibility of approaching the workshop in a different way from the workshops for teachers at C14 and C2 (see notes from Tuesday March 22nd afternoon at: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/dcs/research/em/construit/year2/interimreview/notes/). Part of the idea in that session was to consider how to better engage teachers 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. Piet, Hamish and Steve would take the leading role in this - the short presentation given by Piet at our interim review meeting last week contains some potential content for a scene-setting presentation.

My main role in C15 is to try to ensure that we have the appropriate resources for the sessions and that we can deliver on the technical and practical agenda. Elizabeth and I will be there to deal with these concerns. 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. 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. (For instance, there are fewer than 30 people who have contributed to the project repository since it was established in C6 - almost all of whom are developers of attended C6 as students.) This is a concern.

I don't wish to impose ideas upon how the teachers' workshop should be organised, but would like to express strong feelings on two issues. Rene outlined a strategy for organising the student and teacher workshops that centred on

  • rerunning the workshop for students that Ant Harfield and others prepared for C2, suitably updated, and
  • using the trialling and discussion of Ant's workshop as a way of engaging teachers in the forthcoming teachers' workshop.

I think this idea is an excellent one, if but not - only (from my perspective) because the thought of marshalling our limited technical support to create a new workshop for students is alarming, giving other commitments, and because simply re-engineering Ant's workshop is a non-trivial task for which teacher's input would be most welcome. On a related theme, it is of course very tempting to avoid this challenging work by not moving on from the scifest environment entirely and e.g. repeating the C2 student workshop without making any change whatsoever to the resources, but I think this would be a mistake. Given the level of complication that will otherwise be encountered both by the teachers and by Elizabeth, Jonny and myself as the technical facilitators, the variant of the MCE that we should deploy is the the latest version, which is at

jseden.dcs.warwick.ac.uk/construit-v1.2/

There are still other interesting resources for the 'scifest' variant of the MCE that have yet to be translated, but even so it is not desirable to revert to that environment. It's not a good thing to try to introduce more than one variant, the scifest variant has serious problems where syntactic and semantic error handling are concerned, and its whole infrastructure for storing and loading projects is no longer being supported. The new variant of the MCE also has the merit that it can be used to illustrate the potential applications to Arduino, which - with Tapani's help - we should be able to demonstrate. The term 'MCE' will be used below exclusively to refer to the latest version.

The question of the length of time to be devoted to the teacher's workshop sessions on Saturday and Sunday is one of the sensitive questions. We are rather amazed to discover that the sessions for the C14 workshop were as long as 4 hours, especially when we recall how committed and engaged the teachers were at that time. Certainly we don't want to overtax the teachers' patience - as we suspected we were in danger of doing at the C2 teacher's workshop - especially at a weekend. It may well be good to bear in mind that 'less can be more', but C14 suggested that sometimes 'more can be more' too. It may depend a lot on what we choose to deliver and how well we prepare. I suggest that we each think about what we should do at C15, share our thoughts by email (!) and come prepared for further face-to-face discussion in Athens on Friday April 15th.

To make planning the schedule for C15 easier, I attach an inventory of resources that have so far been re-engineered (the codes are the names of the source scripts in the repository - see the guidance in item 4 below to 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 http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/dcs/research/em/construit/year2/c6/sbrguidance/
  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/lightswicth 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

Other construals that are only as yet available for the 'scifest' variant:

  • Antony Harfield et al's worksheet on the solar system
  • The Light Box