For Art and Education

Could this not be a classroom as well?

Classroom Layout.

Even the best seating plan within a classroom can prove to be an inconvenience to a great lesson.  So why should a teacher spend so long working through a lesson plan and not consider the layout of the classroom?  Now the majority of classroom furniture is movable but takes time away from a lesson to be rearranged.  That being said the benefit of rearranging classroom furniture is invaluable.  It is best to experiment with furniture layouts and discover whats best for you and what is best for the lesson at the time.

The BBC give a great example as far as what is important to have within a classroom, and what to consider when organizing a classroom to fit your needs.  They discuss some considerations the teacher may have as well as provide suggestions for effective layouts.

Another article written by teacher magazine discusses the important of classroom layout.  The article focuses on a more elementary setting but does take into the perspective of the teachers and the students.  Setting up the classroom for success and letting students learn through a discussion and group discovery.  It also addresses the importance of assigned seating at different points in a students lives.  From assigned seating to elementary, to more freedom in high school.  Ultimately it boils down to the same thing about knowing your students and pick the best situation to set them up for success.


An introduction to coding in the classroom.  Today I got a tutorial on coding and how to bring in into the classroom by a professor at the university of Victoria Rich Mccue.  The very beginning of the lecture started by being directed to his own website where we were given access to a number of tutorials on coding and different coding softwares.   I have had limited experience with coding in the past and found it frustrating and difficult to get into.  The advantage with the information age is that there are as many tutorials online about how to code as there are people who want to learn coding.  There is now simplified coding software that makes coding as easy as dragging pre made blocks into a script and pressing play.  This is usually accompanied by a simple graphic style art form that is designed appeal to younger coders and simplify the process.  I took a stab at coding again and worked with a program known as Scratch, an app that is similar to the drag and drop block coding. I followed a tutorial online to help me create the game Flappy Bird with a twist. The program and tutorial felt a lot more smooth and easy to learn then attempts that I had made in the past.  Although the process of bug fixing was still frustrating and difficult.  When I had made a mistake in the code the program didn’t work and it took me several minutes to trouble shooting to figure out what the issue was.  This is one of the difficulties with code.  Students who feel they have completed the program correctly can get easily frustrated and no longer wish to partake in the lesson.  It is important to attempt to have students treat bug fixing similar to puzzles and finding the mistake.  Though no matter how it is presented it will be a barrier for some students to get into programming.

Another issue that may cause some tension is the classroom is simply the desire to learn how to code.  It is a long and can be complicated process that students may not wish to partake in.  However what can be done with code is in essence limitless.  As long as it is imaginable there should be a way to code a computer to do it, the only question is complexity and goal of the task in mind.  I have included an example of my Flappy Bird esc game, as well as a video of it in action.  I also encourage you to explore Rich Mccues website and explore some of the tutorials yourself.

Flappy Bird

The Cost of Tiny Living (A Rant)

I have hit a bit of a lull when it comes to my tiny house project.  The idea is still something that excites me, and it is a project I would like to work towards, but as a student it currently seems unobtainable.  My issue is I don’t want to start the project, and have it sit around not going anywhere for a number of years.  If I’m going to build a tiny house, I want to do it right and I want to make sure it gets done.

Here is the problem, tiny houses have and will most likely continue to be quoted as sustainable, environmentally friendly and “affordable”.  This is where my issue comes in.  While on paper tiny houses do appear to be affordable, they may not be as affordable at first glance.  A Tiny house is described as anything between 100 square feet – 400 square feet.  Assuming the Tiny house I would like to build is about 200 square feet and building it myself ends up being around 30000$ I’m paying about 150$ per square foot.  Which is slightly more then the average house price by square foot in America, which is around 120$ right now.

This is not the only issue.  While it’s nice to research and find articles such as Business Insider, that break down the price of a tiny house using a number of different methods.  Professionally built being between 45000$-150000$, while build by the owners is usually between 10000$-45000$ in USD.  This doesn’t consider things like building permits, which in Victoria are currently 100$ to apply alone.  This isn’t including the actual permit cost being 1.5% the cost of the work (again not including plumbing or electrical) adding all things considered let’s say I’m now at 31000$ to build my 200square foot tiny house.  I now must get it insured.  Which is currently impossible unless I am the landowner in the Greater Victoria Area and premiums being at most 250$.  Next my choice is to either rent land (which is not currently legal) or buy land which range wildly in the GVA.  Adding this all up we end up with around 230000$ if I was to buy land or 32000$ Renting plus monthly feeds before I have even built the thing.

For most people with a sustainable job or established lifestyle this may not seem to far out of reach, but for a university student it currently is not feasibly doable.  The cost is currently just to high, I can continue to research and plan out the tiny house, maybe even come up with a more comprehensive budget but as of right now.  Therefore, this project will have to remain a dream for my future self to pursue.  I am also attaching a few resources that help explain the budgeting of a tiny house a little bit better.


Readers Digest:  The Hidden Costs of a Tiny House

Tinyhouse Blog: The Cost of a Tiny House

Business Insider


Google Classroom

Google classroom is a tool that is making it’s way into more and more classroom.  The app is part of googles Gsuite that comes with any gmail account.  Allowing for easy access by teachers and students.  Google classroom allows for teachers to create subjects, assignments, tests and more that would be instantly shared with the class.  It also allows for intuitive organization and assessment.  The classroom automatically links to other apps in gsuits which allows teachers to seamlessly create google quizzes and forms.  There is also a classroom drive where students may submit work for grading and in response to assignments being given.  This also allows for instantaneous grading and analysis of results by google.  Allowing teachers to be able to provide instant feedback as well.  I spent very short period of time on the sight and was able to create a classroom as well as some assignments with a large amount of ease.  I would strongly recommend just spending some time exploring what can be done with google classroom.  However if struggling there is a help forum known as Google Classroom Community.  This is where teachers can share notes and lessons as well as help for the app itself.


There are two warnings using google classroom however.  Google is only present on American servers and some Canadian school districts do not allow for digital information to be stored on foreign servers.  The other issue is that google does not clear it’s servers, there is no current mechanic for deleting information and while archiving something may make it disappear on the surface it that information is still accessible.


If you are interested in learning more about google classroom there is a playlist from google below that will assist with using google classroom.

Minecraft and Gaming in the Classroom

Don’t let the title scare you off there is actually a benefit to be found in bringing technology into the classroom.  This can be from immersive sandbox worlds like Minecraft, or letting students use video games to prove understanding of other course work.

Focusing on Minecraft, it is a game that is an open world sandbox.  The game mechanics focus around building and creation through blocks and resource gathering.  The trick with this game is that there is no objectives and it is completely open world.  Allowing a facilitator or player to create their own mission or goals.  Logging into the world you start with nothing and are in a completely randomly generated landscape.

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Now depending on how you choose to play the game you can have unlimited materials and just build freely.  Or you can play on survival mode and have to find your own resources.  Starting with cutting down trees for wood, to create pickaxes and mine stone, after some time finding diamond and upgrading your gear.  In survival mode you will be met with a number of challenges.  First of all food, your character has to find food in order to survive.  There are also monsters that will hunt the player at night,  making shelters an essential part of the game.  There are also a number of natural dangers in the game: Falling, Laval, Water.  Players have to make sure that they are careful while being creative.

Our class were given two lessons, the first was the tutorial to the game and the basic controls for playing.   An adventure world that lead us through an obstacle course and basic building process in order to reach a campfire at the end of the adventure. Image preview After understanding the controls we were released onto a creative world where we could build as much as we want.  My friends and i immediately started in on an airship.  After some time our facilitator turned on survival mode and all of us fell to the ground.  Now without materials we set ourselves the goal to make it back up to the floating air ship.  In less then an hour we had built a tower that returned us to our airship ad we concluded our adventure as a success.

This is just one example of how it can be used in the classroom, it forced a group of us to collaborate and develop a creative project.  Dealing with natural adversities of the game as well as sabotage from other groups on the server.  The facilitator finished our class by discussing other uses of the game.  There are hundreds of lessons on the Minecraft EDU website that lay out goals and tasks that help students in a variety of subjects and grade levels.  This along with the personal example of how our facilitator had a group of grade8 students create an ancient society on a desert biome with limited resources.  This helping students to understand the adversities in anxiety society and come up with solutions to problems that may not be present today.  I encourage you to explore the Minecraft EDU website to get a better understanding of how this type of sandbox type world can be used to  help expedite learning.

Alternative assessment methods

Today in class we learned about two unique apps that help improve the method of assessment with in classrooms.  The first being ZipGrade an application that removes the expense and speeds up the process of scantrons.  The function of the app is very similar to the classic testing method.  Create a multiple choice quiz and have students answer using a bubble sheet.  The interesting part about this app is that every test c

an be graded instantly.  The app uses locating squares and a cellphone camera to scan all the sheets instantly.  Students are able to receive instant feedback on a quiz or test that they write.  The app also analyses the results and can give you percentage break down by question giving the teacher a better instant feedback on what areas of the course content they may need to focus on in the future.

The second app we used was plicker, this app is similar to Zipgrade in that it instantly records students answers but it can be done without the test.

However the amazing part of this app is that there is no test involved.  Students are given QR code like sheets of paper.  These  QR codes are student specific and can register a different answer based on the orientation the student

holds the code up.  This app can also be used from a phone and the teacher doesn’t have to do more then stand at the front of the room and point a camera at all the students cards.  The app registers all the QR codes and the answers taken from them.  It is anonymous and instantaneous.  The app also analyses the work similar to Zip grade and produces an analysis of the classrooms understanding.


Both of these apps work great as check in methods or tools for assessment.  Allowing teachers to check in more often and with minimal effort can help them shape lesson plans in the future to focus on materials that would be more relevant and more necessary for the class to learn.  While the user interface on both seems bland and unruly it doesn’t take long to figure out how to run a test and i’m sure with more practice could be used as a integral part of the classroom.

3D Printing Fidget

As teaching becomes more of an individualized practice teachers have to find ways to adapt lessons to accommodate all their students.  As someone who has difficulty paying attention in class and constantly fidgeting I have found a need to constantly have something in my hands.  I have heard about toys and fidget cubes that are supposed to help with this issue but have never had the opportunity to buy one.  This was something I thought I might be able to solve using a 3d printer.  I spent the weekend working on a design based on images I had seen online and my own typical movements when I fidget.  Using the program Sketch up I designed a rectangular box with a number of different coping methods.  I have since taken this design separated the pieces and began printing.  The printer has proven to be more temperamental then expected but I hope by the end of the week to have a functioning prototype of the the fidget device.  Though seeing the printing in the real world I have already started planning a second edition to this device.  One that is more streamlined and able to fit into a pocket.

I have been using myself as an example here but this is a similar process that a student could go through.  The project itself has help promote self learning and research as I developed a design and looked at many different styles of fidget devices.  It also has long term effects, if proven successful it will provide me with a device that will help me focus in other classes in the future.  It is also a project that can be done by virtually any age group.  CBC recently wrote and article on a teacher that used 3D printing technology with a grade six class to study the physics of flight.  This is another example of how 3D printing is making it’s way into schools and programs are being developed with the new technology in mind.  Again showing an example of how 3D printing is being used by classrooms to push learning to the limits and design new curriculum around the tools and materials that are at the leading edge of today’s society.  Helping to better prepare our students for the future.  Not to mention it is pretty cool!

Dragons in the Classroom

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From Dungeons to Classrooms

My friends and I started playing Dungeons & Dragons three years ago.  Little did I know how much of an impact it would have on my life.  Dungeons & Dragons is a table-top game that has become a bit of a fad in today’s society.  Brought back into the limelight by TV shows such as Stranger Things and Critical Role.  This resurgence has been much better received then when the game was originally released.  So popular that schools have even started to allow this game in their halls.

Dungeons & Dragons or D&D is a game created by a company known as Wizards of the Coast.  A tabletop game like a board game but with a few changes.  What makes D&D so unique is that there is no ending or specific goal, no pre-made board or characters to assume.  The game involves a group of people usually between four and six players known as a party and one moderator known as the “Game Master” or “Dungeon Master”.  These players take on the roles of characters they create, this can be from your classic fantasy hero type, to a knight in shining armour to save the prince or princess or even some characters who are a little more unique such as an angry orc bard who really just wants to learn how to play the lute.  The only real limit to character choice is the players own imagination.  Whereas the task of the Dungeon Master is to create the world for these players to inhabit and follow an “adventure” as well as interpret the players actions and outcomes.purple-and-white dices on white lined paper

The group of players or party are given a series of situations and tasks laid out by the Dungeon master, otherwise known as adventures.  These tasks will take the form of challenges, puzzles, or villains that the party will need to respond to and it is up to the player to respond to that challenge in character.  The success of this response is determined by a dice role, which is interpreted by the dungeon master who will then convey the result to the party.

Seem complicated? Imagine this you have been traveling for three days to return the long-lost Crown of Justice to the queen whose favor you wish to receive.  Though as you are crossing the final bridge you are stopped by a pair of bandits who demand you give over all your possessions.  How do you respond?  Do you strike the bandits with the magic sword handed down to you by your father? Do you try and sneak around the bridge using stealth and cunning to evade conflict? Maybe you try to reason with them using quick words to persuade the bandits to let you pass?  How ever you decide to solve the situation there is a chance of success and a chance of failure, the next step is to role some dice to find out.

It may seem intimidating at first with long time players having a large collection of dice and books, when in actuality joining a game requires little to no money and only a commitment of time.  To start playing most beginners need paper, pencil and a couple dice, these can almost always be borrowed or shared among the group.  The real trick to learning to play D&D is understanding that you, as your character, can really do what ever you like and act in any way you want in the world presented to you by the Dungeon Master.

But what is the benefit of this?  Playing Dungeons and Dragons has been proven to develop several skills, not witchcraft or sword play, but social skills and problem solving, skills schools have been teaching for generations.  Working together in a party of players requires students to learn collaboration and social skills as they must discuss and work together to solve problems that arise. They also get the opportunity to develop problem solving skills and probability.  How good is your character at sword play? Are they a negotiator? Really your potential solutions to problems are limited by your imagination but you have to understand they might not always work. red dragon action figure on table

The Dungeon master needs to understand storytelling and more importantly collaborative storytelling.  The problem with letting six wild adventurers loose on the story you spent months crafting is that they tend to muck everything up.  But being able to adapt to the changes your players make is half the value of running a game.  Maybe the party chose to ignore the pile of treasure believing it was a trap, or they believed the queen was lying and set out on a quest to find the true heir to the throne.  Who knows but working together to create a story is what makes the worlds feel organic and real so adaptability is essential. Dungeon Masters also need to be proficient at creating challenges for players that are fair and engaging.  A heavy-handed Dungeon Master might accidentally make their games to simple or too challenging.  It’s important to find a balance to keep players engaged and wanting to push the story forward.

Dungeons and Dragons along with other table-top games can provide new learning environments that keep students interested as well as learning.  Who hasn’t wanted to help Frodo destroy the ring, or create their own fantasy world to rule?  With the rise in popularity of Dungeons and Dragons organizations and charities have started to offer starter sets to schools in hopes of bringing this enjoyable social environment and collaborative storytelling to classrooms.

ED Tech’s EdCamp

Today I got to experience my first UnConference.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term Unconferences are bottom up learning opportunities.  Without keynote speakers, or workshops these conferences work by having participants elect on subjects they would like to know more about.  Either topics they have some experiences in or want to have more experience with.  The participants usually a group of colleagues, peers or the public then get an opportunity to vote on the proposed topics.  These topics are spread out throughout the conference and have limited moderation for a group collaboration and discussion.

This format might seem a little bizarre until it is experienced.  The opportunity to share knowledge with peers and experts allows for a wide range of conversations to take place and group learning to occur.  In the short introduction I received in Ed-Tech we discussed ‘Favourite Teachers’ and the characteristics that made them as such.

We didn’t have a self proclaimed expert on the topic and while the group didn’t have a moderator we quickly fell into a format that I found worked for everyone who was present.  Starting as just a pair and share we went around the group and described our favourite teachers and the characteristics that made them as such.  About half way through the sharing we stumbled upon the topic of how there were teachers that we did not like and their characteristics.  This helped us reinforce our discussion and highlighted those traits we would all like to emulate as teachers.  Perfectly summed up by another participant in this Conference “Our common trait across all of them was that they treated us like humans”  At the end of the day it was the teachers that respected us as people, were approachable and didn’t write people off that made the best impression.  Typically our stories started with how funny our favourite teacher was but this lead to a strong asterisk.  Teachers that tried to hard to be any one kind of trait, funny, sympathetic, rules lawyer, usually ended up leaving an unfavourable impression with as we felt they were trying to hard.

This conversation ended with a few brief ideas as what we all aspired to be as future teachers and I think really created a bit of a reality for us as to what we wanted to do with profession and the impression we wanted to leave on future students.  Not only do I see the benefit to unconfernces i hope to bring this style of learning into my own classroom to hopefully allow students to take ownership of their subjects and interests.  Allowing them to choose the topics they want to learn about.


For more information about Edcamps and unconfernces click here.


Beginning the design process

I recently started working with a program called Sketch Up.  This is a 3D design software used frequently for 3D printing and industrial design. It is the perfect tool for designing my tiny house and potentially in the future printing the tiny house in miniature form to have a real world model to work from.  The surprisingly intuitive platform allows for quick and accurate designs help visualize the project and in a way make it more realistic.  That being said the program does have some quirks and requires some practice to truly master.  Using this program I hope to teach myself to print 3d models and be able to take apart the house for printing.

To get to this point I have had started to do some research into layout design and regulations towards tiny houses.  Using these references to help get a better idea the dimensions and layouts.  Sketch Up like other 3D modeling tools has a steep learning curve however it is one that can be learned through a series of google searches and simply playing with the program.  By the end of next week I am hoping to have this model finished completely along with a rough layout as to cost of materials and potentially have begun printing the model on my 3d printer.  But for now I am happy to see the tiny house beginning to take shape.  If not in the real world but digitally. The Bohemian mobile tiny house floor plan for building your dream home without spending a fortune. Your tiny house doesn't have to be ugly or weird - just look at these architectural masterpieces! Chose from traditional plans to mobile tiny house plans that will allow you to change your lifestyle and travel!

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