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Bryan LaPlante



Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Live Curious, Go Beyond______________


A little about me: I was born and raised in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. I love adventure, surfing, the outdoors, and music! My educational background is in Literature and Philosophy, and I have taught music, art, and elementary theatre in addition to my work in Early Childhood Education.  


Integrating and circulating students' new ideas, feelings, and impressions about the world through literature, music, technology, and communication are my philosophy.


I believe all learning is enhanced and best delivered through the lens of aesthetics, ethics, and global citizenship. I want to "plant seeds" in classrooms and schools by delivering and maintaining a palpable atmosphere of love, music, art, and togetherness that starts at a young age, germinates over time, and requires care and consistency to thrive. It has always been my hope that my students will deeply understand and reflect upon the value of community roots and the value of developing individual talents as they journey through school. My current focus is on adding digital literacies and philosophies, instructional coaching, and training in response-to-intervention leadership to my personal pedagogy



Areas of expertise: Balanced Literacy, Instrumental Music, Wonder       

                               Workshop "Dash and Dot," Haiku Learning, Blended Learning

    

Twitter Handle: @BryanDLaPlante

             



ASFM Blended Dash and Dot Workshop: Design Thinking! Blended Learning!

posted Jun 15, 2016, 8:11 AM by Bryan Laplante

Coding Specialists!

It was months in the making, weeks in action, and now the dust has settled on the first coding and robotics workshop conceived and implemented for a group of about a dozen ASFM elementary students.

 If you have been reading my previous posts, you know that I have been a little obsessed over the past two years by the Hour of Code, Dash and Dot, and the Wonder Workshop where they were created by Silicon Valley Google tech guru Vikas Gupta. I was initially hooked after seeing the robots in action on YouTube in various project-based learning initiatives across the US. They have more recently been implemented into the wonderful and larger-scale “Maker Spaces” popping up all over institutions in places such as San Francisco.

 Conferences are being held and seasoned digital teachers such as David Jakes and Jeff Utecht are traveling the world heralding the potential kids can unlock through interacting with robotics and other tools meant to spark up and nurture creativity, design thinking, and growth mindset. People at the forefront of American education are telling us all that the traditional idea of a classroom curriculum is happily eroding away at the strongest institutions and being replaced by a new and carefully blended model that is truly inclusive of cutting edge tools, student passions, individuality, and forward-thinking life goals. Most importantly perhaps, the experts are telling us that due to the immense and intense digital wave (or new revolution?) cresting over the world this decade, the change will happen and is happening whether we like it or not. The underlying warning is that if institutions refuse to tread water and adapt to digital literacy and citizenship, they will be left in the rolling wake of this wave, churning pointlessly in dead pedagogies and superfluous traditions.

 So I wanted to break Dash and Dot into international territory at ASFM. I put together a presentation at our recent “Live Curious, Go Beyond” educator’s conference – my goal was to outline how the robots arrived at ASFM, what I had been doing with my homeroom students, and what plans I had for building their presence at ASFM in the future.

I thought a nine-week intensive robotics and coding workshop at ASFM would be a great opportunity to dig for ways we could blend more facets of our learning experience. We already have a thriving LMS culture at the school, but always having been a fan of anything that blinks and bleeps, I wanted to add more hardware. The workshop began as a simple recipe for coding instruction, and it evolved along with the students’ fresh ideas, perspectives, and feelings, resulting in something completely new. There were lots of bumps along the way. Tears were shed, concepts scrapped, tools unresponsive, and yet as we pushed through, a new end product began to pull itself together with each passing week for each group of kids.

 

So here was the blueprint for the workshop:

 

1   Teach students fundamentals of operating Dash and Dot hardware.

2.   Teach students how to code using the Blockly App.

3.   Teach students how to use Dash and Dot accessories.

4.   Students conceive and design a project in groups that shows how Dash and Dot can make the world a better place or promote Dash and Dot in some way, then shoot promo videos.


After the presentation at Live Curious, Brendan Solomon (4th Grade Homeroom ASFM) and I decided to collaborate on the workshop. This yielded many things during the kids’ creative process because the two of us have walked pretty different paths in life, which I think served to enrich the program in ways we couldn’t identify at the beginning.  Brendan is a lifelong athlete and I have been a lifelong musician. I’ve always been a crafty teacher and love to sing, glue, paint, tape, and cut. Brendan loves to conceive challenging online quizzes, design competitive games both on and offline, and challenge his students to push limits and crack into new territory by breaking down what has been built in order to redesign, redefine, and perfect. We also have ten years of age difference between us, which in my view gave the workshop a certain taste of “old lion – young lion” in terms of the overall teaching. He was much quicker to learn and troubleshoot with the tech, apps, and Wi-Fi issues that inevitably came up, and I was able to use my years of experience planning off-curriculum projects and problem solving and with young kids usefully as well.

 Putting our skills together made the experience memorable for the kids. While some scrounged and rummaged through boxes of crepe paper, pipe cleaners, and modeling clay, others raced the robots around the room for points as a learning method. Brendan composed an excellent game where coding challenges increased in difficulty. Even during project construction later on, several boys still be found playing this game to help them think. What I think mattered was that we gave them multiple platforms of engagement and personalization with the work, which led to increased valuation and authenticity.


 Dash and Dot Workshop Itinerary:

 Week 1 – 3: Dash and Dot Fundamentals

Week 4 – 7: Project Design and Construction

Week 8 – 9: Project Completion and Video Shoot

Brendan’s game allowed the kids to coast through the fundamentals. They coded as they went along, through trial and error, mistaking their way forward. At the end of three weeks they had a solid handle about all of the apps and accessories – many of which were put to good use in the projects.

Two sessions of instruction in design thinking followed this, spearheaded with a simple “Design Planning Booklet” I had previously put together for a science unit on constructing solar ovens. In the booklet, students were asked to redesign their project each week after adding or eliminating ideas. All they needed to do was provide a new sketch with a small written component for three weeks, until they had a finished design they were ready to present in the video. The idea was to create a hardcopy blueprint of sorts, a reference point they could refer to as they went along.


 Not surprisingly, most of the students found that they strayed from the ideas in the booklet as the deadline approached and wanted to further adapt the plan. It was amazing as a teacher to be able to encourage this! There were no wrong answers, no evaluation, and no disappointment when what they created didn’t meet the invisible mark they were so used to trying to reach. The only disappointment came when some students realized that they had little to no product as the deadline approached, while they watched peers who worked diligently produce great things. In the end we were presented with the following projects:

 

Dash and Dot “Star Wars” Talk Show

In this project, two students recorded various Star Wars sound effects into Dash and Dot as well as their own voices. During the interview, “Dasho-Ren” surprises host Dot by attacking her with a light-saber. A battle ensues, resulting in a stalemate. The kids designed a full set with a couch and taped the video from under my desk to make it look like a studio.

Dash and Dot “Recycle-Knights”

This group used the Dash “bulldozer” to videotape quick and easy classroom or school upkeep.   While the student acted out a scenario of littering, Dash comes to the rescue and pushes a can into the recycle bin, ending in a joke as Dash falls into the bin as well. Students recorded dialogue into Dash too.

 Dash and Dot Racetrack

Dot the announcer provides comments as Dash navigates a series of obstacles on a timer. We are then enthralled as Dash breaks the previous record. Students built a racetrack and mock city out of construction paper complete with traffic lights, pylons, and buildings.

 The Adventures of Dash Kitty and “Meow” TV show for kids

We are entertained as cat versions of Dash and Dot tell jokes to each other in different scenarios. At the end, Dot flies down a zip-line built by the student. She also constructed hilarious costumes for the robots at one point that included tinfoil cat hoods, pipe cleaner whiskers, and wedding attire.

 Dash Drag Racers

Dash flies down a straightaway nearly as long as the second grade hallway for time while spectators cheer. Students programmed “Turn Down for What” into the robots and built racing helmets, capes, and took first-person perspective video with the smartphone mount. This feed could be sent wirelessly into the classroom projector for mass viewing.


In the end of it all, the kids were the trailblazers. We saw projects that came from them and not from a textbook or a planning document. the projects showcased their interests, challenged their intelligence, and entertained and enriched their little community of learners. The students had a free forum to create something out of nothing with a set of simple tools, which is both the essence and the struggle of art, design thinking, and growth mindset. It is my hope that I and other teachers will be able to continue to follow such paths in a variety of subject areas in the future, charting new waters and leaving relics of the past behind. What could Dash and Dot bring to students in a music classroom, an art classroom, a math classroom, even a literacy classroom? Time will tell.

An Hour to Explore

posted May 18, 2016, 5:37 AM by Bryan Laplante





If given one hour to explore, I would investigate the digital change of the tide that has been going in in schools across the US. Each month I encounter more and more articles about the ways MakerSpaces, Robotics, and other tech-based, project-based pedagogies are invading and overtaking the traditional science and social studies curriculum. In fact, lots of schools are devoting up to half of the instructional day to tinkering, student-led group tasks, and even long-term coding and programming goals. I find this intriguing, particularly from an elementary school teacher's perspective. How valuable are the lessons we are currently teaching, and what's missing?

Although I am a die-hard supporter of the arts and moving to a new position in music next year, I still plan to integrate tech into as many lessons as I can (particularly some of the awesome sampling and beats apps I am seeing these days). That being said, I still wish I had the chance to build and maintain a real MakerSpace in my classroom. I have been working on a robotics coding and videography workshop this year with Dash and Dot (full article coming soon), and I recently learned through David Jakes when he visited our ASFM Live Curious Conference that robotics are just a piece of what can be a much larger and tastier pie.

MakerSpaces guide students through learning how to think, design, and create using a blend of digital tech tools, current and historical visual art supplies/techniques, manual tools such as drills, hammers, and saws, and even the mathematical undercurrents of design planning, schematics, and blueprinting. The kids use all of these tools to build or map out projects of their choice, often with little "assigning" done by teachers. This manufactures an authentic learning experience with the true potential to fail, which is pretty much the essence of the budding "Growth Mindset" philosophy that has been passing throughout schools. With MakerSpaces, kids also need to develop mindfulness skills when dealing and coping with the stress of with failures - another very valuable practice for kids and adults alike.

In my opinion, the nature of what a school day can look like has evolved, and the textbook has become obsolete, unless it is used as a reference point to create something tangible, authentic, and charged with student identity and values. MakerSpaces are a gateway into this exciting new wave in education.

Blended Learning Ingredients in Second Grade and ASFM ELEM

posted May 4, 2016, 5:46 AM by Bryan Laplante


ASFM Elementary has been drastically enhanced by clouding techniques. Lately we have been meeting more and more success linking the latest digital tools and community building plans into our full second grade generation of 200 students, as well as the full elementary population of many more. 

Blended Learning at ASFM looks like new digital horizons explored around the world, sounds like a heartwarming campfire jam of over 200, and feels like a tighter and closer knit educational experience inclusive of visual, tactile, and audio possibilities that might have been possible before, but executed with much more precision, care, and efficiency. 

The links above showcase how the kids have taken field trips around the world at the tips of their fingers and performed a reggae sing-along for Earth Day with little to no full group instruction. Haiku allowed our second grade team to teach a song to 200 youngsters over the course of a week for Earth Day, and Google Expeditions took them to the The Great Wall of China and Great Barrier Reef in an instant. The times are changing, and change is good.



Grade 2 "Explain Everything" Tech Share!

posted Apr 20, 2016, 5:20 AM by Bryan Laplante

Thank you kind gear heads, for taking the time to peruse this latest post about all things that blink and flash! Our illustrious staff down here in Metro Monterrey, Mexico recently devoted some time in our nice-teacher grade-level pods to develop and share a short cumulative tech artifact devoted to exposing and sharing the tools we use and have integrated in our classrooms to blend learning.

Our second grade team, after careful consideration, decided to use the "Explain Everything" App to illuminate our successes, challenges, and next steps with blending learning at ASFM, with particular emphasis on the "Haiku Learning" LMS system. Feast your eyes on this!

YouTube Video


We thought it would be a larf to create paper cutouts that looked like each other. The app allows users to record while manipulating objects, while simultaneously interlaying sound over the moving images. The finished and edited product can then be saved and easily uploaded to Youtube and shared on projector screens. This we did for the full ELEM staff. One constraint about the app is that it takes some time to accurately record what you want to say without unexpected cuts, and another issue was that sometimes the app will not record extremely loud vocalizations - as you can see when the trophy image appears with no sound. Overall, the app does allow users to sprinkle all creative output with an absolutely personal sense of flair.

The rest of the submissions were a rainbow of each team's sense of self, as well as an excellent showcase for others to learn what new or unknown tools we use across the school. We could then easily share and distribute all of the presentations to team and individual teachers' Haiku pages and twitter, increasing the range of our school "cloud."

THE FUTURE IS NOW!! 

 

Dash and Dot Strike Back!

posted Jan 15, 2016, 10:36 AM by Bryan Laplante   [ updated Jan 15, 2016, 10:41 AM ]

Greetings gear heads and tinkerers! 

I was ecstatic this week to re-launch the 2G Robotics project for the second time. The road to Live Curious, Go Beyond has been a rocky one to say the least, and on this post, I'll bring us all up to speed.

At the conference, I will be presenting a sixty-minute piece on Design Thinking and Growth Mindset. Over the last year or so it has become a bit of a personal vendetta to make the little blinking blue bubbles named Dash and Dot from Wonder Workshop integrate into my second grade classroom. 

We had a super productive window in early 2014 with the 'bots, and I was able to integrate their coding system into my math programs, particularly as concerns circles, angles, and geometry. The kids were experimenting with turning the robots at various angles, then reading and marking the degrees they had turned. Cool. After that, the kids started to mess around with moving the robots on pre-selected and planned paths around the classroom, and they even wrote a class song using the sheik "xylo" app, played for parents to hear at conferences, where everything looked pretty sleek with the robots holding up one of my classroom presentation tables.

Then, just as I was about to plan and initiate some of those tasty creative programs I found at make.wonder.com, such as programming the robots to do fashion shows, adding lego extensions to build arms, cranes, and other tools, etc., my class set of robots decided to spin out and become unresponsive altogether ... ASFM shipped them off to Texas for repair, and the long wait to have them returned began.

In the meantime I watched the robots take off online at various schools including Palo Alto, where kids were tinkering and coding, to their hearts' content, making music videos, classroom mazes to solve, all kinds of coolness.



After that, the "Dash and Dot Show" started broadcasting over youtube, bringing a daily taste to the project to use as prime APK material, and to connect the 'bots with kids the students' age in real time. I daydreamed about doing projects with my kids and sending them in.


I had to get on this horse. Finally my new robots arrived in September 2015. Spun out again. Reordered, and they arrived a few weeks later, which was much too late to throw an after-school program together for the fall semester. As it turned out though, this new set of robots required an iPad 3 or higher to function - so I arranged for the ASFM tech department to set all of this up.

KABOOM! The robots finally worked, and as an added bonus, a former student from last year's 2G class even donated his very own Dash and Dot to the cause. We were in business!

As it stands we have two sets of 'bots fully operational, and the first tech integration lessons were successful. Hopefully we can ride this train right into February and put together a strong presentation for Live Curious!



"The Spirit of Thanksgiving" Performance!

posted Nov 16, 2015, 7:06 AM by Bryan Laplante

YouTube Video

"The Spirit of Thanksgiving" - and Blended Learning

posted Nov 15, 2015, 8:08 AM by Bryan Laplante   [ updated Nov 17, 2015, 6:07 AM by Brian Hamm ]

One of the first assumptions I had about “Blended Learning” and its associated online tools was that it would produce the opposite effect on our students. I worried that adding more digital tools and online components to my pedagogy would widen the gap between student and teacher. I worried that the classroom environment, while becoming more connected, would simultaneously become more detached from “reality,” and that my students would be forever chained to devices, staring at the blinking lights. Were they losing part of themselves, and being denied the tools to build ‘real’ community?


I’m a child of the 80s, part of the last cycle of people who were born and raised before the Internet, the last era where people believed verbal communication forged the strongest bonds and nothing good could come instantly. Developing creative ideas takes time, hours of face-to-face planning and conversation, in order to hash out the best possible outcome through trial and error.


This was especially true playing in those old-timey “instrumental” bands people used to be in, you know, the ones with guitars, drums, and maybe even one of those new-fangled “synthesizers.” Producing one of those “CDs” took endless hours in the studio with the help of paid and trained professionals - mixing, recording and re-recording, editing, drafting, rehearsing. Then one day a computer program called Pro Tools came and teenagers were recording professional quality releases in weeks and the online indie revolution exploded – but I digress.


My ASFM Second Grade colleague Emily Lewis approached me a few weeks ago with an idea to put together a ‘little’ Thanksgiving performance that would feature about 200 eight year olds, each class of twenty students belting out several different verses with pretty complex vocabulary for ELL learners. With about two weeks and only a few dangling shreds of instructional time available in our schedules to prepare. The mid-90s me - the guy that had also been teaching at a school in the Dominican Republic for years with limited Internet - thought the song would be impossible. I would need to visit each classroom for several rehearsals, ensure the kids were learning the right words at the right pitch and rhythm, practice until perfection, and finally schedule a full rehearsal in the gym before playing the tune for the entire elementary school. There was no way in less than ten teaching days.


Emily: “Why don’t you just record a video of yourself, post it to Haiku, and have the kids learn the song for homework?

Bryan: “I’ve never done anything like that before Emily, how can we make sure the kids learn it? Don’t they need to be guided in person? This is music after all, not a math quiz.”

Emily: “Let’s just give them a week and see how it goes. I bet they can learn it.”

Bryan: “OK, but I still want to make sure. Let’s schedule a practice time with each class after we assign the song.”


The next week I asked the first class with which I was slotted to rehearse whether they had heard the song before, and whether they had watched the instructional video on Haiku that Emily taught me how to slap together with Photo Booth. Thumbs-ups all around. The kids already knew the song on the first try. All the other classes followed suit, and real quick I noted that all I needed to do was put a little polish the performances by each class. I had never set foot in the classrooms before to practice. In a week we were ready for the full generation rehearsal, and the song was ready to play by the deadline.


It was dawning on me that this “Blended Learning” idea had a lot more possibility than downloading apps and doing online polls. The sharing options on Haiku had allowed us to visit each classroom and student home instantly and simultaneously, and perhaps more importantly, when convenient for each child to practice after school. A complicated project that would have taken weeks to prepare took days, with markedly less instructional time and scheduling required by teachers. The idea of ‘the cloud’ is beginning to take shape at ASFM elementary, and in a totally different way than one teacher imagined it could – a way that can be inclusive of the arts, building caring hearts, and developing true community connections.



The Initial "Spark" - Dash and Dot Arrive at ASFM

posted Oct 28, 2015, 6:38 AM by Bryan Laplante

The Initial Spark

 – POSTED ON FEBRUARY 6, 2015POSTED IN: DIGITAL TEACHERSTECH INTEGRATION

 

Submitted by: Mr. Bryan LaPlante – 2G Homeroom Teacher

IMG_0261

It has been a seriously electric few months in 2G! Back in October, my class and I were tinkering with the idea of writing Dr. Adams a ‘persuasive letter.’ The note politely suggested several ways our class and ASFM could benefit from acquiring our own “Asimo” – an interactive robot who welcomes visitors to the Honda Factory in Tokyo. The kids brainstormed lots of ideas, like having Asimo greet our visitors and help guard the gates, having Asimo deliver documents around the school, and even having him act as a ‘hall monitor’ that could distribute passes and ensure kids were behaving.

We wanted to validate the letter by actually sending it to Dr. Adams (and perhaps see if it was able to persuade). The kids were astonished when he reviewed our letter and sent a reply! Dr. Adams told us that we might not be able to get Asimo all the way here from Tokyo, but he knew about some other robots that could potentially help us meet the same goals: Dash and Dot from the Wonder Workshop!

What might the students be able to accomplish with these cutting edge new devices? Right away we began furiously researching the robots, and the students and I soon revised our letter to redeliver to Dr. Adams, complete with innovations on how we might use Dash and Dot to facilitate our classroom and school. We waited with baited breath for his response, checking out instructional Youtube videos and other coding training sites such as Hour of Code … (just in case).

Success! There were robots in the building very early in 2015, and after a few intense training sessions with tech integration specialists Doug Frankish and Diana Saldana, we were able to present our newest additions to the ASFM family to 2G on February 3. The kids were jumping out of their seats when they saw the pre-programmed demos Dash and Dot performed, and within a few minutes we were furiously coding the robots to move on simple trajectories around the room on our ipad using the “Blockly” and “Path” apps. This week we are experimenting with music composition using the “Xylo” app!

In my opinion, what makes these devices so special is the creative and cognitive potential they unlock. In order to reach goals, the students need to first plan a program idea, explore and experiment with what code is needed to perform tasks, then watch anxiously to see if they meet success. So far, Dash and Dot have been extremely fresh and fruitful learning tools my classroom, and we can’t wait to see how they can be integrated into further lessons and projects! Future posts coming soon!

Dash and Dot Article #1

posted Oct 28, 2015, 6:37 AM by Bryan Laplante

First Contact

 – POSTED ON FEBRUARY 18, 2015POSTED IN: DIGITAL TEACHERSTECH INTEGRATION

 

Submitted by Mr. Bryan LaPlante – 2G Homeroom Teacher

 

There has been a serious case of “Robot Fever” in 2G since the arrival of Dash and Dot!

Over the last week, the students were placed into small groups during morning meeting times and taught how to create simple movement programs using the “Blockly” app. First, they learned how to code Dash into various positions in the 360 degrees of a circle using the “Turn the Bot Around” activity (comes complete with handy worksheet). By practicing with coding angles, it later became much easier for them to code Dash to move forward or backward in desired directions when given free time to create their own paths. We also practiced coding Dash around preset masking tape paths in the classroom to push our limits from there. Before long, the students were cheering when they could code Dash to cross the finish line!

IMG_0615 IMG_0617 IMG_0620 IMG_0624

The students were then introduced to operating the more challenging “Path” app. They experimented with flexibility in thinking as they tried to grasp the somewhat abstract idea of plotting a course on the iPad’s virtual plane that would match and follow our masking tape path. This resulted in laughs when Dash could sometimes be found zooming off course!

Finally, we culminated our week by shooting the first part of our “Dash and Dot” promotional video, which explains how others can get started with the robots. Further installments of the video are in the works!

Now that the class has become familiarized with their basic operation, I hope to encourage the students to brainstorm lots of creative uses for our new friends. In the coming sessions we will explore and hopefully conceptualize how the devices might make communication and daily life at school more fun and efficient!

2G Works with "Dash and Dot!"

posted Sep 26, 2015, 8:06 AM by Bryan Laplante


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