Hillbrook School, an independent, coeducational JK-8 day school in the heart of Silicon Valley, is leaping straight into the fray of mobile learning.

A Space Revolution –
What we’ve learned from the iLab

Posted on July 13, 2013 by Don Orth under iLab now
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The iLab project was recognized as an opportunity to collect evidence to answer the question – does an agile space work? The Human Environmental Research Organization was enlisted to help collect, analyze and interpret evidence.

The collected evidence falls into three broad categories:

  1. Anecdotal evidence: Informal information in the form of stories, photos, recordings, observations and direct personal experiences. Anecdotal evidence is largely qualitative.
  2. Ethnographic evidence: Expands on anecdotes, employing in-person observations, photographs and videos, structured interviews, survey questionnaires, focus groups and similar tools. Ethnography seeks to capture everyday behavior in context. Ethnographic evidence is a combination of qualitative and qualitative.
  3. Empirical evidence: Results from a more structured, data intensive approach to collecting information. One begins with a specific question (hypothesis). Answering this question almost always involves a form of comparison: for example between similar groups under different conditions, or comparing something before and after a planned change. Empirical evidence is quantitative.

Over the course of the research project, a wide variety of information, observations and evidence has been collected. Most of the evidence is qualitative, meaning analysis and interpretation rely more on patterns of behavior illustrated by examples rather than on numbers and statistical analyses.

iLab configurations

The Findings:

  1. Agility is more than simply flexibility. It is purposeful adaptation to present need. Highly agile spaces are nimble and can be purposefully novel to spark creativity and risk taking within a safe space facilitating exploration and learning.
  2. Traditional classrooms are designed around a more structured model (of both space and time) encouraging students to stay on task and commit to a more linear process. Highly agile spaces like the iLab afford a wider variety of teaching and learning styles and behaviors. Both settings are important and each demonstrates strengths depending on the activity, material and learning styles.
  3. Students in highly agile learning spaces engage in more exploration, mobility and movement than those in traditional, static learning spaces.
  4. Permission and ability to interact with and manipulate the physical environment leads to more energy and engagement.
  5. Teachers’ roles change when students are given responsibility and permission to manipulate the physical environment. Teachers describe this changed role as being more like a coach, referee or guide, than the traditional ‘sage on the stage’.
  6. The frequency and amplitude of motion (both macro and micro movement) is greater and different (i.e. more purposeful rather than “fidgeting”) in a highly agile learning space when compared to a traditional, less agile, more structured learning space.
  7. Movement is an integral part of learning. Beyond kinesthetic learning, movement engages the physical with the cognitive.
  8. By affording manipulation of the physical environment, the iLab encourages students and teachers to engage both physical space and the cognitive “problem space” as part of an integrated whole.
    1. An important element of the iLab is how it is used outside of normal classroom periods.
    2. Students use it in both formal and informal ways outside of class (e.g. study + play).

The Rube GoldBridge Project is Going to Maker Faire!

Posted on April 19, 2013 by Christa Flores under iLab now
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Grade: 5

Subject:  Problem based Science

Project Name: Design Challenge: Rube Gold Bridge Systems

Room Design: Student configured

Learning Modality: Student Groups of 4-10

Description: The 5th grade has begun their study of systems by continuing to work on their Rube GoldBridge (bridge because it links to the 5th grade bridge unit in humanities and math) structures.  The 3 rules of this challenge are;  1) demonstrate work by moving a 75 gram steel ball from point A to point B (change in vector) 2) while bridging two or more forms of energy.  The whimsy built into this project is that students design, entirely what A —> B looks like.  After watching youtube videos of Rube Goldberg projects, they quickly set out brainstorming cool and challenging paths for the steel ball to encounter.  The genuine problem of this challenge emerged when students needed to follow the third rule, 3) there are 5 teams and each team’s structure has to connect (pass the steel ball) to two other teams, creating a system.  I am learning that converging on a mental model for this 3rd problem, is not an easy problem for 5th graders to solve.  It took hours of debating, iterating, and playing the human knot to get students to work as a team to solve this 3rd problem.  In the past few weeks of this project, students have become determined to succeed despite the difficulty of the task, demonstrating the very definition of rigor.  As a final authentic assessment for this project the 5th grade will be hosting a table at Maker Faire to share their new knowledge, and pride for a job well done.  Come see us in San Mateo on May 18-19, we are project #3301 – Think with Your Hands: The Science of Art.  

5th grader Emmy Wright decides to make a blueprint of her 1st iteration to help her design a better one on the laser cutter.

5th grader Emmy Wright decides to make a blueprint of her 1st iteration to help her design a better one on the laser cutter.

5th grader Nikki Matheson uses the L square to cut a prototype of a funnel design she invented.

5th grader Nikki Matheson uses the L square to cut a prototype of a funnel design she invented.

Teams began to make schematics of their structures and following structured plans.

Teams began to make schematics of their structures and following concrete plans for their final iterations.


Problem Solving on a Tiny Scale

Posted on March 12, 2013 by Christa Flores under iLab now
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Grade: 6

Subject: Science

Project Name: Design Thinking Challenge: Tiny Green House Prototypes

Room Design: Student configured

Learning Modality: Student Groups of 4

Description: During our unit on Structures the 6th grade worked on a long term project to design a scale (0.5”=1’) model home, which was lit or heated by a renewable energy source.  This long term project was just as much about structures and energy as it was about teamwork.   Students were also assigned a demographic to base their design on. This required students to learn how to interview and practice empathy for a client, making the design process come to life.  At the end of this unit students produced a Product Design Report that included original title page art, an introduction to the project, recorded interview, all iteration notes, and the energy research team’s report on renewable energy forms and a formal claim statement supported by evidence.  As a ceremonial gesture to the end of the unit, 6th graders shared their hard work with the entire Hillbrook community at the Tiny GreenHouse Expo where they shared with peers, administrators, teachers, lower school students and a few parents, what they accomplished and how they accomplished it during our most challenging unit yet.

Head of School Gives the House Inspection

zoom_photo256368_3232969 IMG_0570

Artificial Limb Design

Posted on March 8, 2013 by Christa Flores under iLab now
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Grade: 7

Subject: Science

Project Name: Design Thinking Challenge: Artificial Limb

Room Design: Student configured

Learning Modality: Student pairs

Description: 7th and 8th grade science teachers, Brian Ravizza and Ilsa Dohmen facilitated a two week long project where 7th grade students had to design and build a prototype of an artificial limb.  Guest designer, Susan Stenman, who specializes in prostheses, and former paralympic runner, Nick Sgarlotto were invited into the classroom to engage students in a discussion on designing limbs for real users.  To pass this challenge, the device that students made needed to be able to pick up two objects; a can 4 inches in diameter containing a 200 gram weight, and the 200 gram weight of smaller diameter alone, to test dexterity.  During the two week project, students were allowed to freely use the iLab space to brainstorm, construct, journal and present their work (see image of final project presentations done by two students).  Students that were already versed in CAD, used software to design parts for their solution that could be cut on the school’s laser cutter.  Others used the various building materials (string, tubing, wire, springs, rubber bands, etc.) kept in the iLab for rapid prototyping.

Science teacher helps students test artificial limb function

Science teacher helps students test artificial limb function