Launching the Flying Hacker Lab

MFR19 Pavillon5 Kids Fab Lab 3

In conjunction with us winning the Ultimate Arduino Challenge \o/ and thus a study trip to Italy, we participated in Maker Faire Rome 2019. The event is reportedly Europe’s largest innovation event and counts more than 130k visitors over three days.

The audience is primarily Italian-speaking, but the exhibitors come from all over the world, from the large multinational players in the market to associations of various kinds and universities to amateur inventors and family projects.

The big players – the sponsors – fill out most the picture with well-polished demonstrations and products, but the most interesting experiences tended to be “out in the corners”.

Flying Hacker Lab MFR19
Modeling planetary orbits.

Our contribution – “The Flying Hacker Lab” was at the relatively unpolished end of the scale. The lab is a mobile maker space designed to teach teachers to teach STEM.

All code involved is available under a free license on Gitlab.

At the Maker Faire, the lab consisted of five workshops on our 50m² stand:

1) Build a tower and topple it by sending a program to a Dark Side Rover. Very popular – the moment just before the tower falls is highly intense!

Dark Side Challenge Towers

2) Understand sensors and actuators, inputs, outputs and the concept of functions using some small simple arduino setups. Sensors included ultrasound, accelerometer, light, temperature, pushbutton.

Inputs, outputs and functions.

3) Model a planetary orbit using differential equations in p5 by copying a 20-line script into Khan Academy’s visual p5 interpreter. It is interesting to note that the vast majority of children (from about 6+) have the patience to spell their way through the script and truly get a beginning understanding of the concept by playing with the variables.

Jewelry Soldering
Luminous jewelry


4) Build luminous jewelry using copper wire, LED and solder. A fun way to introduce the participants to soldering, although soldering the SMD LED directly on the copper wire motor skill-wise proved to be difficult for beginners.

5) Hack a logo (themes: #HackTheSystem and #MadeOnEarthByHumans): workshop on storytelling and branding. Notions that tend to be underestimated in maker cultures, but important if you want to scale a concept.

Vinder design for #MadeOnEarthByHumans logo konkurrencen
Winner of the #MadeOnEarthByHumans logo competition

Our hacker lab ran from approx. pm. 9-19 during three days with a staff of 4 persons on average. During that time we had over 600 children through the course. Quite intense!

The Tuesday before, we had visited Arduino’s design center and one of their factories in Turin. Not unexpectedly, we got the impression of a very interesting company: their commitment to free and open designs puts a constant innovation pressure on them. Nevertheless, the director Fabio Violante appeared relaxed, listening and insightful.

It was also completely accepted and normal that we take pictures of everything we saw. As we saw at the factory, Arduino’s strategy only works thanks to a high degree of automation of production as well as thorough testing and quality assurance of the units.

Arduino’s boards are perhaps the world’s most copied, which they have a somewhat ambivalent relationship with: on the one hand, they acknowledge that openness in their designs has been the key to their success, but on the other hand, they are also confined to a relatively small market share.

On the way out Fabio gave us out a handful of their new Uno Wifi Rev. 2 boards to replace the Chinese $4 clone sitting on our Dark Side Rover. It took a few hours of effort to make it play, namely because they removed the SPI bus on pins 11-13, which we use for the rover’s camera.

Besøg på Arduino fabrik Strambino
At the factory in Strambino

That happened to be be incredibly lucky: It turned out to be a known problem that the Wi-Fi band at these fairs gets overloaded, which the Chinese boards could not handle at all. The ublox NINA W-13 wifi modules of the Arduino, on the other hand, ran steadily, so that our primary activity – to remotely program the rover to topple towers – actually worked!

Destroyer of Towers
The thrill of a falling tower!

Nyhedsbrev, september 2019

Kære alle

Så blev året skudt godt i gang.

Skolen vokser støt og planmæssigt med sine ca. 10% om året. Som organisation er skolen mere moden end nogensinde, med en efterhånden meget stabil og velkoordineret personalegruppe, en bestyrelse af professionnel kaliber, spædt men accelererende renommé både nationalt og internationalt og en engageret forældregruppe.

Vi har således budt en række nye børn velkommen. Velkommen til: Kalle, Nanna, Hazim, Hannah, Hanaa, Nestor, Maxime, Simon og Martha.

Vi har også måtte sige farvel til nogle børn, der enten er flyttet eller af logistikmæssige årsager har valgt en skole tættere på hjemmet. Det hænger til dels sammen med det at være en skole med international appel, men det føles som et tab hver gang; vi lægger som personale meget energi i de relationer vi opbygger med børnene – meget autentisk, men også så meget desto mere smertefuldt, når man skal sige farvel.

Forældregruppen (Niels og Hana) havde for andet år i træk arrangeret en vildmarkscampingtur til Sverige. Igen i år var det en fantastisk oplevelse, hvor vi ovenikøbet var så heldige at have perfekt vejr. Sverigesturen begynder allerede at føles som en tradition – og alletiders lejlighed til at gense familier, der tidligere har gået på skolen.

I løbet af sommeren blev vi kåret som vindere af The Ultimate Arduino Challenge – en verdensomspændende elektronikkonkurrence for professionnelle ingeniører. Det var lidt uhørt, at en skole skulle vinde den, men vores Dark Side Challenge koncept løb altså med førsteprisen. Konceptet går ud på at undervise i at kombinere maskinel intelligens med menneskelige beslutningspunkter, en færdighed der ofte anses for at være den mest eftertragtede i (morgen)dagens samfund.

I den sammenhæng vandt vi en tur til Italien, hvor vi i efterårsferien skal besøge Arduinos udviklings- og produktionsfaciliteter i Torino og har fået en 50m² demonstrationsstand på Europas største innovationsevent – Maker Faire Rome. Det bliver også ilddåben for vores nye “Flying Hacker Lab”, et pop-up værksted til at undervise i STEM på en sjov og vedkommende måde.

Hacker lab’et finansieres til dels af midler, vi har fået fra Ellehammerfonden (kr. 13000,-) og fra Villumfonden (kr. 115000,-). Fondsmidlerne bruger vi desuden til at sponsorere, at hvert barn på skolen kan få sin egen selvbyggede robot. Dette er i forlængelse af vores modelmorsprojekt, som er en del af Teknologipagten.

Modelmødre på Hawila

Det foregår ved, at børnene skriver sig på en liste ved siden af 3D-printeren. Derefter får de udleveret et chassis, som de bygger, 3D-printer de resterende dele, tilføjer elektronikken og endelig programmerer den til at kunne fjernstyres. Vi kan røbe, at det har givet begrebet printerkø en helt ny betydning!

Der har været lidt naturlig udskiftning i bestyrelsen og Eduardo blev valgt som ny formand. Eduardo er højesteretsadvokat og det er ganske praktisk, da skolen som bekendt for tiden er under skærpet tilsyn. Seneste udmelding fra tilsynsstyrelsen var, at tilsynet forventes afsluttet i december. Om ikke andet må man rose det danske embedsværk for dets ihærdighed og dets vedholdenhed.

På personalesiden sker der også en del. Nathalie tager lige om straks på barsel og hendes timer vil mestendels blive dækket af Anne Sophie. Vi har fået en ny musiklærer, Niels Dalum. Niels er professionnel bratschspiller, har undervisningserfaring og interesserer sig for at skabe elektronisk musik.

Bruno er stoppet som idrætslærer, da han har fået barn og er travlt optaget på Prins Henriks Skole. Stefan er trådt til i stedet. Husk at idræt starter 8:20 om onsdagen for de små.

Til Naturens Dag (organiseret af Line), mødte vi knudeteoretikeren Adam Eppendahl, som lærte børnene at klatre i træer med reb – en aktivitet vi kommer til at dyrke en del fremover i de træer, der ligger i nærheden af skolen.

I børnehaven lærer børnene for tiden tegnsprog. Vi lærer simple begreber ift. hverdagssituationer og synger sange med tegn. På den måde bliver børnene mere opmærksomme på den, der har ordet. Børnene kan f.eks. nu hurtigt og effektivt informere om, at de går på toilettet, mens den ansvarlige voksne er optaget af noget andet. Frugttiden bliver også sjovere og mere afslappende.

I oktober vil der være tema om klassisk musik.

Sidste års 9. klasses elev Sacha afholder et dronekursus, som kommer til at ligge fast om tirsdagen kl. 15:45. Han er som så ofte før prøveklud for nye tiltag – denne gang at vi prøver at bevare relationen til tidligere elever ved at tilbyde dem et studiejob på skolen.

Han har også været i gang med en større istandsættelse af brugte laptops, som han har installeret GNU/Linux på til brug på skolen. I fald nogle af forældrene er interesserede, sælger skolen nu sådanne laptops (Lenovo T440) til kr. 2000,-.

Til de nye forældre minder vi om, at børnehaven og skolen har en noget uortodoks tilgang til støj i den forstand, at vi praktiserer kunsten at lytte, hvilket forudsætter ro. Det betyder konkret, at man lige skal orientere sig i det sociale rum man træder ind i og tilpasse sit stemmeleje derefter, børn som voksne. Husk, at det er skolens regler, der gælder, når man er på skolen.

Skoledagen starter som bekendt klokken 9.00 med morgenmøde i børnehaven. Vi vil opfordre til, at alle børn er på skolen til tiden, da vi meget gerne vil undgå unødige forstyrrelser under mødet. Skal børnene have mulighed for at vinke farvel, sætter vi derfor stor pris på at dette gøres inden klokken 9.00.

Husk også, at udendørs sko ikke er tilladt indendørs ud over i garderoberne. Det bliver særligt vigtigt her til efteråret/vinter.

Aktivitetskalender

10/10 15:00 : Fernisering af billedkunstudstilling

14-21/10: Tur til Italien

23/10 16:30 : Forældremøde

25/10 : Overnatning på skolen (Cadisha og Line)

4-15/11 : Skole-hjem samtaler

13/12 : Santa Luciaoptog

20/12 : Juleafslutning

Forberedelse Orientering DR P1 2019-07-03

Fra venstre mod højre: Ole Henrik Hansen, Susanne Hornbek Pedersen, Pernille Juhl, Nicolas Guilbert, Mathias Bay Lynggaard

Hermed de noter jeg havde gjort mig op til aftenens debat (link her, 1 time inde i udsendelsen) samt nogle eftertanker. Følte jeg omtrent kom i mål med de fleste af pointerne.

Hvad er det gode børneliv?

Det er jo et meget åbent spørgsmål. Jeg tror det bedste man kan gøre er at sørge for, at der er nogle ingredienser til stede, og så må børnene selv bestemme, hvordan de vil sammensætte dem. Der er noget med tryghed, tillid og selvværd. Evnen til at kunne begejstres. En følelse af meningsfuldhed. At man er god til at indgå i relationer med andre. Man skal kunne give og modtage. At man kan glæde sig over sine venners succes’er. Jeg tror, det er vigtigt, at man dygtiggør sig til noget. De fleste mennesker vil gerne være til nytte, gøre en forskel. Det kan man bedst, hvis man kan noget særligt.

Vi skal værne om børnenes begejstring og motivation – det er en slags indre kompas, som vil være dem til gavn resten af livet. Problemet er, at det ikke sker i dag og sådan har det være i årevis. Som noget nyt har forældrene til institutionsbørnene reageret og det er positivt, men problemet er meget større. Hele skolesystemet er jo omtrent lige så hårdt ramt. Skoletræthed er normen.

Lytte til børnene. Det er lidt en kunst.

Hvad med miminumsnormeringer?

Såvidt jeg kan vurdere, er minimumsnormeringer en kanondårlig idé:

  • for det første fjerner al denne snak om minimumsnormeringer fokus fra det egentlige problem. Og hvis vi ikke fokuserer på det egentlige problem, får vi ikke løst det. Og så sidder vi her igen om 10 år og undrer os over hvorfor børnene mistrives i vores institutioner. Med lovgivne minimumsnormeringer får vi cementeret den forkerte løsning.
  • systemet er allerede velfinanseret: som københavnsk vuggestue får man i runde tal kr. 15000 (11000 i kommunalt tilskud og 4000 fra forældrene) per vuggestuebarn om måneden. Vi giver vores pædagoger lærerløn, ca. 10% over pædagogløn, dvs. i runde tal 35000 kr. om måneden, så det er 2.3 børn per pædagog. Der er noget husleje at betale, noget administration og madordning, men den store post er lønninger – ca 2/3 af de samlede omkostninger. For børnehavebørn får vi 8000 per barn, det giver 4.5 børn per voksen. Dertil kommer, at børnene i gennemsnit bruger færre timer i institutionen end de voksne, hos os er det 33 timer om ugen. Såvidt jeg kan se på vores tal, ligger vi sådan set allerede indenfor minimumsnormeringerne (resp. 3 vuggestuebørn eller 6 bh-børn per voksne).
  • det fundamentale problem er, at de unge mennesker vælger pædagogstudiet fra. Og når man ikke kan fylde pladserne op på studiet, har man heller ikke mulighed for at selektere. Så får man folk ud på den anden side, som aldrig burde være blevet pædagoger. Man har også meget svært ved at tiltrække top-studenterne. Og dem har vi også brug for – dem, der kan lægge planer, strukturere processer, evaluere, designe en kultur. Men den type personer er en alvorlig mangelvare i pædagogmiljøet.
  • diskursen om minimumsnormeringer er også, at vi bare skal bruge flere hænder. Men det er at tale faget ned. Det vigtige er ikke “hvor mange”, men “hvem”. Jeg har set dygtige pædagoger have fuldstændig check på en gruppe med 20 børn. Og så er der dem, der ikke kan klare 2.

Hvad kan vi gøre?

Vi skal have tiltrukket de unge, inklusive nogle af de bogligt dygtige. Og potentialet er der: De unge vil gerne have et meningsfuldt arbejde (det er vi lykkedes ret godt med som samfund) og der er næppe noget mere meningsfuldt end at præge de små mennesker på det tidspunkt i deres liv, hvor man kan gøre den allerstørste forskel.

Når man udfører det her arbejde godt, er det reelt små mirakler man oplever i dagligdagen. Det er nærmest til at få tårer i øjnene af.

Det er helt utroligt, så mange positive fortællinger der er i faget. Jeg tror vi skal hen i en ny ligevægt i samfundet, hvor der er kæmpe søgetryk på de didaktiske uddannelser. I Finland er det 1 ud af 10, der bliver optaget på læreruddannelsen. Og det burde jo være normen herhjemme også. Det er den slags historier, der skal udbasuneres.

Fra politisk side kan man også gøre noget. F.eks. lave pædagog- og læreruddannelserne 5-årige. Man skal så bare lige huske, at det er fag, der kræver en enorm mængde praktisk erfaring.

Folkeskolens formålsparagraf

(Vi kom ikke omkring grundskolen. Den har en fremragende formålsparagraf, som jeg ikke mener det nuværende system lever op til.)

§ 1. Folkeskolen skal i samarbejde med forældrene give eleverne kundskaber og færdigheder, der: forbereder dem til videre uddannelse og giver dem lyst til at lære mere, gør dem fortrolige med dansk kultur og historie, giver dem forståelse for andre lande og kulturer, bidrager til deres forståelse for menneskets samspil med naturen og fremmer den enkelte elevs alsidige udvikling.

Stk. 2. Folkeskolen skal udvikle arbejdsmetoder og skabe rammer for oplevelse, fordybelse og virkelyst, så eleverne udvikler erkendelse og fantasi og får tillid til egne muligheder og baggrund for at tage stilling og handle.

Stk. 3. Folkeskolen skal forberede eleverne til deltagelse, medansvar, rettigheder og pligter i et samfund med frihed og folkestyre. Skolens virke skal derfor være præget af åndsfrihed, ligeværd og demokrati.

Eftertanker

Mathias spurgte under debatten, hvorfor det var, at kun få pædagoger klarer prøveperioden. Det kandidaterne oftest fejler på, inklusive uddannede pædagoger, er:

  • manglende “antenneværk”: de hører ikke de tidlige krisesignaler og ender i brandslukningsmode. Vi har tit fra forældre hørt, at de har en fornemmelse af, at personalet (det faste) har en slags 6. sans.
  • manglende anerkendelse af børnenes behov for millimeterretfærdighed: små ting kan have stor betydning for de små mennesker. Det er man nødt til at anerkende, ellers går det ud over relationen/tilliden.
  • manglende fokus på opgaven: man kan måske synes, at det kan være kedeligt at være alene ude på legepladsen kun omgivet af børn. Men det er alletiders lejlighed til at opbygge relationer med dem, spørge ind til, hvordan det går osv. Det er ikke tidspunktet til lige at insta’e eller snap chatte.
  • manglende sans for organisation: vi har meget vi skal nå, og det kræver at vi organiserer os effektivt. Det skal f.eks. ikke tage en halv time at skære frugt til 20 børn. Og hvis det gør, så sørger man for at organisere sig således, at f.eks. nogle af børnene bliver involveret.

Folkemødedebat: Er STEM kun for drenge?

På folkemødet havde Teknologipagten og LIFE organiseret debatten “Er STEM kun for drenge?”

Hermed en opsummering af mine pointer samt et par opfølgende bemærkninger.

Deltagerne var, fra venstre til højre: moderator Agi Csonka, Charlotte Mark, Maiken Lykke Lolck, Martin Exner, undertegnede og Christine Antorini.

Selvbestemmelse og klasseledelse:

  • hos os vælger børnene selv STEM til, som en naturlig del af vores motivationsorienterede pædagogik generelt. Vi har ca. dobbelt så mange piger som drenge, der kommer til STEM-forløbene (Som i parentes bemærket er programmering og elektronik og matematik – områder hvor kønsfordelingen traditionelt er særligt skæv).
  • vi har på Island set, at kønsopdelt undervisning kan være en løsning, men har også erfaring for, at man med struktureret klasseledelse sagtens kan sikre, at pigerne også får plads.
  • slaget mener jeg skal slås på læreruddannelsen, navnlig ved at gøre uddannelsen 5-årig, med en meget stor andel af praktik.
  • i den sammenhæng mener jeg, at det er afgørende at få formidlet en række positive fortællinger om alle de små livsbekræftende mirakler, man naturligt kommer ud for, når man har med børn at gøre. De didaktiske jobs har potentiale for at være verdens mest spændende og udviklende – men vi skal have italesat dem som sådanne!

Autenticitet / relevans

Jeg pointerede, at det at være lige ikke er det samme som at være ens. Vi observerer i det daglige tydelige kønsbetingede forskelle mellem drenge og piger. Det er helt fint – vi ser forskelle og alsidighed som en klar styrke. Til gengæld kræver det at skabe lige vilkår for alle, at vi aktivt forholder os til disse forskelle.

Et praktisk aspekt, jeg ikke fik nævnt, er, at vi prioriterer brugen af fri software meget højt. Den frie software udgør en slags uendeligt ocean af autentiske læringsmuligheder og den intense mentoreringskultur i miljøet en unik katalysator for læring.

Tak til alle deltagerne – publikum inklusive – for en god og relevant debat.

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Discovering Hjallastefnan schools in Iceland

The Hjalli model logo

Gleðilegan miðvikudag <3 – Happy Wednesday. This is what you can read every day when you enter Hjallastefnan schools in Iceland. Schools where happiness and positivity reigns. But they also have another particularity. Hjallastefnan – or the Hjalli model (https://www.hjallimodel.com/) – fights for gender equality and counters gender stereotypes. It has now existed for 30 years and gathers 15 kindergartens and 3 primary schools (up to the 4th grade) across Iceland – the number one country when it comes to gender equality.

Here is a little overview of my visit to both a kindergarten and a primary school from the Hjalli model in Reykjavík. As a part of The Danish-French School’s exchange program for teachers, I wanted to discover their methods, get inspired, and use this opportunity to see the different interest in STEM for both genders.

The first impression you get when you read about the model is gender separation and uniforms. This seems a bit old school, but it is anything like that when you see the actual practice.
The uniforms are here to make every kid equal. Whether red or blue, skirt or trousers, it’s all the same, for everyone. Your boy wears a red skirt? No problem.
The gender separation is not strict either, and they get mixed at least once a day. They separate them to work on gender weaknesses and reduce inequalities.

We are all “friends” there. You talk to someone else by using the expression “Dear friend” – “Kæri vinur” for a boy and “Kæra vinkona” for a girl. Even between adults. “Góðan dag kæra vinkona Joséphine!” – the teachers were telling me in the morning. And don’t forget the heart when you write a message. The post-its are heart-shaped too of course.
Messages should also always be turned in a positive way. A child talks too loudly during lunch? Just tell “Dear friend, use your mouth for eating”. Another starts getting violent? “Dear friend, use your words”. And it works. They get used to receive and give positive messages from the youngest age, and train all in a circle to use this kind of formulas.
The atmosphere is also very quiet. Children have an inside voice and an outside voice. They are often in small groups, and they use a meditating position when sitting in a circle. And boys have for example smaller rooms, so it is harder for them to run around and make noise.
Finally, their environment is very simple and natural, so that the children use their imagination during playing time. Only a few games are available, including wood cubes and homemade clay. In the playground, no big structures nor swings. In the kindergarten they have sandboxes, sheds, ropes, big tires and a wading pool for when it rains. In the school, they just use the forest as a playground.

Playground at Barnaskólinn í Reykjavík

So, how does it work on a daily basis? The children are gathered in groups of the same age and same gender. Each group has its own classroom and teacher. In the corner, a big carpet with a sun in the middle has numbers all around for the children to sit on. They all start the day by singing good morning to the sun, the trees, the flowers, and every single child in the room. The rest of the day is a mix of “hópatímar” – group time – “valtímar” – activity of their choice – and “blöndum” – mixing the genders. Each of these has its own song that the group sing together, like a jingle in a TV show.

  • Hópatímar: The teacher takes the group for some activities or teaching, either in the classroom or outside. The youngest work mostly with countering the gender stereotypes here. The girls work on their strength and power, making some physical exercise, climbing on chairs, and learning to express themselves loudly and clearly. With the boys, it’s a completely different atmosphere. They work on their gentle hands, giving hand massage with lotion to each other, brushing their hair, and putting nail polish on. The groups also do compliment rounds. Girls tell each other “You are strong!” or “You are wonderful!”, while boys are more like “You have a good heart!” or “You have beautiful eyes!”. As the children get older, these group times are more and more used for conventional teaching.
  • Valtímar: One by one, the children choose between different playing or creative activities. This can be Kapla, clay, crochet, Lego, going outside, drawing, or even chess (They start chess lessons from 3 and some 5-year-olds are going to the European championship this summer). The teachers make sure that each activity has 2 or 4 children, so there is always a playmate to be with. When the capacity of children is reached, the activity becomes unavailable for the rest of the group.
  • Blöndum: Boys and girls of the same age get together and do activities in pairs. Because of the gender training that they do separately, they seem to work more easily together as equals. When building a structure with blocks, girls don’t hesitate to take the leadership while boys try to make things pretty. The older they get, the more often the gender are mixed. Blöndum also exists as a multi-age version.

Icebot enjoying the sun at the beach

Let’s talk about STEM. Icebot, a rover from the Dark Side Challenge made by one of our 8-year-old girl and her mom (http://blog.ecolefrancodanoise.dk/model-moms), was also part of the trip. It has been presented to the 8-years-olds, girls and boys separately. The goal was to see if the two genders have a different interest in robotics. And the answer is yes.
From the girls’ side, they see the robot like a tool that they can control. And they want to be good at it. Trying one by one, they manage to send the rover where they want with the minimum effort and take a picture of their friends. One girl will also stay for the whole time next to the computer to explain to the other ones how it works. They were simply organized and efficient. But they were not so curious about how it works concretely. They saw it as a product that works, and they have fun with it by completing simple goals.
Let’s go to the boys now. They first have many questions about every component and how it works. They use their imagination to have a super robot. One wants to send it to space. Another wants a mechanical arm to bring soda cans. They also want to make it prettier. They see a final product that doesn’t exist yet. Then they try it. It becomes much more chaotic than the girls, and they keep trying the commands without any plan. They just want it to keep moving, for fun. They’d also rather move themselves to take a picture than the robot.
When it came to the feedback, both groups were super enthusiastic and kept asking about having their own (We should hopefully send them one by the end of the summer holidays). If the groups were mixed, I would imagine that the boys would take control and make the robot move constantly, while the girls would let go and lose interest as they won’t have the opportunity to master the commands and find out concrete goals. Separating them can therefore be an advantage to trigger girls’ interest in STEM.

Evaluation of the robotics workshop by the 8 year-old girls – 10/10!

This experience was really enriching, and I hope to collaborate with them again. I’ve met blooming children and welcoming teachers. Have a good day, my friend!

Thank you for the visit, Dr. Stallman

As I got news of RMS visiting Denmark again, it struck me that he might be interested in visiting something as rare as a school clearly affirming that software should be free/libre. We are using the convention free/libre to emphasize that the software is free as in “freedom”, not “free beer”. It is an ambiguity of the English language that has historically caused some confusion, albeit the notions are not mutually exclusive. In fact, software freedom and financial viability have in retrospect turned out to be perfectly compatible.

I asked RMS an got the following answer:

An so it happened that RMS came to visit us last Saturday.

Aware of previous anecdotes about RMS’s supposedly lacking social skills, I was psychologically prepared to make use of the full special educational toolbox. That turned out to be unnecessary.

I first of all experienced RMS as someone who is listening and being razor sharp. He thrives best under a fast pace and needs a planned schedule. He prioritizes clearly and was for instance not interested in seeing the school’s gym. He has a well-developed sense of humor and speaks French and Spanish fluently.

His key issues are clearly defined and he works hard on them, squeezing work out of every minute. One might consider that it isn’t comme il faut to pull out your laptop and start working during the lunch, but objectively speaking it is the rational choice if you have a lot to do.

Different indeed, and thank god for that.

Visit of a legend.

The impression I am left with is that RMS is as relevant as ever. Free software enabled a historical power shift in the (IT) world in the ’00s, illustrated in the ’10s by the IT giants’ overtaking of the scene. Today, free software is everywhere, for instance in billions of Android devices, servers and containers, embedded devices etc. etc. So in a certain sense, it has vanquished.

But the concept is up against some heavy-weight opponents. The fundamental problem is that the companies developing the software have no direct interest in securing its freedom. In fact, they trivially seek to maximize the bottom line, which rarely is aligned with the notion of sharing.

One example is patents, which to a large extent today serve to prevent competitors from taking market shares.

Another example is the move towards on-line services: from a software engineering perspective it doesn’t make much sense to use a browser as the standard platform for running programs, using Javascript as “byte code”. It is an inefficient and limiting middle layer. But it is a means to control the users by hiding away data and logic on faraway servers and within non-free Javascript. I installed the Firefox plugin for LibreJS last Saturday – it shows how few sites out there are running free software.

Finally, it is common practice that teachers in schools and universities encourage the students to use proprietary software, because “the licenses are almost gratis”. In 2019! Talk about the fox guarding the hen house.

In the current state of affairs, free software still critically depends on citizens continuously fighting for it, on developers pushing for their right to use free tools.

At some point we will hopefully see that publicly funded projects will be subjected to the condition of the code being free/libre. After all, denying the tax payers the freedom to fully use the software they have paid for is de facto a scam.

I asked RMS for feedback on the school’s IT policy and ended up with the following version:

When choosing technology for education, we only use free/libre programs, in accord with the school’s fundamental values of freedom and justice. From an IT literacy perspective we consider it essential that the children learn to identify which technological choices will make them dependent and which ones will give them autonomy. This includes explaining the privacy-related consequences of using the typical online services.

The policy has always been very easy to apply, as free/libre solutions exist for every relevant problem we have encountered.

Perhaps surprisingly, we have observed that children are very receptive to traditional text-based programming and do not express any need for simplistic point-and-click interfaces. The more interested pupils participate in managing the school’s servers and infrastructure, learning valuable skills in that process. In practice this establishes an intense exchange and mentoring culture, characteristic of environments where information can be shared freely.

We regularly sponsor free/libre projects that we make use of and consider it the morally right thing to do for an institution.

Computer games, including games on phones and tablets, are not allowed at school during the opening hours, because we have observed that they cause attention deficits and addiction. Generally speaking, screen-oriented activities may only occur if they have a well-defined pedagogical purpose.

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Hacking time!

Model Moms

Our Dark Side Challenge concept keeps spinning off new ideas and concepts. This time, it’s the Model Moms!

It’s not about fashion models.

And just relax – it’s not about being the perfect mother either.

This is about engaging girls in STEM by building models – in wood, metal, plastic, numbers or code… or even trash. And about involving the girls’ primary role model: their mother.

The concept is simply a number of progressions that mothers can explore with their daughters:

  1. building the metal chassis of a rover
  2. assembling the rest of the robot (3D printed parts)
  3. design and 3D print a name tag
  4. adding the electronics parts with the proper wiring
  5. practicing some programming
  6. uploading the program and running the tests
  7. remote controlling the rover in a Dark Side Challenge challenge, where the rover has to explore an unknown terrain without real-time feedback

MWM rover Coquine completed before shipping to Norway.

From then on the world is open and one can:

  1. use the newly acquired coding skills to model interesting problems with differential equations
  2. improve the program of the robot to make it more autonomous
  3. improve the robot itself to make it do a lot of useful stuff, like virtually visiting the grand-parents or hoovering their house
  4. or just make it more likeable and cute :) Hopefully, getting some girls involved will improve that aspect! (and yes, that appears to be a clearly gender-specific trait. And that’s fine.)
  5. … and much much more – including imagining the stories of teacher-astronaut Aė exploring the darkest corners of the solar system with her pupils and their assistant robots…

Aė and the Dark Side Story

Most of the progressions are very easy, and a few of them less so. Some might require explanations from more experienced makers, some might require a 3D printer or other tools such as a multi-meter. The key here is to function as a group, meaning that there always will be help to get.

Fakta og uddybninger ift. “Debatten: Er der en voksen til stede?”

Som opfølgning på at jeg udtalte mig i Debatten: Er der en voksen til stede?, lader det til, at der er brug for lidt baggrundsinformation og underliggende fakta.

Grunden til at jeg valgte at deltage er, at jeg mener at problematikken omkring børns trivsel og udvikling er det vigtigste, vi som samfund for tiden bør beskæftige os med. Det har jeg ment i nogen tid og det er sådan set derfor, at min medstifter og jeg har brugt de sidste ti år af vores liv på at opbygge Den dansk-franske Skole og Børnehave.

Pædagogerne og lærerne mener jeg er et vidunderligt folkefærd af bundgode, altruistiske og tillidsvækkende mennesker. Roden til problemerne mener jeg er, at fagene savner anerkendelse i befolkningen, hvorfor der kommer for lidt søgetryk på uddannelserne og optagelseskvotienten. Dette udgør en selvforstærkende negativ spiral. Og det mener jeg, at man kan gøre noget ved.

Specifikt i forhold til minimumsnormeringer mener jeg, at det vil være en afsindig dårlig idé: idéen er den sædvanlige “vi-skal-allokere-flere-ressourcer-NU!” knee-jerk reaktion, som desværre sjældent løser noget som helst og, værre end det, flytter fokus væk fra det egentlige problem. I eksemplet her vil en større efterspørgsel på pædagoger kun skabe endnu flere tomme pladser på studiet og forstærke problemet yderligere.

Min rolle i programmet var, ligesom pædagogen Anette Stoltenberg Hansen, at bidrage med praktisk indsigt fra dagligdagen på gulvet. I modsætning til de politiske deltagere i programmet var ingen af os særligt scenevante og vores dagsorden var ikke at få så meget seerfladetid som muligt, hvorfor vi endte med at få forholdsvis få minutters opmærksomhed.

Et af mine budskaber var, at man indenfor almindelige rammer, eller mindre, kan skabe et pædagogisk miljø med høj trivsel hos børn og voksne. Disse rammer er:

Vi har en normering på ca. 1:6 målt ift. hvor mange arbejdstimer, der bliver lagt af personalet (125) vs. hvor mange timer børnene sammenlagt er i institutionen (692). Det er helt korrekt, at vi nogle gange kun er to voksne på gruppen, nogle gange endda kun een. Der er i alt p.t. 10 ansatte, de 3 er på deltid og alle er aktive både i skolen og børnehaven. For tiden har vi een uddannet pædagog, som primært er i børnehaven.

Vi har 9 lukkedage om året og 48 ugentlige åbningstimer, ligesom alle andre i København og omegn. Det står i vores vedtægter.

Vi betaler alt vores didaktiske personale lærerløn, som er højere end pædagogløn (kr. 189,- i timen + 17,3% pension, altså om måneden 35538,- alt inklusive). Alle har 6 ugers ferie og derudover mulighed for 2 ugers betalt og lønnet ophold på en af vores samarbejdsskoler/institutioner (p.t. USA, Schweitz, Norge, Island, Frankrig). Derudover afsætter vi væsentlige midler til videreuddannelse, som til gengæld foregår udenfor arbejdstiden.

Vi bruger ikke vikarer og har 6,0 fraværsdage per medarbejder per år, hvoraf de fleste er barns første sygedag. Een outlier øger tallet fra 3,2 til 6,0.

En plads i børnehaven koster 2500,- og vuggestuen 3600. Det svarer til de kommunale priser fra 2014, dengang vi begyndte at få tilskud. Vi får derudover ca. kr. 5500,- fra komnunen, og har altså ialt 8000,- per barn per måned til at betale løn, husleje, madordning og diverse driftomkostninger. Mit gæt er, at det er mindre end hvad kommunale institutioner har at gøre godt med (som lader til at være 9500,-).

Vi har en stor andel af børn med ikke-vestlig baggrund – meget nørrebrosk. I forhold til antal børn med vanskeligheder ligger vi p.t. indenfor norm, men plejer at ligge over norm. I skolen ligger vi langt over norm.

Mine kolleger havde opfordret mig til at nævne vores lidt originale “4K” feedback-kultur som et afgørende element i vores organisation, men det fik jeg ikke gjort. Den er meget tillidsbaseret og lyder som følger:

Vi opfordrer personalet til at give indbyrdes feedback og ser til at feedbacken er:

  • kontant: sørg for, at alt der skal siges, bliver sagt. Også selvom det kan virke ubehageligt.
  • konstruktiv: sørg for at anlægge et perspektiv på tingene, så modtageren kan bruge det til noget.
  • kærlig: garantér, at feedbacken gives ud fra gode intentioner. Kvalificeret feedback er noget nær den største gave, man kan give et andet menneske.
  • klodset: især negativ feedback har det med at blive akavet. Sådan er det og det er ok – det må i hvert fald ikke være til hinder for, at tingene bliver sagt.

Så hvad kan vi gøre? Jeg vil foreslå:

  • at man gør pædagog- og læreruddannelsen til kandidatuddannelser med en meget stor andel af praktik (f.eks. 50%), eventuelt at man slår de to uddannelser sammen.
  • brand’er uddannelsen som en all-round lederuddannelse og får skabt præcedens for at man kan skifte til og fra faget sent i karrieren (“livslang læring”)
  • italesætter funktionen som den nok mest afgørende for samfundets udvikling og vækst
  • generelt fokuserer på at få skabt positive, autentiske, praksisbaserede fortællinger om, hvordan man kan udvikle sig personligt, fagligt og socialt i et didaktisk miljø

First Week On The Dark Side

Last week we embarked on a new venture – The Dark Side Challenge.

The eventual goal of the challenge is to build a robot that can autonomously navigate through a terrain where radio contact is sporadic or even impossible – just as if it were on the dark side of the Moon or somewhere even farther away.

While achieving that goal, the challengers are learning to program and debug embedded devices and sensors, to imagine, reason and persevere, understand how to properly balance machine intelligence with human interaction. The youngest ones are even learning the alphabet – both in capital and small letters!

The first steps are all about teaching fundamentals, but soon we hope to remotely program robots at the other end of the planet and invite others to do the same with the ones we have in our classroom.

The first session was about… sewing. In order to protect their small computer, the children needed to manufacture a small protective pouch. Once they had sewn the pouch, they were given an Uno R3 board (Arduino clone) together with a printed sticker with their name on. The board is personal, it’s theirs, as we believe that the sense of ownership will spur motivation.

As a part of the session, the children were explained what the board can be used for: sensing things such as light, heat, humidity. They learned about ultra-sound and distance, motors and drivers and about hacking remote controls.

Some of the boys had converted a wooden vegetable box from Årstiderne to a rover with four motorized wheels. The robot could move autonomously after being fed a program consisting of a sequence of the letters w, s, a, d (forward, back, left, right) via the Uno’s serial interface. This was done using a program written by one of the older pupils.

The second session was about actual programming. The children were handed a sheet with a short program that would make the Uno’s built-in LED blink. For the small ones (aged 5-6), just finding the (capital) letters on the keyboard was a challenge, and even more so were the parentheses, curly braces and semi-colon.

A part of the lesson consisted of installing the Arduino IDE – a simple apt-get install arduino on the Linux machines and a download from the Arduino software page for Windows and Mac. The page is somewhat hard to find, as Arduino unfortunately now seem to be promoting their web-based IDE.

The older ones (6-8) did the exercise at varying speeds, most of them in groups of 2-3 and we needed to improvise some follow-up exercises:

  • make the blinking faster. This is achieved by decreasing the delays (and not increasing them). Suggested values could be 500ms, 50ms, 25ms.
  • make the LED blink an SOS, like the Titanic sent just before sinking.
  • shorten the code in the SOS exercise by using for loops.

In the programming session, 9 girls and 5 boys participated.

In the next session we have planned that they will be adding another LED to the board and have both LEDs blink. In that context they will get the opportunity to fry a LED by connecting it directly to a battery (without a resistance) – motivating why it’s relevant to understand Ohm’s law (V=RI) and the power law (P=VI).

Progress of the project can be followed on hackaday.io.

Documents rédigés par nos stagiaires

Retour_sur_les_17_principes-camilleÀ L’école franco-danoise nous accueillons souvent des stagiaires, cela dans le but de contribuer à former les futures générations d’enseignants, de fare connaître notre façon de travailler et finalement d’avoir une vue fraîche et indépendante sur notre fonctionnement.

Voici ci-dessous un extrait des documents rédigés par nos stagiaires au fil des années

Octobre 2017: Les accords par Daphnée Beaulieu-Turenne

Juin 2018: Synthèse de stage par Noélise Floc’h

Mars 2019: Observation d’une skovbørneheave par Camille Busillet et Noëmi Foureyzon

Avril 2019: Retour sur 17 principes Noëmi Foureyzon

Avril 2019: Retour sur les 17 principes Camille Busillet