Monday, February 9, 2015


During the final week of January, I attended Actua's national conference in Ottawa. I tweeted about it on the #Actua2015 hashtag. 

Learning with Communities

I helped facilitate a session called "Learning with Communities." During this session, I had the chance to share teachings that I have received from some of the amazing people who have shaped my ways of knowing and being. I am so grateful to the communities that I have had the opportunity to learn with during my time delivering STEM Outreach within this incredible network. Before our session, we got some exciting news: Science Venture won the 2014 National Aboriginal Outreach Award!

Steven Woods, Google

Steven Woods (@sgwoods), Senior Engineering Director at Google Canada, delivered an inspiring keynote on computer science (CS) education and the Codemakers initiative. Here are some of the key messages:
  • CS offers new ways to think and make things come to life.
  • Educators need to change the way they thing about computer science: "You have the best mission ever. How can you beat conveying magic to children?"
  • Diverse teams produce better.
  • CS is empowering. Learners can take action, and something is going to happen. 
  • We need to change our view of failure: "There is a critical role of failure in innovation."
  • "Give learners a goal, but don't tell them how to get there." 
  • "Computer science is a theme, rather than a thing." 
  • CS is incredibly social and collaborative.

UOttawa Makerspace 

At the UOttawa Makerspace we were encouraged to engage in hands-on, play-based learning. "Find your 7-year old self. Failure and mistakes are awesome." It was absolutely wonderful!

We played with littleBits and Snap Circuits, which is are fun tools for exploring ideas around electricity and circuits. Makey Makey is another great tool for inventing games, instruments, and more! I have used all three of these with kids during various STEM outreach activities, and kids love using them for inquiry-based activities. This exploratory process helped me regain my own sense of wonder.

Something new to me was seeing a Kinect camera hooked up to a MakerBot. This setup allowed people to print 3D images of themselves!

Bottawa: 3-D printing at the UOttawa Makerspace
UOttawa Makerspace


Pat Yongpradit,

Pat Yongpradit (@MrYongpradit), Director of Education at (@codeorg) delivered a stellar keynote about his organization and the resources they have created. Their vision is that every school and every student will have access to high quality computer science education. Here are some of the main points from Mr. Yongpradit's presentation:
  • CS education is about equipping kids with the ability to help society. It's not just about creating cool stuff.
  • Typically, women can connect with CS more when it is put taught within the greater social context.
  • It's not just about using technology, it's about creating technology.
  • This is a basic literacy, not just a course.
  • has resources for ages 4 and up. There is CS curriculum for elementary, middle years (science and math), and high school educators to use. K-8 courses 1-4 have a blend of online puzzle tutorials and "unplugged" activities (which do not require computer access). Each course is ~20 hours. They range from early readers to 5th grade reading level.
  • There are motivational/educational videos about CS that can be used as a hook/introduction.
  • Looking to learn about CS yourself? has all-ages 20-hour courses for beginners.
Here are some corrections to misconceptions that were covered during this presentation:
  1. CS > coding
  2. CS is foundational
  3. CS is changing the world
  4. CS is for everyone
  5. Don't reinvent the wheel, adapt it!
I used to make this mindmap of the principles of CS discussed by's Pat Yongpradit in his presentation "Beyond an Hour of Code"

I first heard about through @abnorr on Twitter, when I asked him what his favourite #edtech resource was. Since then, I have been recommending it to everyone who asks about coding resources. After learning more about it, I will continue to sing its praises. It's absolutely terrific, and so much fun!

Mr. Yongpradit also mentioned these other free resources for teaching CS:

Veritasium: An Element of Truth

Derek Muller (@Veritasium) makes Veritasium videos on YouTube. "Can You Solve This?" is in an interesting one with ideas around the nature of science, particularly falsifiability, and confirmation bias.

He spoke about his thesis on teaching physics through film, and these were some of the main points: 
  • When doing a science demo, the prediction step is key to long-term learning. The emotional attachment to a hypothesis helps learners to remember the results and explanations. 
  • The best way to engage people is to pose a challenge. Don't give away the answer. Not giving the answer is a powerful thing. 
  • Exposing cognitive bias is key to learning. The process of learning is often a process of unlearning.
Here are some other YouTube science educators: 
I am interested in learning more about using YouTube for education, and building in interactivity.

Nicole Belanger, Professional Soul-Barer

Nicole Belanger (@nskbelanger) spoke about the importance of slowing down and reflecting:
We trap ourselves in grinds and fill our lives to the brim. This leaves no room to maneuver and think. You never stop to think if you're moving fast in the right direction.
She shared this quote from Irv Grousbeck that really resonated with me: "It's our vulnerability, not our wisdom, that makes us authentic as teachers and leaders."

EverFi Digital Literacy  

EverFi (@EverFi) has an online course on Digital Literacy and Responsibility. I tried it out, and it's a really engaging, game-based program that would be great for middle years students. EverFi is also launching Future Goals, an online program to engage youth in STEM through hockey. I have connected with @FelishaEverFi about how getting a workshop to come to UVic.

Other Resources


At the conference, I was inspired and encouraged to start a new online project about STEM puns. I love making puns, and I have been dabbling in cartooning with my Bamboo tablet (by Wacom). I am combining these passions in a way that I hope will make STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) terminology more engaging and accessible to a wider audience. I have created pages on Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. Let's see what stems from this!

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