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  • e-mail: ddthornburg@gmail.com
Books and Briefings
School Leaders 

Presentation and Workshop Abstracts

This page is home to the abstracts and workshops given by Dr. Thornburg and his colleagues.  Topics cover several areas with a common focus on the effective use of technology as a transformative tool in the educational process.

The following is a short list of topics that have been quite popular recently.  The Center will, of course, tailor presentations and workshops to your specific needs.

New Hyperduino, and STEM presentations and workshops

Additional presentations:

STEM Education that is Out of This World (one hour presentation)
Imagine a STEM curriculum in which middle- and high-school students can design and run their own experiments in space! This exciting presentation describes an innovative program through which students can do all this on small satellites 450 km above Earth. The Ardusat system uses orbiting versions of the popular Arduino controller along with a variety of sensors to make measurements based on projects designed by the students themselves.

We explore this amazing system in the context of current standards and curricular objectives. Open source curriculum materials pave the way to student designed experiments that can be run in space later in 2015 when over 20 Ardusat satellites will be in orbit. This revolutionary project democratizes space exploration just as the personal computer brought computing power to classrooms all over the world.

As the presenter has said before, a space curriculum addresses every aspect of the new science standards being adopted by many states.  Unlike the presenter's previous work, this project is not a simulation.  Students design projects that are run on real satellites.  This not only provides strong engagement for the students, but takes them far beyond what they would learn using traditional teaching methods.  The likelihood is high that many students in this program will develop a lifelong interest in space sciences and engineering, forming the foundation for the next generation of space explorers.

Topics include:
  • The history of student interest in space
  • The development of small satellites (cubesats)
  • The connection between STEM and space experiments
  • The Ardusat project and classroom hardware
  • Open source STEM materials
  • Developing interesting questions that can be addressed using space-based experiments
  • Gathering and analyzing data from orbiting satellites
Topic: STEM and space exploration
Level: Beginner to intermediate
Duration: One hour
Audience: STEM educators and leaders (focus on Middle- to High-school faculty)
Handouts: Online

Introducing Ardusat (day-long to multi-day workshop)

This highly-interactive workshop is designed for those who have either signed up with the Ardusat project or who might be considering their involvement.  Ardusat is designed to allow students from Middle- through High-school to design and conduct experiments that are run on small satellites orbiting about 400 km above Earth.  These are not simulations, but actual satellites equipped with a variety of sensors whose data can be captured and explored by students themselves.

The overall goal of the workshop is to provide educators with the resources and experiences related to both the mechanics of having students conduct experiments in space along with solid connections to proven pedagogical models that promote both interest and expertise in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education.

Over the course of the workshop participants will:
  • Explore the current context of science and engineering education in the K-12 classroom with connections to current standards
  • Moving beyond knowledge and skills to the theory of epistemic frames
  • Overview of the Ardusat project
  • Introduction to the Arduino microcontroller
  • An overview of the on-board sensors on the cubesats
  • Learn how to connect sensors to the Arduino board
  • Introduction to the Processing language
  • Create programs to read various sensors and save data files
  • Introduction to data analysis
  • Using the Ardusat Experiment Platform
  • Experience the power of inquiry-driven project-based learning
  • Learn how to formulate "driving questions"
  • Explore the design and implementation of student projects and experiments to be done in space

Be prepared for an adventurous day!

Topic: STEM and Ardusat
Level: Beginner to intermediate
Duration: Full day (or more)
Audience: STEM educators and leaders (focus on Middle- to High-school faculty)
Handouts: Some provided by the presenter. Participants to provide a laptop computer (Mac or Windows) with some specified software installed.

Note: Participants should get the Ardusat Individual Space Kit which includes the Arduino board and all the components needed to build several interesting projects.

3D Printing in the Classroom
This hands-on workshop explores the brief history of this revolution and shows some ways 3D printers are being used in a variety of educational settings. We also demonstrate some of the free software tools that students can use to design their own artifacts and explore some of the new 3D printers on the market.

Just as the laser printer transformed the creation of printed documents, the 3D printer is poised to have the same effect in the world of three-dimensional objects. While industrial strength 3D printers have been available for a long time, inexpensive printers suitable for school use are now coming to many schools. And, just as laser printers needed powerful word processors for document creation, 3D design software is essential for creating the artwork needed for the 3D printers. Many powerful free programs are available, and the resulting designs and applications cut across the curriculum, showing that this technology can be used in support of learning almost any subject. Specific connections to STEM education will be explored along with some powerful free design software packages students can use to create their own designs.

The time for this revolution is now, and this session sets the stage for a powerful transformation in education.

This session is also available as a one-hour speech.

From Computer Labs to Makerspaces
Many schools have implemented 1:1 programs, making traditional computer labs redundant. This session explores how these rooms can be reconfigured into makerspaces where students can explore curricular topics through the making of artifacts. Tools in these spaces can include 3D printers, Arduinos, "soft circuit" tools for werabale electronics, and many other things. The idea is to unleash the creativity and tinkering that is implied by the engineering component of the Next Generation Science Standards as well as connecting to the Common Core State Standards.

Participants will be shown examples of the kinds of equipment that can be used in these spaces, and see how affordable these tools have now become. We are entering a new world where our children will become the next generation of makers!

Next Generation Science Standards: Transforming Education for All
This dynamic presentation by one of the world leaders in progressive STEM education shows how our educational system has failed a generation of students, and how the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) will transform educational practice in ways that should increase student interest in these fields – changes also supported by the Common Core standards. All educational institutions are dealing with these changes and this speech provides a clear context for thinking about changes in how schools work with students. These standards support a profound change in pedagogical practice that may be challenging for some educators. This presentation is designed to provide the background that makes transforming teaching and learning easier in the classroom.

The speaker explores the reasons for the new standards, and shows examples of some tools that can help teachers of almost any grade embrace the spirit of them in their work with students. As we are shifting from a noun-based curriculum to one based on verbs (design, invent, create, explore, etc.), the time has come to fix our system at last!

From the Campfire to the Holodeck: How Place Matters in Education
In the 1990's, the presenter published a book in which he described four learning spaces occupied by all learners during their studies: the campfire (lecture space), watering hole (collaborative space), Cave (reflective space), and Life (application space). This updated presentation explores the powerful role physical and virtual spaces can have on STEM education. One environment that embodies these spaces is the Educational Holodeck, and demonstrations of this environment will be provided illustrating the exploration of academic topics through, for example, space exploration.

Mobile Learning and the Disruption of Education

with Norma Thornburg and Sara Armstrong, PhD
We live at one of the most important times in education's history where we are witnessing a disruption whose magnitude has not been equaled since the invention of the mass-produced book. The astounding growth of smartphones and tablets has brought highly connected learning tools into the hands of many learners, and this trend will reach most of them very shortly. With students entering the classroom with access to the Library of Congress in their pockets, purses and backpacks, it is little wonder that many educators are concerned that students are using these tools to "cheat."

In fact, the so-called cheating is a product of asking students questions for which the Internet provides an easy answer. In the context of the move from data through information and knowledge to understanding, Traditional textbook driven didactic teaching has diminishing value. The mark of an educated person is based less on what he or she knows and more on what they are able to do with this knowledge aas they apply it in their lives.

This speech explores alternative pedagogical models in which the power of ubiquitous mobile technologies is coupled with inquiry and student projects to transform learning in powerful, fundamental ways. Topics include:

  • Brief history and trends of modern mobile technologies
  • The challenges of traditional teaching in the collaborative mobile learning world
  • How mobile learning supports the social constructivist model of Lev Vygotsky
  • The transformation of student tasks in a world where internet access is constant
  • The craft of formulating "driving questions"
  • The process of project creation
  • Assessment tools appropriate for the transformed model
The ideas in this session are of value to any educator living in a world where smartphones are commonplace among students.

Seeing Tomorrow, Today: How to Find Emerging and Future Educational Technologies
Have you ever made a “trendy” technology purchase, only to see your investment end up in the dust bin a year later? Anyone who uses or purchases modern technologies wants to be sure that the tools they have are as up to date as possible. Yet, no matter how hard we try, it seems that last year's tools are headed for the storage closet before we know it.

If only we could anticipate “the next big thing,” we could make better technology decisions. Far from the arcane art of gazing into crystal balls, today's futurists use a variety of approaches to see if a new device or capability is a fad or a long-term trend.

This dynamic presentation, based on a doctoral level course on the topic, shows a variety of lenses through which technologies can be seen with the goal of identifying those that not only meet today's needs, but have the power to last. Each of the strategies described is illustrated with examples of current technologies – some of which may change the ways we learn and work. Examples aside, this session is not a laundry list of modern tools, but a description of proven strategies that let you craft your own visions of the future – visions that will make differences in the lives of those with whom you work.

Come and learn how science fiction, ideas from evolutionary biology, “wild cards,” “disruptive technologies” and the basic “laws of media” can help you the next time someone asks you about the long-term prognosis for the latest gadget to catch your eye. And, if you work in the technology industry, you should see how the forces we explore impact your own work!

The presenter, who has been called “the country's premiere educational technology futurist,” has spent a vibrant career both as a technology inventor, and proponent for the effective use of technology in education. His insights inform leaders in education and corporations from small start-up companies to members of the Fortune 500.

Hone your skills as a futurist, and watch an exciting world unfold before your eyes!