This is 'Iolani School

This is 'Iolani School

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

First Grade Communicates with Light

At the end of the spring semester, first graders come into the Lab to learn about and create with light and sound. Using two units from the Engineering is Elementary program out of the Science Museum-Boston, students learn about light and sound. As a culminating project, we have developed a way for students to communicate with each other.

After discussing the Morse Code system and S-O-S (which almost all the children were familiar with) we come up with a list of common words and a code system of long and/or short light bursts. Next, using breadboards, batteries, LEDs, momentary switches and jumper wires we create a simple circuit. Most of the circuit is made when the students get to class, but they are responsible for finishing up the connections so their light will work.

Next, the students are put in pairs and are given paper and pencil. They come up with a question using the words on the board and try to communicate that question to their partner. Once the partner things they know what is being asked, the partner responds with an answer. They each take turns asking and answering a question.

We finish by talking about how we created a communication system and how today, we also use similar ways to communicate using symbols like emojis or text short hand (like LOL). I different years, we also do a communicate with sound system where the students use 2 different sound combinations to communicate with their partner. For this exercise, they are given a list of words, but working as a pair, have to come up with a system that they agree upon and use that to communicate with each other.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

It's SEV (Space Exploration Vehicle) Time Again

One of the highlights of the school year for 3rd grader students is the study of "Space". Under the expert direction of our 3rd grade science teacher Ms. Warner, students spend almost the whole second semester learning, researching, writing, planning, designing, creating, things that have to do with space. The culmination of the unit is the creation of their exploration vehicles.

After the students research and make a poster of a planet, star, solar system, space anomaly, scientist, astronaut, etc., they start planning and designing their SEV. If they researched a place to visit, then their SEV has to visit that place. If they picked a person to research, then they pick a place their SEV can visit. From their, students follow the design process to imagine and plan their SEV.

This year, part of the research process included using AR (Augmented Reality). Mike Fricano from the Educational Technology Integration Specialist, introduced the students to "Spacecraft 3D" an app from the NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. This app allowed the student to look and manipulate actual SEVs on their iPads.

 Next the students go through a collection of recyclables and the creating starts.

Once the SEVs are done, they are given a spray of paint. Next piece of old electronics can be added thanks to the "Take-apart Club" that takes apart old computers, printers, etc. After that, some of the SEVs are connected to the computer via a MakeyMakey. The students write an interactive program using Scratch and the whole project gets put on display in the Lower School Library.

We are once again this year going to have some of these talented, creative 3rd graders display their SEVs at this summers Mini Maker Faire on June 23rd here at 'Iolani in the Sullivan Center For Innovation and Leadership between noon and 5pm. If you are in the Honolulu area, please come over and see them in person.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Job Posting: Lower School Design Lab Teacher @ 'Iolani School

I will be relocating my family back to the Mainland (the Dallas/Fort Worth area) this summer and because the commute would be a pain, I have sadly stepped down from my position here at 'Iolani.

If you have ever thought about teaching in Paradise (both a place to live and place of work), the Lower School (K-6) Design Lab Teacher job is now posted at

The school year isn't over and I'll be teaching all summer, so check back to see what our kids are doing.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. 

Much Aloha!
Matthew Dillon

Thursday, April 26, 2018

What's Been Going On In The Lab Since The Last Time You Looked In?

Here are some things that we've been "making" since the last time you looked into the Lab. 

Our first graders needed to have a solid white background for a picture they were putting up outside their classrooms. We didn't have any that that would work the way they wanted, so we pulled out the green screen. Snap a picture, edit out the green, put in a white picture and the first part was done.

The idea for this project was for the students to come up with a pose that represented something they were "dreaming" about. They worked with the dance teacher on coming up with the pose. Once we had the pictures of their pose, the students decorated them and put them outside their classrooms.

This semester our 4th graders took their annual trip to the Big Island. For the second year they used Inkscape and the laser cutter to create a 3D topographical map out of wood. Last year, all we had them do was type in the places they were going to visit. This time around, we had them trace the lines of elevation, which got them more involved in the whole creation process. 

In our after-school making class, students were challenged to design and create a marble maze using either the laser cutter or the 3D Printer. They came up with some really cool designs.
We took their making to another level when we challenged them to create a maze using Scratch. After looking at some examples of "maze code" and a few "How-To" videos, the students made some amazing mazes.

The after-school circuit class continued to design and create their own circuit boards, only this time the boards were sewable. A battery holder, resistor, and switch is what they needed, along with a few "connected" holes.

These final few months of school also has us in the 3rd grade science class helping students create their SEVs (Space Exploration Vehicles) out of recycled material. After they get all done, we are going to have them write a program with Scratch that will interact with their SEVs via MakeyMakeys. They are just beginning, so check back to see what they create.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Teach Tech Play: Australia Educators Are Doing It Right

I recently returned from Melbourne, Australia and the Teach Tech Play Conference. Started a few years ago, "TeachTechPlay is a professional learning community inspiring learning through empowerment and connection." The conference is billed as, "two days of conversation, inspiration and practical strategies to enhance the teaching and learning in your classroom or school."

The conference was that and so much more. Over the course of the two days, there were 3 great keynote speakers, numerous sessions to attend and an ending student keynote. I met a lot of talented educators and returned home with my head full of things to try and a renewed excitement for the remaining days of school. Here are a couple of the highlights for me:

Keynote speakers...
Kasey Bell: "Learning happens in the messiness."
Emily MacLean: "Courageous change is a mindset."
Tom Barrett: "We should be students of innovation."

Sessions attended...
3D Paint and Mixed Reality with Windows 10 with Trent Ray
     This is a great tool to work with and Trent did a wonderful job explaining it and get us started. Since we use Apples in here at 'Iolani, I hope they have a similar program. If not, I'm gonna have to get a few Windows computers.

Creativity across the curriculum areas: Stop-Motion with Cathy Hunt
     I have never tried stop-motion video before but I am hooked. My mind started swimming with ways to use this with all grade levels. The session was well run, we were engaged and I didn't want the session to end. Cathy is an amazing teacher.

Drone Coding with Ben Lannen
     Another thing I have never used is a drone. Sure I've tried my hand at Sphero and Dash & Dot but never a flying drone. Ben started by telling us how he uses drones in his class and then he got us flying. Math, cooperative learning, directionality, problem-solving, science...all happened as we tried to get this little drone to fly where we wanted. His class must be a whirl-wind of learning.

Playing with littleBits with James Colbert
     I have used littleBits a lot, but James brought some of the new sets that I had never played with. It reminded me how much fun it is to tinker with circuits. It was also great to talk to him about how they run the makerspace in his school. I love to pick the brain of talented educators like James.

Girls can do anything with Becky Glenton
     The things Becky's students are doing are wonderful...I really like the digital reporters who do a quick video review of the week. She also shared some resources like "Sum Blocks" and the "GeoFrog" app. She also told a story about the importance of going through a struggle, based on what happens to a caterpillar when it turns into a butterfly. I gotta find that book and read it to my students.

I also had the privilege to be at TeachTechPlay Conference as a presenter. I ran two sessions, one called "Intro to Maker Education" which was in a 50 minute slot. This session focused on the philosophy and rational behind maker education. The second was "All Things Maker Ed" which was a 2hour "deeper dive" into not only the why, but the how we "do" maker education at 'Iolani school.

The conference ended with some of the students from the host school (Ivanhoe Grammar) presenting apps they are designing to help students unplug from their digital devices. What a talented group of young people.

Lastly, thanks to Eleni, Steve and Corey. They did a great job in making the TeachTechPlay Conference happen...while at the same time being full-time teachers. I hope to return to TTP and would encourage any teacher wanting to bring innovation to their classroom to make your way "down under" for this event in the future.

And you don't have to wait till the 2019 conference to get in on TeachTechPlay, check out with their monthly webshow and blog. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

6th Grade Medieval Faire Projects-Final Version

Here are some of the student projects for the Medieval Faire. Most of them were made in the Lab, and finished in either the art room or at home.


Signs and display boxes


Games and signs

Medieval surgical instrument


  Weapons and armor