Thursday, April 30, 2015

No computer lab? STEAM to the rescue!

As we all know, sometimes PARCC testing can cause a mixup to our weekly routine schedules. In my case, that meant losing my computer lab due to it having to be used by classes for PARCC. Boy, I can't wait until my buildings are fully 1:1 next year!

While I may have been disappointed to lose my lab at first, it was one of the best things that could have happened for my classes! Not only was I able to push into their learning environment, which I rarely have time to visit with my schedule, but I was able to dive into more STEAM based activities as I became the traveling technology teacher for 3 weeks.

So what did I exactly have up my sleeves? 4 weeks of fun that not only challenged students, but focused on team work and reflection!

I began by introducing the challenges to the students with an iMovie. My video reviewed the meaning of STEAM, but then had short videos announcing the resources we would be using during this time. This really sparked their interest and their level of excitement began to rise.

Students were broken into groups of 5. I allowed them to pick their groups because I've always been a firm believer that the choice helps students stay motivated. Since we were without digital devices during these few weeks, I printed reflection packets that were handed out to each group. Yes, I know....I PRINTED! I felt out of my comfort zone standing at the copy machine prepping for this lesson when I try really hard to remain paperless.

Getting back to the excitement.....the students were to complete rotations between 4 different STEAM based activities.

1. Architecture Challenge - non-digital hands on problem solving (this one rotated weekly)
2. Big Sphero 6 - students learned how to navigate and build obstacles for our new Spheros.
3. Makey Makey - students shared 2 Makey Makey kits to connect and create.
4. littleBits - using electronic circuits to accomplish a variety of challenges

Not only were students rotating activities each week, but they were also rotating leadership positions within their group. One thing I've noticed throughout the year, was that teamwork was something that needed a focus, encouraging more collaboration and sharing of ideas.

Each group received a labeled envelope with an activity direction sheet enclosed. For the most part, there weren't too many directions to the activities, more so starters to push each group to explore without requiring a teacher to walk them through.

Overall, I'm glad I took the time to plan all of this out. My students and faculty enjoyed the change in instruction. This also opened the door for students being aware of the resources we have for them to explore further during our Innovation Lab (20% time).

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Introduction to SketchUp

In my previous posts documenting the journey of our 3D printing education, I discussed the methods I used for discovering and providing some background knowledge to students on our printer.

My 4th graders were incredibly excited to begin learning the 3D design software on our desktop computers. After completing a lot of research, and talking to our district office, I narrowed it down between Tinkercad and SketchUP. I've been familiar with SketchUP from previous projects when I used the software for my students to complete a math project a few years back, and ultimately that was the software we agreed upon to use with our intermediate students for our Makerbot Replicator Mini.

When it came down to introducing the software to my 4th graders, I knew one of the most important things I needed to do was give my students time to PLAY! Before introducing my students to the first couple of tools, I just gave them 15 minutes to explore. Not only does this get some of the curiosity out of their system, but we know that this generation of students learn best by exploring. Once their exploration time was completed. I gave them their first challenge, which consisted of creating some basic geometric 3D shapes. You can grab your own copy, HERE.

The following week, I introduced another challenge in class. Most of my students had even returned announcing how they downloaded the education software at home with their family! For week 5's lesson, my students had more creativity to create, but they had to incorporate more tools and demonstrate what they had learned from the first 3D challenge. I was blown away by what my students were creating. They definitely exceeded my expectations! This made me extremely excited for their 3D project that would be introduced after spring break. Grab your free copy of my 2nd challenge, HERE.

Happy designing!