Well it has been awhile.
The blog machine takes a few weeks to come back online but I’m there now.
The next two months will be pretty intense…trying to really facilitate new learning in a unit that has already been very technologically enhanced by Mr. Matt, our innovative Ed Tech coach. I’m wondering if I shouldn’t have really done this with the Grade 1 students as I have more sway in those classes…however, I’ve got my grade 2 students at least three more extra periods a week during EAL / Foreign Language time.
I originally had wanted to use a simple machines unit as a base from which to have students explore the utility of codes and the scientific process of testing lines of code using game-like training systems offered by sites such as code.org and Code Monkey. However, I realised that such a course of instruction was probably going to be too involved for an already jam packed unit that is full of engaging hands on activities already .
What I decided to instead focus on, technologically speaking, was how apps can allow us to simulate real world conditions of force, simple machines, and work. I also want students to realise even more how they can find information they would like to use online, and how online platforms allow us share our knowledge and discoveries with others.
What do I want to achieve in this final project in terms of tech integration?
Personal Learning Networks
I would like to gain proficiency with teaching students to use online resources that act as an embryonic personal learning network. I also want them to begin to see online social media apps like Twitter as providing another “search” option in addition to using online search engines like Google and Kid Rex.
I want my students to develop these understandings that technology can help us:
- quickly get information that we want;
- find experts who can give us more information;
- discuss information with other learners;
- and add our own information to what is known about a topic.
How will we reach these understandings? As in any inquiry, I will ask students what questions they are having as we do hands on activities with various simple machines or try to perform “work” in an easier way. As students create and record these questions, we will discuss possible ways to find answers. At some point I will point students to resources such as Neo K – 12, a multifaceted website about simple machines with links to videos and elsewhere. As we find answers, we will discuss purposes for sharing our new understandings and possible forums for sharing with other classes and the world. It is my hope that students can independently begin to suggest these forums such as: blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, blog comments, etc.
I’m also hoping that students make practical choices about which applications they will use to present their findings. This year alone students have practiced using Explain Everything, blogs, Book Creator, Padlets, Google Slides, Piktochart, Bitsboard, and iPad cameras to record their understandings. Rather than forcing students to use one form of presentation software over another, I would like them to make educated choices about which ones to use based on their knowledge and comfort levels.
Technology as a simulation tool
I want to be able to teach students to use technological simulation tools in a methodical manner. I want students at each stage of learning to use simulation tools to think about and compare possible test scenarios. Can they come up with “impossible” test scenarios of various simple machines that can only be simulated rather than actually experienced? Can students vocalise why simulations are as worthwhile or more valuable than using concrete tests?
Students will use these apps and websites for simulating situations where a simple machine is necessary.
- Tiny Bop Simple Machines (for testing simple machines)
- Simple Machines on Idaho TV (for testing simple machines used in a Rube Goldberg machine)
- Chicago Simple Machines Experiment Games (for testing simple machines)
Simultaneously students will be testing out actual simple machines in our piazza. I will ask students to spend one session trying to accomplish work with the real simple machines using real objects and pulleys, inclined planes, screws, levers, wheel and axles, and wedges. I will then ask students to reflect on their learning of how these machines work.
On a consecutive day, I will ask students to use the same simple machines in a virtual environment, such as on Tiny Bop. Students will then think about and compare these experiences, reflecting on which experience, real or virtual, allowed them to test and learn from more situations.
We will then also predict what might be some situations where people actually make use of computer simulations before engaging in the real experience.
I hope, if we have time in the unit, to also make connections to what I learn in the 2017 EARCOS ETC Google Virtual Reality Academy in this unit. I am sure that using virtual reality in a simulation would have tremendous educational value.
How will I know (if they really get it)?
I will know students are making connections to the utility of computer simulations if I observe them asking questions and making hypotheses about simple machines and forces, and racing to test these on computer simulation apps in which they can add pulleys, change fulcrum locations, alter the length of levers, change the rotation of screws, and apply different amounts of force to different sized wedges. Students should also be able to observe the results of their tests, change variables, and discuss why they are doing so.
Stay tuned for how the project goes.