Since 2013, the 3rd - 5th Graders at Truckee Elementary School and I have benefitted from the fortune of receiving a grant that brought WeDo Lego Construction Kits into the Technology Lab. This project continues to allow students to learn about computer programming by creating with their hands several different Lego Models with motors and sensors, by working collaboratively with another student to program their model, and being a problem solver with a new technical device. I'd like to extend this learning by using some of the new and amazing products that have come onto the market in the last 4 years with the younger students.
Collaboratively Coding with Critters with allow small groups of students from Kindergarten to 3rd Grade to successfully support one another and to have fun while learning how to code! I am requesting a few different technical "critters" where students will work together with their peers in small groups (3-4 students per group) to complete given tasks with their critters. Students will not only work with robots, they will work with puzzles and then be given the opportunity to apply the knowledge gained and put it to use with a coding program (Scratch, Jr. and Scratch). After collaboratively working together and problem solving how to get their critter from one place to another or by having their critter do something (i.e. complete a task), students will be encouraged to work together in creating new tasks for their critter to complete.
There are many benefits of the Collaboratively Coding with Critters project. First of all, students are just going to love working with the robots and learning how to make them move and complete tasks! These devices may be intimidating to some students at first, but they will then become very empowered and more confident with themselves once they learn how easy it can be to learn and how fun, and funny, it can be to make mistakes. This project could possibly strike a passion in learners that they never thought they had, particularly to the students who lack of opportunity to explore coding and learning in this way by using these devices. This project could also open up the leadership skills in students as they take the lead role in putting the robots together, helping solve a problem working with their peers, and in wanting to do more than the given tasks and extending their learning.
As we prepare students for 21st Century Learning Skills we need to allow students to apply their learning in different environments through different avenues. Working with their peers in solving puzzles, completing tasks, creating using their hands, accepting failure or mistakes and communicating are skills that this project only encourages. Students will most likely be disappointed when this unit ends and will want more which will lead to more online coding programs, games and languages. Coding - a language of the present that we need to encourage for the future in our youth.
Over the years I have been reading from several ed tech publications (Edutopia, THE Journal, Tech & Learning) the need for our students to be problem solvers, to not be afraid to make mistakes, to take risks, work with others, etc. The highest order of thinking in Bloom's Taxonomy is creating. Through this project, Collaboratively Coding with Critters, students will be applying these skills and more. The success of this program relies mostly with giving exposure to these "critters"/devices, opening the world of programming to the students and encouraging them to pursue their passions, be it possibly computer science! Students are always excited about working collaboratively with the WeDo Lego's program and I see this one being more requested due to the nature of the amazing robots. Prior to starting this project I will ask the students what they know about coding, robots, and computer science. I will write down what the students say in Kindergarten and 1st Grades and will have the 2nd Graders write their responses. After the unit I will ask the students the same questions and I'm confident that students will know and will give more details as to what can be done when we finish with this unit.
Currently the 3rd - 5th Graders have used the WeDo Lego's Construction program for at least a month in the Tech Lab. My plan is to incorporate the Collaboratively Coding with Critters project into my curriculum schedule for at least a month with the younger students. This project will not only extend the learning of coding and computer science to the younger students at Truckee Elementary School but also allow them to work in pairs and small groups with their peers. Students will be exposed to each coding "critter" and will then be given the opportunity to work with it in pairs or small groups that will rotate during every Tech session.
My plan is to document the learning by taking pictures and video taping the students during the rotational centers. At the end of the project I will then post the learning on a website that will be connected to my TES Tech Projects website. This way I will have a url to share with my technology teaching colleagues who may want to expand upon their programs at their schools.
If for some reason the prices quoted go up the Measure A Tech fund could cover the overage.
Excited about possibly opening the eyes and world of programming in an interactive and constructive unit with the younger aged students at Truckee Elementary. Thank you for the opportunity to seek funding to help fund this project!