This is the latest in a series of blogs from the teacher cohort.
By Sue Mellon
As teachers, we teach a curriculum and we teach students. In order to maximize student learning, we need to understand individual learner strengths and interests. What I learn about my students is predicated on what I do with my students.
In 1983, Howard Gardner published his book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. While the debate wages whether some domains are non-cognitive abilities or personality traits, research on this idea continues through Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
For me, this notion of multiple intelligences or MI is inspiration for variety in my unit planning. In the marathon otherwise known as a school year, it is easy to fall into the habit of verbal work alone. While the need to speak, write, and read is vital, other types of tasks provide valuable insights.
Our unit was exploring the notion of “all kinds of leaders” and to this end we read about leaders in science, social justice, education as well as government. This definitely was verbal work. This “world of words” continued as each student selected a leader to research. Our final goal was to learn camera and video editing skills as each student “portrayed” their researched leader. As I contemplated student mastery of researched facts, the sense that the unit needed variety was overwhelming. To create an opportunity for natural repetition of information, the students created robotic dioramas to highlight some of their research before starting their portrayal task.
The clips below are just snippets of the projects. The shortest clip is four seconds and the longest clip is 33 seconds. The students are in second and third grade. After each clip, you will learn what I learned through this work that required art, construction and computer programming.
Shaquille O’Neal was the subject of this project and someone who has been admired by my student for a long time. Conversations during this hands on work showed that this student has a great love for all sports. The crowd noises that you heard at the beginning of this video were an original idea by the student and he was quite independent in locating a “wav” file online for downloading to the desktop in order to upload into the computer program.
Amelia Earhart was this researched leader and a very fitting topic for this student. Amelia Earhart was goal driven and this is my student. She is always ready to learn something new. Her ability to master something is quick and I find that I always need to overplan so that I am never short-changing her. Her programming reflects her style. It included everything concisely: a sensor start, use of a servo, use of a motor, and using a “loop” function to make the lights blink and the plane “fly.”
(Note: We experimented with other ways to attach construction paper and small objects to robotic components, but in the end we resorted back to hot glue. Since the students were young, we had a single adult-operated glue gun. The students would point to where they wanted a glue glob and the glob was monitored until it cooled.)
Neil Armstrong is represented with this project and his rocket ship is front and center spinning on a motor. This student loves building things and tinkering with mechanisms. I have used Arts & Bots for years with middle school students and I was amazed how quickly this third grader was able to organize a motor hanging underneath a box to turn the rocket. Additionally, he was the only student to chose a potentiometer as his sensor for starting the computer program. I think that turning a knob felt more mechanical to this student.
As many Pittsburghers may know, Art Rooney was in an elevator and missed the immaculate reception of the 1972 AFC divisional playoff game. The student created white box represents the elevator. The “elevator” was the result of several design iterations. In addition to prevailing through multiple designs, this student fell victim to a variety of technology problems beyond his control. He never lost his positive attitude.
This very quiet young man puts himself out to the world through the visual images that he creates. It was important to him that each star had two lights. Since the hummingbird microcontroller has only six ports for lights, we had to put two LEDs in four of the ports. He has fine motor control beyond his years and was able to twist the wiring for two LEDs together and make them fit into the port. His artist eye is everywhere in this creation. He very carefully cut an orange pipe cleaner and glued it to the bottom his rocket to represent fire.
Video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto is front and center in this diorama as he has a nerf gun battle with my student. This student values the people in his life. After researching Shigeru Miyamoto, my student really liked what he learned. My student invites everyone that he likes to a nerf gun battle. This project was created with detailed and unique programming. A little pocket of black construction paper is holding a LED and a light sensor. When the LED is lit, the sensor is triggered. This student loves practicing programming skills on both SCRATCH and code.org.