This PRO-D at William F. Davidson Elementary was all tech-related, thanks to the new curriculum known as Applied Design, Skills, and Technologies. It was led by Zale Darnel, and staff from Apple.
The steps involved in applied design are the following: understand context (empathize); define; ideate; prototype; test; make; share. A distinction between coding and programming (for our purposes) is that coding is a higher-level and simpler language to program, such as Hopscotch, suitable for elementary students, while programming requires the use of more lower-level understanding of languages, like Java and C++.
We started with coding using iPads and BB-8 Sphero. Our goal was to work in teams and code the app to maneuver BB-8 along a predetermined route. It was a lot of fun and we took turns for each step. We found that it was difficult to be accurate and that the Sphero tended to spin and lose stability and direction at times. Still, after many attempts, we were able to reach our destination.
Next, we used Hopscotch to make a Frogger/Crossy Roads type app. The main difference now was that we didn't have a physical object to program, simply a virtual game. There is a slightly differently appeal I feel for students who are able to be totally immersed in the virtual game world, where some kids may enjoy the hands-on feel of a robot more. Still, both held similar challenges, and I think the key component was definitely testing. Trial and error seems to be norm, probably until you become more proficient at coding/programming. As with any language, spoken or otherwise, mastery of the grammar and vocabulary is critical, and with more practice and feedback, fluency is increased. Being able to persevere is another skill that would be beneficial to accomplish both of these tasks.
Finally, an even more hands-on activity was building a rocket propelled by air pressure. We all had a variety of materials and a basic starting point. After that, it was up to us how we wanted to design and build our rockets. The challenge was to build one that could travel the farthest distance. Using file folders, stiff cardboard, lots of tape and hot glue, I managed to design and build one that went 300 feet with about 90 lbs./square inch of air pressure. I didn't have the farthest (330 ft.), but I was still pleased with my rocket. I think the best part was working alongside others while still building individual rockets. Being able to prototype it and test it frequently was a bonus; although, it was difficult in the time period to really create a radically new prototype, but rather make incremental improvements and adjustments. I think at a certain point, you do need to bring more theory of flight and aerodynamics to make greater gains in improvement. Building and making is fun, but knowing why and how something works can be just as fun and a lot more useful in the long run.
All in all, a great day of hands-on experiential learning, and I look forward to implementing as much as possible in all the subject areas. That balance between theory and practice (knowledge and practical) is so important for our students.
Daniel H. Lee
This blog will be dedicated to sharing in three areas: happenings in my classroom and school; analysis and distillation of other educators' wealth of knowledge in various texts; insights from other disciplines and areas of expertise that relate and connect with educational practices.