What if instead of just watching students spend too much time using apps on their mobile devices, we create a way to make those passive moments active learning experiences?
In the continuing effort of the Digital Literacy program to develop creative makers out in school, students from Gr. 9-10 learned about using the App Inventor. With App Inventor — a joint project of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab and Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory — anyone can build an app for an Android phone just by using a web browser and either a connected phone or an emulator.
It was a surprise what students were able to create out of the programs. Apps created ranged from a basketball game (which I discovered was similar to Facebook’s hidden game on messenger), quiz game for kids, mini golf game, to space game. One pair was able to create a game suited for one of the family’s food business. Another created a Choose Your Own Adventure kind of game. There is just endless possibilities with the App Inventor.
However, more than seeing students take ownership of their learning, observing how they have developed critical thinking skills and being engaged in what they were doing were more than enough reason to using this tool.
Here are snapshots of student creations:
This second semester, sixth graders embarked on developing their coding skills with a visually computing programming language called Scratch. Developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Scratch (http://scratch.mit.edu) makes it easy to create interactive art, stories, games and simulations and be able to share these creations online.
After a week of teacher-guided learning sessions with students, the succeeding lessons were taught by students themselves. The class was divided into groups and each group was assigned a set of blocks to teach and demonstrate to the rest of the class. While it was difficult to let go of the reigns in the classroom, the tasks proved to be more rewarding for students as they took ownership of their learning. It gave them a sense of responsibility that the rest of the class will only be able to understand the different blocks in Scratch if they teach them well.
Students learned to create animated stories with accompanying sound effects, through the use of motion, looks, sounds, and pen blocks. Being able to immediately see the output of writing codes or putting Scratch blocks together, students become aware that computer science or coding is not just a professional thing anymore. Programming is now something everybody can do to express creativity.
You may check students creations by going to their Scratch gallery online. Type http://scratch.mit.edu/users/ then add the student’s username at the end. Example: http:/scratch.mit.edu/users/janed22.
Do they? Some might say robots are just machines and, thus, cannot think. However, they have capacity to make decision based on the programs created for them. This semester, middle school continues with their robotics classes by exploring how robots think.
Robots think by sensing their environment through its sensors. A robot’s sensor is comparable to that of a human being. Robots see through their ultrasonic and light sensors; feel through the touch sensors; hear through the sound sensor; and move through their motors.
Related to this, students were taught how to systematically break down behaviors to solve robotic challenges. Creating flowcharts was a method to demonstrate this learning.