This term our grade 7 students are participating in the Investigate! Invent! Innovate! project (I3). The I3program is “a free experiential learning program that empowers Grade 7 and 8 students to identify a real-life problem and invent a solution in the classroom using science, technology, engineering, arts and math. The program culminates in an Invention Convention where students showcase their inventions to the public” (The Learning Partnership).
In many ways the Investigate! Invent! Innovate! project shines a light on the degree to which our students have increased their critical thinking skills as well as their communication, collaboration and creativity skills which we have focused on this year through our TLLP project. Most importantly however, participation in the project has reinforced the importance of teaching these 21st Century Skills. It has also highlighted thenew role of the teacher as the Lead Learner.
What we have learned so far in the process of implementing the I3project.
To become an Innovator takes dedication and team work!
Students need to be able to: Communicate, Think Critically and Collaborate. All these skills need to be broken down and modeled through authentic learning opportunities.
Teachers do not have to know everything. Modeling “How to Learn” is more important. The use of technology, like any skill, needs to be taught through teacher/peer modelling and student investigation.
The I3 Project
The project began with teachers and students creating teams. The students first identified their strengths and then interviewed other students regarding their skills. The goal was to use the information from the interviews to create well-rounded project teams where each team member contributed a unique skill set.
What students needed to be able to do to complete the task:
Identify their skills and give examples
Identify key points
Use appropriate body language
Be an Encourager
Once groups were formed students needed to identify their “real world” problem. This was the most challenging part of the project for most teams. Being able to define a problem and break it down into manageable steps took a great deal of work. Below is an expert of a conversation that one team had as they worked through their problem.
1. Teacher: What is your team’s problem?
Student: “There are homeless people who need money and we could create an APP like “Go Fund Me” to help raise money”.
2. Teacher: Why do they need money?
Student: “They are homeless and don’t have a place to live”.
3. Teacher: Do you know what the causes of homelessness are?
(Student research was completed on the question).
4. Teacher: From your research I see that people who are homeless live in poverty. Do students in our school live in poverty?
5. Teacher: What might poverty look like for our students/families?
Student: “They can’t afford food, uniforms or school supplies”.
6. Teacher: Is this a problem that you would like to find a solution to?
7. Teacher: Can you narrow it down to one of the three aspects that you talked about?
Student: “We could look at uniforms”.
8. Teacher: We already sell used uniforms. Is this already a solution?
Student: “No, sometimes students don’t know how to get the uniforms”. Can we create an APP that shows students what is for sale?.
9. Teacher: You will have to be willing to do a lot of research to learn how to create an APP. I can help you.
The pictures below illustrates one team’s thought process as they narrowed down their area of investigation.
The skills of communication, critical thinking and collaboration are key 21st Century Skills. They need to be taught in the context of authentic learning situations. The I3 project gives teachers the resources that they need to ensure that students are successful. Understanding the skills necessary to be 21st century innovators and the willingness to be the Lead Learner is the new role of the classroom teacher.
December was a very busy month in the Intermediate Division. As we look back over the month three themes consistently emerged:
Computational Thinking is everywhere. The opportunities to integrate Computational Thinking and Coding into our curriculum are endless!
The student practices outlined in the program “Computer Science Discoveries-Code.org” (problem solving, persistence, creativity, collaboration and communication) continue to develop with the use of authentic learning experiences.
The teacher as the “Lead Leader” in collaboration with others is essential in the integration of Coding and Computational Thinking. Team planning and Team Teaching are key.
1. Computational thinking is everywhere. The opportunities to integrate Computational Thinking and Coding into our curriculum are endless!
We kicked off Computer Science Week by hosting Code.org’s Signature Scratch Event (The Dance Party) with Canada Learning Code. Sixty-Five students from our Family of Schools joined us. Throughout the day students participated in workshops that included code.org’s “Dance Party”, Canada Learning Code Activities as well as participating in activities using the Micro: bit from the Living Space project.
Participating in the “Living Space Project” has given students the opportunity to look closely at the environmental factors that impact human health. By learning to program the Micro: bit students have been able to collect data about their learning environment and reflect on the impact these conditions have on their learning.
Our data collection Centre
Students collected data three times a day over a one-week period using our class sensor and our micro: bit.
Hosting our Kindergarten students for a morning of cookie decorating, storytelling and card making in SCRATCH was a huge success. This activity gave students the opportunity to demonstrate what they know using SCRATCH as well as focus on their team work and problem-solving skills.
2. The student practices outlined in the program “Computer Science Discoveries” (problem solving, persistence, creativity, collaboration and communication) continue to develop with the use of authentic learning experiences.
In the worksheet below the student reflects on the “communication” and “group work skills” that they demonstrated while working with their kindergarten buddy. The highlight of the morning was creating a “Holiday Card” using SCRATCH.
In the SCRATCH screen shots the student demonstrates persistence in completing several revisions before publishing their final copy of their game in SCRATCH.
The first draft of the game instructions.
The second draft of the game instructions after feedback.
The final version of the instructions.
3.The teacher as the “Lead Leader” in collaboration with others is essential in the integration of Coding and Computational Thinking. Team planning and Team Teaching are key.
Team Teaching and Planning Unit 1 Activities in the Computer Science Discoveries program (Code.org).
We may not have all the answers but as we move into the next phase of our project we know for sure we are on the right track!
Problem Solving, Algorithms and Unexpected Outcomes
In week three students were asked to develop a procedure or algorithm for sorting 4-8 cards efficiently with the cards ordered from smallest to largest. The goal was to “collaboratively develop and iteratively improve an algorithm for processing information based on given constraints” (Lesson 6 Unit 1 CS Discoveries, Code.org).
What we thought… students would come up with algorithms that ranged in level of efficiency.
What Actually Happened…for many students the process of creating an algorithm never got off the ground. When approaching the task several students tried once or twice and then gave up. It became apparent, during the problem solving process, that the way students responded to setbacks was an indicator of their success. Students who persevered ultimately came up with an algorithm that worked.
Where do we go from here?.......If we identify and name successful problem solving behaviors and attitudes will resiliency increase?
Student Reflections on Problem Solving, Resiliency and developing Algorithms.
What problems did you encounter when completing the task?
What did you do when you encountered the problem?
Did you feel you were successful with this task?
Two different student approaches – two different outcomes
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.
The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas Edison
Teaching the Problem Solving Process (unplugged) with Unit One's "Boat Making Challenge" introduced Algorithms to students - An exciting set of core practices also began to emerge - Persistence, Creativity, Collaboration and Communication.
CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards
AP - Algorithms & Programming
1B-AP-08 - Compare and refine multiple algorithms for the same task and determine which is the most appropriate.
1B-AP-11 - Decompose (break down) problems into smaller, manageable subproblems to facilitate the program development process.
1B-AP-16 - Take on varying roles, with teacher guidance, when collaborating with peers during the design, implementation and review stages of program development
Our first step toward understanding how to Integrate Computer Science Activities (CS Discoveries - Code.org) into the grade seven and eight Science and Math curriculum -
"As the lead learner, your role shifts from being the source of knowledge to being a leader in seeking knowledge. The lead learner’s mantra is: “I may not know the answer, but I know that together we can figure it out.” (Code.org, Computer Science Discoveries 2018).