Friday, May 9, 2014

Virtual Lego??? Grade 1 Science-Building Things

Grade 1's love the Science unit, "Building Things". This year I tried Lego building with a twist of technology. Through google apps I found a Lego Builder app. It is a great app that allows students to use their imagination in a new way. My end goal was to have each child build a structure that had a purpose. I wanted it to be open ended to allow for students choice.

To begin I had to get the app on each of my students users. This was labour intensive for me and my EA because I did this in October when they were still learning the basics of logging on. In hind site I would have had older buddies in to help or requested a few parents to help with this  or possibly log on for them and add it for them ahead of time. You decide what works best for your school community. When they were finally on I told them to explore and try to figure out how to build. It is not easy if you have a high percentage of students without experience with basic computer skills. In my case I found that my students were not willing to take a risk and try so this first lesson did not go well.

Attempt two with the Lego Builder App,  I decided to start by doing a demo on the Smartboard.  I reviewed how to find the app on the Chromebook, then I modelled the basics of how to choose, place, turn the bricks. Off we went and this went significantly better. Everyone was able to build and some took risks this time and figured out how to change the colours of the bricks. I followed this lesson with four or five exploration/ practice times.

The next step was to have our grade 3 buddies join us for building a structure for the first time. The grade 3's had not used this app so it was a great opportunity for the grade 1's to teach the basic skills to older students and then the grade 3's helped them plan a structure that had a purpose. They built bridges, cars, houses, castles, boats and an ice rink. This time I had a few partners discover that they could turn their structure to see it from all angles.

Finally we were at the point where the grade 1's were going to build independently! I added a little more motivation by letting them know that I was not the only one who was going to see their work. We were going to make a YouTube movie showing their work and recording them describing their structure. Now we added the complication of needing to save their work so they could go back over a number of classes. This became a bit of a challenge. Students need to go to sign in to Publish your design. To do this students go to the top right of the Lego Builder App where it says sign in. They then have to enter their G-mail and password. They then click sign in with Google and are prompted to enter it all again. It is a bit tedious but most of my students were able to follow step by step and complete this independently. They then will need to hit save periodically as I found with all of the students working at the same time it would freeze and they would lose their work. They learned quickly to save every couple of minutes.

The products they built were creative and when making the movie we found a lot of them had created a story that went with their structure. To make the You Tube video I used the You Tube Capture App on my phone and recorded each child's segment. They had their structure on the Chrome book and then they manipulated to show what they made and what it's purpose was. Some described what it was and how they made it. Some told a story about what was happening. Some reflected on what they liked the most and what challenges they had while using the app. I then had Chrome books set up at the Celebration of Learning and parents watched the video of their child's work.

To improve this project for next year I would have limited the speaking time for each student as the final product had to split into two parts. I would have provided time for them to practice speaking to a partner about their structures so they had louder voices.

What I loved about making this movie as their presentation of their learning, is that students who would not have been able to reflect in a written form were provided success. All students were excited and engaged in trying their best. This open ended task resulted in some traditional looking structures and some very creative structures and this allowed for greater success.

I have shared a link to part 1 of Grade 1 Builds below.