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Creating the Future in the FMA MakerLab

Creating the Future in the FMA MakerLab
Posted on 06/05/2015
techBy Mr. McGonegal

Computational Thinking: Coding and Robotics
The “maker movement” is alive and well at the Fletcher Maynard, as grades one through three (and fourth and fifth grade, as time away from other projects allows!) have been working hard and having a lot of fun building and programming our two new KIBO robot kits!

Working in small teams, or students first create a sequence of instructions (a program) using the wooden KIBO command blocks. They then scan the bar-coded blocks with the KIBO body to tell the robot what they want it to do; follow a path, go through a maze, or avoid obstacles. Finally, they press the single KIBO button and the robot comes alive, and performs the students’ program!

While using the KIBO robots, our students become programmers, engineers, designers, choreographers, and writers. Intuitively designed and fun to use, KIBO is based on over 15 years of research in learning technologies and child development at Tufts University.

I was able to purchase one of our kits through a grant last year, and the other was provided by our technician Michael Walsh (currently filling in for Aaron Christian) through his association with the KLO-Lesley Technology Partnership. Thanks, Mike! Both of these robots travel with me between my two schools, the Haggerty and the FMA.

Coding Classes
All of our students first through fifth grade have also been introduced to computer programming this spring, and have become avid writers and de-buggers of code! Using the wonderful website Code.org, our students are working through the elementary level courses that use a mostly visual programming language based on Scratch, the block-based language developed at MIT. Students are developing computational thinking skills such as sequencing, debugging, and looping, and are quickly becoming skilled programmers! I highly recommend the interactive activities on Code.org for “rainy day” fun for your kids this summer, and note that it also works on iPads and Android tablets. Have them show you around the site!

Building Skills and Knowledge
Here are some other happenings in the lab this spring:

First and Second Grade: Aside from building robots and learning to code, our first and second graders have also begun to learn to use the computer keyboard to write, using the fun and engaging “Dance Mat Typing” site, created by the BBC.

Third Grade: When these kids are not building robots or writing code, our third graders have been building their creativity and productivity as they practice using their new Google Drive accounts. They also have been using our wonderful web-based typing-tutor program, Typing Club, and have become much more adept at computer keyboarding this year.

Fourth Grade: Our fourth graders have been exploring the use of spreadsheets in business, as they created their own personal “Store” based on their interests. Tracking profits over time in Google Sheets, our students created beautiful, colorful spreadsheets and charts that document the success of their fictional shops. Check them out on the bulletin board next time you’re in the lab! We have now moved on to our Digital Passport unit, which is comprised of lessons around Internet safety and responsible use of technology.

Fifth Grade: We are in the thick of our media literacy unit! After scripting, producing and evaluating fifteen-second commercials advertising basic classroom materials, we are now in the scripting phase for our final projects, which will be one-minute commercials advertising a product of their own invention. Our students are having a great time learning about advertising techniques, camera operation, and digital video editing!

As you can see, it has been quite a busy spring technology-wise at FMA, and I haven’t even touched upon the wonderful ways our teachers are integrating iPads and Chromebooks in their classrooms; more on that soon!