About the Author:
Cory Roffey is a school based Instructional Coach in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He has coached in a variety of educational settings from Kindergarten to Grade Nine. He holds a MEd in Elementary Education from the University of Alberta and has a particular interest in supporting teachers as they explore educational technology and constructivist practices. You can follow Cory on twitter @coryroffey
KIBO can wear many hats… literally (with the art platforms) and figuratively J. Students can use KIBO as a tool to think with, as a platform to make and invent, and as a medium to share the knowledge and understandings they have constructed, but over the past few months I have had the privilege of working with two teachers at St. Pius X School as they explored how KIBO can strengthen cooperation and collaboration skills. After providing their kindergarten and grade one students with initial experiences working in a small group to code KIBO, the teachers noticed that not all students had their hands and minds fully engaged as they programmed. After some professional dialogue they came up with the idea of scaffolding the collaboration using ‘KIBO JOB CARDS’.
The KIBO JOB CARDS divide the ‘work’ of coding KIBO into four distinct tasks or ‘jobs’. There is the CODER who is in charge of clicking the blocks together (the whole group collaborates on what the code should be), the SCANNER who scans the actual blocks of code, the CHECKER who makes sure the green light comes on with each scan, and finally a Button PUSHER who makes sure the button is flashing green and pushes the button to run the code (they also are in charge of clapping if that block is used).
After introducing and briefly explaining each job, students were given a choice in which job they would like to begin with. If too many students chose a certain job the teacher facilitated a discussion about how they groups would be uneven and we would have too many people doing the same job. During the course of the discussion students volunteered to switch jobs and even out the groups. Once the groups were set the students went to work coding KIBO each completing their specific job. In reflection and discussion, the teachers found that the cards raised the level of engagement in the task and allowed everyone in the group to contribute to the task.
The high level of student engagement fostered by KIBO, combined with the hands on nature of the tasks and the elements of problem solving presented by the coding blocks make KIBO an excellent tool to build collaboration skills in students …and it is fun to decorate and put hats on!
About the School:
St. Pius X Elementary school is located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Our school is made up up 300+ students from age 4-12. The teachers at St. Pius regularly use coding and robotics to uncover curriculum and support students in strengthening learning competencies such as collaborating, problem solving, thinking critically etc.
This blog post comes to us from Cathy Dohn, a passionate educator and maker in Edmonton Catholic Schools. To see more of Cathy's influential educational posts please also visit https://catherined2014.wordpress.com/
I love giving my students an opportunity to make things. I have maker bins in my classroom – Lego, Knox, Playdough, marble runs and all sorts of other things that involve them working together to problem solve, collaborate and just figure things out. However, I am also lucky enough to have not only one unit, but two, in my grade 3 science curriculum – “Building with a Variety of Materials” and “Testing Materials and Designs” where they are challenged to build something in the classroom and then test their design to see how it worked.
Last year my grade partners took a chance on a crazy idea I had and we had a giant cardboard arcade unit. (you can read about the experience here – Our Cardboard Arcade Journey) It was honestly a great project based learning activity and both my students and I learned a lot from it.
So when the time came around this year, there wasn’t much debate as to whether we would do this project again. It was more how could we improve it. The students were actually chomping at the bit to start – it was one of the first questions my students asked when they walked into the classroom, were they were going to be allowed to build their own arcade games this year too. (they had remembered going to the gym and playing them last year). So it was funny how quickly they all hit the ground running with this project.
Many started looking at YouTube videos to get ideas, many talked about how they had seen games they liked last year and were going to make them better this year. And they were correct in those statements – the quality of the games my students came up with this year were more better than last year. We gave the students the same parameters in our expectations. Their games had to be firstly functional – potentially over 150 people would be playing their games by the time the afternoon was done so it needed to be in good enough shape to play. Next the game had to be sturdy – and we had long discussions as to what this word actually meant. This was something that quite a few of the students found challenging this year – many of them thought that if they added more duct tape, then the sturdiness factor would just come. The “less is more” conversation came up more than once during the unit. But in the reflections after the build, quite a few talked about how they would have done things differently when it came to making their games sturdy so this was a good learning experience. The last piece was the extra add on -making their game eye catching so that it stood out from the crowd of over 60 games that would be in the gym. It was again a great learning moment when some realized that they themselves could be the eye-catching piece – that if they played their games or called friends over to try, that could be the catalyst that got people to come play their game versus another one.
I will warn you that while this unit is an amazing learning experience – it is not for the faint at heart. My room was a mess of cardboard, boxes, tubes, tape, glue and much more for over a month. I had to give up control of the room and just be willing to be okay with the organized chaotic mess (which was hard at times, I will not lie). But again the end result was I had students that were engaged and excited about their learning. The ones who found things easy in some areas (reading, writing) were challenged by bringing their design to life. Quite a few the design had to change because what they had on paper did not translate to real life. Some had to persevere because their designs did not pass the sturdiness test and there were quite a few back to the drawing boards for some. But I saw student after student digging in and being willing to try, even those who if this activity involved doing it on paper would have given up long before.
On that final day when we had masses of students running around the gym trying out games the students had built, I saw happy and excited faces. I saw quiet students coming out of their shells to talk about how to play their games. I saw students who might not have been the best writers beaming because grade 6 boys were excited to play the game they had designed and built. For me, the best moment came when one of my more challenging boys in my class came to life because his dad had taken the time to stop by for half an hour to see his game. The memory of the smile that lit up his face will be one that I tuck away in my own memory box.
And that is why projects like this are important. Why being willing to give up control and let my students just build, make a mess and figure things out is essential. When we do these things we give our students meaningful learning experiences that they will remember. And isn’t that at the heart of what we are hoping to do in the classroom??