Listen as I reflect on learning paths I chose for my 4th grade students and why I made the decision I made.
Why I chose block coding over 3D printing
I used block coding to create a marble run to go with the Virginia standards of learning on science: force, motion, and energy 4.2 and Computer Science: Algorithms and Programming 4.1. These standards can be found on the VDOE website doe.virginia.gov.
When I was planning this lesson, I thought about how my students learn and how I can help them explore and understand all the new terms that would go with this unit.
It is important to me to include multiple ways to explore a concept. Having multiple ways helps students see what they are learning in different forms, giving them a deeper understanding. Students also have different passions. When different types of activities are part of learning about a concept, students may be more motivated and excited about learning.
I also like having students work in groups. My students love to talk and explore ideas with each other. Working in groups give them this opportunity. They can also learn from each other.
When I was deciding on how to create this lesson, I looked at lots of different ideas. I saw a class had designed ramps using a 3D printer on http://airwolf3d.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/3.-PythagoreanTheorem.pdf. I thought that was neat and students love 3D printers these days. My own son can’t get enough of it. He is even doing a research project on 3D printing. The problem is that I don’t have a 3D printer and the school does not have a 3D printer. I would have to sign up at the library to use theirs. It doesn't seem feasible for me to use the library’s 3D printer. I have questions like, how much time will it take (I know when they 3D printed a small clip shark it took 45 minutes.), would I need larger groups because of the time (larger groups means less ramps), and would it be easier to just use recycled materials to build ramps? I also saw a balloon powered 3D printed car from https://www.nwa3d.com/printlab-classroom-force-and-motion-with-a-balloon.html. I myself would want to have fun with it. The same questions as before came up. However, could I use balloons in a different way? When I think of the balloons, I think of the germs. What if someone got their balloon mixed up with someone else’s balloon. What if they shared balloons even after I spoke to them about not doing this. What if their balloon went flying sending spit everywhere.
After deciding the direction of 3D printing was not for me, I decided to look at block coding. Block coding is not new to the students. They could probably even teach me a thing or two. What might be new to the students is using block coding for a purpose. When I first started with block coding, I had the idea of using it to demonstrate the terms that go along with force, motion, and energy. I was thinking I would have a car go down and up different slopes and hills while I talked about what was going on. Maybe have a recording that went with it or words that popped up. I was struggling with the program and walked away. That is when the idea of a marble run popped in my head. Using marble runs for teaching may not be a new idea, but adding block coding in for students to plan and design their ideas and show what they think will happen is, at least as far as I know. Combining the two ideas also reach those students that have a love and strength in electronics and those students that have a love and strength in hands on design and creating. This would be like my son and I working together. He with the coding and I with the hands on creating. In fact when I was working on the block coding, I had him sitting next to me so that I could talk about it and work it out with an “expert.” Even though I wanted to skip the tutorials and get started, I found out I needed them and they helped my understanding a lot. I will be showing my students how to find these and watch them. I think it would actually be a good idea to have them view