Monday, October 28, 2019

Building Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking One Block at a Time

Third grade educator Cathy Baker partnered with Cox Elementary Librarian Jamie Jensen to design a video game that determines Harriet Tubman's greatest achievement. Before students were able to create the video game Cathy designed a variety of inquiry based learning experiences in the classroom about Harriet Tubman to ensure students understood the content first. Jamie then offered Bloxels as a way for students to demonstrate their understanding of Harriet Tubman. This tool allowed the students to plan and design visuals that would come to life in the form of a video game re-enactment of important events in Harriet Tubman's life.

Before jumping right in with technology students planned a storyboard on paper with their group that focused on the character, the time period, and the trials of this historical figure. Then, students had to determine each group member's role by deciding which group member specialized in creating the character, background, and additional props and animations. All students had an active role in participating with this project but the most successful groups had high-functioning teams who were able to work together and think critically to create their finished product. Finally, one team was selected as an Expo 2019 submission and then also selected by the campus for their learning experience to be showcased at Expo 2019. The girls presented the project to families and guests who played their game and discovered firsthand how their learning guided their creation.

Clara Love Elementary GATES educatory, Kristy Schluter decided Bloxels was the perfect platform for her second grade story writing project. Students took the time to create and plan their characters, setting, and plot for their story before they turned it into a video game. Next, Kristy reached out to her campus Instructional Technologist, Jillian Phillips, to learn more about Bloxels. Jillian had seen the experience the student at Cox Elementary designed and she put Kristy in contact with the Cox Elementary gurus!! She set up a time for Clara Love’s second grade students to Zoom with Cox Elementary’s third grade experts. The third graders were able their peers in 2nd grade how to use Bloxels. Jillian also set up a Flipgrid where our Clara Love and Cox Elementary students could ask and answer questions virtually throughout the unit.

Kristy’s second grade GATES students loved every second of the design process involved with Bloxes and believed this was a wonderful learning experience!  Designing video games through Bloxesl is fun for the students and relatively easy for them to use. Students were 100% engaged and learned a lot by trial and error. Bloxels has endless options for creating intricate rooms and pathways for students who want to go above and beyond. Mrs. Schluter believes these types of learning experiences are important because they provide opportunities for students to be in control of creating the content and sharing it with an authentic audience. Students loved having so much creative freedom and the ability to see their ideas come to life in their very own video games. Both of these projects integrated elements of coding, ELA, math, and STEM into a totally student-centered PBL that combines imagination, creativity, critical thinking, technology, and problem-solving skills as they design a video game.

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