My semi-regular column This Week in the Classroom is back! I have accepted a position in a small, mostly rural school district just outside of Northern Virginia. It’s great to be in the classroom again, bringing project-based learning to new audiences.
I am teaching middle schoolers, all levels. Middle school is a great age to teach, despite some of the unique challenges the students pose. Students can really make connections, find passions and dive deep into a project. They are about as creative as they ever will be and watching a kid’s creative power light up is just something cool. Middle school is also a fraught time for many young people, making the classroom a place of great promise and great worry.
Here’s my current greatest hits list of web tools, software platforms and services I like to use in my Tech Ed/Maker Classroom.
The last five years have seen an explosion in Maker Edu-themed products geared for the younger set. Young kids make enthusiastic makers. They love challenging puzzles, approachable crafts and as long as you put flames on it, they think everything you do is amazing! What’s not to love about teaching the pre-K through 3rd grade set?
Little makers also need encouragement, support and developmentally-appropriate materials to be successful. Many of us think Makers means 3D printers, microcontrollers and fancy toys. Young makers will feel left out (though amazed) at all those cool gizmos and flashy parts because the concepts, skills and tools are all too complex. Instead, we can broaden our definition of making (to include art, crafts, woodworking, cooking and more) while developing technology tools that teach at their level. Technology tools can empower our children through exploration and discovery.
Robot Turtles and the BeeBot/BlueBot are two MakerEd platforms you can use to promote foundational computer science concepts and coding skills to the very young learners.