Tag Archives: project based learning

Differentiated Instruction and TechnoKids

differentiated instruction

Every time teachers step into their classrooms, they face the evidence of the need for differentiated instruction. Each student arrives at school at a different starting point: a certain attitude of readiness for learning, an individual style of acquiring knowledge, and a distinct level of mastery of concepts. Multiply these three factors by the number of students in the classroom. The resulting figure is daunting but makes it obvious that ‘one teaching method fits all’ isn’t a practical strategy.

Differentiated instruction recognizes and supports individual differences in learning by using a variety of teaching strategies. There are so many options and resources available today that we can adjust for the diverse abilities, needs, learning styles, and interests of our students. As teachers, our goal is to optimize student growth and success at all levels of ability, not simply to achieve or reach a standardized benchmark. Teach every student.

Brain based learning studies support a variety of instructional strategies. As students make connections between what they already know and their new learning, interconnections in neural pathways are formed. As a result, information is stored in multiple areas. Meaning and retention are both enhanced.

In teaching ICT, we have lots of ways of tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. TechnoKids project-based computer lessons support differentiated instruction with student resources, teaching strategies, and assessment tools.

Process

Differentiated instruction requires that we provide a variety of learning opportunities. Students should be able to build a repertoire of tools. They can accommodate their own preferred styles of learning, as well as recognize and build skills in their individual areas of weakness.

TechnoKids project-based learning supports the process of learning using differentiated instruction:

  • Vary learning tools. Integrate technology and use the computer as an alternative and additional tool.
  • Target different senses with multiple instructional strategies. TechnoKids Student Workbooks engage students by reading written instructions, studying illustrations that support text, looking at infographics, and handling manipulatives such as TechnoKids tool flashcards. Sample files have students listen to audio and watch video. Brain based learning studies show that most of us learn best when the kinesthetic senses are used – doing, handling, building. Robotics projects prepare students to build STEM skills and support hands-on learning. TechnoKids Teacher Guides provide teaching strategies, technology integration ideas, and assessment tools.
  • Chunk material into manageable parts. TechnoKids projects are divided into smaller sessions or assignments. In this way, a complex task becomes doable.
  • Present learning tasks in graphic organizers. When students create a plan of their ideas for a an inquiry, TechnoKids projects often have them use a chart, brain storming web, or mind map to outline and develop their proposals.
  • Repeat to reinforce. Students build skills through practice, so Skill Reviews and Extension Activities allow for repetition.
  • Allow students to work at different paces. By using the pdf or print copies of TechnoKids workbooks, individual students can complete the activities on their own timeline.
  • Mix up individual and group collaboration. Individual, pair, small group, and whole class activities should all be part of classroom experiences. Flexible grouping allows students with similar learning styles to work together.

Content

Recognize that students have different levels of familiarity with concepts before a lesson is taught. Differentiate activities by designing assignments that cover various levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, from remembering (lowest level) to evaluating (highest level).

  • Give students the big picture. Most TechnoKids resource files include a number of samples of completed projects. Seeing and reviewing a finished project solution motivates students, builds interest, and provides a clear example of what is being assigned.
  • Provide a starting point. A number of TechnoKids projects, especially primary level projects, include templates. Students can focus on the technology and learning skills without getting bogged down in the less critical details of setting up a document.
  • Combine methods of instruction. Blend a mixture of teacher directed, print, video, and any other instructional techniques. This serves the purpose of both maintaining student engagement as well as appealing to diverse learning styles.

Product

The final creation or solution to an inquiry process should be interdisciplinary and open-ended. Allow students to build on their learning style strengths by offering choices. Self directed learning allows for students to work independently and develop critical skills such as organization, creativity, judgement, and persistence.

  • Build engagement by offering choices. Involve students by encouraging them to pitch their own ideas for projects. TechnoKids projects allow for creative thinking and open-ended learning experiences.
  • Offer a variety of outputs. When students are given options, they take more responsibility for their learning and become more engaged. TechnoKids projects may be a presentation, visual art, timeline, graphic story, newsletter, questionnaire, blog, interactive map, animation, and many more!
  • Provide opportunities for assorted types of assessment. TechnoKids grading tools include student, peer, and teacher checklists, rubrics, rating scales, marking sheets, and skill summaries.
  • Incorporate reflection. Summarize learning, process new learning, identify areas for improvement, and set goals. Many TechnoKids projects contain a reflection component in a final celebration of learning.

Computer Science and Technology Integration

Brain research tells us that learning really ‘sticks’ when activities are both meaningful to students as well as integrated in curriculum in an interdisciplinary approach. As well, students are motivated when they are actively discovering and investigating a problem.

computer science

Teach coding with Scratch to middle school and junior students to build computational thinking skills.

TechnoCode, the newest technology project developed by TechnoKids, was created specifically to spark an interest in computer science by engaging students. As they use Scratch to build programming skills, young learners construct a series of activities for kids. As game designers, they consider their users’ interests and abilities. They become authentic programmers who plan, code, and actually field test their unique creations.

The TechnoCode project is primarily a STEM project that teaches coding. However, the activities also integrate into other areas of curriculum including language arts, mathematics, social studies or science, visual arts, and music.

Computer Science

TechnoCode is an introduction to programming. The activities have students build algorithms that sequence commands, events, loops, and conditions. Use the project to target computer science learning outcomes. The project includes a detailed list of skills achieved in each Session, ideal as a teacher checklist for assessment.

Language Arts

The assignments in Session 1 and Session 4 can be integrated into curriculum as a language arts unit. In these assignments, students engage in visual storytelling. They create animated scenes and stories. To extend language arts learning outcomes, the concept of plot, setting, and characters is also applied when engineering games in Session 3 and 5.

Integrate coding into curriculum.

Integrate coding into curriculum.

Mathematics

Integrate TechnoCode into an existing problem-solving unit in Math class. The assignments are an ideal fit because coding requires mathematical and logical thinking. For example, placing sprites on the stage requires plotting ordered pairs, rotating objects involves knowledge of angles, and setting the size of sprites uses percentages. As well, logic is used to control when or if an action happens.

Social Studies or Science

Include The Session 4 Skill Review in TechnoCode as a creative way to showcase learning into another subject area. In this activity, students build an interactive diorama. It shows a scene from nature or a historical event that engages the viewer to click on objects to learn more. Complete the activity to have students share facts or create a simulation about a topic currently being studied. Samples provided include space exploration, tornado, and farming.

Visual Arts

Target visual arts learning outcomes with TechnoCode. Graphic design is interwoven throughout the activities. Students apply their creativity to paint or edit unique sprites and backdrops. They also apply their skills to engage the audience using visual elements. In addition, the Session 2 Extension Activity specifically has students draw artwork with a pen using code.

Music

Integrate TechnoCode into a music class. In the Session 3 Extension Activity, students invent an instrument. This activity is a fun way for students to express their musical talent.

programming

TechnoCode technology project teaches programming using graphical blocks.

Inspire your students to become coding ninjas with TechnoCode!

Add the A to STEM Education

Educators agree that STEM education is essential to prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century workforce. The skills they learn in science, technology, engineering, and math subject areas also develop vital skills necessary for success: critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, and collaboration. Although there’s quite a debate about whether the A for the arts needs to be added to STEM to make STEAM or if it’s already there inherently, it’s evident that fine arts, language, and music play a key component in a curriculum to prepare young people to face the complex challenges of the future.

steam career readiness

The Arts are a vital part of STEM education

Education Models for the Future

Traditional school curriculum segregates studies into separate subject areas. However, project-based learning is an instructional approach that blends subjects. Students are faced with an authentic, meaningful, real world challenge. And these are non-Googleable questions! Students investigate a problem and propose viable solutions in an interdisciplinary study. Technology is commonly used as a tool. Whatever skills are required to solve the problem – math, science, language arts – must be learned and mastered. Students need to be able to think innovatively, plan, create, and communicate the resulting project. Usually STEM subject areas are needed, and students build valuable job skills such as computational thinking, initiative, perseverance, and communication.

Where Do the Arts Appear?

To answer these ‘big’ project-based challenges, students need to integrate the arts. Creative thinking and design are a central part of innovation. Being able to imagine an outcome, visualize a product, or communicate an abstract idea requires artistic skills integrated with multiple STEM skills.

Here are a couple of examples of the arts integrated with STEM in the real world:

STEM Education requires the Arts

  • Product Design
    Designing an innovative product may require engineering, mathematical, and scientific problem solving. But it also needs an attractive appearance to make an emotional connection to consumers. These are artistic decisions.
  • Advertising
    When a new product is brought to the market, communication skills are essential. Advertisers excel in persuasive writing. In addition, the creation of new logos requires a knowledge of graphic design. The success of a venture often depends on artistic choices.
Arts and STEM education

Infuse the arts into STEM education.

The Arts in Computer Science

We’ve been working with Scratch recently to develop a STEM project, TechnoCode, that teaches coding skills. The students will learn programming skills as they make animations, games, or interactive stories.

Coding design decisions should be engaging so that the user who interacts with the finished product is intrigued and captivated. Also, artistic choices affect if the project is user friendly and fun to play. Some of the stylistic choices students need to make when programming include:

  • Drawing custom characters
  • Designing backgrounds
  • Adding sensory cues – motion, sound, visual – to build interest, express an idea, and hook the user
  • Creating “Game over” messages that encourage and entice the user to try again
  • Making scoring and timing decisions using aesthetic choices that appeal to players

The brainstorming, problem-solving, and decision making involved in programming demand innovation and ingenuity in design choices. To foster the trailblazers of tomorrow, STEM education needs to acknowledge and incorporate the arts.

Soft Skills for Job Readiness

I’ve been reading a lot of employment ads lately as I’ve been researching career readiness. One recurring theme is that employers are not only seeking people with job specific skills. They also require a strong set of interpersonal or professional skills such as communication, initiative, collaboration, creativity, and responsibility. These are often termed soft skills. Hard skills are the technical requirements for a specific job whereas soft skills refer to a cluster of general personality traits and behaviors. Not only do we have to teach our students curricular learning objectives, but we also need to give them a strong foundation in these employability skills to prepare them for success in the workplace.

Teach Soft Skills to Prepare Students for Employability

We can’t accurately predict what the specific jobs of the future will be, but the crucial soft skills won’t change. Decision-making, goal setting, critical thinking, and problem solving are just a few of the life skills that can be learned and applied to any career. They may just be the difference between equally qualified candidates that determine who gets the job in a competitive job marketplace.

help wanted

These soft skills should be taught explicitly. Students need to be mindful of their personal strengths and needs in these critical areas, and educators must provide skills training. TechnoKids technology projects focus on this combination of curriculum, technology, and soft skills. Through role play, students ‘try on’ professions such as web developer, financial analyst, entrepreneur, and many more. Real-world learning opportunities motivate students to raise their awareness of the job market and what they need to learn to be well prepared.

Here are the top soft skills employers value and how TechnoKids lesson plans teach them with engaging, meaningful activities.

Oral and Written Communication

The ability to articulate thoughts and ideas clearly is essential. In the key qualifications list, jobs ads frequently state: “Excellent verbal and written communication skills”. Teamwork, long distance collaboration, planning documents, sales, customer support, and project report summaries all require a concise and effective exchange of information.

Presenter soft skills

TechnoPresenter is a technology project that specifically teaches public speaking. Students learn how to power up an oral presentation with a slide show. Using speaker notes, practice rehearsals, body language skits, tips, reflection questions, and assessment tools, students develop key communication skills.

Teamwork and Collaboration

To build positive relationships with colleagues and clients who may represent diverse cultures and viewpoints, job candidates need to be able to work as part of a team. Interpersonal negotiation, project meetings, and conflict resolution require a personable, team-player mindset.

Newsletter soft skills

Students design a professional-looking publication in TechnoNewsletter. To build teamwork skills, they can co-author an article. On completion, they share the document digitally and invite peer comments. Before engaging in an online discussion, students explore commenting guidelines. Advice to make comments in a positive and encouraging way, be courteous, and write clearly and concisely is offered. Then students sign a Commenting Agreement to agree to be responsible digital citizens.

Work Ethic

Effective habits such as time management, punctuality, ethical behavior, and personal accountability affect productivity. Therefore employers highly value self-starters who are well organized, establish priorities, and work independently. They also look for an employee who shows initiative, offers innovative solutions, and tackles challenges beyond the job description.

TechnoKids projects offer multiple learning opportunities that build professionalism and a strong work ethic.

Before starting most projects, students plan their ideas in an organizer. Forming an outline in a graphic chart or written plan before undertaking a task builds fundamental organizational skills.

Throughout the projects, student checklists build systematic editing and reviewing practices. These self-evaluation tools advance a student’s awareness of their performance as well as providing feedback for improvement. Checklists are provided as each portion of an activity is completed and at the end of the project too.

Final reflection questions at the end of a completed project provide another method of self-assessment. Students consider their strengths and areas for personal growth in specific technical and interpersonal skills.

Career Management

Knowledge of the career marketplace and how to navigate it is vital. Students should set career goals, know how to explore job opportunities, how to pursue a particular job, and how to self-advocate in the workplace.

STEM career education

In TechnoAdvertise students build skills to successfully manage the job market. To start, they write a cover letter and a resume. Supported by samples, guiding questions, and lists of model skills and qualities, they apply for a position at a fictional ad agency. Once they are hired, they learn advanced word processing skills to design a series of publications for a client. Students create a professional looking advertising flyer, a product catalog, a personalized form letter, mailing labels, and a newsletter.


Global and Intercultural Fluency

Any career in the workplace of tomorrow requires an employee who respects individual differences. They must demonstrate inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with people from diverse cultures, races, ages, and genders.

STEM skills middle school

Students express their opinions and personal expertise in TechnoBlog. Writing in their own voice, they begin by identifying the audience, topic, and purpose of a blog article. Then they are guided in writing a series of blog posts. Afterwards they exchange ideas with others as they comment on their peers’ blogs and respond to others’ comments on their own writing. Student workbook instructions focus on social skills such as etiquette, maintaining privacy, and making encouraging comments. As they express their opinions, students learn how to state viewpoints respectfully and courteously. A key goal of the project is to prepare students to become responsible digital citizens.

Critical Thinking

Young people who are ‘career ready’ exercise sound reasoning to study issues and make decisions. They use creative thinking skills to solve problems. They are able to find and interpret facts to build knowledge. They deal with conflict. They accept a challenge and resolve the issue in inventive and original ways.

soft skills

Students prepare an animated debate in TechnoDebate. They take a stand on a controversial issue to persuade an audience. To start, they research evidence to support a viewpoint. They collaborate with a partner who prepares the opposing position. Next, rebuttals are formed to refute the opponent’s claims. Viewers of the debate are invited to comment and debaters defend their positions. The debate forum builds critical and creative thinking as well as research skills, persuasive expression, and savvy decision making.

Digital Literacy

Basic computer skills are likely to be a component of most jobs in tomorrow’s workplace. Job-specific software skills can only be developed on a foundation of essential computer competence.

TechnoKids projects are ICT and STEM project-based activities to integrate technology into curriculum. Students analyze information, collaborate, solve problems, and make decisions. The interdisciplinary activities target learning outcomes from language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, history, geography, and creative arts. By tackling real-world problems, students build word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and programming skills. Blended into the learning are the universal soft skills that are a passport to career success.