PicoCrickets and Wigwams
Mary Boutton, Carole Lechleitner
This session will introduce PicoCrickets (tiny computers used to create inventions programmed to respond to light, sound, and touch) and demonstrate how they can be used to develop students’ programming and engineering skills while constructing Storyline settings. PicoCrickets are recommended for ages 8 and up.
PicoCrickets, based upon research from the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, provide entry points to programming and robotics, engaging students with diverse learning interests and learning styles. Strategies that promote this include: (1) focusing on themes, not just challenges; (2) combining art and engineering; (3) encouraging storytelling; and (4) organizing exhibitions rather than competitions. PicoCrickets support these strategies by enabling students to design and program creations while enhancing creative thinking, problem solving, and co-operative learning skills.
Through Storyline, the elementary social studies curriculum can offer a rich array of themes that can be integrated with PicoCrickets. We will focus on how PicoCrickets were integrated into the fourth grade Ohio history curriculum. The presenters will show how fourth graders used robotic technology and concepts to make their Native American and pioneer villages come alive. Participants will observe Native Americans cooking over a crackling fire in their wigwam, tanning a deer hide, turning a grist mill, and making a river undulate through the forest. Students’ work from the 2007-2008 school year will be highlighted. The presenters will share success stories and pitfalls that should be avoided.
The Presenters will also address how using social studies themes can heighten student motivation by giving students the freedom to work on projects they care about in a multi-sensory, artistic, and creative manner. Cooperation and team effort, rather than competition, are stressed, leading to participation in robotics by a broader range of students, particularly girls.
What is the Storyline Method?
Storyline is a structured approach to learning and teaching that was developed in Scotland It builds on the key principle that learning, to be meaningful, has to be memorable, and that by using learner’s enthusiasm for story-making, the classroom, the teacher’s role and learning can be transformed. Storyline is a strategy for developing the curriculum as an integrated whole. It provides an opportunity for active learning and reflection as essential parts of effective learning and teaching. At the same time it develops in learners a powerful sense of ownership of their learning.