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Make it Your Way: Summative Assessments in Flipgrid

This year, our students have the choice to be in person or virtual. So in my physics classroom, roughly 20% of my population is virtual. This has resulted in me making major changes in terms of labs (not sharing materials for in person and coming up with solutions for virtual students.) But this week is our first unit assessment. One assessment structure I used last year during virtual learning was so effective, I decide to use it again this year.This structure was a bingo choice board in which students submit responses using Flipgrid. What I love about Flipgrid is that it provides such a wide variety of expression options. So when I tell students to create a video using Flipgrid, they have so many options in terms of creation. They can use audio, they can add text, they can capture video, they can upload video, they can upload images, they can add emojis. In addition, they can annotate live over everything. On the Bingo board students choose the content of the video. On Flipgrid, stu…

Sphero Challenge Accepted!

As a teacher, I am always looking for highly engaging activities. It takes time, though, to craft ones that can be seen to hit the standards of a course. Or, maybe it takes a little time to realize that the skills students are being asked to employ are in the standards. It is just a matter of finding ways to make this learning visible.
This week, we had the finals of the Sphero Chariot Challenge. Students designed and built Chariots for Spheros. They then programmed them to travel a short course with a couple of turns.

While this culminating activity was a great driver for many of the students, the results of this race did not determine any grade. The content and skills were addressed along the journey to the end.
At the end of last year, my co-teacher Andelee Espinosa and I did a maker project in our Fabrication Lab involving Sphero Chariots. 

Read here post on the activity here. 

I was excited to have the opportunity to complete this project again the last month. I made some tweaks to the project, but that did not change anything about the high level of engagement that the project generated. 
In our state science standards, which were designed with NGSS in mind, there are 8 different practices students are asked to engage in. It is easy to design an activity in which students employ a practice to an end such as answering a question on a worksheet. But, it’s much more powerful if the activity is engaging to the learner and the end is meaningful. By this, I mean that the student sees the goal of the practice beyond simply getting a good grade on the assignment. 

As I build out project paths these characteristics have helped me ensure that I’m focusing on aspects that go beyond simple content pieces. The slideshow below will walk you through the entire 2 week project.

The overarching goal of the project was to design and construct a chariot that could safely transport a rider through a course. But, there were many smaller goals along the way in terms of the design process, construction process, and steps in which students had to collect and report out data. The ability for me to communicate these goals and the ability for students to manage these goals is key to the process. Andelee had a wonderful daily check-in system last year to check each groups progress and provide feedback in the process. I continued this check-in system to briefly meet with each group and help them reflect on their daily progress and where they need to go the next day.
The constraints of the project required students to have at least one piece of their chariot be created using the laser cutter and one piece created using the 3D printer in our school’s fabrication lab. But, many students had never been asked to do anything like this before. So, where do we begin?
Having models for students to start from gave them a great idea of where to start. The great thing about these physical models was the ability for students to actually test them out and see what worked and what the issues were. The ability to iterate on previous designs through critique and revision is something that students often do with writing projects. But, it felt special being able to do this with a physical model. To model the the idea of truly innovating by making something new and better was pretty special. 
After students had their idea for their design sketched, each group of 2-3 students took two separate paths: Laser Cutting or 3D Printing. Those involved in the Laser Cutting used a software called Tinkercad to create their design to be laser cut out of cardboard or acrylic. Assuming no prior experience, students used how to use the simple piece of software (it works on Chromebooks!) to create a 3D model. That model was then exported to the laser cutter to create the final parts.

While some group members were laser cutting, the other part of the groups were tasked with designing the pieces to be 3D printed. The actual printing was going to be a collaboration with our schools Project Lead the Way Engineering students. It was an amazing collaboration in which the physics students worked the the clients for the engineering students. The physics students created detailed multiple perspective sketches. These sketches were taken to the engineering students who worked in the software they had been learning in class to create the digital design that was to be printed. It was a powerful collaboration between the two classes.

Once the pieces had been laser cut and 3D printed, we spent a day assembling the chariots. We ended up with some really neat designs. 

Once assembled, students programmed their Spheros to travel the race course. In addition, they collected collision data which would be required as a part of their overall report. Students were able to use a bluetooth acceleration sensor that rode in the chariot to determine how safe their chariot would be in a collision. 
Both of these tasks required intense application of the physics concepts and science skills that are part of our course standards. The authentic nature of the application of skills to a situation in which the students not only helped with engagement. It helped students better understand the concepts and processes they were being asked to apply.
In the end, we ran a bracket to see determine the Sphero Chariot champion in the programmed course. I feel like many groups would have loved even more time to program to get the best timing through the course. But like everything, we had to stop at some point. It was incredible competitive!

It was a fantastic project that Andelee and I will continue to iterate next year. Finding new ways to address agency and accountability of the process, new outcomes to tie in, and new ways to make learning visible.


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