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November Learning with Alan November

Learning Activity:  INVENT! by Mr. Goldstein and the Technology students of Omni Middle School, 2011-2012

INVENT! is a project based learning curriculum in which students learn to work collaboratively in groups as they utilize the design process to build knowledge and skills with various technologies and computer applications.

Students brainstorm an idea for an invention. This could be something of practical use or it could be something utterly fantastic. They will work with their idea and develop it across a variety of technological media, beginning with a simple sketch on paper. They will then “grow” their idea into a poster, a script, a storyboard and then a video commercial which tells people about their invention and shows it in action.

It takes several filming sessions to develop the quality in their video as they gain experience with the camera. They are not expected to get things “perfectly” the first time. Students are given feedback along each step of the way. This is part of the reiterative cycle of the design process. A playful attitude of experimentation helps lead to significant creative realizations. The various technologies that we utilize are the “canvas” for our creations.

When the students think they have the shots they need from their video excursions, they then edit their movie in Windows Movie Maker and adding a soundtrack and sound effects if needed. Sometimes, if the audio on the video is faulty, students will use Windows Sound Recorder to create a voiceover.

Next, each student writes an essay in Microsoft Word to reflect upon his or her experiences. They are given a literary scaffold, a list of questions, which they shape into an essay to tell how they worked their way through the design process to achieve a successful result. They also reflect on how well they were able to collaborate with the other members in their group.
Next, they make their essays talk using text to speech technology at voki.com, or if they choose, they can make talking animation in Flash. This technology really makes their essays come alive and is a great source of fun and excitement when used in this way.

Along the way, students have the opportunity to work individually in Flash, creating animations that show their invention in action. They work individually in Microsoft PowerPoint to create a PowerPoint on an inventor that students research, and they create a PowerPoint on “wacky” inventions that have received a patent no matter how ludicrous. This shows that their fantastic conceptions may not be so far out after all. Perhaps everything is a matter of time. The technology of the Star Trek communicator, once considered fantastic, is now commonplace in the form of the cell phone.

Students are given a student progress tracking sheet with each step of the project so that they can see what they have accomplished, what’s next, and how far they still have to go.

After the Voki is completed, students work on posting all their work to the blog. Our classroom blog, called “Imagine,” has received more than 125,000 hits from visitors from 125 countries.

Our classroom blog Imagine is truly a global forum. Publishing to such a world wide audience gives students a sense that their creative work is important and is valued by others. Their work does not disappear within the hidden confines of the classroom but is published for all to see. Students visiting relatives in other states or countries will often show them their work with just a few clicks. Their work does not disappear within the hidden confines of the classroom but is published for all to see and serves as validation of their merit and encouragement for further creative endeavors.


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