Monday, January 21, 2013

Google Apps Meets Lego League (and CCSS)

I love Google Apps! I love them so much so that I wrote a book about it and neglected my new wife, Jessica. I started writing the same month we were engaged. The book is done now and we have been married six months as of today. To her credit she is still in love with me, after all of the time I spent on the book. She is an angel and a wonderful educator in her own right. She helped me write many of the lesson plans that are in the resource section.

I also love First Lego League! This amazing student learning competition is full of  hands on learning experiences and skills that screams STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Each year our middle school has a Lego League tryout. Over 60 students in grades 5-8 tryout each year, but only up to 20 qualified applicants are chosen for the team. Students tryout by doing a short research project, writing a personal essay about why they want to be on the team and what skills they can contribute, and perform a team building project where the participants are assigned partners and are scored on teamwork while building an object out of Legos. All parts of the tryout are scored by a rubric and qualified applicants are chosen (Yes, it is that intense!).

Lego League is built around a theme each year, with a specific challenge. This year's theme was called "Senior Solutions." The challenge was to come up with innovative ways to help seniors navigate in the world. In addition to the challenge there is a robotics competition that teaches engineering and computer programming. They must build an autonomous robot that travels from base and perform missions that deal with the theme. Watch the robot challenge explained by First Lego League.

Learning in this way is innovative, fun and exciting. Students must be creative, collaborative and have the ability to share what they have learned with teammates, parents and peers. Many if not all of these ideas that Lego League instills in students are exactly what the architects of the Common Core State Standards want. This is where Google Apps come in. Each student has access to sharing, collaborating and communication tools through their school Google Apps account. Here is a short breakdown of things that Google Apps can do and where it was important for our team.

Gmail:

In every student account Gmail has a telephone, SMS text, email and video chat capabilities. For our research into the theme Senior Solutions our students were able to video chat, call on the phone or email with experts at the local nursing home. They also could video chat with other team members and even watch YouTube videos together using the Google Plus Hangout feature.

Google Drive:

In every student account Google Drive is available. This gives them access to a 5GB online storage facility with included office software. Google-Documents, Presentations, Spreadsheets, Drawings and Forms are free and easy to use. For collaboration students were able to take collaborative notes during research times. Each students can type on the same document at the same time while it saves every keystroke. Each student has revision history where it gives a timestamp of when and where every student has made a change. They are able to fix a mistake in their work by going back in time to see where they have messed up. Students were able to "produce and publish writing using the Internet" (Anchor Standard 6 CCSS) so they could have experts in the field check their work and make comments or suggestions.

Students made presentations and graphic designs using Google Presentations and Drawings to make stunning diagrams and flowcharts. All for free.

See examples of their work here:

http://goo.gl/PEUDd
http://goo.gl/A7f62
http://goo.gl/wd5Zf
http://goo.gl/A7f62

As part of their innovative solution my students designed, invented and built an exercise game called Exercise Mania! They worked on it together using Google Drive and were easily able to work on the project at home, on their phone or while at school. Access is granted anywhere there is an Internet connection. Google Apps breaks down barriers in their learning. It allows students and teachers to be connected.

Check out my book (wife approved) if you want to know more about Google Apps and how it meets Common Core. In the book you will get step by step tutorials with screenshots along with practical uses for Google Apps in the classroom. Its like Google read the Common Core and then wrote software to meet it. 

twitter: @mjgraham0