Electronics as a Material

In many of our classrooms we have equipped our children with building blocks not just because they are fun, but because they also improve hand-eye coordination, help with mathematics, spatial  awareness, logical thinking, improve language and social skills, and allows the imagination to thrive.  But what if we could provide our children with more?  What if we added one small element to our building blocks that would allow our children to create more?  This is the same question that the Ayah Bdeir ask before create a set of building blocks that blink, beep, buzz, turn on and off, and allow our children to explore.

She believes that electronics and circuits should not be something that only experts can use.  She invented Little Bits, and now we are using them to provide our children with electronics as a material………

We gave our students two boxes of Little Bits.  The circuit driven building blocks.

Instead of telling our students exactly what to do with them, we gave them the materials and asked them to make the fan work.

This type of assignment allows the students to problem solve and to test varies theories which is the basic elements of any science experience.  We believe that children are capable and that giving them time to explore, experiment, and problem solve on their own helps them understand and retain information far better than obtaining direct instruction from a teacher.

The students carefully took out the pieces.  “What do we do first?” one of the students asked.

Without preset limitations, the students were able to approach this project without the stress of doing it “right”, instead they were excited about the possibilities. The students noticed the insert that came with the Little Bits and briefly scanned over them.  Without any instruction, the students began to connect the pieces together.  A buzzer started to sound.  The other students became curious about what was going on.

Soon, many of the students wanted to offer suggestions.  There was so much excitement, that the class was broken up into groups to help their research.  Each group would be given the opportunity to manipulating the many circuit to see what discovers they could uncover.

The first group began to connect all the pieces.  “We got the fan to work!” they squealed with excitement.

Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!  But they couldn’t power the fan without the buzzer.

Many of the students continued to look on.  They watched each step the first group took and made theories on how they could power the fan without that annoying buzzing.  The more the students searched for answers, the more engage they all became.  Each student became increasingly motivated to build a better model.

 

 The next team worked at connecting all of the pieces while still maintaining the fans ability to work.

Excited about their creation, they passed on what they discovered to the next team with hopes that they could get the buzzer to stop sounding.

This team chose a different approach…instead of building off what the other team created, they decided to take a few things apart.

They discovered that by moving the dimmer function in front of the fan, they could get the fan to run without the buzzer sounding.

They demonstrated their discoveries with their friends.  “If we move this switch only half way, the fan will come on and no buzzer!” they explained clearly excited about what they had accomplished.

“What happens if you move the switch all the way over?” the teacher asked.  “It just keeps buzzing,” Nohea responded.

Since the students were able to create more when given an opportunity to start fresh, the class decided to disassemble the pieces with each new team.  However the students were equipped with a new piece of information.  The students understood that the where you placed pieces had a large impact on how they worked.

The next team spent a lot of time reading over the materials offered in each Little Bits box.  The soon devised a plan but ran out of time before completely implementing it.  It was amazing to watch how each team approach this project.  None of the students worried about not doing things exactly like the other teams.  They all wanted an opportunity to create something different, to do something more with the information the other teams offered.

The project fostered cooperation and team work.

Through cooperative learning, the students were able to negotiate their varying points of view to create the best end product.

And of course, the feeling of success was apparent of their faces.

The Reggio teacher’s goal is to foster a lifelong passion for learning and exploration, and these students can’t wait to work with these Little Bits again.  Now that they are familiar with a circuit (input and output), we are allowing the children to create their own invention.  They will use the electronics to create something.  There is talk of a robot, but we will soon see what our inventors decide.

This activity focusing on the following learning goals:

(A) plan and implement descriptive investigations, including asking and answering questions, making inferences, and selecting and using equipment or technology needed, to solve a specific problem in the natural world;

(3) Scientific investigation and reasoning. The student knows that information, critical thinking, scientific problem solving, and the contributions of scientists are used in making decisions. The student is expected to:

(A) in all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student;

(1) Creativity and innovation. The student uses creative thinking and innovative processes to construct knowledge and develop digital products. The student is expected to:

(A) apply prior knowledge to develop new ideas, products, and processes;

(B) create original products using a variety of resources

(D) create and execute steps to accomplish a task; and

(E) evaluate and modify steps to accomplish a task.

 

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