What happens when students integrate nuanced real world issues like racial profiling and climate change with coding in a humanities class? Read what is happening at Five Oaks Middle School in Beaverton, Oregon.
In October, two humanities teachers came to me asking about ways to integrate technology into their classes. They wanted a project where their students would be able to share what they learned about a chosen Social Issue. We started with the research portion of the assignment by creating Text Sets in Newsela. Students were given several topics to choose from including gun control, racial profiling, social media use, and climate change. Within the text sets students were given 5-8 articles to read and think about, then they were asked to write paragraphs about What the issue was, Who was affected by the issue, Why the issue was a big deal. After students had done their research and writing I came to class and taught them about coding in scratch (scratch.mit.edu) and using a Makey Makey to create physical buttons for classmates to press. The plan was for students to record themselves reading their paragraphs and then code a program in Scratch where pressing a key on the keyboard would play the recordings. We spent 1 class period of about 70 minutes working on the code and starting to record. There were a few obstacles in this portion of the project including: having students with charged Chromebooks, consistent Wi-Fi, and helping students get over their fear of hearing themselves on the recordings. 2 days later students were expected to be finished with their “reading, thinking, writing, coding, and recording”. I went back into the classroom with supplies that could be connected to Makey Makeys and used as buttons for starting the recordings. Students used a variety of materials like tin foil, egg cartons, popsicle sticks, straws, copper tape, and paper clips. Students were able to put them together in any way they wanted as long as they had 3 buttons that could easily be clipped to the Makey Makey. Student had a day to work in their classrooms to complete the button building and their coding.
On a Friday about 2 weeks after the assignment was started we had a celebration day where students were able to connect to the Makey Makey, press the buttons and listen to each others recordings. The goal was to give students a way to share what they learned other than a research paper, or speech. This goal was achieved for most students. The engineering part of the project was an extra challenge. We did not have enough time on the last day for students to hear all of the projects. The teachers and I are hoping we can fit in a second day when the students will be able to listen the recordings.
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