As any teacher will tell you, the last few weeks of school are awful! With the endless testing and beautiful warm weather, the kids have about a 2 second attention span. That is, at least, until you tell them that they are going to build a device to catch a Giant Squid! Suddenly, you have several eager little bodies squirming to find out more. Throw in researching on Google Docs, reading Who Would Win Giant Squid or Sperm Whale on Storia (school edition), watching videos on Giant Squid, making blue prints on Goformative and FORGET ABOUT IT!
Before we could start building our devices the students and I gathered what we needed to know on a simple "questions and answers" chart on Google Docs. I then showed the kids one of my favorite tools in a Google Doc, the research tool. When this tool is active it will scan your document pulling out the common threads, in ours the commonality was Giant Squid, Kraken, Marianas Trench, etc. With these threads determined, the tool then pulls up links right in your Google Doc to websites, articles, videos and more. on that topic, as well as related topics. This blew my mind when I first saw it.
Some might be concerned about what might come up if a word is spelled incorrectly, and for a third grader spelling can be a challenge. Spelling words wrong in a Google search has the potential to pull up some interesting links. However, these research tools, by Google, take all of that worry away. It also helps prevent students from simply going to Google images and image surfing, for hours, only to tell me later that they didn't find any information. Instead, Google's tools pulls up excellent resources that the students would have never thought to look for.
During our research, as students found answers, they would post their findings to two locations, the Google Doc I spoke of previously, as well as on a Padlet we had created. Padlet is an electronic blank canvas that allows several people to collaborate on one board, posting pictures, articles, videos or their own text. Having students use the two locations allowed students that are more creative, a free flowing visual space on Padlet; while the more organized learners could have their space on Google Docs as well. We also were able to learn and grow from each other on both formats as we were able to work on the same documents, answering others' questions or having our questions answered.
After the research was collected and students felt they had enough information, they set out to start formatting their models. They first began by logging into Formative to create a blueprint of what they were conceptualizing. Formative is one of the best formative assessment tools, as it allows for endless creativity. When a student logs in they are prompted with the question, "How would you catch a giant squid?" They then were able to draw, write, insert pictures or a combination of all three to answer the question. As students worked independently on their blueprints I had the teacher view of the question on my screen which shows a live view of what everyone is working on. With this displayed around the classroom students were able to see, in real time, how others were designing their rigs. This helped to scaffold those that maybe didn't have all the information they needed yet, didn't have an idea of what to do, etc. Students next sat down with their groups and reviewed their blueprints, discussed potential flaws in their models and came up with a new blueprint as a group that ultimately would be translated into a real, working model.
When the day finally came to build our models, the finished products were outstanding. One group in practically, designed a cargo ship that looked as though it had come straight off of the Bering Sea and into our classroom. It was the technology used throughout the lesson that helped the students shine. The Research and Define tools in Google Docs helped everyone access the information they needed in order to build their device. The combined efforts of Padlet and Google Docs helped students with different learning styles organize and share their learning. While Formative brought it all home by allowing the students to transfer their thinking into a digital blueprint, share their blueprints instantly and receive feedback from their peers to improve what they were visualizing. Sometimes one app or website is all that is needed to transform a lesson, but in this case it was a joint effort.