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The annual Rube Goldberg Challenge is an opportunity for students to engage in their inner creative, design-build personalities. They are tasked with completing a simple task through a complex, convoluted, over the top device that incorporates simple machine physics and creative problem solving. There are limits to their space, time, and materials (nothing banned form school for instance). The machines that are created range from functionally simplistic to extremely clever but all offer students a chance to personalize the experience. The one part of the project that has not been emphasized over the past several years is charging students with explaining their thought process as they develop, test, and redesign their design. The use of several different iPad apps were explored during this project to see how students could benefit from documenting their thinking as they went through a problem solving process.
Half of the student groups used the Explain Everything app to document via video, text, photos their thought process, while the other half used the Aurasma app to do the same. There were some challenges with the Aurasma app because our internet connectivity was poor in the Middle Gym so reaching Aurasma was difficult and the video cannot be edited prior to attaching to an Aura (trigger). The Explain Everything app appears to be better suited for this type of activity; where students could collect their thoughts on different slides or even have multiple videos on one slide.
Students were asked to reflect on the use of their app when the project was complete. Their feedback brings me back to the SAMR model and how it relates to my research question of using technology to enhance meta-cognition In this project, the Aurasma app did not fit the bill very well for allowing students to document their thinking over time. The app and the activity were not well suited; the video cannot be paused and continued, so students were unable to document their thinking over time. The Explain Everything app had both positive and negative reviews from students but with some additional practice with the app, students will be more comfortable with the potential to revisit their prior thoughts and construct new thinking. Ideally, students would have an opportunity to document their process and then be given another similar activity to complete using what they have collected on the Explain Everything app as a guide.
Brian Wagner teaches 8th grade science at Harwood Union Middle School in Moretown VT. You can reach him on twitter: @swagsci