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EMILE FREY
Finalist

9-12 | Science & Tech | Online Community Tools

Station LPB in Louisiana

My Classroom Innovation

The name of the project showcased in the video is Recyclable Roller Coasters. Students were assigned with the task of designing, building, and performing calculations on a roller coaster they built out of recyclable materials. This approach was unique because instead of just teaching potential and kinetic energy, work, simple machines, the students had to work together in groups and actually build a roller coaster themselves using those concepts. This required good communication, collaboration, content literacy, and work ethic. As shown in the video, the project lent itself really well to the use of digital media and technology, which enabled me to assess, equip, engage, and teach students to become better learners and leaders in the 21st Century.

The project was mostly delivered to students through a site called Echo (echo.newtechnetwork.org) which allows me to upload, embed, and link all digital media in once place known as the “project briefcase.” There, students were able to access and submit resources and assignments.

The Educreations app for the iPad proved to be a very useful tool. For instance, I created digital lessons with both voice and pen input for potential energy, kinetic energy, and work. Students were able to access these digital lessons at home even when they were absent or at school when I was absent. They loved this because they were able to pace themselves and watch as much as they needed.

I also found that videos like the one about designing a roller coaster I found on PBSlearningmedia.org served as a great tool to show students the real world application of their scale model roller coasters. I also had students use the energy simulation found on phet.colorado.edu to really show them (with live energy graphs) how potential energy converts to kinetic energy and vice versa.

How Students were Engaged

Right off the bat, students were shown a video called an “entry document” that issued the challenge for the project, and gave them some expectations of the project. The students not only loved the real world idea of building a roller coaster, but they also were captured by the challenge to meet the 20 second time requirement.

The use of technology and digital media such as Echo, PhET simulations, wallwisher.com, Educreations, PBS LearningMedia, Google Sites, Google Forms, Flubaroo, Wordle.net, and polleverywhere.com served so many purposes.

I was able to assess students’ gains in learning along the way. Throughout the project, students were being assessed (formally and informally) on their performance in content literacy, collaboration, written communication, oral communication, and work ethic (21st Century Skills). I created and administered digital quizzes using Google Forms along with a script called Flubaroo. Flubaroo quickly grades quizzes and sends students scores with correct answers. This tool allowed me to quickly assess the students’ understanding of the content, and enabled me to adapt based on students’ understanding. Students also reflected upon their learning in their e-Portfolio created in Google Sites using the template I created for them. As shown in the video, I also created a Wordle using students’ responses to the question, “What is something you learned in the Recyclable Roller Coaster Project that you did not know before?” The result was a visual representation of what students felt like they learned.

The next project project began with a discussion of electricity. When we started talking about voltage as being “electric potential energy,” students asked if it was like the potential energy of the marble in the roller coaster project. Using that connection, I was able to explain voltage in a way that made sense to them. That is just one example of many.

PBS Program/Content Used

Designing a Roller Coaster