MyNotes - STEAM via Digital Design Class

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What a fascinating read the Fostering Creativity and Innovation through Technology article by Sheena Vaidyanathan in Learning and Leading with Technology (March/April 2012) makes. Just this past week, I'd been chatting with my daughter about STEAM, which includes "Art" as the "A" in the traditional STEM acronym. It's great to see Sheena's article! You can read a similar article online at MindShift:
As part of a district-wide program called Digital Design that I teach, every student from fourth through sixth grade is exposed to computer programming in addition to 2D and 3D design. The first assignment this trimester was to create a drawing program – a computer version of the popular Etch-A-Sketch toy. Students learned some fundamental programming concepts, then wrote their own programs. The project was deliberately open ended and the creative results surprised me.
You can read more about Sheena's work online at PCWorld in Phil Shapiro's article and at Sheena's blog. One of the amazing points, especially that Texas districts should pay attention to, is as follows:
All software used in this program is free--open source whenever possible and freeware (not open source). Since it is no-cost, students can install it at home and can continue to work beyond the classroom.
Phil Shapiro makes a great point in regards to free open source software and the community that makes Sheena's class possible through increased availability to free software:
This blog post would not be complete without mentioning the incredible devotion and talent of the volunteer programmers who create Inkscape. I'm especially impressed with Jon A. Cruz, who is not only an artist and Inkscape programmer; he also spends time on Twitter patiently responding to people's queries about Inkscape. To my mind, Jon Cruz resembles a farmer who owns his own restaurant. He not only grows the food and cooks it; he then delivers it to your table and asks you whether you're enjoying it. Such is the spirit of the free and open source software (FOSS) movement. If you haven't tasted it yet, sit yourself down. You're in for a treat.
Some of my takeaways from the L&L article, including the reflection that this is a contemporary art class more than anything else, include the following quotes:
  1. To compete in the global workforce...students must be well educated in science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM) subjects. . .they must also develop the key skills of creativity and innovation.
  2. Digital design neither learning about technology nor learning with technology, but learning creativity and innovation through technology. 
  3. Types of activities elementary students engage in:
    • 4th grader editing bitmap images using Seashore or 
    • setting RGB values in Inkscape
    • creating a model of a futuristic room with multiple levels and underground tunnels using Google SketchUp
    • Creating a video game designed in Scratch
  4. Students are using each copy of their work as a sample in a scientific experiment, testing results based on different parameters. This freedom to see the "what if" without fear of failure encourages experimentation and leads to innovation.
  5. All software used in this program is free--open source whenever possible and freeware (not open source). Since it is no-cost, students can install it at home and can continue to work beyond the classroom.
  6. Curriculum development comes at no cost to the school and is available under Creative Commons attribution license. 
  7. At a time when many are expression concern about the lack of AP Computer Science classes in our high schools or the need to encourage middle school girls in STEM subjects, it is easy to ignore technology curriculum in elementary schools.
  8. We must challenge these students with real technology classes and not just teach drag-n-drop, template-driven presentation tools.
  9. A digital design program in elementary school shows students that learning technology is both relevant and exciting, inspiring and sets the stage for future exploration of technology.
  10. It gives them a safe place to experiment and learn to create and innovate.
Great stuff!

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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