Over the past 18-months, the Department of Technology & Digital Learning has overseen the creation of an elementary course aligning to the Digital Learning and Computer Science (DLCS) Massachusetts Frameworks. Grade-level scope and sequence documents were created and aligned with rigorous state-level standards surrounding computational thinking, computer science principles, digital citizenship, and much more. This past week, we stopped over to visit Florence Roche Elementary School to capture a first-grade class working in the Innovation Lab and capture a first-hand look into this new, exciting experience.
The leader of the Digital Innovation Class, Greta Disch, is in her second year at GDRSD. Mrs. Disch teaches out of the Innovation Lab and operates from a facilitator role in supporting students through multiple units of study. During this 40-minute weekly special, Mrs. Disch supports students in making meaningful learning experiences and employing strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.
During this class, students were completing a unit surrounding essential questions such as, “What helpful tasks can you code your robot to do?” and “What are some tasks that computers and robots help humans do?” First-graders were successfully collaborating using Apple iPads to record and save their videos and explaining what they coded their robots can do. All students are showing age-appropriate mastery of DLCS standards during this six-week unit, such as:
- Enact an algorithm using tangible materials or present the algorithm in a visual medium. (K-2.CT.b.3)
- Define a computer program as a set of commands created by people to do something. (K-2.CT.d.1)
- Explain that computers only follow the program’s instructions. (K-2.CT.d.2)
- Individually or collaboratively create a simple program using visual instructions or tools that do not require a textual programming language. (K-2.CT.d.3)
Alignment and mastery of DLCS standards alongside the English language arts and mathematics standards are important. However, the Innovation Lab is a place to collaborate and grow together every week, both academically and within a caring environment in support of social and emotional learning. Disch, who was an elementary teacher prior to becoming the Digital Innovation Lab teacher, loves this role. “Children look forward to coming to the lab each week and are so engaged in their projects that we all really enjoy our time together,” said Disch. “This role also allows me the unique opportunity to watch the children grow over the years and make what I hope will be a lasting impact on their lives.”
Along that same path, Mrs. Disch wants her students to persevere and develop learning skills. “One of the most important skills that I hope my students take back to their classrooms and beyond is to take risks, persevere, and independently seek help from each other and the resources available to them whenever they get stuck,” said Disch.
When students were asked about their weekly special with Mrs. Disch, they shared “I love this place”, “I really like the BeeBots [codable robot] and trying new things,” and “it is my favorite special because I like to code.”
Love of learning continues to develop in this new space alongside a social environment where cooperative skills are practiced throughout the year. “My ultimate goal is that students learn to use the power of technology to spread positive, kind messages that make the world a better place,” said Disch. How awesome is that goal?