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Bringing Out the Builder (and Tech User) in All of Us

| August 27, 2012 | 2 Comments
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Ellen Blinderman (right) guides Linnea Burnett on a geometry activity using pattern blocks.

As the Early Childhood Coordinator at Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS) in Berkeley, Ellen Blinderman has been inspiring educators and students to love science, engineering, and math for the past 22 years, but describes herself as a ‘reluctant tech-user’.

Through a collaboration with KQED Education, Contra Costa County Office of Education and LHS, at a STEM workshop titled, ‘Shape, Strength, and Stability: Bringing Out the Builder in All of Us’, Ellen was able to explore the use of technology and creating media to enrich academic content.

During the workshop, educators had opportunities to design, construct, test, evaluate structures using two and three-dimensional shapes with various materials such as toothpicks, newspapers, and dowels. Using mobile devices to take snapshots of their findings, educators created a narrated slideshow using iMovie or MovieMaker to tell their story. Ellen explained, “We all became engineers and applied our knowledge of shape, strength,and stability to design and construct large structures out of newspaper dowels. This project gave teachers the opportunity to solve problems and work together as they discussed ideas and tried solutions, which are real life practices in STEM career fields. During this process, teachers also tapped into their creativity and imagination, which are vitally important in scientific and technological innovation.”

After successfully creating her first narrated slideshow, Ellen shares her perspective on using media and creating media in this brief interview.

Q:What was it like to create your first narrated slideshow?
Ellen: It was fast and fun, but the best part was how empowering it was! Even though the slide show I made was very basic, I felt proud of myself for learning a new skill and creating a finished product. I appreciated the supportive learning environment. Nancy, from KQED, walked us through the steps of using iMovie, and helped with any questions that came up. I loved seeing all the different ways people chose to tell their stories, and was inspired by the unique talents and individual expression of each slideshow.

Q:How do you feel about using technology in your professional work?
Ellen: I want to embrace more technology in my personal and professional life, but tend not to be motivated to figure it out on my own. I prefer a class or one-on-one instruction to encourage me through the learning process and provide tech support. I believe that as an educator, I need to develop my technology skills or I risk becoming a dinosaur.

Q:What benefit does media-making have in your work?
Ellen:I love the idea of taking photos of my students throughout an investigation to tell the story of the group’s  collective learning adventure and to validate each child’s contributions.

Q:You used a couple of videos from PBS LearningMedia to support science concepts. How has using media influenced your work?
Ellen: At the workshop, I discovered what an amazing resource PBS Learning Media is! Teachers can find videos, photos, and classroom activities for any age group on a HUGE selection of subjects. As an early childhood science specialist, I am excited to incorporate PBS media (and media from other sources) into the curriculum at The Lawrence Hall of Science. I’ve become a big Curious George and Sid the Science Kid fan. I can use these programs  to strengthen and enhance hands-on classroom experiences, using them to spark curiosity, promote scientific practices, and help students make connections between their experiences and the bigger world. With the tips and strategies I gained at the KQED workshop, I know how to go beyond having students simply passively watch videos, to keep them actively engaged and focused during the viewing.

Check out some of the resources used at the workshop from Design Squad and PBS LearningMedia to inspire the builder within you and your students!

All participants in the 2-day workshop were first-timers with creating narrated slideshows. All were successful and had a great time.  Below is participating Kindergarten teacher, Lynn Alamillo’s narrated slideshow:

There was a buzz in the room even before the workshop started – an extra level of excitement filled the air. Congressman George Miller, Representing the 7th District in CA, stopped by for a visit. He briefly addressed the educators on the importance of STEM education and commended their commitment to strengthening their professional practice. His inspiring speech was a great way to start the workshop!


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Category: K-5 Science, Science, Teacher Trainings

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  • Kelly Morris

    I brought back to my classroom lessons that were ready build. I showed the Curious George A Bridge Too Far video and followed up with my iMovie voice over slide show. Using the tooth picks and miniature marshmallows we began with a simple geometry lesson that blossomed into a pair share building exercise incorporating cubes and pyramids. Some of the words they used were the cubes are wobbly and the pyramids are sturdy. A dream come true for a teacher; students collaborating, sharing ideas, experimenting, all the while learning how to be a builder.

  • Kelly Morris

    I brought back to my classroom lessons that were ready build. I showed the Curious George A Bridge Too Far video and followed up with my iMovie voice over slide show. Using the tooth picks and miniature marshmallows we began with a simple geometry lesson that blossomed into a pair share building exercise incorporating cubes and pyramids. Some of the words they used were the cubes are wobbly and the pyramids are sturdy. A dream come true for a teacher; students collaborating, sharing ideas, experimenting, all the while learning how to be a builder.