Cutting edge lessons at TechExpo 4.0
The popular game Minecraft has been an addiction for students on their personal electronic devices. The game, which allows players to build out of textured cubes, doesn’t necessarily seem like the most appropriate teaching tool in school.
Connor Adams, a sixth grader at Middlebrook School, disagrees. Connor was one of several students at TechExpo 4.0 who uses the game as a learning tool.
The expo, at Miller-Driscoll School, showed off the best technology has to offer for educators, both in the classroom and out. Teachers and students gathered in classrooms for different technology sessions lasting 12 minutes. In the hallways of the school’s cottages, student innovators like Connor demonstrated their creations using technology.
Minecraft can play in different modes, including survival, adventure, and multiplayer, as well as creative. According to the website VG247.com, it has sold more than 20 million units for the iPad, Xbox, PC, and smartphones.
Connor built on his enjoyment and passion for the game to create a quiz for his math class to go with his project on Egypt.
“During math, my teacher was talking about the project,” he said. “She said it could be a video game. I immediately thought about Minecraft and I told my friends. They didn’t think it would work. I said, ‘Trust me.’ My teacher loved it.
“It helps you learn about Egypt and what it was like,” he continued. “It’s like flash cards. It took me a couple of hours to create.”
The quiz he created sends the user through a maze of questions that allows them to proceed only after answering correctly.
Connor went on to say it helps him learn about building and lets him use his creativity.
Across the hall, Mitchell Rothstein, from Wilton High School, demonstrated how he mixes music using a music programming application.
“That’s called a two-four,” he said, explaining to a visitor the number of beats in the measure he was creating.
There were demonstrations and displays to be found at every turn. They ranged from using PowerPoint to build research projects to first graders doing their morning routine on a Smart Board, to the Wii Fit and its role in hand-eye coordination.
The expo attracted a crowd of parents, students and Wilton Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gary Richards, who visited with classes and individual students. Dr. Richards admired the work of Navod Jayawardhane, a Cider Mill School student, who was using his cello for his project “Creating Music Tracks.”
IPads were also prominent at the expo in the presentation “IPads in the Classroom,” while “Impressions of Weir Farm” allowed young artists to show off their pictures.
Art teacher Susan LaBarbera and a collection of students demonstrated how they used a free iPad app called Brushes.
“It’s all completely finger painting on the iPad,” she said.
The app includes many different kinds of brushes and allows the artist to create assorted styles of pictures. Its downfall, Ms. LaBarbera said, is that the students can’t save their work.
“The iPads will be wiped out, so I created a Google Drive account, archaically do a screen shot, to email them to. There’s probably a better way,” she said. “But this is a pilot and I wanted to try this.”
The app made even the less creative feel like a pro.
“Let me start off by saying I’m not an artist,” eighth grader Brooke Amodei said. “I’m not good at painting or drawing. But with this, I found it really easy. It was like doodling on an iPad. It wasn’t as messy. I liked the amount of brushes available.”
Students Eve Edgerton, Natalie O’Herron, and Danielle Kreimelmeyer also described their creations in detail, going over the process they used. Though students, they effectively sold the app for the assembled audience.
The TechExpo was created out of the need for the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance to see what the budget was being spent on. With the town satisfied, the expo was further opened to the community.