produce high-quality products. We sought constructive
feedback from the online Scratch community by creating a
gallery specifically for our students to post their work. One
Scratcher, “Cooler-Than-Ice,” who had won third place in
the challenge the previous year, commented on all of our
students’ video games, and our students modified their
projects based on her and other online feedback.
One student explained, “The [teachers] were there in
case I needed help, but the students were helpful too,
especially those who had more experience.”
When they finished their projects, we hosted a Virtual
Arcade where other young people could beta-test their
classmates’ STEM games and give feedback before the
final upload to the competition website.
Because video game design and music video production are relatively new in schools, teaching with these
tools might be an uncomfortable and even daunting feat
for teachers. That’s why technology leaders and school
administration must support them as they take risks to
incorporate innovative, constructionist activities in their
In our case, Peter Endriss, a technology leader at Penn
Alexander, visited periodically and brought his class to
participate in our Virtual Arcade. He supported our initial
efforts by subsequently entering students’ video games in
statewide competitions, including the Science and Engineering Fair. These additional competitions ensured that
students continued to work on their games even after our
course had ended.
At our second site, the Science Leadership Academy,
the principal and ISTE’s 2013 Outstanding Leader, Chris
Lehmann, supported the Collab Camps by giving us extended sessions throughout the year and allowing us to recruit participants during their student advisement periods.
He also posted these projects on the school website, signaling a schoolwide commitment to constructionist learning.
But encouraging teachers to use more authentic learning
activities and assessments rather than multiple-choice tests
is not enough. Administrators and technology leaders must
also provide opportunities for teachers to gain the skills to
become even more successful through individualized professional development and common planning time.
At the Rockdale College and Career Academy, the leadership is working with teachers to redefine the use of technology in their classrooms and has already committed to
funding a new project. Physics, electronics engineering,
manufacturing, and Cisco networking teachers are collaborating with industry experts and each other to break down
content silos and create meaningful constructing activities for students related to the workplace and their career
Enter a Competition
Computer Science Network Competitions |
ICS Scratch Competition |
Imagine Cup |
Google Science Fair |
West Point Bridge Design Contest |
Zero Robotics Tournaments |
facts, each game enacts the scientific processes
and makes them integral to gameplay. The students
needed to learn and understand at a deeper level to
successfully create them.
In both of these examples, a science teacher could
formatively assess student understanding of organelles
and genetics over the course of the competition through
rubrics or by posing questions that capture deep content
knowledge: How does the expression of a genotype (DNA)
express itself in phenotype (hair color)? How do lysosomes
work to protect the cell from foreign invaders? What better
way to assess understanding of how a cell functions than
by having students show you by programming these functions in a video game!
By reaching out to the online community, teachers can
also bring in the expertise they might lack to help students