Inside the Classroom with Jorge Valenzuela
What’s your current role and location?
I recently accepted a position at Old Dominion University as a graduate teaching assistant and doctoral student in the Occupational & Technical Studies academic program.
I am also a national faculty member of the Buck Institute for Education and a National Teacher Effectiveness Coach with the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association.
Previously, I supervised the Technology and Engineering Education program at Richmond Public Schools and served school division priorities with STEM leadership projects that connect K-12 classrooms to higher education and the workforce.
How have you used littleBits in the past? What’s worked best?
At Richmond City Public Schools, we first integrated littleBits into our STEM-STEAM ecosystem in the summer of 2016 during our summer enrichment Junior Engineers program. Due to the positive responses from our students and teachers, we also incorporated littleBits into our division-wide Makerspaces.
I also conducted several showcases/workshops for educators in our school division (administrators and teachers) for them to learn how incorporating littleBits into classroom projects helps students master academic standards.
What worked best for us is the littleBits concept of “Make something that does something.” In our Technology Foundations class, our students design a system (or model) that is controlled by electronics. This task is very challenging for students who feel intimidated with creating a circuit from scratch. We used littleBits as a scaffold for teaching the concepts of light, sound, and motion through the predesigned electronic building blocks. We learned that all students could successfully manipulate the bits in projects thus mastering the task-competency. Those students who develop a passion for creating their own electronic circuits can continue learning in our Digital Electronics specialty course.
How do you plan to use littleBits this school year?
In the 2017-2018 school year, I plan to use the learning I received through my participation in the littleBits Lead Educators cohort to continue supporting both teachers and students by conducting workshops at the MathScience Innovation Center. The sessions will cover engineering design as a pedagogical approach and the littleBits STEAM and Code Kits.
What kinds of skills do you think your students learn using littleBits?
As video tutorials and lesson plans accompany littleBits, I believe if taught right, students will learn skills applicable to any century (not just the 21st)!
No doubt that students learn to master model making, design practices, and many standards in the CCSS and NGSS. However; littleBits are also intended for use within teams and reinforce critical success skills like communication, collaboration and systems thinking.
What do your students enjoy most about littleBits?
Students that I’ve worked with appreciate knowing that they too can do! What attracts them to littleBits is the support for the realization of how the world works around them (i.e. why their iPhone responds to touch). It’s very powerful for them to know that they too can be contributors as designers and not just consumers.
What’s the coolest invention your students have created with littleBits?
The coolest invention (design), I’ve seen are the bits incorporated into a Rube Goldberg Device. Students incorporated sound and light to enhance the domino effect. A very cool take on the linking of simple tasks by students.
What advice would you give to people just starting out with littleBits?
For educators, don’t ever stop being a learner. I believe that teachers need to make time for play and testing before unleashing littleBits to their students. The kids know when we don’t know.
It’s also ok to learn with our students. As long as we’re active participants, they’ll work hard and achieve way beyond our imaginations!