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NOVA: Design a Parachute

What it is: NOVA from PBS has an excellent interactive called Design a Parachute.  In this activity, students take on the role of head engineer in charge of designing the Mars Explorer Rover parachute.  The goal is to design a chute that will get the Mars Explorer Rover to the surface of Mars safely.  The interactive challenges students to consider trade-offs in parachute stability, strength and volume as they design the perfect chute.  As students begin the activity, they are briefed on system requirements that must be met.  Students are also asked to consider cost as they design their parachute.  Finally students design and test their chute. How to integrate the NOVA Design a Parachute interactive into the classroom: In this activity, students assume the role of engineer as they design a parachute that will slow the Mars Explorer Rover as it lands on the surface of Mars.  I like the authentic feel of this activity, students are led through the thinking process of an engineer as they consider all of the requirements the chute must meet before they begin designing. Approach this interactive as a class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  As a class, get “briefed” on the requirements for the parachute design.  Discuss how these requirements may impact the parachute design.  Treat this like an actual briefing and encourage discussion (all ages like to pretend!).  Before students access the interactive, ask them to sketch their thoughts about parachute design.  This lets them think through the design apart from the pre-determined categories presented in the interactive. Students can design and test their parachutes individually in a one to one computer lab setting or take turns designing and testing in a computer center lab on classroom computers. Debrief after the interactive to discuss the parameters that were the most successful and what students learned about volume, drag, strength and stability. Extend this activity by creating a mock-up of the parachute they designed online.  Find a high place on the playground or in the building where students can test these parachutes.  What did they have to adjust for an Earth bound parachute? Tips: The NOVA page has a great introduction paragraph about how engineers approach a problem.  Be sure to read it with your students!  Encourage students to learn more about the Mars Explorer Rover before designing the chute.  It may adjust their thinking! Please leave a comment and share how you are using NOVA Design a Parachute in your classroom!

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The Answer Pad: BYOD Student Response System

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, Classroom Management, collaboration, Evaluate, Interactive Whiteboard, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, web tools, Websites | Posted on 16-04-2013

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What it is: The Answer Pad is a student response system…only better!  What makes it better?  The ability for use with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) classrooms and the ability to collect student responses outside of your typical, limited multiple choice answers that most student response systems are limited to.  The Answer Pad is really made up of two parts.  1. The student response piece that lets students go interactive with outstanding drawing features.  2. The answer sheets that score and capture data from existing paper exams including full online reporting, the ability for students to show their work, and a variety of question types. The Answer Pad is available for the iPad, Android or from any web browser.  Download the TAPit Free app for the iPad!

The free version of The Answer Pad is pretty robust for teachers and students.  Premium features are available at a reasonable price that take it to the next level.

How to integrate The Answer Pad into the classroom: The Answer Pad is a really useful addition to the formative assessment puzzle.  I LOVE that it doesn’t limit teachers to gathering low-level data in the format of multiple choice answer (although this feature is available for those times when you want to check for entry level understanding).  The Answer Pad lets students draw and type out answers, making the feedback they give to you during a lesson that much more valuable.  The fact that it isn’t limited to the basics is GREAT!  Imagine a math lesson where students are able to actually show and demonstrate their understanding (not just their amazing guessing skills).  The instantaneous feedback is wonderful for adjusting lessons and providing more individualized instruction based on what you are seeing.

In addition to collecting more valuable math feedback, The Answer Pad also gives you valuable feedback for any subject, a blank template lets students free write/draw their understanding.  This might even be a great way for students to take notes during learning, you can give your students feedback on their note taking during a lesson.  I am always amazed when I look at student notes, some of our students really don’t know what is important enough to write down and how to organize themselves best for later reference.  Using the free draw in The Answer Pad would give you good insight into a student’s thinking process and help you to guide and direct them appropriately.

The reporting feature is also really helpful, being able to look not only at student answers, but also at the written work that led to the answer is SO valuable.  This embedded feature makes Answer Pad more than just a self-grading platform, this is feedback and data that you can really use to drive instruction.

Tips:  Premium features include: custom frameworks for scoring tests, ability to bundle assessments together for side-by-side comparison and reporting, advance functions for test scenarios, an additional drawing palette for the Go Interactive portion, support by phone, and access to black-line template library.

Thank you to @dkapuler for introducing me to The Answer Pad!

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Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  The Answer Pad in your classroom.

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