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Space Explorations, Science Fiction Writing, Shadow Puppet Shows: An Interdisciplinary Unit

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I’ve discussed offering electives to my gifted elementary students. My group of 2nd/3rd graders chose space. It began as one would expect any study of space would begin – watching videos, visiting NASA websites, even playing some online games. They then selected planets to learn and research about. They learned basic researching skills and created a guide to their planets. This evolved into them working in pairs or trios to combine their planets to create new planets, aliens who inhabit their planet, and stories about them. In process now, they are creating shadow puppets in Tinkercad, cutting them on my Cricut machine, and fine tuning their scripts for the shadow puppet shows they will perform for younger grades. (Note: This blog post will be updated with recordings of their shadow puppet shows once completed.

Standards Addressed

Next Generation Science Standards

  • ETS1.C: Optimizing The Design Solution – Different solutions need to be tested in order to determine which of them best solves the problem, given the criteria and the constraints.
  • ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

Science and Engineering Practices

  • Asking questions and defining problems
  • Developing and using models
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions 
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

ELA Anchor Standards

  1. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content. (Writing Anchor 2)
  2. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation. (Writing Anchor 7)
  3. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning…(Speaking/ Listening Anchor 4)
  4. Make strategic use of visual displays to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.  (Speaking/ listening Anchor 5)
  5. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words. (Reading Anchor 7) (source: https://www.artsintegration.net/shadow-puppets.html)

Planet Exploration

Size and Distance of Planets

We began our unit by exploring through planets by size and How Big is the Solar System?.

Researching Planets

Based on initial explorations, students selected a planet to research. It started with Wikipedia and gave me the opportunity to teach them them how to:

  • Skim an article using headings
  • Copy and paste key passages into a Google doc
  • Cite their sources by pasting in the link where they found the information
  • Highlight key words

They explored more facts about their chosen planets through https://www.dkfindout.com/us/space/solar-system/ and https://www.planetsforkids.org/ adding more facts to their Google doc guides

Diving Deeper: Space Travel Guide

Students then completed Space Travel Guides for their their selected planets. These templates were found at https://www.amnh.org/explore/ology/astronomy/space-travel-guide2 (Spanish versions are available).

Some sample completed pages:

Creating New Planets

To move into story creation, students formed groups of two or three. Their first task was to combine what they learned about their original, real planets to create new fictional planets. Here is are some student examples:

One day all the planets where going around the solar system but then Jupiter and Mercury got mashed up! . Our planet’s name is Merpirter. Merpiter has 40 moons. Merpiter is the coldest planet in the Solar system about -35,500 C. degrees. The diameter of merpiter is 44,956 miles. Merpiter colors is like a brownish orange. The goddess of Merpiter is Jupas. Merpiter has big mountains.

How Vars Was Made: A star exploded In the solar system and Venus and Mars got smashed together to  make Vars. How Vars got its moons: one of mars’s moons went around Vars while the other moon flew away. Terrain: the surface is half red half orange and vars has 10 volcanos.

Estimating Dimensions of New Planets

Several students included numerical facts about their planets. This gave me the opportunity to teach them about calculated averages.

Possible Vegetation and Creatures via Math Snacks’ Agrinautica

The app, Agrinautica, allows students to terraform planets by adding gorgeous plants, animals, fungi and minerals, each representing a unique mathematical expression. It s designed for 4th and 5th graders learning mathematical expression-building and order of operations, important pre-algebra skills.

I was so excited to discover this online math game. It fit perfectly into this unit and helped teach the gifted 2nd and 3rd graders some advanced math concepts.

Here is one group’s setting for their story created through this game.

Writing Collaborative Stories

In their small groups, students wrote their stories by using the collaborative function of Storyboard That and Google docs. To begin, though, I shared a kid=friendly video (students ended up loving this) about a story arc.

Storyboard That

Storyboard That is an online storyboarding tool that makes it easy to create a digital story using both images, text, and storyboard templates. It offers a template for a story arc so it was perfect for my students. This is an example of one group’s creation.

Shadow Puppet Shows

The history and characteristics of shadow puppet shows were reviewed with the students.

Source: https://www.artsintegration.net/shadow-puppets.html

Writing Scripts

Since shadow puppet shows are often dialogue driven, lots of time was spent on creating dialogue for the different story arc events from the stories they already worked on. I realized they had some idea of the story arc, but needed some direct instruction. As such, for each event, the video above was reviewed, time was spent on writing the dialogue of that story arc event,

Creating Their Characters

They used Tinkercad to create the characters their shadow puppet shows.

I then cut their characters out using a Cricut Machine.

They then added wooden rods to the back in order to be able to move their puppets around the screen.

Making the Shadow Puppet Theater Screen

Directions for making the screen using a trifold (which I plan to do) can be found at http://www.pasttimeshistory.com/using-a-tri-fold-presentation-board-for-a-durable-screen/

(Note: These images are how I started teaching them about shadow puppet shows – through cutting out alien shadow puppets, showing them how to attach the rods and how to use them behind the screen.)

Shadow Puppet Show Performances

Students performed their shadow puppet shows for the younger grades. To introduce the puppet shows, students shared a little bit about their planets.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 13, 2023 at 1:07 am

Monster Project Using Makey Makeys and Scratch

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This project takes the Monster Project enhancing it with interactivity created through using Scratch and Makey Makeys. It was inspired by the Makey Makey Hack a Toy Lesson. Part of the lesson included the 5th graders interviewing 1st graders. This Edutopia article discussed the benefits of interviewing – Learning to Interview Builds a Range of Communication Skills .

Standards Addressed

Common Core State Standards – ELA

  • Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, orissue under study.

National Core Arts Standards

  • Students will generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.

CSTA Standards

  • Decompose (break down) problems into smaller, manageable subproblems to facilitate the program development process.
  • Modify, remix, or incorporate portions of an existing program into one’s own work, to develop something new or add more advanced features.

ISTE Standards for Students

  • Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
  • Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

Making the Monsters

A 1st grade teacher was asked to have her student draw monsters.

The 5th graders used felt to recreate the 1st graders’ drawing using felt. They were then sewn together with yarn and stuffed with filling.

Preparing the Plushy

The SAGE students created larger versions of the 1st graders’ drawn monsters through using felt pieces for the base and the features of the drawing, adding a back, sewing it today with yarn, and stuffing it

Interviewing the 1st Graders

The interview questions were developed by the SAGE students first by brainstorming ideas on the Promethean board, and second sharing them on a Google Doc so they each had a copy:

Interviews

The SAGE 5th graders interviewed the 1st graders about their Monsters using Vocaroo. It produces a MP3 file which is compatible with Scratch. This file is downloaded.

Preparing the Files in Scratch

The SAGE students then uploads their MP3 files into Scratch where it is edited into clips of sounds. This link gives some details how to do so https://helpkidscreate.com/adding-audio-to-scratch/.

See more of their code:

After the 5th graders made the plushies, they prepared them to be connected to the Makey Makey by taping in conductive tape and sewing in conductive thread as described in https://makeymakey.com/blogs/how-to-instructions/maker-class-lesson-two-hack-a-toy

The Reveal to the 1st Graders

When all of the projects were complete, they were set up in our classroom and the 1st graders were brought in for the reveal.

Presenting Their Projects at Our Innovation Fair

Several SAGE students presented their Monster Projects at our district’s innovation fair.




Extra – Animated Drawings and Blabberize

As an extra project and to enable younger students to get more involved with the technology, they can animated their drawings using https://sketch.metademolab.com/:

or Blabberize their monsters.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 4, 2023 at 12:36 am

ChatGPT with My Students

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I love educational technology. When technologies were first available online, I was an early adopter, and often got brutally criticized by administrators and colleagues in my K-6 settings for having students use the internet for research, use web tools, create webpages in wikis, and work virtually with schools in other states and countries (for example, see their work from 2008 at http://weewebwonders.pbworks.com/). Now, similar work is often seen as innovative by colleagues. Boy, have times thankfully changed, but I have not. I still am an early adopter of technologies in that I believe many can benefit students in their learning.

As many in education know, commentary about ChatGPT is appearing on the news, social media, and the internet. As I always do, I am exploring its use in my classes (elementary-level gifted education). This post describes its use in education from the perspectives of ChatGPT, itself, and from a handful of educators. Later, I describe and show the work of my students. I conclude with tools for detecting machine-generated text, and provide a parting shot.

General Ideas for Using ChatGPT in Education

ChatGPT, according to ChatGPT, is a variant of the GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) language model that has been specifically designed for generating human-like text for chatbot applications. GPT models are trained on large amounts of text data and are able to generate natural language text that is coherent and grammatically correct. ChatGPT is trained to generate text that is more conversational and appropriate for use in chatbot applications. It can be used to generate responses to user input, initiate conversations, and provide information and assistance to users in a chatbot setting.

According to ChatGPT, there are several potential ways that ChatGPT or similar language models could be used in education:

  • As a tutor or teaching assistant: ChatGPT could be used to provide personalized feedback and guidance to students, answering questions and providing explanations on a variety of educational topics.
  • For language learning: ChatGPT or similar models could be used to provide conversation practice and feedback to students learning a new language.
  • To generate personalized learning content: ChatGPT or similar models could be used to generate customized learning materials for students, such as practice problems or reading assignments.
  • To facilitate collaborative learning: ChatGPT or similar models could be used to facilitate discussions and collaboration among students, providing prompts and guidance for group projects and assignments.

Here are some guides created by educators, Torrey Trust and Andrew Herft, for using ChatGPT in educational settings. They include uses for teachers such as creating lesson plans and assessments as well as how students can use it:

ChatGPT in the K-12 Setting

When specifically asked how ChatGPT can be used by K-12 students, it reported the following:

K-12 students can use ChatGPT in a variety of ways to enhance their learning experience. Some examples include:

  • Asking ChatGPT to explain a difficult concept or topic
  • Using ChatGPT to generate practice questions and answers for studying
  • Asking ChatGPT to summarize a text or article
  • Using ChatGPT to generate creative writing prompts
  • Asking ChatGPT to help with homework by answering questions or providing explanations
  • Using ChatGPT to improve reading comprehension by asking questions about a text
  • Creating interactive quizzes and games to make learning more engaging

It also (thankfully) provided a disclaimer: It’s important to note that while ChatGPT can be a valuable tool for K-12 students, it should not be used as a substitute for a teacher or other educational professional. A teacher can help to provide guidance, feedback, and structure to the learning process.

Matt Miller of Ditch the Textbook also discussed uses of ChatGPT in K-12 education:

More detailed explanations of these can be found in ChatGPT, Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence in Education. Since the time this blog post was first composed, Matt has written a book – AI for Educators: Learning Strategies, Teacher Efficiencies, and a Vision for an Artificial Intelligence Future which can be purchased on Amazon.

ChatGPT Can Support Students’ Social Emotional Learning

Students and teachers may benefit from asking and discovered various ways it could assist someone with social and emotional skills. It gave helpful answers to all the questions below, and when asked to “regenerate the response” was able to provide additional quality responses. It can be very helpful for anyone who has a difficult time in social situations, is nervous about making friends, is conflicted about how to handle a particular situation.

  • What are some questions I could ask a new friend?
  • What advice do you have for someone starting a new school and wanting to make friends?
  • What are some suggestions for how to say no if a friend asks to copy my homework?
  • What are suggestions to explain to someone what they said or did hurt my feelings?
  • What are small talk suggestions at a party?
  • I am nervous about my test tomorrow; can you give me some relaxation strategies?
  • I want to motivate my group members to help with our project; what are some suggestions to help motivate them?
  • I made the soccer team, but my best friend didn’t make it, I feel bad and don’t know what to do. Do you have any suggestions?
  • I want to practice being kind in the new year. What are some specific ways I can show kindness to others? (ChatGPT to Your Classroom-your-classroom/).

Testing ChatGPT with My Students

In his blog post, ChatGPT, Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence in Education, Matt proposed that maybe ChatCPT should be blocked until the end of the school year because, “We need some space. Some time. A little room to ponder, to sit with all of this. To talk to other educators about what they think. To talk to students and to parents.” For me, the best way to find out about the functionality and effectiveness of any potential classroom-based educational technology is to have students test it out for themselves, so that is what I did with my 4th-6th graders.

I think it is important to be intentional when any educator or I use any type of educational technology. I get frustrated when I see conference presentations about 50 educational technologies in 50 minutes. It becomes about the tool rather than about the pedagogy. When using educational technology in the classroom, instructional goals should be established beyond just learning about the tool. As such, when I asked students to explore ChatGPT, I had two purposes in mind, (1) To be critical consumers of online tools, and (2) To increase their joy of the written word.

They were given the following task:

  • Test out ChatGPT (using my account under my supervision) with two of the following
    • A Piece of Your Own Writing
    • Favorite Book
    • Favorite Song
    • Current News Story
    • Historical Event
    • (My students ended up using it to create a written piece to go with an image generated by DALL·E 2, a new AI system that can create realistic images and art from a description in natural language.)
  • For each, try to
    • Create a rap or rock song.
    • Write a three act play, TV show, or movie. Specify the characters.
    • Create a fairy tale.
    • Write a limerick.
    • Create a newscast.
    • Create a holiday.
    • Create a commercial.
    • Make a joke.
    • Get feedback.
  • Rules
    • No violence.
    • No fighting characters.
    • Focus on the positive and kindness.

Students then wrote a blog post that included their results as well as reflections on the following questions:

  • Did it produce desirable results? If so, to what degree? If not, why?
  • What did you like best?
  • Do you think it will lose its novelty? Why or Why not?
  • How can it help you learn better?
  • Why shouldn’t it ever be used in school?

Here is a slide deck of their work that they posted on their Fan school blogs (note: I instructed them to indicate that the images and text were generated by AI:

A summary of my students comments about using ChatGPT at school:

  • ChatGPT should not be used in school because then kids will use it instead of writing themselves, which defeats the purpose of practicing to write, a skill that is vital in later life.
  • On the other hand, it could help me learn proper grammar and advanced words.
  • It can help you learn by giving you examples and thoughts.
  • The results were very desirable because it was very good grammar and a realistic image, I rate it a ten.
  • I think this website will help me learn better by including proficient and highly advanced words.
  • I think ChatGPT should never be used in school because it takes no work other than typing a few words into a search bar and then you push a button and the website does all the work for you.
  • I think a reason why you should not use this for school work is because you will get in trouble.
  • I like it because it is so cool the way that it creates a story just by describing something.
  • I think you shouldn’t use AI at school because you are basically cheating. 

I then asked students to create a pledge for using ChatGPT for work related to school:


Detecting Machine-Generated Text

Teachers, rightfully, are fearful of the potential for students to cheat using ChatGPT to generate essays, homework assignments, etc. To help offset this problem, apps and tools are being develop to help detect

  •  GPTZero.me rolled out their new model that includes sentence highlighting and much faster processing. GPTZero now highlights sentences for you that are more likely to have been written by AI, a key feature that teachers have been requesting. File uploads have been added You can upload a PDF, docx, or txt file where GPTZero will read the text and detect AI plagiarism!
  • The AI Text Classifier, by openai, the developers of Chat GPT, is a fine-tuned GPT model that predicts how likely it is that a piece of text was generated by AI from a variety of sources, such as ChatGPT.
  • AI Writing Check is a free service developed by Quill.org and CommonLit.org to enable educators to check if a piece of writing submitted by a student was written by the AI tool ChatGPT. This algorithm is designed to detect AI-generated writing. We estimate, based on testing with 15k essays, that this tool is accurate 80-90% of the time. For this reason, we’d like to encourage teachers to exercise caution when using this tool to detect academic dishonesty. AI Writing Check is a stopgap tool measure for educators to use this school year until more advanced AI detection tools are made widely available.
  • Giant Language Model Test Room (or GLTR) is another tool that can be used to predict if casual portions of text have been written with AI. To use GLTR, a piece of text simply copy and pasted into the input box and anaylze is hit to generate a report.

Citing ChatGPT

With my elementary students, I simply ask/require that they cite that they used ChatGPT (and Dall-e) in their blog posts which is their writing platform.

For my graduate students, this isn’t an issue yet, but has the possibility of being so. Scribber has these suggestions for citing ChatGPT:

How to cite ChatGPT in APA Style

APA doesn’t have a specific format for citing ChatGPT content yet, but they recommended in a tweet that it should be cited as a personal communication, since the text is not retrievable (chats are unique to each user, so you can’t provide a URL for others to access your chats).

Universities and citation authorities are still working out if and when it’s appropriate to cite ChatGPT in your work. There isn’t a clear consensus yet. Always check your institution’s guidelines or ask your instructor if you’re not sure.

If you’re using ChatGPT responses as a primary source (e.g., you’re studying the abilities of AI language models), you should definitely cite it for this purpose, just as you would any piece of evidence.

If you use ChatGPT to help you in the research or writing process (e.g., using it to develop research questions or create an outline), you may be required to cite or acknowledge it in some way. Check if your institution has guidelines about this.

Don’t cite ChatGPT as a source of factual information (e.g., asking it to define a term and then quoting its definition in your paper). ChatGPT isn’t always trustworthy and is not considered a credible source for use in academic writing.

How to cite ChatGPT in APA Style. APA personal communication citations don’t require a reference entry. Instead, they’re mentioned in parentheses in the text wherever you quoted or paraphrased the source.Example: APA ChatGPT citation(ChatGPT, personal communication, February 16, 2023)

ChatGPT Citations | Formats & Examples – https://www.scribbr.com/ai-tools/chatgpt-citations/

Better Yet – Design ChatGPT-Proof Learning Activities

For years many educators have talked about having students do Google-proof activities. To do so, Doug Johnson suggested:

  • Allow (or require) the student to relate the academic topic to an area of personal interest. 
  • Allow (or require) the student to do inquiry that has implications for him/herself or his/her family. 
  • Allow (or require) the student to give local focus to the research. 
  • Allow (or require) that the student’s final product relate to a current, real-world problem.

These suggestions are applicable to ChatGPT. Similar ideas were suggested by Alyson Klein in Outsmart ChatGPT: 8 Tips for Creating Assignments It Can’t Do:

  • Ask students to write about something deeply personal – Consider having students delve into their scariest moment, the biggest challenge they ever overcame, or even answer a quirky personal question: Would you rather be the bucket or the sand? It’s difficult at this point for AI to fake highly personal writing.
  • Center a writing assignment around an issue specific to the local community. ChatGPT doesn’t have a strong background in hyperlocal issues, though that is likely to change as the tool becomes more sophisticated, experts say. But for now, educators may be able to minimize how much help ChatGPT can be on a particular assignment by grounding it in the school community—maybe even by asking students to write about a new school rule or the student council election.
  • Direct students to write about a very recent news event. At this point, ChatGPT can’t capture much information about things that happened just days earlier. Teachers could ask students to compare a very recent news event to a historical one.
  • Have students show or explain their work. In math class, students usually show how they arrived at a particular answer to get credit for solving a problem. That concept could apply to writing. For instance, teachers could prompt students to detail their brainstorming process, explaining why they choose to write about a particular topic. Have students show or explain their work. In math class, students usually show how they arrived at a particular answer to get credit for solving a problem. That concept could apply to writing. For instance, teachers could prompt students to detail their brainstorming process, explaining why they choose to write about a particular topic.
  • Ask students to give an oral presentation, along with the written work. Ask students to record themselves on a video platform such as FlipGrid, talking about their essay, story, report, or other assignment, 

To these ideas, I add:

  • Have students write during class time (which is my preference anyhow).
  • Have students create their writing piece as part of a poster or Infographic (with graphics) using an online tool such as Canva, Adobe Express, and/or Book Creator.
  • Have students create an art piece (2D or 3dD) to go along with the writing and explain how it does so.
  • Ask students to do collaborative writing using Google Docs that is a truly integrated piece (not individual pieces) from several students.
  • Allow students to use ChatGPT with students giving it credit, analyzing it, and adding their own ideas.

Parting Shot

Many of the same fear and arguments that are being leveraged against ChatGPT in education settings have been leveraged against other technologies in the past. Wikipedia is one of those examples. I loved it when it first came out, but I knew lots of teachers who banned Wikipedia in their classrooms.

“Big-picture, AI will cause a shift students will deal with for the rest of their lives. They’ll wrestle with questions of humanity, questions of obsolescence, ethical questions. Let’s [teachers] help them with this” (http://ditch.link/ai via @jmattmiller).

The presence of disruptive technologies like ChatGPT should cause us to reflect on our learning goals, outcomes, and assessments, and determine whether we should change them in response, wall off the technology, or change the technology itself to better support our intended outcomes. We should not let our existing approaches remain simply because this is the way we have always done them. We should also not ruin what is great about writing in the name of preventing cheating. We could make students hand-write papers in class and lose the opportunity to think creatively and edit for clarity. Instead, we should double down on our goal of making sure that students become effective written and oral communicators. For better or worse, these technologies are part of the future of our world. We need to teach our students if it is appropriate to use them, and, if so, how and when to work alongside them effectively (Advice and responses from faculty on ChatGPT and A.I.-assisted writing)

These technology-driven disruptions will not be smooth, even if they can make us better off in the long run. Among the worst things we could do would be to let the drawbacks of these technologies deny us their benefits. In addition, the net effect of these changes will not be felt equally, so we all had better improve our capacity for compassion soon. The impact of ChatGPT and similar tools on education and the workforce may not yet feel much different than the trends of recent decades, but the depth and breadth of the changes brought by AI tools is accelerating and may be something new entirely (With ChatGPT, Education May Never Be the Same). 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 22, 2023 at 9:37 pm

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