Ross Cooper wad one of the winners of the Adobe Edu Awards this year and I had a chance to interview him about his winning submission, Ross Cooper, Ross Boss Projects: Pinball Wizard. I did a post on Ross and his awesome Pinball Wizard Project earlier this year because I thought his project was very interesting. Take a look at what he had to say about his winning project and some other things he is working on this year.
What gave you the idea to use Pinball as the basis of your project?
I currently work for the East Penn School District. Last school year, the district began a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics or STEM initiative. This program started at the elementary level. Two of my fourth grade teammates and I volunteered to be a part of the cohort. For the school year, each team was asked to develop at least one STEM unit.
My goal was to create a project that was both multidisciplinary and authentic. When looking over the areas of science that we would be teaching, I thought that the building of pinball machines would accomplish these objectives, and at the same time it would merge multiple areas of science: electricity and magnetism, and force and motion.
What worries did you have going into the creation of the project?
The biggest worry was making sure that all of the correct materials were purchased, especially since this was a project that was completed by 5 fourth grade classrooms (about 140 students). I knew that there would be some trial and error, but I wanted to minimize the mistakes as much as possible. A good friend of mine helped me to engineer a prototype and decide on most of the materials. Then, it was a matter of creating a comprehensive list of materials and purchasing what was needed. One of my fourth grade teammates has a good friend who is a manager at Lowe’s. They both helped out immeasurably.
Where there any surprises along the way?
The biggest surprise was the difficulty we faced with incorporating a working electrical circuit into each machine. The project requirements state, “When the ball makes contact with a specific part of the machine, the light bulb should light up.” This was easier said than done. Throughout the building of the machines, both the teachers and students experimented with the best ways to make this happen. Learning along with the students made the inquiry-based learning that much more powerful.
How did the kids receive this when you first let them play?
After the project was complete, the students spent a couple of hours playing each other’s machines. They were very excited to show off their work, and to experience what the rest of the class had to offer. During this time, awards were distributed as students voted on each other’s machines. Categories included Most Likely to Light Up, Most Fun to Play, Most Creative, Most Beautiful, and Best Use of a Science Theme.
What do you plan to do with the prizes?
First, all of my wonderful students are more than welcome to spend some time on the MacBook, as I promised them that this would happen if I won the contest. Once I familiarize myself with some of Adobe Creative Suite 5.5, I will also try to provide them with hands-on time with this as well. Even though students at the elementary level do not typically use such software, I still believe that exposure to it is important, as it helps to provide inspiration and promote creativity. Also, by seeing how the “pros” execute their work, it helps to authenticate any parallel tasks that are done in the classroom.
On a personal level, I will be using the MacBook on a daily basis. In learning the Creative Suite, I will probably start with the Flash platform, Illustrator, and Photoshop. These are the programs that are most applicable to my daily classroom instruction.
Do you have any other fun game based lessons you are working on for class?
Right now, I have an exciting science project planned for next month. The students will not be creating games, but the project is based on Angry Birds and Challenge Based Learning. The link to the project is here.
How important do you think it is for teachers to share their lessons with others?
Right now, the field of education is experiencing somewhat of a change due to the widespreadintegration of technology, and the emphasis on problem solving, project-based learning, and STEM. As changes takes place, and as these new approaches become prevalent, teachers need more support. Therefore, the sharing of lessons is now more important than it ever has been.
How has Adobe software impacted your other lessons?
Every year I teach a handful of projects in both Language Arts and science. Each one of these projects is taught through the use of an interactive website that is drawn up in Illustrator and Photoshop, and then animated and completed in flash. Once each flash website is published, it is embedded into my teacher website through the WYSIWYG editor. Each flash website contains all information that is needed for its respective project, such as an overview, directions, rubric(s), relevant content, and links to applicable activities, handouts, websites, and videos. Pinball Wizard and Angry animals are two examples of such projects.
To view this and many more great lessons, go to the Adobe Education Exchange and sign up.
Thanks again to everyone who participated in this year's contest.