These students are going to get unruly.
At Sunlake Academy of Math and Science in Lutz, the public charter school has brought in a new learning tool, one that is gaining popularity and proving, through fun and games, to be quite productive and valuable.
“Just sitting down and learning, that can sometimes be boring for them,” Sunlake STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) Program teacher Manjiri Jakhadi said. “So, it’s nice to get them something that is pretty engaging and fun. Movement is a big thing for them, but the goal is to get more technology in lessons, and that’s the focus of the school and the STEAM lab.
“Getting them up and moving as a way to learn is working out great so far,” the teacher said.
Sunlake recently invested in Unruly Splats, which are programmable floor buttons students can code to light up, make sounds and collect points when stomped on. Using block-based coding on an iPad, students code the rules to create games such as whack-a-mole, relay races and dance competitions.
Brandy Lee, the school’s EdTech coach, brought in the new “toys” about a month ago and is slowly implementing the 24 splat pads into different classes including math, reading and others.
“At first, it was kind of like, ‘What is this?’ and once I saw how it put them in front of the iPad and using the program, it was pretty cool,” Sunlake fourth-grade teacher Amber Hicks said. “Plus, it gets them out of their seat, gets them moving and that can work better than them just sitting there and reading and trying to get them to comprehend what they are learning.
“They are learning this way 10 times better than the traditional way of learning. This is a whole new way of getting them to learn and engage in the material than they would be just reading it to themselves or out loud to the class,” Hicks said.
For sure, students are having fun.
In fact, Unruly Splats’ goal is “to build ridiculously fun learning tools that empower teachers to incorporate STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) into any classroom.”
Which is exactly what Lee and Jakhadi are trying to do with STEAM classes at Sunlake Academy.
“We want to expand it across campus and get teachers excited about it,” Lee said. “And it’s really going to be focused on the coding part, but it is so engaging with the students, who are so excited about it and to use the Splats.”
“We just showed it at the last faculty meeting to the teachers and how it can be used for a multitude of lessons,” Jakhadi added. “The students keep experimenting and learning more each time, learning how to improve its usage and the coding each time, so it’s been pretty obvious from the start that it’s been a great learning tool for them and for us.”
Lee added: “And, they pick up on tech very easily! We practiced five to ten times before we got it, but they got it right away, so maybe we should just let them show us how to teach the lesson! (laughs)”
The students appear to be completely engaged when using the new technology, and they’re learning more than coding.
“I think it’s really fun and it’s a good way to cooperate with other kids,” 9-year-old Leila Dehoyos said. “I like being able to jump around and stomp on them. We have learned to code and let other kids take a turn and not get mad.
“We’re learning a lot by working together as a team.”
So, in the end, the students are keeping to the rules of Unruly Splats.
“I like it a lot,” said 9-year-old Hudson Faedo. “We’re learning how to cooperate and take turns, which is important, because if someone didn’t get a turn, you can make sure they get a turn and share (using the splats) with them.
“Plus, we’re learning to code by stomping on them — a lot! — which is pretty cool.”
Details: Programmable floor buttons that students code using an iPad or Chromebook to tell Splats when to light up, make sounds, or collect points when stomped on. Using block-based coding, students code the rules to create games like whack-a-mole, relay races and dance competitions.
Info: Visit UnrulySplats.com.
Published December 21, 2022
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