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Tech in Middle School Shows Inquiry, Play, and Learning

Middle School tech classes have soared to new heights this school year taking on an expansive assortment of tech tools and platforms. Tools for students to create virtual and augmented reality, stop-motion animation, puzzles, games, and much more have taken Middle School Technology classes beyond just learning about computers.

“We are seeing students who are curious and engaged and really driving their own learning through inquiry and having fun,” said first-year Middle School Technology Coordinator Matthew Baylor. “During a time when there are so many stressors in the world, we felt that it was appropriate to ask, ‘How are we going to have fun with the tech that we have? How do we stretch our creativity to new areas while keeping the students fully in charge of what it is that they're learning?’”

Using tools such as Blender, CoSpaces, Merge Cube, and Microsoft MakeCode Arcade, and programming languages like Scratch, students are continually evolving and developing their own projects, guided only when needed by Middle School tech teachers.

“This class specifically teaches them not just to be happy with being told what to do and not even being happy with what their first instincts are, but to really dig beyond the surface of what a tool can do,” Baylor said. 

The approach to learning tech in Middle School is based on students’ desire to inquire, play, and apply what they learn to a tangible piece of technology.

“I feel really strongly about our approach to this education which is to ignite students' by their own desire to learn,” Middle School Computer Science Teacher David Gomes said. “If the only learning students are interested in—no matter what age they are—is driven by outside forces, they're not getting it. And right now they can learn anything they want in our classes, but they have to learn how to vet the information to find out what's real, what's not real, how useful it is, and then start to incorporate it into their work.”

One of the many examples of this approach is the use of Merge Cubes. A Merge Cube is a black and silver physical cube that has inlaid designs that interact with various Merge Cube apps to transform the cube into a digital canvas. Essentially, students program anything they want and the Merge Cube allows them to hold digital 3D objects to help them interact with the digital world.

“Right before winter break, we introduced the Merge Cube to sixth-graders to play around with and explore,” Baylor said. “Within half an hour I had students emailing me screenshots and pictures because they thought it was so cool. And I didn’t even ask for anything from them!”