Creative lesson planning in quarantine
With the pandemic drawing closer, and trying to maintain some semblance of enthusiasm despite the dwindling student numbers at Footscray High School, I thought I’d try some design thinking with my class who had just been working through the ACA’s Intro to micro:bit course in Grok.
While our curriculum plan had been for a design challenge in Term 2, I rushed this forward a little in anticipation of a shut-down, trying to squeeze it into the space of a single lesson, also with me moving things along a bit more than I’d have preferred.
So I asked the students “how can we use micro:bits to help with the coronavirus?”
The ensuing brainstorm came up with some interesting ideas, particularly given they hadn’t had too much exposure to the full capabilities of them.
The class had well-heeded the message that the two most important things they could do were frequent hand-washing and physical distancing, so we went with those.
A physical distancing application would be a bit beyond what we had capacity to do (we hadn’t introduced the radio or external sensors), so we went with a hand-washing system.
Designing a micro:bit hand-washing guide
Students came up with two ideas:
- a timer to remind you to wash your hands every so often, and
- a guide to ensure you wash your hands for the full 20 seconds.
Unpacking the latter one, we delved into the practicalities (need to be water-proof, easy to start), and some UX principles (need to make the remaining time somehow visible, and to make it clear the device is actually doing something).
A numerical timer was ruled out due to the display size, but some students went for a pixel-by-pixel counting approach.
Another idea that came up was to display icons representing the different parts of the hand-washing routine — palms, backs, thumbs, between fingers, and fingertips, and show these for a portion of the 20 seconds. A couple of students went to work designing icons within the constraints of a 5x5 pixel grid. We had recently finished the ACA unplugged “Abstract Drawing” activity (Activity 1 in the lesson plan) so this fit perfectly.
We ran out of time here, but I’ve since deployed micro:bit packages for students to take home to actually build these things (and others).
Advice to teachers
This activity can be as open or as closed as you want to make it; you could give students:
- a pre-rolled hex file to load onto their micro:bits for an example,
- an algorithm to translate into code,
- a design brief to implement, or
- a full open design challenge.
There are plenty of opportunities to include some maths, particularly with calculating timings and pixel coordinates, as well as ideas of clear communication and UI/UX.