Toymaker Challenge: Course 4 Final Project


I am excited to FINALLY present my idea for my Course 5 project. I narrowed it down from the following three project ideas:

  • Small Moment Stories (using technology to redefine a narrative writing unit)
  • Digital Portfolios for Elementary Students
  • Genius Hour Unit: Teaching Design Thinking to Elementary Students

After talking with my friend and  colleague Alexis (@AlexisSnider15) and my amazing principal, it became clear that I should choose the third option. My principal really wanted  me to focus on developing a shared language for design thinking at the elementary level. We are in the planning stages for our future makerspace and she thought it would be good to pilot a design thinking unit that could be shared with our elementary staff. So, the Toymaker Design Challenge it is!

Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

This unit brings so many things I have learned about in COETAIL together. It teaches students about design thinking and the design thinking process. There are many design process frameworks but the one that fits my situation  best is found in a book called LAUNCH by John Spencer and AJ Juliani. Their blogs have inspired me in my quest to figure out how to implement Genius Hour in my class. This will set the tone and framework for the our second Genuis Hour unit in Semester 2,  in which students will identify real problems in our community and create solutions. It is a form of project based/challenge based learning. This unit is a great way to introduce young students to digital tools and digital citizenship. There is potential for global collaboration.

Using the LAUNCH framework,  students will be challenged to design something eco friendly, inexpensive, educational and fun for children.

Whereas many genius hour type projects are more open-ended, this one is a bit more structured because I think that it will help my young students narrow down their ideas. Plus, what kid doesn’t love trying to make toys and games?

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

  • Next year will be our first year to have two Grade 3 classes. Will the other Grade 3 teacher be interested in partnering on this or will I be doing it on my own? I will be meeting her soon and look forward to discussing this unit with her.
  • This project needs to be done early in the year and I am worried that my future students will not have had much exposure to using technology.
  • Getting parents onboard and involved
  • We don’t have any tech coaches/integrationists at our school so I’m on my own to teach my students the tech elements.
  • We have no makerspace or digital lab so it’s up to me to provide the space and materials my students will need.
  • Time constraints
  • Global collaboration piece. I still need to figure out how I want my student to collaborate with others outside of our classroom. 

What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?

  • Releasing some control to the students and embracing some chaos
  • Student-centered/driven vs. teacher driven
  • I need to go through the design cycle myself this summer to create something brand new. 
  • Collaborating outside of my classroom/school
  • Working closer with parents
  • Using social media to crowdsource and share
  • Embracing transparency with my colleagues and allowing them inside to see the failures as well as the successes.

What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

  • Digital citizenship skills
  • Knowledge of certain digital tools
  •  Teamwork skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Inquiry skills
  • Growth mindset and the freedom to fail and learn from their mistakes.

Here’s the unit. There are still a few holes that I need to fill in before next Fall, but I am pleased with what I have so far and look forward to building on it.  Please let me know if you have any suggestions or want to collaborate in any way.  Also, please share this with anyone you think might want to collaborate. Cheers and have a great summer!