Skyping with Rube Goldberg’s Granddaughter: Improving the Student Voice Experience

rubeworks skype (2)Our 2nd grade is in the midst of another amazing project. They are studying simple machines, force, and motion as a part of their science curriculum.  We kicked off this unit by tinkering with a Rube Goldberg iPad app called Rubeworks.  Students worked in pairs to problem solve the many parts each Rube Goldberg puzzle. We allowed an hour for this experience and students persevered through the entire hour and supported one another.  Students continued to use this app in class.

Next, students had the opportunity to Skype with David Fox, the creator of the RubeWorks app.  He told a lot about how the app was made as well as listened to what the students loved and what they were frustrated with while using the app.

rubeworks skype (4)

In class, students read the book Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee. They used lots of tools to construct their own “roller coasters” and test them out.  This is all leading up to students designing and creating their own Rube Goldberg invention.

rubeworks skype (5)

This year, I purchased a book called The Art of Rube Goldberg. This book contains numerous pieces of Goldberg’s artwork, which was mostly selected by his granddaughter, Jennifer George.  Students have enjoyed studying these illustrations in class.  All of the puzzles in the Rubeworks game are based on pieces of artwork, so studying these images also supports students figuring out the game puzzles.

Jennifer George (1)

Using Skype in the Classroom, we scheduled a Skype with Jennifer George.  Ahead of the Skype, students spent time in class preparing questions to ask Jennifer George.  The second grade teachers and I have really been fine-tuning a process for our skype sessions, and it is proving to create some very rich experiences for our students.  Students wrote questions about Rube Goldberg based on their knowledge of him from the illustrations in the book, their experience with the app, their observations of Rube Goldberg inventions, and their own drawings of inventions.

Jennifer George (4)

During our Skype, Jennifer George told us just a bit about Rube Goldberg and herself, but she left lots of room for questions.  It’s times like these, that I’m so glad that the 2nd grade teachers have developed their Skype process.  Students had prepared questions on index cards.  The teachers quickly passed them out and we made a line of students who were ready to ask a question.  Students took turns stepping to the webcam, saying their name, and asking their question.  They awaited Jennifer’s response, and then said “thank you” before sitting back down.  Our questions really carried the Skype conversation today.  Each time a student asked a question, Jennifer commented on what a great question it was.  Students asked things like:

  • Did you aspire to be like your grandfather?
  • Do you have any of Rube Goldberg’s artwork?
  • How many drawings did Rube Goldberg make?
  • Did you ever help your grandfather draw his art?

Jennifer George (7)

Each question was met with an extended story that uncovered pieces of Jennifer George and Rube Goldberg’s life.  We even got to see a sculpture that Rube Goldberg had created.

Jennifer George (5) Jennifer George (6)

I love Skype experiences where students get to interact with the presenter.  It empowers students to be able to ask the questions that they are curious about and have their curiosities answered.  I’m so thankful for teachers that give students the space to prepare for interviewing a Skype guest.  These interview skills will only continue to improve and will be a skill that students will carry with them throughout their lives.

Jennifer George (10) Jennifer George (9)

The teachers and I all commented on how different this Skype was compared to last year’s Skype with Jennifer George.  The time to prepare, the time to think about questions that matter and connect, and the trust to allow students to lead the conversation made this a memorable experience for us all.

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