Technology at Benson Village School

The students here at Benson Village School have been learning with and about technology in a big way! This year the students have been learning about 3D design, CAD, engineering concepts, additive manufacturing processes, robotics, programming concepts and languages, cloud based computing, app creation and more.

Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing)

It has often been said that the jobs that our students will be expected to fill do not yet exist. If that prediction is accurate, it becomes incumbent upon us in education to do our level best to examine emerging technological trends in business, determine which trends would be most valuable for our students and to expedite the teaching of these trends so as to fully equip our students for the future job force they will be entering.

We here at Benson are very fortunate to have our own 3D printer available to the students. Far from being merely a fun toy, as some might initially believe, additive manufacturing is a huge movement which many are calling the next Industrial Revolution. The Horizon Report for 2013 states that “3D printers should be a goal for complete integration in K-12 within 5 years.” Benson is once again ahead of the curve, technologically speaking.

Click here to see a video of our 3D printer in action.

Click here to read an industry white paper on the future of 3D Printing.

Students have been very enthusiastic about learning how to use the 3D printer. 3rd and 4th grades have designed a personalized key chain in Tinkercad, a 3D development program (Click here to try it yourself) and now are designing catapults in order to solve a problem presented to them.

5th through 6th have been designing keychains, pendants and iPod cases.

During this, the students are learning concepts of physics, design, structure strength, breaking whole units down to component parts, CAD, 3D spatial thinking and more. But don’t let them know that…they are just having fun.

Be sure to return to this page to see the ongoing projects that students will be tackling in this new and booming emergent technology.

Games and Learning

Clockwise from upper left: Minecraft, Cargobot, Hearts of Iron, Miasmata, Civilization 5.

I am pretty sure that for most parents, the image of their child being totally engrossed by a video game is a familiar one. For some parents this can be distressing as it is not clear to them that there is any value to this activity. Shouldn’t the kids be “doing something” with their time?

Well, it seems that they are “doing something” and much of it might just be positive.

As more and more research is being done, it becomes increasingly clear that video games possess huge actual and potential benefits to learning.

I am a total fanatic when it comes to reading. I have been a voracious consumer of information from books since I first learned to read. My Kindle overflows with books and I take it everywhere so that no matter where I am, I can always access my library and read some more in slow moments.

Most of the knowledge I possess has been acquired through reading….but….

When I am not reading books, I am reading video games. Yep, video games. Or about video games. And reading a lot!

Video games like Civilization V, Europa Universalis, Hearts of Iron and most Role Playing Games require pages and pages of information to be read by the player who wants to succeed at the game. Civilization has something called the “Civilopeadia” which provide extensive detail about every unit, section or rule of the game. This can add up to a lot of reading since the goal is to develop a stone age tribe into a modern society. Then there are the text adventures in which the whole game is nothing but text. No visuals at all, just text and a chance to input text, propelling the player through the game.

Some game statistics (click here to follow link for sources and more information)

Video games can improve early literacy in 4 and 5 year olds, especially letter recognition and story comprehension.

More than 100 Fortune 500 Companies like IBM, Cisco, Cold Stone Creamery, use gaming for training purposes.

In Galaxy Zoo gamers contributed to real world research efforts by classifying objects seen by the Hubble Telescope. 50 Million real galaxies and celestial bodies were accurately classified by gamers in the first year.

In Eterna and FoldIt, players solve biochemical puzzles, helping scientists better understand genetics.

Scientists from University of Washington have been struggling for the past decade to decipher the complex structure of an enzyme that exhibits AIDS-like behavior, and which might hold a critical role in building a cure for the disease. Gamers playing spatial game Foldit have managed to collectively determine the enzyme’s structure in ten days.

Kids who played Tetris for 30 minutes a day for three months had a thicker cortex than those who didn’t play. (The cortex is believed to process coordination and visual information.)

Action games, (the so-called mindless ones) sharpen vision and help to cure amblyopia, aka “lazy eye”. In one hour, action games can do what the traditional eye patch treatment can achieve in 400 hours.

Surgeons that game are 27% faster at procedures and made 37% fewer errors compared to surgeons who did not game.

Games like Minecraft require the player to learn a massive amount of information in order to craft the items from resources that you gather. The Minecraft environment is also good for young players because it provides them with a “space” that is their own. In the real world, kids often are powerless, even in their own room. They have no real control over any aspect of their lives. Minecraft provides a space wherein they may have a measure of control that no other person can take from them. This makes Minecraft a very empowering place for kids to be.

Skills learned in video games can and do transfer to real world skills. For example….

Hans Jørgen Olsen and his sister got into a spot of trouble when they encroached on the territory of a moose. When the beast went on the offensive, Hans knew the first thing he had to do was taunt it so that it would leave his sister alone and she could run to safety. “Taunting” is a move one uses in World of Warcraft to get monsters off of the less-well-armored team members.

Once he was a target, Hans remember another skill he’d picked up at level 30 in ‘World of Warcraft’ — he feigned death. The moose lost interest in the inanimate Hans and wandered off into the woods. When he was safely alone Hans ran back home to share his tale of video game-inspired survival.

So why not have kids be learning from video games all the time if they are proving to be so effective? Well, as with anything, moderation is key. Experts (sociologists, psychiatrists and scientists) are suggesting that players play 21 hours or less per week. After 21 hours the benefits decrease and the effects can turn harmful.

Here at Benson, the integration of games based learning is just one more way that we are staying well ahead of the curve. But wait….

Programming and Robotics

This nation needs programmers! It has been estimated that 9 out of 10 programming jobs will not be filled by Americans. That need not be. Here at Benson Village School, students are being taught programming concepts and some small amount of programming languages. Games like CargoBot and Robot Logic teach students the concepts of programming without locking them in to learning the syntax of programming at the same time. Introducing students to programming and programming language will be vital for those “good jobs of the future.”

We also have several programmable robots, so that students can observe real world applications of their programs. The one depicted above is one such device, but since it is fully assembled, it teaches programming only. With LEGO Mindstorms set, students must solve another level of complexity , building the robot first and then program it’s operations.

There are many other uses of technology that Benson Village School has been introducing to it’s students in an attempt to allow them to be as informed as they can possibly be. Be sure to return to this page periodically to see more of what we are doing.

Digital Citizenship

Much of the aforementioned is rendered moot unless one has students that are internet savvy. Unfortunately, although it may be safe to refer to students as digital natives, they are not Digital Citizens.  To this end, Benson Village School actively teaches students how to become responsible and safe digital citizens. Periodically students are given exercises that are designed to enhance online proficiency.

In one such exercise, the game Minecraft was used as a shared but closed digital environment in which the students discussed what would and would not be considered appropriate behavior of a citizen of that realm. Once the rules were decided upon, the class was told to work together to build a copy of the school and to all be diligent and aware of any transgressions of the law of the land. Each student was an enforcement agent but would only politely remind each other of mistakes.

Also, for the last two years a Digital Citizenship contest has been held in grades 5-8 to design a Digital Citizenship Public Service Announcement.

Computer Club


With all of these tech related projects being conducted in the classroom, one might imagine that students might want to take a break.

Not so.

Many of the students here at Benson take advantage of the after school computer club. Some students come in to try out the things they are learning in class on projects of their own. Some come in to socialize with friends in Minecraft. Some come in to work in IXL, Word, or some other learning based software. Some want to learn more about how to draw or paint in graphics programs. Some just want to play games. As we see from the above information. it’s all good!




Comments are closed.