Educator Spotlight: Todd Baran

Putting the Arts in the STEAM Initiative

May 29, 2014

Todd Baran

This week we’re shining our spotlight on Todd Baran, Art Instructor at Conrady Junior High who seeks to challenge and inspire his students through the use of unique and engaging materials. He got started in his classroom with littleBits lessons provided by other educators in the community and has since expanded his program to address real world problems and their solutions in a creative and artistic way. 

Tell us about your current teaching experience.

I have been teaching Art at Conrady Jr. High for 7 years and I also sponsor the school’s Technology Club program. At Conrady my students are exposed to many traditional art disciplines such as Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Ceramics, and Sculpture in addition to Computer Design and working with littleBits. This year I have placed a emphasis on creating more open-ended problem solving opportunities for my students through creative lesson planning.

How did you discover littleBits? What drew you to our product/company?

I was looking up basic circuit design solutions for my Technology Club when I stumbled upon littleBits. I realized that this was something that I could implement into my art curriculum that could be both engaging and challenging for my students. I liked the emphasis on hands-on prototyping and littleBits lessons support the type of multi-step problem solving activities that I want my students working with.

How do you use littleBits as a 21st century STEM/STEAM teaching and learning tool?

With this as my first attempt at implementing littleBits into our curriculum, I used some of the community shared lesson ideas as a jumping off point and then built lesson plans around them. Specifically, I expanded upon the generative bot and energy conservation projects. These lessons have helped me to facilitate a learning environment where my students design, synthesize and analyze products in groups.

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What is your favorite littleBits project?

I really like the directions that my students went in while creating energy conservation products. Some of the designs they dream up are very practical, while others show great imagination.

Describe littleBits in your own 3 words.

Inspiring, Interactive and Fun!

If you could challenge your students to make anything with any amount of littleBits, what would you have them create?

I would have them create an installation in the school library that incorporates light, sound and motion!

What advice can you offer teachers who are new to littleBits?
I would encourage them to jump right in! While my students and I are just getting started on working with the modules, my goal is develop these lessons further and then to start creating project ideas that are truly unique. With teaching any lesson, there’s always a process of seeing what works and what doesn’t, implementing changes, and trying again. In the meantime, my students are excited about learning art in a way that is new and exciting to them!

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