Methodology

The Block Magic Project is based on a 5 stage development methodology.

methodology

The first stage will develop user scenarios describing classroom applications of Block Magic and describing at least one possible learning activity for each class of skill targeted by the program. Special scenarios will be developed for children with special needs. Scenarios will be discussed with approximately 40 teachers in Greece, Germany, Spain and Italy s who may suggest modifications or alternative scenarios. The design group will verify the feasibility of specific scenarios with developers. The end product will be a small set of “reference scenarios”. The design group will use these scenarios to define functional and non-functional requirements for.

The second stage of the project will work with teachers to develop the basic Block Magic methodology and to select and design learning activities that make effective use of Block Magic in the classroom. In parallel with this work, the project will implement the technological components of Block Magic, including (i) magic blocks (plastic blocks of various forms, shapes, sizes, weights and textures) equipped with  passive RFIDs; (ii) wands or gloves with the ability to read the RFID in a block and transmit the result to the Block Magic software engine; (iii) a software engine (a “Finite State Machine”) that receives input from the wand or glove and generates an “action”; (iv) “scripts” for the learning activities specified by WP3. The scripts will define the reaction of the engine when a user touches a magic block.

In the third stage of the work, the methods, exercises and technologies developed in this work will be tested in a “formative evaluation” with selected children and teachers in Greece, Germany, Italy and Spain. Several of the teachers in the German, Italian and Spanish groups have previous experience in teaching children with special needs.

In the fourth stage, the results of the formative evaluation will be used to refine Block Magic methods and technology.

The final stage will test these methods and technologies in a larger scale “summative evaluation” with 4 classes in Germany, four in Greece, four in Italy and four in Spain. Two German classes will come from a school for children with special needs. The Spanish study w will focus on “inclusive classrooms”, in which 2-3 out of 25 are children with special needs The evaluation will measure (i) the attractiveness of Block Magic; (ii) Block Magic’s ability to contribute to specific cognitive skills; (iii) Its ability to strengthen social and group skills. Additionally WP6 will conduct 3 case studies with visually impaired children with mild mental retardation (in Italy).In each country, the trial will compare classes in about 10 learning activities. Each learning activity will be randomly assigned to one of two categories (A and B). Classes 1 and 2 will use Block Magic for activities in category A: classes 3 and 4 will use it for activities in category B.  In this way, it will be possible to compare the experience of classes that use Block Magic against that of classes that use traditional teaching, while correcting for differences between classes and teachers.