Slide 1: It's a popular quote from some football coach that I care less to follow, but has become my philosophy, my brand, my passion.
Slide 2: Last year on a brutally cold winter day as I stood outside Lincoln elementary waiting for my daughter; I was thinking of an excuse I could make to get inside the warm building to wait for her. As a parent and as someone who is passionate about educational technology I looked at my daughter's school and saw a need for some type of technology enrichment. I thought to myself, “wouldn’t that be cool if they had an after school club?”
Slide 3: This was my next do something. I approached the principal, he did not say why or how, he said when?
Slide 4: Within a few weeks we had 10 kids signed up and held our first “Lincoln Tech Club” session. Little did I know how much these kids would inspire me.
Slide 5: During the first few weeks we played around with Makey Makey’s, coding, green screens, and just plain old fashion technology
Slide 6: (video).
Slide 7: As I searched for more hands on activities the kids could do I came across these cute little Bristlebots, and read the definition:
"A bristlebot is an extremely simple form of walking robot. It is one of the simplest of all mobile robots, both in its function and its construction. As a result of this ease of construction, they have become popular projects at the school science fair level."
Cool! We were going to make bristlebots. Little did I know that this “simple” walking robot would completely change how I few teaching and learning.
Slide 8: That day I laid out all the materials on the table and asked the kids what they thought we were going to make? I explained that I was not extremely successful and had tried a few different configurations with the battery and motor and I tried a few different toothbrush styles. My challenge to them was to be scientists and use the skill of inquiry to see if they could get their bristlebot to move forward on a flat surface. The kids took right to the task of making these "simple robots".
The first 5 minutes were pretty quiet as kids began to work. However, I soon learned how quickly kids will give up if something does not work the first time. I heard a few of the kids say this is stupid, it doesn't work” and “Mrs. Smart, are you sure you know what you are doing?”I looked around the room and saw one kid crying, two arguing with one another, one throwing his stuff on the ground, and Mr. Jackson the student teacher helping strip wires and trying to keep the peace. My own daughter standing on a chair cheering everyone on telling them that “WE CAN DO THIS” because she can now see the frustration on my face and knowing how excited I was about this project.
This was hard for me to hear, I spent SO much time planning this and was SO excited for them to make the bots. I thought to myself “I should have had a plan, I should have had more directions, this is chaos!”
But then I looked around again, those tears were not “I hate this tears” they were tears of “I am going to make this work dang it!” the boys arguing were actually arguing over the trash can with a pair of scissors and a toothbrush on how they thought the toothbrush bristles should be changed. Tape was flying across the room and kids were running with scissors... because they had an idea they thought would work and were eager to try. My daughter was still standing on her chair cheering, not making a thing.
Slide 9: (video)
Slide 10: By the end of the hour we did have a few successful bristle bots, and the kids were stoked. They all gathered in the gym to watch the working bots go. I realized Griffen was not in the gym. As I walked back to the computer lab I found Griffen stuffing left over batteries, and motors into his pockets, he asked if he could take some tape home. I asked him why. He said, “I am going to make this work Mrs. Smart” he wanted to take the materials home to keep trying. I said, “here Griffen, take the whole role, do you need some toothbrushes?”
As the kids left that day and we looked around a room that had stuff everywhere I looked at Mr. Jackson and said “what the hell, just happened?” His response “I guess that was inquiry based learning”
Slide 11: He was right, but it was also much more. For me it was a huge game changer in how I view education and how our students learn. Before this day I thought I had a good idea of what good instruction felt like and looked like. But I was missing a few pieces. Kids and... more importantly teachers need to take risks, explore, play, question, create, and fail.
Slide 12: As educators and parents we need to do more to make things like these happen for our students. Yes it may be outside your comfort zone, yes, it make take up some of your free time, yes, you may not get paid for it but remember...
Blame No One
- Even with all the negatives in education (AKA testing), we are still responsible for how and what our student learn, how they perform, and who they become. We are the ones who need make it work. I get sick of hearing teachers make up excuse after excuse about why they can’t do this because of that, we are professionals, our job is to make it work! Have you reached out to others for help? Have you thought outside the box? Have you teamed to work with other to solve the problem?
- No one is going to do it for us (Unless maybe you have a teachers pay teachers account)
- Set high expectations for yourself and your students and remember, you get what you expect.
My challenge to you is to
- Be the change.