Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Tough Year

It would be easy to say my school year was perfect.

It would be easy to put a bow around 2013-2014 by showing my greatest hits--great projects, wonderful success stories, and enlightening tips.

...but it may be more important to step back and say, I struggled through parts of the year. It is hard to put a finger on why I feel this way. I could point to some discipline issues or unmet expectations (mostly my own), but more than anything there was a feeling I walked through the end of the year with. It went something like "Damn did I do that right?"

To some degree this may be natural. I experimented a lot, tried a bunch of new things, even implemented a completely new learning theory to underlie my teaching (hint: it rhymes with sm-onstructionism) Good experiments blow up (or so I am told) and all is well as long as no one gets hurt. I just hope we all learned enough through the process to justify some of the explosions along the way.

In my heart, I believe we did. Students coded on Scratch, made innovative projects with the Makey-Makey, built circuits with Plato (oh ya, its not spelled that way), and even helped run a school children's museum. I wanted them to see education in a completely new way. I wanted learning to be something they owned, something they asked for, something that was limitless.

I felt like I needed to be better for them to experience the vision I set out. I needed to follow up on their questions more. I needed to be more consistent with them. I needed to be more skilled at coding, or making, or with hardware. Change is not easy and I felt it this year.

Next year is a new year and I am excited with some new opportunities I have. I may have struggled with some parts of this year, but then I look more closely and think...I learned so much because I struggled. I had to push myself. Hopefully, I will be even better because of a tough year.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Makey-Makey Water Piano

The Makey-Makey continues to inspire my students. It is just an awesome tool for creating, learning, and engaging. The Makey-Makey bills itself as the invention kit for everyone. I back that up! My students get crazy ideas and simply try them out. They plug it in and test their ideas, low entry, high ceiling. If the idea works, great. If not, then they try again.

In this project, two students took numerous online pianos and found the appropriate keys to produce the song they wanted.

Was this my idea? Nope! It was all them!

They spent countless hours, both in the classroom and at home, figuring out how to make their idea work. Not only did they dig in with perseverance and passion, but the piano built a wonderful context for learning and understanding the physics of sound. New content meant something to them because they constructed a mental schema to filter new understanding.

The best part is the intrinsic motivation. They wanted to figure it our so their song would work. They could care less about the grade they received or even if I liked the invention. It was personally satisfying, just as learning should be.