Even though I’ve been running classrooms for 23-years, the challenge of beginning another school year is more than a little overwhelming. As if that weren’t enough, I also closed on my new condo on the first day of classes, so add moving and setting up a new home to the “beginning of the school year” challenges. But unlike the previous two-years, because I was planning on the new home, I didn’t travel this summer and was able to better attack the challenge of getting my whole school up and running on my school’s learning management system, Canvas. Let’s just say that last year my efforts were sunk by the endless challenges of user-IDs and passwords when working with five- to eleven-year-olds. The other two teachers who tried to use the system quit trying about the same time I gave up, in October.
So, this week has been crazy because I have to reset all of the passwords of all the students because that would be the normal first thing that every student would need to do, and did I mention how high the failure rate of logging in becomes when you trust elementary students to set their own passwords? I’ve been working on the password reset for over a week now. This being the first week, I was also re-introduced to the idea that fourth and fifth graders might be mildly challenged to remember their student ID numbers that they’ve been using for over four-years while Kindergarteners and first-graders struggled with just sitting at their computers for the whole 50-minute class period. Oh yeah, being the first week also means that the list of students that I worked with last night might not reflect which students show up for my lab, be on the roster, be assigned to my class or be recognized by the district’s active directory system. Of my 21 classes, maybe only one or two didn’t have a couple students with errors that prevented them from logging in to the system.
So, week one is done. Thirty-six more to go. That may seem like that’s a lot of time, but it really isn’t and it requires careful planning to get anywhere close to our curriculum potential. Six grade levels, five disciplines… the potential is overwhelming. Just teaching Art across six grades levels would be challenging. Just teaching science or math would also be challenging. One of the errors that I made over my first two-years teaching STEAM was that I felt like I needed to cover all five disciplines over the course of the 37-weeks. But with all of the technical challenges and need to work across the huge instructional differences between Kindergarteners versus fifth-graders, and the low reading literacy of all of my students, I felt like we barely scratched the surface and never mastered anything. I didn’t do any robotics with my students the first year and was only able to get my three fifth-grade classes on to the LEGO EV3s last year. Turns out that having two 50-minute sessions with the robots usually means that almost no two-person team finished the basic robot construction and no one got to the programming level. That would be a FAIL in my judgment.
I’ve decided to reserve the EV3s for advanced students and will use the more basic LEGO Wedo robots for grades 2 through 5 with each group getting three sessions with the robots. But now that I think about it, I may need to extend the sessions to four sessions… we’ll see how the first group does and adjust from there.
Speaking of adjustments… you might have noticed that except for prep week Swarm/Twitter/FB check-ins, I haven’t posted any daily STEAMLab check-ins. I’ve decided that, as much as I like the daily 👍 I get for the brief posts, I don’t feel like I’m really communicating or recording our progress. So I’ve decided to do these weekly longer-length posts to my blog (with links on all the usual suspects: Swarm, Twitter & FB). But because of the algorithms used by Twitter & FB, there’s a good chance that you’ll miss these weekly posts. So, if you’re interested in these posts and the work I’m doing, I’d suggest that you subscribe directly to my blog so that you’ll get a notice in your email whenever I post. Go to the blog at http://adventures-in.education, scroll to the bottom of the page, find the “Follow Blog via Email,” click the red “Follow” and share you email address. Thanks for the “follow,” and let’s see how things go for week two of the 2018-19 STEAMLab adventures.