Year3-Week14: Thoughts from the Educational Trenches


I like being an educational grunt on the front lines in the classroom and take some pride that what others theorize about, I have to make happen. It might be a fool’s errand, but you can’t tell me what we’re supposed to be doing in the classroom if you’ve never spend any given week teaching in said classrooms. And it turns out that we tend to NOT plan for student resistance.

Twenty-six students per class and all it takes is two or three students committed to NOT following directions to derail the lesson plan. I have to confess that I tend to assume student buy-in, because the subject is so awesome, that I can be thrown off when students decide that they aren’t going to follow directions. Doh!

I was pleasantly surprised this past week when one third grade class followed directions as they began the LEGO WeDo unit and chose to complete the first lesson with minimal drama and almost every pair built their first robot before the end of class. The same could not be said for one fifth grade class that decided not to do their Scratch programming lesson and made it all about their dislike of their assigned partner, such that only one pair out of 12 completed the lesson. Something here needs to be adjusted.

Admin thinks it’s all about classroom discipline and “consequences,” but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Earlier robotics classes floundered because too much was expected with too little time to get the job done. We just ran out of time to get anything done and really have fun with the robots before our four-weekly-sessions were over. So, I simplified things and reduced the number of robot builds and added time to compete and reflect on the process. Conversely, I think the problem with Scratch is that because we’re not programming a physical device it’s harder to make the team thing work. It’s too easy to get derailed and choose to NOT follow directions. Building and programming a robot can be a two or three person activity, but Scratch really works better when everyone has their own computer to program. You wouldn’t know that if you haven’t spent time watching groups of students do the Scratch programming lessons. I should have known this from my Full Sail Labs experiences. Physical devices, like robots, can be group/paired experiences, while programming characters on a screen is better served when everybody gets to use their own computer/iPad.

We’re still spending way too much time just with the login/getting things started process. There are lab-supervision software programs that I really should push for, so that I can have better control of all the computers when I need to do whole class instruction. When I talked to a couple vendors about this, they admitted that they can do everything I need, except control iPads. So I can anticipate having to control iPad access more directly, because some kids are dedicated to derailing things. That said, I would like to see more instruction completely conducted via iPad, so that everyone has a device.

If we had enough iPads, I’d consider switching from Scratch to Apple’s Swift Playgrounds (which is iPad only). We would need five more iPads to make that work. At the same time Scratch itself is going HTML5 in January (and finally leaving Adobe Flash), which finally makes it something that we can do on either iPads or computers. So, I’m thinking that I’m going to shelve Scratch with 4th & 5th graders until January/February, when we can have either enough devices to Scratch is ready to be used on the devices we have.

I posted on one of my classroom walls the giant maps of our neighborhood created by my kindergarteners and first grade classes. I’m thinking that the follow-up activity will be for them to create houses and buildings using the small milk cartons that I collected earlier this month and then Velcro the little buildings to the map… Finally, second and third grade classes are into multiple weeks doing a “Student Learning Goals” research/presentation process (that was originally supposed to happen in one class period). So… lots of room for growth. What was that quote that I used from week two of this year:

“No plan survives contact with the enemy,” Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, German Field Marshal


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