Fitzgerald STEAM Lab Year 3 Debrief
White board note: Don’t do content & new tech skills in the same lesson…
It’s been about a month since I turned in my keys and got off this past school’s years challenging teaching treadmill. I’ve been very busy taking care of the very many of the things that got neglected over the past school-year (a month later… still a large portion to take care of). Yeah, it’s taken me this long to decide that I can begin the Year 3 Debrief, beginning with the above gem: don’t try to do two things in the same lesson: content AND new tech skills. Dumb. I should probably switch to some list form as my mind goes over the past year…
The 2018-19 List:
- Don’t Do Two Things At Once (like content AND tech skills).
- Each class session needs to have clearly communicated self-contained weekly-lesson that build toward a larger narrative.
- Class IDs/passwords/seating chart needs to be done by the second week (and revisited whenever new students come in or students are moved). But the roster & student accounts must be set up within the first two weeks of the year (printed cards need to have name, student account info, student password, but NO computer or class designation – which can change from week to week!).
- Lessons requiring shared hardware or special hardware (such LEGO WeDo robots) need to alternate with “at-your-seat” classes, so that I have time to repurpose or put away said hardware. This means everything will take twice as long because, for example, we can’t do LEGO cars for every session the whole day…
- Designated student monitors for each class who are responsible for putting everything away at the end of each class session – 5th grade putting all iPads in the cart before the end of the session… stricter enforcement of the time needed to put things away at the end of class (minimizing going over class time AND ownership of the classroom process).
- Units need to have multiple teaching components: video/storytelling, biography, individual problem solving, small group problem solving, creative expression/feedback/reflection
- Basic class schedule should be:
- Set-up (5 minutes)
- Instruction (20 minutes)
- Activity (20 minutes)
- Closing/reset class (5 minutes)
- The whole school year equals about 37 50-minute sessions or less than a 40-hour week that we used at Full Sail Labs summer camp sessions. That comes down to about 700 minutes of instruction and 700 minutes of activity, not accounting for time lost for Monday/Friday classes and assorted school function interruptions. 700 minutes broken into about 35 little chunks, that’s all the time we have over the course of a whole school year.
Bigger Issues: Communication:
From the Community Engagement course I took last summer at UNLV one consistent through-line was the need for strong communication between the educator and parents, so that parents feel in-the-loop and a part of the educational process. That was something that I really hoped to improve in Year Three. My first two years at Fitzgerald I posted some comment and related images on Swarm/Twitter/FaceBook pretty much every day. Alas, except for my FaceBook friends, no one else was aware of these posts (which may have been a good thing, but did very little to communicate what was going on in my classes to admin or the community). So last year I determined that I wouldn’t post everyday but would post a more complete reflection of whatever was happening in the lab on a weekly basis. That lasted from August to November, 14-weeks, when a newly introduced process called “Student Learning Goals” (SLG) and that pretty much torpedoed my ability to stay ahead of the curve enough to have time for a weekly reflection. Also, the weekly posts, especially the last few ones, were less about what we were doing and more my own need to vent as the pressure increased and probably wouldn’t be what my admin would want me to be openly communicating to parents. Damn.
So communication really needs to be more consistent, more complete and very open to be interactive with my parents. Last summer I created a robotics WordPress website for potential participants that went completely ignored… The point is that I need to promote the connection AND find the connection that works.
From Winter Break to Spring Break, I thought that I needed to separate out all of my blog categories because I thought that someone interested in my technology stuff was NOT going to want to wade through my religion stuff, and doubly true for anything related to education or more specifically communicating with my parents. The sad part, as I began to pull apart my different threads, was that I wasn’t posting enough to generate or maintain any kind of a following anywhere. Ugh.
Then a couple days ago I found a decent “magazine” blogging theme (Dynamic News)… and I decided to pull it all together (again) under one main blog (joebustillos.com). So I’ve been spending a couple weeks backing up/culling/organizing images and videos from the past year. And then after figuring out that I want to have one main blog with everything else under it organized as “categories” I’ve been setting up the links, headers, categories, and menus. Then it’ll be the long process to make sure that over 1,300 posts end up in their proper categories and blogs. Yeah, that’s how I’ve been spending my summer break (that and LEGOs and open mic nights…).
So, what to do about the parent/student specific posts? At first it looked like I was going to set up a category called “Fitzgerald Robotics” for the FIRST LEGO League team and another “Fitzgerald STEAM Lab” for the parent communication/community building stuff on the joebustillos.com blog but then, knowing how curious children are, it would be far too easy for them to stumble into “personal things” better left unexplored. Oh yeah, ugh, might have to keep that stuff on its own site… damn.