Saturday, January 28, 2017

An Inconvenient Truth

Younger students struggle with disappointment or unmet expectations. How to handle adversity is often the computational skill students need to learn most.

At times I thought students struggled with problem solving because of their prior experience with technology. If children only ever play games on computers, then they do not see devices as high-end computational tools. It's easy to blame parents who use computer games to entertain rambunctious children.

Or perhaps students cannot comprehend high-end computations yet, so their understanding is still primitive. I've also thought it might be students' developing emotional skills that cannot differentiate between real world and digital outcomes. Or perhaps younger students have an immature problem solving skill set. I might be observing a complex combination of all these possibilities!

But now I believe the real problem that younger students are expressing is a spiritual one. Computers perform exactly as instructed, not always as expected. When the student's will is denied and they feel powerless to change the outcome, they dramatically express themselves. And it's not just children who struggle with unmet expectations.

When I am the center of the whole universe and a machine has the audacity to perform in a manner outside my will, often times this elicits strong emotions. Anger, despair and frustration are the fruits of my will being scorned by others. As adults, we often mask those emotions or express them in subtle ways while children sometimes cry and throw a tantrum.

But the heart of the matter is the heart. When I teach students problem solving and computational thinking what I am actually teaching is patience and self-control. When a coworker need assistance with a network error, I am actually demonstrating how to put the needs of another above my own.

All this is simple to say that, while I used to think I taught computer, and at times believed that parents and popular culture were sabotaging my students, my perspective has shifted. Technology is simply a vehicle that illustrates the condition of the human heart, and I do not teach computer skills. Instead, I am able to use computational problem solving as a tool to build into the spiritual lives of my students and coworkers.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. -Galatians 5:22-23

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Purdue STEM Workshop Slideshow Posted

Role Play Education Slideshow Title Slide
Amazed at the response to my #2017STEMConf workshop last Thursday. To view my slideshow from the workshop, scroll to the bottom of the RPE website.

I estimate there were 50+ attendees at my presentation. Several took notes and four teachers stayed after to ask some excellent followup questions.

Since this workshop was only 45 minutes, I wished we could incorporated more hands on role play. Several teachers already use ClassDojo, so it was good sharing ideas with them on expanding and incorporating the Dojo system into a larger classroom narrative.

I was able to attend several other workshops and enjoyed hearing Buzz Aldrin give the keynote speech. As I continue to process through all my notes, I'll try to share some thoughts in additional posts.

Related Link:

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Collecting Classroom Book Reviews

If students struggle to choose free reading books, try creating a card catalog.

Today at lunch while talking with a reading teacher, she mentioned that several students struggle to choose a free reading book. It's not for lack of choices, instead they are having difficulty discerning if the book is worth their time.

"Photo" by David Fulmer under CC 4.0
Why not create a way to share book recommendations between students?

While the tech side of me thinks Microsoft Access would be a fun way to do this, I recognize most teachers wouldn't know where to begin in creating a digital database. But it wasn't that long ago when libraries used a simple card catalog system for tracking books. A simple tweak of the system can help a teacher collect book recommendations.

Using 3x5 index cards, have students write the name of the book at the top, then the author underneath. The first student should write a short description of the book without spoilers! The finish the card with their name and a 1-5 star rating.

If another student has also read the same book, they can write their name on the back of the card with their star rating. Keep all the cards alphabetized in an index card file. With a little practice and maintenance, a teacher can offer students a wide selection of reading recommendations.