The first day of Constructing Modern Knowledge has been, so far, all about figuring out a project and getting going with it. The group I joined is working to create a water show. That was our initial plan. Pretty broad, huh? As the day went on it seems to have evolved into a water show that will demonstrate the water cycle – a mechanical dragon (we’re creating and programming) will shower water into two places, a pool and a bucket. The bucket will have holes in the bottom so the water can ‘rain’ down. Then we’ll have a place where the water mists (as in the second picture below) to show condensation.
We also want our water show to be interactive so some of us are working on side parts. I worked with these two to create a water wheel (they built it out of legos and I did the coding in Scratch and got the Makey Makey set up). Tomorrow we’ll have to determine exactly how people interact with it to make it move or stop.
We’ve got more time over the next three days and some very ambitious plans but today was a good start. At the end of the day we gathered in groups to reflect. Based on those reflections, I have some:
- I spent portions of today not participating and I know I wasn’t alone. The conversation was over my head and I didn’t have anything to contribute (or I didn’t think so and since I’m willing to talk A LOT it seems like a safe assumption). I observed and listened and tried to learn but I’m sure I appeared passive. Do I/we allow our kids to do that? Or do I/we push those kids to ‘get involved!’?
- In that same vein, at times the conversation was over my head for long enough and I felt overwhelmed and zoned out. I didn’t take the opportunity to learn more about the coding or design plans. I’m sure I wouldn’t be okay with letting my kids do that. (I feel especially sympathetic to my second language learners as it felt like another language at points.)
- Lots of folks talked about the struggles working in a group. The challenge of convincing folks to do the idea you have or to give in and go along with someone else’s (certainly less impressive) idea. One person talked about how it’s easier to just go away and do what you want or what you’re good at than it is to be a part of a group that isn’t all on the same page (as is true of groups most of the time). It got me thinking about how much more I need to support kids in working together rather than just throw them in groups and hope for the best.
- Near the end of the day I was using Scratch and Makey Makey and finally feeling like I was getting it (again, at a very, very basic level). It felt great! Others in my group weren’t there and I just ran with what I was doing. I didn’t take the time to explain to them or let them try it. I’m sure they felt as lost as I had felt earlier. I’m struggling with whether or not that was okay. I was just getting it and I wanted the feeling of success. Maybe I needed to just do it because it was still so new. But was it reasonable to leave them out of the progress?
- It’s interesting to note the different ways people approach something they don’t know. I always assume I can figure it out. It might not be pretty, I might turn to google, I might ask a lot of questions, and it might be a slow process, but I’ll get there. Others want to have things modeled for them or explain to them. I don’t think one way is better than the other (actually I think there are reasons each way is great and other reasons each way stinks). I just need to remember that not all of my students are going to approach learning in the same way I do.
- There was lots of talk about hitting roadblocks or wall and how that felt. Some folks needed to take a break, walk around, clear their minds, and come back with a new perspective. Again I wondered if this was something we would allow students to do? There was also conversation about how it feels when you hit a wall and someone else suggests something that seems so obvious but hadn’t occurred to you. It’s both wonderful not to be stuck any more and awful to feel like you missed such a clear answer.
- Finally, also quite a bit of discussion about how intimidating it can be to see others being successful when you feel so stuck. Sometimes the others aren’t even actually being that successful, it’s just your perception of it. But it can be intimidating and demoralizing. You want to feel that success but you aren’t. Some people might find that motivating, but most of us just feel disheartened.
That’s a lot for me to chew on right now! Tomorrow will include more work on our project, a talk from Carla Rinaldi, and a trip to Boston to visit the MIT Media Lab with Mitchel Resnick and a talk from Stephen Wolfram.