Link: Internet Archive.
Productive learning has multiipled this year as we've used our robotics unit again. This time I've adjusted the way we've approached the use of Robolab. Instead of just using the built-in tutorial, I frontloaded the ideas of the programming. Borrowing from knowing how to best teaching reading comprehension, I taught vocabulary. Ideas like input, output, gears and so on. Students became familiar with where these were on the RCX brick. They also had time to explore the fundamental concepts of building with Lego bricks. This was especially important for some of my girls.
Many of my girls had never had the chance to play with Legos. One girl told me, "The only time I've ever played with Legos is when my parents have taken me out to eat at a restaurant and they had them at the table for kids to play with until the meal came to eat." She was lost. A normally very capable student, Lego building put her in situations where she had no ability to know what to do. So the chance to explore and learn the basics BEFORE we started to actually create the robotics was essential to the success of my unit.
With five days invested in the frontloading, I then started letting them turn on the brick and see what would happen. Quickly they realized that you could independently control things....not everything had to happen in parellel. So by the time I actually let them start using Robolab, they were so ready. But I still didn't let them use the software until I dragged out the whiteboard magnets and asked them to work with the icons and built programming sentences. Again this helped them to visualize what they were going to do.
So you can imagine how they flew through the software when they got the chance to open Robolab and work in it. The only problem I encountered was with downloading the firmware to the brick. The light from the ceiling interferred with getting the bricks to interface with the towers. Boy, that was frustrating. This had happened last year and I thought I had the problem fixed with a patch that I had downloaded. Apparently not, though.
This software doesn't like our network or computers or something. It just doesn't run too well. I'm convinced that I should maybe let the kids try to figure out how to use the RCXs with Microworlds. It seems to interface better with MW than with Robolab. It is so frustrating as their teacher to work and work and then have the software fail. It isn't their understanding....it is my ability to get the Robolab software to work. And that really ticks me off because it shouldn't be that hard to operate. I've literally spent hours tweaking it and problem solving....spending hours on the phone with tech support. Finger pointing every which way. Sigh. Stand alone computers with Robolab work smoothly. It is our networked computers and their permissions that seem to be the problem. So maybe MicroWorlds is the answer because the RCXs work just fine with it.
I may put it to a vote with the kids. Let them decide which way they'd like to go.
All-in-all. Though this has been a much better way for them to understand how the building of a robot and the creation of its program works. They truely understand how the two interface. They understand how sensors take information in and process it...guiding the robot's actions. What a big change over last year when only a handful of students "got it".
Frontloading the vocabulary works again. Imagine that!!!!
Link: Sunday Herald.
I'll just bet that Art Spiegelman's graphic novel will capture much of what I can't express about 9/11. Reading this article I get the feeling that his capacity to draw what I harbor inside is remarkable. Not that I should be surprised because his Maus were brillant.
I didn't know he'd turned his attention to this work although I had seen the cover of the New Yorker. But I'll keep my eyes open for this.
Well integrated technology fits like my old softball glove. It was so soft and pliable that I almost forgot that I was wearing it. I would get out there at my shortstop position and when I fielded a ball, I just scooped up the ball and threw out the runner. I never really felt the glove. I knew it was there and I knew how it was going to perform because it was an extension of my hand. But I didn't have to really concern myself with it too much.
That's how I wish all technology could be utilized in our curriculum...just like that old softball glove. Sure you have to keep track of it and wear it. Mostly though, you just let it become an extension of the learning that is going on because it is an extension. In order to have those results, I think that our assessments are going to have to be drive technology in that direction. There are some good examples of those out there.
We need to be developing more and the content experts should be shouting from all the curriculum revision rooftops....calling for the inclusion of these standards. But in my neck of the woods, there is mostly silence. Sometimes a muffled yelp here and there. I am determined not to let this continue and to somehow stir up interest in integrating the idea that technology can be as familiar as my old softball glove. We probably all have something that is like that in our memory banks and it just needs to be prodded a bit.
Asking the right question, is the whole deal. It's what we struggle and struggle to figure out. As teachers we wiggle and strain and stretch to know what we should be asking and then we work ourselves into a frenzy to make sure our students understand that we're asking it.
It's that elusive essential question that drives the heart of our instruction. If it doesn't then we've missed the boat. One can only hope that you get better and better at it with practice.