Kids are amazing. I love the way the way they tilt their heads or squint their eyes when they are trying to solve problems; I live for those moments when understanding or connection flashes and their eyes widen and their smiles spread out across their faces. I got a whole afternoon of amazing kid moments the other day thanks to our new LEGO WeDo Kit.
I spent my afternoon working with Kyle, my co-workers son, (Grade 5) as he assembled and explored the “Drumming Monkey” activity. Kyle had plenty of experience working with computers, and had previously been exposed to LEGOs and robotics, but he had never built an automated model or done any type of computer programming before.
I used a FLIP camera to record some of our interactions mainly so that I could reflect on the experience later. After watching, I decided it might be helpful to give other teachers and school administrators who are considering implementing the WeDo curriculum, an opportunity to see what it looks like in action. Kyle’s dad was kind enough to grant permission to post the videos.
My goals as I worked with Kyle were to:
1) Provide clear rules and boundaries regarding how to use the materials
2) Stay out of his way so he could learn
3) Facilitate his learning by asking questions that would require him to dig deeper and encourage depth and complexity of thought by modeling the act of “wondering” and “testing” or “trying it out”.
4) Encourage him to articulate and use language of the discipline whenever possible
Before we started: I gave Kyle these organizational rules, “LEGOs in the tub or in the box arena. The consequence for LEGOs being anywhere else is possibly losing the opportunity to work with the LEGOs”. I added, “If one falls or if you forget for a moment, don’t worry, just put it back in the tub or the box.” I had him tell me the rule and said, “Do you know why I made that rule?” “Because the little pieces can get lost?” “Yep”. I did not have to worry about the kit after that. I knew he understood.
Video Clip #1: A short clip of Kyle assembling his model. Notice he mentions that he has had previous exposure to reading blueprints. I’ll be curious to see how children that have not previously seen blueprint assembly instruction handle the task.
Video Clip #2:
When Kyle’s model would not make sound, I asked him to consider the problem. Watch his reaction and how given a moment, he is able to trouble shoot the problem himself.
Video Clip #3:
In this longer series of clips, you will see Kyle take the simpler program and design included in the WeDo activity book to a more complex model and program that uses input from a sensor to control motor speed and to output sounds depending on the position of his model’s “arm”.
As he works, I observe and only interrupt or stop him when he says he is ready to show me what he has done or when he wants to “tell me what he’s thinking”. I use inquiry to guide his discovery and increase the complexity of the tasks he is completing.
So far, I like the WeDo activities because there is ample room for differentiation. Kyle handled every task with curiosity and determination. I’m not sure that a 1st grader would answer questions the way he did. I imagine some of the younger students will be able to understand and make connections the way he did, while others will mainly focus on completing the tasks. And that would be fine. While one student is simply learning to translate the blueprint into a physical model, another student can be challenged to modify the model or find an alternative solution.
One of the most valuable take-aways I got from my session with Kyle yesterday was developing an understanding of how important it is to model inquiry and curiosity.
I used this format:
“Kyle, I wonder if I could program the model so that each moving arm would make a different sound? What’s something that you wonder?”
I would then listen while he made and “I wonder” statement. We went back and forth a few times. A couple of times after an “I wonder” statement, he said, “I think I know how we can do that!” After a few “I wonders…” I said, “What do you want to try to do next?”
It was so rewarding to watch as that “Aha” smile broke across his face with each new discovery.
Enjoy the videos and please give feedback!