Meet them where they are…

8 Feb

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Meet students where they are.” Today, I saw once again how transformative meeting a student where he or she is can be.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the students who currently attend after-school robotics club, didn’t truly elect to join. They kind of got roped into it. In total there are eight students, six young men and two young women. One of the young women is especially quiet and up until today has been very shy about participating in most activities. I’ve tried to encourage her and to use my best teaching strategies to engage her, but honestly… I was beginning to think she just was not connecting to the activities and that she simply had no interest in robotics and engineering.

I ran 20 minutes late getting to club today because of a doctor’s appointment. The laptops were still down at the elementary school from Friday’s lesson with the first graders, and I didn’t have time to move them before our meeting.

I made a last-minute decision to switch up my plan for the day. (Something I don’t usually do.) Instead of working with the NXT kits and software, I took the middle school club down to the elementary lab to explore the LEGO WeDo kits.

What I observed was awesome. That quiet, non-participating  young woman I just mentioned explored and built models non-stop for the entire meeting. She then elected to stay an extra twenty-five minutes, leaving her and two others just five minutes to run to the dining hall for dinner!

She worked independently for the most part and focused on using the “Getting Started” tutorials to build the models shown. I mainly observed. As she completed each model, I engaged her in a quick conversation and asked a few guiding questions.

She was a completely different student than I had previously seen. She was 100% engaged. Check it out! Hard at work and completely in to what she’s doing! (And with no coaxing or encouraging.)

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I could see the confidence in her building right in front of me. It was amazing. I asked her if she’d like me to bring a WeDo kit to future club meetings so she could continue working with one. The answer? “Yes, please.”

The WeDo kit was perfect for introducing her to some important concepts. In just one hour, we were able to explore the movement of gears, the function of a motor, the use of a belt, and how programs are used to command the models’ movements. All she needed was to have the materials kit and the computer interface simplified. With no previous exposure to programming or model building, the NXT kit and software had been overwhelming for her, keeping her from getting involved.

When I said, “You know. The models you were building and programming today aren’t that different from the ones we’ve been working with up the road”, her face completely lit up. I think today’s experience has changed her ideas about “robotics club” and I’m excited to see where the excitement leads.

I will definitely continue to explore the benefits of using the LEGO WeDo kits with some of the older students. In addition to providing the perfect scaffolded introduction to robotics, it also brought out the playful and creative side of the students. When one student asked, “How are we supposed to build a robot if we don’t have any instructions?”, it led to a great conversation about the importance of play and trial and error.

It was a really good meeting today. There’s plenty of room for improvement, but it was really good. I can never figure out who is learning more… me or my students? I like to think we’re both learning.


5 Responses to “Meet them where they are…”

  1. PCC Advantage February 8, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    Wow…this post was so inspiring. I wish I had something clever to say about it, but I don’t. I think that the fact that I’m smiling after reading it says more than enough…hopefully. lol. 🙂

    • missgreer February 8, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I’m glad you found your way to the blog and that it elicited a smile. I was so excited for her that I spent all last night smiling too. 🙂

      • PCC Advantage February 8, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

        Yes, I can imagine. It seems as though you have a very rewarding job…not sure if there’s anything better than teaching someone something new and getting them excited about it. 🙂

        • missgreer February 8, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

          Absolutely. I know how good it feels when I learn something new, so to pass that feeling on is amazing. My favorite part about education is learning from the kids. They keep my mind flexible. I’m guessing the feeling is the same in higher education too.

          • PCC Advantage February 8, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

            Absolutely. I think that the more you give to the students, the more you receive from them. If you impart excitement into the programme, you receive the same level of excitement back from them.

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