One of the benefits of being a Cotsen Art of Teaching alumni is being invited to ongoing professional development opportunities. The lovely people at Cotsen believe in supporting teachers all along our teaching journey.
Last Saturday, I ventured to the first “Cotsen Playground Challenge.” I arrived to find tables full of wires and toys. Legos, drones, balls and even playdough.
My first station held what appeared to be a Lego vehicle. Familiar yet foreign. A young woman, light years ahead of me in knowledge, started programming her EV3 Lego. Soon she’d made several trips around the challenge course and had calculated the perimeter of the area. I sat puzzling through the program and she was off to the next challenge. I tried and failed. Eventually, I got the hang of it or at least the idea of it. The kind teacher who set up the activity assured me she was equally clumsy when she started using these devices.
The next learning space used a HyperDuino maker kit. All new to me. This project wired lights and a circuit board to a Chrome book to create touch activated virtual tours of the National Parks.
The last station I visited held a maker project that spoke to my writing self. A student created book wired to a computer program. With a touch, the graphite-colored image activated the MakeyMakey alligator clip that started a Scratch video made by the student author bringing the story to life. Now that is cool.
My first jobs out of college involved programming with a dial-up connection and computers that opened up to reveal a circuit board. Back in the day, we saw the insides of computers and made them run.
Today, our computers are sealed, phones process as computers in the pockets of many ten-year-olds, and Wifi is close to being as essential as clean drinking water. At the same time, teachers and young students are entering the world of STEM through simple circuit boards and programming moves. What was old is new. Familiar and foreign.
Thank you, Cotsen. The learning experiences you continue to provide are gifts to teachers and their students. And thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays, a place to share and reflection on our teaching and writing lives. Find more slices here.