classroom teaching workshop

Observations after finishing first set of clubs (Winter 2015)

The first clubs I started (Jan-Mar 2015) are over, and I wanted to jot down some notes regarding my experience. In general, both clubs (LEGO Robotics and 3D Game Programming) sufficiently entertained and engaged the kids, and I believe most kids were able to demonstrate basic skills that we developed in the clubs. Regarding both clubs as well, it was clear that 1 hour per week, once a week, is just not enough time to do much of anything useful. That is a big problem especially for the Robotics club, since only one kid in the class had a kit at home, so no one could really practice or go beyond the club material outside the club time. In the programming club, one or two kids went ahead to read the book and download code, but I didn’t get a sense they had really a greater understanding.

One important factor, which I can attest to personally since my daughters were in both clubs, is that many kids don’t really have any time to explore. My daughters are so over-programmed (no pun intended) with other activities and regular homework that it takes something fairly extraordinary to get them to sit down to programming. In other words, for kids to get interested and do things, they need some time set aside to focus on this activity. I feel that if the programming were a formal class in the school, perhaps an elective that met 2-3 times per week, that would give them the time to focus.

  • Robotics Club observations: Due to scheduling conflicts, I can’t continue the Robotics club, and frankly without more time available, I don’t think there is point to it. All the kids learned to use the basic movement blocks and execute the program on the robot. We went over the LEGO/CMU curriculum, which kept most of the kids engaged for 4-5 sessions, and most of the kids were able to complete the basic line following program. Our class had all boys except for my two daughters. It was very hard for me to keep everyone in line because there were a few different skill levels in the class, and different attention spans (nothing I didn’t expect). The last couple of sessions were more chaotic because a few of the kids were building things on their own, and I knew I wasn’t leading to anything beyond the curriculum. The general consensus was that they wanted to build robots (or build with LEGO, not necessarily get to the programming), and frankly there just wasn’t enough time or frequency to have the do anything more than have some fun piecing things together. Maybe in the future there could be a building part and a programming part, with an initial part about making a plan as to what to build and program.
  • JavaScript Programming Club: For the Spring club, I’m going to go back to basics — I will follow the Crunchzilla lessons, but also give the kids the options to continue in the Strom book or hop over to Khan Academy. My plan is to walk them through the concepts of the Crunchzilla lessons, then let them work through them. Once we get through the basic programming concepts (variables, statements, conditionals, functions, loops, etc.) we’ll explore the Game Maven lessons, and I’ll help guide those who prefer the 3D programming. I also expect to have the kids complete a project, which we’ll discuss during the clubs. I made the last week section in the club about using the JS outside of the ICE editor and Crunchzilla — my plan is to give the kids their own page on this site to upload their own content, so they can show their family and friends. I found a good post about using the Role Scoper WordPress plug-in to allow kids to edit a single page on a site.

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