I know just enough to be dangerous. I can change out a ceiling fan or a car battery. Replace a plug on an extension cord. A few other things. I know enough to shut off the breaker or otherwise disconnect power before beginning a project. But how it all works?
I mean, I could give you a dictionary definition if you want. But I think you want a little bit more than that.
We blew past the circuits module in POE this year. We are smack in the middle of a major renovation right now, and my classroom is ground zero. There are decades of projects, binders, materials, tools, everywhere, across three classrooms. Despite receiving a literal truckload of brand-new PLTW supplies, I couldn’t track down the breadboards and wires for my students to work with. Fortunately there is an online sim for circuit building, which is what we used at my former school, but I need for my students to get hands-on with all of this. It’s one of the major selling points of PLTW – learning by doing.
Thanks to that turn of events, I’m a little ahead of schedule. Too early to start the next unit. But: amongst a recent shipment was a half-dozen boxes of the VEX building kits, including a hydrogen fuel cell and small solar panels for an energy activity.
Nothing says we can’t skip back and do that project now, right?
Turns out we didn’t have quite everything we needed. But in the spirit of American ingenuity and the can-do spirit (and the Porter County Career Center’s Alternative Energy program), we improvised. And learned. Every day I’d dig through stacks and storage of old equipment, find something that looked useful, give it to my students and said, “here, see what you can do with this.”
And because they are pretty slick, they’d go to work, think, try things out, look stuff up on Youtube when they needed to, and make some magic happen.
I told them up front that I had not done this project beginning to end before: “I’ll be real honest with you – we’re going to learn together”. I’m not sure I could get away with that just anywhere. I mean it as an opportunity for students to take control of their own learning. They get it.
My strategy: Ask a lot of probing questions, help when asked, get out of the way otherwise, check for understanding later. Plus, we eventually found the breadboards and some alligator clips.
And the next thing you know: Solar/Hydrogen Cell Car. Yeah.
There are places where this kind of “go forth and play, and oh, by the way, learn something” might not be met with great enthusiasm. “You’re the teacher. Teach us.”
I believe I have.
But wait. There’s more: Wait ’til we start coding in the next unit…
Robots are coming.