Reboot, again

Hello? Is this thing on?

I’ve finally found this blog again after it got buried under a new country, new school and new classes. I’m officially dusting it off and planning to document the next phase of my career here at American Community School in Amman, Jordan. Hopefully, it won’t get buried again.

Next year, I’ll be making another shift in my teaching assignment. Having originally been hired as a middle school social studies teacher and tech coach, my assignment ended up being to create two new technology courses while also teaching one section of social studies. I had a great time developing coding and STEAM courses and eventually also picked up a Robotics course.

It was a great year of learning for me, and hopefully for the students. I had a free pass to develop courses that had not existed before and I took advantage of the opportunity to try out all kinds of different ideas. Which leads me to the task at hand, developing yet another new course for next year.

After evaluating our program, we realized that our current offerings (Coding, STEAM, Engineering, and Robotics) were too similar and were creating too much overlap. In addition, those of us who were teaching the courses did not have a common planning time which made it difficult to collaborate and ensure that we were offering diverse opportunities for our students.

The solution, I hope, is a year long Design Technology class for all seventh and eighth grade students. Currently, it is only one course, but there is a possibility of developing it into a level one and level two.

Since the decision was made to go ahead with the class, I’ve been reading as much as I can to develop my ideas into a legitimate course. I’ve drawn heavily on the following:

I also decided that I should follow my own teaching and work my way through the design cycle to develop the course. Therefore, I created the working document at the end of this post to develop my ideas and begin outlining a course.

Even though I developed two new courses this year, I have to admit to mostly building those ships as I sailed them as I got the assignment not long before the actual start of school and had no idea what materials and resources would be available. So this is my first real run at developing a course from scratch.

My goal is to create something different. I want to create a class that not only students would want to take, but that I would want to take as well. With this in mind, my goal is to create an asynchronous, project-oriented course that allows students options to follow their interests while building their own knowledge and understandings. A choose your own adventure course if you will.

I’m imagining each class starting with a mini-lesson for students who are interested in a topic, tool or resource. Initially, these would be led by me, but eventually, they would be student-led as students build their own skills and knowledge. Those who are interested participate, those who are not or have other work started, go ahead and start on their own. The next portion of the class would be made up of student check-ins as students will be required to conference with me every three to four classes to discuss progress.

While it may sound as if this plan is leaving students to fend for themselves a lot, I discovered this semester that they actually prefer this. One of my favorite, and many of the student’s favorite, lessons was when I handed out Makey Makeys and told them to figure out what they do. For the next hour kids tinkered, experimented, discussed, Googled and discovered various ways to use this new tool. As each group found success, their eyes lit up, they laughed and they looked for ways to extend their learning. It was fantastic. The feedback I received from students this semester continually brought up the fact that they appreciated being able to learn and explore on their own.

Some of this is driven from a desire for change and rejuvenating my own teaching practice, and some of it is driven from the reality of the resources we currently have available. Our middle school did not have a technology program before this year and therefore also did not have a lot of equipment. I’ve placed a giant wish list of an order for next year but I’m not certain what I’ll actually guess. I shot for the moon, hoping at least to get into space.

Speaking of space, I’ve got an awesome new teaching space for next year, but I think that’s going to have to be another post.

Stay tuned to see how this all turns out. Will it be an amazing success? Will it crash and burn and need to be redesigned at the end of the first semester? There’s only one way to find out.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my ideas, and the developing plan below.

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