The ‘open’ classroom is often discussed as synonymous with online access. But I like to think of my class as being open in another way –bringing in professionals from the outside world.
I’m particularly lucky, with two mentors who come in on a weekly basis to assist me in robotics: Don Wilde from Intel, and Bill Johnson from Scottsdale Community college. We have an open door policy, literally, in our school for getting experts like them.
I have been following Intel’s push to put science high on the agenda, especially for K-12 education. From former Intel Chairman Craig Barrett’s investment in talent and capital with the Basis charter schools, to its involvement in S-T-E-M-related work.
To get back to Don. Last evening, as this picture shows, he talked to them about programming, specifically the principle of DRY — ‘Don’t Repeat Yourself‘! He showed them how to use the My Block to create loops and variables. Serious stuff. Some would think this is way above the heads of a 4th or 5th grader. To which I counter, it’s about time we stopped dumbing down our content in our curricula –a la Basis. (I happen to tutor two children from Basis, so I know a thing or two about their tough grading standards and how they challenge students.)
To wrap up the class, I asked my students to surprise Don with a project I had thrown at them. I divvied them up into
two three teams and got them to build three complex bots: A Voice-controlled robot, a mini Rover, and a Spider. I left him to judge the best presentation on how they problem solved the build-out and programming.
If science education is lacking one thing, it is making it relevant to real world problem solving. More on this and the 3 bots in another post.