Top 10 Things I Learned in Tech Class

So I always push that if you can’t be honest about ups and downs in your blog, then don’t blog. Write articles for magazines or something if you can’t be completely honest. So here I am, open. I have just finished my first semester teaching this technology class. I learned from my failures first 9 weeks and totally revamped 2nd 9 weeks. And I have learned a whole lot, some of which I can change and make into positives, some things I know work and will keep doing, and somethings I cannot change and not sure how to avoid. So I have made a Top 10. Top 10 Things I Learned in Tech Class.

10. I will never make parents happy.

No matter what I do, how bad I try, it is my fault. Or as I was told last week, “I’m incompetent.” I tried so hard to make everyone happy last 9 weeks with more traditional approach. They were angry I had to give a grade in technology class and it was “ridiculous they had to spend time at home” on the class. So this 9 weeks, nothing went home, everything in class, and I taught it my way. I got the “why can’t they just do it at home?”

9. Project Based Learning is exhausting when it comes to grading. (I have to give grades so don’t waste your time arguing with me on this because will straight up ignore you, I like getting a pay check, so I will give grades.)

So when you have 130 projects to grade, OMG! Takes me forever. I am getting emails I’m not grading fast enough but I am seriously trying. When things are digital, it is definitely harder to grade. You have to “open” or download each file. Even when in groups, it still takes a while.

8. Sixth graders respond better to PBL.

They work hard and take pride in their work. They are quiet. They work together. Was sick last week, my coworkers were able to let kids go to lab, work and just have someone monitor and they worked, they worked hard, without me.

7. If you put middle school kids in pairs or groups, you must give them an assignment that is easier than the assignment would be is done individually.

I have always done this, but the last few weeks have reiterated it to me. Don’t think “since in groups, I’m going to make it harder” or “this is hard activity, I’ll put them in groups.” Yes eventually they will be better at team work and learn to bounce ideas back and forth and prove that two minds are better than one. But with sixth graders, life is drama. They end up spending more time trying to figure out how to work together, the project takes second fiddle, so to say.

6. Schedules and Plans are laughable.

Oh good grief I just want to stick to plan. I gave kids a time management plan. Well that ticked parents off, why can’t they just turn it in when ever they want or finish?? It ticked me off because they refused to follow so a simple Word doc (learning Office is in state standards for them, they were clueless, don’t judge, I got it all done so we can move on to real technology) took weeks longer because day it was due, they were still researching and looking for pictures. KILL ME NOW. I’m learning, give them a day, they don’t start until the day it is due anyway. Ok maybe won’t do that, but time management is a HUGE skill lacking that they need to learn. I think I am going to make them fill out their own check list now. Have them grade it themselves and see what is missing. Also, you can plan all day, but you can’t plan for you as the teacher to have to take a sudden trip, sickness, death in family. Happens, throws everything off.

5. Kids don’t remember to Google when there is a teacher.

I’m not going to always be there, so this is skill I’m really going to focus on. They forget how to do something they immediately want you to tell them. Nope, I want you to try to look it up. Not answers to questions as much as actually doing something. Going to have to work more on this. Maybe Google a Day needs to make more appearances. I’m not sure.

4. Digitally turning in work is hard for 6th graders.

Completely a new skill for them. Edmodo does a stinky job helping with this. If the assignment needs an attachment, but they just click “turn in,” it tells them they have turned it in. But they didn’t. So have to be really careful. Make them “open” the file to check. It got better as the 9 weeks went on. Thank goodness. Just remember this is new for them. You have to keep checking and reminding them. And yes they forget how every time, just go back over it.

3. Teaching a tech class in a computer lab with no projector is hard.

There is a huge disconnect when kids have to walk across the hall to the lab from the classroom where skill was taught. Even with notes, screenshots, etc. It becomes hard. I just have to buy the projector mount. I have a projector and even a IWB but no mount. So with money I could be buying 2 engineering kits, I’m buying a mount 😦

2. Give kids choice.

They rock this. I gave kids a choice of 13 emerging technologies to choose from and they surprised me with their choices and you could tell the ownership because their choices were something they were somewhat interested in. I gave them complete control of the choice of their interactive ppt game or movie and all but one of 130 kids chose really good stuff. And since I let them choose I did not criticize their choices. Some did video games that may have some violent parts. We talked about how to make it tasteful. They did amazing jobs on this. I may could go the rest of my life not having to hear about Jameis Winston and how he is kin to them or friends with a cousin (he is from the area and I love how that gave me flash backs of growing up in this area and hearing the same stories about Bo Jackson) but they did amazing jobs with this!

1. It is HARD writing a curriculum as I go.

I had 2 weeks to plan before school. So I drew a timeline. That was pretty much all I got to do before diving in. The KIDS and admin have been patient while I feel around and fumble. I mentioned the parents thoughts already. I am not completely satisfied with how I am doing. I wish like heck I was doing a better job. There have been so many success and realization of what is working but also I see what doesn’t and it is too late because time has been spent on it. I have many wishes, like more supplies, enough computers for every student, etc. I feel bad giving kids grades for my trial and error so a lot gets tossed or grades get round up like 10 to 20 points (lol). If I get a chance to do this next year, I know what is not working, what is working, etc. I wish I could set up this class in other schools in this district now I know what works. Next semester is going to be a huge challenge because I’m not even close to being an expert at engineering, makerspaces, and design thinking. Research has been on going. I am lacking HUGE in funds. Only 10% of my students paid their class donations and I can’t make it mandatory. This is going to be a huge challenge, just getting Legos and play-doh will be stretching funds. I still want LEGO Mindstorms BAD so if you know anyone that can help, please send info.

So that is my list. I have a lot to learn. My kids have learned a lot. I see it often. I have had so many ups and downs. The ups make it worth it. Next semester is a lot of STEM. This is huge passion of mine so I am looking forward to it. Only “tech standards” left are website building and video editing. I think we are going to mix that with design thinking and start mixing that in. I think we may be more successful since we will have more “learn by playing” this semester. If I had to give myself a grade for this class so far. I’m looking at pros and cons and averaging, I’d say a C. Hey, a C in middle school isn’t too bad, right? Middle school kids grades always bottom out first semester. We have parent meeting warning about that. Soooo looks like I’m on track! Ha!

Happy Holidays to all! I’m a little behind wishing that but Happy New Year!  

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Tom Perran says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I will be teaching an online course this summer and your insights will help me prepare. I think your district would be foolish to have someone else teach the course. They would have to learn the same types of lessons during their first year.

  2. Alexis says:

    Thanks for this insightful piece. Have you tried donorschoose to help funding?

  3. Sara says:

    Hi Tom,

    Very interesting! There’s lots of STEM funding from the government right now. Perhaps an educational grant would help out your classroom?


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