Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The One Where I Go to Google #slice2013


Every Tuesday, Ruth and Stacey, host Slice of Life at their blog, Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post on Tuesdays or you can just head on over there to check out other people's stories. For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here. 

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Last week, I drove down to the Google Offices in Chicago with my new colleague, Brian, to attend a Science Fist STEM Social that one of our other colleagues, Marc, hosts. I could spend a whole post talking about the adventure we had just getting there barely on time on an almost empty tank of gas but instead I'll talk about the event itself. 

Science Fist is an organization Marc founded with other educators to bring after school STEM programs to students. This event was a STEM social cohosted by Science Fist where educators and others involved in STEM program could attend, network and this time, learn specifically about Raspberry Pis. 

I love technology but I honestly don't know much about the insides of all my fancy gadgets. From what I (now) understand, a Raspberry Pi is essentially a little computer the size of a credit card. Literally, the whole thing can fit inside of an Altoids tin. Basically, you can buy this little guy and then hook it up to a monitor or TV and go from there. You can upload an application to a flash drive and plug it in and run that application, or you can use an application like Scratch and learn how to program the computer to do what you want it to do. Here's what a Raspberry Pi looks like:
We heard from a few different people who know all sorts about Raspberry Pi but I was most impressed by John Moosemiller, a recent graduate from a local high school. He told his story of convincing some of his friends to buy Raspberry Pis with him and how they taught themselves what to do with them. You can visit John's YouTube page for videos about what he has done with Raspberry Pi. He also started an organization with friends called Project LEAD - which stands for Project Learn Everything Applying DIY (Do It Yourself) which focuses on giving students the tools to take learning into their own hands. It was pretty impressive to hear John speak and then to talk with him afterwards. Brian and I were curious how early students might start playing around with a Raspberry Pi and talked with a principal who used it with 5th graders this year but who believes even a 1st or 2nd grader could start to learn about the pieces, how they work together, and start to try some of the basic programming with support. Did I mention a Raspberry Pi is less than $50? That might be the most exciting part, kids can really get to work learning about computer science for a pretty reasonable cost.
I was so glad that I went (and made it...and they let us into the Google offices because we got there in the knick of time...) to this event. After the presentations, I met a few people from my district who are also excited about expanding and growing the world of STEM. As much as I love technology, I know more about technology and literacy or technology and connecting and networking than I do about technology and science, and engineering and math. That's the part of my job as a coordinator of instructional technology where I'll be learning a lot this year. Sitting in the Google offices, listening to people brainstorm how they could see using a Raspberry Pi with students to gauge air quality or bake bread, completely had my head feeling like it was ready to explode...but it's exactly the kind of feeling I love. I love that I get to have experiences like this that really force me to lean into discomfort, or in this case jump into discomfort with two feet. 

I could have felt completely out of place and disconnected at this event, but going with a colleague, asking questions to learn more, and being open to hearing others' experiences, really helped to make me feel like I was part of the STEM family. I think having this type of attitude when it comes to new learning is so important. It also made me realize how important it is for us to model this attitude for students. So often, it's easy to shut ourselves off from new experiences, from trying new things, or being vulnerable to admitting we don't have the answers - especially as teachers. I believe by owning the fact that there are things we don't know or can't do is crucial in making an impact on students. Thinking back to Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck, she asserts that we need to teach kids how our brain works and that we can learn if we only try. But first we need to be honest and open about not knowing something, only then can we be open to learning and can learning happen. 
Have you had an experience with leaning into discomfort recently? Do you ever get stressed out when you are learning or experiencing something new? And how do you deal with it, or what helps you manage that discomfort? How might recognizing this help you support students who might be living in a state of leaning into discomfort as they experience a new school year or new experiences in school? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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