Seeking First to Understand: How Do Students Like to Learn? | #K4STEMLAB

Seeking First to Understand: How Do Students Like to Learn? | #K4STEMLAB

There is something positively magical about the last few days of school in June. Kids are overwhelmed with anticipation, possibility, energy and joy. It's a wonderful time of year, second only in my mind to the days before winter recess.

I decided to add to the magic by introducing some of my K-4 classes to our plans for the STEMLAB. My goals: share the vision, gather student input, and generate some excitement.

Most of all, I wanted to listen. So, as I passed them my Chromebook (you can see it in some of the photos) I introduced the project with a few words about "what we want computer lab to be like next year." I showed them a photo of our new classroom (I made sure to mention that much/most of the existing furniture would be removed). We watched a short clip from an Engineering is Elementary video (click here, go to slide 6). I explained how we'd be doing projects some of the time, and other times, they'd be able to watch videos (made by me) explaining how to do things on the computer instead of listening to me lecture. Finally, I asked them - at the urging of Christian Long - to tell me how they like to learn. (The question evolved a bit as we went along, ultimately becoming "how they like to work.")

"I learn best when I'm relaxed and I think, 'Hey, I can do this,' and everything's going good."
"I like to learn from my teacher and my mom and dad."
"I like to learn by doing science."
"I work best when I'm very comfortable. At home I have the X-Box seat, where I play, and sometimes I do my homework on it."
"I work better when I'm playing."

We're not done yet - I plan to spend these last precious few days conducting and documenting more listening sessions. (Half the class gets to play games while I meet with the other half of the class, then we swap. It's a win-win.) Takeaways so far:

  • Comfort is king. Students say they learn best when they control the environment, so they are relaxed and can concentrate. Mobility is important.
  • Individualized learning appeals to them. "You mean I can watch the video over and over until I get it?" Yep!
  • Technology is great but teachers, moms & dads are important. Many students talked about learning activities at home, science projects, writing stories, practicing math, creating things on their computers, etc., with the help of an adult.

Students were especially thrilled by my Chromebook. "It's so light!" one exclaimed. "You mean I get one of my own to use?" (Me: while you're in school, yes, but you can't take it home.) "So we are going to have to be very careful with these, right?" (Me: yes, please!)

I can't WAIT for school to start in September! - Dom, rising 4th grader

Neither can I, Dom. Neither can I! -kj-

This post is part of a series about our plans to "reinvent" my K-4 Computer Lab class as a STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology & Math) course starting in September 2012. By "thinking out loud" here I hope to keep stakeholders apprised of our ideas, activities & progress while I gain wisdom and perspective from anyone who cares to join the conversation.