Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Week 3: letters and more letters

For the third week of class, we wanted to start out with something different: we received letters from three high school aged students in Vietnam in school to become teachers. The plan was to have them wait to turn on their XOs until after we got them started with the letters, but as the students poured in with their running laptops in hand, we thought we were up for a big challenge to fight for attention. The kids found a seat and many resumed working on the TurtleArt maze project from the previous week. After a few minutes, we brought the kids back together to listen to us read the Vietnamese letters. Most of the group quickly engaged and listened, and when asked to respond with their own letter using the Write activity, quickly started working. We were amazed by how willing they were to do sit down and write a letter given all the other stuff they could do on their laptops. After 10-15 minutes, most of the group finished up and added their picture to the letter using the record activity. We picked up their files with a flash drive and moved back into programming.

Now done with the letters, we wanted to build on the concepts of using TurtleArt with…alphabet letters! The previous week, everyone made their turtle walk through a maze they generated from the maze activity. This week, we introduced the arc block and got everyone started with writing out the letters of their name. Some kids just started figuring things out on their own, some grabbed the FLOSS manual we brought along to construct a few example letters, and others needed some discussion and prodding before they started thinking and drawing out the steps required to make a turtle write a letter of the alphabet. Unlike last class where we ran almost 15 minutes over our allotted time, we started wrapping up a few minutes early. The kids were not interested in leaving, but we eventually got them out and on their way home.

Most surprising this week was the combination of excitement with the XOs and focus in their work. They have now had the XOs for over two weeks – far from new by kid standards, yet they were all eager to have them up and running before class even started and resistant to get away from them at the end of the class. At the same time, the XOs are capable of running multiple applications at once, yet the kids rarely got distracted when they were in the middle of working. A couple kids strayed off at times to play with the speak activity, but it didn’t drag the whole class off topic, and eventually those kids returned to worked and stayed fairly productive. The kids also show almost complete mastery over the standard operations – opening and closing programs, resetting the mouse when it goes wacky (an annoying bug that has been coming up often), and modifying the computer name and colors. The kids are also proficient users of many of the activities and understand how the journal works. For three hours of class time and very minimal direct teaching, the kids have collectively learned everything we hoped and more.

When we teach, we usually let the kids go free, but this week we took a more active teaching role when dealing with the complex angles and turns. The kids appeared to enjoy the discussions that helped them graphically draw out the problem and talk through the program that could solve it. It looked like real world learning was happening! This is especially comical after the things the kids talked about when writing their letters about themselves, their families and friends, and their school. According to all but one of them, school is boring, but they must not have noticed the real academic learning they were doing as they sat in their 2nd floor classroom.

Next week is Olin’s spring break, but we’ll be back the next week!

1 comment:

  1. The Maze Turtle Art combination sounds very cool. Exactly how to do you do it?