Monday 10/31/2011

Happy Halloween / Happy Eve of All Saints Day

My school doesn’t go too crazy for Halloween, there were a few folks dressed up, a mask here or there. I didn’t feel too bad not dressing up.

Most exciting thing to happen today was a student saying he had looked at some of the stuff over the weekend which I had showed to him on Friday. At the risk of overstating the significance of the moment, this was *HUGE*. At this school where so much depends on student interest and motivation, to find that something I had done had inspired a student to spend some of his own time on something was incredible. To confess the student was upset because the something which I had showed him hadn’t worked, but still…

Another highlight of today was the “Science Behind CSI” elective on ballistics. I had asked one of the high school students, E., to help with this presentation, and it went really well. There were a few moments when we went off-script and I think we communicated some large or small inaccuracies to the students, but overall I think it went well. I am amazed to see that when we really took our time and answered all the questions, this presentation of the topic had a very different flavor than the last time. I also cut out one of the videos that I had showed last time. As I reflect on this, I am impressed that learning is not about a one way broadcast of information, but it really is a conversation. Today I learned to slow down and enjoy the ride instead of always wanting to get to the destination. We still managed to get in our “experiment” of throwing the Nerf(r) footballs through the hoop, and we managed to get to the exercise of matching the left – right bullet markings, and even got more done on that one.

After the class I had a chance to view a practice exhibition for one of the 301s (juniors). The next two weeks at Big Picture will be a flurry of activity as we try to get to 100+ students through hour-long presentations on their projects, learning plans, and post-high-school plans. These are the final exams of the school. (See blog post on learning cycle).

After that session I got to tutor a student, C. on computer literacy. We are starting with touch typing and when two other students joined us, we got into some good-natured competition. I offered $1 to any student that could type 57 WPM with 100% accuracy, and was quickly informed that $5 would have been more reasonable, and “could you lower to 40WPM?” The suprising thing to me, and one which I want to reflect on here is the power of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. No amount of money was going to motivate a student that either a) thought that it was silly to try to compete for $$ in such a way, or b) the achievement was so far out of their ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development) that they weren’t going to try. Plenty of strategies were being tried, like using two fingers on the keys being drilled at any one time instead of using the home keys. I started to wonder if I should have picked a harder exercise. However, the students who can’t touch type don’t realize that they can read and type at the same time.

Finally I spoke with the student who is doing the recycling push. She had computed the average pounds of recyclables we were currently throwing away as a percent of total garbage in our sample of last week. I turns out 9% of our total waste stream is recyclable. This student, S., has chosen a goal of 5% for the new percent of recyclables in our waste stream after her push. We talked a little about the difficulties there and the data we might need to gather… This is a fun project, not Mike Rowe and “Dirty Jobs” but close.

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