Internship Reflection Week of 2012-04-23 [35] (Week of Two Field Trips)

This week I finished mentorship (LTI=Learning Through Internship) paperwork with a student L.D.  He is the third student that I am formally mentoring on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  You may recall that students at our school intern for 2 days a week, and some do their internships at school with staff there.

Part of me likes this arrangement since I can focus in on STEM topics with this group of students.  Part of me realizes this is a complete dodge of the spirit of the system which is meant to be made up of adult mentors in real jobs doing real work related to a student’s interests. 

In-House LTI has some pluses and minuses let’s catalog a few of them.

Students with undefined interests can do some work to define those interests before getting “any old LTI”  On the other hand, in-house LTI doesn’t push student out of comfort zone. plus / minus
In-House LTI doesn’t have the authenticity of a real mentorship, i.e. a real business with real profit motivation, etc. minus
In-House LTI doesn’t let the in-house mentor (BP Staff) do any capacity-building activities, or lesson planning, or helping other students that are actively seeking an internship. minus
In-House LTI often doesn’t have the richness of project or learning that a real LTI would have.  (In-House mentor could make up for this, but the effort/work required is significant, and even then is it authentic?) minus
In-House LTI is limited by the resources, facilities, and people that are at school, often much less than an LTI site. minus
   
   
   

Well, that was a very interesting exercise, reflecting on what I’m accomplishing on in-house LTI.  The conclusion seems to be “not much”.  I guess this goes back to the “be a fool for the kids” idea that I posted about last time.  Get students out there and get them an LTI, that’s the moral of the story, and if not then keep them working on hard/challenging stuff.  Anything less is not doing them any favor at all, because weak scaffolding is just no scaffolding.

I have been proud this year of the field trips that I have been able to organize to various companies and workplaces.  However, even that under close scrutiny could have been done way more effectively.  One optimization we have envisioned is to somehow be more intentional about the learning we hope that the students will come into contact with after visiting a location.  Here’s my thought experiment on an ideal field trip experience.

1. Students are recruited or have to compete to be on a field trip based on their learning plans, including the recommendation of the student’s advisor.

2.  Students get an extensive briefing / introduction to the site that is to be visited before going.  This can be from the point of view of any one of the Learning Goals:  Personal Qualities, Social Reasoning, Communication, Empirical Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning.  It could be tailored to the interests of the students attending.  The goal of this session is to prepare students for good questions while on the trip.  Another goal would be to put the site to be visited in a broader economic, political, social, etc. context.

3.  Students arrive dressed appropriately and ready to board transportation the morning of the field trip.  Maps and parking instructions are clearly defined for the driver(s) of such transport.  En route the students are provided tablets which have wireless connectivity and which are constrained to display the web site of the company/entity being visited.  The students are instructed to try to find the answers to their questions first on the web site before preparing to answer them at the site.  If the students don’t have questions then some will be provided for them so that they can search for them on the web site.

4.  The tour guide is met, students are paired off, tour is started, students stay close together, ask questions, and appear to be hanging on every word of their hosts and hostesses.  Every speaker is thanked (almost profusely) by the students.  Tour stays on it’s time schedule.  Pictures are taken of students on the tour and if allowed also of the things they have seen.

5.  Lunch is provided, and students are provided some more orientation to the company during the lunch.  Students meet new employees and folks in significant roles from the organization that speak to the requirements for working at that site, and what types of education and training the students would need to work at that site.

6.  After lunch activity is fairly active, and engaging so as not to allow students to get sleepy or disengaged.  Tour concludes, and a final chance for questions and answers is given.

7.  After the tour, students are invariably excited and eager to talk about what they have experienced.  At this point staff from the school step in to teach some lessons based on what the students have just seen.  The engagement in such material we expect would be quite high since students have just seen it.  Perhaps it would a simulation of a problem that is being worked on at the site, perhaps it is some background on the processes or procedures that the company specializes in.

8.  Finally a short quiz would be given to gauge the learning that the students have internalized from the trip.  Handouts could also be collected of students observations or worksheets that they would have had to fill in based on the things they have just seen.

9.  Students board transportation and are transported back to the school.  Students are allowed to watch YouTube or other videos approved by instructional staff that further reinforce or illustrate the businesses that they have just toured.

 

That would be an amazing tour!  But the impact and learning that such a tour (even if only part of the above were achieved) would be orders of magnitude beyond what is currently being achieved, as far as preparation, interaction during tour, and solidifying learning after the tour.

This past week I took my three LTI students on a tour of www.seattlebugsafari.com.  Students were admitted to the museum and then given a chance to ask questions of the owner/founder/director.  It was very interesting to see the effect large spiders can have on students that otherwise seem pretty tough and fearless.  (In fact, they have an effect on me!!).  The owner Brian is looking to sell his collection of animals, so if you know anyone who might be interested…

This week was unusual in that we had two field trips this week.  The second one was to www.flightsafety.com, to the local Flight Safety International branch near us.  Particularly impressive on both students and adults was a chance to “fly” the simulators.  One of our students had a pretty rough landing, but that was infinitely better than the near-crashes that the other two students experienced on their landings.  In a conversation with one student after the event, I was impressed that they said that it was pretty scary, namely the idea of risking life and limb, while at the same time being responsible for the safety of others, was pretty daunting.

So while I was glad momentarily that none of my students were the pilots of any recent flights I had taken, I was also glad that at least now they had a some understanding of gravity of the job of pilot.  (pun intended).  

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