- The title of the class we'd be teaching, which included: Leadership, English, Robotics, Drama and Makerspace.
- Approximately 24 middle school aged students per class.
- The school has a computer lab.
- We'd each be teaching for ten days total, six, fifty minute classes per day.
- The school will provide requested supplies.
- Our US connect shared a digital lms which teachers could utilize for teaching English.
- At first, we were told that curricula would be provided, however, teachers ended up needing to create our own curricula.
I was told I would be teaching "Makerspace", which made sense since I've created a makerspace in our library. That being said, Makerspace as a class, especially without a makerspace, is a bit of a conundrum! Yes I was told I could order supplies, but surely not the kind of supplies available for use in our makerspace.
Since Maker Ed encompasses a variety of systems, (such as hydroponics, electronics, textiles etc), I thought video creation would offer a great learning experience. However, my suggestion was denied, do to the fact that needed equipment would be difficult to acquire.
The theory behind Maker Ed is for students to have time to tynker with tools in order to consider...imagine their possibilities. Students then work through ta design thinking process to solve problems, create and innovate. Without the tools, I thought I'd start with design sprints, where students practice the design process, and then have them choose from challenges to work through. (Purpose + creativity = Innovation). We could offer "tools" such as pipe cleaners, cardboard, clay etc., which I ordered. I also brought six Makey Makey's just in case, because they were small, and fairly inexpensive if lost.
The first day of class we participated in a getting to know you activity I found in the book Gamestorming, which I also brought with me...just in case! I found out that students play a lot of video games but they've never had the opportunity to create them. When I asked them if they'd like to learn, they were beyond excited.
I requested using the computer lab, but was told it may take a few days to get access. In also seeing their interest in drawing, I decided that during our next meeting students would create role playing games. I gave them variables they needed to create, thinking creative constraints. Including presentations and feedback, this took approximately three class periods, and the students flourished!
I checked into Scratch, and found out it's available in numerous languages, including Chinese! With the extremely valued assistance of a student from the Mount Olive HS Robotics Team, who joined us on our trip, we realized that Scratch 3.0 required Windows 10.0, and the computers in the lab were still running 8.0. We ended up downloading a Chrome browser knock off, (Google products aren't available in China), to each computer each morning, until finally getting the password to download to all computers from a master terminal, midway into the second week. I also created one outlook e-mail for students to use to create accounts.
Most of the learning they did on their own, and my awesome student friend from Mt. Olive, who is a big time coder, stepped in when necessary. Not only did students get to create video games, they ended up using the Makey Makeys to create game controllers.
So, here's the "what I learned in the process":
- Without knowing the experiences, interests, and learning abilities of learners ahead of time, it's best to be flexible!
- Although you don't need to know the ins and outs of coding or a learning to code program to teach coding, your skills do enhance the teaching and learning experience. The students and I would have benefitted if I could have been more hands on with what they were learning.
- When you're teaching in a facility you've never seen, don't expect anything, expect maybe chairs!
- If teaching in a country where you and your students don't speak a common language, make sure to have an interpreter, (which I did, and she was awesome!).
- Know that there will be issues with the technology!
- I wish I had more experience with Game Design. Creating role playing games vs. creating video games in Scratch, were like apple and orange experiences! I thought students might be able to carry over their role playing work into the video realm, but that was not the case!
- Although the students were engaged throughout, I should have created challenges of some kind, so that they were inspired to make more difficult games as they moved on in their learning.
All in all I'm glad I took the risk, and certainly feel better prepared for future "teaching in another country" experiences!