One of the most fascinating things about running this robotics club is watching kids figure out how to work together. The mantra about 21st century learning is that cooperation and collaboration are at the top of the list, because things like cloud computing make it possible to do across time and space. But working together is a really hard, especially for girls who are smart and used to achieving individually. I’ve watched kids bickering, individuals doing all the work, individuals complaining that “no one is helping”, people wandering off from the group, and people getting frustrated. It’s all part of the process. I spend more time talking to kids about how to work together than I do talking to them about how to build a robot.
Some of them literally don’t know how to work as a team. I find this interesting, though not unexpected. They’re young; they’re not asked to do this very often. And they don’t actually see the end goal very clearly because they’ve never done this before. They’re all trying. So although I hear complaints and see bickering, those are their ways of trying, so I talk to them about better ways to communicate, how to delegate. I’ve seen kids make great strides. Students who were bickering a couple of weeks ago now delegate work to the rest of the team. And I find it kind of fun to try to come up with ways to help them work together.
I can’t emphasize enough how important I feel this skill is. In the “real world,” we all have to work with people we don’t like or don’t agree with. If we just worked with people we liked, we’d never accomplish anything. Am I perfect in this regard? No. But I work really hard at it, because I think it’s important in order to achieve things within an organization, even as an individual. Very little that I’ve done has been accomplished without some kind of help, directly or indirectly. I hope to teach my students this as well. We’re all in this together. Working together is how we are going to solve the problems we face.