To teach you must learn

Most of the teachers I spend time with are also learners.  They don’t see themselves as experts conveying information to their students.  They see themselves as learners who are a little further along the path than their students in some areas.  I am at this moment, missing Educon, a conference I’ve attended every year for the last 5 or 6 years (I lose count).  I did get to have dinner with several of my very dear friends and also regular attendees of Educon.  And I’m watching the Twitter feed go by.  And it’s clear that ideas are bouncing around and that people are learning.  And that’s what’s so great about a conference like Educon.  I don’t think I’ve ever not learned something from it.

So instead of being at Educon, I spent the morning doing some learning of my own.  I have this propensity to teach things I’ve never done before.  And I’m doing that in two classes.  In Mobile Computing, I decided to switch languages and so I spent a rather frustrating couple of hours today trying to figure out the logic of the system and what kinds of things were possible and what kinds of information different elements needed.  There’s very little documentation, so it was mostly me thinking, hmm, this looks like what I want and trying it and seeing if it worked.  My students have decided they want to participate in an app competition and I’m excited by what they’ve already started on.  We spent yesterday doing a quick sprint through some Design Thinking processes to get their initial ideas.  We’ll all be muddling through the technology together, but I plan to spend a little time every day poking around with it to expand what I know about it.

I also spent time creating this:

fractal

In my Physical Computing class, I started by talking about recursion and showed them a Python program that generates a Koch Snowflake. For homework, the students needed to find an example of a recursively created pattern in Python and alter it as needed. Now my experience with recursion is limited and my math skills end with beginning Trig, so having my students do this for homework challenges me as well.  I did my own homework.  Rather than find an example, I decided to create my own pattern from scratch.  This didn’t take me too long, but I got hung up on a couple of things.  I started by thinking I needed to use more complex math than I really needed to.  I fixed that problem and then my program just wasn’t generating the pattern I thought it should.  The circles either weren’t where they should have been or weren’t the size they should have been.  Turned out, I had hard coded a couple of parameters into my base case, so the radius wasn’t changing every iteration.  And then, I had my recursive function a little out of whack in that it wasn’t always doing my base case.  A small change of logic and everything was fine.  I did get some help, but by the time I did I was closer than I thought.

The end result of all this recursive pattern making is to laser etch these onto something (thus the physical part of Physical Computing).  I think it’s going to be cool.

So my brain is pretty full, which is mostly a good thing, but class prep for me is often not like class prep for “normal” teachers.  I’m often not just having to create a good learning situation for my students, but also I’m having to learn the material right along with them.  It’s invigorating, but sometimes scary.  Now I need a nap.