Friday, April 5, 2013

Imaginative Bridges 11 - "Holding and Keeping Their Attention"

Imaginative Bridges 11 - "Holding and Keeping Their Attention"

When designing a compelling educational experience or class the "hook" is not enough.  Your "hook" will draw them in and give the students something to focus on but it is probably not enough to keep them focused for a week let alone a whole semester.

Students need to know where you and they are going.  They need to see the big picture and how it relates to them and their future.  How do we do that?  I start with the goal in mind and I show that to them early and often.  For my advanced underwater robotics class the goal is to design, build, test and then deploy and ROV 8,000 miles to the other side of the Pacific Ocean and then use it to search for missing aircraft from World War II.  A complex task for most adults.  I know.  I've done the same thing in the military and it's not easy, nor is it impossible.  The kids start from scratch.  A pile of parts and no funding.  They then come up with a plan to build the ROV and raise the funds to complete the project.

The target - Sonar image of our target
The "hook" or ROV is brought into the conversation everyday.  But, by the end of the class that is the smallest part of the whole class project.  It then becomes about raising money.  Then it is about testing their design in the pool.  Then it is about getting the word about their project out to the public and potential funders, then it becomes about the airplanes we are looking for.  And, then it becomes about the missing men and their families.  
Karly showing U.S. Ambassador to Palau Helen Reed-Rowe the view captured by the ROV.

In the end it is a huge accomplishment for these students to run this entire project with "NO" funding from our school district.  They get much more out of it than how to build a robot.  Hell we do that the first day of class as the initial "hook" to get them interested.  

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