Learning to Lego

So many things about my new job are amazing, I could write a series of posts called "Hate me, I found the best job." I am quickly finding my feet as an elementary ed technology Integration Specialist, although I think the title should have the word "Pedagogy" in there somewhere as so much of what I do is plan with teachers and develop lessons.  I have never collaborated so openly, or actively co-taught with others.  I am in 10 different classrooms in a week, last year I made it to 2 per week and there was never another teacher there.  Sharing the planning and the space has been amazing.  But that is just another topic for a "Hate me" series. I want to reflect and plan a bit about the School's FLL teams.  

 I have 14 students in our afterschool lego group.  I have been told this is a BIG PART of our schools "tech profile" and after meeting the kids, I believe it .  They are fired up and ready top build!
What We do
Each year Lego sponsors a series of design and innovation competitions at several different grade and skill levels.  For my happy band of 4th-8th graders the First Lego League is a great match.  The FLL competition has a couple components.  There is a project and the robot Game.  The robot game is really cool, a great deal cooler than the project, at least at face value.  In the robot game the kids design and program a robot to do a number of tasks on a game field.  We get to build the challenges, or missions on our own game field.  We will also create a local project connected to disaster preparedness or recovery.  The students will interview people and create a needs-based response.  They will then present about that at the regional competition.

Why it is a great idea
I am loving that 1/3 of the students in this club have some programming experience already.  I am gonna have to up my game FAST.  This project gets kids working on real problems, I should say working together on real problems.  The challenge model is good for this, creates a finite time frame, and a common goal.  It is not free, it is worth the expense because of the amount of engaged group-based problem solving the kids have to do.
The project asks them to engage in real research, you could even say it puts them in the role of an ethnographer, but then they go beyond that roll and create a solution.  This puts them in the roll of an innovator, a designer in a way that is of service to a broader community.
What my goals are
I hope all of these students have a great time and learn more than they know they can.  I am loving the informal environment .  The kids are tuned in, even 14 of them in a room full of Lego and computers after school.  My challenge is to keep the kids moving and learning.  We are doing a great deal of exploring with the robot kits and programming.  Next we will be exploring the project, looking for good ideas, deciding which communities we will serve.
If all goes well
My teams will be proud of the work they share at the end of November and they will be committed to continuing to design and program robots.  We will be using Hopscotch to explore programming as well. IF they are tuned in and up of the challenge, I dream of robot puppets.