Been thinking a lot about relationships lately. I think they are one of the most important parts of teaching and learning. If there is little or no relationship between people than it is hard to have the trust to push each other to a deeper level. When something goes poorly in my room it is one of the first things I check. I also think it is important to reflect openly even when things do not turn out as well as planned.
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I like to experiment in my classroom and am not afraid to try something new. Recently my 8th graders worked with an 8th graders in Vietnam designing video games in Scratch. The project was modestly successful at best. One of the reasons was that the students in Vietnam were more experienced with Scratch and in thinking like a programmer than my students. Many of the international students had used Scratch for a few years whereas almost all of my students were first time users. We learned the basics by making a few basic games following step by step instructions. Most of my students were fine with that but when they had to create their own game from "scratch" then they struggled.
Some of the groups worked well with each other, but many of the groups struggled. The reasons were varied as some students slacked off and let their partner students do most of the work. Others had miscommunication about either their designs or how to actually make them work.
The students just were not "connected" to their overseas partners so they were not very motivated to cooperate. It was easier to blame some abstract student partner who was not in the room. We were under the gun time wise to get this project done, but next time we must lay more groundwork before the collaboration to develop relationships between the students. For most middle schoolers their social life and friends are their life. We need to tap into this to build meaningful relationships to inspire deeper learning.