Instructional Material: Don Domes: Advice - Class Organization

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Advice: Class Organization


I encourage students to try ideas. Products like WD-40 are named for the attempts it took to get it right: Water Displacement 40th try. Formula 409 is another such product that took a lot of trials to get it to the market. Fail early and fail often is an astute saying from the invention and design world. I believe more is learned from things that “do not work” than from when something solves all the problems for you. I use a point system that helps students know how many points will be needed for a specific grade. The points are the same no matter how much time the students spend on the assignment. The class is rich in active learning and offers the opportunity to experience the design cycle.


I also use a video camera to record the students when they attempt a challenge. This creates a wonderful sequential video to show at the end of the term and celebrate the accomplishments of the students.


Teaching teamwork is very important. The career related learning standards have a section devoted to teamwork and this is a great opportunity to work on developing those skills. Teams often require coaching to reach their greatest potential. I use surveys often to document how team members are perceiving the team they are part of. I believe 2 students is the ideal team size for Robotics. In my opinion a team of three students is usually a disaster as one student works and the other two students talk. I prefer to let a student work as an individual rather than on a team of three if I have an uneven number of students. If students are absent a lot I usually have them work as individuals so they do not hold back a teammate. If teams are not functioning or students don’t want to stay with their partner I let those teams reconstitute from the various people involved. I do not change teams once they become established and functional. The Tuckman Model of team development has principals that explain why moving team members around to different teams is not a good idea if you want to have any high performance teams.


I provide each student a notebook and a bookshelf location to keep the notebook within the classroom. I have all the course materials copied and placed in the notebook. The notebooks are numbered and assigned to each student. This gives a point of organization for each student and a place to keep notes, writing utensils, etc.


I also have assigned seats so each student knows where their workspace is. Assigned storage is also important so that students have a place to keep their robots and parts. Class time is limited so organization is key to getting a class productive as close to the start of the period as possible and being able to use the maximum amount of class time.


As the term progresses I make some out of class work times available. This allows students who have been absent or who work slower an opportunity to put in additional time.


Classroom control is very important. I have extensive video surveillance and I use a PA system with a portable microphone so I can talk at a conversation level when conversing with the class. Research verifies that appropriate sound reinforcement increases learning and improves class behavior.

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