What a wild ride. The internship with the ASSIST center was a rich learning experience in many ways. I learned to work with educators I never would have known if not for this project. The biggest challenge we faced was one that students will likely encounter when working in the class room. How do we not run full speed ahead with just one idea? Our group came up with a plan and wanted to execute immediately without really considering the challenges ahead. We wanted to divvy up the work and get cracking immediately. We had to stop and take time to look at labs that have been working on components for longer than we had been there. Working with the professors and being patient ended up giving us a product that was leagues better than we had hoped. Working with our mentors we could see things from different, wiser, perspectives. They were able to point out roadblocks we had not anticipated. They ended up saving us time and headaches that we thought weren’t even factors. They provided resources whenever we had a challenge. I think the biggest take away from this experience was to slow down and reach out. Other people have done similar things. I don’t know best. They can help. A high school sophomore solved a coding issue I had fought for a day with just one sentence, simply because I asked the room if they knew how to make a certain task happen. All in all it was a good, constructive blow to my pride that ended up growing my resources and knowledge in creation and exploration.
How do you catch lightning in a bottle? It’s a common phrase and one that makes sense right off the bat (another interesting phrase), but how does that actually work? I mean the timing would have to be incredible. Do you have to change the size of the bottle? Does it have to be glass? All of these are ridiculous hypothetical questions because you cannot actually contain lightning in a bottle. Unless that “bottle” is a tesla coil in disguise.
I say all that to say this. Transferring my experience in a research internship setting to a universal educational product is like capturing lightning in a bottle. The experience I had are so context dependent and singular that broadening them to fit any teacher at any school given a few key parameters seems to almost cheapen it. But it doesn’t have to. The challenge is to take my perspective and bring it to a place where others can use it. Something I am not used to doing. I live in my world, isolated from all those other teachers around me. I guess the real challenge is making myself available and coming to a place where I feel i have some value to contribute to the larger amoeba of educational resources.
As a part of this fellowship, we have been tasked with designed a wearable device to benefit people with specific health challenges. My group has created a posture monitor which lets the wearer know when they are slouching. Through this whole process I have learned a great deal. Coding, wiring, soldering, 3d printing, all of these things have benefited me as a tinkerer and educator. I have been able to help my mentor organization as well. Just by playing around I have been able to share tips and tricks to making this process smoother the next time around. For example, using solid core wire makes soldering easier and make sure not to heat up the ports on the lilypad too much or they will sweat. Little things like that. I believe our device will be helpful, if not to be produced, but in a different approach to usual health devices.
This fellowship has taken my classroom and connected it to the larger world, plugging students into the big picture of science community. It is no longer just Biology class. Using the research and personal experience from this summer will help dispel some of the intimidation of science. My goal as an educator is to always put students first. This experience has given me tools and perspective to supplement the information I can present to students. As a secondary consequence I can help educate fellow teachers about what is going on in the world of science academia. This work ultimately helps me reach the goal of providing a fun and updated environment for students to explore.
I missed the first two days of NCCAT due to a little dental mishap. I spent a few days with one less tooth than usual. Thankfully my dentist restored order to my mouth and I was on my way to the NC mountains. Skipping all the details of what went on (that would ruin the magic and secrecy) lets go straight to a post mortem. The best part of my few days at NCCAT was spending time with other teachers. I learned from them. We joked around. They talked about school entirely too much. Big topics in education floated in and out of conversation and there was an unspoken rule of open-sharing. The time spent together discussing and driving our own PD was greater than any other “develeopment” I have experienced. It was what I always wish PD would be at my school. Teacher led, applicable, and engaging. Teachers teaching teachers will always make my soul feel good.