I have been enjoying the program on ABC called “Redesign my Brain” . If you are not familiar with it, each week Todd Sampson ( Gruen Transfer) uses different brain training exercises to help rewire his brain. Last week fascinated me because he was looking at creativity and “Can we change our mindsets so that they are less fixed?” In my subject of Design Technology, I am constantly trying to work with students on creating designs that not only display the skill set we have been learning but also stretch them in the creativity realm.
With this program in mind , I stepped out of my comfort zone and ran two different lessons with two different classes using some of the tests in the program. Yesterday I ran the mousetrap brief, whereby the students had to create a mousetrap powered car using materials provided. Pairs were chosen randomly and they were given no clues and 60 minutes to construct their design.
I found that the students worked well for the first 15 mins but when they couldn’t make what their brains wanted them to, they became distracted. They struggled to move their thinking outside of the initial design and to compensate a range of behaviours were displayed. Materials were destroyed, some students zoned out and did other things, others sat and read a book , complaints happened like – “I don’t get this” or “this is stupid”. Those who struggled tendered to disturb those who were focussed and when the countdown to the time finishing began some students destroyed their creations rather than show them to the others as “failures”. I showed a snippet of the show at the end to summarise the lesson. I then put two scenarios to them – say I had videoed the session and sent it home to their parents, how would that have changed their work ethic? and secondly, if the last 60 mins. work was now the only grade for the semester, how would that change the way they worked? In both instances they said they would have been more focussed and work harder for a result. I then was able to talk about what drives their learning and how self motivation , self-discipline should be at the core of them as a learner.
Today I changed tack a little. I still randomly chosen the pairs but I used the program as a teaching tool. I would give them a challenge – lets say – “how many uses for a water bottle can you think of?” One of the pair scribed as the other said their answers. We the counted the answers and the one with the highest number got a chocolate.I would then show them a clip from the program and Todd’s answers. Each time they were given the opportunity to reflect on the test and their results. I then did the mousetrap brief but they didn’t produce it, they just drew it. The kids loved this lesson , they were switched on and when we went back to designing their workshop projects they began to look more creatively at the problem.
What did I learn?
1) sometimes what you think is going to happen doesn’t and as a teacher I need to be prepared for that. With the first group I wasn’t expecting to have a conversation about self-discipline but I did and I found that to be a real good outcome.
2) I need to be more aware of developing kids minds. Not having a fixed mindset as a teacher is the first step in allowing the kids to do the same.
3) Doing new things is okay – you aren’t going to break anyone. I achieved more in terms of learning ( mine and the kids) in the past two days than if they had stayed with the normal program.
4) some kids don’t get it , but they will. We all are different and that’s okay.
5) sometimes there is a gap between what I can draw and what skills I have to make it. The first group were increasingly frustrated by the trickiness of making the car – and eventually some gave up. The second group didnt have this constraint and could freely design, not knowing or caring if they could make it or not. How do I help bridge the skills gap or do I need to ?
6) do we short change our students. They are interested in knowing how they think – why don’t we spend more time helping them understand?