Reflecting, hiking out of the valley, moving on.

I wrote last time about how much I struggled with a hardware lesson with my students. Isn’t it hard to go back into the classroom the next day?  The relationship you had with your students is changed after that point. Respect is lost, trust is damaged, and the hard work of rebuilding begins.

I started by blanking the screens of the students. I went through this presentation. I talked, and they listened.

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Students filled out an anonymous form then, letting me know what they observed during the lesson, what their part was in the lesson, and their advice on how to meet the learning objectives.

I crunched the data and showed the results to them next class.

Chart 1: What did you do? What did you observe others doing?



There were unusually high numbers of “Others were not safe” and “others were not learning”. However there were also high numbers of “I was safe” and “I tried to learn”. I do believe the respondents were being honest with me.  I pointed out the safety issues were noticeable and bothersome to a large proportion of he class – but that it seemed to be a minority of the class that was being unsafe and not listening.

Chart 2: What should we do?


The most popular result was “Do an assignment at home”. Some students made suggestions for what the assignment should be: watch a video and take notes, read articles, go over flash cards, or look through pictures. The next most popular suggestions were “do some research as a group” and “take a test”.

I told the students I liked the “assignment at home” idea. I assigned two web links on how to take apart a computer, and asked the students to review them.

How to take apart a computer:

How to disassemble a laptop:

Then I created a ten-question quiz. Some of the questions can be answered from information on the websites, and other information may need to be searched online.  It’s all multiple choice and I’ll grade it with Flubaroo.

Here’s what I learned from the experience.

1) The online instructables were helpful to me and I wish I had arranged for those to be pre-work before doing the actual dissection. Pre-work before a tough activity like that is very important for setting up a successful structure later.

2) I knew, on some level, that I had students in that particular class that were going to struggle with maturity and decision making. I took a risk, and sometimes those work out and sometimes they don’t. I didn’t do everything right, but even if I had, it would have still been a risk.  And you know what? Maybe I was right to do it anyway. I need to be able to release responsibility to them eventually and can’t run every activity under the assumption that I can’t trust my students. Sometimes I have to let them try, even if that means sometimes they are going to fail. In the future, I might not dissect as many computers. I will structure the pre-work more, I will create larger, more accountable groups, I may do some of the work for them and let the students know which parts they’re allowed to do, I may ration tools. But I’ll still take some risks and still get bitten sometimes.

3) I did get some feedback from students in that class saying they loved the activity and they learned a lot from it. They had never seen the inside of a computer before. They didn’t know the difference between a video card and a CPU before. They thanked me for allowing them to do it. Even when a lesson seems like a disaster from my perspective, it helps to ask the students for theirs because you find successes where you didn’t expect it. You can build from there.

Thank you all for your support. Onward.



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About dupriestmath

I'm a former software engineer who has taught middle school math and computer science for the past 6 years. I believe every kid has the right to be a thinker. I started this blog to save resources for integrating programming in the Common Core math classroom. I also use it to save my lessons and reflections from teaching budding computer scientists! Coding has transformed how I teach and think. You'll love what it does for you. You should try it.

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