Getting Them Into The Middle Of The Subject Matter With Daniel Cruz
"To me, hands-on learning creates ownership, it is a powerful, personal expression of intellect that doesn’t focus much on a final product but on the process of creation."
Title/School: Léman Manhattan Preparatory School
Years of Experience: 15 years
Primary LEGO Education Solution used: EV3/NXT/WeDo 2.0
Social media accounts/blogs/websites: Twitter: @cruz_d_cruz
What would you say is your philosophy as an educator?
Digital making, STEAM, project-based learning, and tinkering are at the core of my teaching philosophy which can be summed up simply as ‘learning best by doing’. I think it is productive to facilitate experiences for students to construct knowledge, more productive than to give them some answers which they won't remember probably and stop thinking. Helping students learn by getting them into the middle of the subject matter and keeping them there is valuable to me.
What is the greatest benefit of a hands on approach to learning?
To me, when we talk about hands-on learning, we talk about learners being empowered to connect with everything they know, feel, and wonder to guide themselves into learning new things. In my classroom I try to liberate my students from their dependency on being taught.
To me, hands-on learning creates ownership, it is a powerful, personal expression of intellect that doesn’t focus much on a final product but on the process of creation.
I incorporate hands-on learning by bringing to my students new experiences, new technologies, new challenges and by facilitating activities and spaces where they can make, tinker and bridge between intuition and the formal aspects of science.
What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
My favorite thing about being a teacher is seeing my students grow in all aspects and witness how they develop their own identity and personality.
What is one of your proudest moments in the classroom?
One of my proudest moments in the classroom was when I was approached by an introverted and quiet student at the end of the year thanking me for being the “coolest computer teacher ever.” During the year she was always doing a lot of peripheral learning (walking around, listening attentively but without participating actively.) I slowly invited her to participate without being too intense and by the end of the year she was excited to be an active member of our team of explorers.
What advice would you give teachers about implementing a hybrid learning strategy?
My advice would be to learn more about sustaining and disruptive innovation in general. Hybrid models have been always present in processes of transformation. A blended model or a hybrid is a combination of a new disruptive technology with an old technology. This mix represents a sustaining innovation relative to the old technology. Once we understand how these models have impact society in multiple levels, we can plan and execute better learning programs.
Failure is often a key aspect of the learning process. What's the most important lesson you've learned through failing?
The importance of planning or pre-production is perhaps the most valuable lesson I’ve learned through failing. At a younger age I rushed into execution without appreciating the tremendous importance of planning. The overall process may take longer, but the odds of succeeding are way higher if there is careful planning behind our actions.
What are some of your favorite activities/hobbies to do at home?
I love to exercise with programs such as P90X or Insanity, I love to do all types of projects with my daughters (from baking to creating our own splash-n-slide in the backyard) and I also love gardening.
Book: Range (David Epstein)
Movie: The Matrix trilogy
Podcast: Revisionist History by Malcom Gladwell
First musical album you ever owned?
Thriller by Michael Jackson
Were you a LEGO Fan as a kid? What’s your LEGO Story?
I grew up in Colombia in the 80s and LEGO didn’t arrive there until the late 90s. It was only as an adult that I discovered LEGO NXT as a tool for learning. It was mind-blowing to me and since then I’ve been a fan of the traditional LEGO systems and educational tools. Now, as a parent, I get to do with my children what I didn’t have the opportunity to do when I was growing up: enjoy the power of free playing and building with LEGO.