Learning through Play With Chris Wilde
Title/School: Head of Digital Technology & Computing The Royal Grammar School Newcastle, U.K.
Years of Experience: 20 years
Primary LE Solution used: EV3
Social media accounts/blogs/websites: Twitter: @makestuffne
What would you say is your philosophy as an educator?
I am a massive advocate of learning through play. I love the constructionist learning methodology and am continually inspired by learning philosophies based around the work of Seymour Papert. I like to support our young people to make things, and then let them use code to make those things do stuff. So I guess my philosophy is “make things do stuff”.
What is the greatest benefit of a hands on approach to learning?
The fastest pace of learning happens in infancy. A time where children are encouraged to pick things up, play with them, experiment with them, experience failure and get their hands dirty. It is of no surprise to me that learning during this phase of life happens so quickly. Being able to play with artifacts, understand how they work, to consider modifications or develop them to solve different problems allows young people to make links between problems and solutions. Allowing young people to be more hands on allows them to develop their learning at a faster pace and allows them to be more creative in solving problems.
What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
Aside from working with awesome people every day, I get to create an environment that fosters creativity and allows young people to feel comfortable in their learning. When I was young I loved the film “Big”. In it Tom Hanks plays a character called Josh who wishes he was older. While his body grew, Josh remained a child at heart. I always remember the scene where Josh spends the day at F&O Schwartz, playing with all of the toys. He gets a job at a toy company, and his office is full of technology and things that all children would love to play with. When Josh’s best friend visits the office, the look on his face is priceless. It is my hope that our classrooms are like Josh’s office in Big. My favorite thing is when a young person walks into my classroom and goes “Whoah!!!”. I know at that point we have hooked them, and the process of molding their learning can begin.
What is one of your proudest moments in the classroom?
I feel proud every time a pupil gets an “aha” moment, or shows a rock fist in my class. It is what I signed up for and it gives me a buzz knowing that I have created an environment where this learning can happen. Currently my proudest moment was actually getting my classroom ready for September. When I started at my current school 3 years ago it was the first time computing was taught, so I started the department from zero time on the timetable. In September this year I had grown the department to a level where we actually needed classrooms for our curriculum time, and we were starting a new staff member (Joanne Lynn is a LEGO nut too by the way) to cope with the numbers. I spent the entire summer cnc-ing our departmental furniture using open source designs (We used a computer to router the pieces to make our furniture and followed a plan similar to LEGO instructions to put them together) and decorating the rooms to create an environment that would foster creativity. The rooms encapsulate our teaching philosophy. We learned through making, and failed on a number of occasions. However, we used technology and code to make things to enhance the learning of our pupils. Being able to work in these rooms and see our pupils make use of them and have powerful learning experiences in them is one of my proudest moments in the classroom.
What advice would you give teachers about implementing a hybrid learning strategy?
It doesn’t have to be perfect right away. We have had a massive opportunity to develop our skills in using online resources effectively, and we all know what you are doing when the pupils are in-front of us in the classroom environment. Marrying the 2 together effectively will massively support our pupils, but don’t worry about getting it right first-time. Don’t be afraid of trying different things, and be honest with your pupils about that fact. Learn together, don’t stand still and failure isn’t fatal ;-)
What is the potential impact you anticipate SPIKE Prime could have on your students’ learning/building their confidence in STEAM learning?
We used SPIKE Prime for the first time this year, and our pupils absolutely loved it. The link to real world problems and solutions has been fantastic and the range of activities provides scope for pupils to scratch their own itch by working on projects that they find of interest. I am also loving the shift to STEAM, as the inclusion of artistic flair is really important to me. There is true beauty and creativity in finding solutions to problems, and as such we need to be developing a love of and skills in art in addition to STEM. The recent addition of the ability to program in Python inside of the SPIKE Prime ecosystem is also really interesting to me, and provides a vehicle to shift our pupils from block based to textual programming languages. I am really keen to develop our use of this over the next academic year.
Failure is often a key aspect of the learning process. What's the most important lesson you've learned through failing?
The most important lesson I have learned through failing is that failure is essential to a deep learning experience. There was a time where I would plan activities in minute detail to ensure that my pupils were always successful during their learning. I would take all the risk and experience all of the failure and ensure that during our time together that pupils were completely successful in their experience. While all of the pupils experienced success, this approach was doing little to foster creativity and resilience. Once I started allowing the pupils to experience the same failures I had, it led to a much better learning experience for them. This failure not only leads to a deeper learning experience for individuals, but a culture of “failing fast and failing loud” begins to foster a collaborative learning experience where pupils are able to support each other much more effectively and collective learning leads to faster progress. I regularly talk about aviation with my pupils. When we look at an airplane there is a certain awe and marvel about how we were able to create this thing that flies. In the polar opposite is the way we look at the early attempts at aviation. The black and white movies make us belly laugh at the failures of the early aeronauts. But without these failures, there is no way that we would get to the “oooooooh” moment of seeing an airplane in flight. So I guess the most important lesson I’ve learnt about failure is that you have to work though the “Ha Ha’s” to get to the “Aaaaah’s”
What are some of your favorite activities/hobbies to do at home?
I like to make stuff. I am also a child of the 80’s, and love arcade culture, so most of my favorite things to do at home are based on this. I have a collection of vintage consoles and spend time playing on these, as well as an arcade machine I built with a Raspberry Pi at its heart. I like to tinker with electronics too, and I have recently been experimenting with controlling RGB LED’s with Arduino’s. I built a 16 x 16 matrix that I can program to display old school arcade graphics, and I also craft cross stitch pixelated graphics too. I have recently perfected my pizza dough recipe, so we regularly have family pizza nights where we cook together as a family while I try a selection of local IPA’s.
Books: I dedicated a massive amount of time reading the “Wheel of Time” series by Robert Jordan, so I am a science fiction fan at heart. I would have to say that my favorite books of late have been “The Lies of Locke Lamora” by Scott Lynch and “The Name of The Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss.
Movies: Current favorite movie is “Ready Player One”. Having grown up in the 80’s I am a sucker for pop culture, and this movie has so many links back to my childhood that I can’t stop watching it right now. However, my favorite movie of all time has to be “Back To The Future part II”. There is just so much going on, Marty saving his son, Biff returning to 1965, Marty having to find the Sports Almanac while not coming into contact with his former self, and working with Doc to fix the Delorean too. To me it’s the greatest movie ever!
Podcasts: My current podcasts at present are Shifting our Schools with Jeff Utecht, Making It with Jimmy Diresta
First musical album you ever owned?
The Prodigy Music for the Jilted Generation. There are some proper bangin’ tunes on this album!
Were you a LEGO Fan as a kid? What’s your LEGO Story?
I absolutely loved LEGO as a kid. I remember one of my first kits being the LEGO King’s Castle set when I was about 7 or 8. I spent Christmas day building it with my dad, I loved that set. The next set I remember was the “Black Seas Baracuda” Pirate Galleon. I remember my Grandparents buying me a Lego Technics Test Car set. I built it in a couple of days, and then straight away took it apart and built the jeep. Then came teenage years, exams and University, so I shifted away from LEGO. When I started working at our regional City Learning Centre and was looking through the resource cupboards I found a full class set of MINDSTORMS gathering dust, with a box of LEGO pieces from an old FIRST LEGO League set. I knew that this would be massive fun, so I learnt how to use the MINDSTORMS, learnt about how FIRST LEGO League worked and built the pieces for the board. I was back in my childhood and loved it. I worked with some organisations to support a regional FIRST LEGO League tournament in North Tyneside, and this is now one of the strongest tournaments in the country, annually held at Sage HQ in Newcastle. I also started working with WeDo, and during this process was invited to work on WeDo 2.0 with LEGO Education. Building the FIRST LEGO League models got me back into loving LEGO again, and I purchased the LEGO CUSOO Back To The Future Delorean set, and that was it, I was hooked again. Now every Christmas people buy me LEGO or socks ;-) I also found some of my old LEGO sets in my Mum’s attic, and they hold pride of place in my room.