Know Your Students’ Unique Learning Situations With Sam Yancey
"If it took you years to be a master of in-person teaching, do you really think you’ll master hybrid learning in a single year? We must move away from a focus on utter perfection, which leads to feelings of exhaustion, failure, and disappointment, and more to a place of progress and seeing growth as well as learning from the setbacks."
Title/School: K-12 Gifted Education Specialist at Haywood County Schools
Years of Experience: 13 years
Primary LEGO Education Solution used: SPIKE Prime
Social media accounts/blogs/websites: Twitter: @STEAMTechSam, Instagram: @steamtechsam, Linkedin: Sam Yancey, Youtube: STEAMTechSam, Facebook: Sam Yancey
What would you say is your philosophy as an educator?
Everyone has these creative talents, gifts, and interests that they consciously or unconsciously possess. These gifts must be brought forward, nurtured, and developed so that each person has the opportunity to fully become what they were meant to be and could be. To accomplish this, education must be reimagined and reinvented. It takes both ideas and action. Lofty words and intentions will not get us there alone. Children and adults need generous support, a safe environment to fail, a means to effectively collaborate and share ideas across multiple channels with different audiences (peers, parents, teachers, stakeholders, etc) , and the power of encouraging, on-going feedback to instill and grow creative confidence and find joy in learning. Joyful, creative, explorative learning. This is the secret of what I’m doing and I want it to be shared and passed on so that everyone gets in on the experience. We must find ways to relocate joyful, playful learning at the center of our educational experiences, whether they are at-home, in-school, outdoors, or wherever! If people are encouraged and allowed to do this on a year in and year out basis, then, as we unlock individuals to fully and continually discover, create, and imagine, there is almost no limit to what we can each create together.
What is the greatest benefit of a hands on approach to learning?
Humans are tactile beings. We have two hands and want to touch objects and make sense of them in this way. We are also relational and so we also want to hold these creations and carry them out to someone we know and care about and say, “Hey, look what I’ve made! What do you think? I would even go so far to to say that we are more proud of things that we have made by our hands, than things we have generated on a computer screen. I think this is why the maker education movement has taken hold. There was a time when people made so many things with their hands, and it’s not to say we stopped it at some time, but rather that we are rediscovering the need for making with our hands in our daily lives.
What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
I love when students are happy learning. I’m happiest when they find something they truly enjoy creating with.
What is one of your proudest moments in the classroom?
When they discover their gifts, talents, and ideas and are eager, of their own choosing, to collaborate with fellow classmates. I am reminded that we are preparing them for life outside of the school walls. What kind of society and world will they help us build? Ideally a world where we can all live peaceably, kindly and compassionately, and justly.
What advice would you give teachers about implementing a hybrid learning strategy?
I would say it’s important to know your students’ unique learning situations, both your at-home and in-person students. It always starts with knowing your students well. But I would say to also see it as a work in progress. If it took you years to be a master of in-person teaching, do you really think you’ll master hybrid learning in a single year? We must move away from a focus on utter perfection, which leads to feelings of exhaustion, failure, and disappointment, and more to a place of progress and seeing growth as well as learning from the setbacks.
What is the potential impact you anticipate SPIKE Prime could have on your students’ learning/building their confidence in STEAM learning?
SPIKE Prime makes creating and designing robots, life hacks, inventions, and musical instruments among so many other things, something that anyone can do. It is a very intuitive, user-friendly, easy to tinker with system with so many open-ended design possibilities.
Failure is often a key aspect of the learning process. What's the most important lesson you've learned through failing?
As a maker, artist, and educator, if I want to make something truly remarkable, impactful, and lasting, I must have the openness to not only accept failure but to use it as a tool of analysis and a way to actually improve my ideas, designs, and vision.
What are some of your favorite activities/hobbies to do at home?
You need to do STEAM and making with your family. If you truly love something, you want to share it and experience it with others. I’ve never understood people that just talk about STEAM learning but don’t actually do it themselves! For fun and not because they have to! I also recommend playing Catan with the family. It’s a long board game but so many interesting strategies and time together without the screens. We live in the mountains so hiking and getting outside to walk together is really important. I get a lot of my creative ideas and time to process when I’m walking. One of the best things this year was to build a fire pit beside our house. It’s so peaceful and I love the fresh air, sounds of the forest, and sitting under the stars and moon. I like watching the flames and marveling at how fire even exists. Two final things for relaxation: tea and yoga. You learn how to breathe, how to stretch and care for your body, and how to rest. Our modern society doesn’t do this very well. I’ve realized that I don’t always do this well and so I’m more intentional about living in rhythm. This is different from keeping things ‘balanced’. It’s impossible to perfectly balance everything and oppressive to try to do so.
Book: The Hobbit
Podcast: I don’t really like podcasts. To me it’s too much of people talking to hear themselves talk. I’m at a place in life where I don’t just want to be about the intellectual stuff that’s all in your head. I want to take some of my ideas and actually act on them. I also can’t sit still for a podcast. Maybe I could do a 10 minute power podcast. But 30 minutes or an hour? Not for me!
First musical album you ever owned?
Haha. I’m not answering this one. No I don’t honestly remember. I do know that my parents played a lot of ‘Oldies’ in the car and around the house. I remember singing a lot in my childhood and it made me go on to do drama and chorus in middle school and high school. I still love songs with all sorts of voices in harmony. I’ll say something by Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys I think. Now I’m always playing the Hamilton soundtrack. So many amazing voices and tracks, but my favorite is probably Dear Thoedoesia.
Were you a LEGO Fan as a kid? What’s your LEGO Story?
Absolutely. I would build for hours. Lots of projects featuring knights, pirates, and space explorers. And I still like to build with LEGO as an adult. I’m glad that idea is becoming acceptable. Such a wild notion--that adults would also like to play and perhaps might be happier doing so. But now I’m more interested in tech meshing and creatively combining LEGO with new materials and technologies.