Squeaking in sixth grade

Dave Master dave_master_edu at yahoo.com
Mon May 7 10:48:26 PDT 2001

  Thanks for contributing such a cogent and reflective
email to the ongoing (probably for the rest of our
careers!) dialogue.  I don't have time this week to
respond or add, but my experiences for 17 years ion my
classroom of overlapping grade and ability levels was
very similar...also, your points on gender
differences! Thanks for the insights and sharing your
experiences.  If you haven't already read Wenger' and
you will find it hits on some of your questions...they
don't specifically focus on classroom cultures, but
the community and apprentice cultures they focus on
illuminate how humans react and act when grouping
informally to learn. Enjoy...and, again thanks for
sharing.  Dave Master
--- Cathleen Galas <cgalas at ucla.edu> wrote:
> >
> >Thank you John, Scott, Dave, Naala and Florin.  The
> messages this 
> >last week have been stimulating, and great fodder
> for my own 
> >thoughts on using Squeak.
> >	From the few weeks I've been using Squeak in my
> sixth grade 
> >classes, I have some informal observations.
> >	This year is the first year I've had a one grade
> class. 
> >During the last several years I had fourth and
> fifth grade together, 
> >and before that fifth and sixth.  I find many
> advantages to having 
> >two grades together.  Just having students for the
> two years versus 
> >only one enables me as a teacher to know the
> student better and 
> >therefore be a better teacher to that student.  It
> also offers an 
> >opportunity to use a mentor system, which I've used
> in this setting 
> >for over 10 years.  However, this year I have about
> one-third of my 
> >students from my last years 4-5 class.  This means
> I have about 
> >17/54 for a third year, and the rest are new to me
> this year.  This 
> >third has allowed the apprenticeship model to
> function in the 
> >classroom.  Pieces of the classroom culture that
> are important to 
> >me, such as classroom discourse, and the use of
> technology tools 
> >have been built into the classrooom structure this
> year  informally 
> >and passed on successfully.
> >	One observation I have about introducing Squeak to
> my classes 
> >in the past two weeks is the comfort level with a
> new technology. 
> >The students I've had for three years have used
> Logo in design 
> >projects in science about three times a year, one
> of which usually 
> >had a research base.  The students new to my class
> have not come 
> >with as much technology expertise or comfort.  They
> all used Logo in 
> >the fall, and have been introduced to several other
> technology 
> >applications that were new to them.  The old-timers
> seem to have 
> >more comfort in the new setting with Squeak.  They
> seem to have a 
> >higher threshold for working through problems,
> intuiting the new 
> >platform, and a higher frustration level.  They are
> more apt to be 
> >able to "mess around" to which Dave also refers.
> The new timers seem 
> >to want direction and input and are a bit less
> comfortable trying to 
> >make something work, and are a bit less willing to
> play with the 
> >numbers to see what happens, for example when they
> change the ratios 
> >on the wheel heading.  They would prefer a clear
> direction to put in 
> >a certain number, and then drive the car. The
> new-timers seem more 
> >likely to want to get the car driving, and then sit
> with a working 
> >"finished" product instead of experimenting with
> the possibilities. 
> >The old-timers, on the other hand, have opened up
> all the menus, and 
> >pulled several items out of the tool box to play
> with and see what 
> >happens.
> >	Several of the old-timers moved quickly to
> successfully 
> >controlling the car and having the car drive itself
> on the track. 
> >Then, they've wanted new challenges, and are very
> willing to help 
> >other students, and to begin real "messin' around"
> ( I like this 
> >phrase from Mr. Toad), with Squeak. One of them
> quickly programmed a 
> >superman game with a comet, where Superman
> intercepts the comet.
> >	John related using demonstrations before
> beginning, and 
> >having many tutors available.  I have found that
> having a very brief 
> >demonstration that allows students to get working
> on a new task, 
> >then adding pieces as students successfully find
> ways to continue 
> >working, helps most to be successful quickly and
> minimize 
> >frustration.  For example, the classroom culture
> allows for quick 
> >bits of input.  A signal is given to which students
> are used to 
> >responding, they stop and focus for a brief minute
> while new 
> >information is shared, usually students who have
> mastered a new 
> >task, and they are off to work again.  Since
> students know that the 
> >interruption is very brief, and it is introduced
> quickly as 
> >information they may need just about now, or in a
> very few minutes, 
> >they do focus and then go back to work to try to
> apply the new 
> >information.  I ask students who have worked
> through something to be 
> >the ones giving the input, so again the focus is
> not the teacher 
> >giving the direction for the "finished" product. 
> If they're given 
> >too much at the beginning, and they are not yet
> using it, the 
> >information is usually lost and they will again
> need that 
> >information individually if they do not intuit it
> themselves.  This 
> >seems to be especially true of the students who do
> not have as much 
> >experience working with simulation tools.  Their
> more extensive 
> >background in working with simulation tools seems
> to offer the 
> >old-timers a stronger context for intuiting the new
> program nuts and 
> >bolts, as well as
> >	Although I paired the students, or had them in
> threes on 
> >computers, old-timers saw the value in being the
> only one at the 
> >computer, and always jumped at that opportunity
> when available. 
> >When that opportunity was presented to new-timers,
> many of them 
> >lamented, "I couldn't work alone, I don't know this
> yet".  The new 
> >timers seem to be more hesitant to "mess around"
> especially on their 
> >own.  The old timers seem willing to experiment in
> pairs or a group, 
> >and relish on their own time too.
> >	I think these observations, although informal,
> speak to the 
> >benefits of a whole-school community becoming
> involved in using tool 
> >technologies.  Some of the new-timers had
> experience with concept 
> >mapping software, but the tasks in that project may
> have been more 
> >linear.  It seems that experience in non-linear
> learning with tool 
> >technology does transfer. But also setting a
> classroom culture, and 
> >hopefully a school culture, may transfer It is
> important that 
> >children have multiple opportunities through the
> grades to 
> >experiment and problem solve.
> 	I also observed a slight difference in gender
> issues between 
> old timers and new timers.  Since girls and boys are
> equally well 
> enculcated into the classroom culture when there is
> an apprenticeship 
> model in a two-grade classroom, I have not seen
> gender differences in 
> the past several years in ability to learn new
> technology or 
> willingness to do so.  However, this year, when
> introducing Squeak, 
> the old timer girls have been absorbed by learning
> something new, and 
> are not yet available as mentors and models of
> technological 
> competence.  Since they are not competent yet in
> Squeak, they don't 
> offer that model of "you can get there too" to the
> other girls.  The 
> old timers do provide a model of  This just reminds
> me that often the 
> models that are chosen in schools to first be
> introduced to new 
> technologies, and to serve as mentors to others as
> they gain 
> confidence, are often still the boys.  Just a
> reminder that we need 
> to spend time assisting girls to the competent
> mentor 
=== message truncated ===

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