Terrified. That would be the word to describe how I felt about micro:bits and the Hummingbird Robotics kit. In fact, through a grant I had purchased a Classroom Flock for my STEAM lab over a year ago and the kits sat on my counter just like a giant monster in the corner. Throughout the school year I would open the kits and immediately become overwhelmed. The micro:bit looked like something from a sci-fi movie. Then you have the bit controller, LEDs, motors, and more and I truly couldn’t shut the container quick enough. But that’s not all! I realized not only did I not have a clue on where to even begin with this stuff, I had to learn how to code it!
Coding. That really caused nightmares for me. Let’s face it, I’m older. I still remember when my family purchased our first desktop computer. Goodness – I used floppy disks and even used a typewriter in college! So coding, let’s just say, was something I never imagined being able to do much less teach to my students.
Then something wonderful happened. I received an email about the Infosys Foundation’s Pathfinders Summer Institute. This amazing platform offers free professional development opportunities and CodeJoy was teaching two classes – one on micro:bits and one on the Hummingbird Robotics kit! I signed up for both classes before I could talk myself out of it. As soon as I hit submit, I began to doubt myself. What if I looked like a total idiot during the class? What if I was so bad at using these items, they asked me to leave? Plus – there’s the coding part….
If you would have told me last year that my students would be coding at our state capitol I would have laughed. But we did it.
The night before the first class I kept thinking of a million excuses to not participate, but then I told myself to think of the advice I tell my students and to just try it because even if I fail, it’s just a first attempt in learning. When I logged onto the class, fear struck me. I even considered giving a fake name just in case I looked as stupid as I felt, no one would know it was me. I took a deep breath and….loved it!
That’s right! I loved the Project Trix class on learning how to use a micro:bit (create a free Pathfinders account to access this class yourself!). I loved it so much that every family member had to hear me talk about how to use a micro:bit! I even loved coding! Yes – me?!? I coded!!! I think I texted a video of my virtual pet to everyone I knew! The CodeJoy Team broke down each step so someone as terrified at coding and using this technological equipment felt confident. I couldn’t believe it! But…I still had to tackle the Hummingbird Robotics kit.
Once again, I thought of excuses to not take the class, but I admit, I was hooked. I wanted to learn more and took another chance. And guess what? This experience was so much fun and I felt empowered to try even more! I remember how proud I was of myself when I made my tiny drummer! Me!?! The person who didn’t know how to code, didn’t know how to use a micro:bit, and couldn’t imagine coding motors and LEDs did it and with a giant smile on my face. (And yes – once again I texted my tiny drummer video to everyone I knew and couldn’t wait to share it on social media.)
When the school year began I was excited and also nervous to try out the micro:bits and Hummingbird Robotics kits with my students. I mean – I created projects but could I teach my students how to do something that I was still a newbie at using? I decided to teach using CodeJoy’s technique of taking it one step at a time and was truly amazed at the results. My fifth-graders began with a haunted house micro:bit window project and moved on to creating their own tiny drummers and even putt-putt obstacles! My second-graders created virtual pets based upon animals found in West Virginia. To say I was proud would be an understatement as I shared their wonderful creations with everyone.
In December, my students were invited to code with legislators and senators at our capitol for Country Roads Codes Day. My students couldn’t wait to demonstrate their projects including Baby Dog golf, Snowman drummer, and micro:bit coded critters. I teared up as they presented their projects to our lawmakers and then taught the adults how to code their projects.
If you would have told me last year that my students would be coding at our state capitol I would have laughed. But we did it. Am I a pro at using the equipment and coding? No way! But I realized the only limits we have are those that we put on ourselves and because I want my students to gain the skills necessary for their future careers, I have to push through my fears and doubts and break down those limits.
Every day in our STEAM lab, I learn together with my students. As we create each project, my students teach me so many new things about micro:bits, Hummingbird Robotics kits, and coding as they explore and share their discoveries. I love seeing their smiles and confidence grow with each project. Take it from me – you don’t have to be a perfect teacher, you just have to be a passionate teacher and be willing to try something new. If I can do this – anyone can do this! Take the first step and get ready to be amazed!