​​Edit, Undo, Reflect

I’m excited to share this Guest Post Written by Becky McDowell in response to a discussion in our Innovative Teaching Academy #ITA17!

Life-long learner and educator, Becky McDowell, grew up and landed her first teaching job in South Dakota – 8th grade science. Known for her passionate & open-mindedness, she has taken on many brand new roles like her current one as the first K-5 STEM teacher for Barrington 220 in IL. Becky’s goal is to develop future ready learners who think critically & creatively, collaborate, and communicate. Always looking for new challenges she keeps busy with freelance editorial and product development work, regional & national presentations, and edutraining her preK twins. Read more at http://www.beckymcdowell.com/.  Below is her post: Edit, Undo, Reflect!


Edit, Undo, Reflect

Have you had one of those moments when you pressed the wrong button? That was me this morning. I selected “Yes”. Then, I realized that the question was whether I wanted to revert all my hours of work to the original blank version of the inCopy file I had worked on all weekend. I have since tried to recover all my work to no avail. Unfortunately I don’t know inCopy and .icap files well enough to figure out a way to recover my work. SO frustrating, right!

But, yesterday I received a text around 10AM from my neighbor that my dog was still outside chilling in our yard. I had left at 8 to get the kids to daycare and myself to school and my hubby had left a few hours earlier to catch a plane to New Orleans.

Apparently, I’m running on autopilot and not stopping to think about my actions.

Sometimes I feel like my students get set on autopilot when they get deep into a STEM challenge like our LEGO Space Mission challenges and they forget to come up and breathe. I’ve seen some go about with unproductive tinkering (I do value tinkering, it just needs to be done with some intentionality) for a whole hour. I’ve also had some students today tell me that the instructions for the WeDo build they’re working on didn’t tell them to make the change I was suggesting, which it did, so I let them know that they could choose to ignore the suggestion. It seems that they were set on being stuck that they couldn’t see the way out.

A new favorite quote of mine I heard at an Illinois Computer Science (ICE) conference.

We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience. – John Dewey

I used to be so proud of being the teacher that used every minute of class to engage students through hands-on lessons. Now I’ve worked on finding the best ways and times for students to reflect on their learning. I have several different pages for this in our Book Creator Engineering Notebooks. Sometimes I have students respond to a prompt (I am most proud of … because and include a video or picture, I have improved on…for example). Students don’t love to stop what they’re doing and write about it so I’m trying out different methods for different types of reflections such as doing a video reflection where teammates film each other explaining their progress on one of the tasks as well as offering audio options.

When I was taking my STEM Certificate courses through Tufts University I was really influenced by one of the papers I read. The matrix…

contains nine engineering design strategies and associated patterns that contrast beginning

versus informed design behaviors


From this paper I distilled out my key takeaways as traits of Good Engineers much like we discuss the traits of Good Readers. One of these is to Reflect while designing. I used Canva to make posters of the 9 engineering strategies that I use as reference in my classroom (or library space…when I have a space – not so easy when I’m pushing into classrooms).

Connect with me if you’d like the PDFs of the posters!

As always, thanks for reading!

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