The Learning Curve


It is been a while since I’ve ‘put pen to paper’ here, but it is nice to be back. In light of my experiences and the challenges I’ve faced so far this school year, I’m dedicating this post to the ‘learning curve’.

For me, good teaching is about learning. It is about taking risks, experimenting with new ideas, and collaborating with colleagues to improve the learning experiences and outcomes of our students. As an educator, taking risks and exploring new ideas is not an easy or straightforward process; and without leadership support, you are likely to fail. It is one thing to dream up an innovative idea, it is quite another to implement it within your school community.


This year, with the benefit of a FIRST Australia grant, and the support of my school leadership team, I found myself teaching an extracurricular LEGO robotics program, preparing two teams for the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competition. I’d never worked with these sophisticated robotics kits before, and I wasn’t sure how the program would run in our school, let alone how I’d teach it. After many hours of internet research, watching YouTube videos, and adapting teaching materials from & Carnegie Mellon University, I set up my Google Classroom groups, and set to work.

Admitting that “I don’t know, but let’s try it and find out” is not an easy thing for a teacher to say to their students.  Yet, this quickly proved to be a common refrain in my robotics class! Learning isn’t linear, and sometimes it can be messy. I based my teaching and learning approach on the idea that we could explore robotics concepts and skills through guided problem solving and hands-on experimentation. If it doesn’t work, let’s keep experimenting, and work out why. I was teaching out of my comfort zone, trying to stay one step ahead of my students. I could hardly pretend to be the font of all knowledge – I was often building and testing programs and mechanisms an hour before my students arrived for class.


Our FLL robotics program was never intended to just be about ‘teaching girls to code’, or capturing their interest in ‘STEM’ careers, although these were important underlying goals. We were interested in teaching our girls to think, and empowering them to become confident learners and problem solvers. Now, a little over three months into the program, I’m starting to appreciate the impact of this approach, particularly for those girls whose academic results would usually deny them this kind of opportunity.

Learning how to teach robot programming and engineering with LEGO EV3 Mindstorms has been a steep, yet extremely rewarding learning curve. My teaching programs are covered with notes about what worked, and what I’ll need to do differently next year. Yet, by taking risks, experimenting with new ideas, and facing my fears – I am not only growing as an educator, but I am making a difference in my students’ learning.

At the end of the day, that’s what teaching is all about.

5 responses

  1. Way to go, Michael. Welcome back to e-Learning adventures – for you and your students.

  2. So glad to find your words again. I definitely missed connecting throughout the year and sharing your thoughts about education. It’s as if all of us who connected at ISTE2015 all went our different ways and lost some of the good will we generated in Philadelphia. So glad to hear about your latest journey. Missed you.

    • Hi Betsye, I’ve missed making those connections too. Sadly, the reality of my school learning environment & role mean global connections are not a huge priority at this time 🙁 I believe Global Classroom is on the verge of a return, but it won’t be under my leadership. I hope we will be able to meet again, maybe in San Antonio?

  3. I love teaching & learning with Lego Mindstorms! My son has one and I had Year 11 & 12’s do minor projects with them last year in previous school. I plan to implement them in Year 9 & 10 next year at current school; very excited about this. I know the feeling of not really knowing much about a topic while teaching it; in a lot of ways it is one of my favourite ways to learn & teach because basically it all happens at the same time and it gives the students the control. I recommend teachers experience this because giving up control to your students is actually a wonderful thing. Thanks for this post.

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