I am well aware that my student’s favorite parts of class are not when we are documenting and writing on our blogs. There are several reasons why we use precious class time to do this. First, as engineers we need to make sure we are documenting our project development, learning from our mistakes, and following our plans. Second, because our class uses an iterative design process we are constantly seeking to reflect on our work and revise and improve wherever we can. Third, students need to be able to demonstrate their knowledge. Having this blog serve as students’ engineering notebooks allows them to engage in the engineering process and develop the complete well-rounded skill-set needed to become successful in STEM.
As I mentioned, our class time is precious, which makes it imperative that we use our time resource wisely. Though it may seem wasteful to spend 5-10 minutes writing at the end of each class, this time spent saves more than it uses by helping students make the most of their class time going forward. When students document their last efforts, problems, and challenges they come to the next class ready to pick up where they left off. This also gives students the opportunity to step away from challenges or issues with their projects and come ready to tackle them the next class, often with a fresh mindset or perspective. Reflecting periodically on their work helps students stay on task and following the plan they have developed with me for their project. All engineers and scientists document their work in practice, and it is a great habit to learn early.
Our class uses an iterative design process which means our project designs are constantly subject to revision and improvement as we learn new techniques, skills, and methodologies. When we are forced to assess our progress and project constantly, it often results in continual improvement, versus waiting large periods of time. These little improvements are almost always easy to incorporate if they are addressed promptly, and by revisiting each step of the project as we move along we can make time for these adjustments. By setting aside a small amount of time to write, we are also making time for project improvement.
I am proud to say that my students at SSA are the best and brightest; I know that, everyone at SSA knows that, and their parents know that. The problem is that if these students can’t demonstrate their knowledge in a meaningful way, they may not be able to properly convey their knowledge and skill-sets to others. When applying for that first job or to college, that need to demonstrate knowledge becomes all-the-more critical. Students can’t send their Arduino project along with your college application, but what you they can do is send a link to their digital portfolio of project work. Their blogs should serve as a digital resume of sorts where they can demonstrate project functionality and show understanding of the project and how it was built. Rather than sitting down and writing all at once, students can create this digital resume 5-10 minutes at a time as they work through their project. Now, with a digital resume, they can back up their skillsets and knowledge and show parents, family, friends, and future employers/colleges just how much they really have learned.
Students blog in my class for many reasons, but the most important outcome is that they develop a well-rounded skill-set that compliments their technical knowledge. Next time you drop off your student at class, you can click the links at the bottom of the home page to find their site and find out exactly what they are up to while they are at SSA!
Happy Blogging 🙂