Mark has taught Robotics and Engineering to Primary and secondary students for over 20 years. He is a LEGO Education Teacher Award recipient. He has been an Australian FLL Coaches’ Advisor, and the Hardware and Software trainer for the FIRST Tech Challenge in Queensland. In addition to teaching at The Southport School (Queensland), Mark works part time as a LEGO Education teacher trainer around Australia, and enjoys sharing his passion of LEGO, engineering and all things robotic.
How long have you been a teacher, and what ages/subjects do you teach?
I have been a teacher for 24 years. I have taught Engineering, Robotics, Design and Digital Technology. I have taught from Kindergarten through to Seniors (Year 12).
What are the most important things that you want your students to learn?
How to have a playful approach to learning. Playfulness encourages students to collaborate, be creative, use their imagination and problem solve but most importantly all this happens whilst they are having fun.
When did you start using LEGO Education products in the classroom?
I started using LEGO Education products in the classroom in 1997. The good old 9630 Simple Machines Set and 9701 Control Lab on a Windows 95 Computer – Happy memories!
What have been the benefits?
Students are motivated and engaged in class. They are developing their creativity and critical thinking skills. Since 2010, my school has seen a 50% increase of Seniors go into STEM University courses.
How does it fit in with the curriculum?
In Year 7 and Year 8, every student completes a 10 week course on LEGO Robotics in their Technology Rotation. In Year 9, students can elect to take a one semester Robotics and Engineering Course which has a 5-week unit using the EV3.
What have been the greatest challenges / blockers?
My skill level. There is so much to learn! Every day I learn something new about what you can do with the EV3 - plug in a Pixy Cam for object recognition, run Python on a SD card so you can use a PS3 joypad, or use a student-designed 3D printed attachments.
Could you tell me about one student who has been positively affected?
A few years ago, I taught a unit on structures and forces to Year 1 students using the LEGO Duplo Structures kit. Every lesson, the class teacher would come and see me and warn me about a little boy called Austin. For the class teacher, he was a ‘terror’, he wouldn’t sit still, he would fiddle with everything and wouldn’t do his work. For me, he was the most amazing builder I had ever seen, he could complete build instruction cards in half the time of others and could then create the most amazing tower or bridge. Austin was a ‘do-er’. He learnt best by carrying out a physical activity, rather than listening to a lecture or watching a demonstration.
After seeing Austin’s positive behaviour in my lesson, the class teacher introduced ‘doing’ tasks for Austin. One example of this was he was allowed to build a model of his story before going on and writing a story based around his model. Austin’s outlook on education completely changed in a few months.
Do you have any advice for teachers thinking about getting started with LEGO Education?
Visit a school which has already implemented LEGO Education products in the classroom, look at the advantages and what works. Get some basic training on the products you’re are interested in from your school supplier or LEGO Education and see how fun it is and how it fits into the curriculum (very important!). Look online for ideas for your courses or ask others for their ideas. Budget for one kit between two students, if possible. Set a challenge not using the build instructions! Most importantly, SHARE! Share your ideas, your knowledge and what works.
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