My elementary learners are loving one of their most exciting STEM experiences ever, and I’m having a hard time dealing with it. It’s true. I’m pulling over for a pitstop to adjust my game plan. I need to reconfigure my setup.

I had envisioned exactly how I wanted this race to run. The pit crew and drivers, however, did not follow my plan. By the end of the first week, it felt like we were getting lapped, and time was running away with our chances to catch up.

The plan was to run ten races. Ten different teams would race four heats each, once in each of the four lanes. Then, teams would capture vocabulary-rich, post-race reflections in an app or website, carefully analyzing specific vehicle design features, or racing circumstances that affected their racecar’s performance.

But students had SO MUCH fun designing, constructing, testing, modifying, retesting, and endlessly repeating this cycle, that we usually didn’t get to the actual race, let alone the edtech part. Yet, the educator in me knew that this part of the process was priceless. Here’s a hands-on learning opportunity that many students would probably never get to do in their classrooms or at home. The show must go on.

With learning throttled so high in these pre-race, qualifying activities alone–No qualified educator would ever wave the yellow, red, or black flag here. In fact, I believe every educator would announce: “Students: Start. Your. Engines!” and never look back. You should have heard their conversations and seen (and heard) their excitement.

Don’t get me wrong–It was super loud, really messy, and seemingly unorganized.

Don’t get me wrong–It was authentic, exciting, and literally learner-driven.

They were having fun while learning the curriculum–A true challenge in our learning spaces today. And for philosophical reasons alone–It could not be stopped.

Good crew chief educators know when to call for a tuneup. Great educators know when they’re not the crew chief. Excellent leaders know how to balance the two.

Still, the edtech enthusiast in me was worried, screaming questions like:

  • What do you mean NO technology today? Is that okay?
  • Can you really afford to go two-three weeks without edtech?

If you don’t post examples of edtech every day, won’t you eventually lose the…

  • Interest of your students?
  • Interest of your parents?
  • Respect of your colleagues and PLN?
  • Chance to be seen by edtech vendors who might offer you a job someday?
  • Opportunity to speak or present at the next edtech conference?
  • Aspiring reputation as an expert, innovator, and edtech leader?

If you don’t post examples of edtech every day, won’t you eventually lose…

The #Edtech Race?

Okay, I’m just joking.

Kinda.

These disgustingly educator-centered thought patterns and processes are permeating our learning spaces like never before.

Let’s keep kids in the driver’s seat of their learning–with or without edtech.

And I DO love edtech. I love integrating edtech in learning experiences every day.

For the right reasons.

But even more than that–I love observing students:

I’ll see you on the way to Victory Lane.

You can see these kids in the Winners Circle.

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Background Information: As a fifth grade math/science classroom teacher In 2008, I really wanted to create the pinewood derby car experience to match our North Carolina Science Essential Standards for fifth grade force, motion, and design unit. What could be better for students to learn about gravity, friction, inertia, momentum, acceleration, speed, velocity… than by making K’NEX cars and actually racing them?

What could be better than DOING learning?

After several failed attempts to borrow this kind of racetrack from local churches and Boy Scouts-like programs, I finally purchased hardware store materials and made my own racetrack, in eighteen hours straight, overnight, in the basement of a Raleigh townhouse. And the joy my heart has experienced by seeing how much students love using it has paid for the racetrack materials and labor a thousand times over.