July 20, 2016 (Written about Friday, July 15, 2016)
A previous post about the institute, #cmk16, left off with my Digital LED Belt project in progress Thursday morning. (Between then and now, I posted about a panel discussion held at CMK Thursday afternoon.)
After the panel discussion on Thursday, we had a brief reflection. Lots of my fellow Un-Conference participants at CMK went back to the work area on Thursday evening. Not me. I grabbed a garlic/mushroom pizza and collapsed in my hotel room to edit video and catch up on the day’s events in the world at large.
We all got right to work Friday morning and it was exceptionally productive.
Tracy (and then Ben) helped me discover the solutions to problems I was having uploading the code to make the belt light up like this:
My videos (below) show the experiemental process of figuring out that the problems stemmed from issues:
- in the soldering
- in the directionality
- in the order in which I would hit one button and then the other
There are five video clips.
The first shows Ben leading me to understand the coding issue.
This style of learning — wherein the learner independently makes things, tinkers, takes chances, runs experiments, and seeks help when truly stuck — requires more than a growth mindset. One must be able to communicate without overwhelming, have trust, be patient, be proactive, listen, make decisions, maintain momentum, and get out of one’s own way.
These abilities fall into the category sometimes referred to as “soft skills.” Adding to the complexity, theses soft skills are being applied en masse. Without all of them functioning, a blow-out is likely. (Fortunately, nothing like that happened at CMK.)
In practice, these soft skills are required of the “teachers” as well. If a teacher is overbearing or aloof, the system fails. Collaboration between individuals in a working group or in a class would add to the complexity of instructional dynamics. A room full of high-maintenance individuals and a cranky teacher can throw a monkey wrench into the learning process. If you were to add to that a fire drill, a health problem, a wifi loss, or some type of stress from outside the learning environment, things could break down altogether — even when all parties have good soft skills on board. I was lucky. (We all were.)
The second video clip shows me fixing my original soldering job.
Having soldered several times in the past, I came to CMK will some decent soldering skills. They were not strong, but they were there. I had received instruction, but had not truly had the motivation to want something to function for me. In other words, I had lacked the passion that a special project can bring. So I had soldered and seen the results of my work and been like:
This time, I was able to internalize the direct correlation between quality of soldering work to outcome of project. It’s like
That soldering iron is gonna get that connection right!
The third video shows Ben taking my newly repaired soldering and getting the belt to light up correctly. He showed me how the code needs to be uploaded in exact timing with the pushing of the reset button. Also, the video shows me attaching the power supply by soldering a diode to connect two wires (one positive and one negative) in the correct direction:
One of the recurring themes in my learning this week is that directionality is important. Early on, I had failed to take account of the fact that the LED’s would need to be powered and programmed from a specific direction. The print on the LED strip was so small — and buried under thick plastic — that I did not make out the “I” for Input and the “O” for output. They had looked the same to me. I didn’t question it. That make it necessary for me to redo the the connection, but that was
for several reasons. Yes, it put me behind schedule. But when it was time to solder the diode, I understood that I had to LOOK for the correct direction and maintain it. It’s a lesson I won’t have to learn again.
Th fourth clip shows me finishing up the soldering and then coating it with rubber tubing that is shrunk with heat from the iron:
It’s important to turn on the switch when you want something to work.
Likewise, knowing that I am prone to absent mindedly neglect such wisdom, I can compensate for this by taking extra precautions such as deciding to both turn off the switch AND remove the batteries when it’s time to solder.
The fifth clip shows the finishing touches, including the dramatic end when the belt lights up with all the code working. I think the chocolate helped.
By the time that I had to connect the power supply to the board, I had developed two internal drives working in tandem:
One drive was toward precision. Of course I always want to be precise. But, this time, I really, really, really wanted to make sure that I hit the nail on the head. And I did.
The other drive was to study the inner workings of the project. I didn’t just want to get it working so that I could be done with it. I wanted to master it. I wanted to be the agent of my destiny. Ego? Probably. But in a good way. I was feeling more and more control over the outcome of the project and it felt good. The sense of control came from a combination of knowledge and confidence.
And I did.
I’m not gonna lie: it’s an awesome feeling.
My colleagues, too, made some amazing things.
It was an honor to be among them.
Next is a video of most all of the other projects at CMK:
Give it up for the people who persevered to create:
Finally, here is a video from the closing session in which we reflected with the faculty on the experiences we had. And Neil Diamond Kareoke. It was
To Gary Stager, Sylvia Martinez, and all the good people of Constructing Modern Knowledge 2016:
Have you ever been to an un-conference?
Which professional gatherings have inspired you to continue the work into the future?