Rube Goldberg Machines and the Engineering Design Process

Rube Goldberg – a comically involved, complicated invention, laboriously contrived to perform a simple operation. ~ Webster’s New World Dictionary

When Rube Goldberg walked away from his engineering career in 1904, it’s unlikely he realized the impact that he would have on 21st century education. I find it ironic that many educators at the forefront of STEM education find inspiration from his cartoons, like The Simple Alarm Clock, that were published in newspapers across the United States over 100 years ago.

When I initially share the Engineering Design Process with my middle school students (see below), I like to have them collaboratively plan, construct and then use the iterative process to continuously refine a Rube Goldberg Machine.

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Transitions and the Art of Changing Roles

The Upcycling Diaries

Editor’s Note: This blog is the first post by Michelle in the Upcycling Series about heading back to the classroom after time as an instructional coach. Join us in following her journey.

As the school year approached, several emails found their way to my inbox that were set up for the district’s instructional coaches. I was simultaneously relieved and wistful. As I sent replies reminding people to remove me from the instructional coach list, I thought about the art of changing roles — what does it take?

My Role Changes

I started my career in Colorado on a year-round calendar. Our principal asked each of the four tracks to design a research-based track philosophy, effectively creating four “schools within a school.” My team, Track D, decided to loop with students. Four of the six teachers were new to education, so looping allowed us to get a sense of the curriculum, student learning progressions, and student social-emotional needs at each grade level. From that less than traditional beginning, I have embraced changing roles as a means of better understanding student growth and development.


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New Course on Academic Language for ELLs

Do you have English language learners (ELLs) who need to develop and accelerate academic language? Do you want to understand why it’s important for all teachers to know about academic language across the curriculum? And do you want to know how you can support ELL students’ language development in your classroom as you teach your content?

Then consider joining “Academic Language for ELLs” on Teaching Channel’s Teams platform, which runs from October 6 to October 27, to learn more about supporting your ELLs’ language in your classroom. As an experienced ELL teacher, coach, and WIDA Certified Trainer, I will guide a private group through understanding academic language features, then implementing linguistic supports for ELL students. Each teacher in the group will focus on a personalized “action cycle” in order to bring this learning to life in real time for a student or group of students. Participants can be K-12 core content, Special Education, ELL, specialist teacher, or coach.

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Establishing a Culture of Collaborative Learning

Tch Laureate Team

This is the first in Kristin Gray’s Getting Better Together series, Establishing A Culture of Collaborative Learning. Kristin and all the Teaching Channel Laureates are going public with their practice and seeking support in getting better from colleagues and the Tch community. See the entire series.

I’m an extremely curious person. I find so many things within teaching wonderfully interesting and thought-provoking, that I view my job as much about being a learner as I do about being a teacher.

Getting Better TogetherWhile I value all the things I still want to learn more about, learning as a teacher takes time and can be messy. I have stacks of professional books I cannot make a dent in because I add books quicker than I read them, I have wonders I still can’t answer, questions that lead me to even more questions, and, sometimes, I uncover content I never truly learned as a student.

Among all of this learning messiness, however, is the comforting feeling that I am not on this journey alone. I have an incredible network of educators that help me learn and get better every single day.

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Supporting Heroes, Not Villains

On Wednesday, I retweeted President Obama’s support of Ahmed Mohamed, the now famous Texas teenager whose homemade clock was mistaken by school officials for a bomb.

The story, as well as the tweet, had gone viral. Although painful, the story spurred conversation about education, which was encouraging. I, like the President, realize the potential of an inspiring science education. That said, it did not take a rocket scientist – although Ahmed is one in training – to realize that the story was also deeply rooted in institutionalized biases towards Muslims. So, I balanced the welcomed dialogue about STEM with the grim reality of the pervasive racism that ended with a 14-year-old student in cuffs.

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Setting the Stage for Equity

Teachers laugh together and smile. Children wave at new faces. When someone new walks into our elementary school building, they immediately notice a difference — a feeling unlike most other schools. A number of factors play into this: the physical space of a renovated old Detroit school building that was given a completely updated look inside; a lengthy hiring process for potential staff members; but the most important of these is the people who actually join our team and become members of our family.


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#TchLIVE: Meet the Tch Laureate Team!

Back-to-School Night still gives me butterflies. My mind wonders: What glimpse of my students’ families will I get? Will parents and guardians share some tidbits that will help me better serve their children? How can I lay a foundation for the year that we can build on together?

It’s also a chance for families and loved ones to experience for themselves the physical space in which their child spends most of her or his day. It’s a precious opportunity for us to come together at the beginning of a journey.

And to best set out on that journey together, we should get to know one another. To ask questions, to have conversations, to understand desires, hopes, and dreams on the one hand, and levels of expertise, practices, and pedagogical stances on the other.

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Effective Professional Learning is not a Mirage

Empty HallwayThis is what it feels like to be a teaching professional.

Closed door isolation: from each other, from ideas, from learning theory and educational policy as they’re translated into real teaching, and from ourselves as teachers as we try to learn. Over time, this deafening isolation dampens the imagination and initiative we brought with us as new teachers, and the silence among us grows.

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In Pursuit of Personalized Learning

Tch Laureate Team

This is the first in Sean McComb’s Getting Better Together series, In Pursuit of Personalized Learning. Sean and all the Teaching Channel Laureates are going public with their practice and seeking support in getting better from colleagues and the Tch community.

“Aye, McComb! Why haven’t we been doin’ this allll year?”

With all the sass she could muster and an eye roll that might call for an exorcism, Jessica posed this pointed question to me three Junes ago.

And the question stuck with me. Why hadn’t we been doing this all year?

Getting Better TogetherLet’s talk about what this was. We had just concluded our third lit circle discussion of a social justice project. Students were able to select a topic from about a dozen different issues around the globe. Jessica had chosen to research human trafficking and anchor her research with the narrative of Lakshmi in the novel SOLD, by Patricia McCormick. She and three other students had just finished an intense discussion of the novel and the connections they’d found in their research. They were enthralled. The narrative humanized the research. The research placed the story in the real world. Jessica, who was in her own words a ‘tough cookie,’ was, for maybe the first extended period of time all year, authentically and deeply engaged in work she found compelling and personally valuable.

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