Area teacher still learning

Published 10:49 am Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ben Battle has been a teacher for 19 years, but when it comes to his job, he said he’s an old dog learning new tricks.

“Before I came to Academy of Innovation, I was the Information and Communication Technology I teacher at Vicksburg Junior High,” he said. “I teach robotics here. I have six classes of seventh graders.”

Battle said this is the pilot program for robotics in the district.

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“Robotics class is basically pre-engineering,” he said.  “It’s the first year we’ve offered this in the Vicksburg Warren School District. It basically teaches them how to use the engineering design process. That’s the big overarching theme this year. We’re using robotics as a way to further that.”

Battle said he uses things happening in the everyday world to show his students the practicality of what they are learning.

“It’s real world application,” he said. “Just today I was showing them how their robots are very, very similar to the Mars Rover. We watched a video last week of a NASA scientist, and what she’s doing is similar to what she’s doing. Hopefully the light bulb will go off and they’ll say, ‘I can do that. I’m doing that now.’ It’s all about giving them a real hands on way to make the engineering design process real.”

Teaching in this project-based learning style is different than what Battle said he learned in school.

“Project based learning is getting away from the textbooks and using higher order thinking skills to problem solve,” he said. “It’s getting away from the rote memory and test questions. It’s, ‘here’s a situation, I need you to design something and making a prototype.’ It’s more about problem solving.”

Though it is very different, it’s a style Battle said he enjoys.

“You get to see the light bulb go off many, many times a day,” he said. “Every time I talk to a parent they say their child came home and said they built a robot today. That’s amazing. Kids are going home and telling their parents what they did all day.”

Battle said while this new style of teaching is rewarding, it is also more challenging.

“I’ve had to reinvent myself because I’ve been teaching a while, and when I went to school everything was a certain way,” he said. “We made tests a certain way. But it is much more rewarding. I have pictures where you can see the joy of learning on their face. You don’t get that telling them to turn to a page and read a paragraph.”

Battle said the students start with the basics of the design process before moving into the building stage.

“Before we started with the computers we started looking at the programming,” he said. “They learn to think like a program, to use different commands to make whatever they’re running do different things. They build these robots themselves.”

In addition to programming and building, Battle said he also does a lot of writing with his students.

“We are always writing,” he said. “They’re going to be creating instruction booklets now that they know how to program. That’s one of the Common Core things. Engineers have to communicate. They have to use written and spoken language.”

Battle said the instruction booklets the students create would be used to teach fourth and fifth graders how to operate robots.