Aug 13, 2007

Creating Resource Material for teachers and students


As a technical writer, I've written lots of different things for my customers - websites, catalogs, software manuals, brochures, etc. Most of the time, my customers tell me what they want and I make it. That's how the NXT-G Programming Guide came to be - some Georgia teachers asked for more information on programming with NXT-G and how to teach programming in the classroom.

Since late in 2006, I've continued to receive requests from teachers, coaches, parents, and kids for more "stuff." I get requests for a sequel to "The Mayan Adventure" and similar-style books, tutorials, How-Tos, and a few other special requests.

After a recent video-conference with some teachers and coaches in Texas, it became very apparent to me that they are really wanting more content related to NXT and they're very specific in their requests. After doing some basic research and examining some time requirements for certain items, I began discussions with a few LEGO Ed contacts and a couple of my blog contributors to figure out what could be done to help these teachers and coaches.

It's in a beta-stage right now, but I'm happy to report that a storefront is ready to go live with a few items already in there and some more being prepared for an end-of-month release. After that, monthly additions are being planned. I already have a short list of items that have been requested, but I'm certainly open to more. I can only write/create something if I know about it. So, teachers, parents, and coaches - when it comes to robot competitions and school curriculum, what can be created to help you? What is missing in the storefront that you think is critical? I'm definitely listening...

The NXT Step Storefront is an experiment. I'm trying to determine if there is a demand for well-written educational material as well as custom/special-request items. As I said, I write for a living, so right now I'm setting aside a portion of my work-hours each month to focus on this new site. If it succeeds, great - I'll continue to create new content. If it fails... well, I tried.

I'm trying to create content for both classroom and competitions. You'll find stuff being added to support FLL and Robocup Jr. teams. If you liked "The Mayan Adventure", you'll be happy to hear that similar items are being created but with smaller, more-focused activities. I was asked by one FLL coach in April to offer up some journals for team record-keeping and these are ready to go. Some How-Tos are being written right now that will cover some more advanced topics. And we've got one special workbook 95% completed that new FLL coaches and mentors will find very useful - look for it around the end of August.

If this site is to succeed, however, I do need your help. Please let teachers and coaches know that this storefront exists AND let them know that I'm interested in feedback from all of them regarding what they want. This storefront was created for educators, coaches, and parents (and, ultimately, to benefit students) so please pass the word along that it's up-and-running and I'm anxious to hear from them.

I've been blessed to have been given a chance to merge part of my job with one of my hobbies. Writing for a living has always been a goal of mine, but now I get to write stuff that focuses on LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT robotics. I'm very grateful to those of you who have supported The NXT Step blog and the contributors and I hope you'll keep providing us feedback.

The NXT Step Storefront

Jim Kelly

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