Hi @benjiwheeler and @Lily. Love the invocation of “remix” in this context, both for the pedagogy it suggests, and for the way the concept of a remix is wrought.
I wanted to share some more perspectives on Mindstorms. I teach 9-10 year olds in underserved communities, and I also teach gifted children in an “over-served” community. The challenges vary and often I meet with the frustrations that Ben describes. When I train other teachers, I encourage teachers to not show only one example of a robot (children tend to copy the one model), to not provide a list of instructions, and to not appear to do things perfectly on the first try. Rather, share stories of difficulty and frustrations, of multiple iterations, share multiple examples and point out the tradeoffs in each model. My main recommendation is to give open ended challenges that invite a diversity of solutions; then, provide scaffolds as they are needed. Many teachers seem to want to provide the scaffolds in advance of a cumulative challenge, e.g., learn mini skills over the course of the year, and at the end of the year, build a robot drawing upon these mini skills. Regarding the grammar of Mindstorms, I ask kids to translate their code into vernacular English (or their native language). This, to me, is a form of Edith Ackerman’s “stepping back”, or of “making learning visible” (to borrow another catchphrase).
One other suggestion: can you give students freedom to create a make believe framework, and then let them use robotics within that framework? I had the opportunity to do this with kids at the International School of Billund (mostly LEGO families). We had built make-believe landscapes over several weeks, made up stories about these fictive worlds. Robotics were not really on the horizon. Kids started joining my after school robotics club so they could build infrastructure for their make believe worlds. (See the EV3 in upper right corner of the attached photo - it’s part of a crane.) What was exciting about this is that had we invited kids to “make anything” with Mindstorms, they likely would have been overwhelmed; the narrative activity of their make believe play, however, led them to identify needs for which Mindstorms were well suited.