Makerspace on a shoestring? Yes, but…

sylvia-FETC-makerspace-session
Me waving my hands at my makerspace startup workshop at FETC earlier this year

One of the questions I get asked quite a lot is about budgets for educational makerspaces.  We are doing this on a shoestring, is that OK? We don’t have any money, is it still worth doing?

My first reaction is typical, I think – of course go for it! No one should be prevented from having a great hands-on learning experience because of lack of funds. There are lots of things that can be repurposed and borrowed. In fact, recycling is a hallmark of the “maker mindset.” Doing more with less is a worthy engineering constraint that develops ingenuity and practical skills.

Yes…but…

However, I think there is a “yes… but” that should be understood. When educators are trying to change culture and practices in an organization, it matters that you acknowledge the size of the shift you are trying to accomplish. A bigger shift requires a bigger and more explicit commitment, and having a budget is a visible and commonly understood sign of commitment.

Whether it’s wanting STEM courses to be more inclusive or shifting teaching practices to be to more project-based, it’s about how far you want to go from where you are. You want big changes? Do big things. Of course, it’s not always about money. Your commitment might be towards long-term professional development, but that’s a commitment of time, an even more precious commodity.

But wait, there’s more!  – Want to hear more about making, makerspaces, design, and STEM? Come to FETC in January – I’m leading two workshops and two sessions! 

PBL Gets a “Make”-over: Supercharging Projects with Maker Mindsets and Technology

Maker technology plus PBL

Schools around the world are embracing the idea of authentic hands-on technology-rich projects for students that support all subject areas. Students say these project-based learning (PBL) experiences are powerful and engaging. Teachers agree!

But often there seems to be no time to integrate these experiences into the classroom. Curriculum is overstuffed with facts and assessment tests loom large. How can teachers take the time for “extras” like in-depth projects? When do busy teachers have time to learn about technology that is ever-changing? Several recent trends combine futuristic technology from the maker movement with design thinking – creating experiences that engage and inspire learners in areas that integrate well with curricular expectations.

PBL + Maker

Maker technologies like 3D printing, robotics, wearable computing, programming, and more give students the ability to create real things, rather than simply report about things. They provide onramps to success in STEM and other subjects for students who are non-traditional learners. Students are empowered by mastering difficult things that they care about, and supported by a community that cares about their interests.

These opportunities are not just good because it’s about getting a good grade, but it’s about making the world a better place with technology that is magical and modern. 3D printing is a fantastic learning opportunity because students can work in three dimensions, making geometry and 3D coordinate math come alive. But that’s not all – it’s literally making something out of nothing. It transcends getting the right answer by adding creativity, complexity, and best of all, you get a real thing in the end. For some students, this makes all the difference.

Look for ways to

  • Introduce challenges that are open-ended
  • Solve real problems (student-designed rather than teacher-assigned)
  • Use an iterative design methodology
  • Allow time for mistakes and refinement – there should be time for things that don’t work the first time
  • Support collaboration with experts in and out of the classroom

Maker mindset

Another aspect of the maker movement is the “maker mindset.” Similar to a growth mindset, this is a personal trait valued by makers world-wide. Like MacGyver, the TV show about a tinkering crime-fighter, the maker mindset is more than just persistence. The maker mindset is about being flexible, thinking on your feet, looking for the unconventional answer, and never, ever giving up.

It’s a mistake to think that you can teach students persistence about tasks they don’t care about. That’s not persistence, that’s compliance. When the classroom is about invention and making real things, persistence becomes personal.

Students who experience success on their own terms can translate that to other experiences. Frustration can be reframed as a needed and welcomed step on the path to the answer. Students who figure things out for themselves need teachers to allow a bit of frustration in the process. In the maker mindset, frustration is a sign that something good is about to happen. It’s also an opportunity to step back and think, ask someone else, or see if there is another path. This may be a role shift for teachers who are used to answering student questions quickly as soon as they hit a small speed bump.

Luckily, with maker technology, it changes so rapidly that no one can be an expert on everything! In fact, this rapid evolution may make it easier to adopt the attitude of “if we don’t know, we can figure it out.” This attitude is not only practical, but models the maker mindset for students.

Adding maker technology and the maker mindset to the well-researched and practiced methods of project-based learning is a winning combination! Maker + PBL = Engaging learning opportunities for modern students and classrooms.

Future of Education Technology Conference Blog (crossposted) Article By FETC 2017 Speaker, Sylvia Martinez

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sylvia martinezSylvia Martinez is the co-author of the book often called the “bible” of the classroom maker movement, “Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom

To learn more about supercharging PBL with maker mindsets and tools at Sylvia’s FETC workshops or sessions click here. (Get a discount on registration!) FETC is in Orlando, Florida in January, 2016.

School friends. Let me save you $6,000

Google gets into the whiteboard business – Techcrunch

back of the interactive whiteboard
The back is really nice, says Techcrunch

Google is getting into the interactive whiteboard (IWB) business with a product called “Jamboard,” a touchscreen hub built around Google Apps – only $6,000.

It’s only a matter of time before schools get the same sales pitch – you have the free Google suite of tools and apps, you have Chromebooks – this is just a way to extend that investment. OK, so the interactive whiteboards you have now aren’t really being used… well, that’s going to be solved now because these are NEW and BETTER. They are 4K, for goodness sakes! The problem was pixelation!

Techcrunch says, “The board also has 16 levels of pressure sensitive touch and nice little animations that bring small things like erasing to life, as you watch the text flake and fall off the display.”

That’s terrific – what schools need is to bring erasing to life.

We’ve been here before

Six years ago I wrote a post called, “Let me save you $6,162″ about the then “innovative” touch tables that were all the rage at educational technology vendor booths. For only $6,500 you could play virtual tangrams with canned applause when you got the “correct” answer. Now there’s some innovation! Judging by the dearth of touch tables in schools, I guess wiser heads prevailed.

Schools wasted millions of dollars in the last two decades on interactive whiteboards. The reason they were a failure is because they were a bad idea in the first place, not that they didn’t work properly. Gary Stager concisely makes this case in “A Modest Proposal” written in 2011 and still true today. It starts out,

“IWBs and their clicker spawn are a terrible investment that breathes new life into medieval educational practices. … They reinforce the dominance of the front of the room and teacher supremacy. At a time of enormous educational upheaval, technological change, and an increasing gulf between adults and children, it is a bad idea to purchase technology that facilitates the delivery of information and increases the physical distance between teacher and learner.”

So, sorry that I can only save you $6,000 (per classroom) this time around, but I’m trying!

Repeat after me…. Innovation isn’t buying new stuff.

Workshops – Melbourne 2016 – Invent to Learn, Wearables, STEM

Join us in Melbourne this week! Space still available – Register today!

Monday 22nd August, 2016
Invent to learn with Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager
Join colleagues for a day of hard fun and problem solving — where computing meets tinkering and design.

Tuesday 23rd August, 2016
Girls and STEM / Wearable Technology with Sylvia Martinez
Wearables and Soft-Circuits for STEM Education – Supporting Inclusion and Equity with Hands-on Maker Technology

Thursday 24th August, 2016
Reinventing Maths with Gary Stager
This workshop moves beyond the goal of making math instruction engaging for children by providing educators with authentic mathematical thinking experiences.

Moment(us) teaching

At Constructing Modern Knowledge 2016, Carla Rinaldi, president of Reggio Children, gave an impassioned talk to the gathered educators about the lessons of the Reggio Emilia pre-school approach.
carla rinaldi cmk2016

She spoke about love, beauty, and respect for children (of all ages) and their learning process. She showed some photos and videos of children learning together and how teachers have the opportunity to make small decisions in this process. To watch or intervene; to ask a question or remain quiet; to suggest an expansion of the complexity of the children’s investigation or to help them simplify their ideas.

What struck me is how quietly these moments happen. These momentous moments are the heart and art of teaching.  Not only is this skill too often devalued and disrespected, but the time it takes to listen is dismissed as “wasted.”

Momentous is a word that is usually associated with BIG EVENTS, but the heart of the word is moment — a fleeting second of time where teachers make decisions that are not simple or fleeting.

Too often overlooked and underestimated, the moment occurs only when listening is valued, when respect exists between all the participants, and there is time to slow down and think hard about what to do in that moment.

Girls in Tech handout – Intel Australia

Girls in TechDownload this free guide with tips, research, resources, and ideas for turning “Making for All” into reality, especially for girls in tech and STEM.

Sponsored by Intel Australia, this is a compact handout about Girls in Tech. Learn how maker education programs and the maker mindset can support equity in education plus interest girls in STEM.

Download this full color 8 page PDF – Girls in Tech.

 

Girls and STEM – ISTE 2016 presentation

These are the slides from my ISTE 2016 presentation “Girls & STEM: Making it Happen.”

Martinez girls and stem ISTE 2016 (PDF)

Resources

Maker

Invent To Learn

MakeHers: Engaging Girls and Women in Technology through Making, Creating, and Inventing (Intel infographic)

Power, Access, Status: The Discourse of Race, Gender, and Class in the Maker Movement

Leah Buechley – Gender, Making, and the Maker Movement (video from FabLearn 2013)

Associations

National Girls Collaborative Project (links to many others)

National Council of Women and Informational Technology

American Association of University Women

Unesco International Bureau of Education (IBE)  – Multiple resources such as: Strengthening STEM curricula for girls in Africa, Asia and the Pacific10 Facts about Girls and Women in STEM in Asia

WISE (UK) – campaign to promote women in science, technology, and engineering

My posts about gender issues, stereotype threat, and other topics mentioned in this session

HOW TO COURSE CORRECT STEM EDUCATION TO INCLUDE GIRLS

LET’S STOP LYING TO GIRLS ABOUT STEM CAREERS

Stereotype Threat – Why it matters

Inclusive Makerspaces (article for EdSurge)

What a Girl Wants: Self-direction, technology, and gender

Self-esteem and me (a girl) becoming an engineer

Research

Securing Australia’s Future STEM: Country Comparisons – Australian Council of Learned Academies

Generation STEM:  What girls say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – Girl Scouts of the USA (2012) (Girls 14-17)

Effective STEM Programs for Adolescent Girls: Three Approaches and Many Lessons Learned

Women’s underrepresentation in science: Sociocultural and biological considerations. (2009)

Gresham, Gina. “A study of mathematics anxiety in pre-service teachers.” Early Childhood Education Journal 35.2 (2007): 181-188.

Beilock, Sian L., et al. “Female teachers’ math anxiety affects girls’ math achievement.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107.5 (2010): 1860-1863.

Teachers’ Spatial Anxiety Relates to 1st- and 2nd-Graders’ Spatial Learning

Statistics

National Center for Educational Statistics

National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

Make it, wear it, learn it – session slides and links to wearables resources

At ISTE 2016 I presented a new session called “Make It, Wear It, Learn It” about wearable electronics. It’s a combination of what’s out there now that can be done by students today, some far out gee-whiz stuff coming in the next few years, and how to start with wearables for young people.

Wearables are a way to introduce people to engineering, design, and electronics that are personal and fun!

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 3.21.15 PMHere’s the PDF of the slides. Video links are below. ISTE didn’t record this session, but someone said they were periscoping it. If anyone has that, I can post the link here!

There were some powerhouse tweeters in the audience who shared links, photos, and sketchnotes! Thanks to all of you!

Links to videos in the presentation

3D printed fashion at home – Designer Danit Peleg creates fabrics and wearables using easily available 3D printers.

Imogene Heap – Gloves that make music (This is the full video. For the presentation I edited it for time.)

Super-Awesome Sylvia’s Mini-Maker Show (Making a soft circuit toy) – This video is good for showing sewing tips for conductive thread. (Sylvia’s full website)

Made with Code – Maddy Maxey – (This is the full video. I edited it down for time in the presentation.) There are other good videos on this page.

Fashion made from milk fibers – This is the “bonus video” I showed as people were coming into the presentation. Anke Domaske creates fabric from milk proteins, working at the intersection of biochemistry and fashion.

Links to shopping tips and resources for wearables

Resources – InventToLearn.com/resources

Shopping and vendors – InventToLearn.com/stuff

Professional development, workshops, and other links

Constructing Modern Knowledge Summer Institute

Sylvia’s website

Professional development opportunities – I can come to your school! Invent To Learn workshops, consulting, and other events are available.

All books available from CMK Press (publisher of Invent To Learn)

Before you “do a makerspace” – four considerations

When we talk about making, there is a tendency to overlap our terms, like saying we’re going to “do makerspace”. I think unpacking these terms help uncover underlying assumptions, especially when designing new spaces and learning opportunities. I see this as four distinct aspects that work together:

  1. Place – Makerspace, hackerspace, Fab Lab, Techshop, shop, science lab, open classroom, studio
  2. Culture – Maker movement, hacker culture, craft, green, economic self-determinism, service-learning, artisanal, amateur science, citizen science, urban agriculture, slow food
  3. Process – Making, tinkering, Design Thinking, design, Genius Hour, PBL
  4. Underlying belief about teaching & learning – Instructionism, behaviorism, constructivism, constructionism

By looking at these four aspects, we can untangle some of the confusion about what “making” in education is. These can combine in interesting ways – you can have a Design Thinking program that is strongly teacher directed in a makerspace that has a green eco-streak that permeates the projects. The place doesn’t dictate the process, which is good and bad.

Many times, when designing new learning opportunities or spaces it is assumed that their current culture will transform as well. Space planning doesn’t magically transform pedagogy. You can’t assume that just because you build a flexible space with terrific materials, it will magically be filled with wonderful student-centered, open-ended projects.

Here’s a “cheat sheet” for the four aspects.

Place

Both formal (credit-bearing courses, primarily at schools) and informal (extra-curricular activities, clubs, libraries, museums, community organizations, commercial spaces)

  • Hackerspace – “Hacking” indicates both an activity and political belief that systems should be open to all people to change and redistribute for the greater good. (roots in the 1960’s). More prevalent in Europe than US.
  • Makerspace – MAKE magazine (2005 – present). Popular Science for the 21st century. DIY and DIWO. Maker Faires. Adopted as a softer, safer alternative to hackerspace. Can be a separate room or integrated into classrooms.
  • Fab Lab – Spaces connected to the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms (565 worldwide) with a common charter and specific requirements for space and tools. Fablab also used as a generic nickname for any fabrication lab.
  • TechShop (and others) – non-profit or commercial organizations offering community tool sharing, classes, or incubation space.
  • Shop, science lab, classroom, studio – traditional names for school spaces for learning via hands-on activities.

Culture

  • Maker movement – technology-based extension of DIY culture, incorporating hobbyist tools to shortcut a traditional (corporate) design and development process, and the internet to openly share problems and solutions. Maker mindset – a positive, energized attitude of active tinkering to solve problems, using any and all materials at hand.
  • Hacker/hacking – Essential lessons about the world are learned “..from taking things apart, seeing how they work, and using this knowledge to create new and even more interesting things.” – Steven Levy
  • Green – values of ecology, conservation, and respect for the environment.
  • Citizen/amateur science – participation of non-professional scientists in gathering and interpreting data or collaborating in research projects.
  • Artisanal/craft movements – engaging in mindful and ethical practices to humanize activities, products, and production.

Process

  • Making – the act of creation. “Learning by making happens only when the making changes the maker.” – Sylvia Martinez
  • Tinkering – non-linear, iterative approach to reaching a goal. “messing about” with materials, tools, and ideas. “Making, fixing, and improving mental constructions.” – Seymour Papert
  • Design Thinking – customer-centered product design and development process popularized by IDEO and the Stanford d.school
  • Design – “to give form, or expression, to inner feelings and ideas, thus projecting them outwards, making them tangible.” – Edith Ackermann
  • Genius Hour – specific classroom time devoted to tinkering and open-ended projects. Patterned after companies (Google and FedEx, primarily) that allow employees to work on non-company projects on company time, thereby boosting morale and possibly resulting in products useful to the company.
  • Project-based Learning (PBL) – Projects are…“work that is substantial, shareable, and personally meaningful.” – Martinez & Stager

Beliefs about teaching and learning

  • Instructionism – Belief that learning is the result of teaching. Lecture, direct instruction.
  • Behaviorism – Belief that behavior is a result of reinforcement and punishment. Rote learning, worksheets, stars/stickers, grades.
  • Constructivism – Piagetian idea that learning is a personal, internal reconstruction—not a transmission of knowledge. Socratic method, modeling, manipulatives, experiments, research, groupwork, inquiry.
  • Constructionism – Seymour Papert extended constructivism with the idea that learning is even more effective when the learner is creating a meaningful, shareable artifact. PBL, making, citizen science.

Negotiating the future

“IF YOU FOLLOW the ongoing creation of self-driving cars, then you probably know about the classic thought experiment called the Trolley Problem. A trolley is barreling toward five people tied to the tracks ahead. You can switch the trolly to another track—where only one person is tied down. What do you do? Or, more to the point, what does a self-driving car do?

Even the people building the cars aren’t sure. In fact, this conundrum is far more complex than even the pundits realize.” – from Self-Driving Cars Will Teach Themselves to Save Lives—But Also Take Them (by Cade Metz, Wired)

Yes, this is a conundrum – but the real dilemmas that will arise from self-driving cars and other “smart” machines will not be the rare life-or-death ones. They will be the smaller, every day, every millisecond decisions. They will be 99.9999% mundane and hardly noticeable — until they aren’t. Since all these machines will be networked, not only will they make decisions, they will communicate, and therefore negotiate with others.

Imagine an ambulance is making its way through traffic. Drivers know to pull over and make way. Self-driving cars will have to as well. That’s a decision to override normal behavior based on social convention and law. But what if you have a pregnant passenger who has just gone into labor? Should it matter that the ambulance you make way for has a patient with a much less critical condition? Should there be some way to assess priority?

What if the siren is from a police car that carries an officer just impatient to get to lunch? (It happens!) Should these vehicles negotiate for their own rights to move ahead of others? Traffic signals could also be in this negotiation. They could change or stay green a little longer depending on ranked requests from the network of vehicles in the vicinity. Should every car have an emergency setting that allows it the same precedence as an ambulance? Should emergencies have ratings that would create ranked priorities in traffic? These decisions are going to be made, it’s a matter of when, not if. It’s up to us as a society to think about and decide on these issues.

And what about paying for priority? People pay to use express lanes and we don’t consider that unfair. Is it the same social calculus to have a negotiated price that would get you home 5 minutes faster by changing the traffic signals just a bit, or having other self-driving cars that didn’t pay move slightly to the right as you glide by? It would hardly be noticeable if your car decided to change lanes or slow down by 5%. You might assume it was avoiding a jam or taking a better route, when instead your car just lost a negotiation with a better financed machine. But once you give up the wheel and get used to the car deciding these things, will you know?

Would you let your house adjust the temperature to serve the social good of using less energy in a heat wave? Smart thermostats already do that. How much different would it be to bid for the privilege of using the air conditioner when you really really want it? “I’ll pay up to $20 extra to have A/C tonight.” If it’s a zero sum game, that means that some other person won’t get their A/C that night. So — is it a way to raise more money for public utilities or the opening battle in an invisible, machine-negotiated class war?

So back to the trolley problem. Are five people more important than one? Only if people are equal. That’s going to be programmable, a set value in the complex algorithm that controls the trolley (or car, or traffic light, or…). But as machines learn, it would be as obvious to assign more complex and variable values to humans as chess playing machines assign values to the different chess pieces. So the calculation of who to put in danger would be based not on a calculation of five people vs. one person, but how much each of those people are “worth” to the system that’s doing the decision making. Who (or what) will create that valuation? Will it be based on age, net worth, Instagram followers, number of Tony Awards, or what? If one of those trolley-bound people had the means to pay or some other status that gave them extra worth-points in the calculation, who will decide if that’s fair, just, or human?

We shouldn’t leave that to the machines.

Professional site of Sylvia Libow Martinez

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