While at FETC I had a pleasure of sitting down for a short interview with The EduTech Guys. Their motto is, “Come for the tech, stay for the talk.” The EduTechGuys are Jeff Madlock and David Henderson, who host an ongoing podcast plus go to conferences doing live coverage!
It was a ton of fun and I hope to join them for more episodes.
Literacy Beat just posted a blog interview in which I answer two questions:
What tips or advice might you offer to teachers who want to be advocates for learning through literacy in the digital world?
I think that it’s important for teachers to keep an eye on what’s happening outside of school, not just in the digital world, but in the world at large. The Maker Movement, for example, is a trend that is going to change the world, possibly as much as the Industrial Revolution. It’s a trend that speaks to how people learn and solve problems using new technology-based devices and networks. The implications for education are immense… (Read the rest!)
What significant event in your life changed the focus of your work?
Right out of college I was an aerospace engineer. I mostly worked with people who were a lot like me – good at school, mathematically and logically oriented. But when I moved to software game development, I met different kinds of engineers and programmers. Most of them did not have formal computer science degrees, many had not finished college, and a few had not even finished high school. Many of them were told – as early as middle school – that they couldn’t learn computers or take advanced science classes because they were “bad at math” – and “bad at math” typically meant they were bad at doing what teachers told them to do. …. (Read the rest!)
The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) just added a new report to their Ed Tech Next Series: Students as Digital Creators for CoSN members. This report explores the ways in which K–12 schools everywhere are carving out space in their buildings and curriculum to empower students as storytellers, artists, performers, designers, engineers, coders, gamers, inventors, builders, producers, innovators and entrepreneurs. The report offers expert perspectives on why and how to foster digital creativity—and profiles leading districts, communities and educators engaged in this maker movement.
I was happy to provide CoSN with some quotable quotes, resources, ideas, and point them to some great maker educators for case studies and profiles. I wish everyone could see this, but it’s a member benefit for CoSN members.
“Design is the lever or engine for the T in STEM—the technology,” Martinez says. “Without design, there is no technology. Technology means anything in the designed world. Whereas in schools, technology has come to mean this very narrow computer literacy—using computers to do work, to look things up. We have to expand the definition of technology beyond how to use Google Docs and making the network run right, to this idea that you can change the world with the things you think up in your head.”
“But even as I have to relinquish the power of being the all-knowing, all-capable, decision maker and leader, I get a very different and much more satisfying kind of power. It’s a super-power, really: the ability to learn with my daughter on the same level, as partners. There is a beautiful giving up of control that not only allows me to connect with my child on a different level, it is also liberating in that I get to be ok with not having all the answers or being able to just give my child the outcome she wants. We have to earn it together. As a result we both experience the kinds of learning that is described as authentic, inquiry-based, constructionist, or constructivist.”
The Maker Movement
Planning Your Makerspace
Setting Up Your Makerspace
Creating a Maker Culture in Your School
Makerspaces and the Standards
The ‘Expert’ Maker
Makerspaces and the School Library
Makerspace as a Unique Learning Environment
Showcasing Student Creations
Makerspaces as Catalysts for Future Change
School Leaders Role in the Maker Movement/Makerspaces
“Whether it’s a paper airplane or a robot that walks, kids have always wanted to create functional objects with their own two hands. These days, many educators are channeling that natural urge to build with help from the wider “maker movement,” which has spawned maker faires and dedicated “maker spaces” in classrooms and media centers around the country. Pam Moran, superintendent of the Albemarle County Public Schools in Virginia, contends that American classrooms of the past regularly fueled this type of creativity, and now is the time to bring back that spirit of innovation. “I see the maker movement as being a reconnect, both inside schools, as well as in communities, to redevelop the idea that we are creative individuals,” Moran said. “We are analytical problem-solvers, and we are people who, in working with our hands and minds, are able to create and construct. We are makers by nature.”
The article has some great examples of what’s going in real schools, and we contributed as well:
“While cutting-edge technology can help engage students, Gary Stager, coauthor (with Sylvia Martinez) of Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom, pointed out that maker projects don’t require schools to buy expensive machines. “We see teachers and students working with traditional materials combined with new materials — even cardboard construction,” he said.
Martinez added, “There are new conductive materials, conductive tapes where you can paint a picture that actually does something, such as lighting up. These materials draw people in in ways they don’t expect. One person might be interested in building a robot, but another might be interested in building a glove with a sensor on it.””
Howard Rheingold (yes, THE Howard Rheingold) invited me to join him for a web broadcast, so of course I said yes! Here’s the video capture.
Howard also said,
“Making and building projects that personally interest students and an iterative design process don’t mean that teachers’ guidance becomes less necessary. A good corollary to “education is an igniting, not a pouring,” is “without banks, a stream would be a lake.” Teachers are there more to show students how to learn than to instruct them, step by step, what to do – they can get that from YouTube or Instructables. By combining learner autonomy, powerful materials like Arduino or Raspberry Pi, and guidance, teachers can give students permission to explore and help them gain fluency in the art of learning in the real world. Listen to my conversation with Martinez. Read her and Stager’s book. Put less than $100 of materials out on the table in your classroom. Let your students dream, try, fumble, retry, learn.”
The next revolution in education will be made, not televised.
Here is what happens when you ask two Tech & Learning advisors to trade notes on one of the fastest-moving phenomena in education technology. Sylvia Martinez (SM) recently co-authored InventTo Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. Dr. Gary A. Carnow (GC) is Chief Propellerhead of Prolific Thinkers and the former CTO of Pasadena Unified School District. He is also the co-author of multiple edtech books. Both are excited about the Maker Movement. Read why you should be, too:
GC: I shudder when I hear that my local school is now reinventing itself as a STEM or STEAM school. STEM or STEAM is an interesting label, but it limits what is happening across the world outside of traditional educational institutions. A growing army of empowered parents and creative teachers are banding together in Maker Faires. What is this Maker Movement and why does every reader of Tech & Learning need to know about it?
SM: A number of reasons. First, it’s a global technological and creative revolution. Some very smart people are predicting that the tools and technology of the Maker Movement will revolutionize the way we produce, market, and sell goods and services worldwide. Want a new watch? Don’t ship it across the world, just print it out! Better yet, design it yourself and then print it out. Something this epic should be on every educator’s radar.
Next, the Maker Movement advocates a “Do It Yourself” or DIY attitude towards the world and problems that need solving. Learning to use what you’ve got and “give it a go” are valuable mindsets for young learners.
Plus it’s cool! Makers worldwide are developing amazing new tools, materials, and skills and inviting the whole world to join in the fun. Using gee-whiz technology to make, repair, or customize the things we need brings engineering, design, and computer science to life.
Finally, the Maker Movement overlaps with the natural inclinations of children and the power of learning by doing. For educators, I believe that being open to the lessons of the Maker Movement holds the key to reanimating the best, but oft-forgotten learner-centered teaching practices.
Global Maker Faires and a growing library of literature inspire learners of all ages and experience levels to become inventors and seize control of their world. Online communities serve as the hub of a global learning commons, allowing people to share not just ideas, but the actual codes and designs for what they invent. This ease of sharing lowers the barriers to entry, as newcomers can easily use someone else’s codes or designs as building blocks for their own creations.
However, at the Maker Faires I’ve been to, I’ve met countless parents who say to me (as they watch their child happily soldering, building with LEGO, or programming robots) “School is killing my kid.” And unfortunately, I know what they mean. We can and must do better, not just for the empowered parents who can take their child to a Maker Faire, but for all children.
GC: The Maker Movement, according to Wikipedia, stresses “new and unique applications of technologies, and encourages invention and prototyping. There is a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them creatively.” What does that mean for classrooms today?
SM: The new Next Generation Science Standards makes explicit calls for meaningful assessment, interdisciplinary knowledge, creativity, inquiry, and engineering. Specifically, we must change how schools approach science and math.
In too many cases, science and math have been stripped of practical applications because of a false premise that practical math is only for students who don’t go to college. This is a recipe for disaster and I think we see the results in students who gradually lose interest in STEM subjects over the years. We cannot and must not continue to pretend that success in STEM subjects means memorizing the textbook.
Making is a way of bringing creativity, authentic design thinking, and engineering to learners. Tinkering is the process of design, the way real scientists and engineers invent new things. Such concrete experiences provide a meaningful context for understanding abstract science and math concepts while often incorporating esthetic components. Creating opportunities for students to solve real problems, combined with imaginative new materials and technology, makes learning come alive and cements understandings that are difficult when only studied in the abstract.
We must bravely reintegrate actual labs and design into science. We must be able to answer a math student who asks, “Why do I need to know this?” (And the answer should never be, you’ll need this next year.) We must reinvent classrooms as places where students ARE inventors, designers, scientists, and mathematicians TODAY. Making is the avenue to this reimagination of 21st century education.
GC: Your background is engineering. I began my career as a teacher of gifted children. We both subscribe to MAKE Magazine. Where do teachers, parents, students, and administrators, or for that matter anyone who is interested in providing meaningful experiences for students, begin?
SM: In his 2005 book, Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop—from Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication, MIT Professor Neil Gershenfeld described the next technological revolution as one in which people would make anything they need to solve their own problems. Gershenfield predicted that for the cost of your school’s first computer, you would have a Fabrication Lab or fab lab—a mini high-tech factory—capable of making things designed on a computer. This prediction is now reality.
In our new book, we identify three aspects of the making revolution that are game-changers for schools. All of these are accessible and affordable today. Any of these are great places to begin:
Computer controlled fabrication devices: Over the past few years, devices that fabricate three-dimensional objects have become an affordable reality. These 3D printers can take a design file and output a physical object. Plastic filament is melted and deposited in intricate patterns that build layer by layer, much like a 2D printer prints lines of dots that, line by line, create a printed page. With 3D design and printing, the ability for students to design and create their own objects combines math, science, engineering, and craft.
Physical computing: New open source microcontrollers, sensors, and interfaces connect the physical world to the digital world in ways never before possible. Many schools are familiar with robotics, one aspect of physical computing, but whole new worlds are opening up, such as wearable computing. Wearable computing, soft circuits, and e-textiles use conductive thread and tiny mobile microprocessors to make smart textiles and clothing. Other kinds of new microprocessors, like Arduinos, combine with plug-and-play devices that connect to the Internet, to each other, or to any number of sensors. This means that low-cost, easy-to-make computational devices can test, monitor, beautify, and explore the world.
Programming: There is a new call for programming in schools, from the Next Generation Science Standards to the White House. Programming is the key to controlling this new world of computational devices and the range of programming languages has never been greater. Today’s modern languages are designed for every purpose and every age.
The common thread here is computation. The computational potential of these technologies, tools, and materials elevates the learning potential beyond craft projects. Of course there are things to be learned from building with cardboard or Popsicle sticks and in our book we discuss ALL kinds of making and makerspaces for learning. But computation is the game-changer that should make educators sit up and take notice.
All of these experiences and the materials that enable them are consistent with the imaginations of children and with the types of learning experiences society has long valued. Making is a stance that puts the learner at the center of the educational process and creates opportunities that students may never have encountered themselves. Makers are confident, competent, curious citizens in a new world of possibility.
GC: What matters most about learning to me is not the product but the process. What I love about the Maker Movement is that makers rarely work in isolation. Making is a social activity. The Maker Movement embraces failure and believes that everyone can make. When I look back on my traditional schooling, what I remember is that I had gifted teachers who knew the power of project-based learning. I remember the projects and the process and have little memory of whatever facts I had to cram for the dreaded “pop quiz.” What brought you to the Maker Movement? Is this just the next big thing or is this the real deal?
SM: Gary, you pack a lot into your questions! What brought me to the Maker Movement is that it deeply connects with my personal reasons for becoming an engineer. I wanted to know how to solve problems—real problems in the real world, not textbook problems. I think all kids want to change the world, and the Maker Movement and Maker ethos teaches kids that they have the power to make the world a better place, NOW. They don’t have to wait for a book or a teacher to tell them what to do, because there is a whole world out there of people all trying things and sharing the results. Somebody somewhere is asking the same questions as you and by sharing the journey, we all can learn more.
I realize the attraction of always searching for the “new new thing”, the magic wand that will fix all problems. I don’t believe that the Maker Movement is a magic wand. I hope it doesn’t get turned into a buzzword. Maybe we can talk more about how to make sure the hype doesn’t overwhelm the promise of the Maker Movement in schools. However, it is my strong belief that educators who look deeply at the Maker Movement will find a wealth of new ideas and inspiration to revitalize their classrooms and give children the opportunity to touch the future.