On the side of kids

The Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail interviewed me for an article about schools and the Maker Movement in Vancouver. The Maker Movement in schools has students learning by doing by Anne Casselman and Paul Attfield really captures the excitement of many different classrooms integrating design, technology, and making.

“We want to turn little kids into little creative minds,” says interim head of school Susan Groesbeck. “This is the opposite of rote learning.”

“We want to be one of the schools that has this, not as a frill or as an add-on, but really integrates it into the curriculum. The children are going to be excited and so super challenged.”

Ever since the Maker Movement got going in the early 2000s, it was a matter of time before the tech-oriented DIY movement’s philosophies were adopted into the classroom, as teachers and librarians saw the value of creating dedicated tinkering spaces, known as makerspaces, for students.

“For a lot of the history of school, we’ve kind of done this rote memorization and standardized testing as a means of providing an efficient [education] system, all the while ignoring the fact that it’s not how most people learn,” says Sylvia Libow Martinez, co-author of the book Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom.

“What’s good about the Maker Movement is it’s helping teachers find their own voice and be able to articulate what’s right about education in a way that makes sense in the modern world.”

“We really want kids to leave here feeling that they are problem finders and problem solvers. We don’t know what the problems are going to be in the future. We don’t know the technology these students are going to be using, so it’s not about coding for the sake of coding, or teaching saw skills for the sake of being able to saw,” says Andrea Ryan, the school’s learning specialist for design integration. “It’s that sense of empowerment to be able to go forth and be and do.”

“Strong research suggests that messing around is not wasted time and that it’s actually what the brain needs to both relax and concentrate on important aspects,” says Ms. Martinez, who stresses the difference between handing children a bunch of app-laden tablets and what happens in educational makerspaces, where children are in charge of technology.

“If you’re just going to replicate the most rote, the most boring parts of school on a computer screen, that’s not what I’m talking about.”

Ms. Martinez explains that the technology unto itself is not equivalent to teaching. The distinction between having children in charge of the technology, and children passively consume it is key, as identified by the late Seymour Papert, pioneer of educational technology and MIT Media Lab professor.

“One of [Dr.] Papert’s seminal questions is: Does the child program the computer or does the computer program the child,” she says. “And you have to know which side you’re on.”

Read the whole article – there’s more!

Literacy Beat interview

Meet the Influencer: Sylvia Martinez

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!)

Students as Digital Creators (COSN report)

ETN Digital Creativity3-31A_Page_01.jpgThe 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.

Sneak peek:

“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.”

The Maker Movement: What it Looks Like, Mindsets and Motivation

 just posted an interview with me called, The Maker Movement: What it Looks Like, Mindsets and Motivation,  on the GettingSmart.com website. She’s a “Maker Mom” and blogs about her journey with her daughter to make things and learn!

“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.”

We sat down for a video interview as well!

Radio show: Movers and Makers

I was the first guest on a new web radio show about making in education, called WMKR, Movers & Makers hosted by Laura Fleming and  Travis Lape. The topic is the Maker Movement and the show is called Helping Students Learn with the Head, Heart and Hand.

Future show topics will include:

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

The Maker Movement Conquers the Classroom – THE Journal

The Maker Movement Conquers the Classroom

“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 Classroompointed 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.””

Check out the rest of the article, The Maker Movement Conquers the Classroom online or in the April 2014 issue of THE Journal.

Making is a stance toward learning – interview by Howard Rheingold

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.”

Thanks, Howard, that was fun and a great honor!