Taking maker education to scale – interesting findings from FabLearn Denmark schools

Next week I’ll be hosted by the FabLearn DK (also known as Fablab@schools DK) network, a group of 44 (and growing) schools in four municipalities in Denmark: Kolding, Vejle, Silkeborg and Aarhus. These schools share resources, professional development, and expertise in their quest to engage students in high quality fabrication, design, and engineering experiences within the context of existing schools.

I’ll be one of the keynotes at FabLearn DK (sold out!) — but more importantly, I’ll be meeting and working with educators and learning from them. I’m very excited and honored that I can spend a week with these schools.

This is potentially a model of the elusive “scale” that so many educators seek from “maker education.”

An integral part of this effort is that a team from the University of Aarhus, led by Ole Sejer Iversen, has been documenting and conducting research from the start of the project to study how digital fabrication could promote 21st century skills in educational contexts. Here are some preliminary (draft) results from one report to be released very soon.

Fablab@school.dk status 2017

  • Number of fablab@school.dk (schools): 44
  • Teachers engaged: 1,160
  • Students engaged: 12,000

Scaling the Fablab@school initiative towards 2019 (estimates)

  • Number of fablab@school.dk (schools): 61
  • Teachers engaged: 3,050
  • Students engaged: 19,100

In a 2016 survey study with 450 fablab@school.dk affiliated students (aged 11-15) and 15 in-depth interviews we found that:

  • FabLab students improved their understandings of digital fabrication technologies and design
  • FabLab students gained experience with a range of digital fabrication technologies
  • FabLab students found the work with digital fabrication technologies motivating, interesting, and useful for their futures. They “liked” FabLab, “loved projects with digital fabrication”, and “learned a lot.”
  • Learning outcomes and motivation were very dependent on schools and teachers*

Also quoting from the draft:

There were large variations within the FabLab group with regard to the number of technologies used, design process structuring, student motivation, and students’ self-perceived knowledge, as well as on self- perceived learning outcomes such as creativity with digital fabrication technologies, abilities to critically reflect on the use of digital technologies, and complex problem solving. The variations among groups of schools followed a pattern in which higher numbers of technologies, more knowledge of the design process model, higher motivation, and better learning outcomes appeared to be connected.

In schools in which students used a wide range of technologies, worked with own ideas with a diverse range of digital technologies, and had their work scaffolded and structured around the AU Design Process Model** to a high degree, students reported that they had on average become better at imagining change with technology, at working creatively with technology, at understanding how new technologies are created, and at understanding how technology is affecting our lives as well as at solving complex problems. Thus, the FabLab@School.dk project did initiate the development of Design literacy among some students. However, it was very much up to chance, what education in digital fabrication and design processes, the students received.

My notes:
* Shocking, eh? (NOT) The full report goes into more detail on these variations, but it’s no surprise that when you give people more agency, they tend to do unique things. Can we all strive for excellence? Sure – but that’s not the same as everyone doing the same thing. Scale does not have to mean replication. More on this later.

** The Aarhus University (AU) Design Process Model is a specific design process being developed for educational use. The schools were free to use (or not use) this model with students.

If schools really cared about research, students would play chess

It bothers me when I hear about how any new initiative  in schools has to be “research-based.” It’s often a code word for “go on a wild goose chase for some citations, and then we are going to say no anyway.”

If schools really wanted research-based practices that improve student learning, here’s a short list: recess, art, music, and chess. Let’s just talk about chess. It’s a fact that learning and playing chess gives kids skills and habits that help them succeed in school and in life. It’s been proven countless times using all kinds of measures. (See below)

My own introduction to the power of chess in learning began when I worked at Knowledge Adventure, an educational software publisher (then known as Davidson & Associates). I was the producer of a new line of chess products that would range from beginners learning chess to a professional chess engine. The goal was to compete with Chessmaster, then the top selling chess playing software in the world. Knowing very little about chess other than the rules of the game, I was tossed into a fascinating world of rival chess engines and offbeat personalities.

Then I met Maurice Ashley71T-1NCrQ7L.jpg. At the time, Maurice was the first  African-American International Grandmaster and had written a book about teaching chess. He worked with young people in Brooklyn, taking them to national championships. He also “called” chess games for ESPN, using a telestrator like John Madden. I went to New York to meet him and watch him work. I sat on the floor of the TV booth for six hours, fascinated at his mastery of the game and the power of his language. This was no dusty, boring exercise – he brought it alive with words that conjured images of galloping knights, brooding, sneaky bishops, and sweaty game-day warriors grinding out a victory with their sacrifices for the common goal.

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The task then was to not simply capture his ideas about teaching chess, but also his personality and make it into a software experience that would reflect the passion and active engagement of Maurice Ashley. The result was “Maurice Ashley Teaches Chess” – probably the favorite software program that I was responsible for. (I can’t believe it’s still for sale!)

Maurice Ashley was recently named to the Chess Hall of Fame and profiled in an NPR series about 50 Great Teachers, Chess For Progress: How A Grandmaster Is Using The Game To Teach Life Skills.

Maurice Ashley’s YouTube channel has other gems – like him beating a trash-talking chess player in Washington Square Park and a TED Talk about working backwards to solve problems.

I’m glad that my friend Maurice is getting some well-deserved attention. He deserves all this and more. He’s directly impacted thousands of young people through his teaching, and even more broadly through his books, software, and media exposure. His message should be widely heard, especially in schools.

But for too many schools, chess (or recess, art, music..)  is not on the agenda while they chase higher test scores using test prep methodology that is not evidence-based. And if the test prep predictably doesn’t work, there is a new trend of “motivating” students to do well with parties and goodies. So bribes (proven to destroy motivation) – good, but chess – there’s no time.

Evidence, you ask? Decades of it – hundreds of studies, piled up the ceiling of the we-don’t-really-care-about-research room.

Back to school headlines – do your homework

Stories in the news like this drive me crazy: Kids have three times too much homework, study finds; what’s the cost?

It starts out:

Nothing quite stresses out students and parents about the beginning of the school year as the return to homework, which for many households means nightly battles centered around completing after-school assignments.

Now a new study may help explain some of that stress.

The study, published Wednesday in The American Journal of Family Therapy, found students in the early elementary school years are getting significantly more homework than is recommended by education leaders, in some cases nearly three times as much homework as is recommended.

I agree with questioning homework. Alfie Kohn makes the case in his book, The Homework Myth better than I ever could. (If you want to read a summary of his thoughts on homework, try this article from Principal magazine.)

So I start reading the CNN article with a personal bias towards agreeing with it, and hoping it makes good points that parents and teachers can really act on. The article says that kids are being assigned too much homework, even in kindergarten, where no homework is the recommendation of experts across the board.

However, I’m soon disappointed. First, they cite the “10 minute rule” from the National Education Association and the National Parent-Teacher Association. (10 minutes per grade level per night, starting in first grade.) However, if you click on the link, it takes you to an article on the PTA website, Hints to Help Reduce Homework Stress, which does not provide any information or research support for this rule. Poking around the sites shows a link to studies by Harris Cooper, PhD, such as this article Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement?: If So, How Much Is Best? with a sidebar summarizing his own analysis of homework research:

“The authors found that all studies, regardless of type, had design flaws. However, both within and across design types, there was generally consistent evidence for a positive influence of homework on achievement. Studies that reported simple homework-achievement correlations revealed evidence that a stronger correlation existed in grades 7–12 than in grades K–6 and when students, rather than parents, reported time on homework. No strong evidence was found for an association between the homework-achievement link and the outcome measure (grades as opposed to standardized tests) or the subject matter (reading as opposed to math). On the basis of these results and others, the authors suggest future research.”

While this is hardly strong evidence (especially in early grades), Alfie Kohn decimates even this, “For starters, there is absolutely no evidence of any academic benefit from assigning homework in elementary or middle school.  For younger students, in fact, there isn’t even a correlation between whether children do homework (or how much they do) and any meaningful measure of achievement.  At the high school level, the correlation is weak and tends to disappear when more sophisticated statistical measures are applied.  Meanwhile, no study has ever substantiated the belief that homework builds character or teaches good study habits.”

So, to me, there’s controversy about homework being worth ANY time, even the “10 minutes per grade”.

But even if you decide that some homework is a good idea, where does this “10 minute rule” come from? In her book, Rethinking Homework: Best Practices that Support Diverse Needs, Cathy Vatterot says “origin unknown”. It’s just something that’s been “long endorsed” by the NEA and the PTA. So it’s a rule that’s become a rule because lots of people repeat that it’s a rule. Vatterot also provides a long and interesting discussion about the limits and contradictions found in research on homework.

But back to CNN – to their credit, they forge on to present evidence that homework doesn’t help students, that homework stress is directly related to real medical problems, and that homework discriminates against families where parents are poor, less well educated, or speak limited English.

Then comes the “what can parents do” part of the article. Instead of suggesting that parents use the evidence that homework is useless, they quote experts about “solutions” like finding a quiet spot, and encouraging your child (but with vague warnings about not helping them too much).

If that doesn’t work, parents are encouraged to communicate with their child’s teacher to “problem solve” together. Is the problem solving about getting rid of homework? No, it’s about how to get the child to do the work, perhaps in less time or with fewer tears, but to still do the work.

So how about helping parents fix the actual problem – the homework. Why not suggest that parents take on the “10 minute rule” because it’s bogus. Why not suggest that teachers push back on homework policies in their districts – isn’t this the age of differentiated instruction? Don’t we care about research? This is especially true in schools where the 10-minute rule has morphed from “no more than 10 minutes” to “10 minutes every night”.

This is what bugs me. Articles for parents are always about fixing the child, or the environment, or their own attitudes. Even when studies show that the problem is the educational practice, parents are being told the problem is them and their children.

 

What does “Where’s the research?” really mean?

Often when I talk to educators, they tell me about some exciting, wonderful sounding program they’ve started in their classroom. Unfortunately, the next sentence goes something like, “But my principal/superintendent saw the kids working happily away, buzzing with excitement and constructive collaboration. I got called in and told to stop it. I tried to defend it, but he/she said – where’s the research that shows it’s effective?”

Ah yes, the death knell for anything that looks fun in the classroom – “where’s the research?”

This question is almost always punitive and/or a stalling tactic. If we actually believed in research about what helps students learn, school would consist of art, music, service-learning, peer mentoring, recess, chess, rich libraries full of high-interest books, and heath and nutrition support.

 

I’m starting a maker program…. questions and answers

I recently got an email from a Chicago Public School teacher. She asked:

I recently read a book you co-authored, “Invent to Learn”.  I am a Chicago Public School teacher.  Until this year, I worked as a special education teacher, but I lobbied hard to create a STEM program at my school and this year I am the STEM teacher.   The program is truly mine to build and I would really love the chance to pick your brain about your experiences.  I am working to build a school Makerspace and the students are absolutely pumped.

She asked me some specific questions, and with her permission, I’m sharing her questions and my answers here.

Any mistakes you can advise me to avoid in developing our maker program?  Any mistakes you recommend that I make?

I think waiting for the perfect can get in the way of doing something good. The iterative design process isn’t just good for kids – it’s a way to feel justified in doing things and then making them better. Your process and choices will improve as time goes on.

The mistake to avoid is stopping the growth process or worse, giving up. I hope you have supportive leadership who will understand that it’s a process, not a perfection factory.

I now feel like I am teaching kids to understand things that I don’t quite understand myself (it is impossible for me to be a content expert in all of the areas the students are pursuing).  While I am excited about that, it is also scary.  How do I know if students are fostering misconceptions?  Should I be concerned about that?  Am I under-qualified for this job?

One of the things I find charming about having so many new things to explore is that it means that nobody can be an expert. Really, everyone is in the same boat you are! They may sound more experienced, but the stuff was literally invented yesterday, so it’s just a matter of trying things out.

That said, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t learn stuff! Build on your strengths and interests, and don’t be afraid to say to the kids – “I don’t know, let’s figure it out!” Model adaptability, curiosity, and determination for them and that’s the biggest lesson they will learn.

The thing you CAN be an expert in is teaching, and being the anthropologist and archivist for learning. Your role should be to carefully watch and listen and to help kids make their private thinking public. Some misconceptions you should be able to catch, some you won’t. It helps to have people who know about topics that aren’t in your wheelhouse, working with your students, and  listening as your students are showing and discussing their work or doing presentations.

If you weren’t concerned about this, I’d worry! Very few people are walking encyclopedias, that’s not the definition of good teaching anyway.

By the way, if your kids are old enough to learn something, they are old enough to figure it out in the first place. Allow them access to online expertise and books. Some will get it faster than others, and let them be peer mentors and local gurus. It helps you to not be the bottleneck of expertise, and models student-centered learning. “Go see Susie, she’s can show you how to solder.”

Say you were hiring to fill a STEM position at your school, what would you be looking for in a candidate?

Curiosity, adaptability, and likes kids. Ask, “what’s the last book on education you read? What’s your philosophy of learning?”

Working as a change agent can be incredibly rewarding and it can also be incredibly stressful.  What advice do you have for maintaining stamina and preventing burnout?

Be more relentless than you think you are capable of… but don’t be a martyr. I wrote more about this here: Go Ahead, Be  Unreasonable.

Build on what you (and the school) do well already. Choose your battles and work with the living.

Throughout the process of creating this program, I have been interviewing practicing engineers.  Many of them say that one of the most important qualities they value in their employees and colleagues is the ability to work in an interdisciplinary team of experts.  I am trying to structure some learning experiences where students will select an area of specialty based on their interests, dig deep to develop some expertise, and then come together with a mixed team to complete a final engineering challenge.

a.) Does this seem like a worthwhile endeavor?

Yes, but… forced collaboration is just as silly as no collaboration. Perhaps encourage teams, but don’t require them. If the collaboration is really worth it, it will happen. I don’t think it will help to try to predict exactly what expertise will be needed for a project until it’s a actually in process.

What about holding off on the selection of interests until the challenge actually starts? Start with the challenge, then divide and conquer.

b.) Based on your experience, do any projects (substantial, sharable, personally meaningful) come to mind that would lend themselves to this kind of structure?  I need help developing some good prompts (in addition to the awesome prompts for robotics in your book).

Here are some prompts for 3D printing.

Read up on Gary Stager’s “and then…” strategy for prompt creation

I am getting lots of pressure to post content-learning objectives in my classroom.  That is tricky when students may be working on different content areas.  I am pushing back a bit and trying to convince my administration to accept process-learning objectives instead (our focus areas in our makerspace are creativity, collaboration, communication, persistence, and problem-solving).  Should my objectives be my prompts (that doesn’t feel right, somehow)?

a.) Am I off base here — should I be more focused on content objectives?  

If you are working under Common Core or other similar standards, take a look at the overall goals in the first paragraphs and pages. They often have language that supports the process skills. So the argument is, I AM implementing learning objectives, ALL of them, not just the ones at the bottom bullet point level of the document.

And if you are really being told to literally post them, I think this is a waste of time and a great misunderstanding of research that says that kids do better if they have clear goals. Writing incomprehensible sentences on the board does not accomplish this.

Mandating the Daily Posting of Objectives and Other Dumb Ideas by Grant Wiggins

b.) If you were an administrator, what learning objectives would you be looking for when you walk into a learning space?

I’d talk to the kids to see if they are motivated and can use appropriate language to explain what they are doing. I’d look for authentic student work on the walls and shelves.

In our learning adventures so far, the students and I have discovered that making and tinkering often result in loose ends and dangling possibilities that are not resolved in a timely way at the end of the marking period.  While we are ok with that, I think we are really stressing out some of the adults around us.  Any advice for helping them cope and perhaps helping me respond to the question “how in the world do you grade that?”.  I am working hard to make the student’s thinking visible to me in my role as a “researcher” and valuing process.  How do I make that thinking visible to others as well?

I hear you. Many teachers incorporate documentation/reflection activities into project-based learning assignments. That’s not a perfect solution, as there’s only so much time in the day and the time kids spend on documentation is time not spent on the project. If there is documentation required as an authentic part of the project, that helps (like writing directions for others to use an invention.) I think getting video is a good thing – but then again, you have to edit it. Having the adults actually talk to the kids I think is the best thing.

It’s interesting that no one seems to want to dive into other forms of assessment that they are familiar with. For example, have your colleagues ever demanded to see a written test and asked you to justify why one question is worth 3 points and another worth 5 points? Or why the midterm counts as 30% of the grade rather than 50%?

It’s because this is new (to them, anyway) that it attracts attention. It could be an opportunity to ask your colleague to sit with you and do the evaluation with you. What factors do you look for? What’s the evidence of learning that you see? If they are asking the question honestly, then they should be willing to take the time to hear the whole answer and have a conversation.

Students have such HUGE ideas that they want to pursue (like creating a computer operating system!!!).  Any strategies for helping them to break something like that into manageable chunks without squishing their ideas?

That’s a tough one. You want them to shoot for the moon, but get something done too, not just be hitting their heads against the wall. Breaking down a problem is one strategy, having a bag of good prompts is another. Have a semi-firm timeline for when the research stops and the “do” starts. And you will get better at it too.

Have you seen STEM programs that effectively incorporated service learning to help students solve community problems?  Any suggestions for creating a culture of giving/service?

Most of the STEM focused programs I’ve seen are more about advocacy or solving problems, not so much in helping others. Like writing a proposal to the city council for a bike path. Tackling building projects supports STEM well, and even if the problem is too hard to really be solved, you can learn about the limitations of science or materials, or other hard facts.

It’s tougher to design a program around big social issues, like solving poverty or homelessness or even grander, like solving global warming. You want issues that you have some hope of having an impact, that the students can relate to and wrap their heads around.

But whatever it is, the STEM component needs to be maintained by asking the students to predict, measure, and analyze what they do. Weigh the trash collected, measure the heat saved by installing insulation and calculate the electricity and money saved. If you help someone, figure out a way to measure that impact, even if you are taking surveys and turning feelings into data like a “happiness index”.

Service learning is a terrific way to add relevance to projects, which is a key for engaging girls. The research supporting service-learning in education is also great.

Right now, I am the embodiment of “the special bunker” that meets for “42-minutes per week”.  I recognize that it is not ideal, but it is all that I can get right now.  How can I go about changing that?  Any advice for spreading constructionism and making to others?

Yes, we did say in the book that the worry about creating a makerspace is that it becomes an excuse not to change anything else. Then again, you do what you can do and keep the forward momentum going. Seymour Papert called it the Someday…Monday problem and said that what you do on Monday should at least be on the path to Someday. It’s a journey, and sometimes is a longer journey then we would like.

It’s also a show, not a tell. Develop student allies and advocates, partner with teachers who are willing, and find parents who “get it.” Call the newspaper and the local cable channel EVERY MONTH.

Find out if your admins want you to spread the word, and hold them to actually supporting it with PD and collaboration time. It’s unreasonable to expect that constructionism will just leak out of your classroom without the administration providing leadership, focus, and resources (including time and money).

Do you know any educators in the Chicago area that I should connect with?

Check the list at http://k12makers.org/ and join this Google group: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/k-12-fablabs

Anything else you think I should know or that you want to tell me?  

Start with kids doing stuff and work from there. Just do it! Connect with others who you can collaborate, brainstorm with, and share ideas (see above).

These educators aren’t in your area, but they document their process nicely –

http://hillbrook.us/hbmakers/

www.lighthousecreativitylab.org

http://www.creatorsstudio.org/

Consider keeping your own blog – make it private if you have to, but the journal of your process will be useful to you as time goes on.

Best of luck,

Sylvia

New report: Making and Tinkering: A Review of the Literature

A new literature review was just released by the Board of Science Education (an NSF funded program associated with the National Academies) called:

Making and Tinkering: A Review of the Literature, by Shirin Vossoughi and Bronwyn Bevan (The PDF is linked from a list, click here and scroll down)

The Board of Sciences has commisioned this and several other papers focused on informal and afterschool STEM learning. More information and links to the other papers are on their website.

The paper is a goldmine of research supporting tinkering and making activities that support learning – not just in STEM and not just in informal settings. Paulo’s research, Papert, and Leah Buechley’s FabLearn 2013 speech are all referenced (and my book too!)

The list of the other commissioned papers is interesting as well. All the papers are linked from this site.

Commissioned Papers

Formative Assessment for STEM Learning Ecosystems: Biographical approaches as a resource for research and practice by Brigid Barron

Citizen Science and Youth Education by Rick Bonney, Tina B. Phillips, Jody Enck, Jennifer Shirk, and Nancy Trautmann

Evidence & Impact: Museum-Managed STEM Programs in Out-of-School Settings, by Bernadette Chi, Rena Dorph & Leah Reisman

Children Doing Science: Essential Idiosyncrasy and the Challenges of Assessment by David Hammer and Jennifer Radoff

Broadening Access to STEM Learning through Out-of-School Learning Environments by Laura Huerta Migus

Making and Tinkering: A Review of the Literature, by Shirin Vossoughi and Bronwyn Bevan

Be a part of FabLearn 2014!

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 11.44.58 AMIf you are an educator incorporating “making” in your classroom, or just thinking about it, consider attending FabLearn 2014 this Fall. Held on the beautiful Stanford campus, it’s an opportunity to see the FabLab in action, and meet other like-minded educators from around the world.

I’m the “social media” co-chair of FabLearn 2014 and that means you’ll be hearing a lot more from me about this conference!

Conference website

But don’t just come and listen – share your ideas, projects, and talent with everyone! The deadline has been extended for contributions – all ideas welcome!

Submissions website (new deadline: June 14, 2014)

FabLearn 2014 invites submissions for its fourth annual conference, to be held on October 25-26, 2014 at Stanford University. FabLearn is a venue for educators, policy-makers, students, designers, researchers, and makers to present, discuss, and learn about digital fabrication in education, the “makers” culture, and hands-on, constructionist learning. We are seeking submissions for contributors to our Workshops, Student Showcase Panel, Educator Panel, Research Panel (Full paper), Poster Session (Short paper), and Demo Session.

I have been to this conference for two years in a row now, and it’s really a place to learn new things and have the kinds of conversations with amazing people who are doing amazing things around the world!

FabLearn Fellows 2014

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be formally working with the first cadre of FabLearn Fellows as a mentor and advisor.

This program is a part of a NSF-sponsored project entitled “Infusing Learning Sciences Research into Digital Fabrication in Education and the Makers’ Movement.” The 2014 FabLearn Fellows cohort is a diverse group of 18 educators and makers. They represent eight states and five countries, and work with a wide range of ages at schools, museums, universities and non-profits. They have agreed to contribute to high-impact research and outreach to answer the following questions:

  • How can we generate an open-source set of constructionist curricular materials well-adapted for Makerspaces and FabLabs in educational settings?
  • How are teachers adapting their own curriculum in face of these new “making” technologies, and how can they be better supported? What challenges do teachers face when trying to adopt project-based, constructionist, digital fabrication activities in their classrooms and after-school programs?
  • How are schools approaching teacher development, parental/community involvement, and issues around traditional assessment?

I’m excited to help support the FabLearn Fellows. I believe that too often, researchers and practitioners in education are isolated from one another. As a result, we lose incredible opportunities to learn and share.

I’ll be sharing more as time goes on!

Measuring Making

One of the most common questions people ask me is “How do we measure the success of our maker program?” We cover this in our book, Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. However, I think there are more details that I can help with.

This is different than assessing student learning in specific subjects. I touched on assessment of maker projects in this blog post and hope to talk more about this soon. But what I’m going to talk about in this post is how to show that your program as a whole is a success.

First of all, you need to think about “success” – this is more difficult than it looks! In many cases, maker education initiatives are trying to go beyond test scores and grades into areas that are more difficult to quantify. You may be interested in increasing student empowerment, self-efficacy, interest in STEM, attitudes, or  problem-solving. So how do you do that?

Measuring affective changes in students is possible. Lots of people think that you can’t measure or quantify these kinds of things but you can. I believe it’s best to approach it both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Quantitative evaluation can be done with validated instruments and surveys you may be able to find and reuse. You may have to do a bit of research to narrow down exactly what you want to measure. For example, if you are looking for improvements in attitude, I did a quick Google search and came up with these this and  this. (I’m not recommending these, you need to find ones that best match your goals.) There have been many recent surveys about youth attitudes towards technology, STEM, and school in general. I would also look for “self-efficacy” surveys, and surveys that your district or state may already be using that ask students about their attitudes towards school, interest in STEM, etc.

Why bother doing this? If you use the same survey (or just take a few questions) that others use, you can compare your results with them. It’s powerful to be able to say, “The national data says x% of students in grade 8 are interested in STEM careers, but in our school, it’s risen from x% to y% in the year since we’ve implemented our maker program.”

However, I think it is even more powerful to create your own data. Ask people (parents, students, teachers, administrators) what they think about any program you run and use Likert scales to get data from their answers. Do pre/post surveys. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like “How do you feel your capacity to solve problems has changed?” or “Have you seen an increase in your child’s interest in science?”  Make the data you want to tell the story you want.

Finally,  make sure you are asking your participants and stakeholders to show and tell you what success looks like. Capture your stakeholders (all of them, especially students) on video as much as possible. Ask the same questions over and over again and you will have a compelling and powerful case. Take photos, videos, and screenshots not just of the finished projects, but the process. Combine quantitative data with documentation of projects, personal stories, anecdotes, and evidence of success. This will build your case better than data alone or stories alone.

But you must start NOW! Don’t wait to collect data, do surveys, and take video. Decide NOW what you think this picture of success looks like and start collecting the evidence. This blog post covers a workshop process that will help you decide what to ask and how to create those types of data stories.

With data, video, photos, events, and anecdotes, you can paint a complete and compelling picture of the success of your Maker educational initiative.

What if… those helpful instructions aren’t so helpful

My last post linked to a video showing Dr. Paulo Blikstein of Stanford University showcasing the research going on in his department regarding how making becomes learning.

The next question is what to do when faced with early research? Do we just wait until the research is done? Or maybe even validated with other studies?

I don’t believe this.

I want to know, “What if these early findings are true? Would it change my practice? What would it look like in my classroom or school?”

Let’s just take one of the research questions being asked – Do detailed instructions help or hinder student understanding? What is the difference between a learner who is given step-by-step instructions vs. being given time to explore a new technology? It is often assumed that the way to learn something new is to follow explicit directions for a couple of tries, and then eventually do it on your own.

The early research is showing, however, that students who are given explicit instructions do NOT move to not needing those instructions. They stay “stuck” in a habit of depending on  instructions.

Uh oh. As someone who works with teachers learning new technology, what should I do? Should I hide my handouts? Make them less explicit? I don’t know, but I’m sure thinking about it.

Maybe you are thinking about this with your students. Why not do a little experiment? If you give students detailed instructions “just to get them started” on early project work – why not see what happens if you skip the tutorials and hide the handouts? After some early confusion (where you will have to refrain from jumping in with the rescue) you may see new patterns emerging.

I know I’m not waiting around for the perfect research to happen. I want to find out the “what if…” sooner rather than later.