Tag Archives: technology

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.

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!)

Speak Up 2012 report: “From Chalkboards to Tablets: The Emergence of the K-12 Digital Learner”

“The results being released today show that we are indeed in a new world. And we as adults need to learn from kids in this instance. We need to learn from students about how they learn, where they learn, and how they seek information. I believe we must harness this information to give all students a 21st century skill set to prepare them for high-growth, high-demand jobs in the global economy.”U.S. Rep. George Miller, the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

Project Tomorrow has released the Speak Up 2012 report: “From Chalkboards to Tablets: The Emergence of the K-12 Digital Learner

This report is the second in a two part series to document the key national findings from Speak Up 2012. In 2003, The Speak Up National Research Project was born to give K-12 students a voice in critical conversations, and to hopefully provide their parents, teachers and administrators with new insights about the expectations and aspirations of these newly minted digital learners. Now in its tenth year, the annual Speak Up National Research Project and the resulting trends analysis provides a birds’ eye view of the changing environment for digital learning, both in and out of school.

Why is this important?

If you are working in a school, district, or organization planning your educational technology vision, you need to know the latest data on technology usage from the real users of technology. Don’t be satisfied with what you think you know about technology – find out! In fact, poll your own students on these same questions. If you are one of the smart schools that participated in the Speak Up data survey, lucky you! You are getting your own customized set of data for your own use. If aren’t participating – make plans for next year now!

Key Findings from this year’s report

  • With smartphone usage dramatically on the rise – 65 percent of students in grades 6-8 and 80 percent of students in grades 9-12 are smartphone users – a main concern among today’s digital learners is how to leverage the unique features of different devices, from laptops to smartphones to tablets or digital readers, and use them for certain academic tasks.
  • While only 21% of teachers in middle and high schools are assigning Internet homework on a weekly basis, 69% of high school seniors, 61% of high school freshman and 47% of 6th graders are online at least weekly to find resources to support their homework.
  • In just one year, the number of middle school students with a personally acquired, digital reader more than doubled from 17 percent in 2011 to 39 percent in 2012.
  • In fall 2011, 26 percent of students in grades 6-8 said that they had a personal tablet computer. In one year’s time, the percentage of middle school students with tablets jumped to 52 percent, a doubling over the 2011 percentage.
  • Despite this increase of mobile devices in the hands of students, schools are still reluctant to allow them. Among high school students with smartphones, only half say they can use their device at school and only nine percent of students say they can use their personal tablets at school. With 73 percentage of high school seniors saying they have a laptop, only 18 percent of the Class of 2013 say they are allowed to use their personal laptop at school.

Download both reports!

Sylvia

Announcing – Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom

book coverSo some of you may have noticed that I’ve been pretty quiet here lately. All my writing energy has been going to a good cause though! I’m happy to announce a new book: Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, authored jointly by yours truly,  Sylvia Martinez, and Gary Stager.

This book has been cooking a long time, fueled by our belief that many schools are heading away from what real learning looks like – projects that are student-centered, hands-on, and authentic. But there is a technology revolution out there that has the potential to change that. New materials and technology can be game-changers: things like 3D printing, microcomputers like Raspberry Pi and Arduino, sensors and interfaces that connect the physical world to the digital, and programming. At the same time, a vibrant “maker movement” is spreading worldwide, encouraging people to make, tinker, and share technology and craft.

Invent To Learn is for educators who want to learn about these new technologies and how they can work in real classrooms. But it’s not just about “stuff” – we explore teaching, learning, and how to shape the learning environment. By combining the maker ethos with what we know about how children really learn, we can create classrooms that are alive with creativity and “objects to think with” that will permanently change education.

Student leadership
One chapter of Invent To Learn is about how learning by doing also gives students a chance to become leaders in their schools and communities. Giving students access to modern creativity tools and technology is not about “jobs of the future,” it’s about real learning NOW.

Making for every classroom budget
Even if you don’t have access to expensive (but increasingly affordable) hardware, every classroom can become a makerspace where kids and teachers learn together through direct experience with an assortment of high and low-tech materials. The potential range, breadth, power, complexity and beauty of projects has never been greater thanks to the amazing new tools, materials, ingenuity and playfulness you will encounter in this book.

Check the Invent To Learn website for information on getting the print or Kindle version of the book, and also about professional development for your district.

2012 Most Popular Posts

It’s that time of year again! Here are the most popular posts (according to WordPress, anyway) from the blog.

  1. Khan Academy and the mythical math cure
  2. Games that encourage student teamwork and collaboration
  3. Happy Birthday Logo!
  4. 8 Big Ideas of the Constructionist Learning Lab
  5. Engagement, responsibility and trust
  6. Halo 3 shines harsh light on games in education
  7. Khan Academy – algorithms and autonomy
  8. Back to school – games for collaboration and teamwork
  9. Compare and contrast: using computers to improve math education
  10. Treasure trove for constructivist classroom projects

These are a mixed lot – for example, #3, “Happy Birthday Logo!” is about the 40th anniversary of the Logo programming language. As much as I’d like to believe that there is a massive resurgence of interest in children programming in Logo, it’s MUCH more likely that people are searching for birthday clip-art and stumble on this post. It’s also the case that for #6, “Halo 3 shines harsh light on games in education” the mere mention of the immensely popular game “Halo” drives a lot of traffic. There are some interesting statistics in that post comparing the sales figures of Halo to the expectations for educational software, but I’m assuming that’s not the primary draw.

However, the traffic for #2, 4, 8, and 10, are all pretty on target. I believe that these articles do reflect interest in constructivism and a yearning for information about how to make classroom activities more authentic. I can see that the time spent on these articles by the “average” visitor is much higher. Someday I’ll get around to calculating a different popularity metric for my posts, something like page views  multiplied by viewing time so that the really popular posts reflect viewer interest, rather than just Google searches gone astray.

And of course, two of my Khan Academy posts made the top ten. The debate about Khan Academy is still going on strong, and has made it into the mainstream of American mass media. Although it’s nice when an educational topic does make it into the mainstream, it’s not so good when it reinforces the blandest and least interesting  teaching myths. Oh well, I suppose we could all be reading more about the Kardashians!

Sylvia

How do teachers make informed decisions in choosing technology?

Larry Ferlazzo writes a column “Classroom Q&A” for Teacher Magazine (part of the Ed Week family of publications) on teaching and technology. A few months ago he asked for my response to a question: How do teachers make informed decisions in relation to a balanced use of technology in the classroom?

This is a really interesting question for two reasons:

1. Because it transcends the “what” to tackle the “why”. Teachers have to balance a lot to create the best learning environment for their students and it’s not always clear how to do that. Especially with technology, it seems that any choice you make will be obsolete too soon as product after product and app after app appear, with new exciting announcements made every day.

2. Because it presumes that teachers CAN and SHOULD make these decisions. Too often, technology decisions are made by people who aren’t in the classroom without consulting teachers. Teachers and students are the stakeholders in this equation, and should be involved in choosing appropriate technology.

Be sure to read the responses Larry collected in this multi-part article. Besides my response, Tina Barseghian, the editor of MindShift, and Scott McLeod, an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Kentucky weigh in.

Here’s my contribution:

The best way to use tech in the classroom is when the technology primarily supports the process of student learning, not the product. Sure, it’s easy to get excited when we find tools that make things easier, but we have to be careful about what’s getting automated. Tools that support deep student creativity may take more time to learn, but in the end, give students access to powerful, creative experiences. The learning that takes place on the journey is the real outcome, and a “push-button” tool deprives the child of that experience.

Just like the writing process depends on giving students time to edit and re-write, technology should enhance a student’s ability to dive into the process of thinking deeply about their own work. Editing, reflecting, tweaking, refining, and even starting from scratch are crucial elements of the learning process – saving time is not. Technology that gives students multiple ways to approach their own work means that students can develop fluency and ownership of their learning.

And if you are thinking, “Who has time to teach my students something complicated?” – I will suggest to you that complexity is different than depth. Sure there are tools that are not age-appropriate or just plain overkill. But educators often overestimate the extra time it takes to learn a new tool. Don’t try to front-load too much information about the tool to the students. Instead, introduce a small project for the students, give them the tool and let them work. Allow collaboration between students to share new discoveries. Encourage home-grown student experts who can answer other students’ questions. Time spent becoming fluent with a tool that has depth is time well-spent.

Sylvia

Student Voices at SETDA Leadership Summit

Parker High School  from the Janesville School District in Wisconsin was  highlighted at the Student Voices Luncheon at the SETDA Leadership Summit on October 15, 2012 in Washington, DC.

During the luncheon, school/district administrators, teachers and a diverse group of students from Parker HS explained and demonstrated how teaching and learning have been transformed with technology, how this meets the needs of each student, and creates inclusion through the use of UDL and assistive technology. Selected from entries from across the United States, the Janesville nomination showcased how young people and educators working together can create more and better opportunities for all.


Adobe Flash is required.

Click here to link to the video if you can’t see it embedded above.

Presenters

  • Robert Getka, Junior, George S. Parker High School
  • Colin Murdy, Senior, George S. Parker High School
  • Correy Winke, Junior, George S. Parker High School
  • Christopher Laue, Principal, George S. Parker High School
  • Kathy White, Assistive Technology Specialist, Janesville School District
  • Introduction: Stuart Ciske, Education Consultant, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

The Student Voices Luncheon at the State Educational Technology Directors Association’s (SETDA) Leadership Summit was an opportunity for state and national education leaders to learn directly from students about the positive impact technology has on teaching and learning. I hope they were listening!

Be sure you listen to the wide variety of ways these students see technology as imperative for their learning.

Sylvia

Back to School 2012 – Start your “year of empowerment” now!

Start the year off with hands on
Think you need to wait for kids to settle down and learn the basics before you let them do projects and hands-on work? Not according to this expert teacher.

What tech vision will you share?
What message does your Acceptable Use Policy send when it goes home with students for them and their parents to sign? This year, change overly complex, negative language to language that celebrates the potential of technology – and students.

Games for collaboration and teamwork
Want to create a more collaborative, constructivist classroom? Instead of traditional icebreakers, try these games that encourage collaboration and teamwork.

What do students want from teachers?
Listen to what students say they really want from teachers. And no, it’s not “more recess.”

Student technology leadership teams for laptop schools
Are you getting more devices this year? Laptops, iPads, iTouches, netbooks or going 1:1? Do you have enough tech support? Enough support for teachers using new technology? Enough support for students? No? Well then learn how students can be a great resource in laptop schools to ease the burden on overworked teachers and IT staff – and mentor other students. Genius bar, anyone?

Ten commandments of tech support
Ten ideas for making technology support more learner-centered and less network-centered.

8 Big Ideas of the Constructionist Learning Lab
Last but by far not least, if you are looking for some inspiration to post on your wall, here are 8 Big Ideas of the Constructionist Learning Lab. These eight ideas give actionable advice to create opportunities for deep learning for all. (Also in Spanish)

Happy back to school!

Sylvia

Kid Power

Kid PowerKid Power: The Oak Hills Local School District’s eKIDs program reverses traditional student/teacher roles in the pursuit of technology knowledge.

We love to see our schools get the recognition they deserve!

“When I heard about the program, I wanted to do it,” says Allie Schaefer, a Bridgetown seventh-grader who joined eKIDs in August, at the start of the 2011–2012 school year. “Usually, teachers teach kids. But with eKIDs, the kids teach the teachers. That’s pretty cool.”

Read more >>

Sylvia