Tag Archives: tinkering

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.

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

ISTE 2013 Roundup – Student Leadership, Hard Fun, and More!

IMG_1551
ISTE 2012 – GenYES students discuss education with the Malaysian Minister of Education

We are looking forward to another fantastic ISTE – the grandmother of all education technology conferences. This year ISTE will be in San Antonio, Texas June 23-26th, 2013. Generation YES will be there in force (meaning kids!) GenYES students from local San Antonio schools will be showcasing their teacher support projects in our booth on the exhibit floor, so please put booth 12226 in your schedule as a MUST VISIT!

A Big Announcement… Coming Soon We will be demoing our latest improvements to the GenYES suite of online tools and student leadership curriculum – more on that shortly.

Two MUST DO events to add to your schedule

Invent to Learn @ISTE 2013

Join me (Sylvia Martinez) and Gary Stager for an energizing day of “hard fun” as we invent, tinker, and learn how to incorporate hands-on project-based learning in the classroom. Participants will engage in a variety of projects using modern tools and technology – the perfect way to get ready for ISTE.  Sunday, June 23rd from 9AM-3PM.

Breakfast, lunch, and drinks are all part of the day at a great location right on the Riverwalk with easy, walkable access from all the ISTE hotels.

Also included is your very own copy of our new book – Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. Click here for details and registration information for Invent To Learn @ ISTE 2013.

Spotlight Session

Tinkering + Technology = Authentic Learning. Combine tinkering and technology and you have a time-honored tradition that allows imagination and creativity to lead the way to real-world problem-solving and learning. Sylvia Martinez

  • Tuesday, 6/25/2013, 2:00pm–3:00pm, SACC 001A
  • Digital-Age Teaching & Learning : Problem Solving & Critical Thinking

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.

Beyond Pink and Blue

In “Beyond Pink and Blue” on the blog site for The Nation magazine, author Dana Goldstein writes about children and gender norms. She quoted me for a part of the article about tinkering, and how that kind of hands on learning helps students grasp scientific concepts.

Sylvia Martinez, an expert on educational technology, has written about how all children need to reinforce math and science concepts through “tinkering”—interacting with the physical world, as opposed to just learning at their classroom desks. (For example: collecting water samples to test pH levels, or reinforcing math concepts by learning basic computer coding.) It doesn’t work, Martinez says, “to explain everything to kids without them having any basis in experience. I’m trying to expand the idea of ‘tinkering.’ It’s not just going down to the basement and playing with stuff. You can play with data, ideas, equations, programming.”

Parents can foster this type of experimentation at home, but schools should also do their part. The problem is that in an age of increased focus on standardized test scores in reading and math, many schools are canceling computing and science courses or cutting down lab time.

“We’ve created math and science in school as very abstract,” Martinez says. “We’ve taken away a lot of hands-on experiences from kids in favor of testing. We’ve reduced a lot of science to vocabulary, where kids are being given vocabulary tests about the ocean instead of going to the ocean or looking through a microscope at organisms. If we taught baseball the way we taught science, kids would never play until they graduated.”

I’m really glad she got the idea in there that tinkering goes beyond “stuff” and extends into playing with concepts too. I also am glad that the conversation is about “what’s good for kids”, not just “what’s good for girls.”

I’ll be exploring that topic a bit more in the coming months, it’s been on my mind a lot lately!

Sylvia


 

BETT 2012

I’m heading to London this week to take part in the BETT 2012 conference in London. This is the largest educational technology conference in the world and I’ve been wanting to check it out for years!

I’m presenting a session on Friday – Tinkering: A New Model of ICT and STEM Learning

Yes, I know it says “new” – but it’s not. Poetic license, I guess I was worried that things have to sound new to get any notice. However, I’m hopefully presenting a new look at old-fashioned learning. I’m combining some of my existing resources about tinkering and playful learning with some new ideas about the role of gender, the danger of looking at science only through the lens of the “scientific method”, and the synergy between art and science.

Be back next week!

Sylvia

In Praise of Tinkering – Time magazine online

Time Magazine online : In Praise of Tinkering: How the decline in technical know-how is making us think less

Annie Murphy Paul has written an opinion piece about how tinkering is essential to learning – and I’m quoted! How cool is that?

“If we want more young people to choose a profession in one of the group of crucial fields known as STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — we ought to start cultivating these interests and skills early. But the way to do so may not be the kind of highly structured and directed instruction that we usually associate with these subjects. Instead, some educators have begun taking seriously an activity often dismissed as a waste of time: tinkering. Tinkering is the polar opposite of the test-driven, results-oriented approach of No Child Left Behind: it involves a loose process of trying things out, seeing what happens, reflecting and evaluating, and trying again. As Sylvia Martinez, a learning expert who spoke about the value of tinkering at a meeting of the National Council of Women in Information Technology earlier this year, puts it: “Tinkering is the way that real science happens, in all its messy glory.””

Paul, the author of OriginsHow the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives is at work on a book about the science of learning

Hack the Future – kids learn by tinkering with code

At Hack the Future, an event for school-aged kids in San Jose, hacking means creating code, sharing ideas, programming, and learning from each other. This is a great example of how “tinkering”, or experimenting with how something is built, can be a terrific way to get kids to think not just about consuming computing but creating it, too. Experienced hackers — like Al Alcorn, creator of the popular 1980s video game, Pong — attended the event and encouraged the kids to express their creativity through hacking.

Read more…

You can call it hacking, or you can call it tinkering, but it’s the way most programmers learn to program. By modifying code others have written, you can learn an incredible amount. Programming, like life, is rarely done starting with a flowchart!

Sylvia

Tinkering and “real work”

Last week I was invited to be a panelist at the National Council of Women in IT Best Practices summit. It was a great experience and I learned a lot! My session was about getting girls interested in STEM subjects and programming through “making stuff” and tinkering.

The session was really interesting and we had some great questions about how tinkering can fit into the school day, especially with so much focus on test results and career and college readiness. It seems that to many people, tinkering conotes a messiness and unprofessionalism that doesn’t apply to “real” jobs in scientific fields.

I believe just the opposite is true – tinkering is exactly how real science is done.

I like to think I have a unique perspective on this. After graduating with an electrical engineering degree I went to work at an aerospace company and ended up on a research project to create the GPS satellite navigation system. It was fun, exciting work and we were building something that was literally theoretically impossible. The hardware was too slow, the software didn’t exist, the math was only a theory, and existing navigation systems weren’t build to handle the precision we needed. The military pilots we worked with didn’t trust it either, creating interesting team dynamics. There were many days where we just sat around and talked through the problems, went to try to them out in the lab, and watched our great ideas go up in smoke. Then we did it again.

It was the essence of tinkering. We tinkered with ideas, methods, with hardware and software, always collaborating, always trying new things. There was no “right answer”, no “scientific method”, and sometimes the answers came from the unlikeliest sources or even mistakes. There were flashes of insight, fighting and battle lines drawn, crazy midnight revelations, and occasional 6 hour lunches at the local pool hall/bar.

I’m not suggesting that any of that is a good model for K-12 STEM education – but perhaps we should avoid squeezing all serendipity out of STEM subjects in a quest to teach students about a “real world” that exists only in the feeble imaginations of textbook authors. Tinkering is the way that real science happens in all its messy glory.

Sylvia

Tinkering and STEM – good for girls, good for all

I’m excited to be an invited panelist at the National Council of Women in IT (NCWIT) Summit on Women and IT: practices and ideas to revolutionize computing next week in New York City. The topic is Tinkering: How Might ‘Making Stuff’ Influence Girls’ Interest in STEM and Computing?… and I’m the “K-12” voice on the panel.

We were each asked to do an introductory 5 minutes to establish our point of view about these issues. I started with a slide deck I use about tinkering and technology literacy and managed to cut it down to about 20 minutes when I thought – why not share this version on Slideshare! So here it is.

School only honors one type of design and problem-solving methodology, the traditional analytical step-by-step model. It ignores other problem-solving styles that are more non-linear, more collaborative, more artistic, etc. These styles are seen as “messy” or “soft” with the implication that they are not reliable. However, who do we lose when we ignore, or worse, denigrate alternative styles of problem-solving. I think one answer may be “girls” but honestly, it’s broader than that. We lose all kinds of people who are creative, out-of-the-box thinkers. And these are exactly the people I want solving the problems we face in the 21st century.

Teaching a tinkering model of problem-solving is good for girls because it’s good for everyone.

Sylvia