PBL Gets a “Make”-over: Supercharging Projects with Maker Mindsets and Technology

Maker technology plus PBL

Schools around the world are embracing the idea of authentic hands-on technology-rich projects for students that support all subject areas. Students say these project-based learning (PBL) experiences are powerful and engaging. Teachers agree!

But often there seems to be no time to integrate these experiences into the classroom. Curriculum is overstuffed with facts and assessment tests loom large. How can teachers take the time for “extras” like in-depth projects? When do busy teachers have time to learn about technology that is ever-changing? Several recent trends combine futuristic technology from the maker movement with design thinking – creating experiences that engage and inspire learners in areas that integrate well with curricular expectations.

PBL + Maker

Maker technologies like 3D printing, robotics, wearable computing, programming, and more give students the ability to create real things, rather than simply report about things. They provide onramps to success in STEM and other subjects for students who are non-traditional learners. Students are empowered by mastering difficult things that they care about, and supported by a community that cares about their interests.

These opportunities are not just good because it’s about getting a good grade, but it’s about making the world a better place with technology that is magical and modern. 3D printing is a fantastic learning opportunity because students can work in three dimensions, making geometry and 3D coordinate math come alive. But that’s not all – it’s literally making something out of nothing. It transcends getting the right answer by adding creativity, complexity, and best of all, you get a real thing in the end. For some students, this makes all the difference.

Look for ways to

  • Introduce challenges that are open-ended
  • Solve real problems (student-designed rather than teacher-assigned)
  • Use an iterative design methodology
  • Allow time for mistakes and refinement – there should be time for things that don’t work the first time
  • Support collaboration with experts in and out of the classroom

Maker mindset

Another aspect of the maker movement is the “maker mindset.” Similar to a growth mindset, this is a personal trait valued by makers world-wide. Like MacGyver, the TV show about a tinkering crime-fighter, the maker mindset is more than just persistence. The maker mindset is about being flexible, thinking on your feet, looking for the unconventional answer, and never, ever giving up.

It’s a mistake to think that you can teach students persistence about tasks they don’t care about. That’s not persistence, that’s compliance. When the classroom is about invention and making real things, persistence becomes personal.

Students who experience success on their own terms can translate that to other experiences. Frustration can be reframed as a needed and welcomed step on the path to the answer. Students who figure things out for themselves need teachers to allow a bit of frustration in the process. In the maker mindset, frustration is a sign that something good is about to happen. It’s also an opportunity to step back and think, ask someone else, or see if there is another path. This may be a role shift for teachers who are used to answering student questions quickly as soon as they hit a small speed bump.

Luckily, with maker technology, it changes so rapidly that no one can be an expert on everything! In fact, this rapid evolution may make it easier to adopt the attitude of “if we don’t know, we can figure it out.” This attitude is not only practical, but models the maker mindset for students.

Adding maker technology and the maker mindset to the well-researched and practiced methods of project-based learning is a winning combination! Maker + PBL = Engaging learning opportunities for modern students and classrooms.

Future of Education Technology Conference Blog (crossposted) Article By FETC 2017 Speaker, Sylvia Martinez

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sylvia martinezSylvia Martinez is the co-author of the book often called the “bible” of the classroom maker movement, “Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom

To learn more about supercharging PBL with maker mindsets and tools at Sylvia’s FETC workshops or sessions click here. (Get a discount on registration!) FETC is in Orlando, Florida in January, 2016.

Girls and STEM – ISTE 2016 presentation

These are the slides from my ISTE 2016 presentation “Girls & STEM: Making it Happen.”

Martinez girls and stem ISTE 2016 (PDF)

Resources

Maker

Invent To Learn

MakeHers: Engaging Girls and Women in Technology through Making, Creating, and Inventing (Intel infographic)

Power, Access, Status: The Discourse of Race, Gender, and Class in the Maker Movement

Leah Buechley – Gender, Making, and the Maker Movement (video from FabLearn 2013)

Associations

National Girls Collaborative Project (links to many others)

National Council of Women and Informational Technology

American Association of University Women

Unesco International Bureau of Education (IBE)  – Multiple resources such as: Strengthening STEM curricula for girls in Africa, Asia and the Pacific10 Facts about Girls and Women in STEM in Asia

WISE (UK) – campaign to promote women in science, technology, and engineering

My posts about gender issues, stereotype threat, and other topics mentioned in this session

HOW TO COURSE CORRECT STEM EDUCATION TO INCLUDE GIRLS

LET’S STOP LYING TO GIRLS ABOUT STEM CAREERS

Stereotype Threat – Why it matters

Inclusive Makerspaces (article for EdSurge)

What a Girl Wants: Self-direction, technology, and gender

Self-esteem and me (a girl) becoming an engineer

Research

Securing Australia’s Future STEM: Country Comparisons – Australian Council of Learned Academies

Generation STEM:  What girls say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – Girl Scouts of the USA (2012) (Girls 14-17)

Effective STEM Programs for Adolescent Girls: Three Approaches and Many Lessons Learned

Women’s underrepresentation in science: Sociocultural and biological considerations. (2009)

Gresham, Gina. “A study of mathematics anxiety in pre-service teachers.” Early Childhood Education Journal 35.2 (2007): 181-188.

Beilock, Sian L., et al. “Female teachers’ math anxiety affects girls’ math achievement.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107.5 (2010): 1860-1863.

Teachers’ Spatial Anxiety Relates to 1st- and 2nd-Graders’ Spatial Learning

Statistics

National Center for Educational Statistics

National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

Make it, wear it, learn it – session slides and links to wearables resources

At ISTE 2016 I presented a new session called “Make It, Wear It, Learn It” about wearable electronics. It’s a combination of what’s out there now that can be done by students today, some far out gee-whiz stuff coming in the next few years, and how to start with wearables for young people.

Wearables are a way to introduce people to engineering, design, and electronics that are personal and fun!

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 3.21.15 PMHere’s the PDF of the slides. Video links are below. ISTE didn’t record this session, but someone said they were periscoping it. If anyone has that, I can post the link here!

There were some powerhouse tweeters in the audience who shared links, photos, and sketchnotes! Thanks to all of you!

Links to videos in the presentation

3D printed fashion at home – Designer Danit Peleg creates fabrics and wearables using easily available 3D printers.

Imogene Heap – Gloves that make music (This is the full video. For the presentation I edited it for time.)

Super-Awesome Sylvia’s Mini-Maker Show (Making a soft circuit toy) – This video is good for showing sewing tips for conductive thread. (Sylvia’s full website)

Made with Code – Maddy Maxey – (This is the full video. I edited it down for time in the presentation.) There are other good videos on this page.

Fashion made from milk fibers – This is the “bonus video” I showed as people were coming into the presentation. Anke Domaske creates fabric from milk proteins, working at the intersection of biochemistry and fashion.

Links to shopping tips and resources for wearables

Resources – InventToLearn.com/resources

Shopping and vendors – InventToLearn.com/stuff

Professional development, workshops, and other links

Constructing Modern Knowledge Summer Institute

Sylvia’s website

Professional development opportunities – I can come to your school! Invent To Learn workshops, consulting, and other events are available.

All books available from CMK Press (publisher of Invent To Learn)

Amazing! Life, art, and making.

This was from a panel discussion at the Crossroads 2016 conference on the culture of making. Brooke Toczylowski drew the scene and it’s amazing!

See you at ISTE 2016!


This June the International Society of Technology in Education is having a conference in Denver, CO. ISTE 2016 will have over ten thousand attendees, endless vendor exhibits and sessions about all aspects of educational technology.

Hope to see you there!

Pre-conference Invent To Learn Workshop

Sunday June 26, 9-3 PM – Don’t miss this amazing event!

Make It, Wear It, Learn It  [Lecture]

  • Monday, June 27, 2:30–3:30 pm MDT (Mountain Daylight Time)
  • Building/Room: (specific location will be available in May)

Girls & STEM: Making it Happen  [Lecture]

  • Wednesday, June 29, 8:30–9:30 am MDT (Mountain Daylight Time)
  • Building/Room: (specific location will be available in May)

Mindsets and Classroom Management for Making and Inventing in Every Classroom  [Panel]

  • Wednesday, June 29, 10:15–11:15 am MDT (Mountain Daylight Time)
  • Building/Room: (specific location will be available in May)

ISTE 2015: Ready for Making?

ISTE 2015 will be June 27-July 1 in Philadelphia, PA. This is an annual “big event” for technology loving educators, with upwards of 15,000 attendees and a huge vendor floor for new edu-gizmos and gadgets.

Two years ago, the word “maker” was barely found on the ISTE program. I believe that my session and Gary Stager’s were the only ones! But in recent years, more and more educators have found that the mindset of the “maker movement” resonates with them. New materials can invigorate project-based learning, and the global maker community is a vibrant learning space that inspires and surprises.

This year’s schedule has a wide array of opportunities to learn more or get started with “making” in the classroom. There’s even a search filter for the topic. Select “Constructivist Learning/ Maker Movement” and 63 sessions, posters, and workshops appear! That’s like a billion trillion percent increase over a couple of years (I swear! Do the math! OK… maybe I’m exaggerating, but it’s because I’m excited this is getting so much attention.)

Search for yourself (select from the Focus/Topic on the left)

So, no need for me to make a list of all these sessions like I’ve done in past years – but here are my and Gary’s events at ISTE. Come find me and say hi!

My events and sessions

Sunday June 28

** Update – SOLD OUT – sorry! 🙁 ** – Gary Stager and I will be hosting a day called “Making, Learning, Fun!” from 9AM – 3PM at Maggiano’s Little Italy (2 blocks from the Conference Center) with fabulous maker activities, great food, and a free copy of the new book “The Invent to Learn Guide to Fun”.  Don’t miss out – very limited space! Click here.

Monday June 29

The Maker Movement: A Global Revolution Goes to School Monday, June 29, 2:30–3:30 pm Sylvia Martinez  PCC Ballroom A

LOL@ISTE Again: Yes, This Will Be on the Test! Monday, June 29, 8:30–9:30 am Cathie Norris, Elliot Soloway, Gary Stager, Michael Jay, Saul Rockman, Sean McDonough

Making, Love and Learning Monday, June 29, 11:00 am–12:00 pm Gary Stager

Is It Time to Give Up on Computers in Schools? Monday, June 29, 12:45–1:45 pm Audrey Watters, David Thornburg, Gary Stager, Wayne D’Orio, Will Richardson

Tuesday June 30

Girls & STEM: Making it Happen Tuesday, June 30, 4:00–5:00 pm Sylvia Martinez PCC Ballroom B

Mobile Learning Playground: Block Party at the Makerspace Tuesday, June 30, 9:30 am–1:00 pm
I’ll be there from 11AM – 11:30 AM talking about “Getting Started with Making in the Classroom”

See you there!

FabLearn 2014 registration now open

Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 11.00.48 AMFabLearn 2014 is the third annual conference on making, fablabs, and education. This is a high quality event for educators, researchers, and designers to meet and talk about things that matter in the quest to make schools more authentic places for kids to learn.

The event will be held Oct. 25-26, 2014 on the beautiful Stanford campus in Palo Alto, California. This is an intimate, education-focused gathering  with the emphasis on making schools better, not selling stuff.

The first phase of registration is now open! Last year, the event sold out in a matter of days, so early registration is recommended. 

You can find out more and register here! Seriously, don’t wait – you may end up on the waiting list and be sad 🙁

I’ll update this post as more of the schedule comes online – but I’ll be there for sure!

To apply for a registration waiver and/or travel stipend, please fill out the form found here.

 

Educon 2.1

The second year of anything is always a test of faith against the sophomore slump. Expecting lightning to strike twice is hardly a good bet, so I approached the second year of the Educon conference with deliberately low expectations. Last year, the first year, was brilliant and amazing, so how could it be any better? Whatever happens, happens – and I was prepared for pretty much anything, or so I thought.

But it happened just like last year – the conversations were meaningful, I went to lots of great sessions, the social events were all too much fun.

What I didn’t expect was to gain so much new clarity about the issue of student voice and teacher voice as the crucial element in creating the kind of learning environment I want to promote in schools. Maybe it all seems blindingly obvious that I would figure this out after having worked to promote student empowerment through technology for the last eight years, but it really hit home as I watched the interactions between the students and teachers at Educon.

I’ve talked before about the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) and Chris Lehmann, their inspirational principal. (Read last year’s blog post about Educon: I’m the luckiest teacher in Philadelphia) He’s a big part of the reason this school exists, why Educon exists, and his mastery of this domain is apparent. And he’s hired a great bunch of teachers who care about kids’ minds and hearts. But I’ve seen lots of adults who walk easily with youth, with the kind of two-way trust and respect that makes you believe that anything is possible.

What is different at SLA is the feeling that it’s more than students “being heard” or “being liked” or even “being taught” — any one of those is hard enough in many schools.

It’s much more complex and intertwined with teacher voice. Teachers being listened to and taken seriously, given responsibility and trusted to be education professionals. It’s like the whole community has a voice – trust and responsibility, respect and care, and everyone who comes in the circle gets the same treatment. You notice it at first in the small gestures and acts of kindness, the ease with which intellectual challenge is assumed as the norm, and then you start to see it everywhere, between kids, teachers, and staff, and extended to us, strangers and visitors to their school.

And I also saw clearly how the expression of teacher and student voice is not just about social action, or being a change agent, it’s about taking charge of learning, of facilitating choice and agency in the academic process. I saw teacher voice being honored in choosing avenues of learning with their students, teachers being respected by students because of it, students taking their choices seriously, and the resulting mutual responsibility to get the job done and not let each other down.

This kind of learning is often caricatured by the “back to basics” crowd as contentless and rudderless, but it’s simply not true. Charting a unique course doesn’t mean you let go of the tiller.

Hoping that you can replace teacher passion and knowledge with a checklist results in kids knowing that something is wrong. Students need to see teacher expertise, and they know full well when it’s missing or if the system doesn’t care about it. One silent voice in the chain means every voice is lessened.