Vickie “Cool Cat Teacher” Davis hosted me for a 10 minute podcast about “The 3 Mistakes Teachers Make About Tinkering” on her podcast, “The 10-Minute Teacher Show.”
One of the questions I get asked quite a lot is about budgets for educational makerspaces. We are doing this on a shoestring, is that OK? We don’t have any money, is it still worth doing?
My first reaction is typical, I think – of course go for it! No one should be prevented from having a great hands-on learning experience because of lack of funds. There are lots of things that can be repurposed and borrowed. In fact, recycling is a hallmark of the “maker mindset.” Doing more with less is a worthy engineering constraint that develops ingenuity and practical skills.
However, I think there is a “yes… but” that should be understood. When educators are trying to change culture and practices in an organization, it matters that you acknowledge the size of the shift you are trying to accomplish. A bigger shift requires a bigger and more explicit commitment, and having a budget is a visible and commonly understood sign of commitment.
Whether it’s wanting STEM courses to be more inclusive or shifting teaching practices to be to more project-based, it’s about how far you want to go from where you are. You want big changes? Do big things. Of course, it’s not always about money. Your commitment might be towards long-term professional development, but that’s a commitment of time, an even more precious commodity.
But wait, there’s more! – Want to hear more about making, makerspaces, design, and STEM? Come to FETC in January – I’m leading two workshops and two sessions!
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
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
Sylvia 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.
At Constructing Modern Knowledge 2016, Carla Rinaldi, president of Reggio Children, gave an impassioned talk to the gathered educators about the lessons of the Reggio Emilia pre-school approach.
She spoke about love, beauty, and respect for children (of all ages) and their learning process. She showed some photos and videos of children learning together and how teachers have the opportunity to make small decisions in this process. To watch or intervene; to ask a question or remain quiet; to suggest an expansion of the complexity of the children’s investigation or to help them simplify their ideas.
What struck me is how quietly these moments happen. These momentous moments are the heart and art of teaching. Not only is this skill too often devalued and disrespected, but the time it takes to listen is dismissed as “wasted.”
Momentous is a word that is usually associated with BIG EVENTS, but the heart of the word is moment — a fleeting second of time where teachers make decisions that are not simple or fleeting.
Too often overlooked and underestimated, the moment occurs only when listening is valued, when respect exists between all the participants, and there is time to slow down and think hard about what to do in that moment.
Sylvia Martinez – Session Resources
“Making in the classroom is not a shopping list or a special place, it’s a stance towards learning.”
Making in Education Resources
Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager. (Second Edition) Completely revised and expanded, the book called the “bible of the maker movement in schools” has helped thousands of educators embrace the tools, technology, and mindset of the “maker movement” in learning spaces. The website contains resources, links, a free book club guide, recommended books, workshop handouts, and more. www.InventToLearn.com
Getting Started with Making in Education (Articles by Sylvia Martinez)
- Help! There’s a Makerspace in my Library
- Makerspace on a Shoestring – Suggestions for elementary, middle, and high schools – product and project recommendations.
- Making a Makerspace – Planning tips and ideas.
- Top ten ways to start with “maker education” – includes links to recommended resources, educator blogs, advice for getting started, forums, and shopping lists.
Girls and STEM Resources
I believe that there are many good things happening to support gender equity in STEM education, however, there are many things left to do. This presentation offers a view from K-12 through college to the job market with recommendations about what’s working and what still needs to happen. Extensive resource list included.
- Girls and STEM: Making it Happen at sylviamartinez.com/girls-stem
- Making for All: How to Build an Inclusive Makerspace at EdSurge http://bit.ly/inclusive-maker
- What a Girl Wants: Self-directed learning, technology, and gender at http://bit.ly/what-girls-want
- Meaningful Making: Projects and Inspirations for Fab Labs and Makerspaces – Columbia University FabLearn Fellows share their projects and ideas for making in classrooms, libraries, and makerspaces around the world.
- Super Awesome Sylvia’s Project Book: Super-Simple Arduino – Learn about electronics and programming from 14-year-old web sensation Super-Awesome Sylvia.
- The Invent To Learn Guide to Fun – Step by step instructions for creative, whimsical projects by educator Josh Burker
- The Invent To Learn Guide to 3D Printing: Recipes for Success – Educational projects using your 3D printer by education pioneer David Thornburg.
The Professional Learning Event of the Year!
Constructing Modern Knowledge, July 16-19, 2019, is a minds-on institute for educators committed to creativity, collaboration and computing. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in intensive computer-rich project development with peers and a world-class faculty. Inspirational guest speakers and social events round out the fantastic event.
More information at ConstructingModernKnowledge.com
Bring Sylvia Martinez to your school, organization, or conference!
Professional development, workshops, and consulting are available. See our calendar of events or choose from topics.
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I had the opportunity to be the closing keynote for CETPA, an organization of K-20 education technology professionals in California. There were a lot of sessions about tech support, networks, and infrastructure, but it was great to see a lot of attention paid to the fact that education is the primary job of schools.
I shared some of the exciting new things happening in schools in California and around the world using technology and tools from the maker movement. But for those people who work hard to keep existing school networks and technology viable in times of zeroed out budgets, it’s not good enough to just toss more technology into classrooms without considering who will support it.
School Leaders say…
- 75% they don’t have enough IT staff to support their needs effectively
- 55% can’t maintain their network adequately
- 63% can’t plan for new technologies
- 76% have trouble implementing new technologies. (e-School News)
In the article, Forrester Research is quoted as saying that large corporations typically employ one support person for every 50 PCs, at a cost of $1420 per computer, per year. According to this model, a school district with 1,000 PCs would need a staff of 20 and an annual tech-support budget of $1.4 million.
Yeah, go ahead, laugh! Everyone in a school knows this is ludicrous!
Center for Educational Leadership and Technology says that some larger school districts are approaching a ratio of one IT person for every 1,500 computers or more. I think that may even be low.
This creates an untenable climate in schools where tech support professionals are put in a lose-lose situation. They are responsible for everything that plugs in from the payroll system to the network to the student devices. There is no way to make an impossible situation work without being a constant state of vigilant triage. It’s common – and not unreasonable to develop a circle-the-wagons mentality where blame and finger-pointing is rampant. And the blame goes all around – teachers are slackers, students are hackers, admin is clueless – and comes right back at the tech support team. They become network nazis, the department of no, and worse.
Innovation is unsustainable in this kind of atmosphere, even with the most compelling ideas and plans.
So how can we move forward? This is the “to do” list I proposed.
- Refocus – Move beyond fixing broken things (Reactive & negative)
- Support a culture of innovation (Find ways to say yes)
- Reduce shame (Genius bar)
- Leverage untapped resources (Students)
- Reduce cost of failure at all levels (Leadership)
I believe that these goals are not only useful for schools with plans for innovative technology, but can create a synergy that actually is more than the sum of its parts. Collaboration between tech support, students, and teachers, creates a more trusting climate at the same time as leveraging student time and energy. Leadership that supports innovation, even when the road is bumpy, creates trust, which in turn increases responsible behavior.
I believe that every person in a school is an important part of making education better!
I’m honored to have an article included in Educating Modern Learner’s compilation of their Best of 2014 articles. Even better, it’s available for free as a lovely e-book!
Educating Modern Learners is a new website created to help every school leader become better informed to make better, more relevant decisions for the children they serve in this new, modern world of learning.
My article, What a Girl Wants, is included in this e-book, along with 13 other terrific essays and analysis of current education practice and policy.
Click on the image to go to the EML download page, and while you are there, consider signing up for a subscription!
Several recent FabLearn Fellow blog posts have created a lot of room for discussion around the topics of fabrication, making, and design in museums and classrooms. Please comment and add your voice!
A brief overview of recent posts:
In 18th Century Buildings, Vector Drawing, History, and Math, Heather Pang explores how a project designed to be a simple skill-builder evolved into something more.
Christa Flores tackles Making for Making Sake? or STEAM for 21st Century Job Skills? weaving in educational philosophy, economic policy, and reaching out to FabLearn 2014 Netherlands attendees to create a global conversation.
Avoiding Cookie Cutters by Keith Ostfeld muses on redesigning an Inventor’s Workshop in a museum setting to help partcipants create more diverse, but still successful projects and includes a terrific video showcasing some young creators in action.
Addressing another perceived roadblock to projects in the classroom – that one teacher simply can’t support students all doing different projects, Christa Flores documents students as co-teachers in The Role of Co-Teachers in a Maker Classroom.
And Heather Pang considers “… the question of how much guidance, how many constraints, how much help to give students…” in Where is the line?
These posts all explore some of the most-asked questions hands-on authentic learning: How do students build skills? How does a teacher assess project work? How does a teacher reflect and iterate on lesson planning and design? Doesn’t this take more time than traditional instruction?
But most of all, these posts all help answer the question, “Can authentic learning be done in real schools and learning spaces?” Obviously the answer is YES!
At ISTE 2014, Ginger Lewman and I recorded a podcast hosted by Don Wettrick called InnovatED – Tomorrow’s Education Innovations Today, on the BAM Radio Network.
We talked about the connection between project-based learning and the Maker Movement, best practices, and potential pitfalls. Plus had a ton of fun! Take a listen 😉
The Maker Movement:The Promise and Pitfalls
If 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!
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!