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.

Video – New Research Seeks to Find Out How Making Becomes Learning

One of the questions we consistently get in our sessions and workshops is about assessment. How do we know what kids are learning if there is no written test? Is this maker stuff more than just a new fad? While there are traditional ways that projects can be assessed (such as teacher observation techniques,) there is new research going on at Stanford in Dr. Paulo’s Blikstein’s Transformative Learning Technologies Lab that is starting to answer these questions. This video is a terrific overview of several new research studies, called Multi-modal Learning Analytics, on what is really going on when students do hands-on, maker activities.

There is so much in this video, I’m going to try to explore each of these studies separately in future posts.

  • Differences between students starting hands-on activities with detailed instructions vs. very little instruction. Do they get lost with no instruction? Or do they get “addicted” to the cookbook? Can students change from one type to another?
  • Are digital simulations the same as students doing real experiments?
  • Is video lecture or textbook reading preceding classroom projects (flipped classroom) better than exploration before instruction? Does flipped model work better with video over text? In other words, does the order or the media matter?
  • Do tutorials help with exploration activities?
  • Why different programming languages work better for learning.
  • Is it necessary for maker classrooms to be “sink or swim”?
  • Gender and other equity issues in “Maker Movement” culture
  • Differences in use of makerspaces in low-income schools vs. wealthier schools reflecting differences in school-wide pedagogy.
  • Observation and assessment tools for maker activities – maker tables and logic flows.
  • Looking at body position, gestures, and eye movements to try to understand the learner.

While this is all early research, it’s rich with potential for understanding more about how we learn, and how we can create optimal environments for learning for all students.

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

Make your voice heard! Speak Up National Research Project now open

Every year, the Speak Up National Research Project collects authentic feedback from students, educators and parents about education, the use of technology in schools, and more.

There are two main reasons you should participate in Speak Up 2012:

  1. The data collected can be used by your organization to incorporate in your own planning. Being able to compare your community input to a national dataset is invaluable.
  2. The data is used at a national level to shed light on the REAL issues, concerns, and perceptions of students, parents, and educators.

Since 2003, educators from over 30,000 schools have used the Speak Up data to create and implement their vision for 21st century learning.  You can too! Schools and/or districts can register to participate. The surveys are easy to use and age appropriate.  Register today to participate in Speak Up 2012.

Free webinar – Social Media and Peer Learning

Social Media and Peer Learning: From Mediated Pedagogy to Peeragogy
Discover how giving students more responsibility in shaping their own curriculum can lead to more active participation.

I’m going to be on the panel for this webinar from Connected Learning, moderated by Howard Rheingold and Mimi Ito. I hope you can join us for a lively conversation!

When: Tuesday, April 10, 9AM Pacific (find the time in your time zone)

Howard Rheingold is the author of Tools for ThoughtThe Virtual CommunitySmart MobsNet Smart and teaches at Stanford University, Communication Department. Mimi Ito is  the author of Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out and a cultural anthropologist of technology use, focusing on children and youth’s changing relationships to media and communications.

UPDATEWebinar archive here…

I’m excited! See you there –

Sylvia

Research to action: 5 must read bullying research briefs

A recent post by danah boyd, social media researcher announced some new resources in the effort to combat bullying, created for the new Born This Way Foundation, created by Lady Gaga and her mother.

“The Foundation wants to create a kinder, braver world so that youth can be the change-agents that we all need them to be. For youth to be empowered, the Foundation recognizes that 1) youth need to be safe; 2) youth need to have skills; and 3) youth need to have opportunities.”

danah, along with many other notable folks, are working with the new foundation. In her post, she announced a working paper series, starting with five new resources that synthesize research for the Foundation – and help schools and communities easily get the best, accessible advice to inform their local efforts. Best of all, the foundation and these working papers emphasize that youth empowerment needs to be a main focus for these efforts. This kind of insight and commitment is admirable – this is NOT a feel-good celebrity cause for the cameras.

This working paper series offer practical, ground-level resources based on the best available research. The first five documents are:

They are looking for comments and feedback on these documents –  send them to kbw-feedback@cyber.law.harvard.edu

Sylvia