Making and ELL: Conversational Confidence

Making Culture Report thumbnail
Download full report from this site.

In a new study from Drexel University, researchers found that makerspaces help students learning English to feel more confident using their new language skills.

Making Culture: A National Study of Education Makerspaces, confirms something I’ve heard anecdotally from educators. Doing interesting things means that students talk about the interesting things they are doing.

Now there is a study confirming this (and more).

“In our research, we observed the potential of makerspaces to improve engagement with English language learners (ELL) and students facing disciplinary issues. First-generation English learners expressed greater agency and self-confidence from their experience in makerspaces. These students felt empowered to work on new language skills in the open and collaborative environment through conversations with their peers. Student interviewees suggested that working on creative problem-solving projects reduced the fear of making mistakes when speaking out loud, fostering greater fluency and retention:

  • ELL students referenced reduced anxiety with language around school activities based on collaboration in makerspaces.
  • ELL students referenced using technical manuals as part of their literacy development.
  • ELL students referenced using technical manuals as part of their literacy development.
  • ELL students expressed being more comfortable using their native language to problem solve or complete assignments in the makerspace than in other STEM settings.

 Teachers also frequently referenced specific changes in behavior in their ELL students from makerspace participation, leading them to believe that engagement had improved.”

Making Culture is the first in-depth examination of K-12 education makerspaces nationwide and was created as part of the ExCITe Center’s Learning Innovation initiative. This report reveals the significance of cultural aspects of making (student interests, real world relevance, and community collaboration) that enable learning. The research highlights how makerspaces foster a range of positive student learning outcomes, but also reflect some of the gaps in inclusion common in the STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math) fields. The report was co-authored by Drexel School of Education researchers Dr. Kareem Edouard, Katelyn Alderfer, Professor Brian Smith and ExCITe Center Director Youngmoo Kim.

The Case for Creativity in STEAM

Creativity on display at FabLearn NL 2018

Creativity is not just being artistic or having new ideas. As many schools are working to incorporate STEM and STEAM into the classroom, design and creativity are the key to real and relevant experiences in the classroom.

Adding more and different technology to the classroom toolkit invites students of different abilities and interests to experience STEAM subjects. This creates classroom conditions that invite technology understanding and creativity for all students, even those who think they “don’t like technology”.

In many cases, digital tools, electronics, and programming are seen as something only a few students (the “nerds”) want to try. Yet these are powerful learning opportunities that all students should engage in.

Key ideas

Design is a way to make thinking visible, connecting abstract pedagogy to the real experiences of children. The A in STEAM is not about decorating science projects or coloring math worksheets, but a way to add design and design’s cousin, aesthetics, into classroom projects.

Next Generation Science Standards provide new directions for engineering practices. Again, design is the key to this. Design is the process of engineering. It provides a framework to solve problems, using the science, math, and technology that students learn. These standards are not “business as usual” for schools. Looking at them as simply a rearrangement of existing curriculum ignores the revolutionary addition of engineering design to the expectations for science curriculum.

Formative assessment strategies that strengthen the project process in real time as students work through design and engineering projects.

Inclusivity that ensures that new technology and engineering experiences invite and support students who might not have the background or inclination to see themselves as engineers.

Equity in STEM areas for girls and other under-represented groups is not a matter of finding the young people who can do the work asked by the current curriculum, but to find new curricular areas and connections to the interesting and relevant STEM and STEAM opportunities found in the real world.

Everyone has a role to play

Leaders keep the vision alive in the face of multiple distractions. They allow new ideas to flourish and provide support for educators to work out the details, while still moving the ball forward.

Coaches help both the early adopters and the cautious “this too shall pass” reluctants to create a shared, achievable vision.

Teachers find ways to weave the old and new together in a coherent way for students. This means being a learner, leader, and a designer. There is no question that this in itself takes creativity. Teachers are asked to do more with less, and to make more time where there is none, all the time staying current with research and personalizing learning for every student. What could be more creative than that?

In the quest for STEAM, there will be tensions and questions. Can science be creative? Doesn’t math always have one right answer? Aren’t basic facts and rote memorization the ways that science has always been taught? Where will we find the time to do more in depth projects that give students creative opportunities? If students are doing more creative and personalized work, how will we assess it and meet learning objectives? Am I creative enough to make this work?

And yet, we know that students thrive when given the opportunity to do relevant, meaningful, and creative work. Together, we must push against paralyzing fear that there are too many variables and not enough time to figure it all out.

We have a ways to go

Creativity is often misunderstood as simply a personal attribute – you are a creative person or you aren’t.  Yet the word is crucial as schools struggle to implement STEAM programs that are defined only as subjects – not as mindsets. The “A” in STEAM is incredibly important – it is the verb of the sentence, and at its heart is the creative process. It is understood that artists have a creative process, but less well understood that scientists, engineers, and mathematicians do as well.

When schools work to understand what STEAM really means, there are certainly parts that seem easier than others. All schools have math and science classes. Technology is taken care of as we increasingly adopt computers into classroom practices. Engineering is a small but growing option in many schools.

However, we have work still to do. Science and math classes need to adopt modern ways that real scientists and mathematicians work. You can’t just put a sign up that says “STEAM Academy.” Students want and respond to science classes that are real and relevant, where they can engage in making things that make the world a better place, and in doing so, learn about the underlying laws of the world around them.

Technology is not only about computers, but about the basic human desire to change the world. Engineering is not just a college major, but a way for even young children to design and build things that help them make sense of the world.

When all of this is taken into consideration, you cannot help but notice that creativity, meaning literally to make things, is a key component. Design is the process of engineering and technology is the tool. Creativity is the mindset.

Recasting STEAM this way also invites more students who are not the “usual suspects” into the fantastic world of STEAM.

CMK18 reflection – building intentionality

It’s been a month since we wrapped up the 11th annual Constructing Modern Knowledge. I hope to offer other posts about the experience, but this is one short thought. Often people say things like “Oh, you just put out a lot of fun stuff and play. That’s not the way school really works. How does that help a teacher when they get back to the real world?”

At CMK, we try to offer a view of what education looks like with as few compromises as possible. The goal is that an attendee sees that a successful learning experience is possible, and even wildly successful, without many of the things we assume are “normal” at school. 

The hope is that when that educator goes back to their school they are more aware of the compromises, and then can choose them with more intentionality. Every human endeavor has some element of compromise, and school is no different. But it’s easy to overlook that structures like grades, age segregation, textbooks, quizzes, separated subjects, the bus & bell schedule, etc. are choices, not handed down on stone tablets.

So if the experience of CMK helps a teacher go back and think about choices in curriculum, courses, or their own practice, that’s the point.

ISTE sessions – Chicago in June

I’ll be speaking at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) June 24-27, 2018.

STEAM to the Future: 50 Years in 50 Minutes
Tuesday, June 26, 10:15–11:15 am
Location: Available in May

Let’s time travel 50 years forward to see what science, technology, engineering and math will be like, and the prominent role that the arts, design and creativity will play. This session will provide entertaining and thought-provoking insight into the challenges of adapting today’s classroom and curriculum for the future.

STEAM: The TEA Stands for CrEATivity
Tuesday, June 26, 11:45 am–12:45 pm
Location: Available in May

Creativity is not just being artistic or having new ideas. As many schools are working to incorporate STEM and STEAM into the classroom, design and creativity are the keys to real and relevant experiences in the classroom.

Swift – do you learn to program by solving logic puzzles?

I spent some time working through the first bunch of “coding” tutorials in Swift Playground from Apple. It’s slow, wordy, and arbitrary about how it introduces concepts. Just one example – the tutorial lets you turn left, but not right, because it wants you to make a “right turn” function out of three left turns. That’s weird and bossy. It’s immediately annoying that it takes 3 times as long to turn right as to turn left. What if I didn’t want to do it that way? Do they think I can’t handle a right? Oh, they just want to force me to realize that you can group multiple commands. And if I don’t get it, they over-explain it with lots of words. LOTS. OF. WORDS. Thanks Swift – coding is all about doing what you are told instead of figuring things out with flexible tools!

There are a lot of quirks in how you add and edit the commands–clunky is a kind description.

It reminded me of Lightbot, a cute puzzle app. Except Lightbot is more fun and is at least 10 years old. They couldn’t do better than that? LightBot says it’s “a puzzle game based on coding” and “teaches you programming logic.” At least they are honest!

We don’t pretend that solving crossword puzzles teaches writing. (Well hopefully not.) The same applies to coding.

The way to learn to code is by coding, not doing logic puzzles.

Video – Design & Innovation in Schools Keynote (TECH 2017)

I keynoted the TECH 2017 UNESCO Conference in Visakhapatnam, India in December 2017. At this interesting conference, they had 15 minute keynotes, then a response panel and audience questions for maximum interactivity. They asked me to be as provocative as possible.

This is a video of just my 15 minute keynote.

Sylvia Martinez keynote Design & Innovation in Schools TECH2017  on Vimeo.

If you liked that – watch the whole thing (about an hour)! Panelists: Mila Thomas Fuller President, Board of Directors, ISTE; Olivier Hamant Research Director, Lyon; Gautam Khetrapal Founder, LifePlugin.com and Head of Product Marketing, Mindvalley

And if you liked that – check out the other videos from this conference, including Sugata Mitra’s keynote, which was very provocative and caused a lot of good conversation throughout.

Nominations for the inaugural Seymour Papert Memorial Lecture at CrossRoads now open

The inaugural Seymour Papert Memorial Lecture will be held at CrossRoads, Infosys Foundation USA’s annual conference in the SF Bay Area in May 2018. Here a link to the open nomination form for potential keynote speakers: https://infyfoundation.typeform.com/to/mdHbBb.

Seymour Papert’s theories and work profoundly impacted how the world sees learning. The Seymour Papert Memorial Lecture celebrates his vision and seeks to bring his deep underlying ideas to new audiences and new applications in education.

The lecture committee is looking to select a deeply relevant speaker who can offer a compelling point of view on the tenets of Constructionism, contextualize these by example where possible, and leave the audience both informed and inspired to apply these lessons to their own work.

The selected speaker will be invited to deliver a keynote at CrossRoads 2018, the annual conference of Infosys Foundation USA. The conference will be held in the San Francisco Bay Area from May 21-24, 2018. The speaker’s travel and accommodation will be covered by the conference. You may nominate as many speakers as you wish and you are welcome to nominate yourself.

Nominations close at 5PM PST on Monday, November 20, 2017.

Note: I’m on the committee for this keynote search, so will be a part of the process of reviewing the nominations received.

 

Going to ISTE in San Antonio! See you there.

I’m excited to have several accepted sessions at ISTE, the International Society of Technology in Education.  It will be in San Antonio June 25-28, 2017. Hope to see many old friends and new!

Make It, Wear It, Learn It

  • Monday, June 26, 10:30–11:30 am CDT (Central Daylight Time)
  • Building/Room: (specific location available in May)

Before You Build a Makerspace: Four Aspects You Must Consider

  • Wednesday, June 28, 9:00–10:00 am CDT (Central Daylight Time)
  • Building/Room: (specific location available in May)

Everybody Wins When Everybody Codes  – with Jane Krauss

  • Monday, June 26, 9:00–10:00 am CDT (Central Daylight Time)
  • Building/Room: (specific location available in May)

Workshops – Melbourne 2016 – Invent to Learn, Wearables, STEM

Join us in Melbourne this week! Space still available – Register today!

Monday 22nd August, 2016
Invent to learn with Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager
Join colleagues for a day of hard fun and problem solving — where computing meets tinkering and design.

Tuesday 23rd August, 2016
Girls and STEM / Wearable Technology with Sylvia Martinez
Wearables and Soft-Circuits for STEM Education – Supporting Inclusion and Equity with Hands-on Maker Technology

Thursday 24th August, 2016
Reinventing Maths with Gary Stager
This workshop moves beyond the goal of making math instruction engaging for children by providing educators with authentic mathematical thinking experiences.