Equity and Diversity in Making – FabLearn 2015

FabLearn 2015 – September 26th – 27th, 2015 – Stanford University

Don’t miss the 5th year of FabLearn – the premier conference on making in education. This year’s theme –  “Equity and Diversity in Making”.  Come join the conversation – or submit a presentation proposal!

FabLearn 2015 invites submissions for its fifth annual conference, to be held on September 26-27, 2015 at Stanford University. FabLearn is a venue for educators, policy-makers, students, designers, researchers, students, and makers to present, discuss, and learn about digital fabrication in education, the maker culture, and hands-on, constructionist learning. We are seeking submissions for:

– Research papers (full and short papers)

– Demos (projects, curricula, software, or hardware)

– Workshops and tutorials

– Student Showcase Panel (for middle and high-school students to show their projects or share rich learning experiences)

– Educator Panel (for educators to share best practices and experiences)


All submissions are due by July 18, 2015 by 11:59pm (Pacific Daylight Time). All applicants will be notified about decisions on the first week of August.

Capturing the Culture of Making: FabLearn Fellow blog posts

The 2014/2015 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. Throughout the course of the year, they will develop curriculum and resources, as well as contribute to current research projects. Their blogs represent their diverse experience and interests in creating better educational oportunities for all. 

I’ve been privileged to mentor this group this past year and part of that is summarizing their amazing blog posts. Here are some recent highlights from March 2015.

What can these scraps reveal? by Erin Riley
“Process can be informed by what is available and as a result unfolds in different ways.” Erin explores how creativity and constraints work together as students use upcycled and recycled materials in projects. http://fablearn.stanford.edu/fellows/blog/what-can-these-scraps-reveal
STEAM, STEM, and Making by Tracy Rudzitis
Can the momentum of excitement about making, the new push for STEM education, and the acknowledgment that arts should play a role in STEM subjects be captured into real school change? Or will the enthusiasm, as Tracy asks, simply be redirected into minor tweaks to the status quo, lectures, and tests, because teachers and administrators simply believe that is the only way to teach. The key, Tracy says, is to understand the rich pedagogical history in which these new practices are situated. http://fablearn.stanford.edu/fellows/blog/steam-stem-and-making
Make your silicone protector for soldering irons by Gilson Domingues and Pietro Domingues
Soldering is the best way to connect electrical components, yet the iron is very hot and poses a danger, especially to children who have smaller hands and have trouble holding the iron so far away from the working tip. This do-it-yourself soldering iron protector is both fun and useful! http://fablearn.stanford.edu/fellows/blog/make-your-silicone-protector-soldering-irons
Teaching rights by Erin Riley 
Erin shares her version of a punchcard system that designates students who are trained users and teachers for various equipment. “When students teach they: solidify their own learning, share their knowledge with peers, and gain confidence.  When the teaching pool widens to include students, the heirarchy breaks down and our makerspaces become a place for students, including us.” http://fablearn.stanford.edu/fellows/blog/teaching-rights
From Name Tags to Lasting Artifacts; Fostering a Culture of Deep Projects by Christa Flores
Christa asks, “…are schools that are pushing design into their programs allowing students to know more than the terms of design (brainstorm, iterate and empathy) or are they truly teaching the value, and intricacy of the design process?” To answer this, she offers examples of deep learning through design and the complex mix of culture, leadership, and support for the process that is needed for success. http://fablearn.stanford.edu/fellows/blog/name-tags-lasting-artifacts-fostering-culture-deep-projects

Plus – Useful research on museum/ out of school programs

Research to Practice: Observing Learning in Tinkering Activities (Museum)
 – The Exploratorium Museum shares a useful framework for researchers, practitioners, funders, and policy-makers seek to understand what constitutes learning-through-tinkering, particularly in a museum setting. Supported by video case studies of the tinkering activities in the Tinkering Studio, they developed four Dimensions of Learning and three broad Facilitation Moves. In addition, they created a Tinkering Library of Exemplars that categorizes over one hundred video clips according to these frameworks.

Museum-managed STEM Programs – What evidence is there for the impact of museum (and other designed setting) managed programs on STEM learning and interest? What is known about the impact and value of such programs on school-age children’s understanding of STEM concepts and practices as well as their interest and engagement in STEM? By Bernadette Chi, Rena Dorph & Leah Reisman, Lawrence Hall of Science, UC Berkeley

  Evidence & Impact: Museum-Managed STEM Programs in Out-of- School Settings (PDF)

Compiled by Sylvia Martinez, FabLearn Fellow Mentor

How tos: New Making in Education posts from the FabLearn Fellows

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!

Is “Student-Centered” Just Code for Lord of the Flies?

Working this past year with the FabLearn Fellows has been an incredible experience. These 18 educators from around the globe are leading the way to understanding the benefits of “making” in formal and informal learning spaces.

This post from Christa Flores, called, The “Unstructured Classroom” and other misconceptions about Constructivist Learning tackles some of the misunderstandings that people have about making in the classroom. There is fear that “letting go” of the reins as a teacher means that students will just wander aimlessly or worse, the anarchy will ensue. On the flip side, people have ungrounded hopes that simply giving students choice and agency over their own learning will magically create perfect learning conditions.

Christa explains,

“In the three years that I have been teaching science through the lens of making or inventing and problem solving, I have often heard the iLab, referred to as “unstructured,” by some well meaning adults. This harkens back to the discord between what we know progressive education can be versus what we envision when we think of a “progressive classroom.” When I worked at Calhoun in New York City, we were considered a progressive school and we often had the debate about what we mean by the term “unstructured.” The debate would invariably follow a conversation with a nervous parent that would go something like this, “Its good for some kids maybe, but my son doesn’t do well in an “unstructured” classroom.”

Christa tackles the claim that unstructured classrooms are unplanned classrooms by offering examples of student-centered work in her classrooms. Teacher planning and preparation do not mean that the teacher is planning everything that happens in the classroom, but instead is shaping a learning environment with care AND pedagogical and content knowledge.

Please read the rest of Christa’s blog post on the FabLearn Fellows site!

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!