Radio show: Movers and Makers

I was the first guest on a new web radio show about making in education, called WMKR, Movers & Makers hosted by Laura Fleming and  Travis Lape. The topic is the Maker Movement and the show is called Helping Students Learn with the Head, Heart and Hand.

Future show topics will include:

The Maker Movement
Planning Your Makerspace
Setting Up Your Makerspace
Creating a Maker Culture in Your School
Makerspaces and the Standards
The ‘Expert’ Maker
Makerspaces and the School Library
Makerspace as a Unique Learning Environment
Showcasing Student Creations
Makerspaces as Catalysts for Future Change
School Leaders Role in the Maker Movement/Makerspaces

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.
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.
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!
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.”
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.

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!

A leadership blueprint for the modern, connected world

Scott McLeod of the Dangerously Irrelevant blog has been asking for posts on leadership for seven years now on what he calls “Leadership Day”. This is a great emerging resource with so many interesting perspectives – almost 500 blog posts! I’ve participated in some years, with my own range of perspectives (see below).

In the past few years my focus has shifted from student leadership to the new affordances of the Maker Movement in K-12  classrooms. Since writing Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, my perspective has changed, but in many ways, also reinforced what I already knew about the power of student agency and ownership of their own learning.

The Maker Movement is a global learning revolution that offers a way to look at leadership in a new way that is relevant for both schools and communities.

For example, in this video architects in Amsterdam talk about the process of designing a 3D printer big enough to build a house, building that printer, and then starting to print the house. When you watch this video, there is an interesting part where they decide to put the KamerMaker (roombuilder) out on the front lawn of their office so that the community can come and see what’s going on and offer their perspectives.

KamerMaker from 3D Print Canal House on Vimeo.

Leadership in the Maker Movement doesn’t mean “I do, you repeat” – it means that together we are better. It may seem messy and inefficient to some people, but I think it’s a leadership model for the modern, connected world we live in.

Here are my previous Leadership Day posts:

  • 2007 – Leaders of the Future where I focused on developing the leader in every learner.
  • 2008 – Just Do It where I urged administrators to stop waiting for the district reorg or the next version of Windows or that bandwidth you were promised 3 years ago and get moving. Listen to kids, don’t listen the teachers who can’t seem to manage an email account, damn the torpedos and full steam ahead.
  • 2009 – Every day is leadership day in which I wrote about the connection between “agency” (meaning true choice) and leadership. Leadership is only meaningful when people have an actual choice to follow or not follow. Leadership is inextricably bound to free will, in the same way democracy is. In schools, this must happen every day, at every level of participation.
  • 2010 – What Leadership Looks Like talks about the challenge we face when trying to describe leadership when it’s so dependent on context and personal style. How can we say “what works” if this is so variable?

I invite you to read the other posts made on the subject of Leadership Day and perhaps write your own. What does leadership look like to you?


Back to School with Making in the Classroom – Should I start now or wait?

You may have heard that it’s best to “ease” into hands-on project-based learning at the start of the school year. Maybe you feel your students aren’t ready, need some skills development, or just need to have a few weeks of settling down before getting started with more independent work.

Good teachers know that students learn a lot more when they get their hands on real materials, and get to do their own projects and experiments. But sometimes we get frustrated thinking about the students who won’t cooperate, don’t clean up, waste materials, or misbehave during our hands-on learning time. In my work as a science teacher and coach, I’ve seen teachers who decide to delay lab activities until behavior is rock-solid. Instead of starting off with a bang, they tiptoe toward inquiry learning.

from Teacher Magazine: Teaching Secrets: How to Maximize Hands-On Learning.

The author, Anthony Cody is an award-winning science teacher, and this article has some great ideas, tips and practical suggestions for all grades and subject areas. He goes on:

My experience is in science, but many teachers of social studies, English, math, and other subjects also have great success with hands-on, minds-on activities. I’d bet some of my colleagues in these other content areas also feel the urge to keep kids in lockdown mode until full teacher authority has been established.

I think this is a big mistake.

Here are his reasons:

  • You need to lead with your best foot.
  • When you introduce cool activities the first few weeks, you are setting the stage for an exciting year.

Be sure to read his full explanation and tips for getting the school year started off right with hands-on. Teaching Secrets: How to Maximize Hands-On Learning.

I’m also sure that many teachers feel that they have students who aren’t “ready” for a more independent approach to learning. However, how will they get ready if they don’t practice it? Many teachers tell me that students have to be “unschooled” out of practices like constantly expecting to be told what to do. So why not start to build those habits and expectations on day one?

That doesn’t mean that you have to start with a monumental project. Start with something small. Give the students time to explore, invent, and tinker sooner rather than wait. If it’s chaos, you can add some constraints, but don’t give up! Give them time to learn the tools you want them to get good at with smaller, more contained projects that will build their confidence and skills.

Empowering students to believe in themselves as capable of making things that matter, both in the physical and digital world, is a crucial part of learning.

So whatever you call it, making, project-based learning, hands-on, or inquiry learning – the time to start is always NOW!

My favorites list for classroom making and makerspaces at ISTE 2014

sylvia 21st century learningThe International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) conference is right around the corner – June 28 – July 1, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s the biggest US-based event for K-12 educational technology, and people from around the world will be there to see the latest stuff and to hear the newest ideas for technology and computers in education.

This year there is a big focus on “making” in the classroom – which I’m glad to be a part of! Last year it felt pretty lonely to be one of the only speakers talking about it. But this year, there are numerous events and sessions about making, maker education, and many hands-on and PBL sessions as well.

I’ve created a “favorite list” of some of the conference sessions and Maker “Playgrounds” happening at ISTE. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out a way to share it from their site, but here they are with just an old fashioned copy/paste! Even then, the links don’t work and even if I was ambitious enough (I’m not) to try to relink them, the sessions are in popup boxes so they don’t have unique links. A missed opportunity, I think, ISTE. As Oprah knows, favorites are meant to be shared! Here is a link to the ISTE program search for you do-it-yourselfers.

Friday, June 27

Hack Education (I’ll be here!)
Friday, June 27, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
GWCC B303/304

Mobile Mega Share (I’ll be here!)
Friday, June 27, 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Saturday, June 28

DON’T MISS! –> Invent To Learn@ISTE 2014 workshop – robots, programming, electronic papercraft and sewing, 3D printing, and much more (plus lunch), lead by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager. Don’t miss out, registration is limited (not an ISTE sponsored event).

Sunday, June 29

Technology transforms pedagogy: Combining the tools and the vision
Sunday, June 29, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
GWCC B303/304

Student tech leaders to support digital transformation
Sunday, June 29, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
GWCC Murphy Ballroom Galleria, Table 5

Genius hour 20% time: Best practices inspire creativity not chaos (I’ll be on this panel)
Sunday, June 29, 12:45 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.
GWCC Sidney Marcus Auditorium

Designing your makerspace
Sunday, June 29, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
GWCC Murphy Ballroom Galleria, Table 9

Digital Harbor Foundation Tech Center: Inner-City Baltimore Youth Makerspace
Sunday, June 29, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
GWCC Murphy Ballroom Galleria, Table 41

The Maker Movement: Interactive electronics without programming
Sunday, June 29, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
GWCC Murphy Ballroom Galleria, Table 2

Invent to learn: Making, tinkering and engineering in the classroom (Gary Stager)
Sunday, June 29, 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

STEM in K-5: Beebots to WeDo!
Sunday, June 29, 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Monday, June 30

Build your world: Mobile makerspace at the Mobile Learning Playground (I’ll be here – speaking towards the end)
Monday, June 30, 9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
GWCC Building B, Level 3 (near Room B313)

School 2.0: Where are we headed
Monday, June 30, 10:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.

Student engagement: Best practices for inquiry-driven, project-based strategies
Monday, June 30, 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Making sense of maker education
Monday, June 30, 1:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.
GWCC Murphy Ballroom Galleria, Table 38

STEAM (science-tinkering-aesthetics-engineering-math): Creating a maker culture
Monday, June 30, 1:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.
GWCC Murphy Ballroom Galleria, Table 9

Creating a makerspace: Makey Makey and Scratch
Monday, June 30, 12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Design your school’s R&D
Monday, June 30, 4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Merging mobile, makers, and science education
Monday, June 30, 5:15 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Exploring earth and space science: Hands-on littleBits STEAM activities
Monday, June 30, 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
GWCC A311/312

Tuesday, July 1

Maker’s Playground and agile learning environments
Tuesday, July 1, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
GWCC Building A, Level 3 (near Room A313)

Top 10 classroom tools of the maker movement (Sylvia Martinez)
Tuesday, July 1, 10:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.
GWCC Murphy Ballroom 3/4

Enriching elementary geometry curriculum with 3D printing
Tuesday, July 1, 11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.

ISTE Mobile Learning Network: Merging mobile with the maker movement
Tuesday, July 1, 11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
GWCC Murphy Ballroom 1/2

Educational technology and makerspaces
Tuesday, July 1, 1:15 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.

Learn How to Use a 3D Printer – Right Now!
Tuesday, July 1, 1:15 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.
GWCC Tech Infrastructure Pavilion (booth 2448)

Making and the Common Core

I get asked a lot about how making and tinkering can be integrated into classes in light of the Common Core. I think there are good answers to this, but it involves seeing the Common Core as something more than it is being portrayed in the media and in schools.

Simply, there are three parts to the Common Core – the overarching goals, the standards, and the assessments. I’m not going to go into great detail about each of these, but here is what I see happening in a lot of schools in each of these areas.

Assessment – Tremendous effort is being put into getting students ready to take the assessments and preparing the technology infrastructure to administer the tests.

Standards – New standards are driving changes to curriculum, but mostly in a rearrangement or rebranding of existing curriculum and classes.

Overarching goals – Very little is being done to address the goals of changing how and what we teach students by making it more relevant, more experiential, and requiring deeper dives instead of “covering” too many topics.

This is the problem I’m seeing – that assessment is the tail wagging the dog and taking the focus (not to mention money and time) away from changing classrooms for the better. So when we talk about how “making” can align with Common Core, it requires schools and districts to refocus on those overarching goals, and away from how many computers you need to run the tests.  Unfortunately this is a conversation that is not taking place in many educational organizations.