What does making in the classroom look like?

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 April 2015.

 My Visit to the ‘Iolani School

Jaymes Dec spent Spring Break  visiting The ‘Iolani School, a K-12 school in Honolulu, Hawaii. Jaymes shares their innovative approach to student-centered project-based learning, shops and makerspaces, and classroom integration.

Fostering a Constructionist Learning Environment, the Qualities of a Maker-Educator 

Creating and equipping a makerspace is just the start of changing education to a “maker” mindset. Christa Flores offers five qualities and behaviors for teachers that help  foster a constructionist learning environment.

FabLab and Its Learning Dynamic  (Part 1) &  (Part 2)

In the first two posts of a five part series, Nalin Tutiyaphuengprasert explores the roots of the current FabLab or “maker” trend of today, situated in the constructionism that Seymour Papert first articulated in the 1980’s.

  • Part 1 discusses the classroom – not just the physical setting, but the freedom and richness of the environment.
  • Part 2 explores the personal relationships and the learning dynamic – the assets at the heart of a maker classroom.

Earth Day- Free Upcycling Curriculum 

 In honor of Earth Day, Mark Schreiber contributes a free set of curriculum resources to lead students through a design process using hard to recycle materials. The curriculum covers recycling and waste investigations, materials research, engineering and design. It includes activity guides and lesson plans.

Maker research: instruments for efficacy and visual spatial skills

by Sylvia Martinez

One of the challenges of trying to incorporate more hands-on, authentic activities in schools is assessment. Schools not used to authentic assessment see it as subjective and unreliable. So the search for validated instruments, those that can be shared and compared, is vital. This post shares the work of Shaunna Smith, Ed.D. an Assistant Professor of Educational Technology at Texas State University in this area.

New report: Making and Tinkering: A Review of the Literature

A new literature review was just released by the Board of Science Education (an NSF funded program associated with the National Academies) called:

Making and Tinkering: A Review of the Literature, by Shirin Vossoughi and Bronwyn Bevan (The PDF is linked from a list, click here and scroll down)

The Board of Sciences has commisioned this and several other papers focused on informal and afterschool STEM learning. More information and links to the other papers are on their website.

The paper is a goldmine of research supporting tinkering and making activities that support learning – not just in STEM and not just in informal settings. Paulo’s research, Papert, and Leah Buechley’s FabLearn 2013 speech are all referenced (and my book too!)

The list of the other commissioned papers is interesting as well. All the papers are linked from this site.

Commissioned Papers

Formative Assessment for STEM Learning Ecosystems: Biographical approaches as a resource for research and practice by Brigid Barron

Citizen Science and Youth Education by Rick Bonney, Tina B. Phillips, Jody Enck, Jennifer Shirk, and Nancy Trautmann

Evidence & Impact: Museum-Managed STEM Programs in Out-of-School Settings, by Bernadette Chi, Rena Dorph & Leah Reisman

Children Doing Science: Essential Idiosyncrasy and the Challenges of Assessment by David Hammer and Jennifer Radoff

Broadening Access to STEM Learning through Out-of-School Learning Environments by Laura Huerta Migus

Making and Tinkering: A Review of the Literature, by Shirin Vossoughi and Bronwyn Bevan

Research brief: Good learning involves direct experience, focus, motivation, and relationships

Quoted from “Conditions of Learning” – A research brief from the What Kids Can Do site How Youth Learn: A Portfolio to Inform and Inspire Educators, Students, Parents & More

In a recent paper, “Realizing the Potential of Learning in Middle Adolescence,” cognitive psychologists Robert Halpern, Paul Heckman, and Rick Larson remind us:

  • Good learning involves direct experience, “deep immersion in a consequential activity” (Bruner, 1966).
  • Learning works best when young people can focus in depth on a few things at a time; when they see a clear purpose in learning activities; and when they have an active role—co-constructing, interpreting, applying, making sense of something, making connections.
  • Motivation is a powerful engine for learning, and the right conditions can foster it. Motivation to learn is stronger when it emerges from the young person’s prior knowledge and interests, when it springs not from reward or punishment but from the task itself, and when it is driven by a desire for mastery and by identification with
    others who do it well.
  • Learning is often most effective when it is social; when it occurs as a shared activity within meaningful relationships; and when it allows for increasingly responsible participation—within a tradition, or a community of fellow learners, or one’s culture at large.

The bottom line: Young people can be—and want to be—fully engaged learners. The evaluation research on longstanding school networks that put these principles into practice—like Expeditionary Learning, Big Picture, Early College High School, and High Tech High—finds deeply engaged students motivated to do their best (National Research Council and the Institutes of Medicine, 2004; Castellano, Stringfield & Stone, 2003; Kemple, Hirliahiy & Smith, 2005).

The prevailing narrative, however, is one of student disengagement.

Read the rest of the research brief at “Conditions of Learning”

But look how beautifully supports hands-on, authentic learning advocated by educators involved in the Making in Education movement!

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!

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.

STEM resources

New NASA iPad Magazine App “Space Place Prime” is a new NASA magazine only for the iPad. This brand new app gathers some of the best and most recent Web offerings from NASA. It taps engrossing articles from The Space Place website, enlightening NASA videos, and daily images such as the Astronomy Picture of the Day and the NASA Earth Observatory Image of the Day.

“Space Place Prime” targets a multigenerational audience. Kids, teachers, parents, space enthusiasts, and everyone in between will find fascinating features on this new, free NASA app.

More information about the new magazine and other NASA apps.

Source: NASA Education Express Message — September 20, 2012

“Curiosity in the Classroom” STEM Resources
Discovery Education and Intel Corporation have partnered to create learning resources for the Discovery Channel’s series Curiosity. The site has lesson plans and activities that create STEM connections across various subjects including: artificial intelligence, communications, computers, nanotechnology, and robotics. CuriosityintheClassroom.com


Change the Equation Releases State Data on STEM Learning
The 2012 Vital Signs reports paint a wide-ranging and in-depth picture of the condition of STEM learning in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. View the full report

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

Games, technology, creativity, and creative reporting

A new study came out from Michigan State University this week – Information technology use and creativity: Findings from the Children and Technology Project by Linda A. Jackson , Edward A. Witt, , Alexander Ivan Games, Hiram E. Fitzgerald,  Alexander von Eye, Yong Zhao.

First problem – it’s behind a paywall. It costs $19.95, or becoming a subscriber of the journal, Computers in Human Behavior. Well, sure, I could pay for it, or better yet, I “know people” and could probably get it free, but then I can’t post it, and worse, I can’t link to it and therefore we (me + you out there) can’t talk about it. Even the links in the abstract to what the tests of creativity are based on do not go anywhere (see the funny little anchors?). The only other information from MSU is the press release.

Abstract
“This research examined relationships between children’s information technology (IT) use and their creativity. Four types of information technology were considered: computer use, Internet use, videogame playing and cell phone use. A multidimensional measure of creativity was developed based on and test of creative thinking. Participants were 491 12-year olds; 53% were female, 34% were African American and 66% were Caucasian American. Results indicated that videogame playing predicted of all measures of creativity. Regardless of gender or race, greater videogame playing was associated with greater creativity. Type of videogame (e.g., violent, interpersonal) was unrelated to videogame effects on creativity. Gender but not race differences were obtained in the amount and type of videogame playing, but not in creativity. Implications of the findings for future research to test the causal relationship between videogame playing and creativity and to identify mediator and moderator variables are discussed.

Highlights ► Positive relationship between videogame playing and creativity. ► Relationship held across types of videogames (e.g., violent, interpersonal). ► Despite gender and race differences in videogame playing, there were no gender or race difference in creativity.”

Already the abstract has got my antennae tuned. Did they really call videogame playing “Information Technology Use”? I mean, I see what they were going for – do the things kids do with common technology correlate to measures of creativity?

But it really makes me want to see the actual study. I wonder what the correlation was between the three other types of “information technology use” – computer use, Internet use, and cell phone use. What kind of “use” did they test? Was it a survey? What did they ask? Was it just hours? What were the kids doing?  What was the difference between Internet use and computer use (isn’t one a subset of the other?) Questions, questions, questions.

Plus, if ed tech enthusiasts are happy that creativity is linked to videogames, what does it mean that computer and Internet use did not show the same link? For learning game enthusiasts, what does it mean that the link to creativity didn’t depend on what kinds of games the kids played.

Next problem – the press picks up the story, reads the abstract (if we’re lucky) and proceeds to write a story that really isn’t what the research says. That’s true even just reading the abstract.

USA Today Headline Research: Video games help with creativity in boys and girls starts off, “Here’s another reason to include The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword on those holiday shopping lists: children who play video games are more creative.”

OK, so the headline implies that video games are responsible for making children more creative – but the article is fairly carefully worded about assuming that playing videogames MAKES children creative.

The Register (an IT site from the UK) headlineKids! You get back in front of that Xbox right now: Playing videogames makes kids more creative. Positive news for gamers, and their parents. Hours in front of the glowing box hammering zombies as a youngster can make you more creative.”

Several commenters point out that correlation does not equal causation, but there are an equal number of commenters who believe that videogames cause children to be violent, so therefore we will have a lot more creative axe-murderers due to games. So it’s not like you can really look to the comments for wisdom.

There are lots of headlines that get it right, or at least use some caution, using words like “linked” or “tied” to connect creativity to videogames, but from my brief survey, plenty more that get it wrong.

Play More Video Games, Be More Creative? – Parenting.com
Study: Playing Video Games Promotes Creativity
Video Games Are Making Your Kids More Creative
Study Finds Games Make Kids More Creative

Repeat after me… Correlation is not causation!

Sylvia

Don’t show, don’t tell?

Don’t show, don’t tell? MITnews

Suppose someone showed you a novel gadget and told you, “Here’s how it works,” while demonstrating a single function, such as pushing a button. What would you do when they handed it to you?

You’d probably push the button. But what if the gadget had other functions? Would it occur to you to search for them, if your teacher hadn’t alluded to their existence?

Maybe, maybe not. It turns out that there is a “double-edged sword” to pedagogy: Explicit instruction makes children less likely to engage in spontaneous exploration and discovery. A study by MIT researchers and colleagues compared the behavior of children given a novel toy under four different conditions, finding that children expressly taught one of its functions played with the toy for less time and discovered fewer things to do with it than children in the other three scenarios.

Read the rest of the article…

Studies Find ‘Easy’ Material May Not Be Easy to Learn

Emerging research suggests that, contrary to what students may think, material that’s easy to understand is not always easy to learn—and working harder can help them hold on to what they’ve learned.

This Education Week article summarizes several research studies on “stability bias” – where people confuse things that are easy to process with things that are easy to remember.

The stability bias works both ways: Not only do students give too little credit to effective study strategies that feel more difficult, but they can give more weight to ineffective strategies that make content feel easier to learn.

It’s like assuming that food that is easy to eat is the healthiest.

Sylvia