FabLearn Fellows – maker teachers making it work

This past year I’ve had the immense privilege of working as a mentor to the FabLearn Fellows, an NSF funded program in association with the Transformative Learning Technologies Lab at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education.

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.

January in the FabLearn Fellows blogs saw a wide variety of philosophical and practical ideas. As “making” in the classroom becomes more mainstream, it’s important to think about the role of the teacher/leader in creative, hands-on classrooms and educational spaces. In these posts, we can see that teachers are planners, observers, catalysts, researchers, yearners, gurus, thinkers, and yes – makers! It’s such a colorful palette of roles when compared to the perception of the teacher as a content delivery system and classroom manager.

Just in Time Teacher Learning by Heather Pang – “The bigger take-away for me, as I help students with their projects is that I don’t need to know how to do everything before we start, and I will learn a great deal as we go.  And so will the students.”

“Technological Disobedience” in Cuba and informal making education by Susan Klimczak – This video on “Technological Disobedience” in Cuba complements recent FabLearn Fellows conversations about decentering making, makers, and maker education.

Making Code Real – Keith Ostfeld, a FabLearn Fellow in a museum, thinks about how coding works in his informal education context.

“Making” in California K-12 Education: A brief state of affairs – David Malpica explores the current state of maker education in public K-12 education in California. Looking at funding, standards, and support organizations creates a fuller picture of the myriad pieces of the puzzle that make up public education policy in these areas.

“Why I am not a Maker” by Debbie Chachra: Toward problematizing what it means to be a “Maker” – Susan Klimczak shares an article questioning the identity of “maker” as celebrating only those who make things, and whether that devalues people who have interests and jobs without tangible products. She connects this to the contributions of Dr. Nettrice Gaskins and Dr. Leah Buechley in questioning Silicon Valley’s interest in “making” as a generator of innovative products.

Rwanda maker interest – I shared a post by a friend traveling in Rwanda about the potential for makerspaces there. The comments, both online and off, connected several of the Africa-based FabLearn Fellows with her with suggestions, contacts, and resources. It’s a small world after all!

The Role & Rigor of Self-Assessment in MakerEd In this three part post, Christa Flores discusses various assessment techniques with the student at the center that work with PBL and maker programs.

Molds and Molding by Gilson Domingues with Pietro Domingues. These three practical posts offer reasons and instructions on making and using molds to reproduce small objects with detail and precision.

Collaborative work in the classroom with etherpad Mario Parade explains how to use an open source software tool called Etherpad for students and teachers to collaborate and document work.

Intel MakeHers Report: Engaging Girls and Women in Technology through Making, Creating, and Inventing – Juliet Wanyiri shares a new report on girls and making.

Hey Kids – Follow the Directions! – Aaron Vanderwerff asks, does following directions mean you aren’t really making?

Toward Making Change: Beyond #BlackLivesMatter – Two posts by Susan Klimczak document a collaborative project at the South End Technology Center @ Tent City supported by the Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean’s Equity Project.

An interesting article on “Culturally responsive computing: a theory revisited” – Susan Klimczak shares an article that supports a recurring theme among the FabLearn Fellows and at the Fab Learn Conference of how to put youth of color, young women and youth living in families with low incomes at the center of the maker education movement.

Sequencing activities to support discovery – Erin Riley provides a thoughtful yet practical analysis of several activities that served to build skills all while leading to more open, exploratory projects. Is it possible to provide an environment where students can find their own way creatively, all the while gaining specific skills?

Where the circle overlaps, thinking about the “A” in STEAM by Erin Riley – “STEAM supporters believe STEM should be updated to include creativity, innovation and aesthetics. Are we thinking of this like a Venn diagram, merging form (from the artistic side) to function (from the scientific side) or an extra component to add to the mix, enhancing work in STEM?”

Stay tuned for more!

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.